BATON ROUGE, SEPT. 26 -- When cocky, flamboyant No. 4 Louisiana State met gray, ponderous No. 7 Ohio State in a place as loud as highly partisan Tiger Stadium, the result was expected to be something more decisive than a 13-13 tie.
But that's what it was. And it was nevertheless marvelous in its own way, as Buckeyes kicker Matt Frantz had his 47-yard field goal attempt blocked as time ran out before 79,263 today, and no one knew whether to celebrate or to sink into depression.
"The only thing bad about that game was we didn't win it," said Tigers defensive end Karl Dunbar, who got a hand on Frantz's kick as time expired.
Ohio State Coach Earle Bruce, in his 100th game for the Buckeyes, blamed the officials for intentionally wasting time and forcing him into the long-range field goal attempt with five seconds left.
That was after defensive back Greg Rogan intercepted Tom Hodson's passes on LSU's last two consecutive drives in the final two minutes to get a shot at winning, and Ohio State (2-0-1) got four second-half turnovers from LSU to rally from a 10-3 halftime deficit.
The Buckeyes turned them into a 38-yard field goal from Frantz in the third quarter and an eight-yard scoring pass from Tom Tupa to tight end Jay Koch with 11:07 left in taking a 13-10 lead.
"We don't normally have ties at Ohio State," Bruce said testily. "And we don't like them."
LSU first-year coach Mike Archer, in his first game of national significance, blamed the turnovers that also included a Hodson fumble and an interception of a pass by a reserve quarterback, Mickey Guidry, that led to Tupa's touchdown pass.
The Tigers' only points of the second half, and the last ones of the game for either team, came on David Browndyke's 40-yard field goal with 6:25 left. LSU took its 10-3 halftime lead on a 24-yard first-quarter scoring pass from Hodson to flanker Rogie Magee and Browndyke's 20-yard field goal in the second quarter.
"You play 60 minutes and you don't have anything to show for it at the end, and you don't feel very good afterward," Archer said. "I don't feel very good."
But no matter who blamed what, both teams were openly admiring of two superb, fearless defenses in a game that was supposed to feature offense. Hitting instead became the main attraction, and Ohio State all-America linebacker Chris Spielman led that category with a game-high 11 tackles. Thus it was fitting that the key play of the game was a defensive one, Dunbar's leaping block in the middle of the line.
Ohio State and LSU had never met before, both were undefeated, and a victory for either would have turned that team into a national championship contender. Prior to game time, LSU tailback Harvey Williams made slighting remarks about Spielman. At the coin toss, Ohio State linebacker Eric Kumerow smacked LSU guard Eric Andolsek in the helmet, and each team got unsportsmanlike conduct penalties over the course of the game. All of which only increased the outrageous noise in Tiger Stadium, voted by national coaches the hardest place in America to play.
But instead of a contender, both emerged undecideds. At first it seemed a game the Tigers surely should have won, as they outgained the staid Buckeyes, 348 yards to 246, and by 21 first downs to 12. But Ohio State, led by Vince Workman's 80 yards, outgained them on the ground by 118 yards to 81. Williams, considered one of the best in the country, was held to 55 yards on 15 carries.
"We're still undefeated, but we didn't win that game, either," Williams said, also softening his position on Spielman, calling him a "gentleman."
Hodson, the redshirt sophomore who is the second-leading quarterback in the nation, was sometimes brilliant and sometimes awful as he completed 25 of 45 passes for 267 yards. Tupa, who completed just nine of 21 passes for 92 yards, experienced frustration immediately and throughout: His first two attempts to get a snap off in the crazed roar were unsuccessful.
But he was more efficient than Hodson. The sophomore's two interceptions came just as LSU seemed poised to score and wrestle the game back from the Buckeyes.
"I guess we were lucky to get the tie," Hodson said. "You can't turn it over against a big team like Ohio State."
With 4:41 to go and the game tied, Hodson mounted a frantic drive from the Tigers' 47 to the Buckeyes' 8. But on second and goal, he drilled the ball right to Rogan, who had stepped in front of Wendell Davis in the right corner at the 2 and returned it to the 35 with 2:05 remaining. Hodson had misread Davis' pattern. "I read in, he went out," he said.
Tupa's punt went to the 2, and, on the next series, Hodson looked for favorite receiver Davis again, facing second and 10 from the 17. He overthrew, and Rogan leaped past Davis once more to give the Buckeyes possession on the LSU 39 with 27 seconds to go.
"I was trying to do too much," Hodson said.
That's when Bruce claimed the officials, all of them from the Southeast Conference, interfered. According to Bruce, they weren't going to let the Yankee interlopers get away with a victory. But if that wasn't the case, then Bruce was guilty of grievous coaching errors, for the Buckeyes flat bungled the chance.
With a first and 10 at the 39 and the clock stopped, Ohio State used a needless timeout. When the play did go off, it was a nine-yard gain for Workman. The Buckeyes lined up again, but in a leisurely fashion, as the clock continued to wind down. Tupa looked around confusedly, and finally called the last timeout. Twelve seconds had slipped away.
"I'm going to be a gentleman and not say anything about the officials," Bruce said. " . . . They're seven nice guys. From the South." He then proceeded to say it, accusing them of refusing to mark the ball as time wound down. "They wouldn't let us snap it," he said.
Frantz's attempt was a solid one, and probably would have been good had Dunbar not gotten a hand on it. He slumped as he watched it wander to the right.
"I hit it solid, but when I looked up I saw it floating off to the side, and I knew it was blocked," he said.
Ohio St. 3 0 3 7 13 LSU 7 3 0 3 13
LSU -- Magee 24 pass from Hodson (Browndyke kick)
OS -- FG Frantz 27
LSU -- FG Browndyke 20
OS -- FG Frantz 38
OS -- Koch 8 pass from Tupa (Frantz kick)
LSU -- FG Browndyke 40
A -- 79,263. OSU LSU First downs 12 21 Rushes-yards 40-118 27-81 Passing yards 128 267 Return yards 39 65 Passing 11-23-0 25-48-3 Punts-average 9-48 5-34 Fumbles-lost 0-0 4-1 Penalties-yards 8-72 5-30 Tim
RUSHING -- Ohio St.: Workman 19-80. LSU: H. Williams 15-55.
PASSING -- Ohio St.: Tupa 9-21-0, 92 yards. LSU: Hodson 25-45-2, 267.
RECEIVING -- Ohio St.: Workman 3-19. LSU: Davis 7-82.