NEW ORLEANS – Clemson more than struggled on third down on Monday night as LSU rolled to a 42-25 victory at the Superdome in New Orleans to capture the national championship.
Clemson sputtered offensively down the stretch, totaling just 394 yards of offense. It finished the game 1-of-11 on third down conversions and LSU was 4-of-14, but the Bayou Bengals moved the chains when necessary to secure the win.
The LSU defense did an excellent job disguising coverage and forcing Clemson into difficult third-and-long situations. Co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott credited the LSU defenses scheme for halting his team in his final game as the co-offensive coordinator.
“I think we got into too many third-and-long situations which makes it difficult already but especially whenever they know you have to throw the ball,” Scott said. “They brought a lot of pressure and we had to throw on the run. Their defense did a great job and it’s hard to tell but I’ll go look at it before I leave.”
The other co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott, who assumes full coordinator responsibilities soon as Scott heads to the University of South Florida as a a head coach, agreed with Scott and gave full credit to the LSU defense.
“They did a good job of mixing it up and I think earlier we miss targeted,” Elliott said. “It looked like the backs and offensive line weren’t on the same page which may have caused Trevor to flush a little bit. They also did a lot of twisting up front and we just didn’t finish some plays that were there for it.”
Wide receiver Tee Higgins felt his team just missed on too many opportunities to execute the game plan against presumably the nation’s best team.
Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence also admitted to playing off against LSU and took responsibility for Clemson’s loss. He finished the day 18-of-37 for 234 yards and rushed for a 1-yard touchdown in the first quarter.
“It was a bunch of things, they did some good stuff on third down early that gave us some fits,” Lawrence said. “After that I missed a lot of throws, tonight I wasn’t putting the ball where they were supposed to catch it and that was on me, it wasn’t my night. But, yeah my hats are off to LSU. They did a great job of disguising and bringing pressure and it just wasn’t my night.”
Lawrence was credited with seven overthrown passes on third down Monday night. In the previous 29 games he played in, he had just six combined.
LSU finished 4-of-14 on third down conversions Monday night but converted on third-and-impossible more than once to extend drives. The Bayou Bengals’ ability to convert when Clemson could not ultimately proved the difference in the game.
Defensive coordinator Brent Venables echoed that point to media members in the locker room after the game.
“Just when we thought we got them where we wanted them they made a play,” Venables said. “Third-and-19 was a heartbreaker, but they make you pay if you make the smallest of errors.”