NEW ORLEANS, LA - It was tough to come so close to making history only to see it evaporate, but the Tigers just didn't have their A game tonight, especially in the second half, and LSU has one heck of a team. There were a few swing plays that could have made the difference, like the offensive pass interference call on Tee Higgins that negated a TD to make it a 10-point game with 11 minutes left. Then there was the ejection of Skalski in the first half. They certainly missed him, and that was a questionable call. But who knows if either of those would have made the difference. LSU just caught lightning in a bottle this season with a transfer quarterback that played like Tom Brady in his prime, and he was magnificent tonight. Venables was able to confuse Burrow early, and the Clemson defense did a fantastic job in the first half with consecutive three-and-outs to start the game, but Burrow eventually adjusted and was able to confound the defense like he has all season, making first downs with his legs, finding open receivers while scrambling and fitting perfect passes into tight windows despite great coverage. The Biletnikoff winner Ja'Marr Chase was also unstoppable. He was able to burn A.J. Terrell over and over again, racking up 218 yards and 2 TD's by the 3rd quarter!
Trevor Lawrence did not have his best stuff on Monday night. Although he didn't necessarily play badly, he was not the Trevor Lawrence we've seen in his past three playoff games and was errant on several key throws. He even fumbled on a 4th quarter run for the only turnover of the game, and he got lucky on a few balls that could have been intercepted. Trevor's emotions were clear during the post-game press conference, where he had tears in his eyes after losing his first football game since high school. "I think the worst thing is you don't get to go back and play with this group," Trevor told me. "For me that's the worst thing. Especially those seniors, the guys up front, some of the wide outs. We're gonna be fine, we'll be back, but it just sucks not getting to finish the way we wanted to." Trevor finished 18-37 for 234 yards with no TD passes and no interceptions. He completed a 2-point conversion to Amari Rodgers. He also rushed for 49 yards and a TD on 10 carries but had the fumble.
Travis Etienne, in presumably his last game in the Orange and White, broke Raymond Priester's Clemson career rushing record in his home state of Louisiana. He finished with 78 yards and a TD on 15 carries. He also had 5 catches for 36 yards. Etienne said after the game that he would sit down with his family and make a decision about whether to declare early for the NFL.
So the Tigers won't break Oklahoma's 47-game win streak or win 3 national titles in 4 years, but on the bright side, they have a great team coming back. Maybe an even better team, as Dabo said the other day. They had 80 freshmen and sophomores this year and just 40 juniors and seniors. Not to mention some instant-impact freshmen coming in like Bryan Bresee, Myles Murphy and Demarkcus Bowman.
It was an incredible season and run by the Tigers, but the best is yet to come! The post-game press conference is below, and click the purple link for more interviews.
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