NEW ORLEANS — From small-town Ohio kid to Louisiana Legend, Joe Burrow capped his record-breaking, Heisman-winning season by bringing a national championship to LSU.
Burrow threw five touchdown passes, ran for another score and finished off one of the most accomplished seasons in college football history by leading the top-ranked Tigers to a 42-25 victory against No. 3 Clemson on Monday night in the playoff final.
“He’s one of the greatest players in LSU history,” Tigers coach Ed Orgeron said of Burrow. “He’s done so much for the state of Louisiana and LSU. We are so grateful to Joe Burrow.”
The senior quarterback from The Plains, Ohio, lead the Tigers (15-0) to their first national title since 2007 and fourth overall, breaking a few more records along the way in what was already an historic season. The five TD passes and 463 yards passing are the most for a BCS or College Football Playoff title game as are his six total touchdowns.
“This is what I wanted to do from the time I was 5 years old, was hoist this trophy, and bringing it back to Louisiana,” Burrow said, then caught himself. “I guess we’re in Louisiana, but staying in Louisiana, we weren’t going to let someone come in here and steal this from us in our home state.
“We have a great fan base that came out and supported us. We were going to keep this thing right here.”
Under a shower of sparkling white, gold and purple confetti, Burrow raised the CFP championship trophy toward the Superdome roof.
The party was on — no doubt already raging on nearby Bourbon Street.
Burrow became the first major college quarterback to throw 60 touchdown passes in a season as LSU snapped defending national champion Clemson’s 29-game winning streak. For the first time in his college career, Clemson star quarterback Trevor Lawrence was on the losing team. The Tigers (14-1) had won his first 25 starts.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve stood in front of a team after a loss,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said.
But on this night, Lawrence (18 for 37 for 234 yards) was no match for Burrow — the Ohio State transfer who threw all of 16 TD passes last season with LSU.
His ascent has been dizzying and unprecedented. Running a version of the New Orleans Saints’ offence that was brought to LSU by 30-year-old assistant coach Joe Brady, Burrow and an array of talented receivers transformed these Tigers into one of the most prolific offences college football has ever seen.
The Saints’ Drew Brees, Burrow’s idol growing up, could not have done it better.
It was Orgeron’s vision for LSU when he was promoted from interim coach in 2016. There was plenty of skepticism when LSU tabbed the Cajun who had failed in his first crack as a head coach with Mississippi.
Orgeron has proven to be the perfect fit for LSU. Just like Burrow.
After tossing his fifth touchdown pass of the night, a perfectly placed jumped ball to Terrace Marshall Jr. from 24 yards out to make it 42-25 with 12:08 left in the fourth, Burrow signalled TD and strolled to the sideline.
The Superdome is LSU’s dome away from home, about 80 miles from the Tigers Baton Rouge campus, and it was rocking.
The LSU band broke out its unofficial anthem, “Neck,” and as the Tigers bounced and waved towels on the sideline, Burrow just sat on the bench, bobbing his head and waving one arm.
Joe Cool. Just doing his thing. Next stop: The NFL draft, where he will likely be the first pick in April.
The final score was lopsided, but it was far from easy for LSU and Burrow.
Clemson pushed LSU into the deepest hole it has had to climb out of this season in the first half. Two weeks after Lawrence ran for a career-best 107 yards against Ohio State, he opened the scoring with a 1-yard jaunt around right end in the first quarter.
After B.T. Potter kicked a career-long 52-yard field goal for Clemson to make it 10-7, the Tigers sprung receiver Tee Higgins on a reverse and he raced 36 yards through tacklers for a score to make it 17-7.
It took LSU 5:19 to wipe that out and take the lead, with Burrow and his favourite receiver, Ja’Marr Chase doing most of the damage. The Heisman winner hit the Biletnikoff Award winner with a long ball to set up a quarterback draw from 3 yards out to make it 17-14.
Burrow and Chase hooked up for a 14-yard touchdown with 5:19 left in the second quarter and LSU fans erupted as their Tigers took the lead for the first time, 21-17. They never looked back.
Chase finished with nine catches for 221 yards.
The SEC Tigers weren’t done. Burrow led LSU on a 95-yard drive, taking a hard shot on a long run before finding Thaddeus Moss, son of former NFL star receiver Randy Moss, standing alone in the end zone. That made it 28-17 with 10 seconds left in the half.
After Clemson’s defence flummoxed LSU for most of the first quarter, with tight coverage and hard-to-decipher blitzes, Burrow, Chase and Co. put up 269 yards in the second quarter.
Over the last three games of this spectacular season, against Georgia in the Southeastern Conference championship game and Oklahoma and Clemson in the playoff, Burrow passed for 1,305 yards and 16 touchdowns. LSU won those games by a combined score of 142-63.
When it was all over, Burrow puffed on a victory cigar as he made his way from the locker room to the postgame news conference. No one was about to tell him he couldn’t smoke inside.
This season, Burrow has done just about whatever he wants.
New York Rangers get OK to interview Gerard Gallant for coaching job
The New York Rangers plan to interview Gerard Gallant for their head coaching job, TSN reported.
The Vegas Golden Knights, who fired Gallant during the 2019-20 season, reportedly have granted permission.
A first conversation between the Rangers and Gallant was expected to take place quickly, before Gallant heads to Latvia to coach Team Canada at the IIHF World Championship, which runs from May 21-June 6.
Gallant, 57, was the first coach of the expansion Golden Knights and led them to the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season in 2017-18. The Washington Capitals won in five games.
He was fired 49 games into his third season when the team was 24-19-6, and he had an overall record of 118-75-20 with Vegas.
He also coached the Columbus Blue Jackets (2003-07) and Florida Panthers (2014-17) and has a career record of 270-216-4-51 in 541 career games as a head coach.
The Rangers are in the midst of an overhaul. They fired head coach David Quinn and three assistant coaches on Wednesday, following the dismissal last week of team president John Davidson and general manager Jeff Gorton.
The Rangers failed to qualify for the playoffs for the fourth straight season after posting a 27-23-6 record in 2020-21. They finished in fifth place in the East Division.
Quinn, 54, compiled a 96-87-25 record during his three seasons as coach of the Rangers after taking over for Alain Vigneault on May 23, 2018.
–Field Level Media
NHL wants answer on Canada border crossing soon
The Canadian teams played only each other during the 2020-21 season in a revamped North Division because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that will continue during the first two rounds of the playoffs. It’s what happens after that — in the semifinals and finals — that is up in the air.
“The conversations are ongoing. We’ve told them we really do need to know by the end of the first round, and that’s around June 1,” Steve Mayer, the league’s chief content officer, told ESPN. “That’s pretty much the date that we’ve talked to them about, saying we have to know one way or another.”
Last season, the playoffs were held in bubbles in Edmonton and Toronto.
Under current rules, American-based teams couldn’t play in Canada without mandatory quarantines, which would make travel for home-and-away games impossible under the playoff calendar.
The NHL and government representatives last talked a week ago, and the Canadian officials submitted a variety of questions for the league’s response.
In the interim, Mayer said, the league has discussed the possibility of the Canadian team that advances from the North Division being based in the U.S. for the duration of the postseason. Talks have occurred with officials at NHL arenas where teams didn’t qualify for the playoffs.
An NHL source told ESPN this week that the league expects “a positive resolution” to the issue, however.
–Field Level Media
Canada to play 2 more home World Cup qualifiers in U.S.
As Canada continues to wrestle with the coronavirus pandemic, the country’s national soccer team will play two more of its home World Cup qualifying matches south of the border in June.
Canada will face Aruba in Bradenton, Fla., on June 5, and will take on Suriname in suburban Chicago on June 8, Canada Soccer confirmed Monday.
The games are Canada‘s last two of four matches in CONCACAF Group B. A March 26 Canadian home match against Bermuda was held in Orlando, Fla., which Canada won 5-1. Also, the Caymen Islands were the host team on March 29, when Canada rolled, 11-0.
Only one national team advances to the next round, and Canada and Suriname top the group and the game against Suriname in Bridgeview, Ill., figures to be the deciding match in both teams’ efforts to advance.
Thirty nations from Central and North America are competing in this first round with six group winners advancing to a second round of head-to-head knockout matches for the right to compete in the CONCACAF final round of eight teams competing for four places in the 2022 World Cup. A fifth team from CONCACAF advances to an intercontinental play-in round.
As was executed in Orlando, the match in Chicago will be staged in accordance with the FIFA International Match Protocols supported by the relevant public health requirements.
“We had hoped to play these matches at home with Canadian fans providing the support and momentum to play a tough nation like Suriname in FIFA World Cup Qualifiers,” said John Herdman, coach of the Canadian men’s national team. “The reality of the global pandemic and the priority to keep our communities in Canada safe means the match will be played at a neutral site in Chicago with no home advantage, but we will embrace that challenge.
“Whatever comes at us, we will take it on and do whatever we need to do to advance to the next round.”
-Field Level Media
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