The vertical passing game has been a question mark on the LSU offense, but Les Miles said on Wednesday that it's full-steam ahead with their efforts to make things work.
Les Miles is confident that LSU QB Zach Mettenberger's best performances are still to come
LSU run game: Check.
LSU pass game: TBD.
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Headed into the bye week, the Tigers' passing attack, which averages 177.38 yards a game, is ranked 109 out of 120 FBS teams.
While LSU has found success in spots with the short and intermediate passing game, junior quarterback Zach Mettenberger has yet to find a rhythm in the vertical passing game - highlighted by his performance against Texas A&M in College Station last weekend, when Mettenberger finished 11-of-29 passing for 97 yards.
"We threw some deep balls against A&M, but didn't hit them," LSU coach Les Miles said. "We hit three deep balls, and that game was a completely different game. We recognize that."
But the Tigers failed to connect on multiple vertical shots, which in turn helped keep the Aggies hanging around through four quarters.
Instead of turning back towards the run game and horizontal passing attack, Miles said the bye week before Alabama will be used, foremost, to iron out the wrinkles in the passing attack.
Can Mettenberger find rhythm in the vertical pass game before it's too late?
"If we are going to progress, it can't be a short commitment to it," Miles said. "It's a point where we really need to execute better and continue to coach and grow it. We are in a position where we can make it very, very effective for us ... That's what our intent is.
"We are going to throw the football. We are doing that aggressively this week. We are in position to have this be a very efficient offense, and we look to coach it to that effect."
On the season, Mettenberger is 112-of-198 for 1,419 yards, seven touchdowns and four interceptions. His longest pass was a 56-yard strike to Odell Beckham Jr. in the Florida game that was eventually fumbled, negating the Tigers' biggest pass play of the year.
With other drops from the receivers and some shuffle on the offensive line, Miles isn't ready to drop all the blame onto his first-year quarterback.
"I don't know that you can necessarily put all the passing woes on our quarterback," Miles said. "Some of the balls were really pretty well-thrown.
"There was a penalty called (against Texas A&M) on a deep ball that was right in (Beckham's) hands. I thought that was a wonderful throw by Zach."
Given Mettenberger is just eight games into his first year as an SEC quarterback, Miles feels his junior signal caller's best days are ahead of him.
"I see him progressing," Miles said. "I think he was smart with the ball (against Texas A&M) more than he had been in the past. We expect him to continue to develop.
"This is his first year starting. This is his first series of big games in a row. This is the first time that he lines up in Tiger Stadium again and again and again. There is some growth there."
With the page now turned to a face-off with No. 1 Alabama in two weeks, Miles said Mettenberger's only focus will be on executing the offense, meaning outside distractions - like how ready is the team for a rematch - will be tossed aside.
"It's really about inside the lines," Miles said. "You cannot take on more than that for Zach. Zach is just our quarterback, and he does the things we ask him to do. He is in gear and focused in, and that's what we need him to be. We have to make sure we understand again and again, that is his role."
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