New Orleans, LA – A horrific version of déjà vu.
The early magic favored Clemson. Lawrence was the ice-cold assassin, and Burrow was the frustrated signal caller. Isaiah Simmons was Venables’ weapon of choice, and the three-down-odd-front was the method of delivery.
After a promising but fruitless first drive, Clemson didn’t miss their second chance. Lawrence was the man of the hour as he scrambled the last yard into the end zone and heart of Purple Tigers everywhere. Just as impressive was the down-the-seam-throw to newly liberated Braden Galloway.
Even Clemson’s struggling special teams had glimpses of glory: Clemson’s third drive ended in a 52-yard BT Potter bomb while the first two three-and-outs were made possible by Spiers’ excellent pop-punts.
Clemson marched an all-too familiar 96 yards to break another straw on the proverbial camel’s back. Ross, Etienne, and Higgins all had chunk plays on the lightning-fast four-play drive. Tee’s 36-yard reverse simultaneously exposed the LSU defender’s lack of effort and his own grit, giving Clemson a ten-point lead twenty minutes into the game (17-7).
The magic of Clemson ran out and the magic of LSU began.
First, Burrow deciphered Venables’ puzzle, as the master of adjustments was the victim of adjustments.
One key mismatch was star sophomore receiver Jamaar Chase against junior AJ Terrell. It was an inverse relationship, it seemed as Chase’s draft stock rose with the fall of Terrell’s stock.
Chase was a key factor, but Burrow was the engine that made the NFL-ready machine of Brady’s offense go. The previously impenetrable Clemson defense was the latest victim, as they surrendered 21 straight points to end the half.
Hope wasn’t lost yet. Burrow succumbed to the Clemson pressure to begin the second half. Conversely, Clemson captured one last bit of magic in a touchdown drive (Etienne rush) capped off by a two-point conversion to cut the deficit to three.
Those were the last points the 2019 Clemson Tigers would score.
Not to say that they didn’t have their chances. LSU would only score once more in the third quarter, squandering opportunities such as the ejection of Clemson’s James Skalski, a dropped Justin Jefferson touchdown pass, and a missed Cade York field goal from 45.
Clemson never capitalized. The normally vicious Tigers were outscored 35 to 8 to end the game – final score 42-25. The normally dominant defense allowed Heisman winner Burrow to score six touchdowns, as Lawrence was held scoreless through the air. Clemson was 1-11 on third down (LSU 4-14), ran 65 plays (LSU 81) and had 394 total yards (LSU 628).
Clemson needed magic to beat LSU, but the magic never came. LSU was simply better in 2019. Clemson is a powerhouse, maybe even a dynasty. It doesn’t bring solace for now, but it is worth keeping in perspective that Clemson’s magical decade was incredible. The best thought: next decade could be even better.