NEW ORLEANS, LA – Clemson relied all year on a strong defense and quarterback Trevor Lawrence to give itself a shot at a second straight national title.
Both let them down against LSU and Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Joe Burrow.
“It's been a long time since I've stood in front a team with a loss," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said after LSU's 42-25 win Monday night.
Things started Clemson's way as Lawrence led the Tigers to a 17-7 lead the first 20 minutes. Then Burrow and his collection of offensive playmakers ran past the country's best defense — just like they did to everyone else all season.
Clemson's bid for a repeat — and a dynasty of three titles in four seasons — ended in a flurry of pitch-perfect touchdown passes from Burrow to Ja'Marr Chase and Thaddeus Moss.
“We could've played better," said Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons, the Butkus Award winner. “Obviously, we didn't play as good as we wanted to. Too many big plays.”
And those plays came in a hurry.
The secondary for Clemson (14-1) surrendered just nine touchdown passes in its first 14 games. It gave up three to LSU in the opening half, including a pair as the Southeastern Conference champions went from 10 points down (its biggest deficit of the year) early in the second quarter to being up 28-17 at halftime.