BATON ROUGE, La. (AP)Joe Burrow��s intention to give LSU fans one last memorable night in Tiger Stadium was as obvious as the name on the back of his jersey.
When the crowd realized during pregame introductions that it read, “Burreaux,” a spelling evocative of Louisiana’s Cajun French heritage, roars of approval poured forth from the Death Valley stands.
And that was just the beginning.
Burrow padded his Heisman Trophy resume with 352 yards and three touchdowns passing, and No.1 LSU beat Texas A&M 50-7 on Saturday night to give the Tigers their first unbeaten regular season since 2011.
“I thought it would just be an awesome tribute to the state, to the university,” said Burrow, who’d largely grown up in Ohio and spent three seasons as a backup for Ohio State before transferring to LSU, where his football career took off. “It’s been awesome not only for me, but for my family as well. … I’m going to miss it with all my heart and I couldn’t be more grateful.”
The crowd made certain Burrow knew the feeling was mutual, cheering wildly when coach Ed Orgeron ceremoniously called his star QB to the sideline for good after his 23rd completion early in the fourth quarter. Burrow raised his arms to salute the crowd before embracing coaches and teammates.
“Joe’s meant a lot to Louisiana and Louisiana is very proud of LSU football,” Orgeron said. “The guy’s been phenomenal.”
Burrow’s highlights included a deep, pin-point accurate pass on a 78-yard touchdown to JaMarr Chase, who had 197 yards and two touchdowns on seven catches.
Burrow (who wore his regular jersey during the game) also hit Justin Jefferson with a 12-yard scoring pass, while his second scoring pass to Chase covered 18 yards.
Burrow has 4,366 yards and 44 touchdowns passing this season, smashing LSU single-season records in both categories. Burrow’s yards passing total also broke the SEC record, which had stood since 1998, when former Kentucky quarterback Tim Couch passed for 4,275 yards.
Burrow’s 44 TDs has tied the SEC’s single season mark set by Missouri’s Drew Lock in 2017. And LSU (12-0, 8-0 Southeastern Conference, No. 2 CFP) has at least two games – possibly three – still to play.
Junior running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire was similarly called by coaches to the sideline a few plays after Burrow, finishing his night with 87 yards and a touchdown.
Chase’s touchdowns gave him 17 this season, building on the school record that the Biletnikoff Award finalist broke two weeks earlier. The sophomore receiver has 1,457 yards receiving this season.
LSU’s victory raised the likelihood the Tigers would receive a berth in the College Football Playoff even if they were to lose to No. 4 Georgia in next weekend’s Southeastern Conference championship game.
Currently, LSU is one of just three remaining undefeated Division I FBS teams in the nation, along with Ohio State and Clemson. Also, the Tigers had four victories over teams – Texas, Florida, Auburn and Alabama – that were ranked in the top 10 at the time of the matchup.
Last season, LSU and Texas A&M played seven overtimes before the Aggies prevailed, 74-72.
LSU entered the week talking redemption and emphatically backed it up, outgaining Texas A&M (7-5, 4-4) 553-169.
“They kicked our butts,” Aggies coach Jimbo Fisher said. “LSU’s offense is outstanding.”
Edwards-Helaire’s 5-yard TD on LSU’s opening possession began a first-half onslaught in which LSU scored on its first five possessions, racing to a 31-0 lead by halftime.
Kellen Mond completed just 10 of 30 passes for 92 yards and was intercepted three times – once each by Grant Delpit, Jacoby Stevens and Kary Vincent. Isaiah Spiller’s 1-yard TD run provided the Aggies’ only score.
“Kellen was pressured all night,” Fisher said. “We couldn’t get the running game going, couldn’t get any first downs.”
The win clinched a trifecta of sorts for Orgeron. He beat two coaches – Texas’ Tom Herman and A&M’s Fisher – whom LSU sought to hire before settling on their burley, raspy-voiced Cajun coach who grew up rooting for LSU in a house within shouting distance of shrimp trawlers on the Bayou Lafourche. Orgeron also defeated Nick Saban, a boogeyman of sorts to the LSU faithful since he started winning national championships with arch nemesis Alabama a decade ago.
Texas A&M: The Aggies defense never gave up, and after allowing four touchdowns in the first 20 minutes, but the Texas A&M couldn’t muster its first points until less than five minutes remained in the third quarter – and trailed 34-7 at that point.
LSU: While LSU’s explosiveness on offense was nothing new, the Tigers’ defense appeared to take a considerable step forward. LSU forced punts on A&M’s first seven possessions before ending the eighth with Delpit’s interception. Employing a variety of stunts and blitzes, the Tigers sacked Mond five times and forced a number of throw-aways. LSU also brought down Aggies backup James Foster for a safety.
Stevens said LSU defensive players took note when the Tigers were dropped behind Ohio State in the CFP rankings last week, with inconsistent play by the LSU defense cited as a reason why.
“We took that as a challenge that we need to have a complete game and play for 60 minutes, and I feel like we did that today,” Stevens said. “When a team averages as much yards as they do (419.6 yards per game coming in) and you hold them to less … it always feel good because you dominate the game, you take over the game and you make somebody do something they don’t want to do.”
Texas A&M: The Aggies await a bowl invitation.
LSU: Meets Georgia in the SEC championship game in Atlanta on Saturday.
More AP college football: https://apnews.com/tag/Collegefootball and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25