THE COUNTDOWN CONTINUES...
VS TEXAS A&M (11/30/19)
On senior night in the cauldron of Death Valley, this legendary squad took to the field for the last stop of their 2019 Revenge Tour...yet even the coldest, most business-minded senior couldn't fathom how much this A&M rematch meant:
Destroying the Aggies wasn't merely about a notch in the W column...this rivalry week showdown was all about protecting the past, present and future psychological welfare of LSU's entire program.
If you're already a Tigers fan, you know why the regular season finale vs unranked A&M meant so much...but for those who failed to understand our Jimbo-disturbed fanhood, we'll detail our debilitating madness:
In 2018, A&M scored 74 points on us after 7 overtimes, barely escaping with a 74-72 win, costing LSU a Sugar Bowl appearance, branding Jimbo Fisher's grotesque visage on our minds for 12 long months, damning us to an unsavory section of the CFB history books, and physically exhausting / injuring many players, including Joe Burrow passing out postgame.
It had been the worst way for the 2018 seniors to leave, guys like #18 leader Christian LaCoutoure, Foster Moreau and DB John Battle unable to stomach the loss. During this uncertain aftermath, Dave Aranda's defense was roundly ridiculed as many in the SEC cackled about the "sorry" state of LSU and even questioned Aranda's ability as a coach:
"In Baton Rouge they always had a defense, just no offense....now here comes 72 points, Burrow dropping dimes... but suddenly...no defense...what has happened to LSU????"
The loss hurt the team's progress, our national standing, but most of all, it wounded our pride....you could even make an argument that the 2018 Texas A&M game is both the 2019 LSU Tigers' rock bottom and their #1 most significant moment...but this list, or its author will never take Texas A&M that seriously.
Despite allowing 70+ points and losing to our "rivals", there were positives and Coach Orgeron made sure his boys learned from this failure:
During 2018's losing effort in the disassociating gloom of College Station, LSU's offense posted the 2nd highest score in program history and previewed their frenetic, untouchable passing attack, all while the telepathic relationship between Burrow, Edwards-Helaire, and his receivers exploded in full flight...and no offensive player in purple or gold has ever looked back:
Since the horrifying loss, Orgeron's men haven't lost a game and have only trailed by 10 points once throughout the entire campaign. Additionally, LSU's offense failed to score 30 points on 1 occasion (still beating #8 Auburn in the process); they scored 40+ in 13 of their next 15 contests, dropping a 40-burger on 5 Top 10 teams, scoring 50+ against 7 others and 60+ on 3 additional opponents (the most notable 60-burger coming in the 2019 Peach Bowl over the perilous, amusing Oklahoma Sooners).
Coming into the 2019 rematch, nobody expected Texas A&M to drop 74 again...most commentators expected Kellen Mond to keep it tight. Instead, the Tigers had an overwhelming surprise for them: they hadn't forgotten last year (whatsoever).
After 12 long months enduring A&M fans celebrating the 7 Overtime win as if it were their "national title", it was now time for a demonstration in exactly how a real national champion wins.
Our guys laid the pain on Jimbo's Aggies from the first whistle to the last, deleting A&M in a 50-7 atrocity where most of the damage was incurred in a runaway 1st half...
The second the hapless Aggies witnessed Joe Burrow gladiating out to the guttural roar of Death Valley, clad in the unfathomable BURREAUX jersey, they knew they'd be powerless to stop us.
Death Valley went nuts, shaking from every seat...and for the real LSU fans, most will say this was the atmosphere of the season and the most aesthetically satisfying game for the fan.
Just as we trampled the cameraman underfoot when flying out of the tunnel before the National Championship, just like Coach O's "Roll Tide? F**k you!" speech before Alabama, or the overpowering confidence before Georgia and Oklahoma, the BURREAUX jersey was yet another example of Orgeron's team capturing a game before a down had ever been played.
SEC TITLE GAME
VS GEORGIA (12/7/19)
It was as if the first 12 games meant nothing to the national media:
"Ohio State and Clemson are the two best teams in the country",
"Georgia has the #1 ranked defense to stop Burrow"...
"Joe only succeeded against Alabama cause Saban's defense sucked"...
"Burrow's only a system-guy"...
"Orgeron's lucky to have Joe Brady..."
"Joe just chucks the ball, he's no Tom Brady..."
"LSU's defense is embarrassing...pathetic...there's nothing about this defense that says 'LSU' whatsoever..."
Negativity was all you or I heard before LSU took on Kirby Smart's Georgia in the SEC title game...and this scrutiny piled high, especially after LSU's sloppy 58-37 win over Ole Miss.
Nevertheless, Aranda's defense ignored the noise and pinned their ears back, rattling UGA in what would be one of the top 3 defensive performances of the year.
Led by a brutish awakening from their peaking defense, LSU stormed into Atlanta as if they were Sherman's army and proceeded to geaux scorched earth on the Bulldogs in their own backyard.
Though UGA had three big passing opportunities early in the game, UGA did what UGA does: dropping two of these long passes while another was called back for a penalty, and Rodrigo Blankenship (no relation to My Morning Jacket bassist "Two Tone" Tommy Blankenship) shanked close field goals.
Possessing Kirby Smart's "#1 ranked defense", UGA held the high-flying Ensminger/Brady/Burrow offense to a slower start than normal (forcing more field goals from Cole Tracy than ever before)...but they still couldn't prevent LSU from racking up points and controlling the tempo...
Although there was nothing more effective in settling the SEC Championship game (or the Heisman) than the psychological-violence Joe Burrow committed in the 3rd quarter:
"The Play" came about on 1st and 10, 4 minutes and 16 seconds left in the 3rd and LSU up 20-3:
Joe took the snap in the gun and was immediately under pressure from Georgia's Travon Walker blitzing right in his face.
As if Joe told Lloyd Cushenberry to "let Walker through" or felt in the mood to recreate the opening scene from Saving Private Ryan, Burrow waltzed to his left to get away at the last second from #44, rolling out of the reach of Walker's flailing hands, but #9 slid right into trouble, again:
Sensing this second breakdown from his left, Burrow danced back to his right and ducked under the swatting limbs of UGA defenders, escaping from trouble again right as the pocket collapsed around him.
As he extended the play to his left, Burrow added to the wonder move with another juke around the perpetually sprawling Walker, leaving #44 on the floor as if he'd just crossed him over with a basketball.
As he escaped to the sideline to find a target on the run, a final pair of UGA defenders nipped at his heels, one diving for his feet and the other smashing him out of bounds...but not before the Heisman winner chucked a long, accurate bomb to Justin Jefferson in space, the NFL-ready product tearing off clear to UGA's own 5 yard line....
In that sequence alone, LSU went nearly 80 yards, from end zone to red zone, and Burrow broke 5 tackles as well as every Georgia fan's heart, stomping all over their pulsing ventricles with the definitive Heisman-sealing play....and it would be a move #9 was crazily capable of recreating.
This wasn't just a 5-star offensive outing, either:
After weeks of questions regarding the health, ability and performance of LSU's defensive leaders (Delpit, Lawrence, Chaisson, Stevens, Queen, Fulton), Aranda's hounds responded with an appropriately-placed middle finger:
Our hard-hitting madcap group of future NFL stars continuously pounded UGA, with Delpit sacking Jake Fromm so violently the UGA QB left the game in a state of feverish agony.
Fromm, playing in his final game in the state of Georgia, proceeded to shy away from the moment, clearly rattled and faded after 2nd quarter painkilling injections to get him back on the field.
As if we watched only one team participate on that incredible Saturday in December, Coach O's Tigers thoroughly dominated UGA to the point they were a no-show, hiding from tackles and running in fear for their lives...even their fans began vacating Atlanta's just-renamed "LSU Memorial Dome" en masse, covering their children's eyes from the wanton brutality before them.
The LSU Tigers' rampant performance in the SEC Championship game was stark evidence of their championship pedigree: on both sides of the ball.
Without this medieval onslaught and display of absolute control against #4 UGA, LSU would've been stuck with the #2 seed the committee were desperate to hand us, and would've faced Clemson in the semifinals before taking on Ohio State in New Orleans, neither potential opponent affording us the luxury of half-resting Edwards-Helaire's torn hamstring in the semifinal.
Instead of leaving LSU's CFP placement up to the committee, Aranda's defense stepped it up for the entirety of the college football world to see. Guys like Grant Delpit or Derek Stingley and his unbelievable pair of interceptions stood up to be counted in a moment that sealed the former Utah State & longtime LSU coordinator's future as Baylor head coach.
With this additional assistance from the defense, LSU's offense was now firmly capable of terminal velocity, presenting a multi-faceted attack that could simultaneously stay aggressive and remain patient....aka unstoppable.
3RD AND 17
VS TEXAS (9/7/19)
Many have pointed to this moment as the exact instance LSU won the 2019/20 national title:
It was 3rd and 17 with just over 3 minutes left in the 4th, the game hanging in the balance at 37-31 and Texas freshman QB Sam Ehlinger in the ascendancy...but to arrive at that special moment, we have to give it all proper context:
It was a sweaty, hazy night in Austin, not only in the sexually cannabalized Longhorns' frat house Matthew McConaughey had just boozed his way through, but in the nonstop College Gameday coverage and sweltering bloodlust between the sets of fans...in LSU v Texas, we had a Top 10 feast that had every college football fan dialed in.
As in years before, the Tigers' bravery in scheduling high profile showdowns in the first weeks of the season gave Orgeron's squad a national platform from which to announce their upcoming insurgency upon the sporting world:
Like much of the Tigers' games this year, the Texas encounter featured a fantastic 1st half full of potent offenses coupled with jaw-shaking hits and opportunistic turnovers from our defense:
Joe Burrow, the receivers, and Edwards-Helaire built a key early lead thanks to Aranda's defense holding the aggressive Longhorns' on back to back 4th and goal stops in the 1st quarter, Ehlinger and Tom Herman maintaining an aggression which echoed LSU's.
Burrow remained on the attack throughout & the Tigers edged out to a two score lead, however in sparkling fashion, Sam Ehlinger brought Texas back to the cusp of tying the game...if they could get one more stop.
There it was, 3rd and 17 with 3 minutes left...LSU weren't converting, obviously, so Kirk Herbstreit and Chris Fowler segued into a rant about how much time would be left for Ehlinger against a gassed LSU front seven...
Due to this sense of foreboding, Joe knew he couldn't give Texas the ball back...he had to settle matters now.
In a play which made Matthew McConaughey wish he'd never enrolled at the University of Texas, #9 rammed his foot down on the pedal: LSU weren't strictly going for a 1st down...unlike many other teams, this Bayou squad never waited around to find out the pain of horrifying defeat.
As the pocket collapsed around him, #9 stood in the backfield and felt Texas's best blitz of the night shoving James Cregg's O-line into his feet, preventing him from establishing any arm strength for a throw, resulting in a dead to rights scenario for LSU inside a second and a half.
Luckily, Edwards-Helaire's underrated protection held Longhorns' senior LB Jeffrey McCullough just enough to allow Burrow to commit the impossibly perfect crime:
Moving slightly to his left, he sensed the bullish Longhorns' pressure wearing down LSU's freshman guard Anthony Bradford directly in his line of sight; simultaneously, with eyes in the back of his head, Joe felt the resurrected McCullough's hulking presence riding Edwards-Helaire's block and leaping from his right towards the ball.
At the exact moment a fumble should've occurred, Joe moved the ball away from the flying McCullough and jumped into Bradford, using his back as an inadvertent launching pad, and threw a howitzer right into the purpling salutations of hell's flame...the pass precisely finding Justin Jefferson in stride, #2 working back to his QB when he needed him most.
Jefferson turned on the afterburners and took the catch to the house, sending Longhorns' Stadium into a frenzy of shellshocked horror, with LSU's mighty traveling faithful losing their minds in palpable, hallucinatory madness.
Les Miles used to hand it off on 3rd and 17 to gain a few yards specifically for the punt.
Under Les Miles, punting was an important play; in 2019 and 2020, however much we love the handsome Zach Von Rosenberg, this team scoffed at the idea of punting.
And on 3rd and 17 that night in front of the entire college football universe, LSU were never punting the football...they refused to flinch; and their new aggressive identity, as well as their orgasmic legend, was definitively cemented right then and right there.
AWARDS NIGHT / "THE SPEECH"
Individual awards could never detail the uncompromising, unrelenting camaraderie between the young men, coaching staff and surrounding team personnel of the 2019 LSU Tigers.
This group stood for far more than a few gleaming trophies sporting their own names: this unit were seeking collective glory, they demanded Bayou revenge, and they worked for these rewards.
But what they wanted most was for the team to be eternal...etched in stone, earned by blade and bone, paid in blood, sweat and secret tears.
Regardless of mentality, a mountain of silverware etched in stone is a finite representation of just how in command and how successful this group of Tigers were this year.
This team nearly swept the Awards season, representing themselves in nearly every position: dynamic LSU legend Grant Delpit deservedly snagging the Thorpe Award, Ja'Marr Chase taking home the Biletnikoff, the offensive line came home with the Joe Moore Award, Joe Brady and Coach Ed Orgeron were honored as the best assistant and head coach in the country and of course, Joe taking home the Davey O'Brien, Maxwell Awards and the most deserved Heisman we could imagine...to cap it all off, Burrow stole the show with the most incredible acceptance speech of all time.
Every sports fan will remember where they were when Joe walked up to the stage and started talking. As for us Tigers fans, witnessing an LSU player win a Heisman Trophy was a first for anyone born in 1959 let alone 1989, so it goes without saying we were all going to be riveted...but what we didn't expect was for Joe to transcend the cold exterior of our current national malaise.
He profusely thanked potential title game opponent Ohio State and their coach Ryan Day for taking the first chance on him when Day was Urban Meyer's assistant, then Burreaux waxed lyrically about his father finally retiring and being able to watch him play, and showered Steve Ensminger with extreme praise, the reserved master ducking in the shadows and hilariously using an empty water bottle to spit his chew.
Joe became emotional when discussing Coach O and his passion for the man, breaking down and admitting he "didn't know if he could ever play again" after his hand injury at Ohio State...after all of the accomplishments and litany of admiration, this was something we still hadn't heard before...Joe was the greatest comeback story college football had ever known, pulling off the inspirational while innovating the quarterback position and kicking more ass and taking more names than Michael Chiklis during the Bush administration...but now, on the grandest stage of all, to hear the most confident man on planet earth admit that yes, even he doubted himself before, was a moment that made the entire season worth it and beyond, title or no title.
If this wasn't Sean Astin's Rudy fooling around with Joe Montana in a back alley then what could be????
Then Joe opened the floodgates, talking about his hometown of Athens located within the impoverished region of Southeastern Ohio, demanding nothing less than listening ears. Instead, this poised humanity shook us out of our national coma for a little while and suddenly, right on time before Christmas, nearly $800,000 dollars had been raised from the humanizing effect of Burrow's comments.
By this point it became official: there wasn't a dry eye in the house...or in any house where "The Speech" could be seen and heard.
Before 2019, we'd always heard this regurgitated theme about college football recruiting:
Go to USC to become a star, go to Alabama to win national championships, go to Ohio State to win individual trophies, and Geaux to LSU if you wanna get to the NFL.
Now in 2020, it's simple what Joe Burrow's character and that of his team represent for the future of Tigers football:
You can head off for USC to become a star, you could go to Alabama and maybe you'll win a championship, or you may go to Ohio State to be a Bosa Brother or Troy Smith...but you'll always be a successful human-being playing for Coach Ed Orgeron.
JOIN US FOR THE FINAL COUNTDOWN
LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
Uninterrupted Writings Inc