ATHENS - Mark Richt says this will be like any other big-game week, except he’ll be down one administrative assistant.
Tammy Mettenberger, who happens to be the mother of LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger, who was dismissed three years ago from Georgia, has been given the week off.
“She loves her son, obviously, and it would be awkward for her to be hanging around all week,” Richt said Sunday night. “I told her, ‘Enjoy it, go have fun, do some things you wouldn’t normally do this time of year and enjoy it.’ ”
This game between No. 6 LSU and No. 9 Georgia has huge implications for Richt’s team and sets the course for the rest of the season. Whether the Bulldogs still have national title hopes, for one.
But Richt giving Mettenberger’s mother the week off is an acknowledgement that this might as well be the Mettenberger Bowl — the prodigal son coming in to face the program that kicked him out three years ago.
“We’ve been knowing Zach since he was a very young kid,” Richt said. “We all really like Zach and want the best for him but just don’t want him to win the game this weekend. That’s the only thing that’s different from normal, is we’re competing against him this week.”
Mettenberger, a fifth-year senior, competed for Georgia’s starting position in spring practice of 2010. He was behind Aaron Murray leaving spring practice, and a short time later he was dismissed for disciplinary reasons. He spent a year at junior college before transferring to LSU, where he spent the 2011 season as the third-string quarterback.
When LSU beat Georgia in the 2011 SEC championship, Mettenberger didn’t get any snaps. He became the starter last year and had an up-and-down season. He’s off to a better start this year, ranking fifth nationally in pass efficiency — two spots behind Murray.
Now here comes the homecoming. Mettenberger said in July that he expected Georgia fans to “boo the crap out of me.”
“I don’t know anybody that’s had to go back and play the team they got kicked off of,” Mettenberger said. “But it can be easy for myself to (try to) go out there and throw for 500 yards and eight touchdowns. But you can’t force that. You’ve just got to play within yourself and put the ball in a playmakers’ hands and trust that the coach will make the right call at the right time.”
Richt said Sunday the Bulldogs would take the same approach.
“I won’t bring it up, rather than trying to defend the quarterback who happens to be Zach Mettenberger,” Richt said. “We’re not gonna be worrying about he’s Zach Mettenberger so much as he’s 6-foot-5, 230-whatever he is and can sling it. We just want to do the best we can to defend him and defend his offense.”
Georgia senior Blake Sailors remains close with Mettenberger, his former teammate at Oconee County. Sailors said last week he expects his friend to be “more fired up” than awkward in his return.
“Things happen to people all the time,” Sailors said. “It’s one of those situations you forget about it and move on. I think he’s excited to come out here and play in the stadium in front of all the fans.”
Sophomore tight end Jay Rome, who re-injured his sprained ankle in Saturday’s win over North Texas, will try to test his ankle in practice Monday.