NEW ORLEANS — Trevor Lawrence walked to the podium after Monday’s national championship game with a look no one at Clemson had ever seen before.
The sophomore quarterback had just suffered the first loss of his college career, ending a 25-game winning streak.
He still wore the emotion on his face as he addressed the media for the first time, trying to explain what went wrong in a mostly forgettable performance on the biggest stage possible.
“At the end of the day, I just didn't play well enough for us to win,” Lawrence said after the 42-25 loss to LSU in the College Football Playoff championship game at the Superdome in New Orleans. “Too many missed plays by me, missed a lot of receivers, and it just wasn't my night.”
It really wasn’t, especially in the second half.
Lawrence went 6-of-15 passing for just 58 yards in the final 30 minutes. He led the team to just one second-half touchdown, a six-play, 50-yard drive that featured five runs, one 12-yard pass and a 15-yard personal foul penalty on LSU.
Lawrence then completed a two-point-conversion pass to Amari Rodgers. After that, things went south.
“At the quarterback position, if you're going to win games like this, you've got to play really well," Lawrence said. "And I just didn't do that tonight.”
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He got off to a decent start, going 12-of-22 passing for 286 yards in the first half. But he had a run of just two completions on nine attempts during the second half, as the offense derailed.
Lawrence also fumbled for the first time this season when LSU safety Grant Delpit hit his left arm on a run, popping the ball loose. It was recovered by Bayou Bengals cornerback Derek Stingley.
“I just told him to keep his head up. I told him I loved him and that, ‘Hey, listen, this is a great opportunity to lead and to respond,’” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said about their sideline conversation after the turnover. “You know, he's had so much good. We all have. We've had so much just unbelievable success, so many great things, and he's never lost a game.
"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.”
One of the nation’s best quarterbacks and already the projected top player to be selected in the 2021 NFL draft, Lawrence never had more than two completions in a row Monday. He said it was a mix of poor play and LSU’s pressures and coverages that got to him.
It was his first loss as a starting quarterback since November 2017, when he was a senior at Cartersville High School in Georgia. That was a state playoff game, his last on the prep level.
Now his focus will turn to handling the end of Clemson’s season without a championship, the end of the program’s 29-game winning streak and how he responds as a junior in 2020.
“You get so busy looking for what's next, and a moment like this happens and you've got to — man, it sucks, but you've got to look back on what you've done, and we've done some great things, and we've got a lot more in store ahead for sure,” Lawrence said. “But it's just you've got to look back and enjoy all the things you did accomplish, because what we were able to do is pretty amazing to be a part of.
"Just going to miss this group of guys, and I hate how it finished. But man, we did some really amazing things.”