LSU Has Worked All Season For This Moment and for Joe Burrow, Finishing Strong Is What's Most Important
This is the moment LSU quarterback Joe Burrow and the 2019 Tiger team have been working all season for. After going 12-0 in the regular season, after beating Alabama for the first time in eight years, after all of the records that have been obliterated during this magical run, LSU wants to finish this thing off right.
"It's here and we're playing a really good team, obviously," Burrow said Monday. "It's a tall task for us but this is what we work for so we'll be ready for it."
When Burrow stepped on campus for the first time in summer of 2018, the plan was to keep his head down and do all he could to win the starting quarterback job over Myles Brennan, Lowell Narcisse and Justin McMillan. By the time fall camp had come and gone, Burrow was coach Ed Orgeron's man, but still needed to win the team over.
"It's a long process and it doesn't happen overnight," Burrow said. "It's a long process of people seeing your hard work and building trust on and off the field. I think we're as close as any team I've ever been around."
The 2018 Georgia game was one of those early season games where Burrow started to win the team over. Burrow threw for 200 yards and ran for an additional 66 with two touchdowns, a far cry from what fans have come to expect this year from the Heisman trophy favorite.
Burrow remembers last year's game a bit differently. He remembers losing to Florida the previous week and the team desperately needing a win to keep its goals in the rear view mirror.
"I think we were kind of digging our heels in the ground in that game," Burrow said. "I think during the season it's hard to reflect, hard to pick a point, that this is when we decided we were going to be back. I think it was a culmination of everything that happened last year, the games we won, the games we lost and the hard work this offseason that we put in."
It's come full circle for LSU. A team that was trying to stay afloat in the SEC race last year when the Georgia game rolled along now has a chance to win the conference Saturday.
This year's Bulldog team presents a new set of challenges, Burrow said, particularly at safety with starters Richard Lecounte and J.R. Reed.
"They have, I think, the two best tandem safeties in the country," Burrow said. "I don't know if there's a group that's better than those guys and you can tell how well-coached they are. They're very sound in their scheme which makes them so dominant."
As a way of preparing for a longer schedule than usual, Orgeron has worked alongside trainer Jack Marucci to limit practice speed over the last few weeks of the season.
"As the season has gone on here, Tommy Moffitt and Jack (Marucci), they measure how fast our guys are playing," Orgeron said. "When we're starting to slow down, they tell me when we're slowing down. I start to come back on practice. It may be a drill or so, may be a couple of minutes. But every week we scale back on practice."
"We've had five groups playing at 20 miles an hour, which is the highest we played all season last year. Those methods work. They give me the information. I make the decision how much we scale back, and it's worked for us."
By gametime, players said they've felt fresh and healthy because of the lighter workload during practice. For Burrow, that means throwing less on Monday and picking his spots for rest on Tuesday and Wednesday.
"Obviously we're throwing the ball a lot more so I've been resting my arm more than I usually have the last couple of years," Burrow said. "I think that's a credit to our guys, our coaching staff understanding when they need to lay back a little bit and let our guys rest."
Burrow's impact in the short term will be more defined as LSU makes its way through the postseason. Orgeron was asked Monday how the senior quarterback, who's thrown for SEC record 4,366 yards and 44 touchdowns has affected the program in the long term.
"I do believe, and I said it before, he's one of the most important recruits in LSU history in my mind," Orgeron said. "There have been other guys great here, Kevin Faulk, Bert Jones. I'm just saying he's one of the most important. The reason why? He was able to change LSU's offense from a pro-style offense to a spread. Hopefully it's here to stay."
"I think the things that he's done, not to say that we couldn't do it with another quarterback, but he was the perfect quarterback at the perfect time for us to get in the spread offense."
Burrow's legacy isn't quite carved out yet but there is no doubting what No. 9 will mean to this program, this city, this state, when it's all said and done. This is all the proof you need.