NEW ORLEANS — The luck of the Irish didn’t just run dry; it was annihilated. After the Bayou Bengals steamrolled the Notre Dame Fightin’ Irish 41-14 at the Allstate Sugar Bowl Wednesday night, the Tiger faithful decidedly did not exit the Louisiana Superdome quietly, nor did they do so humbly.
While the Irish fans walked out as mourners, LSU devotees marched out as if part of a second line. As chants of “LSU” and “Tiger Bait” filled the Superdome, a few fans summed up the game in their own Tiger-striped point of view.
“Great win,” said a noticeably hoarse LSU fan from Hammond. “We knew the Tigers were going to do it. Notre Dame played nobody all season.”
As it turns out, a supposedly slow Notre Dame football team can run after all. The Irish just couldn’t do it, or much of anything else, in the second half of the Sugar Bowl, when LSU largely and expertly kept the ball out of Notre Dame hands.
The Tigers flat-out ran the Irish out of the building Wednesday, owning the third quarter, then the entire second half, then the 2007 Sugar Bowl and all of its hardware on this night in LSU’s home-away-from-home Louisiana Superdome.
JaMarcus Russell, the unanimous choice for the game’s Most Outstanding Player, threw two touchdown passes and ran for another to lead the Tigers to a 41-14 victory over Notre Dame.
“He was on top of his game tonight,” LSU receiver Craig Davis said. “Very sharp.”
LSU, which finished with an 11-2 record for the second consecutive year, closed with a seven-game winning streak. Notre Dame (10-3) set an NCAA record by stretching its bowl losing streak to nine games.
Russell, who now must decide whether to turn pro or return to LSU for his senior season, removed any doubt of the game’s outcome with 18 seconds left in the third quarter. He gave the Tigers a 34-14 lead with a 58-yard pass to Brandon LaFell, tying LSU’s longest play from scrimmage this season.
Russell left the game just inside 5 minutes left, turning the offense over to backup quarterback Matt Flynn as teammates and fans cheered Russell.
LSU fans in the Poydras Avenue end zone, the home-team end zone, chanted “One more year!”
Russell later said he and his family have a lot to think about.
Davis said Russell’s performance was not one of his best, but he explained why that wasn’t a criticism. “Just average,” Davis said, “but an average game by JaMarcus Russell is better than your usual quarterback.”
What an exciting game! Of course, it could have been a lot more exciting if we had been playing a higher ranked team. Well, Notre Dame has some talented players and a good football team. They were impressive on occasion during the first half, and there's no doubt in my mind that they had the potential to beat LSU... what they needed was a tougher schedule to prepare them for SEC football.
Seriously, you take most of the top 20 teams and look at their schedule: what a joke! Put those same teams on an SEC schedule, where every game is like a big bowl game, then you'll see where they belong in the rankings.
On another note... I would like to take this opportunity to distinguish between balls and brains: It takes balls to call a fake punt in a big football game, but it takes brains to know when to do it. You most certainly DO NOT call a fake punt on your own 30 yard line on your first possession of the game with 12:00 left in the first quarter. WTF was Charlie Weiss thinking? What a stupid play call!
Congratulations on a spectacular season, Tigers!
Congratulations on a truly awesome college football career, Jamarcus Russell... good luck in the NFL, I'll be rooting for you!
Next year, I'll be happy just as long as you Tigers promise to stick it to Nick Saban's Crimson Tide!
UPDATE 1-9-07: The Top 5 rounded out at:
#1 - Florida Gators (SEC)
#2 - Ohio State Buckeyes (Big Ten)
#3 - LSU Tigers (SEC)
#4 - USC Trojans (Pac-10)
#5 - Boise State Broncos (WAC)
Check out my 2007 National Championship post: Welcome to SEC Football, Buckeyes!.