NEW ORLEANS - Les Miles unleashed an ear-piercing whoop, then leaned back and exhaled as if he had been holding his breath all night.
“I just had to do that,” the LSU coach said.
Easy for him to say, now that he has the BCS national championship trophy.
The second-ranked Tigers danced, dodged and darted their way into the end zone Monday night, turning the title game into a horrible replay for No. 1 Ohio State. It was over early, with Matt Flynn throwing four touchdown passes in a 38-24 win.
They made it look easy with Matt Flynn throwing four touchdown passes. Now the debate begins: Are they the best?
In a season of surprises, this was hardly an upset: Ohio State once again fell apart in college football’s biggest game. A year after the Buckeyes were routed by Florida 41-14, they barely did better.
But this was unprecedented. Playing at their home-away-from-home in the Big Easy, the Tigers (12-2) became the first two-loss team to compete for the title.
Still, LSU was a runaway No. 1 in the final Associated Press poll. The Tigers received 60 of 65 first-place votes from a national media panel. Georgia, Southern California, Missouri and Ohio State rounded out the top five. Georgia had three first-place votes while Southern California and No. 7 Kansas each had one.
And while Miles got to hoist the $30,000 crystal prize, surely many fans around the country were wondering if someone else was equally worthy.
Rob Carr / AP
LSU All-American defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey lets the nation know which team finished the college football season on top.
“Certainly there will be some argument as to who’s the best team. But I think the national champion has been crowned tonight,” Miles said. “I have give great credit to some divine intervention that allows us to be in this position.”
Shouts of “SEC! SEC!” bounced around the Superdome as the Tigers won their second BCS crown in five seasons. They are the first school to win a second title since BCS rankings began with the 1998 season.
“My team is the No. 1 team in the land,” said All-American defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, who passed up the NFL draft to return for his senior season.
LSU rallied from an early 10-0 deficit, taking a 24-10 halftime lead that held up.
“We just didn’t do the things you need to do to win a ballgame of this nature. We’re very aware that LSU’s a deserving champion,” Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said.
Jacob Hester bulled for a short touchdown, Early Doucet wiggled loose for a touchdown and Dorsey led a unit that outplayed the top-ranked defense in the nation.
Ohio State (11-2) had little to celebrate after Chris “Beanie” Wells broke loose for a 65-yard TD run on the fourth play of the game.
“It’s unbelievable to know you’ve failed two years in a row,” Wells said.
LSU, whose two losses both came in triple overtime, became just the fourth favorite to win in 10 BCS championship games. The Tigers added to the crown they won in 2003 — their other national championship came in 1958.
“We came out here with the right frame of mind. We kept hanging in there,” Flynn said.
Miles probably got a little extra satisfaction, too. Though he turned down a chance to return home to Michigan, he did something his alma mater hasn’t done recently — beat the Buckeyes.
The loss left Ohio State at 0-9 overall in bowl games against teams from the Southeastern Conference. The SEC delights in whipping Big Ten teams in what’s become a rivalry that steams up fans on both sides.
Better on offense and defense, the Tigers got two big plays on special teams — Ricky Jean-Francois blocked a field goal, and LSU took advantage of a roughing-the-kicker penalty.
Flynn finished 19-for-27 for 174 yards and was picked the game’s most outstanding offensive player.
As the clock ticked down, Boeckman threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Brian Hartline.
Ohio State was trying to win its second BCS title in six years, and add to the one that Tressel captured by upsetting Miami 31-24 in double overtime for the 2002 championship.
Instead, the Tigers ravaged the nation’s best defense and showed that maybe all those naysayers were right.
“I worry about disappointment because of how hard the kids work. I don’t worry about criticism,” Tressel said. “If you struggle taking criticism, you better not be at Ohio State and better not be playing football.”
Known as a punishing runner, Wells got the game off to a quick start. On the fourth play from scrimmage, the Buckeyes’ bruising back started left, made a nifty cut right and burst through the middle.
Wells was gone, off on the longest run of his career. And so much for SEC speed — Wells outran All-America safety Craig Steltz for a 65-yard TD.
Wells was welcomed by a familiar face once he got back to the sideline. Miami Dolphins receiver Ted Ginn Jr., wearing scarlet and gray Mardi Gras beads, knew all about early strikes. He provided Ohio State’s only highlight in last year’s BCS title game, returning the opening kickoff for a touchdown.
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Take visual tour of LSU's victory over Ohio State.
Miles smiles, Tressel troubled
Jan. 7: LSU, Ohio State coaches talk to media after Tigers' 38-24 win in BCS title game.
Video: Football from NBC Sports
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