LSU Football Captures Fourth National Championship With Historic 42-25 Win Over Clemson
NEW ORLEANS — LSU led 42-25 early in the fourth quarter and the Tiger Band started to play neck. You know, the profanity-laced song that riles up Tiger fans every time they hear it.
It was played for the first time all season as fans could smell the inevitable. Then the big screen cut to Louisiana's adopted son, senior quarterback Joe Burrow. Burrow was bopping his head up and down to the music, drawing the largest cheers of the night from the fans, who knew what was on the horizon.
The LSU Tigers capped what was a historic season, going 15-0 for the first time in program history and capturing its fourth national championship.
"Just a tremendous night for the LSU Tigers, tremendous night for the purple and gold, tremendous night for the state of Louisiana," Orgeron said. "We are so proud to represent them."
It wasn't a crisp start to the first half by the LSU offense, starting with two three-and-outs to open the game. A-gap blitzes doomed the explosive Tiger offense in the first quarter as Clemson was able to apply pressure in between right guard Damien Lewis and center Lloyd Cushenberry by rushing a sixth man.
It turned out the best way was for Burrow to use his legs by scrambling and perfectly timed designed quarterback keepers. The senior rushed for 55 yards and a touchdown in the first half alone as the LSU offense began to find a bit of a rhythm.
LSU was able to get the run game going as Clyde Edwards-Helaire added 34 yards on the ground in addition to Burrow's 55. But it was the dynamic duo of Ja'Marr Chase and Burrow that rattled the Clemson defense, much like they have to most opposing defenses.
The two connected for six catches, 162 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, the most ever by a receiver in a single half of a national championship.
For the game, Burrow would have 463 yards through the air with five touchdowns while Chase propelled his way to the third 200-yard game of his career with 221 and two touchdowns. The senior Athens native would break the NCAA touchdown record held by Colt Brennan, becoming the first college quarterback to toss for 60 touchdowns in a season.
"Some pretty good emotions. I mean, this is special. This doesn't happen – this doesn't come around every year," Burrow said. "This is a special group of guys that really came together and it's as close of a group as I've ever been around. I'm just so happy I was able to do it with Coach O, Patrick and the rest of the guys in that locker room."
LSU would score touchdowns on four of its last five possessions of the first half to capture control of the game for the very first time. Burrow's first half numbers were rivaled by only that of Vince Young as he became the first quarterback since Young to throw for 250+ yards, rush for 50 yards and score a rushing touchdown.
Chase and Burrow continued that dynamic connection into the second half. The two connected on a screen pass that went down as one of the more important plays of the night. After back-to-back three-and-outs to open the third quarter, the offense was in a funk and that play, much like the 52-yard touchdown in the first quarter, broke the offense out of it.
"The first couple series I didn't think there was any way they were just going to play man with Ja'Marr, so I wasn't really looking his way," Burrow said. "Then I got back to the sideline after the second drive and I was like they really are playing man-to-man with Ja'Marr, so we started going to him heavy and he plays so well, and that's just the kind of guy he is. He's worked so hard for that, all of our guys."
Tight end Thaddeus Moss hauled in two touchdowns, becoming the x-factor many thought he could be before the game. The night was capped by a 24-yard fade touchdown throw to Terrace Marshall, the knockout punch that couldn’t have been thrown better.
The defense for much of the first half adopted the bend but don't break motto. After an up and down start that saw Clemson jump out to a 17-7 early lead, the defense clamped down time and time again.
Perhaps the most important thing the defense did Monday night was get off the field on third down. Clemson went an uncharacteristic 1-for-10 on third down and punted on five of their final six possessions of the game.
Linebackers Patrick Queen and Jacob Phillips led the way with big tackles after big tackle, combining for 15 on the night while Queen added a sack to his performance.
Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence had probably the worst game of his career, completing 18-of-37 passes for 234 yards and a touchdown. Running back Travis Etienne had a nice game, rushing for 75 yards and a score but the speed of the LSU defense proved too much, particulalry in the second half. The win snapped a 29 game win streak for Clemson.
LSU would sack Lawrence twice on the night and combine for eight tackles for a loss in the championship game.
Outside of an opening possession touchdown and two-point conversion, the Clemson offense failed to score, racking up just 108 yards of offense in the second half.
About an hour after the game had ended, Burrow splayed across a couch, a cigar in his mouth and a "Big D-- Joe" hat on his lap. He sucked on the cigar for a few moments, basking in what he and this team had just accomplished. There's no season to compare it to because it lies in a class of its own.