NEW ORLEANS (Ticker) -- Split national title? Louisiana State could care less.
The second-ranked Tigers produced a series of big defensive plays in the fourth quarter, forcing Heisman Trophy winner Jason White to miss on his last eight passes, and claimed their first national title in 45 years with a 21-14 victory over No. 3 Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl.
Justin Vincent ran for 117 yards and a touchdown and defensive end Marcus Spears returned an interception for a score for the Tigers (13-1), who closed the season with eight straight wins.
LSU is almost certain to finish atop only the coaches' poll, but Southern California likely will be voted No. 1 in the Associated Press poll after beating Michigan in the Rose Bowl. That did not matter to LSU, whose only other national championship came in 1958.
"It really doesn't matter much right now if the BCS puts us as national champs," said wide receiver Skyler Green, who scored LSU's first touchdown on a 24-yard run. "We went out there and played dominant and proved we were the dominant team."
This victory immediately took its place in LSU lore alongside the famed punt return for a touchdown by Billy Cannon that beat Mississippi in 1959.
"It finally happened. It was a long journey here," wide receiver Michael Clayton said.
With LSU's Baton Rouge campus just an hour away, Tiger fans secured most of the tickets at the Superdome and often created a deafening roar.
City officials estimated another 100,000 LSU fans who did not have tickets to the game came to New Orleans. The crowd of 79,342 was the largest to see a sporting event at the Superdome.
For Tiger fans on Bourbon Street, the party will go on all night. Many of the toasts will be to coach Nick Saban, who has turned around a dormant program in just five years.
"I don't think you'll ever see the passion for football that you have here," Saban said.
The victory was not assured, however, until Lionel Turner sacked White with 1:56 left. On their previous possession, the Sooners drove to the LSU 12 before White threw four straight incompletions.
The Tigers' stingy defense made life miserable for White, who was interecepted twice for the second straight game after throwing just six in the first 12 games.
"We just weren't making plays and we were behind the sticks all night," said White, who was just 13-of-37 for 102 yards and was sacked five times. "You can't do much when you hurt yourself."
All week long, Oklahoma (12-1) was forced to justify its appearance in the Sugar Bowl after being routed by Kansas State in the Big 12 Conference title game. The Sooners failed to deliver and have lost back-to-back games for the first time since 1999 - Bob Stoops' first season as coach.
"Sometimes the other team plays better and coaches better," Stoops said. "We had missed tackles and a million penalties. We didn't execute."
Oklahoma was penalized 11 times for 70 yards.
"It's hard to win 12 games," Sooners linebacker Teddy Lehman said. "We didn't end the season the way we wanted to."
Each team, perhaps battling nerves, turned over the ball on its first possession. Vincent exploded up the middle for 64 yards on the first play from scrimmage, but quarterback Matt Mauck fumbled a snap inside the Oklahoma 5.
White's first pass was intercepted by Corey Webster, whose 18-yard return gave the Tigers a first down at the Sooners' 32. That set the stage for Green, who went in motion, took a handoff from Mauck and raced up the right sideline for a 24-yard touchdown.
The only first-half score for Oklahoma came midway through the second quarter when Brandon Shelby blocked a punt by Donnie Jones inside the 5. Kejuan Jones capitalized with a one-yard TD run.
The Tigers were not fazed, marching 80 yards in nine plays on their next possession, capped by Vincent's 18-yard run that made it 14-7 at halftime.
Vincent, named the game's Most Outstanding Player, had 118 yards in the first half.
"Unbelievable. Never in a million years would I have thought I would have won a national championship as a freshman," Vincent said.
White made a pivotal mistake early in the second half when Spears picked off his pass over the middle and rumbled to the end zone to make it 21-7. It was the fifth interception return for a TD by LSU this season.
The Tigers appeared in complete control before Mauck threw an ill-advised pass on the first play of the fourth quarter that was intercepted by Brodney Pool and returned 49 yards to the LSU 31.
White kept alive the drive on 4th-and-11 with a pass to Mark Clayton and Jones scored on a one-yard run with 11:01 left to make it 21-14.
It was just the fifth rushing touchdown allowed by LSU this season and third in the last 12 games.