Instant analysis: BCS title game -- LSU vs. Ohio State
NEW ORLEANS -- Here's a look at how LSU sprinted past Ohio State to a 38-24 win in the Allstate BCS National Championship Game:
How the game was won: After falling behind 10-0 early in the first quarter, LSU scored 24 consecutive points to lead by two touchdowns at the half. Ohio State never quit, but the Buckeyes couldn't really threaten the lead against LSU's vaunted defense. The Tigers turned up the heat on Ohio State quarterback Todd Boeckman and forced him to hurry too many throws. The Tigers also did a good job of containing Beanie Wells after the tailback ran for 119 yards in the first half. Once Ohio State fell behind by three touchdowns early in the third quarter, the Buckeyes couldn't use Wells much to get them back into the game. LSU forced Ohio State into a couple of costly mistakes -- the Tigers blocked a field goal and intercepted a pass down the left sideline to set up touchdowns in the first half.
Player of the game: LSU quarterback Matt Flynn made several big throws to put the Tigers up by two touchdowns late in the second quarter. Flynn, who didn't play in the SEC Championship Game because of a strained shoulder, completed 19 of 27 passes for 174 yards with four touchdowns and one interception. He didn't make many mistakes and managed the game very well. After the Buckeyes jumped out to a 10-point lead early in the game, Flynn kept his composure and led his team back.
Unsung player of the game: What didn't reserve safety Harry Coleman do for LSU's defense? In the first quarter, the sophomore from Baldwin, La., recovered a muffed punt return by LSU's Chad Jones at the Tigers' 16. In the second quarter, Coleman blitzed and hit Boeckman, forcing him to underthrow a pass down the left sideline. Cornerback Chevis Jackson intercepted the pass and returned it 34 yards to the Ohio State 24, setting up the touchdown that put LSU ahead 24-10 at the half. Coleman added another fumble recovery early in the fourth quarter, after linebacker Ali Highsmith drilled Boeckman on a fourth-down play.
Stat of the game: 11-for-18: LSU's offense on third-down plays. The Buckeyes were 3-for-13.
• Would Ohio State be able to handle LSU's speed better than it did Florida's last season in the BCS Championship Game? The Buckeyes struggled with LSU's strength and power more than its speed on Monday night. Defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey and ends Tyson Jackson and Kirston Pittman had their way against Ohio State's offensive line and pressured Boeckman relentlessly.
• Did LSU deserve to be here? The SEC champions more than proved they were worthy of playing for the BCS championship. More people might be asking if the Buckeyes truly deserved to be here.
• How much of an advantage would LSU have playing in New Orleans? It was a decided edge, but the Louisiana Superdome was pretty quiet when the Buckeyes went ahead 10-0. Once the Tigers started rolling, though, it was more like an LSU home game.
What's next for each team:
• LSU: The Tigers will be the favorites in the SEC West once again in 2008. But LSU will have to overhaul its roster because of so many seniors' leaving. Dorsey, Pittman, Highsmith, linebacker Luke Sanders and All-America safety Craig Steltz will be gone. Flynn and tailback Jacob Hester are seniors, as well, along with receiver Early Doucet. LSU will lose defensive coordinator Bo Pelini, who becomes the head coach at Nebraska.
• Ohio State: The Buckeyes were dominated in the BCS National Championship Game for the second season in a row, but Ohio State's future is pretty bright because so many young players are on the roster. Offensive tackle Kirk Barton is a big loss, and All-America junior linebacker James Laurinaitis might enter the NFL draft.
FIRST-HALF ANALYSISTurning point: There were plenty of choices in the first half. Take your pick:
1. Ohio State goes ahead 10-0 on Beanie Wells' 65-yard touchdown run, the longest in a BCS title game, and Ryan Pretorius' 25-yard field goal in the first quarter. A 5-yard false-start penalty, which occurred after the Buckeyes gained 5 yards on first down on their second scoring drive, might have prevented the Buckeyes from scoring a second touchdown to go ahead 14-0.
2. LSU avoided disaster at the end of the first quarter. After the Tigers' defense finally prevented Ohio State from hitting a big play, freshman Chad Jones fielded a punt inside LSU's 10. He gained 9 yards on the return before Ohio State's Shaun Lane jarred the football loose. LSU safety Harry Coleman recovered at the Tigers' 16.
3. After LSU cut its deficit to 10-3, the Tigers were driving early in the second quarter. They caught two huge breaks during the drive when Ohio State defensive tackle Todd Denlinger was penalized 15 yards for hitting Keiland Williams out of bounds. Two plays later, All-America linebacker James Laurinaitis was penalized for a face mask, moving LSU to the Ohio State 12. Quarterback Matt Flynn threw a touchdown to tight end Richard Dickson on the next play to tie the score at 10.
4. LSU got a big break when Ohio State's Brian Robiskie dropped what would have been a touchdown with 11 minutes to go in the half. Robiskie had the ball in his hands and attempted to cradle it into his chest, but it fell to the turf when he couldn't secure it. Pretorius lined up for a 38-yard field goal attempt, which was blocked by Ricky Jean-Francois with 10:53 to go. LSU scored about 2½ minutes later on Flynn's 10-yard touchdown to Brandon LaFell to take a 17-10 lead.
5. After LSU went ahead, Ohio State quarterback Todd Boeckman threw down the left sideline for sophomore Ray Small. Boeckman was drilled by Coleman right as he threw, causing him to throw the pass long. Cornerback Chevis Jackson intercepted the pass and returned it 34 yards to the Buckeye 24. Five plays later, Jacob Hester scored on a 1-yard run on third-and-goal to make it 24-10 with 4:16 to go in the half.
Best call: Flynn's 12-yard touchdown pass to Dickson, which tied the score at 10, was a great call by LSU offensive coordinator Gary Crowton. The call came immediately after a couple of momentum-changing penalties against Ohio State, and no one in the building expected Flynn to throw to the tight end. Dixon ran past Laurinaitis for his fourth touchdown catch of the season.
Best player in the half: Flynn, the LSU quarterback, played remarkably well in the first half and managed the offense well. After the Tigers fell behind 10-0, Flynn remained calm and composed and led his team back. Flynn completed 11 of 15 passes for 118 yards with two touchdowns. Hester hasn't found a lot of room running against Ohio State's defense, so Flynn has had to make several big throws.
Three things LSU needs to do:
1. Run the football better. Hester has provided LSU with a couple of big runs, but the Buckeyes have done a decent job of slowing him down. Hester hasn't found much room at all around the end.
2. Tackle better. The Tigers didn't tackle very well at all in the early parts of the game, but did a better job once they settled down. Wells was able to break several tackles in the first half.
3. Keep the pressure on Boeckman. LSU's defense did a good job of pressuring Ohio State's quarterback in the first half and he doesn't seem comfortable in the pocket.
Three things Ohio State needs to do:
1. Cut out the penalties. The Buckeyes were hit with three personal-foul penalties in the first half, two of which moved LSU down the field and another that knocked Ohio State out of the red zone.
2. Protect the quarterback. Ohio State's offensive line is having problems protecting the quarterback for the second year in a row against an SEC defense. LSU's front of Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson had its way with the Buckeyes in the first half.
3. Keep handing the ball to Beanie. Wells is one of the fastest players on the field. He ran for 119 yards and one touchdown on 10 carries in the first half. If Ohio State is going to come back, the Buckeyes will need more long runs from him.
Mark Schlabach covers college football and men's college basketball for ESPN.com. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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