for this game

LSU crushes Ohio State in BCS Championship Game

Jan 8, 2008 - 7:06 AM By Jim Ralabate PA SportsTicker College Football Editor

NEW ORLEANS (Ticker) -- Louisiana State slammed its critics, racing past Ohio State in a championship mismatch while inciting bedlam from Baton Rouge to Bourbon Street to the Bayou.

Matt Flynn threw four touchdown passes as second-ranked LSU overcame a sluggish start to dominate the top-ranked Buckeyes, 38-24, in Monday night's BCS Championship Game at the Louisiana Superdome.

Countless detractors debated LSU's inclusion in the contest, pointing to the Tigers' two regular-season losses and questioning their climb from seventh to second in the final BCS standings.

But LSU (12-2) certainly proved it belonged, winning the third title in school history while becoming the first BCS champion with two losses.

"Certainly there will be some argument as to who's the best team," Tigers coach Les Miles said. "But I think the national champion's been crowned tonight."

Arguments almost definitely will come in support of Southern California, Georgia and Kansas - all of whom looked impressive in dominating BCS bowl victories last week.

But Miles, who turned down overtures from Michigan - his alma mater - last month, felt that the Tigers were a deserving champion courtesy of their Southeastern Conference crown.

"Certainly there's great teams in the Big 12, great teams in the Pac-10, great teams in the Big Ten, the ACC," said Miles, who guided LSU to its first title since 2003. "But the point is that in (the SEC), week after week you're going to play very talented teams.

"You're going to have to play your best. And so I think it puts the champion of this conference in position to compete in a very competitive game like this with advantage."

Showered by chants of "SEC! SEC!" from delirious Tigers fans, LSU became the first school to win multiple titles since the BCS format began in 1998.

Ohio State (11-2) was routed by an SEC team in the championship game for the second time in as many years.

The Buckeyes suffered a 41-14 blowout at the hands of Florida in last year's title game, a stunning upset which caused many to doubt the overall quality of the Big Ten Conference.

Ohio State did little to redeem the Big Ten on Monday, squandering a 10-0 first-quarter lead and committing seven penalties for a total of 83 yards.

"That was a tough football game and it was very demanding," Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said. "I'm sure there were moments where we weren't perfectly on cue as we should be

"I'm sure there were moments that LSU felt like they lost their equilibrium, if you will. But I don't think we ever lost our composure."

After looking rusty in the opening moments, the Tigers continually chipped away at Ohio State's top-ranked defense, collecting 326 yards of total offense and converting 11-of-18 third downs.

A first-year starter, Flynn orchestrated the balanced attack, completing 19-of-27 passes for 173 yards. The fifth-year senior was intercepted once but also converted a pair of short third downs on the ground en route to being named the game's MVP.

"What I'm most proud of about this team is the ability to not focus on the things that are going on around it, whether it's good, whether it's bad," Flynn said. "We make a good play, we come out and we just forget about it. We take it one play at a time. That's just one thing this team has done all year."

Flynn tossed two TDs in the second quarter and another in the third as the Tigers scored 31 consecutive points to take a commanding 31-10 lead.

After clawing to within 31-17, Ohio State advanced to midfield twice in the fourth quarter. But the Tigers sealed the victory with a sack on fourth down and a third-down interception by safety Curtis Taylor with 5:43 remaining.

The turning point of the game took place four minutes into the second quarter with the score tied at 10-10.

After watching LSU score 10 straight points to pull even, Ohio State looked primed to reclaim the lead as Ryan Pretorius lined up for a 38-yard field goal.

But the kick was blocked by Ricky Jean-Francois and recovered by Darry Beckwith at the LSU 34-yard line, completely swinging momentum in favor of the Tigers.

"When I started to move, I was saying, Please just let me block this ball," Jean-Francois said. "And when I blocked it, I was just shocked. That changed the whole momentum."

Ten plays later, Flynn lobbed a perfectly thrown 10-yarder to Brandon LaFell in the back left corner of the end zone, giving LSU its first lead of the game at 17-10 with 7:25 left in the first half.

"As soon as I saw the cornerback outside jump the short route to the outside guy, Brandon was one-on-one," Flynn said. "I know 95 percent of the time, he's going to win that matchup."

While the Tigers consistently gave Flynn time in the pocket, the Buckeyes failed to protect quarterback Todd Boeckman, who was harassed and hurried throughout the game's final three quarters.

With LSU backup safety Harry Coleman blitzing up the middle, Boeckman severely underthrew his target and was intercepted by cornerback Chevis Jackson, who reeled off a 34-yard return to the Ohio State 24.

Jacob Hester bulled into the end zone from a yard out five plays later, pushing LSU's lead to 24-10.

The Tigers added insurance on the opening drive of the second half when Flynn found Early Doucet, who avoided a trio of tacklers before dancing into the end zone for a 4-yard TD to make it 31-10.

The Buckeyes battled back late in the third quarter, however, as cornerback Malcolm Jenkins intercepted Flynn and raced for a 23-yard return to the LSU 11.

Ohio State took advantage four plays later, when Brian Robiskie made a diving 5-yard TD catch to draw Ohio State within 31-17 with 1:38 remaining in the third quarter.

After forcing the Tigers to punt, the Buckeyes drove to the LSU 34 with 11:30 remaining.

But linebacker Ali Highsmith sacked Boeckman on 4th-and-7, forcing a fumble which was recovered by Coleman at midfield.

Ohio State forced another punt on the ensuing possession, but Taylor intercepted Boeckman at the LSU 43 to thwart another last-ditch comeback attempt by the Buckeyes.

Flynn threw his fourth TD of the game nine plays later, lofting a 5-yarder to a wide-open Richard Dickson to make it 38-17 with two minutes remaining.

It was the second score of the game for Dickson, a sophomore tight end who drew LSU even with his 13-yard TD catch early in the second quarter.

Doucet was Flynn's favorite target, hauling in seven receptions for 51 yards. Hester rushed for 86 yards on 21 carries, paving the way for an LSU ground game which manhandled the No. 1 rushing defense in the country.

Boeckman finished 15-for-26 for 208 yards, two TDs and two interceptions. Chris "Beanie" Wells was one of the few bright spots for the Buckeyes, rushing for 146 yards on 20 carries.

A sophomore, Wells gave the Buckeyes a 7-0 lead just 86 seconds into the contest, bursting through a seam in the Tigers' line and racing up the right sideline for a 65-yard TD.

It was the longest run in BCS Championship Game history and the longest of Wells' career.