It ain’t supposed to be this easy.
Playoff games aren’t supposed to become garbage time 26 minutes in.
Appreciate what you watched. LSU spent the week letting Oklahoma know they didn’t think they were good enough to hang, and then showed them exactly how true that was. Joe Burrow spent the first half of the Peach Bowl on Freshman mode and threw seven touchdowns while the Tigers scored 56 total points.
We all had that moment in the second quarter where you looked at the clock, looked at the score and thought “wow there’s a LOT of time left here.” At the party I was at, most of us spent the third and fourth quarters worrying if Ed Orgeron were leaving too many starters in and not saving guys for the next game.
LSU turned the College Football Semi-final into SoCon Saturday.
And as bad as the final score already seemed, the box score of this one was even worse! LSU had nearly 700 total yards of offense at more than nine yards per play, while holding a fantastic Oklahoma offense to its lowest total yardage and yard-per-play outputs of the season, while tying its lowest scoring mark.
The Tigers told the Sooners they were going to kick their ass, and then did so. Thoroughly.
This game was a testament to the focus and preparation of this team and staff over the last two weeks, and this game day was a testament to the strength of this coaching staff.
I would be remiss if I didn’t offer my, and the entire ATVS family’s, condolences for Carley McCord and her family. I only met Carley a handful of times professionally, but I always found her to be a true professional. The circumstances of her passing must be a nightmare for her family, especially her husband, Steven Ensminger Jr, and his father Steve. For Steve Ensminger to not only compartmentalize that tragedy, and then help call one of the most dominant performances LSU has ever put on a football field is a performance that shouldn’t be forgotten.
Additionally, one of the other victims of the tragedy — a survivor — is in need of help. You can read more here.
But for now, back to football:
- A big theme in this game from Oklahoma’s standpoint was that they were determined to win this one on their own terms, doing things the way that worked for them all year. Not big on adjusting to what LSU did. There’s something to be said for being who you are as a team, and not trying to force radical changes to what’s worked for you all year. Of course, it didn’t work out at all for the Sooners.
- Example one of this was on the very first play. OU takes a shot down field with a flood concept off jet-sweep play-action. Problem is, the jet-sweep pushes K’Lavon Chaisson wide, into a one-on-one match-up with a tight end in pass-protection, with a slow-developing route concept. Chaisson just bull-rushes Brayden Willis right into Jalen Hurts’ lap, then sheds him to get the sack when Hurts tries to step up. And with such a limited passing game, there was no way the Sooners were getting out of that hole.
- So the Sooners go backwards on a three-and-out, then hit a 23-yard punt to give LSU the ball in plus territory. This kind of start was, as the French in France might say, “not good.”
- Likewise, the Sooner defense was true to form early. Screaming off the line to get up field early on with Quarters coverage behind it. LSU counters with an RPO throw to Thad Moss in the flat for a nice gain, and two plays later hits another option pass to Justin Jefferson in the slot. Jets carries a safety for a few yards and then stretches for the touchdown. Per Cody Worsham, LSU ran RPOs at about twice their normal rate in this one, which makes sense against a Quarters-coverage team, because you can manipulate the linebackers to create voids behind them for passes, or in front of them for runs.
- Really nice get-off by Marcel Brooks on the next possession to get in Hurts’ face on the third-down incompletion.
- Rare three-and-out for LSU, but with a little bit better vision Burrow might’ve converted the third down on his scramble, if he breaks to his right a step sooner.
- And OU gets back in it with a couple of nice calls. Then, tempo gets CeeDee Lamb matched up on JaCoby Stevens down the field. He has decent position, but can’t find the ball and Lamb gets the big play to set up an answer touchdown for OU.
- Tigers come right back with the weakside option route to Jefferson, which per SEC StatCat, was a play that had a perfect success rate Saturday night. Alex Grinch likes to play his nickel corners off and keep them active in blitzing and the running game. That’s a mismatch against an aggressive team that’s comfortable with that slot receiver just running towards open grass. Look at all this room in front of Jefferson.
- In hindsight, we probably should’ve known LSU had this thing sewn up on this run by the injured Clyde Edwards-Helaire:
- That’s just want-to. Edwards-Helaire drops a shoulder on the safety and picks up another five yards on the injured hamstring. Sets up LSU’s second touchdown.
- Which came on a backside crosser to Terrace Marshall Jr. LSU motioned JaMarr Chase into the backfield and ran the R-Corner flood concept that scored a touchdown to Edwards-Helaire against Bama. OU does a nice job of jamming up the front-side concept, but Burrow stays with the play and eventually throws Marshall open.
- Yet another sign it wasn’t going to be Oklahoma’s night? Charleston Rambo gets a great edge on a kick return, only to get run down by Avery Atkins.
- I suspect LSU had Oklahoma’s snap count timed a bit, based on some of the jumps the Tigers’ defensive line was getting early on. Lots of slants towards the offensive right, which I also suspect was an attempt to flush Hurts away from his dominant side.
- Derek Stingley gets away with some pass-interference on OU’s next possession. He pretty clearly grabbed the receiver’s arm and turned him away from the ball. That said, I saw lots of comparisons to the NOLA No Call from last year, which...spare me. Also, given what ensued, I’m not sure it’s all that big of a difference.
- Another spectacular scramble play by Burrow, finding Marshall on a multiple scramble drill in which he tried to get himself open short, was pushed out of bounds and then was able to get to some open space behind the DB. No issue to the review, but it was pretty clearly a force-out.
- Sets up Burrow’s third touchdown to Jefferson on a slot fade. Again, with the Sooners giving him so much room, it only made sense to have Jefferson take off towards the deep sideline while the outside receiver broke in. With the deep safety singled up and pretty far off, Burrow’s throwing that into the ocean. And with Jefferson timing his break well, he got easy position on the safety.
- Speaking of blatant penalties, OU gifts LSU with 15 yards and takes out its own nickel back when Brendan Radley-Hines blasts Edwards-Helaire. For one, it was a textbook case of targeting. Radley-Hines put his helmet and shoulder right into Edwards-Helaire, from the blind side. Secondly, he basically took himself out of a chance to maybe tackle Burrow on a third-down scramble that would get the conversion. Basically, a 25-yard mistake that also took him out of the game. And put OU in even more of a bind handling Jefferson out of the slot.
- Two plays later, Burrow takes advantage:
- Once Woodi Washington engages Jefferson at the top of his route, he just breaks to the sideline and takes off towards open space. Washington does a nice job of recovering, but Burrow just throws an absolute dime. On the run, right to the outside shoulder where only Jefferson’s going to get it.
- Next offensive snap for Oklahoma doesn’t really help:
- OU loves the trick plays, and this is a nifty one they’ve run earlier in the year — a screen throw to the flat that gets tossed back to Hurts for a Flea Flicker. But Kary Vincent’s assignment puts him in a natural position to make the play. He motions with a slot receiver across the field, which shifts his assignment to the deep middle safety spot. As he turns to get into position he might even miss the initial throw out to Lamb, so by the time he sees Hurts putting up down the field, all that’s left is for him to track the ball. Hurts is under duress, so it’s not a great throw and Vincent just high points it over the receiver.
- Plays like this are why Aranda and Co. love Vincent in the hybrid nickel/safety role, as opposed to a traditional corner spot. He can put his foot in the ground and cover a ton of ground quickly.
- LSU gets stuffed on third down, but Oklahoma accepts an illegal-hands-to-the-face penalty to try and push the offense farther back and play field position and...22-yard completion on third and 18.
- Which sets up touchdown No. 4...4?
- This is just exquisite execution of a pass and catch:
- This is the verts combo LSU’s been running all year out of a 3x1 look where the solo receiver runs a drag route and the trio side all run verticals. Out of a bunch set to the right, Jefferson gets an outstanding release with a little shoulder-nod to the outside and then breaks toward the boundary pylon. Honestly, the DB’s trail technique isn’t that bad, but Burrow throws it back shoulder, and Jefferson turns and high-points the ball. That’s a case of chemistry between QB and wideout, and trusting that the play will get made.
- And this is the point where the world collectively said “...there are nine minutes left in the SECOND QUARTER of this game.”
- Obviously, you hate to harp on things with a 28-point lead but a very dumb roughing the passer penalty on Patrick Queen — just a completely unnecessary shot on Hurts after he finds Lamb for a 29-yard gain — that helps set up an OU touchdown. Not going to be able to afford mistakes like that against Clemson.
- Did it really matter in this one? Not so much. Two plays, touchdown No. 6.
- Looks like a coverage bust of some sort for OU against a “Hoss” concept where the slot players release deep while the outside receivers run curls. It usually pairs with a “juke” route from a back out of the backfield, but LSU adds a play-fake to Chris Curry here. It looks like the play-fake holds the player that was supposed to have deep leverage over Moss, and he’s just wide open. Then he just big-boys his way into the endzone as the safety closes.
- Honestly this drive was pretty emblematic of the season Moss has had overall. Sets a great block for Curry’s 13-yard run on the drive’s opening play, then breaks the LSU single-season yardage record for a tight end with a 62-yard score. He’s had the best, and most complete, season of any LSU tight end in my lifetime. Excellent blocker and a quality receiving option.
- Touchdown No. 7 in the first half is a lollypop of a play-action pass to Marshall, and this game only became more of a laffer.
- When you score 63 points, it’s easy — and accurate — to laud the offense but LSU’s defense played another excellent game. Held a 40-point-per-game Oklahoma offense to just 14 points in meaningful time, and 4.4 yards per play in the first half. The Tigers dominated from the inside-out, and front to back. The safeties controlled the flats for Oklahoma’s wide running game and quick game, and the front consistently moved the line of scrimmage. Per Cody Worsham, the Sooners averaged less than a yard per carry on their bread-and-butter counter play. They averaged 7.1 per carry on it during the season.
- Chaisson’s six tackles and two sacks obviously stand out, and he was all over the field, setting the edge, pursuing and even dropping with backs and tight ends in coverage. Jacob Phillips and Patrick Queen were consistent presences in the middle, and Tyler Shelvin and Rashard Lawrence did a fantastic job of keeping blockers off them.
- I hate to say this in a way that makes it sound like downplaying the job Jefferson did, but Oklahoma made almost no adjustment to him in the slot. He had nothing but open space and single coverage. Grinch stuck with his base coverages with almost no adjustment. I mean, sure, adjusting maybe just means that Chase or Marshall do more damage, but Burrow and Jefferson probably have the best pure chemistry of the group. If Jefferson is free, 14 catches for 227 yards is going to be a likely result every time.
- As a writer that has been bullish on Curry since watching clips of him in high school, it was incredibly satisfying to see him excel. He’s a pure one-cut, downhill back and he’s a load to bring down. In an offense like this, that will create space through tempo and formation, he can be more of a big-play threat as well. If he can continue to develop his vision and learn a little more patience as a runner, he could have a much bigger role next year.
- And then there’s the QB. Burrow was a force of nature in this. As bad as this looked for the OU defense, I’m not even sure there’s much they could have done differently. He strikes the perfect balance of taking what the defense allows with aggression down the field and spectacular ball placement. It’s entirely possible LSU could’ve just kept the throttle down in this game and scored 100 and had Burrow break the national record for touchdowns in a game. Only question now is, can he do it one more time.
So here we are. Twelve days from a chance at maybe the most legendary season in college football history. Six wins against top-10 teams. A record-shattering offense — y’all, Myles Brennan can throw for 30 touchdowns next season, the second-highest total in school history, and that won’t be half of what Burrow is likely to finish with. This season has been a dream, and whether Clemson or the offseason wakes us up, it will come to an end. Relish every second of this, and don’t let anything take this joy away.