Joe Burrow: "What we did tonight they can never take away from us."


New Orleans—Some day we’ll look back and wonder if it was all real.

We’ll wonder if we really saw what we thought we saw on a January night in this city where legends have been born and have seen their promise fulfilled.

For on this night at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, a crowd of 76,855 plus millions more watching at home saw LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, the Heisman Trophy winner, put the perfect ending on the perfect 2019 season—a season that will live forever.

With his team trailing Clemson, the defending national champions, 17-7 early in the second quarter, Burrow rallied his team with 21 unanswered points. Despite sore ribs, we watched him make throw after splendid throw.

And when it was over, the legend of Joe Burrow was forever cast. At the very end Burrow took a knee at the seven-yard line against a Clemson defense that Burrow had worn into submission.

LSU won 42-25 to give the school its fourth national championship and in the process became the first school in SEC history to go 15-0.

Burrow’s numbers were staggering as he completed 31 of 49 passes for 463 yards and FIVE touchdowns. Twelve of those touchdowns came in two playoff games giving him 60 on the season. That broke the NCAA record of 58 set by Hawaii’s Colt Brennan in 2007.

And as long as people talk about college football, they will forever remember the journey that brought Burrow to this glorious moment. The son of a coach who had dreams of being a championship quarterback had to leave his native Ohio to pursue them. He could not crack the starting lineup at Ohio State but LSU, under Coach Ed Orgeron, was willing to give him a chance.

After an average season in 2018, Orgeron fatefully decided that his offense would have to change in order to challenge Alabama in the SEC West and give Burrow a real chance to use his immense physical and mental gifts on the football field.

Orgeron hired 29-year-old Joe Brady from the New Orleans Saints and gave him carte blanche to mold the offense around Burrow’s skill set.

During spring practice Orgeron knew it was going to work.

“When I saw that our offense was completing 80 percent of the passesw against our defense I knew that we had something,” he said.

But there was a key moment in the second game that set the tone for the entire season. Leading Texas 37-31 in Austin late in the fourth quarter and facing a third and 17, the old LSU would have punted and put the outcome of the game on its defense.

But the new LSU, with Burrow as the triggerman, did not take its foot off the gas. Burrow avoided pressure and threw a 61-yard touchdown pass to Ja’Marr Chase. A two-point conversion made it 45-31 and LSU won 45-38.

In that game Burrow threw for 471 yards and four touchdowns. LSU’s identity was set and it would never change. Week after week Burrow would put up video game numbers while the rest of the SEC wondered when his hot hand would cool off. It never did.

And as the confetti fell from the roof of the Superdome, Orgeron took the national championship trophy and handed it directly to Burrow. Burrow then kissed it and lifted it to the sky.

“This the best group of guys anybody could ask for,” Burrow said on the championship stage. “This what I have wanted to do since I was five years old--to hoist this trophy.”

“There have been so many people who have helped me on this journey. I’ll never forget it.”

Burrow looked uncomfortable and out of his rhythm early in the game as Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables dialed up various blitzes that kept constant pressure on the LSU quarterback. LSU also had bad field position early in the game as Clemson punts pinned LSU deep in its own territory.

When Clemson led 17-7 it was the first time LSU had trailed by double digits all season.

But Burrow, as he had done all season, eventually figured out what the opposing defense was doing and found his rhythm.

“There was no rah-rah speech on the sideline,” Burrow said. “We knew what we had to do. We just had to execute our game plan. You can’t hold us down forever. Once we figured it out we started to roll.”

And roll they did.

With the victory LSU became the ninth undefeated national champion in SEC history.

And Joe Burrow will forever be a legend and not only in Louisiana.

“Something like this does not come around every year,” said Burrow. “What we did tonight they can never take away from us.”

“This team is going to be mentioned as one of the greatest teams in SEC history,” said Orgeron.

And Burrow will go down as the greatest quarterback in LSU history and one of the greatest to ever play the game.

Yes. We saw it. And it was real.


Tony Barnhart