But as the game wore on, Dorsey and the rest of the Tigers' front four gradually took control of the line of scrimmage. Wells rushed for 119 yards in the first half, mostly running away from Dorsey, but in the second half he gained only 27 yards on 10 carries. Able to tee off on Boeckman, LSU sacked him four times in the second half and forced a pair of fumbles.
Some LSU players attributed their team's ragged start to the long layoff. But the 37 days between the SEC title game and the BCS final provided several banged-up Tigers the time they needed to heal. Yes, they conceded in the days leading up to the game, their defense looked ordinary in the second half of the season. But with everyone back at full speed—in particular Dorsey, who earned consensus All-America honors despite playing at well under 100% in his last five games—they would be hell on wheels.
Ohio State was all business when it arrived in the Big Easy five days before the game. Before facing Florida in last season's national title game, the team was lodged at a posh Scottsdale, Ariz., resort for part of its 12-day trip, and many Buckeyes remain convinced that their stay there softened them up for the Gators. This time they were billeted at a hotel at which the best feature, according to Barton, was its fitness center (which he used between practices).
"The only place I've been," cornerback Malcolm Jenkins said three days before the game, "is Walgreens."
"If there's a time to have fun down there," All-America linebacker James Laurinaitis said of Bourbon Street, "it's Monday night—after the game."
The Buckeyes who did make their way to Bourbon Street following the game had no reason to celebrate. Seeking redemption for their 41-14 humiliation at the hands of Florida, they suffered more disappointment. Celebrating, instead, was Flynn—at last.
Standing on the dais after he was named the game's offensive MVP, the quarterback wound up in possession of the football-shaped crystal trophy awarded to the BCS champion. While Miles addressed LSU fans, virtually all of whom had stuck around for the ceremony, Flynn stood behind his coach striking a series of poses with the crystal, to the delight of teammates.
BUT THE VICTORY MAY HAVE BEEN SWEETEST for Miles, who hadn't won over Tiger Nation despite going 11-2 in each of his first two seasons. With national-title-caliber talent, rabid LSU fans argued, he didn't win so much as a conference championship until this, his third year.
Those complaints and any lingering suspicion over his unconsummated affair with Michigan were swept away in the tumult at the Superdome. With two minutes left in the game, the crowd had taken up a thunderous chant, " Les Miles! Les Miles!" The coach was feeling the love then, just as he would feel it several hours later while standing on a Bourbon Street balcony and holding the trophy above a raucous, adoring throng.
Two days before the game, outside his temporary office in the team hotel, Miles had talked about the temptation of the Michigan job. "I've got to be real honest with you," he said. " Michigan didn't communicate with me. I did everything I could to arrange an opportunity to talk [later]."