Published September 19, 2013
The paths of LSU's Zach Mettenberger and Auburn's Nick Marshall will finally intersect after following parallel treks.
Both quarterbacks started their careers at Georgia, got kicked off the team and then headed to a Kansas junior college before landing once again in the Southeastern Conference. Now, Mettenberger will lead No. 6 LSU against Marshall and the visiting Tigers Saturday night.
"I'll definitely be interested to see what happens," Georgia quarterback Mark Richt said, adding he likes both "very much."
Both Mettenberger and Marshall have been taking full advantage of their second chances.
Mettenberger is leading a national title contender in his third season at LSU and has been the SEC's most efficient passer. He was dismissed by the Bulldogs in April 2010 because of legal trouble stemming from his treatment of a woman at a bar, and spent one season at Butler Community College.
Nearly two years later, Marshall was booted for violating team rules at Georgia, where he played cornerback as a freshman. He went to Garden City for a season and quickly won Auburn's starting job.
Marshall is coming off his best game, a 339-yard effort against Mississippi State that ended with him throwing the winning touchdown pass to C.J. Uzomah with 10 seconds left.
"I believe in stories of redemption and stories of guys coming back from making mistakes and all that kind of thing," Richt said. "I'd kind of like it to happen here at Georgia. Sometimes a guy makes a mistake and you want him to turn it around at Georgia, but sometimes it happens at other schools. I'm really happy for these guys."
He said before Marshall led Auburn's final drive, he "had a feeling this guy's going to start making some history at Auburn."
No Auburn quarterback had ever thrown for that many yards in his SEC debut. Marshall has been a key component in Auburn's 3-0 start that already matches last season's win total, and the dual-threat quarterback just got his biggest confidence boost.
"Last week definitely helped, there's no doubt," Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. "Each game you learn more about him, he learns more about us. He gets more comfortable. We've got a big challenge this week. This is the best defense that we've played against, on the road, in a hostile environment. We've got to deal with the elements and the noise and everything that goes with that."
Marshall was not made available to the media this week.
The two quarterbacks have different styles and frames. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Mettenberger is four inches taller and 30 pounds heavier than Marshall.
Mettenberger is a dropback passer while Marshall has had some success as a scrambler after rushing for 1,000 yards at Garden City.
The LSU quarterback has shown signs of being one of the SEC's best under new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. His nine touchdown passes rank as the most in LSU history through the first three games of a season, and he has yet to be intercepted in 69 attempts.
Mettenberger's five touchdown passes against UAB was a school record. He said his father, Bernie, has always been in his corner along the winding road to success.
"He says, 'Glad to see it's finally going your way,'" Mettenberger said. "Not everybody has instant success and I guess I'm one of those guys. But it's all about the next game. I was successful in the first three games statistically. There's a lot of mistakes that I had, and coach Cam Cameron always says you're only as successful as your next game. I've got to be prepared for Auburn now. I'm just focused."
Marshall is still learning Malzahn's system and has only posted big numbers once in his first three games. However, his emergence has been big for a program that has been in search of a quarterback since another SEC-to-JUCO product, Cam Newton, left after leading the Tigers to the 2010 national championship.
Malzahn said Marshall has maintained a good attitude.
The coaching staff "told him what the job entails, not just playing quarterback but everything else that goes with that, on and off the field," Malzahn said. "He's done everything we've asked with a great attitude. Coach (Rhett) Lashlee's coached him extremely hard and been very demanding on him, and he's responded well."
AP Sports Writer Brett Martel in Baton Rouge, La., contributed to this report.