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LSU’s Burrow bounces back from huge hit, leads Tigers to Fiesta Bowl win

LSU quarterback Joe Burrow (9) throws a pass against UCF during the first half of a Fiesta Bowl NCAA college football game Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Certain environments can bring the best out of players during the biggest moments.

The 2019 PlayStation Fiesta Bowl was no different.

Louisiana State quarterback Joe Burrow showed he had the clutch gene throughout the bowl game, helping the Tigers upend the University of Central Florida Knights 40-32 Tuesday at State Farm Stadium.

The quarterback not only tossed a career-high four touchdowns and 394 yards, he also showed his “grit” early on.

In the first quarter, Burrow and the Tigers looked to answer back after a 25-yard touchdown run from Greg McCrae put the Knights up 7-3.

After driving down to the UCF 15 yard-line, Burrow dropped back on 3rd-and-8 looking for the open man downfield.

Instead, he found UCF defensive back Brandon Moore, who took it the opposite way for the 93-yard interception return for a touchdown. It was the longest interception return in Fiesta Bowl history.

The pick was bad, but what came next was worse.

Trying to make a play on the ball, Burrow was blindsided by defensive lineman Joey Connors and was slow to get up.

“The only thing I am going to say about it is, the only reason I didn’t get up in one second was because I got the wind knocked out of me,” the quarterback said of the hit. “I would have got up immediately if that didn’t happen.”

Taking a shot like that can give a quarterback the yips moving forward.

Burrow was unfazed, however. After going down, the redshirt junior had two things in mind.

“Score touchdowns, complete passes,” Burrow said when asked what his mentality was after getting hit. “I didn’t really think about the hit too much after I got up. It hurt for a second, then I got right up and went on to the next play.”

After taking a 14-3 drumming in the early moments of the first quarter, Burrow and the Tigers offense found their footing.

Using 11 plays to go 67 yards, Burrow added the exclamation mark, finding wide receiver Justin Jefferson for the 22-yard score to cut the UCF lead to 14-10.

He was quick to look down the field on the Tigers’ next drive, finding wide receiver Derrick Dillon for the 49-yard score and the lead.

While UCF started sitting on the short routes, Burrow went over the top, the quarterback said, especially to one of his favorite targets, Jefferson.

After connecting on the first touchdown of the game for LSU, Burrow went back to the wideout. Looking at 1st-and-20, the quarterback found Jefferson down the field for the 33-yard touchdown.

“All of those young receivers got a lot better throughout this bowl practice and throughout the season,” Burrow said of the receiving corp.

“I haven’t seen a group of young receivers as advanced as those guys in my times in college and those guys have a ways to go. They’re really good right now, so they’re going to be special next year.”

Jefferson finished the game with four receptions for 87 yards and the two scores. Dillion added 86 yards and a score as well.

After starting the first half in one of the worst ways possible, LSU took a slim 24-21 lead over the Knights into halftime.

“We’ve been proud of Joe, the way he plays. He’s smart,” LSU head coach Ed Orgeron said after the game. “I thought tonight, Steve Ensminger did a great job of calling the plays.

“The receivers did a good job. Joe’s an excellent quarterback, we believe in him and he’s got excellent leadership skills. He comes to practice everyday, works everyday. He’s exactly what we feel an LSU quarterback ought to be.”

After a stalled drive from UCF to open the third quarter, Burrow went back to work through the air in a hurry.

This time he connected with wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase for the 32-yard touchdown.

Chase led all LSU receivers in the yards department with 93 and receptions (6) to go along with the score.

UCF only had two instances where they gave up more than 300 yards and multi-touchdown games all season to quarterbacks.

“It looked like the passing game we wanted. Again, we had 30 days to get ready, Joe was on the money,” Orgeron said. “We have some tremendous receivers. We want to run spread offense, create space and put the ball in our playmaker’s hands.

“I graded the passing game as an A+. Exactly what we wanted, exactly what I’ve always dreamed about our passing game being at LSU.”

While he didn’t find pay dirt in the final quarter, he still completed three of his four passes, helping the Tigers knock off the Knights who entered Tuesday’s matchup with 25 straight wins, dating back to 2016.

Now, they leave State Farm Stadium 25-1.

Before the vicious shot in the first quarter, Burrow had completed just two of his six passes for 31 yards and the INT.

But from there, he went on a tear, completing 19-of-28 for four touchdowns.

“It’s very important from leaders to exude toughness throughout the entire game and it doesn’t start in the season, it starts in the weight room in the offseason and if your best leaders aren’t your best workers then your not going to be a very good football team,” Burrow said.

For his efforts, Burrow was named Fiesta Bowl Offensive MVP.

Now, with a Fiesta Bowl win under their belt, the Tigers are looking on to next season.

“It gives us a lot of momentum going into next year. I think we can be really special,” Burrow said of using the bowl game as motivation or next season. “I think we can do some great things as long as we keep our foot on the gas pedal and keep working.”

EXTRA POINTS

– LSU’s Rashard Lawrence earned the Fiesta Bowl Defensive MVP award. The defensive end recorded five tackles, four tackles for loss and two sacks.

– LSU kicker Cole Tracy broke two records Tuesday. Not only did he snap the NCAA career field goal record with 97, breaking former ASU kicker Zane Gonzalez’s record, he also broke the Tigers’ single-season mark with 29 makes.


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