BATON ROUGE, La. – New LSU defensive coordinator Matt House’s NFL career ended in sudden death – literally.
Evan McPherson kicked a 31-yard field goal in overtime to give the Cincinnati Bengals a 27-24 win over the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game on Jan. 30 in Kansas City, where House had coached linebackers for three seasons. It ruined a chance for House and the Chiefs to reach three straight Super Bowls.
Kansas City’s defense allowed Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow to lead his Bengals on the 42-yard, game-winning drive in nine plays as the former LSU Heisman Trophy winner completed two passes for 17 yards to finish 23 of 38 for 250 with two touchdowns while taking just one sack.
On Wednesday, House was asked how a team defends Burrow, who led the NFL last season in completion percentage at 70.4 and in yards per attempt at 8.9 while being sacked more than any other quarterback with 51. Burrow also completed 30 of 39 passes for 446 yards and four touchdowns in a 34-31 win over the Chiefs on Jan. 2 in Cincinnati in the regular season.
“Can I say ‘no comment’ on that one? He’s beyond his years in smart,” House said Wednesday when some of LSU’s new coaches were introduced at a press conference.
House, who accepted the LSU job while the Chiefs were still in the regular season but did not start until Kansas City finished, can rest easy knowing there will likely be no Joe Burrows in the SEC in 2022. But Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, who has a Heisman like Burrow, could be close.
Funny, House is friends with Burrow’s father Jim Burrow, a former assistant coach at Washington State, Iowa State and Ohio. He spoke to him about the job.
“I’ve known his dad for a long time,” House said. “And I’m excited to meet Joe.”
Until House returns to the NFL, if he does, it will always be Burrow who sent him to LSU about two weeks early.
“I feel horrible for him,” LSU special teams and recruiting coordinator Brian Polian said laughing. “You have your heart broken in the AFC Championship Game, and then two days later you’re taking a recruiting test. It’s nuts, but this is the life that we chose.”
A $5.7 million contract over three years can make House afford a lot of nuts.
“Excited and humbled to be a part of this university,” House said. “When you leave coordinating, you always have that hunger to get back and do it. I enjoy the scheme part – the building of a team and a staff and putting together a plan. And I enjoy the developmental piece.”
Before that happens, House is trying to get to know LSU’s defensive players, many of whom struggled throughout a 6-7 season in 2021-22 and 5-5 the season before.
“I’m so immersed in the process of getting to know the guys right now,” House said. “I hate to say this, but when you’re the fresh face and they’re the fresh face, it doesn’t matter if they’ve been here three years or one year. We’re all learning about each other. Right now, everybody’s got a clean slate.”
House, who was Kentucky’s defensive coordinator in 2017 and ’18, does have some cleaning up to do. The Tigers finished No. 10 in the SEC out of 14 teams and No. 65 nationally in total defense with 377.5 yards allowed a game. And he is the Tigers’ fourth defensive coordinator in four years as Dave Aranda became Baylor’s head coach after the 2019 national title season and was followed by Bo Pelini in 2020 and Daronte Jones in 2021.
House, 43, feels the NFL experience will have him better prepared for the rebuilding project.
“More well rounded, probably a better teacher. The one thing that the NFL forces you to do is you better be prepared to give them something every single day,” House said as he hit his fist on a table. “From a preparation standpoint, there’s no doubt I’m a better coach coming out of Kansas City than when I went in.”
He also coached in the NFL with Carolina on special teams in 2008 and with St. Louis as a defensive assistant from 2009-11 before being a defensive coordinator in college at Pittsburgh in 2013 and ’14 and at Florida International in 2015.
“The two games are more seamless than ever,” he said. “When I came from the Rams to Pitt, they were two separate games. Now, they’re very similar. At the end of the day, there was a hunger to come back and to be a defensive coordinator again.”