NEW ORLEANS — When Trevor Lawrence came to the sideline following his fumble in the fourth quarter of LSU’s 42-25 victory over Clemson Monday night at the Superdome in New Orleans, Dabo Swinney put his arm around his young quarterback and told him he “would not trade him for nobody.”
On a night when his team was beat in just about every facet of the game, Swinney was still coaching way into the night, letting Lawrence know the Tigers’ loss in the national championship game is an opportunity for him to learn and an opportunity for him to grow as a player and as a person.
Prior to Monday, Lawrence had never lost in his Clemson career and was 25-0 as a starter. He seldom struggled in games and had never had a performance like Monday when he completed just 18 of his 37 passes for 234 yards and no touchdowns. His fumble was the first one of his career. Lawrence just doesn’t have games like he had Monday night.
It was a stark contrast from the effort he put on a year ago when diced up Alabama to lead Clemson to another national championship.
“This is a great opportunity to lead and to respond,” Swinney said. “You know, he’s had so much good. We all have. We’ve had so much just unbelievable success, so many great things, and he’s never lost a game. I mean, he’s — and he’s not going to lose many.
“I’ll go ahead and tell you that right now. He ain’t going to lose many. He’s going to be a hard guy to beat forever because he’s special. And he had a tough night tonight. For whatever reason, just didn’t have his best night.”
And though on this night Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow had the greatest game anyone has ever had in a championship game, Swinney was quick to let everyone know how proud he was of his quarterback.
“I wouldn’t trade him for nobody. I love that guy. That’s it. I just told him, hey, keep your head up. You’ve got a great opportunity here to respond,” he said. “It’s easy when everything is good. So, I just told him I’m proud of him and appreciated his fight, his grit, his will, and hey, that’s ball. Listen, he was giving everything he had, and it was a good play by them knocking it loose (on the fumble).
“We go over there and love on him when he throws touchdown passes, I’m going to love on him when he had a mistake, too, because his effort was tremendous. Again, we just didn’t have our best night tonight, but man, I love Trevor Lawrence. I wouldn’t trade that guy for nobody.”
Swinney said he knows how Lawrence will respond to his first loss in college and only the third including his high school career.
“I know exactly how he’ll respond. He’ll get right back to work, and we’re going to have a really, really good football team next year,” Swinney said. “We’ve got tons of guys back, got 15 mid-years there, and this is a bad moment, but even if we’d have won it and it was a great moment, it’s still just a moment.
“The true joy comes in the challenge of trying to go do it, and we’ll get back to work on that. Literally, I think six weeks from Wednesday we’re back on the field, and I look forward to it.”