BY SCOTT RABALAIS
JAN 14, 2020
In 2020, perfection has a name.
Or, rather, three letters, shouted out defiantly to the world from Bourbon Street and the bayous of Ed Orgeron’s youth.
There is a stupefying list of records that LSU, led by Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Joe Burrow, has relegated to the paper shredder this season, enough to last from now until the spring game if you tried to tick them all off.
But ultimately, this is all you need to need to know:
Once again, LSU is the national champion.
The Tigers had to go 15-0 to do it. Beating seven teams ranked in The Associated Press’ Top 10 at the time to become the first LSU team since the 1958 national champions (who finished with a Sugar Bowl win over Clemson) to go unbeaten with a 42-25 win over those same Tigers in this CFP national championship game.
If that doesn’t deserve to be viewed as the best season any college team has ever had, well, to borrow a line from the famous father of an LSU tight end: You deserve to get Mossed.
What began as a tense circling of the ring between two heavyweight combatants ended up as the kind of occasion that Louisiana does best: one blowout party.
If you were here or watched it on TV, you may never forget it. The night. The confetti. The fireworks. The songs. “Neck” (vulgar, yes, but somehow absolved as Burrow waved his hand in time from the bench), “Louisiana Saturday Night” and the anthem-like “Callin’ Baton Rouge.”
Hello, Samantha dear, I know you’re feeling fine.
Never mind Tuesday morning’s hangover. It’ll go away eventually. The bosses will understand, because they’re hung over, too.
History hung heavy in the air inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Monday night. This is the 150th anniversary season of college football, and as part of the celebration of that milestone they honored the Top 11 college football legends on the field in a stirring moment that arced across the sport, from Jim Thorpe to modern-era stars like Barry Sanders. Jim Brown was there. Roger Staubach and Herschel Walker, too. College football royalty, for sure.
Perhaps at some point, there should be a recount to include Burrow among their regal coterie. Sometime before the game’s 200th anniversary, perhaps. Joe’s a kid. He can wait.
Against a Clemson defense that hadn’t surrendered more than two touchdown passes in a game all season and just nine in 14 games — Clemson ranked first or second in scoring defense, total defense, first downs allowed and passing efficiency — Burrow had one more than that in the first half. He finished with five touchdowns on the night and an FBS-record 60 for the season, completing a season that not only may never be surpassed, it should be dipped in bronze.
Given the quality of the opponent — cough, no jabs about the pillow-soft conference Clemson played in, cough, cough — it was the most amazing performance in a season full of them. Even more so, considering how troubling things looked for LSU early on.
The game started about as badly for LSU as you could imagine. It looked like Clemson was running some sort of naval blockade as LSU started its first two drives from its 7- and 4-yard lines and punted on its first three possessions overall. Meanwhile, Clemson mounted a scoring march on its third drive to put LSU down 7-0 in the first quarter.
At this point, there was a shudder going through two-thirds of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, which were filled with LSU fans wondering if their tickets were worth the second mortgage they might’ve needed to buy them. They were having serious flashbacks to that 21-0 loss to Alabama in the 2012 BCS National Championship Game eight years ago, when LSU couldn’t finish across the 50.
LSU leapt over that Rubicon this time late in the first as Burrow hit Ja’Marr Chase with a 52-yard touchdown pass to tie it 7-7. But Clemson looked every bit the part of its 29-game winning streak by bounding to a 17-7 lead, the first time this season LSU trailed anyone by more than seven points.
To beat Clemson, someone told me during the week, you have to drive a stake in its heart. Would LSU even have the chance?
Turns out the same proved true of LSU. Those Tigers answered with the stuff of champions, a 21-point run on a run by Burrow from the 3; a 14-yard TD pass to Chase; and a 6-yarder to Thad Moss padded a 28-17 halftime lead.
“You can’t hold us down forever,” Burrow said. “Our coaches are too good. Our players are too good.”
Burrow looked hurt on that throw to Moss, slammed right in the ribs by linebacker James Skalski, and he didn’t look right for much of the third quarter. But you didn’t think Burrow was coming out or anything, did you?
This is what he waited for since he was 10, he once said.
“This is what I wanted to do from the time I was 5 years old,” Burrow said just after planting a smacker on the CFP trophy.
OK. Make that 5. Revisionist history is in vogue in an age when LSU — formerly staid and stodgy LSU — can have a quarterback throw for 5,671 yards and 60 touchdowns.
A giddy gumbo of factors — recruiting the graduate transfer Burrow, switching to the spread offense, hiring Joe Brady — all stirred into the pot by Orgeron, who went from someone people likened to a “The Waterboy”-type caricature to a Louisiana folk hero.
“I’m in the right place at the right time,” Orgeron said.
A lot of LSU people are having that feeling, Ed.
They vanquished the ghost of eight years ago.
They beat as many challengers as you could ask any team to beat.
They won them all.
In a season that seemed like destiny for LSU, it was pure perfection.