GLENDALE, Ariz. — You've probably spent all season hearing about LSU quarterback Joe Burrow's toughness — from beating everybody in sprints during his first practice to everything he did in the Tigers' seven-overtime loss to Texas A&M.
In Tuesday's PlayStation Fiesta Bowl win, the Offensive Player of the Game showed his toughness more than ever before and came out with his best game as a Tiger.
"It's very important for leaders to exude toughness the entire game," Burrow said. "It doesn't start during the season, it starts in the weight room in the offseason. If your best leaders aren't your best workers then you're not going to be a very good football team."
With 6:39 left in the first quarter, Burrow threw an interception to UCF's cornerback Brandon Moore. While trying to make a tackle to stop the return for a touchdown, Burrow was leveled by UCF defensive lineman Joey Connors. Burrow laid on the ground for a few minutes and was helped off the field by LSU trainers.
Keep that head on a swivel 👀 pic.twitter.com/HqWI4xLp0P— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 1, 2019
The official ruling on the field said the hit was clean, but coach Ed Orgeron did not agree.
"I thought it was targeting," Orgeron said. "It looked like targeting and I thought it should have been called."
Burrow said he only took a while to get up was because he got the wind knocked out of him, and he would've gotten up "immediately if that didn't happen."
"Score touchdowns, complete passes," said Burrow of his mindset after the hit. "I didn't really think about the hit too much after I got up. It hurt for a second and I got right up and moved on to the next play."
Senior tight end Foster Moreau wasn't surprised that Burrow was able to keep going after a big hit. Moreau said Burrow's mindset got the team fired up more than anything.
"That's his character, that's him as a competitor," Moreau said.
Just a quarter later, Burrow got hit again and this time it was ruled to be targeting. UCF defensive back Kyle Gibson was ejected for targeting after further review of the play.
Two plays later, Burrow hit sophomore receiver Justin Jefferson for a 33-yard touchdown pass to give LSU a 24-14 lead.
Joe Burrow threw a 33-yard TD just TWO PLAYS after this hit 👏 pic.twitter.com/u77ULt7f8Y— ESPN CollegeFootball (@ESPNCFB) January 1, 2019
Since the first big hit, Burrow was 19-of-28 for 363 and four touchdowns. He finished the game 21-of-34 for 394 yards. Burrow is the first LSU quarterback to throw for more than three touchdowns in a game since Zach Mettenberger threw five against UAB in 2013.
It was also the first time this season that LSU continually took shots downfield. Orgeron said that this was the passing game he's been wanting all season.
Burrow's touchdown passes were all of 20-plus yards at 22, 23, 32 and 49 yards to Justin Jefferson (twice), Ja'Marr Chase and Derrick Dillon. Burrow also hit Stephan Sullivan for a 19-yard pass and a 42-yard pass.
Burrow gave credit to the young receivers for stepping up and growing through the seasons — Chase and Terrace Marshall are freshman, Jefferson is a sophomore.
"The young receivers got a lot better throughout these bowl practices," Burrow said. "I don't thing I've seen a group of receivers as talented as those guys in my time at college. Those guys have a ways to go. There really good right, so they're going to be special next year."
Burrow said that because UCF was sitting on their short routes, LSU was able to air the ball out more and opened up the deep passes.
With four touchdown passes, Burrow also tied former LSU quarterback Matt Flynn for the LSU bowl record.
"We've been proud of Joe and the way he plays," Orgeron said. "He's smart. I thought tonight, Steve Ensminger did a good job calling the plays and the receivers did a good job. Joe is an excellent quarterback and we believe in him. He's exactly what we feel an LSU quarterback ought to be."
That’s Ight I’ll take the 4 tds and the dub https://t.co/VVDLdQbqNW— Joey Burrow (@Joe_Burrow10) January 1, 2019