BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — An anemic passing attack during LSU's first four games under first-year starter Zach Mettenberger has yet to discourage Les Miles.
The Tigers coach said Monday he is generally happy with Mettenberger's play, including the 12-10 victory at Auburn last Saturday.
Still, Miles expects the third-ranked Tigers to improve their passing game against Towson this Saturday before facing a challenging three-game stretch in October — Florida, South Carolina and Texas A&M.
Mettenberger was supposed to provide an immediate upgrade in LSU's air attack. While LSU is averaging 40 yards more through the air this season than it did last year, the Tigers still are not producing 200 passing yards per game.
In addition, Mettenberger's 147.9 efficiency rating is in the same range as the combined mark of Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee in 2011. Mettenberger has completed 68 percent of his passes for 778 yards and four touchdowns, but he has thrown two red-zone interceptions and been sacked seven times.
Miles said he likes Mettenberger's leadership and toughness, and that everyone from the offensive line to running backs to the receivers need to improve in the passing game.
"Zach can do it," Miles said. "I liked his leadership. He also has toughness. (The problem) is not Zach. It's the offensive line. It's the backs. It's everyone."
Miles noted that his wide receivers have had their share of drops in the first four games.
A potential long completion to Odell Beckham last weekend was dropped. Then, James Wright failed to catch a ball that was basically placed right in his hands. Mettenberger was just 15 of 27 against Auburn.
"The receivers are improving," Miles said. "They are a work in progress. They did the job in several instances. In other instances, they can play better. But, give the opponent credit. They covered some routes, too."
Miles was more upset with the second of Mettenberger's two first-quarter fumbles. The first fumble at Auburn's 2 was the result of a miscommunication between Mettenberger and backup center Elliott Porter. The second fumble came in the pocket when Mettenberger was sacked by Corey Lemonier.
"You can't turn it over in the pocket," Miles said. Mettenberger "has to recognize when there is pressure in the pocket you have to get it out of your hands."