- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 8, 2008

NEW ORLEANS — Ohio State is starting to look like the big easy.

For the second straight year, the top-ranked Buckeyes were bested in the BCS title game by a visibly superior squad from the SEC. Last season Florida did the honors, demolishing Ohio State in the desert. Last night LSU carried the SEC banner, scoring 31 unanswered points in a 38-24 victory in the Superdome.

“We prepared well and came out and executed,” said LSU quarterback Matt Flynn, who collected offensive MVP honors after throwing a career-best four touchdown passes. “This feels great.”

The victory gives the Tigers (12-2) their second national title this decade (also 2003) and makes LSU the only team with two BCS titles in the 10-year history of the format.

As LSU piled on its final touchdown to move ahead 38-17 with just under two minutes remaining, the partisan Superdome-record crowd of 79,651 fans began chanting “SEC! SEC! SEC!”

The league’s superior speed and athleticism again was on display in the title game. But unlike last season, when Ohio State entered as a heavy favorite against the Gators and managed just 97 yards of total offense, it’s difficult to fault the Buckeyes too much for last night’s result. Just as they promised all week, the Buckeyes (11-2) were ready to play, bolting to an early lead and fighting gamely all night. But LSU simply had too much firepower to overcome.

The Tigers scored on the opening possession of the first half to move ahead 31-10 and spent the rest of the final half thwarting Ohio State’s comeback attempts with one of the most daunting defenses in recent memory. LSU defensive tackles Ricky Jean-Francois (defensive MVP) and All-American Glenn Dorsey kept pressure on Ohio State quarterback Todd Boeckman all night.

Twice in the fourth quarter, that pressure resulted in Boeckman turnovers, killing two Ohio State drives that threatened to reduce two-touchdown LSU leads and put pressure on the Tigers.

The first turnover came on a fourth down play near midfield as a LSU defender exploded through the Ohio State line and snuffed Boeckman during his arm cock, forcing a fumble that Harry Coleman recovered with 10:37 remaining. After a three-and-out possession, the LSU defense once again rose up with the Tigers leading 31-17 and Ohio State on the move.

Once again facing pressure up the middle, Boeckman attempted to force a ball into coverage and lost the throw high. LSU saftey Curtis Taylor came down with the interception with 5:43 remaining to set up the final LSU score.

“It hurts more than you can imagine,” said Ohio State tailback Chris “Beanie” Wells, who notched easily the Buckeyes’ most impressive performance by gaining 146 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. “To lose two years in a row in this game is just unreal.”

The Tigers didn’t exactly impress from the opening kickoff. Yielding a 65-yard touchdown run by Beanie Wells and busting a coverage to give Ohio State a field goal, LSU trailed 10-0 before many of the spectators had even found their seats.

But given the way LSU responded, few are likely to remember the sluggish start. In just over 13 minutes, the Tigers unloaded 24 unanswered points on Ohio State, providing an entire clip of ammunition for proponents of SEC speed in the process.

During the decisive run, the most obvious disparity between the teams wasn’t along the line of scrimmage, as it had been in Ohio State’s humiliating 41-14 loss to Florida in last season’s title game. This time the most obvious difference was at the skill positions.

The Buckeyes’ defensive backs absolutely could not cover LSU’s quartet of impressive wideouts. On the flip side, Ohio State wide receivers Brian Robiskie, Brian Hartline and Ray Small could not manage a sliver of separation against LSU’s athletic secondary.

On the one occasion when an Ohio State receiver did get loose behind the Tigers’ secondary, Robiskie dropped a touchdown pass that would have given the Buckeyes a 17-10 lead and stemmed the LSU momentum.

Instead, Robiskie’s drop led to a 38-yard field goal attempt blocked by LSU defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois. The Tigers immediately parlayed the miscue into points, marching down the field in 10 plays to take their first lead on a superb 10-yard, pitch-and-catch from Flynn to sophomore wide receiver Brandon LaFell.

Officially, LaFell beat All-Big Ten cornerback Malcolm Jenkins, sprinting to the back corner of the end zone. But Flynn’s toss was so perfectly placed that it wouldn’t have mattered if Champ Bailey had been covering LaFell.

The vaunted Tigers defense then chipped in a highlight of its own on Ohio State’s following possession.

Burned on the early bust and later bulldozed by Wells, LSU cornerback Chevis Jackson made amends on a third-down heave from Ohio State quarterback Todd Boeckman. Seemingly velcroed to Ohio State’s Small on a fly route, Jackson turned at precisely the right moment, hauled in an easy interception and returned the pick to the Ohio State 24.

Five plays later, Hester plowed into the end zone from 1 yard, giving LSU a 24-10 lead with 4:16 left before halftime and leaving little doubt of the eventual outcome.

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