Burrow and the No. 1 Tigers pummeled Oklahoma in the Peach Bowl semifinal of the College Football Playoff, leaving Mercedes-Benz Stadium with a 63-28 win in a game decided by halftime. Burrow, an Ohio State transfer who only had an average junior campaign last season, threw for seven touchdowns and 403 yards in the first half alone before he accounted for another score on the ground in the second half. The subdued celebrations as the touchdowns piled up only prove how ordinary these outlandish performances have become.
But none of Burrow’s accomplishments had stretched this far into the realm of absurdity, even though the quarterback himself said this wasn’t his sharpest game. His final stat line for the night: 493 passing yards, seven touchdown throws, one rushing score and no interceptions. He completed 29 of 39 attempts and did it all with a championship berth on the line.
“That’s even hard to do on video games,” center Lloyd Cushenberry III said of Burrow’s seven touchdowns in the first half. “You don’t see that every day. Just to be a part of that, it’s crazy and special.”
In two weeks, the Tigers will meet Clemson. They’ll play for the title in New Orleans, an hour drive from LSU’s campus, searching for the perfect cap to their historic 2019 season.
Beyond all Burrow’s touchdown passes — most frequently to junior Justin Jefferson, who caught four — the quarterback showcased his ability in less obvious manifestations. Take his 24-yard completion in the second quarter, when the Tigers led by seven. On a third down, three defenders chased Burrow to the sideline. Scrambling, Burrow released the ball just before those Oklahoma players pushed him to the ground. Yet it somehow landed in the hands of Terrace Marshall Jr., keeping the eventual touchdown drive alive.
“It’s amazing to be a part of history,” Marshall said. “Joe is just being Joe. He won the Heisman for a reason, so you can really expect him to do amazing things like that. That’s what you want him to do.”
Burrow delivered on third downs, darting passes to his receivers or scrambling down the sideline.
“We go into every game thinking nobody can stop us,” Burrow said.
If the Heisman Trophy was still in need of a recipient, Burrow could have let his performance in this semifinal strengthen an already long list of worthy displays. But that trophy is already one of Burrow’s possessions, so all he has left to earn is a national title, which LSU last won in the 2007 season.
Jefferson, once a three-star recruit from Louisiana and now a standout player, was Burrow’s most frequent target, racking up 227 receiving yards. Both Jefferson and sophomore receiver Ja’Marr Chase have surpassed 1,400 receiving yards this season. Marshall grabbed two of Burrow’s touchdown throws, and tight end Thaddeus Moss added another on a 62-yard catch, the longest play of the game.
Burrow “has trust in all of us, but we’ve put the work in,” Moss said. “We put the work in in the summer. We all have that relationship — all of the receivers, all the running backs. Everybody has that relationship with Joe. We know where he wants us to be, and he has a place where he expects us to be.”
LSU’s offense operated with poise and precision all night, even with the team’s best running back, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, playing in a limited capacity (two carries, 14 yards) because of a hamstring injury. Fellow running back Chris Curry started the game and ran for 89 yards. But most of the team’s offensive outbursts came by way of Burrow’s arm and his nifty receivers who made some acrobatic catches.
“It’s incredible what this coaching staff has done, what these players have done, the connection that they have with the receivers, the protection on the offensive line,” LSU Coach Ed Orgeron said. “I’ve been a part of some good football teams, but I’ve never been part of an offense like this.”
Oklahoma’s defense hadn’t allowed a quarterback to throw for 300 yards all season. Burrow smashed through that benchmark during the second quarter. In this meeting of conference champions with top-tier quarterbacks, Oklahoma had to play with a thin defensive backfield. Sophomore starting defensive back Brendan Radley-Hiles was ejected from the game for targeting early in the second quarter, and safety Delarrin Turner-Yell sat out with broken collarbone.
The Tigers’ offense has reached new heights this season, led by Burrow on the field and orchestrated by offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger. Ensminger coached Saturday’s game hours after his daughter-in-law Carley McCord, a New Orleans-based sports reporter, was one of five people killed in a plane crash bound for Atlanta. Before the game, Ensminger received hugs from a couple of players as he watched warm-ups while wiping tears from his eyes.
Once the game began, Ensminger’s offense delivered. LSU didn’t let up even as the game became lopsided, not wanting to give No. 4 Oklahoma any chance of mustering a comeback. The Tigers led 49-14 at halftime, and once they returned, the staff opted to go for a fourth-and-two attempt inside the Oklahoma 20-yard line. Chase picked up five yards rushing and Burrow eventually ran into the end zone for a three-yard score.
The LSU defense did its part, too. They infiltrated Jalen Hurts’s pocket, giving him little time or opportunity to deliver positive plays. When Lincoln Riley dialed up a trick play, the Tigers’ Kary Vincent grabbed an interception on a failed flea-flicker.
Hurts threw for 217 yards but struggled through much of the game, completing 15 of 31 pass attempts with an interception and rushing for 43 yards and two touchdowns. His college career ended inside the same building in downtown Atlanta where so much of his legacy has been defined. Hurts led Alabama through the 2017 season all the way to the national title game here against Georgia. But when the Crimson Tide trailed 13-0 at halftime, then-freshman and future Heisman runner-up Tua Tagovailoa carried the Alabama offense to a come-from-behind, overtime win.
With Tagovailoa as the starter, Hurts played only sparingly in 2018, but he stepped in to lead Alabama to an SEC title after Tagovailoa had to leave the game with an injury — again versus Georgia and inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Hurts led the Crimson Tide to a conference title as one of his final acts before transferring to Oklahoma.
But for his new team, Hurts didn’t have any heroics to offer Saturday. K’Lavon Chaisson sacked Hurts on the first play of the game, sparking concern that this could become a difficult night for the Oklahoma offense. The Sooners lost six yards on that drive, then shanked a punt, allowing Burrow and the offense to manufacture an easy, three-play touchdown drive. That proved to simply be the first of many.
“We already knew that this wasn’t going to be one of the better defenses that we played,” Moss said. “If we went out there and executed our game plan and played to our level of football that we’re going to go out there and hang 60 and 70 up on them.”
Hurts’s 51-yard pass to CeeDee Lamb, which led to a short touchdown run by Kennedy Brooks, seemed to lift Oklahoma back into the game after a slow start. But the Sooners then gave up four straight touchdowns and the game quickly slipped out of hand.
Since Riley became Oklahoma’s head coach three years ago, the 36-year-old has led his team to the College Football Playoff each time. But Riley has never won a playoff game, finishing short in double overtime against Georgia in 2017 and then falling into an early hole that proved too much to overcome against Alabama last season.
This time, Oklahoma was merely the opponent in LSU’s remarkable, record-setting performance. With about 10 minutes to go, and LSU leading 56-28, Burrow traded places with the Tigers’ backup quarterback. He watched the final minutes of the game, and yet another LSU score, from the sideline, readying for the marquee game of the season that will soon approach. But in this game, Burrow had already done more than enough.
Live updates and highlights, by Jacob Bogage in Washington, can be found below.
December 28, 2019 at 7:52 PM EST
LSU’s historic victory
The Tigers’ dominance on Saturday, a 63-28 win, has rarely been matched in college football history. Between quarterback Joe Burrow, wide receiver Justin Jefferson and the rest of the start-laden supporting cast, a whole bunch of records fell on Saturday. Here’s a list:
December 28, 2019 at 7:46 PM EST
LSU scores, again
The Tigers answer Oklahoma’s late score with a touchdown drive of their own. With mostly backups in the game, John Emery Jr. rushed in from six yards out. (LSU 63, Oklahoma 28, 3:59, fourth quarter)
December 28, 2019 at 7:31 PM EST
This one will make the box score look better, but that’s about all. T.J. Pledger pounded it in over the right side for a score. (LSU 56, Oklahoma 28, 9:39 fourth quarter)
December 28, 2019 at 7:00 PM EST
Jalen Hurts is having a rough day, but he just ran for his second touchdown, a 12-yard scramble to his left that ended in a dive for the pylon. He has 38 yards on 12 carries and 154 yards and an interception on 10-of-26 passing. (LSU 56, Oklahoma 21, 4:19, third quarter)
December 28, 2019 at 6:45 PM EST
Burrow runs for a touchdown
The Heisman Trophy winner gets under center from the three-yard line and bullied his way into the end zone. It’s his eighth touchdown of the day, and his first rushing touchdown. LSU is up to 571 yards of total offense, 455 of it from Burrow’s arm. He also has 27 yards rushing. (LSU 56, Oklahoma 14, 10:11 third quarter)
December 28, 2019 at 6:14 PM EST
Halftime at the Peach Bowl
Top-seeded Louisiana State was historically dominant in the first half of the Peach Bowl against fourth-seeded Oklahoma, concluding the first two quarters with a 49-14 lead. Tigers quarterback Joe Burrow threw for a College Football Playoff record seven touchdowns and 403 yards on 21-of-27 passing. Four of those scoring passes went to Justin Jefferson, who had nine catches for 186 yards. (Halftime: LSU 49, Oklahoma 14)
December 28, 2019 at 6:04 PM EST
Burrow throws for seventh touchdown
And this was an easy one. On play-action from the two-yard line, Joe Burrow had Terrace Marshall Jr. all alone in the back of the end zone. In a single game, Burrow (21-of-27, 403 yards) has set the record for most touchdown passes in the College Football Playoff. He’s also set the record for passing yards in a half, and LSU has set the record for most points in a half. (LSU 49, Oklahoma 14, 0:50 second quarter)
December 28, 2019 at 5:54 PM EST
Burrow throws for sixth score of the half
Well, that didn’t take long. Three plays after Oklahoma looked like it was getting its act together, the Sooners blew a coverage and Joe Burrow threw to tight end Thaddeus Moss for a 62-yard catch and run. A bunch of quarterbacking records have fallen today already. Burrow now holds the record for touchdown passes in a College Football Playoff game. Justin Jefferson holds the record for most scoring catches in a playoff game. He’s one more touchdown away from the most touchdown catches in a game in bowl history. (LSU 42, Oklahoma 14, 4:18 second quarter)
December 28, 2019 at 5:49 PM EST
The Sooners have a long way to go to get back in this game, but Jalen Hurts’s two-yard touchdown keeper sure helps. Oklahoma went 75 yards in 10 plays, aided by two big LSU penalties. The drive allows the Sooners offense to finally get clicking again, and gives the defense some much-needed time to regroup. (LSU 35, Oklahoma 14, 4:45 second quarter)
December 28, 2019 at 5:34 PM EST
Burrow to Jefferson, Part IV
It happened again. The Tigers made Oklahoma pay for turning the ball over, and guess what happened? Joe Burrow threw another touchdown pass to Justin Jefferson. The Tigers converted on third-and-18 the play before as Burrow hit Ja’Marr Chase for 22 yards over the middle. Then Burrow stepped up in the pocket to his left and found Jefferson in a mismatch again. Standing in the end zone, Jefferson (9 catches, 186 yards) counted off his touchdowns on his fingers. (LSU 35, Oklahoma 7, 9:17 second quarter)
December 28, 2019 at 5:29 PM EST
Things are going downhill very quickly for the Sooners. Seeking a momentum-shifting play, Oklahoma Coach Lincoln Riley called for a reverse flea-flicker. Instead, Jalen Hurts’s pass was intercepted by Kary Vincent Jr. LSU takes over at the Oklahoma 45-yard line. (LSU 28, Oklahoma 7, 12:03 second quarter)
December 28, 2019 at 5:24 PM EST
Burrow to Jefferson … again
Joe Burrow hit Justin Jefferson for the pair’s third touchdown of the half. Burrow (12-of-18, 208 yards, four touchdowns) scrambled right and heaved downfield to Jefferson (six catches, 136 yards, three touchdowns), who pulled down an acrobatic catch and stumbled into the end zone. And things could get tougher for Oklahoma. The Sooners lost Brendan Radley-Hiles, their fifth-leading tackler, to a targeting penalty. (LSU 28, Oklahoma 7, 12:13 second quarter)
December 28, 2019 at 5:06 PM EST
Joe Burrow throws for his third touchdown pass
It’s the LSU quarterback’s third touchdown pass of the first quarter, and his second to Justin Jefferson. A play after Jefferson dropped an easy catch over the middle, Burrow found him down the left sideline for a picture-perfect 35-yard strike. Burrow is 11-of-14 for 166 yards. (LSU 21, Oklahoma 7, 1:16 first quarter)
December 28, 2019 at 4:51 PM EST
LSU scores, Edwards-Helaire has key run
What did we say about offense? In the early going, we’ve got a lot of it. LSU went 75 yards in nine plays as Joe Burrow (8-of-10, 98 yards, two touchdowns) hit Terrace Marshall on a scramble for and 8-yard touchdown. That was set up by a 14-yard run by Clyde Edwards-Helaire, bad hamstring and all, on third-and-two from the Oklahoma 22-yard line. (LSU 14, Oklahoma 7, 4:24 first quarter)
December 28, 2019 at 4:42 PM EST
The Sooners forced LSU into a three-and-out, then went 69 yards in five plays to even the score. Jalen Hurts found CeeDee Lamb down the left sideline for 51 yards to set Oklahoma up first and goal at the three-yard line. Kennedy Brooks ran for a score on the very next play. (LSU 7, Oklahoma 7, 7:34 first quarter)
December 28, 2019 at 4:25 PM EST
The Tigers are off to a fast start. The LSU defense pushed Oklahoma back six yards on the Sooners’ first offensive possession, then after a shanked punt, Tigers quarterback Joe Burrow marched the team 42 yards in three plays. He hit Justin Jefferson over the middle for a 19-yard touchdown strike that sent the crowd at Mercedes-Benz Stadium into a frenzy. (LSU 7, Oklahoma 0, 12:03 first quarter)
December 28, 2019 at 4:20 PM EST
LSU kicks off to Oklahoma to begin the Peach Bowl. The Sooners will start the game at their own 25-yard line.
December 28, 2019 at 3:47 PM EST
LSU’s Ensminger will coach after family tragedy
LSU Coach Ed Orgeron told ESPN “there’s no question” offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger would stay with the team and coach in the Peach Bowl hours after his daughter-in-law, New Orleans-based sports broadcaster Carley McCord, died in a plane crash on the way to cover the game. McCord was one of five people killed in the crash. Two bystanders were also injured and two more people were treated for smoke inhalation. The flight was traveling from Lafayette, La., to Atlanta-Dekalb Peachtree Airport.
“We heard the news. I told Coach Ensminger our thoughts and our prayers go out to him. There’s not much we can say, obviously,” Orgeron told ESPN’s Holly Rowe.
December 28, 2019 at 3:36 PM EST
LSU running back expected to play ‘limited role’
Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who leads the Tigers in rushing with 1,290 yards and 16 touchdowns, is recovering from a hamstring injury suffered in practice last week. ESPN reported Saturday afternoon that Edwards-Helaire will suit up for the game and “will play in a limited role.” LSU will use a running-back-by-committee approach when Edwards-Helaire is not available. Tyrion Davis-Price is the primary backup, but John Emery Jr. and Chris Curry have also seen time in the backfield this year. Quarterback Joe Burrow, though, is the Tigers’ second-leading rusher with 289 yards on 96 carries.
December 28, 2019 at 3:30 PM EST
What you need to know
Where: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta.
December 28, 2019 at 3:29 PM EST
Why LSU is No. 1
By the tale of the tape, Oklahoma (12-1) and LSU seem much more evenly matched than by the eye test. The Sooners allow fewer yards per game than the Tigers. They have a two-time Heisman trophy finalist at quarterback in Jalen Hurts. Wideout CeeDee Lamb, one of the nation’s best and a surefire NFL prospect, has 58 catches for 1,208 yards and 14 touchdowns. What’s not to like about that?
Well, the Big 12 is considerably weaker than the SEC, and Oklahoma — the only semifinalist with a loss this season — also has an 0-3 record in College Football Playoff games. Meanwhile, LSU, pride of the cannibalistic SEC, was unscathed by Alabama (before Tua Tagovailoa’s injury), escaped Auburn (perhaps Burrow’s worst game, when he still completed 76 percent of his passes) and walloped Florida and Georgia by a combined 41 points.
Let’s recount Burrow’s stats, because they’re so fun: 4,715 yards, 48 touchdowns to 6 interceptions, a mind-bending 77.9 percent of completion percentage. He’ll look to connect with wide receivers Ja’Marr Chase (73 catches, 1,498 yards, 18 touchdowns), Justin Jefferson and Terrace Marshall and dangerous tight end Thad Moss, the son of Hall of Famer Randy Moss.
LSU halfback Clyde Edwards-Helaire (1,290 rushing yards, 16 touchdowns; 50 catches, 399 yards) will be a game-time decision, Coach Ed Orgeron said Thursday, thanks to a hamstring injury.
For Oklahoma, defensive lineman Ronnie Perkins (38 tackles, six sacks), running back Rhamondre Stevenson (515 yards, six touchdowns) and second-string receiver Trejan Bridges will miss the game due to team suspensions.