Third and Seventeen to the Championship

Earlier this evening, the LSU Tigers defeated Clemson for the college football national championship. If you want to understand this season, then you have to go all the way back to the beginning.

I knew that something was different from the first game, but the signature moment of the season happened in the second game which was against the Texas Longhorns. LSU’s offense dominated that game, but Texas was somehow able to keep the score close into the fourth quarter.

With two and a half minutes left in the game, LSU clung to a six-point lead and had the ball. It was third down and seventeen. The old LSU would have given up on the drive, run the ball, and then punted and hoped for the defense to hold. Not Joe Burreaux’s team. Joe Burreaux completes a pass to Justin Jefferson for a touchdown to stick a knife deep in the heart of Texas. Matthew McConaughey looked despondent after that one, and the game was over (see below).

That play defines this season. No more grounding a pounding. It was attack, attack, attack through the air. And with Joe Burreaux’s accuracy and Joe Brady’s scheme, the Tigers were unstoppable. They ended up beating seven top ten schools over the course of the season. Seven! And they didn’t scrape by. Many of those victories were blowouts. It was incredible to watch.

The victory tonight caps off the most dominant single season performance of any team that I’ve ever seen in college football. The team scored more points this season than any other team in the history of the AP poll era (726 points!). They finished the season with a perfect record, 15-0 (or 15-eaux as we like to say it). Player after player won individual awards. Head Coach Ogeron won coach of the year. And of course Joe Burreaux brought home the Heisman with the best season I’ve ever seen from a quarterback in college football. And now the Tigers finish it off with the national championship.

Coming into tonight, I believed that LSU’s hardest game was behind them. I really thought that Alabama was the best team we’d face and that it was all downhill from there. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Clemson landed some haymakers against the LSU tigers, and this was a slugfest. Clemson was by far the best team we’ve faced all season, and it’s not even close. Clemson was incredible.

LSU fans will count this as one of the sweetest victories of all time. The last time LSU played in the national championship game was in 2012. The Tigers came into that game with a perfect record but then fell to Alabama in a disappointing loss in the Super Dome.

I’ve written about this before, but that game was more than just a sad ending to a season. That game broke LSU football. After that game, LSU was snake-bit. They could not beat Alabama anymore after that, which means that they weren’t national championship contenders. This team reversed that by beating Alabama in Tuscaloosa in November. And if I’m being honest, winning the Alabama game produced even more euphoria than winning the championship tonight. It was that victory that broke an eight-year curse.

Watching this season has been like watching lightning strike. I think LSU’s program has turned a corner and will be contenders in the future. But I have no illusions that every year is going to be like this year. This was special. I doubt I’ll see another one like it in my lifetime. It was a season for the ages. And when they put up the statue of Joe Burreaux in front of Tiger Stadium, it will be well-deserved.