NEW ORLEANS - They say all good things come to those who wait.
For LSU quarterback Matt Flynn, the wait was 4 long years as he bided his time behind Matt Mauck and then JaMarcus Russell. For sophomore defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois, it was only 12 games, but it seemed like much longer.
But Flynn's and Jean-Francois' patience was rewarded as they played instrumental roles in the Tigers' 38-24 romp past top-ranked Ohio State in the BCS national championship game last night in the Louisiana Superdome.
It was LSU's second BCS national championship in 5 seasons, to go along with the one the Tigers got to cap the 2003 season, when they beat Oklahoma, also in the Superdome.
"I would rather have waited to be the starter for this one season, for this team, than to have started four seasons somewhere else,'' Flynn, a fifth-year senior from Tyler, Texas, said after he completed 19 of 27 passes for 174 yards and four touchdowns, with an interception. "I'm extremely blessed to have this last year with such great guys.''
Flynn, not surprisingly, was named the game's Most Outstanding Offensive Player. It was his second such honor in a postseason contest; in his only previous start before this season, filling in for the injured Russell, he was selected as the Most Outstanding Offensive Player of the 2005 Peach Bowl after directing the Tigers to a 40-3 blowout of Miami.
For Jean-Francois, whose French surname suggests he arrived from Cajun country but is from Miami, his chance to shine was delayed because of an academic honesty issue that prompted coach Les Miles to suspend him throughout the regular season. Named to the freshman All-Southeastern Conference team in 2006, Jean-Francois was not reinstated until the SEC championship game against Tennessee. He immediately replaced Marlon Favorite in the starting lineup and was in on three tackles as the Tigers came from behind to defeat the Volunteers.
But the 6-3, 281-pound Jean-Francois might never come up bigger during his college career than he did on a momentum-reversing play in the second quarter, when he extended his long right arm to knock down a 38-yard field goal attempt by the Buckeyes' Ryan Pretorious with the scored knotted at 10.
"I believe that was the turning point in the game,'' Jean-Francois, who was voted the game's Most Outstanding Defensive Player, said of his blocked kick. "My coach told me to get low and come in fast. I came full speed and was able to get a hand on it.''
Jean-Francois' swat highlighted a six-tackle (1 1/2 for losses), half-sack performance and further energized the Tigers (12-2), who had fallen behind, 10-0, in the first quarter before crafting their comeback.
They promptly drove 66 yards in 10 plays and scored the go-ahead touchdown on Flynn's 10-yard pass to Brandon LaFell. That gave the pro-LSU and Superdome-record crowd of 79,651 another reason to begin a Mardi Gras-type celebration.
The Tigers' celebration continued mostly unabated, even though Flynn's sole mistake - a third-quarter pass that was picked off by cornerback Malcolm Jenkins, setting up an Ohio State TD that snapped LSU's run of 31 unanswered points - opened a very tiny window of opportunity for the Buckeyes (11-2).
Flynn even kept the ball for a yard gain and a first down on a fourth-down play at the Ohio State 35 and just over 4 minutes remaining, a strategically dubious call that illustrated Miles' reputation for being something of a riverboat gambler. But the drive continued, and Flynn lobbed a 5-yard scoring pass to wide-open tight end Richard Dickson for LSU's final touchdown, an exclamation point to the Tigers' surprisingly easy ascension to the top of the college football world.