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Monday January 27th, 2020 9:48AM

The Latest: LSU leads Clemson 28-17 after entertaining half

By The Associated Press
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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The latest from the College Football Playoff championship game between No. 1 LSU and No. 3 Clemson in New Orleans (all times local):

9:25 p.m.

The College Football Playoff championship hasn't disappointed after a long layoff.

Joe Burrow’s 6-yard touchdown pass to Thaddeus Moss, set up by the quarterback’s 29-yard, third down scramble, has given No. 1 LSU a 28-17 lead over No. 3 Clemson at halftime of Monday night’s title game.

After a slow start that saw LSU fail to cross its own 11 on its first two series, Burrow and Co. found their rhythm. LSU finished the second quarter with three unanswered touchdowns to erase a 10-point deficit that was its largest this season.

The Heisman Trophy winner is 16 of 28 for 270 yards with three TDs to go with 55 yards and a touchdown on eight rushes. Burrow enters the second half tied with ex-Hawaii QB Colt Brennan for the NCAA single-season record for TD passes in a season with 58.

Burrrow’s top target has been New Orleans native Ja’Marr Chase, who has six catches for 162 yards and two touchdowns. Two of his catches have gone for more than 50 yards.

Clemson scored first on Trevor Lawrence’s short TD run and went up 17-7 on receiver Tee Higgins’ 36-yard run on a reverse in second quarter.

LSU, which won the toss and elected to kick off, will receive the kickoff to start the second half.

___

8:45 p.m.

The national championship game is turning into the shootout many expected between No. 1 LSU and No. 3 Clemson.

After Clemson scored 10 straight points on B.T. Potter's 52-yard field goal and Tee Higgins 36-yard touchdown run, LSU answered on Joe Burrow's 3-yard scoring run to cut the lead to 17-14 in the second quarter.

The 17 points put up by both teams were scored in less than five minutes.

Potter's field goal was his career best. Higgins took the handoff, faked a reverse and rolled through several LSU defenders near the goal line to finish in the end zone.

The 10-point deficit was the largest LSU had faced all season.

8:05 p.m.

Joe Burrow’s 52-yard pass to Ja’Marr Chase has tied the national championship game at 7-7.

Clemson’s defense didn’t allow No. 1 LSU to cross its own 11 on its first two possessions and LSU still hadn’t crossed midfield when it took possession for the fourth time in the game late in the first quarter.

With the help of a couple of tough runs by Clyde Edwards-Helaire, LSU finally found its rhythm.

Still, this national title performance so far stands in stark contrast to the semifinal against Oklahoma in the Peach Bowl, when Burrow passed for seven TDs in the first half.

___

7:50 p.m.

Clemson is on the scoreboard first — although it took longer than may have been expected.

The third-ranked Tigers scored on a 1-yard touchdown run by Trevor Lawrence to take a 7-0 lead on No. 1 LSU with 6:34 left in the first quarter.

It is LSU's first time trailing in 25 quarters.

The game was billed as a high-scoring, back-and-forth affair. But the teams each punted twice on the their opening two possessions.

LSU's potent offense has only six yards after its first two series.

___

7:20 p.m.

Thunderous applause and chants of “Four More Years” welcomed President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump as they took the field at the New Orleans Superdome before college football’s championship game between LSU and Clemson.

The crowd also broke into chants of “USA, USA.”

The president and first lady walked onto the field Monday night for the singing of the national anthem.

Trump won a nearly 20-point victory in Louisiana in the 2016 presidential election.

LSU then won the coin toss and kicked off to Clemson, which was forced to punt on its first possession.

___

6:55 p.m.

President Donald Trump has arrived at the New Orleans Superdome to watch No. 1 LSU and No. 3 Clemson battle square off in the College Football Playoff championship game.

Trump arrived at the domed stadium shortly before the game’s scheduled kickoff. He was accompanied by his wife, first lady Melania Trump and South Carolina U.S. senators Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott. Graham and Scott are Republican, like the president.

Trump predicted that it will be a “great game” as he departed the White House.

Trump is familiar with LSU. He took attended a November game in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, when the Tigers beat the Crimson Tide.

The president hosted many of Clemson’s players and coaches at the White House in January 2019 after the team won the 2018 national championship.

___

2:45 p.m.

The College Football Playoff has extended the contract of executive director Bill Hancock.

The 11 university presidents and chancellors that make up the Board of Managers unanimously approve the extension Monday, a few hours before the national championship game in New Orleans between Clemson and LSU.

Terms were not disclosed. Hancock's current three-year deal was set to expire in June.

Hancock has been executive director of the playoff since its start in 2014 and helped craft the current postseason system through the transition from the Bowl Championship Series.

“It's a rolling agreement, so I intend to be here as long as they'll have me and as long as I want to,” Hancock said. “I'm having a blast. I'm honored and delighted to get to do what I do."

Hancock was the first executive director of the BCS, appointed in 2009 after working as an administrator for the FBS conference commissioners who manage the postseason.

___

1 p.m.

Top-ranked LSU faces No. 3 Clemson for the college football national championship Monday night at the Superdome in New Orleans.

Both sets of Tigers are 14-0, seeking to cap a perfect season. President Donald Trump is expected to be among those in attendance.

It's practically a home game for LSU. Its campus is just 90 minutes away and purple-and-gold clad supporters could be found all around New Orleans.

There were plenty of orange-wearing Clemson fans on the streets, hoping their team wins a second straight national championship. A second-story veranda near Jackson Square boasted Clemson flags from its 2016 and 2018 national titles, along with an inflatable Tiger figure.

Clemson is after its third crown in four seasons and its 30th straight victory.

LSU is seeking its first national championship since 2007 and first in the CFP era.

___

More AP college football: https://apnews.com/APTop25CollegeFootballPoll and https://apnews.com/Collegefootball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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