Saturday, January 4, 2003

NATIONAL CHAMPS


Bucs delivered thrills, title - as promised

By Paul Daugherty
The Cincinnati Enquirer

TEMPE, Ariz. - Can we exhale now? Is it time to relax our stomachs, wipe our brows and ... breathe? Or shall we all stay perpetually, well, scarlet-faced?

Since when is winning a national championship like watching open-heart surgery? Your own open-heart surgery. For a team that plays with its top button buttoned, the Ohio State Buckeyes sure know how to give you a thrill. And, oh yeah, a national championship.

Ohio State beat Miami in double overtime, 31-24, in a game so good, you didn't want it to end, and for a while it looked as if it wouldn't.

The Buckeyes went 34 years between national titles. If the next one is anything like this one, another 34 would be good.

We could use the rest.

The Fiesta Bowl wasn't a game. It was a novel, a miniseries, its very own Lord of the (Championship) Rings.

It ended three hours and 57 minutes after it began, with Ohio State linebacker Cie Grant grabbing at Miami quarterback Ken Dorsey, Dorsey throwing a desperate, incomplete pass and everyone who bleeds scarlet and gray just hemorrhaging all over the place.

Buckeye Nation dominated the stadium, accounting for a good four-fifths of the crowd. Sun Devil Stadium was so scarlet, it looked like it was blushing.

So this is what it's like. Thirty-four years between drinks of glory would make anyone thirsty. Buckeyes fans, not notably patient, were wandering the desert, canteen-less.

Until Friday night.

On Friday night, everything good and Woody came roaring back. The Buckeyes beat overhyped Miami just the way they said they would.

If you listened very hard, because the Buckeyes aren't much for talking, you'd have heard them say they'd beat the Hurricanes with great defense, superior special teams and errorless offense. With two notable exceptions - a missed field goal and a long Miami punt return - that's how it played out.

Of course, there were twists. When you play six quarters, it isn't all going to be by the book. Who knew the molecular genetics-major-slash-quarterback would run as productively as the fourth-place Heisman Trophy finisher? Who figured the buttoned-down coach would go for a touchdown on 4th down from the 1-yard line?

More to the point, who believed the other team's QB, who hadn't lost a game in 28 months, often would play like a freshman on his first date?

Of course, everyone just knew Maurice Clarett's biggest play would be to strip a Miami defensive back of the ball after a 28-yard interception return.

Just put Craig Krenzel, the brainiac quarterback, at the top of the incredible list. All Krenzel did was what he has done all year, keep things close and painless, until it came time to make big plays.

Right behind him would be the OSU coach Jim Tressel, who blended his buttoned-down style with just enough daring. It helped that Miami's Ken Dorsey, often flustered and frequently harried, threw two interceptions and lost a fumble.

Ultimately, OSU beat Miami the way it beat just about everyone this year. It was just so very Ohio State, to win this way. Think of the Fiesta Bowl as the Illinois game, in prime time. They had an aura and a mystique that surpassed Miami's. The Hurricanes had won 34 in a row, but Friday night, they didn't make it to 35.

The Buckeyes were smart, patient and almost mistake-free. They did what they had to do, again. This time on the national stage, for the biggest prize.

E-mail pdaugherty@enquirer.com




FIESTA BOWL
Buckeyes are the champs with 31-24 victory
Photo Gallery | Game Statistics
Daugherty Column: Buckeyes win with heart and cool
MVP Krenzel leads Buckeyes with steady hand
Final Polls: AP: OSU unanimous No. 1 | USA Today/ESPN
OSU plans to feat champions next week
Columbus celebration peaceful
Clarett steps up when Buckeyes need him most
Tressel proves nice guys don't always finish last
Miami QB struggles in final game
Ref's late call nullifies Miami victory
McGahee's injury may postpone jump to NFL

REDS
Opening Day moved to 4:10 p.m.
Reds 2003 Schedule

BENGALS-NFL
Coughlin believes Bengals can win
Palmer returns USC to glory; Bengals next?
Mark Curnutte's NFL Playoff Picks
Hall of Fame coach Sid Gillman dies

XAVIER MUSKETEERS
Alabama is job one for Xavier

UC BEARCATS
Savvy Moore sparks a battle at the point
Former UC tackle killed

COLLEGE BASKETBALL
UK game here not sold out
UK's Daniels discovers comfort zone
RedHawks upbeat despite poor record
Ohio State tests Louisville

'TIPOFF' SECTION
Ex-Bearcat Blount finds NBA niche
5 Questions with C-USA official Ted Hillary
UC/XU Q&A: Practice not perfect, but it's Huggins' way
Must-See TV Games
Player of the Week: Kyle Korver, Creighton
Setta's World: Better shooting needed
Sweet 16 Rankings
Tipoff Top 5: Best Venues
Who's Hot & Who's Not

HIGH SCHOOLS
No. 1 Princeton struggles past Hamilton
Ohio Boys Basketball Reports
Ky. Boys Basketball Reports
Hanser-less Pandas fall to Lady Rebs
Ky. Girls Basketball Reports

HOCKEY
Mighty Ducks, Cyclones win

TV-RADIO
ESPN programming bumps 'Wildman' show from WCKY
Weekend TV-Radio Sports