NEW ORLEANS -- Concluding five football months as one of the most out-of-nowhere football shooting stars anybody ever saw, LSU on Monday night won arguably the most exhilarating national championship any fan base ever witnessed.
When its unforeseen 15-game storm of gorgeous lightning wound up filling a giant goose bump of a Louisiana Superdome, even a dynastic Clemson wound up looking amazed and bedraggled.
Once LSU's now-usual flurry of kinetic stats and pinball-machine points landed on a 42-25 final score, it had done to mighty Clemson what it had done to haughty Texas, to resurgent Florida, to rugged Auburn, to the great Alabama, vs. brawny Georgia and against supersonic Oklahoma. All along from September on, it had thrown and caught the ball with such rarefied precision that it probably should have brought along not a band, but a symphony.
Nobody in the sport could do a bloody thing about this purple-and-gold blur, a reality pretty much amusing when considering that LSU spent a chunk of the young century lampooned for stagecoach football, plodding through a futuristic era. LSU's third national title in the past 17 seasons looked nothing like the first two, and nothing like anybody imagined when the school promoted native Louisianian Ed Orgeron to head coach as a choice that seemed secondary or tertiary. In the end, LSU left even Clemson (14-1) buried in numbers.
Those included the 31-for-49 passing for 463 yards and 5 touchdown passes with zero interceptions from Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Joe Burrow, who left his final college game strewn with his gasp-worthy precision and collected the most touchdown passes (60) anybody ever had in a season. They included the now-accustomed churn of numbers for a frightening band of receivers, from Ja'Marr Chase's 9 catches for 221 yards and 2 touchdowns, to Justin Jefferson's 9 for 106, and tight end Thaddeus Moss' 5 for 36 and 2 touchdowns. Running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire had 5 catches for 54 (with 110 rushing yards, too), and the 3 for 46 for Terrace Marshall, whose catches peaked notably.
When Burrow sent yet another unimaginably pretty thing up to the right corner of the end zone with 12:08 to go, Marshall headed for the sky and then returned to earth with the thing snared. It gave LSU a 42-25 lead that seemed too much of a deluge. It meant it had fended off a Clemson third-quarter push that had closed a 28-17 halftime deficit to 28-25. It left Burrow riding a sideline exercise bicycle while revving up the crowd.
At one point 10 minutes and change before halftime, when Clemson Coach Dabo Swinney exulted on the sideline and ran into a jumping ram with an assistant, the trend appeared otherwise and the sight looked almost like familiar choreography. Clemson led 17-7 on a 36-yard reverse run from receiver Tee Higgins -- who took a pitch from running back Lyn-J Dixon and headed left toward open terrain -- and it began to feel a little like January 2017 and January 2019, times of Clemson titles and Swinney's considerable smile.
Then the storm returned. From that 17-7 inconvenience, LSU tore through Clemson as if it had not read Clemson's astounding resume. It went 75 yards in five plays, 87 yards in six, and 95 in 11 as its halftime lead reached 28-17. It beautified the field with a stream of breathtaking football plays, mainly Burrow passes that traveled downfield and tucked themselves precisely into the right arms and guts.
LSU had knocked down Clemson. Burrow had gone 16 for 28 for 270 yards with 3 touchdown passes and zero interceptions, bringing those two totals to 58 and six by halftime and equaling Colt Brennan's 13-year-old single-season touchdown-passing record. Burrow also had rushed eight times for 55 yards of importance.
Early on, Clemson's coverage looked thick, and Burrow's options looked thin. LSU spent two series camped out back near its own goal line.
Soon thereafter, the defending national champion quarterback Trevor Lawrence opened the scoring on a masterful fake and a brisk trip outside the right edge for a one-yard touchdown, and even after LSU got going with Burrow's aria of a 52-yard pass up the right sideline to Chase, there came Higgins's reverse with his closing dance along the left sideline.
That looked like something everyone had seen before. Then LSU presented one last night of something nobody had seen before.
Sports on 01/14/2020
Print Headline: LSU's offense mystifies one last time