ATLANTA, GA – The Sooners came into Atlanta with hopes of finally getting over their College Football Playoff hump in the Peach Bowl against LSU. Instead, they were demolished by the Tigers, 63-28, falling to 0-4 all time in Playoff games, and 0-7 in BCS Championship and Playoff games dating back to the 2004 Sugar Bowl against LSU. No team that has played in the CFP more than once has failed to win a game . . . except the Sooners – and three teams that have only played in it once (now including LSU) have managed to win a game.
LSU Heisman winner Joe Burrow made it very clear that he deserved that award, as he shredded the depleted Sooner defense through the air like Tavon Austin memorably shredded us on the ground a few years ago. Burrow was 21 of 27 for 403 yards and seven TDs. In the first half.
Jalen Hurts was the distant Heisman runner up, much as he was the distant second-best QB in this game. His stat line was 15 of 31 for 217 yards and a pick, plus 14 carries for 43 yards and two TDs.
Hurts led the Sooners in rushing. Kennedy Brooks carried 10 times for 35 yards, T.J. Pledger had two carries for three yards and a TD, and Spencer Rattler and Jeremiah Hall each had one carry for eight yards.
CeeDee Lamb, in what was almost certainly his final game as a Sooner, led the receivers with four catches for 119 yards. Jadon Haselwood had three for 25, Drake Stoops had two for 28, and seven other Sooners had one catch each.
The Sooners took the opening kickoff and started on their own 25. Hurts was sacked on first down and two Brooks runs each lost a yard. Reeves Mundschau’s punt was a pure shank, traveling only 23 yards, and LSU was set up in prime position at the OU 42.
It would take the Tigers only three plays to take the lead. Burrow passes of 17 and six yards preceded a 19-yard scoring pass, and it was 7-0 LSU with 12:03 to play in the first quarter.
Another Sooner three and out and it felt like things were about to get out of control already. However, the Sooner defense held the Tigers to a three and out of their own.
Unfortunately, it would be the only stop the Sooner defense would get the rest of the game, unless you count an LSU field goal attempt doinked off the left upright in the first minute of the fourth quarter. Other than that and kneeling the clock out at the end of the game, every time the Tigers touched the ball the rest of the game, they scored a touchdown.
But at the time, the Sooners tried to make a game of it. After OU took over at their own 31 following the first and only LSU punt of the game, Hurts ran for five, then 12. After a false start pushed OU back five yards, Hurts hit Willis for three yards, then unleashed a bomb down the left side that Lamb hauled in for a 51-yard gain to the LSU three-yard line. Brooks took it in on the next play, and the game was tied at 7-7 with 7:34 to play in the first quarter.
From there, things went downhill fast. Burrow’s eight-yard TD pass with 4:24 to go in the first quarter made it 14-7 LSU. On the ensuing possession, a second down pass play to Hall was perfectly set up, with the only Tiger defender on the right half of the field chasing another receiver down the sideline. The play would have gone for huge yardage . . . but Hurts’ pass was tipped and Hall couldn’t catch it. On the next play, the Sooners should have had a first down in LSU territory after a blatant pass interference by the Tigers. For some reason, the ACC officiating crew did not call the penalty, and it was instead a Sooner three and out.
Burrow’s 35-yard TD pass on the ensuing possession made it 21-7 with 1:16 to play in the first quarter. That drive was kept alive by a ridiculous play where Burrow was being chased out of bounds on a third down play and threw a duck that was somehow caught for a 24-yard gain.
The Sooners picked up one first down on the ensuing possession, but again had to punt. OU had LSU in third and 10 from their own 20, but Burrow got loose on a scramble for 11 yards and a first down. On top of that, Bookie Radley-Hiles, who could have potentially stopped Burrow, decided instead to blow up an LSU running back and was ejected for targeting. Three plays later, it was 28-7 after a 42-yard Burrow TD pass.
Hurts threw a pick on a gadget play on the next OU snap. LSU then went 55 yards in six plays, highlighted by a 22-yard pass on third and 18 and a 30-yard TD pass that made it 35-7 with 9:17 to play in the first half.
The Sooners scored on a 75 yard, 10-play drive to cut it to 35-14 with 4:45 to play in the half. LSU would add Burrow TD passes of 62 and two yards to make the halftime score a demoralizing 49-14. They would push it to 56-14 before Hurts scored on a 12-yard run on fourth and nine to make it 56-21 with 4:19 to go in the third quarter.
LSU bounced a field goal try off the upright, then a two-yard TD run by T.J. Pledger made it 56-28 with 9:39 to go in the game. LSU closed out the scoring with a TD with 3:39 to play that made it 63-28.
Predictably, the peanut gallery of OSU and Texas fans and assorted haters rejoiced in the Sooners’ misfortune. However, regardless of our struggles, they and about 126 other teams would have killed for the chance to get blown out in a Playoff semifinal. I continue to maintain that it is better to get blown out in the Playoff than to win a lesser bowl game – just wish that belief didn’t continue to be tested.
Truthfully, this team overachieved this season, having lost four of five OL starters and a Heisman winner at QB. Nothing for it but to get better and get back to the Playoff next season and take another crack at it.
I cannot fly for another month or so due to an eye surgery, and my eye doc wanted me lying down on the drive, to boot. That meant my wife had to drive me to Atlanta, along with two teenagers, a three-year-old, and a five-year-old, and could not take Xanax while doing it. She is a saint. And I’m flying to the playoff next year. Flying home the day after a beatdown is bad enough – a 12-hour drive is a whole lot worse.