Burrow throws 7 TDs, No. 1 LSU routs No. Oklahoma 63-28
ATLANTA (AP) — Joe Burrow turned in the greatest performance yet in his Heisman Trophy season, throwing for seven touchdowns and 493 yards as No. 1 LSU romped to a breathtaking 63-28 victory over No. 4 Oklahoma in the Peach Bowl semifinal game Saturday.
The Tigers (14-0) headed to the national championship game against either No. 2 Ohio State or No. 3 Clemson clicking on all cylinders, having dismantled the Sooners (12-2) with a first half for the ages.
Burrow tied the record for any college bowl game with his seven TD passes — which all came before the bands hit the field for the halftime show at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Justin Jefferson was on the receiving end for four of those scoring plays, also tying a bowl record.
For good measure, Burrows scored an eighth TD himself on a 3-yard run in the third quarter, thoroughly dominating his expected duel with Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts, the Heisman runner-up.
All that as the Tigers played with heavy hearts. Shortly before the game, LSU offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger learned that his daughter-in-law, broadcaster Carley McCord, was among five people killed in a plane crash in Louisiana.
The small plane went down shortly after takeoff for what was supposed to be a flight to Atlanta for the game.
Emsminger had tears running down his cheeks during warmups, but he was in his usual spot high above the field when the game kicked off, calling plays along with passing game coordinator Joe Brady.
It was a brilliant, poignant performance in the face of such tragedy.
“He’s the MVP right now,” LSU head coach Ed Orgeron said in a halftime interview with his team leading 49-14.
Clutch Clemson: No. 3 Tigers beat No. 2 Ohio State 29-23
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Blaring from the Clemson locker room after yet another playoff victory was Aretha Franklin’s classic “Respect.”
The Tigers have won two of the last three national titles and become college football’s gold standard program, yet still often feel overlooked. Doubted. Disrespected.
Sure, Clemson ran roughshod through the Atlantic Coast Conference. But was it too easy?
Facing a serious challenger for the first time in months, No. 3 Clemson and its perfect quarterback had to tap into their championship DNA to advance to the College Football Playoff title game for the fourth time in five years.
Trevor Lawrence connected with Travis Etienne on a 34-yard, go-ahead touchdown with 1:49 left in the fourth quarter, capping a 94-yard march, and the defending national champions beat No. 2 Ohio State 29-23 Saturday night in the Fiesta Bowl.
“We finish,” said Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, whose Tigers are 100-2 when leading going into the fourth quarter since 2011. “That’s not just who we are. That’s what we do.”
The Tigers (14-0) will play No. 1 LSU on Jan. 13 in New Orleans, looking for their third national title in the last four seasons.
Clemson played only one close game this season, a one-pointer way back in September against North Carolina. Otherwise the Tigers rarely needed to play a starter in the fourth quarter.
“Everybody kept saying we didn’t play nobody, that we blow out teams. Tonight showed what we can do,” Clemson receiver Tee Higgins said. “We showed everybody we got fight in us.”
USC DC Clancy Pendergast, special teams coach Baxter out
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast and special teams coordinator John Baxter will not return to coach Clay Helton’s staff at Southern California.
Helton announced the dismissals Saturday, one day after the No. 22 Trojans (8-5) lost 49-24 to Iowa in the Holiday Bowl.
The changes were widely anticipated after new USC athletic director Mike Bohn elected to retain Helton earlier this month. Helton and Bohn promised to make unspecified changes to accompany Helton’s return, which is widely unpopular among a large portion of USC’s fan base after 12 losses in the last two seasons.
“In evaluating our team’s performance this year and after consulting with AD Mike Bohn, it is evident that these changes are necessary,” Helton said in a statement. “Although we did fight through adversity all season and we showed improvement over the previous year, my coaching staff and I fell short of fielding a championship team. We are taking immediate steps to improve our competitiveness and meet the winning expectations of our student-athletes and fans.”
USC outside linebackers coach Joe DeForest also left the program Saturday to join North Carolina State’s staff as safeties coach.
Kuzma, James lead Lakers past Trail Blazers 128-120
PORTLAND, Ore (AP) — Kyle Kuzma’s season may have turned a corner on Saturday night, and the Los Angeles Lakers snapped their season-long four-game losing streak in the process.
Kuzma scored 24 points, LeBron James had 21 points and 16 assists, and the Lakers beat the Portland Trail Blazers 128-120.
Kuzma highlighted a strong performance by the Lakers’ reserves, who provided 72 bench points. Portland’s bench scored 39 points.
It was the type of night the Lakers have expected for Kuzma all season as he has battled through several injuries and a reduction in minutes. Kuzma scored over 20 points for the second straight game.
“Yeah, I’m just healthy now,” Kuzma said of another strong performance. “I’m confident in my body. I took a little bit of time off, sitting out for five games and really just self-collected what I needed to do and got it done.”
“We want him to be that third scorer for us, consistently get to 18 to 20 points a night and more important you know, it’s just the efficiency right now that I love,” James said of Kuzma, who was nine for 17 from the field. “He’s just been very efficient mixing it up with his 3s, his paint touches. You saw it tonight on the break as well, just mixing it up.”
Anthony Davis added 20 points and nine rebounds for the Lakers. The win also helped the Lakers move on from a disappointing Christmas day loss to their crosstown rival Clippers.
“We were all pretty upset about the last game,” Davis said. “We just wanted to make an effort to come in and get back in the win column. We were able to pull this one out.”
Chidom, Martin help UC Riverside rally, beat Fresno St.
FRESNO (AP) — Arinze Chidom had a double-double, Dikymbe Martin scored all his 10 points in the final five minutes, and UC Riveside rallied from a 20-point deficit to beat Fresno State 60-57 on Saturday night.
Chidom finished with career-high 23 points and 10 rebounds.
Nate Grimes capped an 8-0 spurt with a dunk to give the Bulldogs a 55-35 lead with 9:42 left. UC Riverside (9-5) answered with a 15-0 run before Fresno State’s Orlando Robinson made the second of two free throws to break a scoreless streak of seven-plus minutes. Angus McWilliam answered with a foul shot before Martin made back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Highlanders their first lead since early in the first half at 57-56 with 57 seconds to go. Robinson again 1 of 2 from the free-throw line 14 seconds later but a goaltending call on a shot by Zyon Pullin with 11 seconds remaining gave UC Riverside the lead for good.
Orlando Robinson scored a season-high 27 points and had five blocks for the Bulldogs (4-9), who went 0 for 9 from the field with six turnovers over the final nine minutes, seven seconds.
UC Riverside plays Air Force on the road on Tuesday. Fresno State takes on No. 15 San Diego State on the road on Wednesday.
Cal State Fullerton upsets UCLA 77-74
LOS ANGELES (AP) — UCLA coach Mick Cronin made no secret of his distaste for his team’s defense or disposition following a shocking 77-74 upset loss to Cal State Fullerton.
The Bruins (7-6) fell behind by 14 points in the second half to a team that had won just three games all season and rallied but couldn’t stop the Titans’ hot outside shooting that led to 14 3-pointers.
“I apologize to our fans for our defensive effort once again,” Cronin said. “Our metrics are horrible. You can’t defend, you can’t win. … if you hold the ball long enough, we’ll break down. We’re not good enough to win with offense. We have to win with defense. I apologize to people that took the time out of their Saturday that had to come and watch this. Our defensive effort is beyond sickening. Beyond sickening. Sickening at the highest level.”
Wayne Arnold had 19 points — including four 3-pointers — off the bench for Cal State Fullerton and Jackson Rowe added 17 as the Titans had another program-building victory on Saturday.
This was the first time Cal State Fullerton (4-10) beat a Power Five school since December 2011 when it won at Utah.
The Titans shot 58.3% from 3-point range and 50.9% from the field.
“I liked our shot selection. We we had an emphasis on paint-touch, in-rhythm shots and our group bought into that,” Titans coach Dedrique Taylor said. “We were consistent in that. Very few came from a first-side shot. Everything was paint-touch, in rhythm 3s. We were consistent, even when things weren’t going our way, it was about the process of getting a good shot, not taking and making a bad shot.”
Tyger Campbell scored 18 points for UCLA.
Pettersson scores another winner, Canucks beat Kings 3-2
VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — Jacob Markstrom shrugged off a career-high save performance.
Elias Pettersson scored his fourth game-winning goal of the season and Markstrom made 49 saves as the Vancouver Canucks beat the Los Angeles Kings 3-2 on Saturday night.
“I feel like if you look at it again, they throw a lot of pucks at net,” Markstrom said. “There were some rebounds where they got a couple of whacks after it afterwards where maybe I could have held the first puck. When I get the win, it’s way easier to go through video afterward.”
Starting his ninth-straight game since Dec. 10, Markstrom improved his record over that span to 5-4-0 as he earned his 100th career NHL win. His previous high was 47 saves in a 2-0 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Mar. 22, 2016.
“He stood on his head again today,” Pettersson said of Markstrom. “We didn’t have our best game. We made a lot of turnovers. That’s why you have a good goalie, and he got us the win.”
Jake Virtanen also scored his 11th goal of the season, and Tyler Motte had his second for Vancouver (20-15-4).
Anze Kopitar and Tyler Toffoli scored for Los Angeles (16-21-4), which was playing its second game in as many nights following a 3-2 overtime win in San Jose.
Jonathan Quick made 23 saves for the Kings.
Jockey Mike Smith wins record 217th Grade 1 race
ARCADIA (AP) — Omaha Beach won the $300,000 Malibu Stakes by 2 3/4 lengths on opening day at Santa Anita, giving Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith a record 217th Grade 1 victory.
Smith surpassed the mark set by retired Hall of Famer Jerry Bailey to become thoroughbred racing’s all-time Grade 1 stakes-winning jockey.
“Jerry is someone that comes from my hometown,” Smith said. “I was born in New Mexico, but raised in Texas, in El Paso, where he’s from. His father was my dentist, so he’s always meant a lot to me, so to surpass him means a whole lot.”
Smith won four stakes on Saturday’s card.
Omaha Beach was forced to miss this year’s Kentucky Derby because of entrapped epiglottis. The colt is set to be retired after next month’s $3 million Pegasus World Cup in Florida.
Omaha Beach ran seven furlongs in 1:22.33 in front of 35,085 fans. Santa Anita had pushed opening day of its winter-spring meet back two days because of concern about rain in the forecast. There have been 37 horse deaths at the track since last December.
“This is really special for us, opening day at Santa Anita,” Omaha Beach’s trainer Richard Mandella said. “After all the trouble we have been through this year, this place is The Great Race Place and we all need to remember that.”
Sent off as the 2-5 favorite in the field of five 3-year-olds, Omaha Beach returned $2.80, $2.10 and $2.10.
Omaha Beach has five of his last six starts, including three Grade 1 wins. The victory, worth $180,000, increased his career earnings to $1,651,800, with five wins in 10 career starts.
“He was supposed to run like this,” Mandella said. “I can’t think of one better. The few times he ever got beat were my fault.”
Omaha Beach was coming off a second-place finish as the even-money favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Santa Anita last month.
Roadster, winner of this year’s Santa Anita Derby, rallied to finish second, 2 1/4 lengths in front of longshot Manny Wah.