BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — LSU's opener is nearly a month away and already defensive end Sam Montgomery and the Tigers are focused on settling unfinished business.
"There is a sense of urgency to play football," Montgomery said after LSU's first practice of August camp Thursday. "It's deeper than passion. It's deeper than love. It's deeper than a want-to. Everybody just wants to play football. We want it now."
Montgomery earned third-team All-America honors following his sophomore season at LSU, playing on a team that was the undefeated champion of the Southeastern Conference before losing its final game — a rematch with Alabama for the national title.
In every game last season against teams not named Alabama, LSU won by double digits. The Tigers won their first match-up with the Crimson Tide 9-6 in overtime at Alabama's Bryant-Denny Stadium, then fell 21-0 in the BCS national title game in the Superdome.
"Our attitude is not per se due to the loss to Alabama," Montgomery said. "We came up short after all our hard work, sweat and tears last year. But, it's more. We came up short of our dream and that hurt us."
LSU's defense turned in a valiant effort in the national title game, holding Alabama out of the end zone until the fourth quarter, but the offense did nothing against Alabama's talented defense.
Zach Mettenberger, the No. 3 quarterback behind Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee last season, is now the leader of the offense. The consensus opinion at LSU's football operations building is that Mettenberger is a much better passer than either Jefferson or Lee, with the ability to make defenses pay for overplaying the Tigers' deep and punishing running game.
"It's a huge difference being the starter," Mettenberger said. "Last year, I was third string and I came to practice with the young guys in the afternoon on the first day. Today was great to throw the ball around and get back on the field with the (first-team) guys."
LSU opens Sept. 1 at home against North Texas, and as the season approaches, a word heard often from Tigers players is "Finish."