BCS Championship Game Notebook

Staff Columnist
Posted Jan 8, 2008

The LSU Tigers are in the winner's circle because of their quarterback. In like Flynn, the Bayou Bengals managed to win with Flynn as well. More on that story and other items in a wrap-up of Monday night's big game.

The first, last and biggest story of the 2008 BCS Championship Game lay in the fact that after a markedly inconsistent season, LSU quarterback Matt Flynn saved his very best for the last game of his collegiate career, which ends with a national crown. Flynn made just one huge mistake, an interception by Ohio State's Malcolm Jenkins that led to a Buckeye touchdown late in the third quarter. Aside of that one snap, however, Flynn avoided the up-and-down inconsistency that gave the LSU coaching staff elevated blood pressure levels throughout 2007. Unsteady quarterbacking has been a consistent feature of the Les Miles era in Baton Rouge, but for one night, Matt Flynn lent stability and soundness to an LSU attack. The puzzling Jekyll-and-Hyde routines against Alabama and Arkansas became delightfully distant memories relegated to the dustbin of history.

Flynn flew to heroic heights on this night in Nawlins because his offensive coordinator, Gary Crowton, used him so superbly. LSU started with the power game, before stretching Ohio State's defense horizontally and then attacking the Buckeyes vertically. Slowly and sequentially, Crowton gave Flynn new ways to expose the defense that stared him down. Starting with draws, Flynn then executed rollouts and sprint passes. Those plays, in turn, set up quick pops in the seams and misdirection throwback passes. Collectively, these multiple uses of Flynn's athleticism had a marked effect on LSU's productivity. Piece by piece and play by play, a quarterback found new ways to confound his red-shirted opponents. Flynn had a game plan that enabled him to make simple reads while maintaining ball security. The LSU coaching staff did its homework on Monday, and Flynn reaped the benefits.

From the officiating files: Did the knees or elbows of LSU tight end Keith Zinger ever touch the ground on a play with roughly 10 minutes left in the second quarter? It sure seemed that his body landed on top of a Buckeye defender before he fumbled. It would have helped if FOX, which has been incredibly deficient at showing the entirety of important replays in each of its two years as the main BCS broadcast network, had shown the play to its conclusion. No one in America received an adequate look at this overlooked sequence of tumbles and (possibly) fumbles.

Officiating files, part two: How come the far side line judge, not the near side line judge, stepped in to make the (proper) call on Jacob Hester's touchdown late in the second quarter? Hester was in the end zone on the first try, not the second effort, but the near side line judge biffed the call. Thank goodness his colleague intervened.

Further proof that BCS title games are rarely about coaching or strategy, and all about emotions and momentum: Ohio State's early 10-0 run was caused by one quick cluster of three plays. A Chris Wells run, a bad LSU snap, and a busted LSU coverage (nothing more) created the early Buckeye burst. Later, a two-play sequence—a Brian Robiskie drop, immediately followed by a blocked field goal—created the entire impetus for a 14-0 LSU run that closed the first half. The big plays of the second half were all too evident: a roughing-the-punter penalty against Ohio State led to an LSU touchdown. A bad interception led to a Buckeye score. This was not a game won or lost by sustained dominance (or futility). Small bunches of big plays (and blunders) told the tale.

Don't blame OSU's Austin Spitler for the roughing-the-punter penalty in the third quarter… at least, not in the way you'd expect. Spitler had that punt smothered. The penalty wasn't a failure of the mind, but of the body. The punt should have been blocked, but wasn't, all because Spitler didn't go for the ball. He instead went for the midsection of LSU punter Patrick Fisher. Remember, kids, that it's not bad to try for a punt block if you have the opening. The key is to take the ball off the foot of the punter, instead of going for physical contact with the punter himself. If Spitler makes a play he should have made, this game could have acquired a very different flavor as the third quarter continued.

Don't bag on Buckeye head coach Jim Tressel after a second straight BCS title game loss. It was a minor miracle that the Bucks made it back to the big show this season, for one thing. Secondly, Ohio State simply had the lesser players in this fight. LSU delivered the devastation to an opponent that hadn't registered a particularly impressive victory all season. If the Bucks had beaten a healthy Michigan team in the season finale, Ohio State would have possessed more street cred heading into the Superdome. But since the Wolverines were so banged up (look what they did to Florida when their bumps and bruises vanished, enabling Lloyd Carr's team to finally operate, and click, on all cylinders) when the Buckeyes bested them in Ann Arbor, one never got to see a signature performance from the Big Ten champions. Don't blame Tressel for presiding over a loss in a game when LSU's talent did the dictating.

Finally, don't trot out the SEC-Big Ten angle, or Ohio State's 0-9 record against SEC teams in bowl games. The Buckeyes looked like the faster team early, when LSU seemed stuck in molasses. These games are not measurements of NFL combine ability; they're laboratories of human emotions. And guess which team will always have a speed advantage, all other things being relatively equal? Yeah, you got it—the team that's confident, amped-up, and happy. Conference superiority (or inferiority) is overrated in individual matchups and single-game showdowns.

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