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
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.
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.