Tigers vs. Tigers? Oh my.
No. 3 Clemson looked unfazed on the big stage once again as they traded blows with No. 1 LSU in a thrilling start to the National Championship Game in New Orleans. It was, however, the local Tigers who hit the locker room up 21-17 in a contest that is more than living up to its historic billing as a heavyweight fight for the sport’s ultimate prize.
While things started off rather slow with four straight punts to open things up, eventually Clemson signal-caller Trevor Lawrence started to find a bit of a groove. The sophomore with an undefeated record in orange and white continued to impress with his legs in opening up scoring with a short one yard touchdown scamper. He wasn’t too shabby with his arm either in throwing for 176 yards though did miss a handful of throws that could have made things even more interesting at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Still, the ACC champions were able to send a shiver up the spine of the very favorable home crowd by taking a two score lead on LSU for the first time all season. Even B.T. Potter, who previously entered the game as a bit shaky from the kicking spot, was ice cold in drilling a 52-yarder.
But eventually Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow went all, well, Joe Burrow. Escaping a number of difficult blitz situations he wound up rushing for a team-high 55 yards and a touchdown of his own all while dropping dimes ot the tune of 270 yards and three scores through the air. Two of those trips to the end zone game in beautifully placed passes into the arms of Ja'Marr Chase, who seemed to take over for Peach Bowl hero Justin Jefferson by hauling in six for 162 yards.
Tailback Clyde Edwards-Helaire was not quite as productive as we’ve seen him at times but still turned the game around with several big plays in the second quarter to give the Tigers tons of momentum heading into the locker room for a break from the title track meet.
Clemson has been in this position before, including in their semifinal against Ohio State, and turned things around. Can they do it again or will LSU be hoisting yet another trophy just down the road from campus? Regardless how things turn out, expect plenty of second half fireworks down the stretch.