January 8, 2008

Their own worst enemy

NEW ORLEANS- In the Ohio State locker room the message was clear on the whiteboard. Let there be no doubt was the mantra for the game and after the team did its best job of shooting itself in the foot the LSU Tigers are the nation's top team and there is plenty of doubt around the Ohio State program. The Buckeyes saw a 10 point lead disappear with 31 unanswered points by LSU and whenever it appeared that Ohio State would get close the Tigers would impose their will and march down the field en route to a 38-24 win.

"Hats off to LSU," Tressel said. "They did a great job preparing for this game. We said all along they're a very tough football team, a very mature football team. It was a clean, hard, tough football game. Our kids played hard to the bitter end, and we just didn't do the things that you need to do to win a ball game of this nature."

It is hard to find one factor that led to the outcome with the Buckeyes struggling with penalties (five personal fouls), tackling (multiple missed tackles), turnovers (three) and most importantly third down stops (LSU converted 11 of 18 but were 8 of 10 at the half).

"With a team like LSU and they way they can run the ball, third- and-one or two is going to be hard to defend," Jenkins said. "I think we did a good job of putting them in some situations but we couldn't convert and get off the field."

The Buckeyes charged up the scarlet and gray clad fans with a four play drive that was capped off with a 65-yard Chris Wells (20 carries for 146 yards) touchdown off the cutback. Ben Person was instrumental in breaking Beanie with a perfectly executed seal block that sprung the sophomore tailback. The SEC speed was not a factor on this play with nobody coming close to catching the slower Big Ten back. Beanie may have been able to enjoy his run if the outcome would have turned out the other way.

"You have to give credit to the offensive line," Wells said. "But today's not the day to dwell on that. As you can see, we took a loss today. It's unbelievable."

The Ohio State defense followed the cue and forced a three-and-out on the next series to set up the Buckeye offense again. Brandon Saine (3 receptions for 69 yards) lined up as a wideout and was the target of a 41-yard pass play out of the empty backfield.

"It felt good to get in the game but everything didn't turn out the way we thought it would," Saine said.

The Buckeyes appeared to be in position to get another touchdown but a costly false start penalty on Steve Rehring backed the Buckeyes up five yards and the team had to settle for a 25-yard field goal by Ryan Pretorius to go up by 10-0.

The Tigers finally got on the board on a 14 play, 65 yard drive that culminated with a 32 yard Colt David field goal. The Buckeyes looked like they might be able to start to be able to piece another scoring drive together after a pair of Beanie runs but after Ohio State looked to go deep on a pass to Brian Hartline (6 receptions for 75 yards, 1 touchdown) the team was stuck in 2nd and long and unable to score.

The Tigers evened things up at the start of the second quarter with the aid of a pair of Ohio State personal fouls. The Ohio State fans disagreed with the calls against Todd Denlinger and James Laurinaitis but it was to no avail. Matt Flynn hooked up with [/db]Richard Dickson[/db] off the quick snap and connected on a 13 yard touchdown strike. It would not be the first time that a tight end would run wide open.

"They ran a formation that I hadn't seen and when I recognized it in time it was too late for the first tight end touchdown," safety Kurt Coleman said. "The other one I think that one of our guys that him man got caught peeking in the backfield so he just slipped by him."

The Buckeyes came roaring back with a season highlight run by Beanie Wells who went down the left side and got into space and put Chevis Jackson on his backside with a perfect stiff arm. The run picked up 29 yards and the Buckeyes broke into LSU territory. The hits kept rolling on when Todd Boeckman (15-26, 2 TD 2 INT) hit Brian Robiskie (5 receptions for 50 yards, 1 touchdown) on a 19 yard strike to get inside the 30 yard line. But the Buckeyes fell victim again to the penalty bug and picked up another 15-yard personal foul (Brian Hartline).

"My emotions got a hold of me and it was pretty uncharacteristic," Hartline said. "I deserved it. Things were said and I reacted obviously and I got popped. He got in my face kind of and I went back at him and it was deserved, I shoved him (Jonathan Zenon)."

It seemed as if all was not lost when the Buckeyes appeared to connect on a 21 yards touchdown pass to Brian Robiskie. The only problem was that Robo dropped the ball before he established possession and the pass was ruled incomplete. The drive fizzled with Pretorius getting blocked on a 38 yard field goal try.

"As soon as they blocked that field goal we knew," offensive tackle Alex Boone said. "We kept saying that we have to get a hand on them because they are going to block one and they did and that is when the game kind of turned around and we were like, 'This is going to be a battle now.' We thought we had a chance in third (quarter) when that interception happened and it just didn't work our way."

LSU picked up more momentum with that narrow escape and capitalized. The LSU running game started to pick up momentum and a pass from Flynn to Keith Zinger kept the ball moving. It appeared on replays that Zinger fumbled the ball before he was down but the ball was blown dead and OSU fans know what that means (after the Illinois game). LSU got into the end zone with a Flynn pass to Brandon LaFell from 15 yards out and the Tigers took their first lead of the game. Malcolm Jenkins appeared to have LaFell covered but the LSU receiver was able to separate at the last second and pull it in at the corner of the end zone.

Bad turned to worse for Ohio State after a pair of ineffective plays Boeckman tried to do a little too much and was picked off by Chevis Jackson who returned it 34 yards to the Ohio State 24 yard line.

The Tigers promptly marched 23 yards and even though it took a couple cracks to go the last yard the Tigers punched it in with a 1-yard Jacob Hester run. The Buckeyes who celebrated a 10-point lead in the first half quickly found themselves down two touchdowns with two minutes to go in the half.

In the second half it seemed like the Buckeyes climbed out of the weeds aided by a intentional grounding call that put the Tigers back in a punt situation but things were not meant to be when Austin Spitler broke free and came up the middle and caught the LSU punter for a roughing the kicker call on a 4th and 23. Tack on the 5th personal foul of the night on Cameron Heyward and the Tigers marched in for a Doucet 4-yard TD catch.

Ohio State finally caught a break with a Malcolm Jenkins interception late in the third quarter. The junior cornerback nearly returned it for the pick six but stepped out of bounds at the 11. It took four plays but the Buckeyes got back on the board with a touchdown pass to Robiskie. The Buckeyes cut the deficit to 14.

After a three and out the Buckeyes marched down the field and were faced with the latest play of the game. Backed up to its own 34 the Bucks needed seven yards to keep the drive alive and for all intents and purposes keep any chances of a comeback alive. Boeckman dropped back to pass and took long to find anything and was crushed and coughed up the ball and LSU took hope out of the Buckeye's hands one more time.

In the final two minutes the Tigers hit pay dirt when the game was already decided when Dickson caught a five yard TD pass from Flynn. Ohio State added a final touchdown 37 seconds later on a Hartline 15 yard reception but it was just for the record books and had no bearing on the events of the night.

A bad outing all-around made things downright impossible for the Buckeyes but take nothing away from the Tigers who earned all of the spoils of the big win.

"The penalties were really big and they came back to haunt us in the end we got the loss," defensive back Jamario O'Neal said.

"They made plays and we didn't," offensive tackle Kirk Barton said. "We made a lot of negative plays between turnovers and poor special teams and lax pass protection and they really made some plays and we didn't."

The frustration of the night was best voiced by the usually reserved Jim Heacock after the game.

"They are very good, very talented and very physical up front," Heacock said. "You want to cut my wrist and take some blood (laugh)? What do you want? You can have some blood, heck I will give it to you (laugh). We just didn't play well enough to win."

"We shot ourselves in the foot a few times," Laurinaitis said. "Especially defensively we had guys that we left wide open and mental errors. Against a great team like LSU you can't do that. Anytime you lose a game by one or by any margin you are going to be upset about it and it is obviously disappointing."


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