Tuesday, December 10, 2002
Not a friendly visit this time for Bucks
Tressel, staff observed 'Canes during visit to spring practice
By Rusty Miller
The Associated Press
COLUMBUS, Ohio - Before the season, Ohio State coach Jim Tressel took his staff on a road trip to watch other teams' spring workouts. One of the stops was Miami.
Why there, Tressel was asked.
"They're Miami. They're the national champions," he said.
Now Ohio State will get another look at the Hurricanes in the Jan. 3 Fiesta Bowl. And this time, Tressel hopes the Buckeyes come away with that coveted title.
Miami is a 13-point favorite, but that doesn't bother Tressel.
"I don't think we get too involved in the broad type of things, like who's the underdog or who's not," Tressel said. "I think our guys are just excited to have a chance to play in the Fiesta Bowl and to play against the national champions."
The game matches two undefeated teams who used similar weapons but different routes to the same destination.
Top-ranked Miami (12-0), seeking to become the first repeat champion since Nebraska in 1994-95, scored sometimes at will, averaging 41.9 points. But it also gave up more points (18 per game) than it might have liked.
No. 2 Ohio State (13-0), going for its first championship since 1968, played defense more diligently, allowing just 12.2 points per game. It also scored less, averaging 29.
Miami never scored fewer than 26 points in a game and pounded most opponents. Still, there were close calls. A missed field-goal attempt by Florida State saved that victory for the Hurricanes. They trailed hapless Rutgers in the fourth quarter before recovering. Pitt had a chance to tie the Canes on the game's final play.
Saturday's Fiesta Bowl-trip clincher, a 56-45 shootout against Virginia Tech, stretched Miami's winning streak to 34 straight, sixth longest in NCAA Division I-A history.
Ohio State had its own narrow games, beating Purdue 10-6, Penn State 13-7, Wisconsin 19-14, and Michigan 14-9.
The teams share common denominators at running back and quarterback.
Miami's Willis McGahee rushed for 1,686 yards and 27 touchdowns. Ohio State freshman Maurice Clarett gained 1,190 yards and scored 16 TDs.
Miami quarterback Ken Dorsey, like McGahee, is a Heisman Trophy candidate and has a career record of 38-1. He threw for 3,073 yards and 26 TDs this season.
Those numbers had him eighth in the Division I-A quarterback rankings. Right above him at No. 7 is Ohio State quarterback Craig Krenzel, who passed for 1,988 yards and 12 TDs, but edged Dorsey in efficiency ratings, 148.1 to 148.
"I know there are going to be a lot of people around the country saying, 'Ohio State does not belong in this game. Ohio State can't win this game,"' Krenzel said.
"I don't think that's true, and none of the guys on our team believe that's true. We believe we deserve to be playing on Jan. 3. We respect Miami and we know they're a great team, but there's not a guy on this team who doesn't think we can compete, who doesn't think we can't go out and win."
Miami has not seen much of Ohio State and will get its first look at the Buckeyes on film on Tuesday. The Hurricanes know Clarett can be explosive.
"From what I've seen, he's a good back, and he's going to get his yards," defensive back Sean Taylor said. "The best we can do is contain him and just win the game."
Both coaches are familiar with the opposing program - and it goes back further than spring practice.
Miami coach Larry Coker spent two seasons as an assistant to Ohio State head coach John Cooper in 1993-94. He served as an assistant at Miami before taking over the head coaching position two years ago - and hasn't lost.
"I have great memories of Columbus, Ohio, and the Ohio State University," Coker said. "It was just a great experience for my wife and myself. We loved every moment of it. It's very intense. Football is very important to Ohio State: the intensity of the season, the rivalries and the tradition."
Tressel was a candidate for the Miami job - there were reports at the time that he was offered it and turned it down - when current Cleveland Browns coach Butch Davis was hired to take over the program in 1995.
Tressel denied that he was offered the job. He said he interviewed for it, but said the timing wasn't right for all the parties involved.
"It's interesting in life: usually things work out," Tressel said. "They made the right decision in hiring Butch Davis and his staff. Things worked out for all of us and here we have a chance to be at Ohio State. Things always work out."
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