LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger already expected a sizable amount of hostility during this weekend's game at Georgia, considering he was dismissed from the Bulldogs' program back in 2010 after he pleaded guilty to two counts of misdemeanor sexual battery. Throw in the fact that his mother currently works for Georgia as an administrative assistant, as well as Mettenberger's standing as the quarterback of the SEC's only 4-0 team, and the vitriol becomes, naturally, even more predictable.
Mettenberger hails from Watkinsville, Ga., about 10 miles south of the Bulldogs' campus in Athens. After pleading guilty to the charges a month before he was dismissed from Georgia in April 2010, Mettenberger transferred to Butler (Kan.) Community College for a year before signing with LSU. He's been the Tigers' starting quarterback for the past two seasons.
So as a former hometown kid forced to transfer because of his off-field issues, he's been preparing for this weekend by having teammates provide a sampling of vulgar trash-talk. Via TigerRag.com, that's been especially the case from Mettenberger's close friend, fullback Connor Neighbors.
"I'm going to heckle him throughout the whole week so when game day comes around he's used to it," Neighbors said. "I'm going to talk smack all week long so he can drown it out."
Mettenberger's return to Georgia is his first as a player since his dismissal, and that fact has him prepared for a nasty Sanford Stadium crowd. The SEC match-up also adds a twinge of curiosity, especially considering Mettenberger has thrown for 1,026 yards, completed 64.8 percent of his passes and thrown 10 touchdowns to just one interception through the Tigers' first four games of the season.
Mettenberger admitted Thursday he understands Georgia fans won't be all that welcoming, and that makes his on-field return home even all the more personal.
"I'm looking forward to Sunday morning tremendously," Mettenberger said as he was surrounded by 15 reporters wielding cameras and digital recorders. He then paused a moment to gather his thoughts and find the right phrasing.
"There's so much put into this game that has nothing to do with the game that actually goes between the snap and the whistle. The worst part is my mom has to deal with a lot of this stuff, too."
One advantage afforded to him, or at least his family, comes interestingly enough from Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt. Mettenberger's mother, Tammy, is an administrative assistant at Georgia but was given the week off by Richt.
"She loves her son," Richt said. "Obviously it'd be awkward for her to be hanging around. So she won't be in this week. I told her to enjoy it. Go have fun and enjoy some things you normally couldn't do this of year and enjoy it. We've been knowing Zach since he was a very young kid. We all really like Zach and want the best for him. We just don't want him to win this weekend. That's about the only thing that's different than normal."