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LSU capped off a remarkable season with yet another remarkable performance. Ed Orgeron’s Tigers knocked off mighty Clemson 42-25 to win the College Football Playoff National Championship, snapping Clemson’s 29-game winning streak in the process.
LSU found itself facing an unfamiliar deficit early, but managed to stage a comeback on the back of Heisman-winning quarterback Joe Burrow. Burrow got a lot of help, especially from receiver Ja’Marr Chase, who finished the night with 221 yards and two touchdowns on nine catches.
But Chase wasn’t the only LSU player who made big plays. Here are the plays that ultimately propelled LSU to its first national title since 2007.
Joe Burrow’s 56-yard bomb to Ja’Marr Chase
Things weren’t going well for LSU early. Burrow and the LSU offense had been operating at an extremely high level all year long, but were struggling with Brent Venables’ defense through the first 20-plus minutes of play.
But one player finding success for LSU was receiver Ja’Marr Chase. Chase got behind the defense for a 52-yard touchdown in the first quarter, but Clemson still managed to jump out to a 10-point lead.
A highlight reel 38-yard TD run by Tee Higgins put Clemson up 17-7, giving Dabo Swinney’s team all the momentum. But that changed in an instant when Burrow went back to Chase for a 56-yard bomb.
All of a sudden, the uneasiness among the LSU faithful subsided. Three plays later, Burrow scored on a quarterback draw from three yards out to cut Clemson’s lead to 17-14 with 9:17 left in the first half.
Critical third-down conversions before halftime
One of the differences in the game was third-down efficiency. Clemson was just 1-of-11 on third down on the night. LSU, at 4-of-14, wasn’t a whole lot better. But two of LSU’s third-down conversions led to the touchdown that would put LSU up for good.
Burrow’s rushing touchdown was the team’s first third-down conversion. And then there were three more third-down plays on LSU’s final drive of the half that resulted in first downs. First was a Clemson pass interference on third-and-19 to keep the drive alive. Burrow then kept the chains moving by connecting with Justin Jefferson on third-and-5.
But the play that put LSU in position to score was a gutsy play call. LSU didn’t have any timeouts when it dialed up another QB draw for Burrow on third-and-10 from the Clemson 35 with just 21 seconds left in the half. Burrow broke through the line for a 29-yard gain.
On the very next play, Burrow hit Thaddeus Moss for a six-yard touchdown, giving LSU a 28-17 lead at halftime.
Nolan Turner’s dropped pick six
Even when it felt like the entire state of Louisiana was against it, Clemson opened the second half with some juice. The defense forced an LSU three-and-out before the offense marched down the field and scored, cutting LSU’s lead to 28-25.
On the ensuing possession, a seemingly hobbled Burrow (bruised from getting hit on the TD pass to Moss) nearly threw a costly interception to Clemson’s Nolan Turner. Turner was the man who sealed a semifinal victory over Ohio State with an interception, but this time the ball slipped through his fingers.
Had he hauled the errant pass in, he may have taken it the other way for a go-ahead Clemson touchdown.
Instead, it was simply an incomplete pass. At that time, however, we did not know that Clemson’s offense would be shut out for the rest of the way.
Ja’Marr Chase gains 43 yards on another third down
A string of three consecutive plays for LSU late in the third quarter were pivotal for both sides. Still down just 28-25, Clemson’s defense had the chance to get off the field by stopping LSU on a third-and-11 from near midfield.
LSU dialed up a screen pass to Chase, who had a cavalcade of blockers in front of him. Chase not only got the first down, he picked up 43 yards to get LSU into the red zone.
On the next play, a Burrow completion to Justin Jefferson resulted in a targeting foul that knocked Clemson linebacker James Skalski — a key player on that defense — from the game. From there, Burrow found Moss again for another score to put LSU ahead 35-25 with 5:13 left in the third quarter.
The dagger to Terrace Marshall
The touchdown that gave Burrow a ridiculous 60 touchdown passes on the season was the dagger that put the game out of reach for Clemson.
And it was one of his best throws of the night. Burrow threw a beautiful ball up to 6-foot-4 Terrace Marshall and put it only where Marshall could get his hands on it.
The 24-yard strike was Burrow’s fifth touchdown catch of the night and ultimately capped off a record-setting performance from the Heisman winner.
Burrow finished the night 31-of-49 for 463 yards and five touchdowns along with 58 yards and one score on the ground. Oh, and a national championship ring.
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