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White gets black and blue

Heisman winner flops in Sugar Bowl: Two interceptions, no touchdowns

Posted: Monday January 5, 2004 3:19AM; Updated: Monday January 5, 2004 3:20AM
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  Jason White
LSU defenders were draped on Jason White's back all night at the Superdome.
AP

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- A relentless defense, uncharacteristic breakdowns and a deafening crowd proved too daunting for Jason White and the Oklahoma Sooners.

The Heisman Trophy winner picked a terrible time to have his worst game of the season, and No. 3 Oklahoma was denied a piece of the national title when it lost 21-14 to No. 2 LSU in the Sugar Bowl on Sunday night.

"You win 12 games and that's extremely hard to do in college football. And you end up with nothing to show for it," White said.

White finished 13-of-37 for 102 yards with two interceptions, including eight consecutive incompletions to finish the game. It was the second straight game in which he didn't throw a touchdown pass -- in the previous 12 games he'd tossed at least two.

The highly anticipated matchup between the nation's highest-scoring offense and stingiest scoring defense wasn't even close.

LSU won by a knockdown. Nearly a dozen of them.

Oklahoma's biggest weakness down the stretch -- an inability to protect White -- showed up again, this time against a defense that had befuddled other talented and tested quarterbacks such as Mississippi's Eli Manning and Georgia's David Greene.

White was sacked five times and knocked down plenty of other times as LSU teed off on him throughout the game, firing up a bowl-record crowd of 79,342 that was overwhelmingly clad in LSU purple and yellow.

Sugar Bowl
SI.com's Stewart Mandel
If the Trojans represented L.A. glitz, then the Tigers were Bayou blue collar in beating the Sooners in the Sugar Bowl.
Closer Look
Nick Saban showed why he deserves the huge raise that is coming his way after winning the national title.
Spotlight
HERO: LSU defense
The Tigers held the top-ranked Sooners offense to 154 total yards, only 52 on the ground. LSU had five sacks and forced two interceptions that led to touchdowns.
GOAT: Jason White
The Heisman winner flopped in the big game, completing only 13-of-37 passes and tossing two picks, one of which was returned for the game-deciding touchdown.
Rose Bowl
SI.com's Stewart Mandel
It may not have been USC's typical blowout, but after watching the Trojans manhandle Michigan, AP voters will have no trouble justifying their opinion.
Spotlight
HERO: Keary Colbert
Overshadowed by All-American Mike Williams the entire season, the senior WR caught six passes for 149 yards and two touchdowns in his final collegiate game.
GOAT: Michigan's O-Line
The same bunch who plowed over Ohio State couldn't get the job done against USC, as John Navarre was sacked nine times and Chris Perry ran for just 85 yards.
BCS Recap
Sugar: LSU 21, Oklahoma 14
Rose: USC 28, Michigan 14
Orange: Miami 16, Florida St. 14
Fiesta: Ohio State 35, Kansas State 28
2003-04 bowls schedule and results

He was walloped on his final play of the season, a sack by 257-pound linebacker Lionel Turner on fourth-and-10.

It was pretty much the theme for the night.

"We saw that he has played against a lot of teams that didn't put pressure on him and hit him in the mouth," said LSU cornerback Corey Webster, who had an interception. "We wanted to get after him like Kansas State did."

Indeed, the Sugar Bowl almost looked like a replay of White's nightmarish performance in the Sooners' Big 12 title game loss against Kansas State.

LSU frustrated White and the Sooners with well-timed blitzes that often had White throwing off his back foot and, ultimately, picking himself up off the Superdome turf.

White had only 28 yards passing at halftime -- in every other game this season he'd had at least one completion longer than that.

Things got even worse after the break.

White was sacked by Marcus Spears on the first play of the second half, then threw a terrible pass that was intercepted and returned 20 yards for a touchdown by -- no surprise -- Spears. The 297-pound defensive end rumbled into the end zone standing up as White bounced off him near the goal line.

With two chances to tie the game in the final minutes, White couldn't get the Sooners into the end zone.

Oklahoma had four tries from the 12-yard line, but White overthrew a wide open Kejuan Jones in the end zone on third down and had a ball tipped away from his favorite target, Mark Clayton, on the final play of that drive.

"I just tried to give somebody a chance to catch it," White said. "He almost caught it."

On Oklahoma's final possession of the game, White missed on three straight throws and was dropped by Turner on the last play, setting off a rowdy LSU celebration on the sideline and in the stands.

White had hoped to become the third quarterback to win the Heisman and the national title in the same season, joining Florida State's Charlie Ward (1993) and Florida's Danny Wuerffel (1996).

Instead, White joined another, more dubious list of Heisman winners who struggled and lost in big bowl games, including Florida State's Chris Weinke (2000) and Nebraska's Eric Crouch (2001).

Unlike those quarterbacks, however, White will return next season for another shot at the national title and a chance to become the only two-time Heisman winner since Ohio State's Archie Griffin in 1974-75.

But if he plays as he did in his final two games this season, White won't even come close to the Heisman -- or a national championship.

Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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