Rapid Reaction: Unstoppable Burrow, LSU break records, Oklahoma's spirit in Peach Bowl semifinal blowout
Joe Burrow did Saturday what Joe Burrow has done all year: torch the defense with his right arm.
Just never quite like this. Of course, nobody in College Football Playoff history had a day like this.
Saturday, Oklahoma felt the full force of the Heisman Trophy stiff-arm.
Burrow entered the Peach Bowl semifinal with 4,715 yards and 48 TD passes. It only seemed like he matched those numbers in a 63-28 blowout of the No. 4 seed Sooners.
Burrow set Playoff records for passing yards (493) and TD throws (7). The TD throws tied the SEC single-game record, as well. Burrow also ran for a TD, making his 8 combined TDs the most in FBS bowl history. LSU’s point total was the most in Playoff history.
It was that kind of afternoon in Atlanta.
Before the 1st half ended, Burrow became just the 5th QB in FBS history to reach 5,000 yards and 50 TD passes in the same season. He joined the exclusive club in a signature opening frame in which he threw for 403 yards and 7 TDs. Those 7 TDs broke his school record and matched the SEC single-game record.
To say that LSU’s offense was unstoppable was an understatement. It scored 49 points on its first 40 plays. It averaged 12.45 yards per play. Burrow entered the break with more TD passes (7) than counterpart Jalen Hurts had completions (5).
It was the perfect half of a football on the worst possible day. Just hours before kickoff, the Tigers learned that offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger’s daughter-in-law, Carley McCord, was 1 of 5 people killed in a plane crash en route to the game.
Ensminger still coached. His Tigers clearly rallied around him.
LSU opened up a 21-7 lead in the 1st quarter —with Burrow throwing 3 TD passes.
Justin Jefferson caught the 1st one — on LSU’s 3rd play of the game. After Oklahoma tied it at 7, LSU reclaimed the lead for good when Terrance Marshall caught an 8-yard TD pass from Burrow. That also was Burrow’s 50th TD pass of the season — making him just the 7th QB in FBS history to reach that mark. He didn’t stay there long, of course.
On LSU’s next possession, he hit Jefferson on a 35-yard heave down the left sideline to make it 21-7.
That was the most points Oklahoma had allowed in the 1st quarter all season.
Burrow continued to pile on. The Tigers added 28 more points — 4 more Burrow TD passes — in the 2nd quarter.
Three plays after a vicious targeting call leveled Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Burrow hit Jefferson again, this time for a 42-yard TD to make it 28-7.
Moments later, Jefferson’s 4th TD catch gave him 18 on the season, tying the SEC record.
Burrow finished the historic half by hitting Thaddeus Moss on a 62-yard TD and Marshall again for a 2-yard TD to make it 49-14.
Each drive, television crews panned to the coaches’ box. More often than not, it showed Joe Brady communicating, Ensminger by his side, headset raised. Ed Orgeron, at halftime, made sure to praise Ensminger and the game-plan he drew up.
Nothing will ever ease the pain Ensminger felt receiving the tragic news before kickoff, but there was no way this offense was going to add any more stress to it.
After a record performance, the Tigers will return home, regroup, begin to heal emotionally and physically, and prepare for their next stop: the national title game Jan. 13 in New Orleans. The opponent will be determined later Saturday. It might not matter.
The Tigers proved again Saturday what they’ve shown all season.
They are 1st … with only 1 goal to go.