NEWS

After positive start, Buckeyes collapse in loss to LSU

Josh Weir

Possible redemption awaited in the Bayou. A season of being doubted and slighted could have been answered with a statement Monday night.

However, for the second straight season, the Ohio State Buckeyes were left with their mouths gaping open at the biggest moment. Nothing to say now. Just another silent BCS night for the Buckeyes.

The LSU Tigers found it easy in the Big Easy, scoring 31 unanswered points, and rolled to a 38-24 win in the BCS national championship game at the Superdome.

A Superdome-record 79,651 fans watched LSU earn its third national championship in school history and become the first program to win multiple titles in the BCS’ 10 years.

LSU coach Les Miles was asked what he learned about his team in this season of ups and downs for the Tigers (12-2).

“Nothing,” Miles said. “I knew they were competitive. I knew they’d fight like hell.”

Chants of “SEC” rained from the LSU fans, no doubt keeping in mind the Buckeyes’ now 0-9 record vs. the conference in bowl games. Ohio State (11-2) has another season of carrying the big, slow Big Ten tag after getting trounced in a national title game.

“It hurts tremendously,” Ohio State’s Beanie Wells said. “I can’t compare losing in two national championship games to anything. It’s incredible.”

The Tigers’ special teams unit danced during a third quarter-TV timeout. The masses of LSU fans that packed the city were no doubt dancing on Bourbon Street. The Tigers were home, moving their record to 13-4 all-time in the dome.

Ohio State fans did their best, but LSU made this feel like Baton Rouge South.

“We enjoy playing in this arena,” Miles said. “We enjoy playing in the state of Louisiana.”

Life was good for the Buckeyes early. By the 9:12 mark of the first quarter they led 10-0. They had already surpassed their total for offensive yards from last year’s 41-14 debacle to Florida.

However, the second quarter read like the script of a horror movie for Ohio State. The Buckeyes committed three personal fouls, had a field goal blocked and threw an interception. A roughing-the-punter penalty and another personal foul aided LSU’s scoring drive to start the third quarter.

“I don’t feel we lost our composure at any point,” OSU coach Jim Tressel said.

Meanwhile, Miles was a mad scientist on the LSU sideline. The Tigers’ countless formations and variations, mixed with motion and misdirection, had Ohio State’s defense -- ranked No. 1 nationally in scoring, passing and total defense entering Monday -- on its heels.

LSU senior quarterback Matt Flynn, a kid stuck behind JaMarcus Russell the past two seasons, completed 19-of-27 passes for 174 yards and four touchdowns. He earned the game’s Offensive MVP award.

Wells was effective when he got the chance, finishing with 146 yards on 20 carries. He ran 65 yards on the game’s fourth play to give the Buckeyes a 7-0 lead.

But Ohio State wasn’t able to sustain it.

“LSU did a good job of keeping the football,” Tressel said. “It just seemed like we didn’t have the number of possession we wanted, especially in that first half.”

Ohio State quarterback Todd Boeckman didn’t help matters. He threw for 208 yards and two TDs, but also tossed two costly interceptions.

With the Buckeyes leading 10-3 to start the second quarter, two personal fouls on Ohio State aided an LSU scoring drive. After the second penalty, the Tigers rushed to the line, catching the Buckeyes off-guard. LSU tight end Richard Dickson caught a wide-open 13-yard TD pass to tie the game.

Wells ripped off a 29-yard run where he made LSU’s Chevis Jackson look silly with a stiff arm. A 19-yard pass to Brian Robiskie followed.

But another personal foul pushed the Buckeyes back. They settled for a field goal try. LSU’s Ricky Jean-Francois ran over Ohio State’s Ben Person and blocked the kick. Danny Beckwith recovered for LSU, giving the Tigers a vital momentum swing.

“It looked like they penetrated well, and got into the backfield. I don’t think it was a high kick,” Tressel said. “I think it was a combination of both.”

Jean-Francois, who added six tackles, three solos and 1 ½ tackles-for-loss, earned the game’s defensive MVP honors. LSU grabbed the lead when Flynn delivered a perfect toss while being drilled by James Laurinaitis. Brandon LaFell hauled in the 10-yard touchdown in the back left corner with 7:25 left in the second quarter.

It wasn’t long before the Tigers were roaring again.

Under heavy pressure from LSU’s Harry Coleman, Boeckman tried to find Ray Small down the left sideline. Jackson – the victim of Wells’ stiff-arm earlier -- made an over-the shoulder interception.

Jacob Hester eventually made Ohio State pay with 1-yard TD run on third-and-goal. Laurinaitis hesitated ever-so-slightly, giving Hester enough room to sneak across the goal line and give the Tigers a 24-10 lead that they would take into the halftime locker room.

“They beat us and just out-physicaled us,” Laurinaitis said.

The lead swelled to 31-10 early in the third when two Buckeyes ran into each other, allowing Early Doucet to score on a 4-yard TD catch.

Malcolm Jenkins gave Ohio State a shot of life with a interception that turned into a 5-yard Brian Robiskie TD grab on fourth down.

But Ohio State couldn’t take advantage. One possession ended with Ali Highsmith drilling Boeckman and forcing a fumble. The next ended with Boeckman lofting an interception into the middle of the field.

Much like last year’s title game, the Buckeyes started fast.

After Wells’ big run -- the longest from scrimmage in BCS title game history, Brandon Saine’s 44-yard reception set up Ryan Pretorious’ 25-yard field goal, giving Ohio State a 10-0 lead. The Tigers didn’t panic.

“We had to keep playing,” Flynn said. “We knew the going to come out with a big surge. We knew we just had to stay in there and keep playing our game.”

Reach Repository sports writer Josh Weir at (330) 580-8426 or e-mail josh.weir@cantonrep.com