At times, the play of Clemson football quarterback Trevor Lawrence is borderline sublime. He can rip the ball as well as almost anyone, placing perfect passes in spots defenders have no chance to reach.
But on Monday night, with a national title on the line, he was just off.
Lawrence turned in what has a case as the worse performance of his two-year college career. The 2020 Heisman Trophy favorite and projected 2021 No. 1 overall NFL Draft pick seemed to sail passes at times, missing guys he usually hits. There were 17 overthrows from the Clemson QB, according to ESPN.
The LSU defense was talented, but it also ranked outside the top 25 in yards-per-play allowed. Lawrence pointed to one factor he felt through the game.
“I think LSU did a good job,” Lawrence said. “They brought a lot of pressure, they did a good job mixing up the coverage. But at the end of the day I just didn’t play well enough for us to win. Too many missed plays by me, missed a lot of receivers, and it just wasn’t my night.”
Lawrence’s final line was 18-for-37 for 234 yards, no touchdowns or interceptions, a 101.8 rating and a fumble on Clemson’s final drive.
Where some of those numbers rank:
▪ The rating was the worst of his career, lower than the 114.8 he put up against Georgia Tech this season.
▪ His completion percentage of 48.6 was also the worst of his career. He was at 50 percent against Pitt in the ACC title game last year.
▪ His yards per attempt was 6.3, third-lowest of his career.
▪ It was the first loss in his two years on campus.
With him at the helm of the offense, Clemson struggled mightily on third down. Dabo Swinney’s squad only converted one of 11 on that crucial down.
“A couple times they had us schemed up pretty good and they stopped us on third down,” Lawrence said. “Then a handful, at least four, were missed throws or just them making a good play on the ball. So it’s a lot of different things. But like I said, at the quarterback position if you’re going to win games like this, you’ve got to play really well, and I just didn’t do that tonight.”
After the fumble that ended the game and the season, Swinney approached Lawrence with a few words.
“I just told him to keep his head up,” Swinney said. “I told him I loved him and ... this is a great opportunity to lead and to respond. You know, he’s had so much good. We all have.
“He’s not going to lose many. I’ll go ahead and tell you that right now. He ain’t going to lose many. He’s going to be a hard guy to beat forever because he’s special. And he had a tough night tonight. For whatever reason, just didn’t have his best night.”