Photo by Ralph Mayhew on Unsplash

Not an Ordinary Joe

Four months ago, the 2019 LSU Tigers football team finished a perfect season at 15–0. They won their fourth national title in school history, and their third title when playing in the Louisiana Superdome. The Tigers perfect season was quarterbacked by a player who was not an ordinary Joe.

No, that player was Joe Burrow.

Joe came to the LSU program as a graduate transfer from Ohio State. Talk about a crowded quarterback room. At one point, the Buckeyes had quarterbacks had Braxton Miller, Cardale Jones, J.T. Barrett, and Dwayne Haskins.

Haskins won the Buckeyes starting job in 2018, prompting Joe to transfer to the Bayou State to play for LSU head coach Ed Orgeron.

Joe won the starting job for the 2018 season. He led the Tigers to a 10–3 record and an appearance in the Fiesta Bowl. His 2018 numbers were pedestrian at best, according to cfbstats.com:

#52 ranking in FBS in passing. 2894 yards, 16 TDs, 5 INTs, 57.8% completion percentage. Averaged 222 yards per game.

But over the last four games of the season, including the bowl game, Joe showed the Tigers and the fans what he was made of, and a little glimpse into the future:

10 passing TDs, 1 INT

vs. Arkansas: 15 of 21 passing, 195 yards, 1 TD, zero interceptions. 71% completion percentage.

vs. Rice: 20 of 28 passing, 307 yards, 2 TDs, zero interceptions. 71% completion percentage.

at Texas A&M: 25 of 38 passing, 270 yards, 3 TDs, zero interceptions, 65.8% completion percentage in a 74–72, 7 OT loss.

vs UCF-Fiesta Bowl: 21 of 34, 394 yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT, 61.8% completion percentage.

On that interception against UCF, Joe was running to make the tackle on the return and got blown up on a vicious blind-side hit. But, he got up off the turf, shook it off, and led LSU to a 40–32 victory for their 10th win of the season and #6 ranking in the final AP Poll.

But the 2019 season would be very, very different.

Just before the opening of spring practice, Coach “O” (Orgeron) hired Joe Brady as his Passing Game Coordinator. Brady had been in the same position with the NFL’s New Orleans Saints and coached future first ballot Hall of Famer Drew Brees. Brady was a disciple of the Run-Pass Option/Spread Offense.

This was a total commitment by Orgeron to becoming a passing offense. For years, under former head coach Les Miles, the Tigers were a ground and pound, run between the tackles kind of team. Now, LSU was going to throw the ball.

The RPO/Spread offense was tailored-made for Joe. It was an offense that he had been running as a quarterback since middle school.

And, as it turned out, they threw the ball a lot.

LSU bolted out of the gate and never looked back. Joe was 23 of 27 for 278 yards and five TDs, zero interceptions, and he completed 85% of his passes in a 55–3 rout of Gerogia Southern in the season opener.

Joe had what could only be described as an “early-season Heisman moment” in week 2 on the road versus the #9 Texas Longhorns.

On a third down and 17, under heavy pressure, Joe threw a strike over the middle to WR Justin Jefferson who raced down the left sideline for a 61-yard touchdown.

LSU won the game 45–38. Joe finished the game with 471 yards on 31 of 39 passing (79.5% completion percentage), four TDs and 1 interception.

LSU scored 100 points in their first two games, and then scored 131 points in their next two games.

Joe led the undefeated Tigers into Tuscaloosa to take on the #8 Alabama Crimson Tide. Bama had beaten LSU in the last eight meetings.

0–8. A streak of futility.

Joe was on a mission. He directed the Tigers up and down the field with precision, both with his arms and his legs. Joe led LSU to a 46–41 victory, breaking “the streak.” He was 31 of 39 passing (79.5 completion percentage), 393 yards, 3 TDs, and zero interceptions, while adding 64 yards rushing.

Over the next three games, LSU scored 164 points. Joe passed for 1168 yards, 11 TDs, and 2 interceptions. The Tigers won the SEC West Division title and were headed for a showdown with the #4 Georgia Bulldogs.

But it wasn’t much of a showdown.

The LSU defense held Bulldog quarterback Jake Fromm to less than 50% completion percentage, 1 TD, and 2 interceptions.

The Tigers won the SEC championship 37–10. Joe finished the game with 349 yards passing, completing 28 of 38 (including a pass to himself on a batted pass), four TDs, zero interceptions, and 73% completion percentage.

LSU earned a spot in the College Football Playoff, their first appearance in the playoff format.

The Tigers scored 105 points vs Oklahoma in the National Semifinal game(a 63–28 LSU win), and vs Clemson in the national championship game (a 42–25 LSU win).

Over the last five games of the season, including a conference championship game, a national semifinal game, and the national championship game, Joe passed for a total of 1984 yards, 22 TDs, zero interceptions, while completing 72% of his passes.

Joe was awarded the Heisman Trophy. In an emotional acceptance speech, Joe thanked his parents, the LSU coaches, and also the Ohio State coaches in the audience. He fought back tears as he spoke of the impoverished residents who were hungry in his hometown of Athens, Ohio and how he would do all he could to ease their suffering. As soon as he spoke those words, hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations began to flow into the Athens, Ohio Food Bank.

Oh, and he also turned in one of the most prolific season for a quarterback in the history of the college game:

5671 yards, 60 TDs, 6 INTs, 76% completion percentage, averaging 378 yards per game.

When compared to his 2018 numbers, Joe threw for 44 more touchdowns, while throwing only one more interception and throwing for 2777 more yards.

Now Joe is poised to be the #1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, presumably to the Cincinnati Bengals. The draft begins on Thursday.

Indeed, he was not an ordinary Joe.

Thanks for reading.

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I’m a Grandparent, military veteran, and college football junkie. My articles have appeared on thegridironnews.com, the Runner Sports, and Death Valley Voice.

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Tony Thomas

Tony Thomas

I’m a Grandparent, military veteran, and college football junkie. My articles have appeared on thegridironnews.com, the Runner Sports, and Death Valley Voice.

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