Jefferson steps up for LSU in Cotton Bowl victory

Dave Moormann
LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson threw three touchdown passes against Texas A&M Friday night.

If ever an LSU quarterback deserves another chance it’s oft-maligned Jordan Jefferson.

The junior from Destrehan can make glaring mistakes, as he did at times this past football season, or he can be as efficient as he was in leading LSU past Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl last week, 41-24.

Usually, Jefferson is somewhere in between, which has been plenty good enough for him to be the Southeastern Conference winningest quarterback now that Alabama’s Greg McElroy has completed his career.

Jefferson surely solidified his status as the LSU starter, Zach Mettenberger notwithstanding. LSU’s latest signee had been the rage in the Tigers’ fanatical attempt to find a consistent quarterback. Never mind that Georgia dismissed Mettenberger last spring in light of an arrest that led to him pleading guilty to two misdemeanor counts of sexual battery.

Mettenberger supposedly redeemed himself at Butler (Kan.) Community College, where his success as a pro-style quarterback carried Butler to the junior college national-championship game. That was enough for Mettenberger to earn a second shot at the SEC.

All the while, Jefferson has kept his nose clean with a dedicated work ethic that allowed him to play a major role in the Tigers’ rout of Texas A&M.

LSU didn’t start so well against the Aggies in falling behind 10-0, due in part to Jefferson’s interception on the first series. What matters most is how you finish, and Jefferson couldn’t have been much better than he was in throttling the Aggies.

He passed for three touchdowns after having thrown just four in 12 regular-season games. He rushed for valuable yardage, particularly on third down, in keeping alive drives that resulted in LSU’s fifth bowl victory in six tries under Coach Les Miles.

While matching his career-high for touchdown passes, Jefferson also surpassed Bert Jones for the ninth most career touchdown passes in school history with 28.

With the Michigan coaching job vacant, the rumor mill has Miles returning to his alma mater. Wherever Miles lands, he could do a lot worse than having a loyal quarterback such as Jefferson. Whatever needs to be done, Jefferson will plow ahead in an effort to accomplish it.

Jefferson is not the most gifted option quarterback around, yet Miles insists on running that play time and again.

Goodness knows, it helped Jordan to rush 12 times for 67 yards and a 1-yard, second-quarter touchdown against the Aggies. That gave him seven rushing touchdowns this season and nine for his career.

Rather than becoming discouraged and despondent as others were when Jefferson couldn’t crack 100 passing yards per game, Jefferson kept plugging away. His tenacity allowed him to complete 10 of 19 passes for 158 yards with an interception against the Aggies. What’s more, his three touchdown passes all went to senior wide receiver Terrence Toliver.

Jefferson knows a good thing when he sees it, which is why his latest performance has generated both momentum and optimism for the Tigers’ return to Cowboy Stadium on  Sept. 3. LSU will open its 2011 season in the palatial arena against Oregon, one of the two BCS national-championship game contestants.

The Tigers will be without Toliver and several other key components. Back, though, will be Jefferson and freshman cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, who was named Most Outstanding Defensive Player for having amassed an interception, a fumble recovery and seven tackles, including a quarterback sack.

After carrying LSU to an 11-2 record, Jefferson should have his sights set on something even greater.

Jefferson was quoted as saying that  he had hoped to use the Cotton Bowl as a vehicle to silence his critics and earn respect “as a good quarterback.” Mission accomplished.

Jefferson commended LSU’s coaches for their preparation and play-calling. If the coaches can continue to take advantage of Jefferson’s strengths, Mettenberger simply will have to take a seat and wait his turns to assume the reins that clearly are in Jefferson’s possession.