Richt excuses Mettenberger’s mom for ‘awkward’ week

That is the first and most tangible sign that there is a little something different about Saturday’s game between No. 9 Georgia and No. 6 LSU at Sanford Stadium. The Tigers (4-0, 1-0 SEC) are led by quarterback Zach Mettenberger, who started his career with the Bulldogs (2-1, 1-0) and grew up 10 miles south of Athens in Watkinsville. Tammy Mettenberger is his mother, and she has worked in the football office as an administrative assistant for almost all of Zach’s life. That, of course, means Georgia coach Mark Richt and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo have known Zach for nearly his entire life.

So rather than face a week of weirdness as the Bulldogs’ plot the quarterback’s undoing, Richt told Tammy she was excused from her normal duties.

“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 all really like Zach and want the best for him. We just don’t want him to win this weekend.”

Mettenberger signed with Georgia in 2009 — the same year as current UGA quarterback Aaron Murray — but was dismissed in April 2010. That was about a month before he pleaded guilty to sexual battery charges in Lowndes County. Mettenberger then transferred to Butler (Kan.) Community College and played a season before signing with LSU. He has been the Tigers’ starting quarterback the past two seasons.

Richt said he didn’t plan to address with the team Mettenberger’s return.

“I won’t bring it up other than trying to defend the quarterback who happens to be Zach Mettenberger,” Richt said. “We’re not going to talk about him being Zach Mettenberger as much as a 6-foot-5, 230-whatever-he-is and who can sling it. We’re going to do the best we can to defend him and defend their offense.”

Mettenberger returns to Athens second in the SEC in pass efficiency (193.6) and fourth in passing yards per game (256.5). Georgia’s Murray leads the league in both those categories. Mettenberger and Murray competed for the Bulldogs’ starting job in the 2010 spring practice.

“Obviously he’s gotten better over time,” Richt said. “He just seems very confident, he’s playing on a great team with some great backs and receivers and some big strong linemen up front. I’m sure he’s benefiting from his new coordinator and a great defense. They’re winning, and they’re excited.”

LSU is coming off a 35-21 win over Auburn in which tailback Jeremy Hill ran for 184 yards and three touchdowns. The Bulldogs defeated North Texas 45-21 in a game in which Murray had 408 yards passing and accounted for four touchdowns.

Etc.: Georgia and LSU both retained their Associated Press rankings from the last week. The Bulldogs remained 10th in the USA Today/Coaches’ poll. … Richt said tight end Jay Rome aggravated his left ankle injury in the first quarter against North Texas but that Rome is not being counted out for Saturday’s game. … On playing their third top-10 opponent in the first four games, Richt said, “being through it before should be helpful.” … ESPN’s “College GameDay” will originate from UGA for the first time since 2008.

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