ATLANTA -- Quarterback Joe Burrow shattered numerous records during No. 1 LSU's stupefying 63-28 win over No. 4 Oklahoma in the 2019 Peach Bowl, but one thing that was even more shocking than the numbers was how methodical and routine it looked for the Tigers offense at every turn in this College Football Playoff semifinal on Saturday.
As Burrow & Co. were rewriting the record books, there was no oversized celebrations on the LSU sideline or anything else to suggest that what the Tigers did to Oklahoma was surprising. Every time Burrow extended a play with his feet and made an outlandish downfield pass with picture-perfect placement, the crowd would wow and the Tigers would quickly hustle to the line of scrimmage to get the next defense-shredding play ready to go. Unless, of course, it was one of Burrow's eight total touchdowns.
"I wouldn't say it's unusual. I would say it's special," Burrow explained when asked if he thought the passing attack's level of success was out of the ordinary. "We've worked for this. We know the kind of team we have. We know the kind of guys we have, and I think it starts with the relationships that we've built between us and the coaching staff. We're such a close team. I think that's why we've had so much success."
December always brings out "end of year" lists. In 2019, we have "end of decade" retrospectives to add, too.
Burrow has put together arguably the best individual college football season of the decade, and at every step it has seemed remarkably normal for the quarterback and his LSU teammates. That's because, while we continue to be astounded by the approach of a dynamic purple-and-gold clad offense long associated with I formation and ball control, Burrow has long known what he and his teammates are capable of doing on the football field.
"We go into every game thinking nobody can stop us," Burrow said. "That's the way we think. We think we need to score every time we touch the ball. If we don't, then we're still kind of chasing that perfect game. It's always something to get better at, and today was a lot of fun, but [there's] still room to improve."
Sometimes the pursuit of perfection brings out some spectacular bits of imperfection, like Burrow's scrambling heave to Terrace Marshall in the first quarter when the Tigers led just 14-7.
"I trust my guys," Burrow said when asked about the play. "I trust them enough to throw 50/50 balls up to them and they're going to be able to make a play for me. I've got great people around me, and that's why we've been so successful. We have trust in each other."
Later in the first half, Burrow would come up with another incredible highlight making a throw on the run and showing that trust in his receivers. Burrow and Justin Jefferson were joking after the game that there were "two more" touchdowns that the LSU quarterback missed, but Jefferson wasn't complaining, especially after one of his four receiving touchdowns came on a 42-yard dime in tight coverage.
"To have this receiving corps and have Joe throwing it to us kind of makes our job easier," Jefferson said. "All we have to do is catch the ball."
The decision to open up LSU's offense has changed the program forever. Coach Ed Orgeron, offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger and new arrival Joe Brady all deserve the credit they have received for leading the way, but there's no way the coaching staff could have felt as confident with an overly aggressive approach without having Burrow on the roster.
While Burrow wasn't able to win the starting job at Ohio State, he maintained confidence that he could lead an offense that puts up the kind of statistics we've seen from LSU in 2019. Orgeron recognized that confidence, making sure to stay out of the way and let Burrow receive the spotlight that he deserves for his abilities, football smarts, competitiveness and -- most importantly -- leadership within the locker room.
Burrow stays cool and collected while maintaining a unique aggressiveness. He expects to score a touchdown every time he gets the ball. On Saturday night, that's what he basically accomplished. That's why, when quick-strike touchdown drives happen, there's no reason for an over-the-top reaction.
After LSU outlasted a Texas team in a 45-38 shootout earlier this season on the road, Burrow joined the media scrum with a cool look of confidence. It felt like one of the best games we might see all year, and he appeared as if he had just finished a refreshing workout. Burrow told reporters that all the college football world had to do was look at the scoreboards to see what was in store for the rest of the season. He claimed this was an offense that should be expected to score 40 or 50 points per game. Yet he was still not satisfied. LSU's offense had just rolled up 573 total yards, including 471 yards from Burrow on 31-for-39 passing; Burrow focused, more than once, on the missed opportunities in the game.
"There's still a lot to improve," Burrow said. "We had over 500 yards of offense, but it could have been 600 or 700."
LSU hit those marks against Oklahoma, totaling 692 yards of offense at 9.4 yards per play.
Burrow's performance in 2019 as a whole and on Saturday night specifically, both worthy of all-decade honors, further cement that LSU's signal caller has been the best player in the country for the entire season. He was recognized by Heisman Trophy voters for his historic winning margin and followed that up with a historic College Football Playoff performance. Now, Burrow just needs a national championship to wrap up the tale of a college football legend that will live on for decades into the sport's future.
All the while, it has just seemed like business as usual for Burrow and LSU. Now, it's on to New Orleans for one of the most anticipated championship games of the College Football Playoff era.
Records -- both single-game and season-long -- have been rewritten, but those were never the goal for Burrow or LSU. This kind of normalized excellence can only come from a championship-caliber player leading a championship-caliber team.