LSU/OKLAHOMA........ GREAT READ......
Saturday, January 3, 2004
By Gene Wojciechowski
ESPN The Magazine
NEW ORLEANS -- I believe in crawfish maque choux, zydeco and the power of Sazerac rye whiskey. I believe in Maalox and aspirin.
I believe in sommeliers, Preservation Hall, CafÃƒÂƒÃ‚Â© Du Monde. I do not believe in per diems.
I believe the Louisiana Purchase is what my wife rang up on our American Express. I believe in hard sixes, yo's or gumbo ya ya. I believe the national championship should always be played in the Sugar Bowl or Fiesta Bowl.
I believe LSU will score first. I believe there will be more purple in the Superdome than at a grapejuice factory. I believe ticket scalpers will be able to send their children to Tulane.
I believe that NFL teams have inquired about the interest level of LSU's Nick Saban and Oklahoma's Bob Stoops. I believe one of them will be on this same field next season coaching against the Saints. I believe none of that will matter Sunday evening.
I believe in OU quarterback Jason White. I believe in what LSU senior cornerback Randall Gay said about the Sooners star, that "when you watch the film, you can tell he belongs with the Heisman Trophy."
I believe Saban can smile. I believe he'll allow himself a tiny grin when LSU forces a turnover on a Chad Lavalais sack, true freshman Chris Jackson squeezes a 23-yarder through the uprights, and the Tigers finish the first quarter with a 10-0 lead. I believe the purple fans will consume mass quantities of beer and scream, "Tiger Bait!" until their vocal cords weep for mercy.
I believe Oklahoma won't panic. I believe Stoops' standing heart rate could rival Lance Armstrong's. I believe that unlike the Big 12 Championship, the Sooners will be a different team. I believe it's called pride.
I believe OU's Brent Venables, making his debut as the defensive coordinator, will guess right on a certain second-quarter blitz call and cause LSU quarterback Matt Mauck to throw his 13th interception of the season. I believe there's a reason why Mauck has thrown interceptions in nine of his previous 13 games.
I believe Oklahoma, ranked 61st in rushing offense, will run early and often. I believe this despite LSU giving up more than 100 yards rushing only twice this season. I believe this because OU coaches have gone on record saying the Sooners have to run, even if the gains are minimal.
I believe OU will cut the lead to 10-7 midway through the second quarter. I believe it will happen on a short run by Kejuan Jones, marking only the second time this season a team has scored a rushing TD against LSU's starting defense.
I believe LSU will return to the locker room with that same 3-point advantage. I believe I'll eat a free hot dog during halftime.
I believe the Tigers will go three-and-out on its first possession of the second half, that Donnie Jones will outkick his punt coverage, and that All-American return specialist Antonio Perkins will find a lane for a 50-yard gain. I believe moments later LSU will blitz and OU's young offensive line will give White just enough time to throw his first TD pass and Oklahoma to take its first lead.
I believe you'll hear "Boomer Sooner."
I believe there's a reason why OU cornerback Derrick Strait won the Thorpe and Nagurski awards, why defensive tackle Tommie Harris won the Lombardi Award, why outside linebacker Teddy Lehman won the Butkus and Bednarik awards. I believe OU will continue to concentrate on stopping the Tigers' tag-team of running backs (Justin Vincent and Joseph Addai) and force Mauck to do most of the heavy lifting.
I believe Mauck will do just that late in third quarter when he hits wide receiver Devery Henderson on a long scoring pass. I believe OU will answer with its own long pass from White to Mark Clayton, and Trey DiCarlo will kick a 35-yarder at quarter's end.
I believe the score will be tied, 17-17. I believe anybody who cares about college football will be counting goose bumps as the final quarter of the craziest season begins.
I believe Stoops will try a trick play. Or two. I believe Saban will do the same thing.
I believe LSU's front seven will eventually force OU offensive coordinator Chuck Long to semi-abandon the running game. I believe the Strait-Michael Clayton matchup will be worth whatever you paid for your ticket. I believe some lesser-known player will do something memorable.
I believe the game will come down to the final 2 minutes. I believe White will scramble on those two surgically reconstructed knees and dive for a drive-saving first down with 60 seconds remaining.
I believe LSU will hit White so many times during the course of the game that he'll need to spend the offseason on dry ice. I believe with 16 seconds left to play White will find tight end Lance Donley open at the LSU 31-yard line. I believe OU will use its final timeout and, faced with a fourth-and-inches, decide to try a 48-yard field goal.
I believe DiCarlo, who missed both of his attempts against K-State in the Big 12 Championship, will make the kick with ease.
I believe with 10 seconds remaining Henderson will catch the kickoff at the 2-yard line, ignore the middle return blocking scheme, sprint untouched down the right sideline, reverse field, find another opening, and then, just 11 yards from the goal line, get tripped up by a desperation arm tackle as time -- and LSU's chances at a national championship -- expires.
I believe both teams will receive a standing O. I believe you'll be watching the game on ESPN Classic next week. I believe Stoops and Saban will meet at midfield, express their respect for one another, and mean it.
I believe I'll need an adult beverage after this one. And an aspirin.
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