L.S.U. vs. Clemson Live Score: 35-25 L.S.U.
Here’s what you need to know:
L.S.U. takes advantage of a Clemson penalty and scores again.
So L.S.U. sputtered through its first two possessions of the second half. Clemson scored and added a cherry of a 2-point conversion. The once-daunting margin collapsed to 3 points.
L.S.U. looked to be wheezing through another drive — an incomplete pass, a penalty, a run that didn’t gain much — when Burrow launched a 43-yard pass to, almost predictably at this point, Ja’Marr Chase.
It took just a bit longer for L.S.U. to score, in part because of the targeting-related ejection of James Skalski of Clemson. But Burrow connected with Thaddeus Moss again for a 4-yard touchdown that was upheld after a video review.
The score was Burrow’s 59th touchdown pass of the season, setting an Football Bowl Subdivision record for a single season.
L.S.U.’s advantage is back to two scores, at 35-25 in New Orleans.
Could this game really hit 80 total points scored? Sports books think so.
One of the maxims of sports betting is that gamblers love points. The casinos played that up for this game, setting a sky-high total of nearly 70 points for the combined score between Clemson and L.S.U.
But guess what? Sports books set it even higher for the second half. William Hill US now says the expected total for the game is 80 points.
Even if the game slows down with a leader running the clock, it’s not hard to fathom the game getting there. At 28-25, the teams needed only four more touchdowns to break that ceiling.
As for the favorite? That’s still L.S.U., but by 11 as of halftime.
The strategy of Clemson’s defensive coordinator is worth watching.
Perhaps you have noticed Brent Venables, Clemson’s defensive coordinator: He’s the coach who always seems to have to be pulled by his pants back toward the sideline.
He makes for good memes, but his style is crucial to how Clemson plays defense: by giving offenses little time to contemplate what they’ll face after the snap. And at some moments tonight, Clemson has given L.S.U. plenty of problems, especially early in both halves.
“They kind of get lined up, and he gets the call in so late, and it just seems like they’re in the right call so many times,” said Dave Clawson, Wake Forest’s coach, who predicted that one of the title game’s most compelling matchups would be the Clemson defensive perimeter against the offensive perimeter for L.S.U.
Derek Mason, the Vanderbilt coach who has known Joe Burrow for so many years that he calls him Joey, said he thought Clemson’s defensive timing was a lifeline for the Atlantic Coast Conference champion.
“If Clemson can give static looks and launch from those different platforms and be able to make Joey hold the ball just a little bit,” he said, “Clemson’s pass rushers may have an opportunity with the speed and the athleticism.”
Clemson’s style did not go unnoticed during L.S.U.’s preparations for the championship game.
“It doesn’t worry me at all, but it’s also something to think about,” said Clyde Edwards-Helaire, a tailback. “This will pretty much be the first time that we’ve faced a team that throws in a call so late, and being able to not let them get the call, I think, is going to be something big.”
But Venables deflected the idea that his approach was especially sophisticated. Instead, he said, it was all about trying to even the balance of power when an opponent has the ball.
“They’re trying to get in the best looks on offense and trying to prevent negative plays, and we’re trying to not make it easy on the opponents by opening up our playbook for them,” he said. “We’re trying to do just what the offense does. I don’t know why we get so much attention for it.”
In a halftime interview, Ed Orgeron, L.S.U.’s coach, suggested his team had solved the Clemson riddle: “We figured out what they were going to do; now we’re moving the football.”
Maybe Orgeron spoke too soon. After the intermission, Clemson promptly stopped two L.S.U. drives.
Clemson gets a stop, then scores to tighten the game.
Clemson has 45 sacks on the season, and none was bigger than one that stopped Joe Burrow’s first possession of the second half. Clemson then got a 15 yard penalty on the punt and an opportunity to reset.
Trevor Lawrence took advantage, leading his team down the field for a touchdown and a 2-point conversion to pull closer, 28-25.
Travis Etienne finished the drive with a 3-yard run for a touchdown.
Wake Forest’s coach weighed in to us about the first half.
We texted Dave Clawson, Wake Forest’s coach, as the bands played at the Superdome to take his measure of the first half.
“LSU’s ability to win vs press and make contested catches was critical for them,” Clawson, whose team shares a division with Clemson, replied. “Burrow is making plays with his feet — not just the draws but avoiding the sacks.”
Clemson, Clawson noted, had drawn up some excellent pressures to make L.S.U. uncomfortable, but Burrow had proven effective at eluding them.
“Very fun game to watch,” the coach concluded.
We agree, even if its up-and-down nature may crunch our deadlines.
L.S.U.’s offense has come to life.
Football can be an awfully fickle sport: L.S.U. started the national championship shrinking under the swarming pressure of Clemson’s defense.
L.S..U. lost yardage on its first possession. A second drive gained just 7 yards. With the third possession, L.S.U. finally picked up double-digit yardage: 14.
Then the team from Baton Rouge rumbled — no, roared — to offensive life. The fourth drive took just more than 90 seconds, but it went for 70 yards and a touchdown. After another brief scoring hiatus, L.S.U. used its next three possessions to score 21 points.
So after 30 minutes of play, an L.S.U. team that struggled at the start has 359 yards, some 269 of them in the second quarter, and 28 points. L.S.U. went to the locker room with 16 first downs to its stat sheet, 13 of them in the second quarter. And five different receivers have caught passes for L.S.U., most notably Ja’Marr Chase, who has more than 160 yards already.
L.S.U. won the toss but deferred so it could get the ball to start the second half. Will Clemson’s defense, the nation’s best this regular season, have an answer after the intermission? It needs one, and it needs one soon.
That’s three straight touchdowns for L.S.U.
Joe Burrow followed his blockers for 29 yards down to the 5-yard line, then slammed a hard pass into the end zone to Thaddeus Moss, the son of famed N.F.L. receiver Randy Moss.
L.S.U. has had a big turnaround in the second quarter, scoring three straight touchdowns after being down 10 points.
L.S.U. leads 28-17 at halftime.
Here comes Joe Burrow.
Joe Burrow’s arm has bubbled to life, and L.S.U. leads in New Orleans.
Burrow threw an incomplete pass to start the L.S.U. drive, but he rushed for a first down immediately after. Four complete passes, all for double-digit gains, followed, including Ja’Marr Chase again coming up big for L.S.U., which was playing a no-huddle offense, on a pass lofted into the end zone.
And so a six-play possession that started with a bit of unease warped into a touchdown drive to put L.S.U. in front. It’s 21-17 as we approach halftime.
The crowd went a bit wild.
Burrow quickly scores for L.S.U.
Just about as soon as we finished watching the big-screen replays of that Clemson touchdown, Joe Burrow and Co. stormed up the field with two passes to Ja’Marr Chase that moved L.S.U. 72 yards in short order.
With L.S.U. perched inside the Clemson 5 and on third down, the offense dialed up a quarterback run.
It worked with ease, with Burrow tumbling into the end zone from just a few yards out, and it’s a one-score game in the Superdome with Clemson out in front, 17-14.
Clemson scores again on a 36-yard run.
Coming into tonight’s game, the most open secret in Louisiana might have been that the L.S.U. defense was nowhere near as talented as its offense.
Clemson is starting to show why that gripe about L.S.U. has been accurate.
Tee Higgins just scampered 36 yards along the far sideline, bumping away from defenders along the way, for a touchdown that featured a leaping dive into the end zone.
But Higgins only scored after a few other big plays, including a 24-yard pass and a 29-yard run.
17-7, Clemson, with plenty of time to go in the second quarter.
Clemson takes a 10-7 lead on a field goal.
A field goal! We expected touchdowns — and we’ll probably still get those — but Clemson landed a 52-yard field goal to take the lead, 10-7.
Clemson’s kick, the longest in the history of the College Football Playoff, capped a nine-play drive that went for 40 yards. But those 3 points might matter a great deal by the end of the night.
The game is even after one quarter.
Let’s talk about a really good first quarter where the playing field was leveled.
L.S.U. came into this game as a juggernaut because they dominated the Southeastern Conference.
Despite being the reigning national champion, Clemson was a significant underdog — as many as 6 points in many casinos.
But there is no doubt that this game is between the two best teams in the nation. Clemson’s defense is better than it has received credit for (because of its soft schedule). There is a reason the Tigers from South Carolina won the title last season.
Joe Burrow throws a 52-yard touchdown to tie the game for L.S.U.
The Joe Burrow magic did not stay behind in Baton Rouge.
Here’s the scene that led the Superdome to erupt: Second and 2. L.S.U. on its own 48.
Then Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase, one of the signal caller’s favorite wide receivers, linked up for 52 yards after a quick strike along the sideline.
Tie game in New Orleans. Wonder what Bourbon Street is like now.
Clemson strikes first to take a 7-0 lead.
Just when it seemed like we might be settling into a defensive struggle, Clemson put its first points on the board.
They came courtesy of Trevor Lawrence, the sophomore quarterback who sprinted into the end zone not long after he completed a 19-yard pass to Justyn Ross, a wide receiver who had been frustrated with his play during the Fiesta Bowl last month.
Lawrence certainly showed his athleticism and speed during the drive, but L.S.U., it seemed, could not stop stubbing its toes via penalty flags: an illegal block gave Clemson a 15-yard gift. A personal foul didn’t help matters for L.S.U.
There have been lots of punts to start.
Surprised there has been so much punting? Don’t be. Clemson and L.S.U. haven’t had to punt much this season, but this is the type of game where that particular skill might come into play more often than usual.
Our writer Billy Witz wrote about this going into the semifinal between Clemson and Ohio State.
Clemson Coach Dabo Swinney said then that field position would be critical: “It’s the game within the game.”
That has been true early in this final.
A slow start for L.S.U., but still plenty to like about its offense.
L.S.U. had an ugly first possession, ending it dangerously close to their own end zone.
The good news for L.S.U. is that it hasn’t given up a safety.
The bad news is, well, the L.S.U. offense looks mighty shaky by any standard. Through its first two possessions, L.S.U. has gained a grand total of 6 yards. That is not a typo about the team that had the nation’s best offense this season.
Still, its fans have plenty of reason for optimism.
Archie Manning has seen some compelling L.S.U. offenses in his almost half-century of living in south Louisiana. But on the phone last week, he could not stop marveling over the one that L.S.U. assembled for this season.
“They mix it up: They mix up formations, they mix up personnel, they run it good enough to keep the defense honest,” said Manning, a quarterback for Mississippi who was the No. 2 pick of the 1971 N.F.L. draft. “They’ve got really good looking wide receivers. They’re not 5-11, 180; they’re 6-3, 215.”
Let’s consider some of its resources:
Joe Burrow. You’ve probably heard of the L.S.U. quarterback. If you haven’t, he won the Heisman Trophy and has thrown 55 touchdown passes — including seven during the first half of a semifinal game against No. 4 Oklahoma. He is widely expected to be the first pick of this year’s N.F.L. draft.
If Burrow’s accuracy is as pinpoint as usual, expect to hear the names Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase. Although 20 L.S.U. players have logged receiving yards this season, Jefferson and Chase have 2,993 of them — more than half the team’s total.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire is a running back who did not see much action in the semifinal game because of injury, but he has run for more than 1,300 yards this season. His yards per carry statistic is similarly elite: He gains an average of 6.6 yards, putting him in the top 20 in the country.
And all of that with an offensive line that started the season facing plenty of skepticism.
Clemson’s first drive started ugly, abruptly improved and then eroded.
The A.C.C. champion opened with a trick play that turned into a loss. But then, as L.S.U. jumped offside, quarterback Trevor Lawrence connected with Justyn Ross for a 35-yard gain. Two more completions — one for 19 yards, another for 3 — followed.
But on third down, L.S.U. pressured Lawrence, sacking him for a loss of 10 yards. Mired on the L.S.U. 40, Clemson had no real choice but to punt.
So both teams can have some reasons for confidence — and fear — after a single Clemson possession.
Trevor Lawrence is already a champion, but wasn’t a Heisman finalist this season.
Despite plenty of preseason forecasts, Trevor Lawrence, Clemson’s quarterback, did not wind up as a Heisman Trophy finalist. Still, Lawrence led one of the most potent offenses in the country.
“When they won the national championship with Deshaun Watson, their skill was good, and at that point, their offensive line was solid,” said Dave Clawson, the coach at Wake Forest, which is in the same division as Clemson. “But now they have the best offensive line in the A.C.C. You have the best quarterback, you have the best tailback, you have five to six receivers who would start anywhere in the country.”
That range, Clawson said, made Clemson difficult to defend, with big plays possible all over the field. No defense, he suggested, can afford to try to shut down one player and hope no one else from Clemson’s offense steps in.
“Your only hope was to try to get them on third down and try to get off the field and try to make them sustain drives,” he said. “The explosives with them can happen anywhere.”
Jimbo Fisher, the coach at Texas A&M, expected that surprise plays would prove most important for both teams.
“Designed quarterback runs are going to be interesting in this one,” he said. “Who can pull off something that can take advantage of the other guy?”
Clemson, he quickly noted, created an awful lot of plays that let Lawrence run. Ahead of Monday’s game, Lawrence had rushed for 514 yards this season, nearly tripling his total during the 2018 season.
“L.S.U. has been talked about a lot in terms of their offensive prowess, but Clemson has quietly been able to go undefeated throughout the season,” said Derek Mason, Vanderbilt’s coach. “Clemson is going to give L.S.U. everything it can handle.”
President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump took the field for the national anthem.
Trump appeared on the field at the Superdome for the singing of the national anthem, the second time in his presidency he made a stop at college football’s title game. It’s also the second time this season he has gone to an L.S.U. game.
Joined by his wife before a crowd that roared with his entrance minutes before kickoff, the president stood on the 40-yard line, right hand over his heart, after a reverberating cheer: “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!”
Trump stopped in Atlanta in 2018, when Alabama and Georgia played for a title, and stood on the field at Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the national anthem. Loud cheers and a smattering of jeers greeted Mr. Trump at that game, but fans of all political persuasions groused over the long security lines associated with a presidential trip.
When Trump traveled to Tuscaloosa, Ala., in November, university officials opened Bryant-Denny Stadium earlier than usual in a bid to relieve congestion.
Bill Hancock, the executive director of the College Football Playoff, said he learned of the president’s plans to attend Monday’s game roughly a week in advance and that White House officials did not specifically say why Trump wanted to come.
“Maybe, like so millions of others, the president just loves college football,” Hancock said. “It will be an honor to have him here.”
Mr. Trump is familiar with both Clemson and L.S.U. beyond games: He has welcomed Clemson to the White House twice to mark national championship victories, and he recently called Ed Orgeron, the L.S.U. coach, to congratulate him on his team’s semifinal victory over Oklahoma.
“He was very pleasant to talk to, very complimentary of our football team, our coaching staff, complimentary of the way the state of Louisiana has rallied around us, and was complimentary to the way we played all year and wished us good luck in the game,” Orgeron said last month.
The call was a surprise.
“They told me the president’s office called, and I thought it was the president of the university,” Orgeron said.
No, he was told, the White House was on the line.
“I said, ‘O.K., here we go,’” Orgeron said.
The players are warming up.
Louisiana State and Clemson will meet Monday night for the college football national championship, pitting the regular season’s best offense against its best defense.
Top-ranked L.S.U., which won the Southeastern Conference championship, had not reached a national title game since the 2011 season, and surged toward the top of the sport behind a spread offense and a quarterback, Joe Burrow, whose power and precision led to a landslide Heisman Trophy victory. L.S.U. defeated — and, in some instances, dominated — some of college football’s greatest powerhouses to reach New Orleans, including Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma and Texas. Burrow threw seven touchdowns in the first half of L.S.U.’s College Football Playoff semifinal against Oklahoma.
Clemson, the Atlantic Coast Conference champion that defeated Ohio State in a semifinal game last month, is seeking its third national title in four seasons. Clemson, where Coach Dabo Swinney has gained renown for cultivating players, boasts a dominant, dynamic defense and an offense that has proved itself able to score through the air and on the ground. And while Clemson’s victory over Ohio State silenced some of its skeptics, the program is looking to chip away — again — at assertions of S.E.C. superiority.
“The key to this game is you’ve got to focus and make every play,” said Jimbo Fisher, the coach at Texas A&M, which faced both Clemson and L.S.U. this season. “Who can play the game and not worry about winning the game? I think Clemson has great experience. I think L.S.U. has great desire and drive and confidence.”
But he had a note of caution: “Both teams are probably playing as good as they’ve played all year.”
Here are some things to consider before the game:
The son of Randy Moss has been strong for L.S.U.
If L.S.U.’s tight end ever reminds you a bit of Randy Moss, there’s a good reason for that.
Thaddeus Moss, among the finest tight ends in L.S.U. history, is a son of the six-time Pro Bowler who was a star for Minnesota and New England, among other N.F.L. franchises. He entered the championship game with L.S.U.’s record for most receiving yards by a tight end and averaged nearly 13 yards per catch.
But how did he settle on No. 81 when his father wore three jersey numbers?
“I was 82 before I had 81, so I didn’t want to go far off that number,” he said on Saturday morning. “Eighty-one, I feel like that’s when he played his best brand of football. He was kind of mature, and that’s probably when I remember him most playing football.”
No. 81 has worked out just fine for Thaddeus.
At a camp for quarterbacks, Burrow and Lawrence taught high schoolers and learned from the Mannings.
The camp counselors made good.
Last summer, long before it was clear who would reach Monday’s national title game, L.S.U. quarterback Joe Burrow and Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence spent time in Louisiana practicing their passes, showing off their arm strength and … teaching teenagers. It was all part of the gig of being a counselor at the Manning Passing Academy, the summer football institute that draws about 1,200 high school players and features some people who know something about leading offenses.
“Both of them were just good kids, great attitude,” Archie Manning, who runs the camp with his sons, including Peyton and Eli, said of Burrow and Lawrence. “Joe is a little quieter but serious. You can believe he did a good job with them, working on the basics and mechanics and those type of things.”
Manning quickly added, though, that “a lot of the kids were a little more in awe of Trevor,” most likely because he had already won a national title. (“And then the hair kind of sets him apart,” Manning added with a chuckle.)
But as the days passed with Burrow and Lawrence cycling through groups of players — Lawrence coached a Manning grandchild in seven-on-seven games — the nation’s most celebrated family of quarterbacks also got a chance to scout the signal callers for L.S.U. and Clemson.
Burrow, Manning said, was “kind of a sponge off Peyton and Eli.”
“You could tell he’s committed, he’s serious, he throws the ball well, he’s accurate and can make all the throws,” Manning said. But Manning, still such a legend at Mississippi that his jersey number is enshrined as the campus’s 18-mile-per-hour speed limit, said that Burrow’s father had approached him with a request: Say something to Joe about getting on the ground, about not running so recklessly.
“His response was something like, ‘It looks kind of wimpy,’” Manning said.
The family was particularly interested in Lawrence, Manning said, after his prolific freshman year at Clemson — and because he had grown up idolizing Peyton and wearing No. 16, Peyton’s uniform number at Tennessee. They deemed him as impressive as advertised, Manning said.
“He even had a few observers there at camp say when God drew up a quarterback, he made Trevor. He looks the part,” Manning said. “He’s got good size, great legs. And then he just checks all of the boxes: throwing the ball, everything was strong-armed, accurate, good footwork.”
On the final day of camp, a Sunday, Lawrence was the speaker at an optional chapel service, telling the audience about his faith journey.
“I only wish he had been preaching at the First Baptist Church in Drew, Miss., when I was growing up,” Manning said. “He kind of made his point — and he was done in six or seven minutes.”
Keep in mind that targeting rules have changed since last season.
It’s safe to expect some big hits tonight. But not every bone-crunching tackle will be ruled as targeting, and under a change imposed this season, it will have to be clear on replay that the rule was broken. One crucial element of the rule is that a “targeting indicator” must be present.
According to the rule book, those indicators include, but aren’t limited to, “lowering the head before attacking by initiating forcible contact with the crown of the helmet” or “a crouch followed by an upward and forward thrust to attack with forcible contact at the head or neck area.”
Entering the game, Clemson had been called for 78 total penalties this season and lost 619 yards as a result. L.S.U. has been penalized 82 times this season, sacrificing 818 yards.
Over the summer, we looked at some of the rule changes that were in effect for this season.
The 16-day wait since the semifinals was longer than usual.
A lot has happened in sports since the semifinal games on Dec. 28 set up tonight’s matchup.
David Stern, the former N.B.A. commissioner, died. So did Don Larsen, the maestro of the only perfect game in World Series history. The N.F.L. had two playoff rounds, as well as the final day of its regular season. Only now has the day of the title game arrived after a 16-day gap that was not originally planned.
The delay came about after the playoff, stung by lower ratings, largely abandoned its plan for New Year’s Eve games. That change, made after the date was set for New Orleans was to host the game, fueled the long delay. You can read more here.
The game is in New Orleans, about 80 miles from L.S.U.’s campus.
Ed Orgeron, L.S.U.’s coach, has spent a lot of time lately insisting that the national championship game’s location is irrelevant.
“Obviously, it’s going to be a great day, going to be a purple and gold crowd in that Superdome,” Orgeron said shortly after L.S.U. won its semifinal game last month. “The state of Louisiana is going to be on fire. But all those things doesn’t win the football game for you. We have to prepare. We have to study. We have to be ready to play our best football game.”
He is certainly hoping L.S.U. musters a better performance than the last time it played for a title in the Superdome: At the end of the 2011 season, the Tigers lost, 21-0, to Alabama.
Previous bowl outings in New Orleans went far better for the Tigers. L.S.U. won the 2007 national championship with a victory, 38-24, over Ohio State, and it capped the 2003 season with a 21-14 win over Oklahoma to claim its first title since the Eisenhower administration.
Jimbo Fisher, the Texas A&M coach who was the L.S.U. offensive coordinator for the 2003 season, said having the game in New Orleans could be a benefit for the home state team — or a distraction. The well-meaning local pressure and attention, he suggested, can feel relentless.
“We had to be there 12 days,” Fisher recalled. “I went out to dinner with my family the first night, and I hid in my room the other 11.”
Clemson, partly because of the Atlantic Coast Conference’s bowl contracts, has less postseason experience in New Orleans and will be looking for its first win in the Crescent City. Its 2017 season ended with a semifinal loss to Alabama in New Orleans, and it lost the Sugar Bowl that capped the 1958 campaign.