Saturday, January 4, 2003

Buckeyes win with heart and cool


TEMPE, Ariz. - It was just like Ohio State, wasn't it? It wasn't enough for the Buckeyes to win their first national title in 34 years in four quarters. That would be too easy, too routine, not evident enough of the collective blood spilled or the will imposed. The Buckeyes had to lose it in overtime, apparently, then win it in double OT.

This is what happened to Ohio State Friday night, in front of 73,000 souls, most of them wearing red:

Ohio State photos
They made the overhyped Miami Hurricanes, winners of 34 straight, look like Illinois. They jumped to a 17-7 3rd quarter lead, kept cool as Miami tied it on the last play of regulation, survived a 1st OT, then won it in the 2nd OT.

It was just the way they've done things all year. This was the Purdue game, with a few extra plays.

"We never panic, never give up, no surrender, all season,'' said safety Donnie Nickey. "We knew we had the heart to take this thing home, and we did.''

Craig Krenzel, the best quarterback-playing molecular genetics major Ohio State has ever had, was the game's offensive MVP. He also lived several lifetimes in about 10 overtime minutes.

On 4th down at the Miami 5, Krenzel was flat on his back, knowing his hurried pass to Chris Gamble had been incomplete, and that if he didn't move soon, he'd be trampled by Miami fans and players flooding the field in celebration.

"Their team rushed the field,'' Krenzel said. "I just sat there. The feeling was dejection. I thought there was contact, but I didn't see the flag until I got up.''

There was, and a play later Krenzel ran it in to send the game into double OT.

OSU won it then, Maurice Clarett sliced in from the 4-yard line and, then, Cie Grant blitzed Miami QB Ken Dorsey into throwing a desperate incompletion on 4th down.

And so it goes. We'll leave it to the historians to comment on this Buckeye team's place in school football history. For now, a win over a 12-point favorite that hadn't lost since Sept. 9, 2000, is enough.

"That's how you win championships. You keep playing and you make plays,'' said coach Jim Tressel.

Most of the 2nd quarter, OSU's playmakers made Miami's collection of would-be NFL draftees look like they were headed for the Canadian League. The hunch, whispered by OSU players and supported by Boston College coach Tom O'Brien, had been that if the Bucks could rattle Dorsey early, they could force him into bad throws.

In the last 11 minutes of the first half, Dorsey threw two interceptions and lost a fumble after a blindside hit. The Buckeyes went into the locker room up 14-7, following their script like a Shakespearean actor.

We'd heard all about Miami's speed, too. But it's hard to be fast when you're on your heels.

"We had more talent than they did, but talent isn't everything,'' Miami tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. said.

It helped that Krenzel ran for more yards than Miami tailback and touchdown machine Willis McGahee, and that Maurice Clarett's biggest play was neither of his two TD runs, but a strip of the ball from Miami cornerback Sean Taylor, who had intercepted a Krenzel pass in the endzone and run 28 yards before Clarett stole it back.

Ultimately, OSU won the way it won all year. It just kept playing. Just like Tressel said. And on this double-OT night, just playing was an incredible feat.

"We're just sitting here looking at each other like little kids in the candy store,' said safety Mike Doss."We just won the national championship.''

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
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