In May of 2018, a four-star star prospect who spent three years as a backup at Ohio State announced he was transferring to LSU. Despite his limited work in Columbus, Tigers head coach Ed Orgeron said he was “smart and tough, got accuracy,” and called him a “game-changer and difference maker.”
Joe Burrow proved to be that and then some. In the 2019–20 College Football Playoff national championship Monday night, the QB who received nearly 94% of the possible points in his historic Heisman Trophy–winning senior season, capped off No. 1 LSU’s undefeated 15–0 season with a 42-25 win over No. 3 Clemson. You can label its season as magical, a story book, or a fairy tale, but the Tigers’ star QB had said leading up to the Monday’s win that he “expected” to be in the title game. Burrow thew for 463 yards and five touchdowns and ran for another score, as LSU over overcame its first double-digit deficit of the season. In the process, the school claimed its first national title since 2007.
The Bayou Bengals’ offense got off to a slow start and punted on its first two possessions, a rarity during their dominant regular season. On the game’s fifth possession, Clemson’s offense opened the scoring as its star QB Trevor Lawrence capped off a five-play, 67-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run. However, LSU would answer just over four minutes later, when Burrow found the 2019 Biletnikoff Award winner Ja’Marr Chase for a 52-yard TD strike. Chase would finish the victory with a game-high 221 receiving yards on nine catches.
Early in the second quarter Clemson nailed a 52-yard field goal which broke the game's 7–7 tie. And just three-plus minutes later, Clemson WR Tee Higgins took a 36-yard reverse to the end zone, scoring on his first-career rushing attempt to stretch his team’s lead to 17–7
After trailing for the first time since its late-October win over Auburn, LSU’s quick-strike spread offense would respond. Burrow ran for a touchdown just over five minutes into the second quarter. Then, with 5:19 to go in the half, he hit Chase for the WR’s second touchdown of the half. The Bayou Bengals’ would extend their lead with 10 seconds left in the period when Burrow found TE Thaddeus Moss wide open in the end zone for a 6-yard score, the QB’s fourth total touchdown of the half. He had thrown for only 25 yards through his first nine passing attempts, but threw for 245 yards and three scores in his final 20 attempts.
Much like at the start of the game, LSU punted on its first possession coming out of the halftime locker. And Lawrence, the QB who many project will hear his name called first in the NFL draft one year after Burrow, orchestrated a six-play, 50-yard drive which ended in Travis Etienne muscling through the LSU defense for his first TD run of the game. But the Clemson Tigers would fail to get any closer.
Leading by just three points midway through the third quarter, Burrow hit Moss for the TE's second score of the night, breaking the single-season TD record in doing so. He would find WR Terrace Marshall Jr. for a 24-yard score less than three minutes into the fourth quarter, stretching LSU's lead to 17. The QB held his pointer finger up to the sky after the pall, pounding his chest in excitement. It would mark the only score of the fourth quarter as the Bayou Bengals would go on to ice the game away.
Lawrence finished the game 234 yards and one rushing touchdown, but he completed just 18 of his 37 passes. Monday night's loss was the first of Lawrence's college career and it snapped a 29-game Clemson winning streak.
Entering Monday night’s win, Burrow was held under 300 yards passing only once—in the team’s season opening 55–3 win over Georgia Southern. He complete less than 70% of his pass attempts for the first time this season, but it proved not make a difference. He ends his senior season throwing for almost twice as many yards as he did last year and 65 total touchdowns compared to only 23 in his rather average 2018–19 campaign.
For 15 games this season, the presumptive No. 1 pick in the 2020 NFL draft showed the accuracy, smarts and toughness that Orgeron commented on when he first added the now national championship-winning QB. He proved to be the game-charger Orgeron, a bayou native himself, needed to help the school claim it’s fourth title in school history.
Heading into Monday night, Burrow said that he didn’t care about what his stat-lines have looked like: “Doesn’t matter to me as long as we win,” he said. The 2019–20 LSU Tigers and their star QB did just that. Their 15-0 season forever historic. Their difference-maker now also a national champion.