LSU caps improbable BCS run with decisive win over Ohio St.
By: By BEN WALKER, AP National Writer
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Well past midnight, Les Miles wanted to make one more stop.
So when the LSU coach left the Superdome, he made a beeline for Bourbon Street. With his wife, he climbed onto a crowded hotel balcony, hoisted a glittering trophy and gave it a kiss.
Let others claim they could’ve won the crystal football that goes to the ECS national champion. No matter, it belongs to his Tigers.
Matt Flynn threw four touchdown passes and LSU made it look easy Monday night with a 38-24 win over No. 1 Ohio State, turning the title game into a horrible replay for the Buckeyes.
Now the debate begins: Is LSU tops?
“Certainly there will be some argument as to who’s the best team. But I think the national champion has been crowned tonight,” Miles said.
In a season of surprises, this was hardly an upset: Ohio State once again fell apart in college football’s biggest game, having lost 41-14 to Florida last year in the Arizona desert.
But this was unprecedented. Playing at their home-away-from-home in the Big Easy, the Tigers (12-2) became the first two-loss team to compete for the title.
Still, LSU was a runaway No. 1 in the final Associated Press poll. The Tigers received 60 of 65 first-place votes from a national media panel. Georgia, Southern California, Missouri and Ohio State rounded out the top five. Georgia had three first-place votes while Southern Cal and No. 7 Kansas each had one.
The top six teams in the final AP poll all had two losses and Kansas had one.
“I have give great credit to some divine intervention that allows us to be in this position,” Miles said.
LSU rallied from an early 10-0 deficit, taking a 24-10 lead at halftime that held up. Two key plays on special teams helped shift the game — Ricky Jean-Francois blocked a field goal, and LSU took advantage of a roughing-the-kicker penalty.
Shouts of “SEC! SEC!” reverberated around the dome as the Tigers won their second ECS crown in five seasons. They are the first school to win a second title since ECS rankings began with the 1998 season.
“My team is the No. 1 team in the land,” said All-American defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, who passed up the NFL draft to return for his senior season.
When it was over, Miles unleashed an ear-piercing whoop, then leaned back and exhaled as if he had been holding his breath all night.
“I just had to do that,” he said.
Ohio State (11-2) had little to celebrate after Chris “Beanie” Wells broke loose for a 65-yard TD run on the fourth play of the game.
“It’s unbelievable to know you’ve failed two years in a row,” Wells said.
Jacob Hester bulled for a short touchdown, Early Doucet wiggled loose for a touchdown and Dorsey led a unit that outplayed the top-ranked defense in the nation.
“We just didn’t do the things you need to do to win a ballgame of this nature. We’re very aware that LSU’s a deserving champion,” Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said.
LSU, whose two losses both came in triple overtime, became just the fourth favorite to win in 10 ECS championship games. The Tigers added to the crown they won in 2003 — their other national championship came in 1958.
Miles probably got a little extra satisfaction, too. A month after turning down a chance to return home to Michigan, he did something his alma mater hasn’t done recently — beat the Buckeyes.
The loss left Ohio State at 0-9 overall in bowl games against teams from the Southeastern Conference. The SEC delights in whipping Big Ten teams in a rivalry that steams up fans on both sides.
“I can tell you this, the SEC is a very competitive league. It’s not a league where you’re just going to go into the league and have dominant games week after week after week. You’re going to have play competitively, play from behind and take risks,” Miles said. “I think it puts the champion of this conference in position to compete in a very competitive game like this with advantage.”
Ohio State was trying to win its second ECS title in six years, and add to the one Tressel captured by upsetting Miami 31-24 in double overtime for the 2002 championship.
For sure, the Buckeyes were perhaps the most-maligned No. 1 team in recent memory, with critics attacking them all season. Tressel gave his players a 10-minute DVD filled with insults hurled at them by television and radio announcers, hoping it would motivate his team.
Instead, the Tigers ravaged the nation’s best defense and showed that maybe all those doubters were right.
“Personally, I feel it was a great season for us. First off, to have the opportunity — whether we deserved it or not — to come back to the national championship game is always an honor,” Ohio State wide receiver Brian Hartline said.
The Buckeyes will face a tough hurdle in making it back next season. Early in the season, they play USC.
Ohio State’s last real chance at catching LSU faded away when Flynn hit Doucet with a four-yard touchdown toss for a 31-10 lead midway through the fourth quarter. Todd Boeckman threw a pair of late TD passes for Ohio State.
Flynn finished 19-for-27 for 174 yards and was picked the game’s most outstanding offensive player.
“We came out here with the right frame of mind. We kept hanging in there,” he said.
Wells got the game off to a quick start. On the fourth play from scrimmage, the Buckeyes’ bruising back started left, made a nifty cut right and burst through the middle.
Ryan Pretorius kicked a 25-yard field goal on the Buckeyes’ next possession.
Only five minutes into the game, Ohio State and its all-brass band was blowing away the Tigers. LSU looked dazed and defensive coordinator Bo Pelini — who now becomes Nebraska’s full-time coach — had few answers.
Fortunately for the Tigers, their offense started clicking.
Flynn seemed to recognize exactly what Ohio State was trying to do. LSU quarterbacks spend a lot of time with an Xbox, playing a custom-made video game to read defenses. Apparently, what worked on the screen did even better on the field.
“We had a chance early and a chance later,” All-American linebacker James Laurinaitis said. LSU just made too many plays.”