NEW ORLEANS – There was time on the clock, but not enough to matter. The end was in stone.
Dabo Swinney grabbed Trevor Lawrence’s head, comforting his quarterback with golden arms and golden hair with words of encouragement that the coach had not prepared to say.
Lawrence didn’t say a word. I was not familiar with what I was feeling. He would leave a defeated football field for the first time in more than two years, for the first time in 26 games as Clemson’s starting quarterback.
“I told him that I loved him and that, hey, this is a great opportunity to lead and respond,” Swinney said after the loss of the 42-25 national title to LSU. “He has had a lot of good. We all have. We have had such incredible success, so many great things and he has never lost a game. And he won’t lose many. I will continue and tell you that right now.
“He will be a tough guy to beat forever because he is special.” He had a difficult night. For some reason, he just didn’t have his best night. “
A year after Lawrence became the first first-year starting quarterback to lead his team to a national title since 1985, setting Nick Saban and Alabama on fire for 347 yards and three touchdowns, the alleged pick in the 2021 Draft The NFL was severely overtaken by Heisman winner Joe Burrow, who threw for 463 yards and five touchdowns, while Lawrence completed 18 of 37 passes for 234 yards without touchdowns and a loose ball.
“It’s crap,” said Lawrence. “A moment like this happens and, man, it stinks.”
Lawrence’s first loss since a playoff game in high school on November 17, 2017 included 13 overthrows, his previous career record was five, which tied more than any quarterback in a game this season.
“It wasn’t accurate,” Lawrence said after Clemson’s first loss in 30 games. “He didn’t put the ball where it should be, he didn’t give my boys enough opportunity, and it really comes down to that. LSU did a good job, but I didn’t play well enough to win. Too many plays lost by me, I lost a lot of receivers. It just wasn’t my night. “
At first, Lawrence’s experience seemed crucial. The sophomore had the first score of the game on a 1-yard touchdown, and put LSU in his biggest hole of the season, 17-7, in the second quarter.
For the past 43 minutes, Clemson would score only one more time. Lawrence lost the ball in his final touch. Swinney approached him on the bench.
“I wouldn’t change that guy for anyone,” Swinney said. “I know exactly how he will respond. It’s easy when all is well. So I told him that I am proud of him and that I appreciated his fight, his courage, his will, and well, that’s the ball. Listen, I was giving everything I had “.
Lawrence will be one of Heisman’s favorites next fall, leading the likely top-ranked team that will enter next season. You will have the opportunity to get a second ring, an opportunity to achieve as much as any other player.
“We will be fine,” Lawrence said. “We will be back. We have done great things and surely we have much more ahead.”
There probably is. But perfection has passed.