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Burrow, LSU Cap Magical Season, Beat Clemson 42-25 for Title – NBC Chicago



From small-town Ohio kid to Louisiana Legend, Joe Burrow capped his record-breaking, Heisman-winning season by bringing a national championship to LSU.

Burrow threw five touchdown passes, ran for another score and finished off one of the most accomplished seasons in college football history by leading the top-ranked Tigers to a 42-25 victory against No. 3 Clemson on Monday night in the playoff final.

“He’s one of the greatest players in LSU history,” Tigers coach Ed Orgeron said of Burrow. “He’s done so much for the state of Louisiana and LSU. We are so grateful to Joe Burrow.”

The senior quarterback from The Plains, Ohio, lead the Tigers (15-0) to their first national title since 2007 and fourth overall, breaking a few more records along the way in what was already an historic season. The five TD passes and 463 yards passing are the most for a BCS or College Football Playoff title game as are his six total touchdowns.

“This is what I wanted to do from the time I was 5 years old, was hoist this trophy, and bringing it back to Louisiana,” Burrow said, then caught himself. “I guess we’re in Louisiana, but staying in Louisiana, we weren’t going to let someone come in here and steal this from us in our home state.

“We have a great fan base that came out and supported us. We were going to keep this thing right here.”

Under a shower of sparkling white, gold and purple confetti, Burrow raised the CFP championship trophy toward the Superdome roof.

The party was on — no doubt already raging on nearby Bourbon Street.

Burrow became the first major college quarterback to throw 60 touchdown passes in a season as LSU snapped defending national champion Clemson’s 29-game winning streak. For the first time in his college career, Clemson star quarterback Trevor Lawrence was on the losing team. The Tigers (14-1) had won his first 25 starts.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve stood in front of a team after a loss,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said.

But on this night, Lawrence (18 for 37 for 234 yards) was no match for Burrow — the Ohio State transfer who threw all of 16 TD passes last season with LSU.

His ascent has been dizzying and unprecedented. Running a version of the New Orleans Saints’ offense that was brought to LSU by 30-year-old assistant coach Joe Brady, Burrow and an array of talented receivers transformed these Tigers into one of the most prolific offenses college football has ever seen.

The Saints’ Drew Brees, Burrow’s idol growing up, could not have done it better.

It was Orgeron’s vision for LSU when he was promoted from interim coach in 2016. There was plenty of skepticism when LSU tabbed the Cajun who had failed in his first crack as a head coach with Mississippi.

Orgeron has proven to be the perfect fit for LSU. Just like Burrow.

After tossing his fifth touchdown pass of the night, a perfectly placed jumped ball to Terrace Marshall Jr. from 24 yards out to make it 42-25 with 12:08 left in the fourth, Burrow signaled TD and strolled to the sideline.

The Superdome is LSU’s dome away from home, about 80 miles from the Tigers Baton Rouge campus, and it was rocking.

The LSU band broke out its unofficial anthem, “Neck,” and as the Tigers bounced and waved towels on the sideline, Burrow just sat on the bench, bobbing his head and waving one arm.

Joe Cool. Just doing his thing. Next stop: The NFL draft, where he will likely be the first pick in April.

The final score was lopsided, but it was far from easy for LSU and Burrow.

Clemson pushed LSU into the deepest hole it has had to climb out of this season in the first half. Two weeks after Lawrence ran for a career-best 107 yards against Ohio State, he opened the scoring with a 1-yard jaunt around right end in the first quarter.

After B.T. Potter kicked a career-long 52-yard field goal for Clemson to make it 10-7, the Tigers sprung receiver Tee Higgins on a reverse and he raced 36 yards through tacklers for a score to make it 17-7.

It took LSU 5:19 to wipe that out and take the lead, with Burrow and his favorite receiver, Ja’Marr Chase doing most of the damage. The Heisman winner hit the Biletnikoff Award winner with a long ball to set up a quarterback draw from 3 yards out to make it 17-14.

Burrow and Chase hooked up for a 14-yard touchdown with 5:19 left in the second quarter and LSU fans erupted as their Tigers took the lead for the first time, 21-17. They never looked back.

Chase finished with nine catches for 221 yards.

The SEC Tigers weren’t done. Burrow led LSU on a 95-yard drive, taking a hard shot on a long run before finding Thaddeus Moss, son of former NFL star receiver Randy Moss, standing alone in the end zone. That made it 28-17 with 10 seconds left in the half.

After Clemson’s defense flummoxed LSU for most of the first quarter, with tight coverage and hard-to-decipher blitzes, Burrow, Chase and Co. put up 269 yards in the second quarter.

Over the last three games of this spectacular season, against Georgia in the Southeastern Conference championship game and Oklahoma and Clemson in the playoff, Burrow passed for 1,305 yards and 16 touchdowns. LSU won those games by a combined score of 142-63.

When it was all over, Burrow puffed on a victory cigar as he made his way from the locker room to the postgame news conference. No one was about to tell him he couldn’t smoke inside.

This season, Burrow has done just about whatever he wants.



A Rare Good First Week at a Grand Slam for the American Men




Sandgren, who unlike Paul stayed under the radar by playing college tennis, said Paul deserved patience as he developed. “When you’re young you sometimes don’t make the most optimal decisions; everybody’s guilty of that to some degree,” Sandgren said. “The more disciplined you can be, your odds are better.”

Sandgren has been more disciplined, but has streaky results. For a player of his low profile, never reaching the Top 40 in the ATP rankings, Sandgren has amassed a remarkable collection of big wins at Grand Slam events, including a run to the quarterfinals here in 2018. His win over Berrettini was his fourth victory against a top-10 opponent at a Grand Slam in six matches, a winning percentage few others could touch. Calling himself a “realist with a pessimistic bent,” however, Sandgren sought ways to play down his win over Berrettini.

“I’m thinking, ‘Well, it’s early in the year, and I don’t think he’d played an event,’” Sandgren said. “So that’s in the back of my head, that he’s not match tough. I’m searching for my own asterisks so I can pin myself down a little.”

Sandgren was particularly proud of his physicality against Berrettini, never flagging in the five-set match. After a toe injury last fall, Sandgren spent his off-season in the gym, improving his stamina and adding the muscle he said he needed to justify being the only man other than Rafael Nadal to wear sleeveless shirts here.

“Well, I’ve been working out — I think I can pull this off,” Sandgren said.

Reinventing his image among tennis fans may prove even harder work. During his 2018 run here, Sandgren drew scrutiny and criticism for his social media posts, in which he engaged with several far-right political figures and theories. After he was eliminated, he opened his news conference with a statement railing against the news media for “demonizing” him.

Sandgren said he now followed politics “less passionately.”

“I’m relatively good at one thing, which is playing tennis,” Sandgren said. “I wouldn’t want another interest I have, or a hobby — and following politics is a hobby — to bring that side of me down.”


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Las Vegas Doubles Down on Sports, Live and Broadcast




At the Park MGM, the recently updated Moneyline Sports Bar & Book looks more like a neighborhood sports bar — albeit with bigger and more numerous screens — with large booths where groups can gather and a “tailgate menu” offering cheeseburgers and nachos. The teller area, where the betting takes place, is in the entry foyer.

Up the street, The Linq Hotel + Experience has updated its sports book to include “Fan Caves,” living room-style areas available for rent with 98-inch televisions guests can control, video games and nightclub-style bottle service. The resort is also building a studio for the sports network ESPN overlooking the Strip, to be completed next spring. (Its sibling resort, Caesars Palace, now has a Bleacher Report Studio producing content for the popular sports app and steaming service.)

“We wanted to create an actual living room experience where fans can be social together,” said Chris Holdren, the chief marketing officer for Caesars Entertainment, which runs The Linq, Caesars Palace and several other resorts. “In traditional sports books, you were lined up and if you wanted to high-five after your team scored, it meant going down the aisle.”

Making casinos more game-day friendly may expand their appeal. Research by the American Gaming Association found that sports bettors are generally younger, more affluent, more ethnically diverse and better educated than the general population of the United States.

In terms of live sports, Las Vegas has the W.N.B.A. Aces, pro soccer’s Lights, and Triple-A baseball’s Aviators, as well as pro hockey. Major League Baseball exhibition games have been held in Las Vegas nearly every year since 1991 and will take place again in February and March 2020 in the newly constructed Las Vegas Ballpark. Still, only 4 percent of visitors attended a sporting event in 2018, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

Operators here expect that to change given the popularity of football, America’s favorite spectator sport, according to a 2017 Gallup poll. The Raiders organization said that it has already sold 99 percent of the licenses to buy season tickets. Leading up to the team’s debut, Las Vegas will hold the NFL Draft, April 23 to 25.


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In 18 Minutes, Zion Williamson Shows Flashes of the Future




NEW ORLEANS — Zion Williamson was apprehensive in the first half of his first regular-season game with the Pelicans. He deferred to teammates. He passed out of traps. He did not use his 6-foot-6, 284-pound frame to demolish smaller defenders or propel the crowd to its feet with his dunks. Instead, he seemed determined to blend into the existing framework of his team.

It was Wednesday night at Smoothie King Center, and no one could blame Williamson for being tentative against the San Antonio Spurs. About three months removed from knee surgery, he had only recently resumed practicing. And now he was making his much-anticipated N.B.A. debut as the latest star on the league’s global stage.

At halftime, Pelicans Coach Alvin Gentry intervened.

“I told him I wanted him to be a little more aggressive and to enjoy the moment,” Gentry recalled.

Williamson heeded that message in the fourth quarter, when he engineered a ridiculous stretch of basketball pyrotechnics. He pulled up in transition from the 3-point line. He plowed to the basket for a put-back layup. He went to the free-throw line as “M.V.P.” chants filled the arena. He scored on seven straight possessions, cluttering the box score with 17 points in just 3 minutes 8 seconds.

“He started to be who everyone thinks he is,” Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich said.

Williamson, the top overall pick in last year’s draft, finished with 22 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists in a modest 18 minutes of playing time. But he had to watch the latter stages of the Spurs’ 121-117 victory from the bench, the victim of a minutes restriction as he works his way into playing shape. The crowd expressed its displeasure. Gentry said he had no choice.

“The medical people said that was it,” Gentry said. “He wasn’t happy about it. I don’t think anybody would be happy about it if you were playing at the level he was playing.”

Outrageous expectations have shadowed Williamson since he was in high school, and the remarkable thing is that he keeps meeting them — and even exceeding them. In four preseason games for New Orleans, he averaged 23.3 points and 6.5 rebounds while shooting 71.4 percent from the field.

But he had surgery in October to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee, which sidelined him for the first half of the season while raising questions about his long-term durability. Williamson, whose body has the general dimensions of a vending machine, is a science experiment in high-tops: How can someone so large be so explosive? Is his brand of spring-loaded athleticism sustainable over the grind of an 82-game schedule?

New Orleans is a football city, but Williamson’s presence has captivated sports fans here. He offers fresh hope for a long-suffering franchise — if only he can stay healthy. That has become the refrain for fans like Larry Blake, 64, a sound editor who has been a season-ticket holder since the team’s inception in 2002.

Williamson was also asked whether he was excited to get back to a sense of normalcy, now that he had gotten through his big debut. Before he could answer — “Man,” Williamson said — Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday, who had accompanied him to his postgame news conference, piped up.

“It’s not going to be normal for him,” Holiday said. “The way he played is something he can do every day.”

That is the hope, anyway.


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