For a defense that has continuously been doubted throughout the duration of the season, it has shined in the back leg of the season.
Ever since the Tigers (14-0) got word their spot in the College Football Playoff was being questioned due to their defense following a poor performance against Ole Miss, they have been lights-out since and continued that trend in a 63-28 win over No. 4 Oklahoma Sooners (12-2).
“Guess we’re a complete team now,” said junior center Lloyd Cushenberry. “That’s kind of a message to the people outside, to the [playoff] committee, I guess, who were saying we weren’t a complete team at first.”
Entering the Peach Bow, the discussion was about the battle between the nation’s top two offenses, and it was going to be a matter of which defense stepped up when it mattered most.
The Tigers did just that.
From the first play, LSU’s defense came out guns blazing. The tone was set early as the Tigers defense forced three-and-outs on three of the first four Oklahoma possessions. This marked the first time all season Oklahoma had started a game with back-to-back three-and-outs. On the first two drives of the game, Oklahoma failed to record positive yardage on offense, ending with negative seven yards.
“The first series of the game set the tone for the game,” Orgeron said. “They wanted to go out on defense to start the game and stop them. Went three-and-out, they had a short punt and we scored.
Oklahoma came into the game with one of the most explosive offenses in the country, but the Tigers defense held an Oklahoma offense that averaged just over 550 yards a game to a dismal 322 total yards. In addition to that, LSU’s defense held the Heisman runner-up, Jalen Hurts to 217 yards in the air, 51 of which came on one play. The Tigers also held the explosive Sooners offense to 28 points, which was their lowest output of the season.
“The key was Jalen Hurts not beating us with his feet and we did a great job of that,”Orgeron said. “We made them one-dimensonal and we had a great pass rush.”
Junior linebacker Patrick Queen and sophomore linebacker K’Lavon Chaisson were among the defensive stars that led the Tigers to victory. Queen and Chaisson combined for 14 tackles, two sacks and 3.5 tackles-for-loss.
The Tigers are now full-steam ahead and focusing on the next task upon them, a goal they have set since the beginning of the season, a chance to bring home a national title to the state of Louisiana.
“We’ve been talking about this National Championship for the whole offseason,” said junior tight end Thaddeus Moss. “We’ve been taking it week-by week and now it’s finally here. We have the chance to play in front of our home state. I think it’s going to be a good one whoever we end up facing.”