Freshman RB Vincent steals show, named game’s MVP

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 9, 2004

NEW ORLEANS &045; For four long hours Sunday night the streets of this caffeinated town, particularly those of the old-world French Quarter, were quiet.

Pedestrians who had worn their feet into leather and their livers into balloons crammed the Superdome, theaters, restaurants or watering holes to marvel at a heavyweight fight that was the 70th rendition of the Sugar Bowl.

Neither team disappointed, as LSU claimed the Bowl Championship Series title by defeating Oklahoma 21-14.

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A redshirt freshman, who sat out last year due to academics and was lost in the shuffle in a talented running back corps at the start of this season, was a big reason the Tigers co-reigned with Southern California atop the college football world.

Justin Vincent, a Parade All-American as a senior in 2001 at Barbe High School in Lake Charles carved up the Sooner defense throughout the night with 117 yards on 16 carries on his way to being named the Sugar Bowl’s Most Outstanding Player, an honor he received after running for more than 200 yards during the Southeastern Conference championship game.

&uot;For me it’s kind of unreal. I never expected to win MVP,&uot; said Vincent, who had an 18-yard touchdown run. &uot;I guess it hasn’t even basically set in for me. Winning the MVP in the national championship game, that says a lot but I couldn’t have done it without the team and my coaches behind me.&uot;

LSU came to the line for the game’s opening play as a restless crowd couldn’t stand it. They hype and the buildup was over; it was time to exchange snot.

&uot;When we got here on Sunday, it seemed like something was getting ready to blow up, and it hadn’t really set in that we were playing for the national championship and as the day (went) on the national championship (was) here,&uot; Vincent said.

He fed the animals &045; specifically the natives &045; with a 64-yard gallop on first down. Vincent ran off right tackle, hurdled a defender, busted it back to the inside and was gone up the meat of the field before Derrick Strait ran him down from behind at the Sooner 16.

The promising start ended abruptly at the OU 2 when Mauck never cleanly received the snap from center Ben Wilkerson, but the run signaled Vincent wasn’t done making Sooners miss.

His touchdown run, which capped a nine-play, 80-yard drive, put LSU up 14-7 at half and answered an OU touchdown where the Sooners blocked a punt to set up a Kejuan Jones 1-yard plunge. LSU head coach Nick Saban called the Tigers’ drive

the turning point in the game.

&uot;We get a punt blocked, (Oklahoma) scores a touchdown, we take the ball however many yards, 80 yards for a touchdown to answer the bell,&uot; Saban said. &uot;It’s happened all year long that we were able to turn around and do whatever we needed to do.&uot;