Tuesday, January 6, 2004
Sharing just fine with Louisiana St.
Tigers thrilled with first national title since '58
The Associated Press
NEW ORLEANS - The colorful, rich history of Louisiana State University football now can claim the one thing that had been missing for almost a half-century: a national championship.
Backed by frenzied fans wearing purple feather boas, gold beads and faces painted with tiger stripes, LSU earned its share of the title Sunday night, holding off Heisman Trophy winner Jason White and Oklahoma 21-14 in the Sugar Bowl.
Jessie Daniels tipped away a fourth-down pass into the end zone with three minutes left, sealing a victory that made the Tigers the best team in the bayou, on Bourbon Street and in the Bowl Championship Series.
So what if it was Splitsville everywhere else in college football, with USC also earning a crown? The Tigers hardly cared.
"Do they deserve to share the title?" LSU All-America defensive tackle Chad Lavalais said. "Yeah. But when I tell my friends, I'm going to say we're national champions. In this part of the country, we are national champions.
"It doesn't bother me," he said of the split. "It's like winning the lottery, but you have to share the Powerball with another person. It's still a good deal."
The No. 2 Tigers received the USA Today/ESPN coaches' crown for beating the third-ranked Sooners.
Southern California won the Associated Press title with a 28-14 victory over Michigan in the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day.
"There was always a chance it could be out of whack, and it happened this year. It doesn't take anything away from what LSU accomplished," USC coach Pete Carroll said.
Too bad there's not one game left for winner-take-all.
"I think there'd be an awful lot of people who would love the matchup," Carroll said. "It would be exciting for the country. It's too bad it can't happen."
USC received 48 of the 65 first-place votes cast in the AP poll, and LSU got the other 17. Three coaches broke the USA Today/ESPN agreement and voted for USC.
Freshman Justin Vincent ran loose for 117 yards and was selected the Sugar Bowl's most outstanding player, defensive end Marcus Spears scored on an interception return, and coach Nick Saban's team never trailed in bringing LSU its first crown since 1958.
It was a rewarding win for Saban. He makes $1.5 million, but a clause in his contract said that if he won this game, he was guaranteed $1 more than the highest-paid college coach - Oklahoma's Bob Stoops, at $2.3 million.
"I'm just happy that we could make this state proud," Saban said. "We got tired at the end of the game, but we played from the heart."
Lavalais and his LSU teammates shut down the nation's top-scoring team for most of the game, extending the jinx that haunted previous Heisman winners such as Chris Weinke, Eric Crouch and Gino Torretta.
"It dampers it quite a bit," White said. "You win 12 games, and that's extremely hard to do in college football and you end up with nothing to show for it."
Defensive end Marquise Hill and his LSU teammates blitzed White a lot, often putting him on his back.
"He's Mr. Heisman and we wanted to go at him all night. That's a big award, and if you win it, you're going to pay for it," Hill said. "I said to him, 'Excuse me, Mr. Heisman. I'm going to be coming at you all night.' He just nodded his head at me."
White finished 13-for-37 for 102 yards with two interceptions. LSU quarterback Matt Mauck was efficient enough, overcoming two interceptions.
A record crowd of 79,342 that slowly made its way through heavy security before the game went crazy cheering for the Tigers (13-1), who finished last season out of the AP Top 25.
The Sooners (12-2) had seethed for nearly a month after their perfect season was wrecked in a humbling 35-7 loss to Kansas State in the Big 12 championship game.
"I wouldn't say we lost our swagger, guys just weren't making the plays they usually do," All-America defensive back Derrick Strait said.
He bet on baseball
Daugherty: Truth for sale
Editorial: Rose's confession doesn't change a thing
Rose grooves one for Selig
Rose felt heat in summer of '89
Roadblocks still occupy Rose's Cooperstown path
Gambling problems underestimated
Straight from Pete
Admission brings redemption
Hometown support strong
Rose memorabilia value should remain high
Revelation evokes relief, shock
Attention will shift to Selig's decision
What others are saying
Pete Rose timeline
Dantonio putting together his staff
MORE FOOTBALL HEADLINES
Bengals stay on Clear Channel
Manning wins starting spot among elite
Design new grid to crown champ
Sharing just fine with Louisiana St.
Title game ratings down from last year
Moeller's top ranking enhanced after close loss to national power
Covington Catholic maintains its perch atop boys rankings
Prep sports results, schedules
Broncos, Rockets, Flashes start quickly
Wildcats, Bearcats move up in polls
MORE SPORTS HEADLINES
Local hockey update
Sports on TV, radio