Deep and relentless: LSU wears Clemson out in title tilt

Sports

LSU running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire breaks away from Clemson cornerback Derion Kendrick during the second half of a NCAA College Football Playoff national championship game Monday, Jan. 13, 2020, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Clyde Edwards-Helaire took turns dancing around defenders or churning his legs as he pushed his compact frame through tacklers for extra yards and pivotal first downs.

Thaddeus Moss was a productive red-zone target, catching two short touchdown passes. And Terrace Marshall Jr. made his last of three catches count, rising up in tight coverage for a touchdown catch that put Clemson in a three-score hole.

Once the greatest offense in LSU history got rolling, it became apparent that Clemson’s defense had far more to worry about than Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Joe Burrow and Biletnikoff-winning receiver Ja’Marr Chase.

The shifty, powerful Edwards-Helaire, Moss, Marshall and fellow receiver Justin Jefferson all contributed in ways that made it virtually impossible for Clemson’s defense to hold up. In the end, they were worn out, giving up 19 more points than they’d allowed in a game all season.

No. 1 LSU also finished with 628 yards of offense in its 42-25 national championship triumph on Monday night — 112 more yards than any other Clemson opponent had gained.

“It’s been like that the entire year,” Edwards-Helaire said. “Once somebody is shut down or locked up or that’s the key to their success on defense, to shut somebody down, it only opens the lanes for everybody else.

“A blade with five blades connected to it,” Edwards-Helaire said. “That’s how I describe this offense.”

The 5-foot-8, 209-pound Edwards-Helaire, who’d been limited by a hamstring injury in the semifinal win over Oklahoma, gained 164 yards from scrimmage with his combination of elusiveness and feet-churning power.

Fittingly, his 14-yard catch-and-run on fourth-and-3 allowed LSU to run out the clock without giving the ball back to Clemson in the final four minutes.

“He is the heart of our team. Man, he’s tough, and he (plays like) 6-4, 270,” LSU coach Ed Orgeron said. “I’m glad he was healthy. Those runs he made at the end of the game were very critical. He’s hard to tackle. He’s got great balance. He’s got a great trunk.

“He’s going to go down as one of the greatest Tigers ever.”

Moss, son of Hall-of-Fame receiver Randy Moss, said he felt like he was going to catch anything thrown his way.

“I was in the zone tonight,” Moss said. “We’re the best offense in college football history.”

The numbers back him up. LSU (15-0) finished the season averaging 568.4 yards and 48.4 points per game this season, which, relative to its level of competition in the Southeastern Conference and College Football Playoff, puts the Bayou Bengals’ offense in rarefied air.

After his 227 yards and four TD’s receiving against Oklahoma, Jefferson found himself double-covered early by Clemson.

But as the game wore on, he kept drives going with nine catches for 106 yards as LSU took command.

“We just know what we got to do and we came out with the victory. It feels great,” Jefferson said. “They’ve been hyping up their corners, so we knew they were going to try to (use) press-man (coverage) the whole game and we’re going out there trying to expose people.”

Marshall was quiet most of the game, but his 24-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter was the beginning of the end for Clemson.

“It took him a while to get going, but he made the championship play,” Burrow said. “I couldn’t be happier for that guy. He’s worked harder than anybody on this team, and he’s worked on his craft for a long time. Five-star coming in, had some bumps in the road, and for him to make that play, I’m so happy for him.”

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