By: Aidan Cappellino ’20
It was the battle of tigers in Louisiana’s Superdome this past Monday where the LSU Tigers subjugated the Clemson Tigers as College Football Playoff National Champions. With Clemson coming off a wild 29-22 Fiesta Bowl victory and LSU’s 63-28 rout of Oklahoma occurring only a few weeks prior, expectations for an outstanding game were at an all time high. Not to mention, Clemson’s twenty-nine game winning streak and LSU’s Heisman hype to live up to provided ample fuel to the competitive fire that had been brewing between the two teams over the past two weeks.
Before getting into the specifics of the game—the touchdown grabs, skillful jukes, and big runs—one thing should be acknowledged for certain: both defenses. Despite LSU and Clemson having two of the most powerful and explosive offenses in college football today, both teams’ defenses had managed to neutralize one another so well that the two teams combined forced six punts in the first quarter alone. The defensive strategies executed by both sides were simply phenomenal.
For starters, Brent Venables, Clemson’s defensive coordinator, did an impressive job disguising blitzes and stunts throughout the entire game. Because LSU’s QB, Joe Burrow, is the one who makes line calls and adjustments, Venables sent a lot of pressure and ran tactful schemes in order to throw off Burrow. On multiple occasions, Burrow was rushed so quickly he had no choice but to throw it away or take the sack. In regards to LSU, inside linebacker Patrick Queen put in a lights-out performance. He racked up eight total tackles, 2.5 for a loss, a half sack, in addition to providing various key stops in important moments. The LSU defense as a whole played physically, and stopped the Clemson Tigers in their tracks throughout the entirety of the game. In doing this, they successfully limited one of the best offenses in the country to a measly 394 total yards of offense.
In the first quarter, Clemson was first to reach the endzone with a Trevor Lawrence touchdown run following a 42-yard strike to receiver Braden Galloway to open the drive. However, with some Joe Burrow magic, Clemson’s lead lasted for only a few minutes of play. After a stalled offensive drive and huge defensive stop, Burrow and the Tigers’ offense drove the ball 70 yards in just four plays. The drive concluded with a 52-yard nuke to dynamo receiver Ja’Marr Chase courtesy of Joe Burrow, which pushed the score to 7-7 entering the second quarter.
With LSU letting up an early field goal and opening with a punt, Clemson’s four play, 96-yard drive capped off by a Tee Higgins touchdown run swung the score to 17-7 in favor of Dabo Swinney’s crew to open the second quarter. Next drive, Burrow launched a 56-yard missile to Ja’Marr Chase once again, which set up a Burrow rushing touchdown only a few plays later to push the score to 17-14. The LSU defense forced Clemson to punt, which led to an 87-yard drive by the Tigers that ended with yet another touchdown strike to—you guessed it—Ja’Marr Chase. This touchdown gave LSU their first lead of the game with a score of 21-17.
The LSU defensive front continued to force Lawrence off the field, limiting the Clemson offense to a staggering 12 yards total. At this point in the match, the LSU offense refused to take its foot off the gas pedal. With a big run by Clyde Edwards-Helaire to open the drive, multiple Burrow scrambles, and a touchdown by football legend Randy Moss’s son Thaddeus Moss, LSU led Clemson 28-17 entering into the second half.
The second half could be described only as absolute dominance by LSU. While Clemson scored early off of an efficient drive ending with a Travis Etienne touchdown run, that would be the last time that Clemson would reach the endzone. From then on, the game would be characterized by stingy defense from LSU, who only let up 113 yards of total offense in the entire second half, and a dominating offensive attack led by Joe Burrow. The Tigers of LSU managed to put up two more touchdowns. The first was another Thaddeus Moss grab towards the end of the third quarter, and the second was a 24-yard dart to Terrace Marshall Jr. early on in the fourth.
Ultimately LSU bested Clemson 42-25, becoming the second FBS-level team to go 15-0 (the other was Clemson the year prior). They absolutely dominated on both sides of the ball, and made the plays when it counted most. Personally, I am extremely happy for Coach O. Everything about him exudes a love for football. This is a guy that punches himself in the face to motivate his players and puts worms in his mouth to inspire his teammates; he literally eats and breathes the sport. One thing I know for certain is that the 2019 Louisiana State Tigers, led by Joe Burrow and the gravelly-voiced Louisiana native Coach Ed Orgeron, will forever be remembered as legends of College Football.