With a crushing 38-24 win over Ohio State in Monday’s Bowl Championship Series Championship Game, LSU left little doubt in the minds of those in the college football universe who the best team was during the 2007 season. Forget USC. Forget Georgia. Forget Ohio State. Remember LSU.
National Champions again!
The Tigers (12-2) became the fist two-time winner of the BCS Championship by dominating the most of the game and outscoring the Buckeyes 31-0 over a 24-minute stretch. LSU also improved to 4-0 in BCS games since the series began in 1998, the best record of any team. Ohio State fell to 4-2, both losses in the past two championship games.
Head coach Les Miles, in his third season at LSU, lifted the $30,000 Waterford Crystal football-shaped trophy amid a cloud of purple and gold ticker tape -- a cloud that lifted moments later for the coach that's won 34 games against six losses since arriving in Baton Rouge in 2005.
Tiger quarterback Matt Flynn was nearly flawless, save for a third-quarter interception in LSU territory that gave a brief hint of hope to the Ohio State fans, on his way to winning the offensive Most Outstanding Player Award. Aside from the errant toss, Flynn jabbed and upper-cutted the Buckeyes on his way to completing 19-of-27 for 174 yards and a career-high four touchdown passes in his final game as a Tiger.
“It’s very special to me to be part of such a great team with such great guys,” Flynn said. “We came out here with the right frame of mind and just executed.”
Tiger defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois garnered defensive M.O.P. honors chiefly for blocking a second-quarter, 38-yard field goal attempt that kept the game tied at 10-10 and swung the momentum completely in LSU’s favor. The Tigers scored 31 unanswered points after taking control near midfield following the blocked kick. Jean-Francois also recorded six tackles, including 1.5 for loss and combined on a sack.
“I knew this team was competitive and I knew they would fight like heck,” LSU Coach Les Miles said after winning his first National Championship as a coach and leading the Tigers to three-consecutive 11-plus win seasons. “This (LSU) is a great place to get an education and a great place to win championships.”
Ironically, considering the final score, Ohio State out-gained LSU 353-326 on offense but also made a bevy of mistakes unbecoming a team trying to win a championship game. The Buckeyes turned the ball over three times, compared to LSU’s one while committing seven penalties for a very costly 83 yards. LSU limited its penalties to just four for 36 yards, none in the first half.
Against the nation's top-ranked defense that had allowed only 30 percent third-down convertions this season, the Tigers converted 8-of-9 in the first half and 11-of-14 in the first three quarters. LSU finished 11 of 18.
Buckeye tailback Chris Wells carried the ball 20 times for 146 yards and a touchdown. Most of that production came early in the contest as he was only able to gain 27 yards in the second half.
LSU’s Jacob Hester led the Tigers with another workman-like 86 yards on 21 carries and one touchdown to cap his outstanding and heroic LSU career.
Ohio State quarterback Todd Boeckman completed 15-of-26 passes for 208 yards and two touchdowns but also threw two interceptions and lost a fumble on one of LSU's five sacks.
Ohio State started the contest impressively as Wells broke a 65-yard touchdown run through the middle of the LSU defense before either team’s fans had a chance to settle into their seats. Wells ran the simple off tackle run on the fourth play of the drive for the longest run from scrimmage in a BCS Championship Game. The gallop gave the Buckeyes a 7-0 lead with 13:34 to play in the first quarter.
LSU hurt its cause even more on the ensuing series when Flynn fumbled the shotgun snap from center Brett Helms on a third-and-7 at the LSU 23. Flynn recovered the botched snap at his 7-yard line, forcing the Tigers to punt from deep in their end zone.
The Buckeyes took over at their 41 after Patrick Fisher boomed a 62-yard punt and the Buckeyes quickly launched into LSU territory again. Boeckman hit a wide-open Brandon Saine who tiptoed down the sideline to the LSU 15. LSU’s defense stiffened though, and held the Buckeyes to a 25-yard Ryan Pretorious field goal four plays later that gave Ohio State a 10-0 advantage with 9:12 to play in the opening quarter.
The Tigers made up the stagger some on the next drive as they methodically drove deep into Ohio State territory on a 14-play, 6:51 drive highlighted by a 20-yard Hester run on its sixth play. LSU’s push stopped at the Buckeye 15 giving Colt David a chance to add the Tigers’ first points with a 32-yard field goal with 2:21 remaining in the first quarter.
LSU made up the stagger completely on its next possession aided by 30 yards in Buckeye personal foul penalty yards. Flynn ended the drive on it’s seventh play when he lobbed a 13-yard pass to tight end Richard Dickson who was standing all alone just shy of the goal line. The drive consumed just 2:07 and tied the score 10-10 with 13:00 left to play in the first half.
Ohio State appeared ready to take the lead again on the next possession, driving to the LSU 28 in just three plays. But, a personal foul too away their touchdown scoring chance and the Tigers shoved a 38-yard field goal field goal attempt back at Pretorious when Jean-Francois knifed through the line. Darry Beckwith recovered the bouncing ball at the 34.
Ten plays later, LSU took its first lead when Flynn capped a run-dominated drive with a precisely tossed 10-yard touchdown pass to Brandon LaFell in the back of the endzone. The David point after gave the Tigers a 17-10 advantage with 7:25 remaining on the first half clock.
LSU scored again before the Tiger fans had a chance to rest their voices from Flynn’s toss. Tiger cornerback Chevis Jackson intercepted a Boeckman pass in one-on-one coverage at the LSU 42 and returned it to the Ohio State 24. Five plays later, Hester plowed into the endzone from the 1-yard line to stake LSU to a 24-10 lead after David’s point after sailed true with 4:16 to play in the half.
“The defense just settled down,” Miles said. “We blocked that field goal, got a turnover on an interception and really stemmed the tide. Our defense started settling down and they really couldn’t score with us.”
LSU ran its unanswered scoring streak to 31 when Early Doucet plowed through two Buckeye tacklers and into the endzone after taking in a Flynn pass at the 4-yard line with 9:04 to play in the third quarter. The catch capped a plodding 14-play, 80-yard drive to open the second half. Again, LSU’s push was extended by two Buckeye personal fouls, the first a very costly roughing the kicker on 4th-and-23 at the LSU 40 that gave LSU a first down in Ohio State territory. The scoring voyage consumed 5:56 and gave the Tigers a 31-10 lead.
But, the Tigers handed the Buckeyes the chance to get back into the game on their next possession when Flynn tossed an interception to OSU cornerback Malcolm Jenkins at the LSU 34. Jenkins returned the pick to the LSU 11, giving Boeckman a chance to find Brian Robiskie just across the goal line on a fourth-down play from the 5-yard line. The catch cut the LSU lead to 31-17 with 1:38 remaining in the third quarter.
Ohio State again penetrated into LSU territory on its next possession but the LSU defense didn’t crack. Facing a third-and-4 at the Tiger 31, Boeckman was pulled to the turf by defensive end Kirston Pittman for a three-yard loss forcing the Buckeyes to try to convert a fourth-and-7. Boeckman, finding no open receivers, was forced to scramble to his right, right into a crushing sack by linebacker Ali Highsmith who forced a fumble which was recovered by defensive back Harry Coleman.
LSU took possession at the Ohio State 46 but could not convert a first down forcing Fisher to punt from the spot where the Tigers claimed possession after a delay of game penalty.
Ohio State pushed its next possession to near midfield, but was knocked into a third-and-15 situation at its 40 when Glen Dorsey sacked Boeckman for a 5-yard loss on first down and batted away a pass intended for Brian Hartline on second down. Tiger defensive back Curtis Taylor intercepted Boeckman on third down at the LSU 43 to effectively salt away LSU’s national championship.
Nine plays later, Flynn again tossed to a wide open Dickson in the endzone as the purple and gold clad erupted in what was sure victory for the Tigers. The 5-yard touchdown toss ran the scoring tally to 38-17 LSU after the David point after as the Tiger faithful chanted “SEC” as the Buckeyes smarted from another lopsided National Championship Game defeat at the hands of a Southeastern Conference team.
Ohio State added its most inconsequential touchdown of the season four plays later on a 15-yard pass from Boeckman to Hartline.
LSU reeled in the ensuing on-sides kick try and Flynn knelt his way to the win as the clock expired.
“We knew we would have to play well to win,” Miles said. “I feel very fortunate that we played the way we did. This is a great group of young men, our senior class, a number of men, who knew how to commit to a team and to fight like hell.”
A Superdome record 79,651 fans attended the game.