By DAVE SKRETTA
AP Sports Writer
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- At the first flinch by the opposing offensive line, Barkevious Mingo tears off the corner with sprinter's speed, setting his sights squarely on the quarterback.
Once the LSU defensive end has dumped the QB to the turf, Mingo turns and starts running again.
His pass rushing buddy, Sam Montgomery, is usually right on his heels, eager to celebrate.
"He doesn't really give hugs. He like, fights you. He'll punch you in the chest, and he's just crazy," Mingo said, laughing. "So you run away. You get a sack and then you run."
Montgomery and Mingo form LSU's sack attack, perhaps the most fearsome tandem of defensive ends in the SEC, if not the nation. Their unique combination of speed and power helped the top-ranked Tigers rack up a league-leading 37 sacks this season, a big part of the reason LSU ranks No. 2 nationally in scoring defense.
Now the Tigers' season of dominance will conclude Monday night against No. 2 Alabama in the BCS title game.
"They got a little swagger to their defense," Alabama offensive lineman D.J. Fluker said. "Their defense is good. They come out there ready to play. That's the main thing about them."
Swagger, yes, but also the physical tools to play on college football's biggest stage.
Montgomery earned second-team All-SEC honors after finishing third in the league with nine sacks, the fourth-best total in school history. He also had 13 tackles for loss, again ranking near the top of the SEC, and proved that he had rebounded from a knee injury that ended his freshman season.
Mingo was a track star in high school and even now runs a 4.5 40-yard dash, the kind of speed that running backs carry with them to the NFL. Eight times this season he sacked the quarterback -- eight times he had to turn and scurry away from Montgomery's pursuit.
"He just loves his teammates. He'll look after us," Mingo said. "He'll bring us food like he did last week. He brought some pizza in for the whole defensive line."
A tough defensive front is hardly new for LSU. In fact, the school has established a reputation of sending guys to the professional ranks.
The Tigers had two players picked in last year's NFL draft, Drake Nevis and Lazarius Levingston, pushing the total selected over the past five years to nine. That includes Tyson Jackson, who was third overall in 2009, and Glenn Dorsey, picked fifth overall the previous year.
Montgomery considered joining them in the pros. He's a redshirt sophomore and would have been eligible to enter the draft, but he announced this week that he'll be back for another year in Baton Rouge -- another year chasing quarterbacks, and his good buddy on the other end of the line.
"Me and Mingo complement each other very much," Montgomery said. "You have a guy like myself who's power and speed, but then you have Mingo who's very strong and quick. Our whole defensively line complements each other so very great on the pass rush."
Montgomery grew up in South Carolina playing basketball, but eventually he grew tired of waiting for the season to start. Boredom would set in while he hung out in the gym after school, shooting hoops alone.
Eventually, a bunch of guys on the football team, including current South Carolina safety D.J. Swearinger, goaded him into trying out. Then they said that he only wanted to play football to be part of their state championship, which they had won the season before and planned to again.
"I told them to their face, and they can remember this moment, I said, `You know what guys? I might not win a state championship, but one day I will win a national championship, and you all will not hear the end of it,'" Montgomery recalled. "You all can have your little state ring."
His other source of inspiration is rooted in a tragic story. Montgomery's brother, John Darrel Adams, who was six years older than him. Adams was working as a bouncer at a club in Columbia, S.C., when he was shot to death shortly before Montgomery enrolled in Baton Rouge. While Montgomery acknowledges his brother had problems, "he always tried to teach me good things."
On campus, Montgomery admits that he comes off as a bit, well, flighty.
He watches cartoons, draws inspiration from the video game character Sonic the Hedgehog, and teammate T-Bob Hebert opines that "he's definitely got a few screws loose in his head."
By contrast, Mingo is all business.
He was honored for the best performance in LSU's offseason program, and again for the best job in spring practice. Now, he's racking up awards for an exemplary sophomore season.
"I take great pride in playing great defense," Mingo said. "Being a defensive player, you don't like points getting put on you. That's our main goal."
That's something that LSU has done well all season.
It's something they plan to do one more time Monday night against the Crimson Tide.
"Strength is there in both of these programs, attitude is there in both of these programs, so it comes down to the real little things," Montgomery said. "The first team to make a mistake, you know, busts an assignment, that's going to be the key play of the game."