STARKVILLE, Miss. — Chauncey Rivers. Remember the name. Because the Mississippi State defensive end may have slowed down Joe Burrow for one play — but for the rest of the afternoon, LSU’s offense was still cooking. No ifs, ands or …
There is a lot to unpack from the No. 2-ranked Tigers’ 36-13 victory here Saturday. A sense of being swept along by history as Burrow and LSU’s attack rewrite the school’s offensive record book. The Tigers’ frustration over what was by far their clunkiest, most disjointed effort this season.
And, ultimately, a little humor as well, courtesy of that sack early in the fourth quarter, which left Burrow’s backside a little too exposed.
“I can honestly say that has never happened to me before,” Burrow said.
Slapstick moments aside, and the swampy real estate that was the first-half red zone for the Tigers, ultimately this was a day to sit back and appreciate what a spectacle this season by Burrow truly is.
On one gloomy, at times creaky, gonna go viral afternoon, Burrow broke four LSU single-season or career passing records and tied another. The most notable mark, the single-season touchdown passing record, came on an 18-yard strike to Justin Jefferson with 5:36 left in the third quarter.
That the record-breaking throw found a home in Jefferson’s hands is no surprise. The younger brother of former LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson has been Burrow’s favorite target since he transferred to LSU from Ohio State last year. But Jefferson wasn’t even Burrow’s primary target on the play.
Or the second.
He was the third.
“There are different reads Joe can go to on each route,” Jefferson said. “We have different options on each route and Joe finds the one who’s open.”
Even on a day when the gears of LSU’s offense didn’t quite fit into each other — the Tigers (Gasp!) had to settle for three field goals on their first three trips into the red zone — that pass was a sobering reminder to LSU’s remaining opponents of what will happen if Burrow is given the chance to burrow through his progressions.
“If we give Joe time and keep him clean, it’s going to pay off,” center Lloyd Cushenberry said. “That’s the perfect example.”
An 18-yard pass isn’t enough distance to cover all that has led up to a record-setting moment like that.
First came Ed Orgeron’s willingness to completely overhaul LSU’s offensive identity.
Then offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger and new passing game coordinator Joe Brady’s ability to craft an offense that mashes the accelerator pedal to the floor every time out.
Then a quarterback like Burrow to take that offense to unprecedented heights.
It took a team of engineers and craftsmen to build this LSU offense, like a new jet straining to break airspeed records.
But it takes a hot shot stick and rudder man to make that contraption fly as fast as it can. Burrow has proven himself to be one steely-eyed missile man.
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Two months from now, he may prove to be the Heisman Trophy winner.
Asked about his record day, Burrow was too busy spreading around the credit to pat himself on the back.
“It just shows the amount of work we put in during the offseason,” said Burrow, who finished 25 of 32 passing for 327 yards. “Game seven, break the touchdown record. We’re going to have two guys break the receiving touchdown record coming up.”
For the record, those two guys are Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase, who caught an 8-yard touchdown pass from Burrow just before halftime. They both caught their ninth TD passes of 2019 Saturday. Dwayne Bowe set the single-season record in 2006 with 12, the next endangered standard on the list.
In truth, neither of those were the most impressive LSU touchdown passes of the day. Neither was the 60-yard rainbow to Racey McMath as he zipped unguarded up the LSU sideline to immediately answer a State touchdown that made it a 9-7 game midway through the second.
It came with 10:36 left in the third. Burrow stepped up in the pocket against pressure and floated a precise six-pointer to Derrick Dillon from 37 yards out as he blew past the Bulldogs’ secondary in the end zone. Next to Burrow’s now legendary 61-yard third-and-17 touchdown pass to Jefferson in the Texas game, it may have been his best throw of the season.
There may be more bests to come.
“We’ve still got five games left,” Burrow said.
Joe Burrow caught fire in Starkville, but a wardrobe malfunction that struck LSU's quarterback was what set social media ablaze.
Five games filled with treacherous waters. The Twitter machine, as LSU coach Ed Orgeron calls it, and the rest of traditional and social sports media is already revving up for that potential No. 1 versus No. 2 blockbuster Nov. 9 at Alabama.
But Burrow sounded an alarm in a postgame CBS interview, saying that if the Tigers’ play next Saturday against Auburn the way they did at State, they will lose.
“I’m not talking like that,” Orgeron said.
But neither did he rebuke his record-smashing, touchdown-throwing, Heisman-contenting quarterback. Coach O knows Burrow’s value to this LSU team goes beyond the passes he throws. The checks he makes.
Joe Heisman delivers the kind of exacting leadership you can’t coach.
“Joe’s a great leader. A great quarterback,” Cushenberry said. “We’ll just keep trying to protect him.”
Then off they went into the Mississippi night. Burrow and his team. Seeking more records, and perfection, together.
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Grant Delpit evaluated his play and approach four weeks ago and didn't like what he saw. The last three games, he has resembled the unanimous All-American of his sophomore year.