REPORT CARD: The Grades Are in From NOLA

In a season where the unexpected began and dictated every week it seemed, the outcome of the BCS National Championship Game was what everyone with a rational, normal brain thought it would be – LSU proving to be too much for the outright champions of the Big Ten Conference.

Following a regular season that saw LSU drop the No. 1 spot twice, earn every victory, and receive a bit of divine intervention, the Tigers ended up in New Orleans. Only, it wasn't for the game everyone expected it to be for after a devastating loss to Arkansas. Instead, LSU's fortunes were helped by Pitt taking down a West Virginia team that without its coach obliterated Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. How both of those instances took place will be pondered and debated for years to come.

Okay, so there was still some unexpected things that took place in LSU's win over Ohio State. Instead of needing a last-second field goal or a clock-defying touchdown strike, the Tigers took control fairly early and separated themselves for the most part. Additionally, it was the Buckeyes, not LSU, who committed the bulk of the penalties, and they were massive 15-yard penalties for the most part.

LSU had zero flags thrown their way in the first half and ended up with four for the entire game. Yes, the same Tigers that were all but the most penalized team in the nation this year. Maybe it had something to do with the referees. Thankfully for the bowl season, the SEC officials were sent to the Fiesta Bowl. All they did was flag the Sooners 13 times for 113 yards and the Mountaineers eight times for 110 yards.

So here it is, the final report card of the year…

OFFENSE

After a near disastrous first possession, LSU rebounded to rattle off 24 straight points in the first half and added seven more to start the third quarter. Matt Flynn's 11-of-15 first half passing performance for 118 yards and two touchdowns was impressive. He added two more touchdown passes before the night was over.

Nine different Tigers took at least one turn at rushing the ball, and eight LSU players registered at least one reception as the Tigers racked up a total of 326 yards. As impressive as the 11-of-18 on third down conversions were for the game, the 8-of-10 successful third down attempts in the first half alone was monstrous.

Early Doucet fought off three defenders for his touchdown reception, and Richard Dickson's two touchdown receptions show that tight ends aren't just for blocking in college. LSU's five touchdowns against Ohio State were the most for any opponent this season.

No holding calls, no false starts, no lining up incorrectly? Who were those helmeted men?

GRADE: A

DEFENSE

Like LSU's offense, the start for the defense was disastrous, what with Chris "Beanie" Wells escaping for a 65-yard touchdown run and Brandon Saine being left alone for a gain of 44 yards. But the Tigers rebounded in a big way.

Ohio State managed to get yards in chunks for much of the night it seemed, but the Buckeyes failure to convert on key third downs was fatal. A 3-for-13 third down conversion rate just won't get it done in any game and, if not for Flynn's only interception of the night, the Buckeyes may not have made it as close as they did. Heck, even on that four-play, 11-yard drive, Ohio State needed a fourth down conversion to score and needed over two minutes to move the ball into the end zone.

Intense pressure from the front, in spite of what appeared to be a lot of holding on the edges, was definitely a key to forcing some throws Todd Boeckman didn't want to make, and Harry Coleman's inspired play at safety after the loss of Craig Steltz was vital.

GRADE: A-

SPECIAL TEAMS

Forget Tim Tebow. Patrick Fisher is the real Superman.

Fisher punted three times, averaging 56.7 yards a punt, and even nailed another bomb when he was roughed up by the Buckeyes. That was a key penalty that led to another LSU touchdown.

Colt David, who unlike Fisher will be back next year, hit his 26th field goal of the season and extended his consecutive made PAT streak to 72 to move him into third place on LSU's list for consecutive successful tries.

The kickoff team didn't allow a return longer than 35 yards, and a punt return of nine yards was the best the Buckeyes could muster.

For LSU, the only major miscue was when Chad Jones fumbled away a punt that nearly gave the Buckeyes the ball inside of the Tigers 20 yard line with a 10-3 lead.

GRADE: B+

COACHING

With all of the distractions of Bo Pelini going to Nebraska and the regular issues a national championship game can bring when trying to stay focused, LSU still managed to dominate its opponent for the majority of the BCS National Championship Game.

Despite falling behind 10-0 early, LSU coach Les Miles and his coaching staff kept things together and righted the ship to win the ‘ship. They did so with great preparation, a tremendous game plan, and never stopped believing that they were deserving of being in the position that they were in to end the season.

For the most part, the mental mistakes were erased. There were times when timeouts needed to be called because the Tigers had too many or not enough men on the field, and there was a very costly unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after Harry Coleman's fumble recovery that knocked LSU back to its own 46 yard line when they were up 31-17. The Tigers came away with nothing on that drive, and there was still 9:02 remaining in the game when they had to punt.

Thankfully for LSU, all of their minor issues didn't really come into play, but ultimately, those multiple mental and discipline issues have to be erased before they ever happen.

GRADE: B+


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