Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow threw for 463 yards and five touchdowns to lead LSU to a 42-25 win over Clemson Monday night. (Photo courtesy of Gus Stark)
One, two, three, FOUR!
NEW ORLEANS -- For the second time in school history, the LSU Tigers have ended their season with a perfect record and a National Championship as they came from behind to take down No. 3 Clemson 42-25 in the College Football Playoff title game Monday night.
LSU (15-0) becomes the first team since 1936 to beat every pre-season top four team in the AP Poll in one season. The last time the Tigers were undefeated and won a National Title was in 1958 when they took down Clemson 7-0 in New Orleans.
LSU has now won four National Championships; 1958, 2003, 2007 and this season.
In what has become the standard this season, after the game LSU head coach Ed Orgeron deflected the praise for his team’s success toward his players and assistant coaches.
“I just thank God for the opportunity (to coach at LSU),” Orgeron stated. “I’m smart enough to know that I’m surrounded by great players, a great university and great coaches. Without them, I would not be sitting here. It took all of us together (to win the championship). It’s been one team, one heartbeat. Everyone had a great role in our championship team.”
Completing the perfect season and walking away with the CFP Championship came unconventionally for LSU as they were forced to come from behind for only the second time this year.
It was field position that got the Tigers in trouble early on. Despite holding Clemson to zero points on their first two drives, LSU found themselves pinned back deep in their territory following Clemson punts.
The Tigers’ first two possessions began at their seven and four yard lines respectfully. Gaining good field position after LSU’s second punt of the night, Clemson scored the first points of the game on a one yard run by quarterback Trevor Lawrence, capping off a five play 67 yard drive.
Still unable to solve the defensive game plan concocted by Clemson defensive co-ordinator Brent Venables, the Tigers did not get going offensively until their fourth possession of the game. Spreading the field more, LSU found a rhythm that led to a 52 yard scoring strike from Joe Burrow to Ja’marr Chase. The drive, which ate up 70 yards and lasted 1:36, tied the game at 7-7 with 2:20 to go in the first quarter.
On the ensuing drive, Clemson was able to put themselves back on top. Starting at their 25-yard line, the “South Carolina” Tigers moved the ball down to the LSU 35-yard line. The drive stalled, however, Clemson’s BT Potter nailed a 52-yard field goal to put Clemson up 10-7.
Just three minutes later, Clemson was back on the scoreboard after Tee Higgins took a reverse handoff 36 yards for the touchdown. With the extra point, Clemson led 17-7, creating knots in the stomach of the LSU faithful.
Undeterred and feeling more confident in their offense, the Tigers went from 10 points down to 11 points ahead over the course of their next three possessions, as they found pay dirt on back-to-back-to-back drives. The first touchdown came on a Burrow three yard run.
The next two scores came via the air. With 5:19 to go in the first half, Burrow connected with Chase once again, this time from 14 yards out. The final score of the second quarter, a six yard pass to Thaddeus Moss, capped off an 11 play 95 yard drive that left Clemson with only 10 seconds on the clock. Clemson knelt the ball to end the half and send the teams into the locker room with LSU leading 28-17.
Momentum swung back Clemson’s way to start the third quarter. After forcing a Tiger punt on the first possession of the second half, Clemson mounted a six play 50 yard drive that culminated in a Travis Etienne three yard run. Clemson put the icing on the cake by converting on a two-point pass to make it a 28-25 game.
From that point on, it was all LSU. The Tigers picked and gnawed their way to two final scores over the next 14:30 of the game.
The first of those scores came with 5:13 left to go in the third quarter when Burrow slipped a pass in the flat to Moss, who powered his way in from four yards out. The final touchdown of the game happened in the early part of the fourth quarter, as Burrow connected with Terrace Marshall on a perfectly thrown ball.
In his post-game interview, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney not only gave credit to LSU, but also talked about his pride in his team this season.
“Obviously, it was a disappointing night for us, it is not the way we envisioned it going,” said Swinney. “I am just thankful for our team and to be a part of an incredible team, coaches, staff and players. It was just an unreal year. This team, this year was incredibly special.”
“I thought LSU played a beautiful game,” he continued. “I thought their quarterback was tremendous and their receivers made some incredible plays. They made the plays. They played a heck of a game and they were the better team tonight.”