LSU quarterback Joe Burrow's memorable season continued on Saturday when he was named the recipient of this year's Heisman Trophy. His coronation was not a surprise considering he had already taken home the Maxwell Award, the Walter Camp Award, the Davey O'Brien Award, the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, and was named Associated Press Player of the Years, among numerous other accolades.
What may be a little surprising, however, is how Burrow's rise coincided with a decision made a couple of years ago as a result of a coaching change. When Ed Orgeron was promoted from defensive line coach to interim head coach at LSU in 2016 after the midseason dismissal of Les Miles, one of the things he promised was change on offense. And after the "interim" was removed from his title in November, he followed through on that promise by hiring Matt Canada as offensive coordinator. The Tigers took a few steps forward, but the fit never seemed right and Canada left after LSU went 9-4 in 2017.
Orgeron then handed the offensive reins over to Steve Ensminger and further gains took place as the Tigers went 10-3 and finished the season ranked sixth in the AP poll. But Ensminger and Orgeron both believed the offense could reach yet another level. That led to the addition of passing game coordinator Joe Brady in January, which proved to be the missing piece on the coaching staff.
The other missing piece, of course, was Burrow. A year ago, the Ohio State transfer Burrow was not even considered one of the top two quarterbacks in the SEC with Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa and Missouri’s Drew Lock taking first- and second-team honors on the all-conference team. Lock moved on to the NFL while Tagovailoa returned and was considered by many the Heisman favorite entering the season but instead, 2019 became Burrow's showcase.
Not only is Burrow the top quarterback in the SEC but he's the top player in the nation following his Heisman coronation. Burrow met the specifications of "great ability combined with diligence, perseverance, and hard work" for college football's top honor by leading LSU to a 13-0 season, taking down five teams ranked in the top 10 (Texas, Florida, Auburn, Alabama, and Georgia) along the way. He rewrote the LSU and SEC record book by throwing for 4,715 yards with 48 touchdowns while completing 77.9 percent of his passes ending with an FBS-leading passer rating of 201.5.
Burrow’s place in LSU folklore now rests atop the hallowed walls of Tiger Stadium with 1959 Heisman winner, running back Billy Cannon, and the 35 consensus All-Americans that preceded him. Regardless of what happens in the College Football Playoff, Burrow's 2019 season will go down as one of the most impressive by a player in college football history. Here are five of the most memorable moments from his Heisman-winning season.
Setting the Tone against Texas
After an impressive 55-3 season-opening win over Georgia Southern, LSU went on the road to face then-No. 9 Texas. In hostile territory at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, Burrow heated up in the second quarter finding Justin Jefferson on a six-yard pass to give the Tigers a 10-7 lead they would not relinquish. Texas would continue to fight, but Burrow put the game away late in the fourth quarter with a 61-yard strike to Justin Jefferson. The 471-yard, four-touchdown performance was his second-best effort of the season, topped only by his 489 yards and five TDs vs. Ole Miss.
Sending the Message against Florida
Beating Texas in Austin was impressive, but beating a ranked conference opponent would be the litmus test for Burrow and the Tigers on the national landscape. By the sixth game of the season, LSU’s big test had come to town in No. 7 Florida. The Gators had one of the country’s best defenses, holding the opposition at that time to 9.5 points per game, 183 passing yards, and 276 yards of total offense. Once again, Burrow was on target, completing 21 of 24 passes for 293 yards with three touchdowns. Up 35-28, he put the game away when he connected with Ja'Marr Chase on a perfectly placed pass down the right sideline for a 54-yard touchdown with 5:43 remaining.
Breaking the LSU Single-Season Touchdown Record
All it took was seven games into the 2019 season for Burrow to etch his name in the LSU record books. Up 22-7 against Mississippi State in Starkville, on a 1st-and-10 from the 37-yard line early in the third quarter, Burrow connected with Derrick Dillon for his 29th touchdown pass of the season. The Tigers would go on to win 36-13 with Burrow finishing with 327 passing yards and four total touchdowns.
Ending the Eight-Game Losing Streak to Alabama
Heisman voters are encouraged to wait until the end of the season to cast their votes, but one could argue the throwdown against Alabama in Week 9 was when Burrow won the top honor. No matter how the rest of the season may have unfolded, a ninth consecutive loss to rival Alabama would have stained the team’s collective accomplishments... Burrow was not having it. From the kickoff, Burrow was on target, hitting 18 of 20 passes for 252 yards with three touchdowns in the first half alone. His play built a 33-13 halftime lead, but his heroics and leadership were still needed. The Crimson Tide held LSU scoreless in the third quarter, allowing Tua Tagovailoa and company to chip away at the 20-point lead. But Burrow and the Tigers' offense weren't done, as running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire's two short touchdown runs in the fourth quarter secured the 46-41 win. Burrow ended the game going 31-of-39 for 393 yards and three scores. He also added 64 yards on 14 carries.
The SEC Championship Game Scramble
Entering the SEC title game against No. 4 Georgia, LSU's perfect season was on the line along with a College Football Playoff berth. With 4:10 left in the third quarter and the game still in question, starting from their own 20-yard line, Burrow dropped back to pass. After avoiding Bulldog defenders Travon Walker and Jordan Davis, Burrow scrambled and then uncorked a throw that traveled 35 yards in the air down the right sideline, connecting with Justin Jefferson for what would be a 71-yard completion. In style, Burrow would end the drive with a four-yard touchdown pass to Terrace Marshall that put the Tigers up 27-3. Burrow wasn't done, finishing the game with 349 passing yards (going 28-for-38), 41 rushing, and four TD passes in LSU's 37-10 dismantling of the Bulldogs. Fittingly, Burrow was named the game's MVP.
— Written by Ryan Wright, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and an established media professional with more than two decades' worth of experience and is a member of the FWAA. Over the years, Wright has written for numerous sites and publications and has his own recruiting site, www.recruitingnewsguru.com. Follow him on Twitter @RyanWrightRNG.