Updated: Jun 21, 2020
THE GREATEST 30 MINUTES:
HOW LSU CAN'T BE STOPPED
(Originally Published on 12/29/19)
"Are you aware of the records ya'll just set in this game?"
"January 13th...that's the only record we care about."
....We were somewhere in Atlanta during the 1st quarter when the Jeaux Burreaux magic began to take hold, our quarterback licking his chops and the former castaway's transformation from Heisman unforgettable to Greatest Of All Time was complete...right there in front of the eyes of millions, as bona fide as stone grafted Ancient truth: Joe Burrow doesn't just want to be the best, now there can't even be an argument that he isn't.
When Joe said his "next goal was to be the best," LSU fans and Burrow disciples took him at his word; but as if we needed anymore proof that the average college football fan has become desensitized to Burrow's greatness, many talking heads roasted the guy about a "Heisman curse" and Oklahoma Sooners fans were so confident about their 52nd ranked defense they seemed to think they'd be stopping LSU's version of Chris Weinke...instead, what they got was a madman on the loose gnawing on the hair of the dog.
Joe's face was intense, possessed and ready as if he'd just been snubbed out of the Heisman at the last second by O.J Simpson himself, as if he'd just spent the last month being publicly crucified, professionally emasculated and destroyed rather than portrayed as the greatest active college football player.
Because of this mentality, Joe is actually able to ignore the media, eschewing the spotlight and platform of his Heisman and opting instead for donations and public gratitude.
Due to these unflappable, genuine characteristics Joe has been raised on, he's staying in the moment and definitely enjoying the last two games of his college career:
Against #4 Oklahoma in the CFP Peach Bowl Semifinal, Burrow knew that every time he threw the football LSU should score...and there was nothing any Oklahoma player, millionaire preacher or hapless coach could do about it.
After Burrow launched his third touchdown pass with only a minute left in the 1st quarter, even Oklahoma fans couldn't look away from the frightening greatness before them as the LSU Tigers ripped out their still beating heart and feasted on it alongside fava beans and a bottle of Chianti...."how many TDs can this guy end the game with?"
Following the constant barrage of ass-kissing during awards season and the epic Tom Rinaldi / Marty Smith storytelling that's made Joe Burrow's legacy iconic, somehow, some way we're all still underestimating Joe Burrow:
Neaux...Jeaux didn't need Edwards-Helaire's dominance against the Sooners, he didn't need more than 50 plays to put up a G.O.A.T 49 points in the first half (basically a point per play, an unbelievable stat that we only rarely see in Big 12 play, not in a playoff game), and the Heisman-winning quarterback wasn't at the CFP semifinal to coronate himself: Joe wanted to honor the teammates, coaches and fans who made 2019 the greatest year of his burgeoning young life.
But after an awards season that saw everyone at LSU from Coach O to Ja'Marr Chase, Grant Delpit or even Assistant O.C / QBs Coach Joe Brady receive honors, there was no one more deserving of praise or more respect than Coach "E".
Joe always talked about how "Coach E always preferred being in the background" but Saturday was a day to honor Ensminger the man front and center:
Only hours before the game, Ensminger's daughter-in-law tragically passed away in a horrific and tragic plane crash on her way to the game in Atlanta.
Before the Peach Bowl, the Tigers had been riding high on a wave of celebration and emotional vindication after 8 long years swimming against the tide... and the lone consistent member of the Tigers staff was Steve Ensminger.
After the 2018 Bama disaster, Orgeron and Ensminger met privately and admitted "everything had to change immediately...right now..." and together, the two went on to investigate how to establish the spread offense as soon as humanly possible, checking every avenue and every connection they had.
Still, after the 2018 Bama game, the offense dropped 40+ points in three of their last four contests, the playbook opening up for Burrow instead of constantly challenging him as much as the opponent. The protections were more controlled and simple, harder for defenses to figure out due to this new chemistry and unspoken communication across James Cregg's offensive line and echoed throughout the team:
2018 Bama couldn't happen again...this was the beginning of 2019 and the revolution started with Steve Ensminger's accountability, innovation and love of his players. The OC helped his alma mater navigate through troubled waters before, suffering as a Tight Ends Coach during the catastrophic 2012's BCS National Championship Game, and again following the 29-0 shutout at Death Valley...in his own right, Ensminger has become the bridge to a better future against Alabama.
The LSU Legend and coaching veteran even welcomed 29 year old Joe Brady with genuine humility and kindness, helping his apprentice become a much-younger and less knowledgeable peer by the end of a single season, elevating Brady to the Broyles Award as the best assistant coach in the country, an award which the pair should've been nominated for together.
News of Ensminger's loss reverberated around the confines of Mercedes-Benz Stadium and on to the morbid rantings of social media's creepy side, although a lot of the LSU players were surprisingly unaware of the outside noise trying to "publicize" Steve's loss, though news trickled to the sidelines during the game (ESPN's Dari Nowkah informing Burrow after the game in a truly dreadful moment, opening in sensationalist, tabloid fashion "I wanted to get into this: your offensive coordinator's daughter-in-law...")
It was first expected for him to leave the team and return to Louisiana, but instead his sons urged him to stay and coach.
Under this cloud of misery and pain, our offensive coordinator found the will to call the greatest offensive display in college football history...and on Saturday night, the plays Ensminger and Brady called, hand-selected throughout the practices and run-throughs by their quarterback, sealed the Sooners' pre-destined fate in under 30 minutes of game-time...the Tigers giving everything for Stevey.
While Oklahoma shadowed star receiver Ja'Marr Chase (who won all the plaudits coming into the game) with near-double coverage, Burrow found receiver Justin Jefferson ad nauseam, targeting his safety outlet 18 times for 14 receptions and 227 yards. The untouchable wideout caught 4 touchdowns in one half, each touchdown punctuated by #2's outrageous skillset as he out-maneuver'd Oklahoma's "underrated" defense into pillars of salt.
During one show of brilliance in the 1st, Joe Burrow was flushed out of the pocket and was on the run to his left, saw the Tigers "3rd" receiver Terrace Marshall coming back across the end zone, and aimed a dart through the eye of a needle straight into his hands.
Only minutes into the 2nd quarter, with LSU hunting to put the game out of reach at 28-7, Burrow moved away from the pressure of OU's Isaiah Thomas and stepped up and out of the pocket before launching a back-shoulder bomb on the run to (who else) Justin Jefferson...the #2 grabbing his 3rd while turning into the end zone, a corner and a safety drenched all over him...
...As he rose from the end zone and celebrated with his teammates, Oklahoma players shook their heads in disgust...not with the refs or LSU, nor were they even enraged with themselves: they were disgusted with reality itself...and the reality is: LSU are so good it's unfair.
This was beyond any offensive output we'd ever seen and here it was, plopped out before us like someone had found the corpse of the Loch Ness Monster or a map leading to Atlantis...and we all witnessed this new offensive wonder of the world on that surreal afternoon in Hot'Lanta.
I don't completely know how to process what we've seen: it was far too weird to encapsulate, too surreal to chronicle and much too challenging in its extremity to describe, save for the kind of verbal posturings and blustering mental assault the Stephen A.'s or Skip Bayless's of the world are down for, but one thing was very evident after a long pre-game build-up focused on "Oklahoma disrespect":
I don't think Oklahoma were that bad, I just think LSU are thiiiiis good.
As tight end (and mismatch out wide) Thaddeus Moss and Jefferson got the best of their 1-on-1 match-ups and the Moore Award-winning offensive line held Alex Grinch's overwhelmed & undermanned defensive line at bay, the best arm and mind combo that college football has ever seen let'er rip to the tune of 403 yards and 7 touchdowns in a first half demolition that would've made any Arena League score look like the Ice Bowl.
Following in lockstep, LSU's defense was a brick wall against Jalen Hurts: whether it was Tigers D-end K'Lavon Chaisson sacking him 2x (including on the first play from scrimmage), Breiden Fehoko, Neil Farrell, Patrick Queen or Mo Hampton drilling the hapless Kennedy Brooks or Hurts on the ground, before Kerry Vincent Jr acrobatically, orgasmically intercepting the ball to bury the game in the second quarter: Dave Aranda's unit complimented their fiery quarterback perfectly.
DC Dave Aranda sent relentless pressure in on Jalen Hurts, then dropped excessive numbers in coverage on 3rd and long to give the former Alabama national title winner nowhere to go in the air and with enough Tigers in front of him to contain his scrambling game, Hurts had nowhere to go on the ground.
Because of this desolation of OU's offensive line, the underrated LSU defensive front allowed only meager 56 rushing yards total, the Sooners getting 41 more after the Tigers' starters had been pulled; additionally, LSU's defense batted 6 passes down, had 4 timely tackles for loss and smacked the shit outta Hurts early and often.
This was something special to behold on both sides of the ball, but who are we kidding, it's about that offense.
This was an offensive revolution unlike we'd ever witnessed in college football before, with Burrow sporting the visage of an intense, cold-hearted assassin rather than the doughy, cheerful kid from Athens, Ohio.
Like a football-serial-killer, Burrow's lost his innocence now and all he wants is more blood.
At one point during the carnal siege upon Oklahoma, Joe looked as crazed and as aggressive as Mel Gibson in the first Lethal Weapon...at least the few times the camera had the time to show a close-up before he viciously snapped the ball, an exchange between himself and center Lloyd Cushenberry III that is "video game automatic" in the gun.
Despite his legendary stat line in the Peach Bowl, Joe claimed he "didn't have his best game" and "missed some reads on some throws".
That's true, Joe missed a few throws, going 29/39 for 493 yards: he was nearly picked off on two occasions and we mostly saw the athleticism of our receivers and their abilities in tight coverage and in space, but it just geauxs to sheaux what a team the 2019 LSU Tigers are:
If 7 passing TDs in the first half & 1 rushing TD after halftime "isn't his best game"...then I can only imagine what perfection would be from Joe...sorry, I just love saying his name.
"We're still chasing that perfect game," Burrow said during the layoff and of course, once again after the 63-28 blowout of Oklahoma he repeated the mantra, "just trying to get better each time we go out there."
While Clyde Edwards-Helaire was limited through injury, Burrow's 7 touchdowns made sure the real stars of LSU's team were on show: his dynamic, blistering receiving corps.
This game became a clinic for three of the team's most unsung heroes: #2 Justin Jefferson, tight end #81 Thaddeus Moss and #6 Terrace Marshall Jr, the trio scoring all 7 TDs from Burrow in the rout.
The Tigers tore OU apart like Hannibal Lecter in a cage with Kim Kardashian, and just as we predicted in our last piece, the Heisman-winner picked on backup safety Justin Broiles to an almost silly degree.
In fact, my favorite play of the game was midway through the 1st quarter when Edwards-Helaire brutally trucked Broiles into the ground; although the safety made a gutty recovery on the play, the psychological damage had been done. Edwards-Helaire even skipped and high-stepped to show his improving health, before he took a half bow to the robust LSU crowd's roar.
However small Edwards-Helaire's involvement was in the Peach Bowl, the running back's impact was huge...not only on his fearless plowing over of Justin Broiles, but in galvanizing his team:
An important play in the game happened in the 1st quarter, the Peach Bowl still poised at 14-7, Burrow missed on a few throws, the Sooners forced a punt on one drive, and a big play from Hurts to Ceedee Lamb sent Riley's team into the end zone early....but it all changed after one cheap shot:
Some nameless idiot who plays for Oklahoma clocked an already-hurt Edwards-Helaire as he ran shallow over the middle, the OU player leading with the crown of his helmet directly into the skull of EH, the collision whipping EH's head back in a sickening fashion...all while #22 was completely defenseless and had his head turned away from the impact.
Luckily, EH was okay and effective justice was served, even though the referees (who were shocking throughout) missed the targeting initially. The clueless refereeing crew reviewed the play and disqualified yet another player from Lincoln Riley's already depleted squad...just as edge-rusher Kenneth Murray went down with an injury.
And then Joe Burrow got pissed, the offensive line became immovable, and the receivers beat their men off the line (riding obviously illegal interferences) and LSU put the pedal to the metal unlike we've ever seen in college football history.
It's just proof that you don't go after any of LSU's guys without paying a horribly tumultuous price.
And it's more evidence of this 2019 LSU Tigers team being the greatest team in college football history, whether they finish this campaign off with an unblemished 15-0 record or not...they're more mythical than the 15-0 Penn Quakers, more complete than the USC Trojans or Miami dynasties in the 80s Coach O helped build, 2019 LSU are far more imperious in their dominance than any of Saban's stoic Crimson Tide machines, though Clemson may have a good debate for their 29 game win streak and 4th Championship Game appearance in the last 5 years...there's still no single collection of talent that has brought us so many memorable, historic sporting moments in the last year, let alone the last twenty, and there's no one team in college football's history who've accomplished such a storied metamorphosis in such a quick amount of time.
They've completed an undefeated regular season, racing through the toughest conference in the country; Coach O's men have vanquished a Division I record six top 10 teams with a 7th on the way, the offense set 48 records in their Peach Bowl conquest alone and this team has broken almost every record in nearly every position on the field while exhibiting a style, swagger, and grace unmatched.
But they're still not done yet.
While we wax lyrically about this epic victory, we began the article with Joe's stern, defiant statement:
"January 13th..." to remind us all what really matters to our players, our coaches, our team, and to us as fans: a national championship victory in the great state of Louisiana...because after all we've dealt with, all we've overcome: we deserve it.
THIS ARTICLE IS DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY OF CARLEY MCCORD
LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
Copyright 2019 Uninterrupted Writings Inc. LLC