Sunday, January 19, 2003

Fans celebrate Buckeyes' championship

The (Mansfield, Ohio) News Journal

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Getting to Miami quarterback Ken Dorsey on the final play of the Fiesta Bowl was much easier for Ohio State linebacker Cie Grant than performing his solo rendition of "Carmen Ohio" on Saturday.

Grant wasn't worried about forgetting the words to the alma mater. He was worried about his vocal cords freezing in mid-stanza.

"I was nervous and cold, and I was just getting over some illness," Grant said, "but once the emotion flowed, it was easy."

With Ohio Stadium turned into a concrete block of ice, an announced crowd of 52,000 braved minus-three wind chills to attend a pep rally honoring the national champion Buckeyes.

It was a chance for Grant to show off his musical gifts and to see his pass-altering, title-clinching blitz of Dorsey appear larger than life as the team and its loyalists watched a highlight video of OSU's 14-0 season on the scoreboard's jumbo screen.

"I've seen that play quite a few times, and it didn't really hit me," said Grant, reflecting on the 31-24 double-overtime victory over Miami that gave Ohio State its first consensus championship since 1968.

"Seeing it on the jumbo, it really sunk in for the first time that we are national champions. It's amazing what this group has done ... it's a beautiful thing."

During the ceremony, Columbus mayor Michael Coleman announced that Lane Avenue, which runs alongside the stadium, will be renamed Champions Lane as he unveiled the new street sign.

Gov. Robert Taft held up a No. 1 Ohio State jersey he plans to give President George Bush next month in Washington at a conference attended by the nation's governors.

Ohio State athletics director Andy Geiger joked that Karen Holbrook is the only undefeated school president in the country. Holbrook took over the top job at Ohio State in July.

"They proved our critics wrong," Holbrook said, referring to the Buckeyes who shared the midfield stage with team officials and dignitaries, "because they just plain refused to lose."

The ceremony ended with Grant and the other seniors, including co-captains Mike Doss and Donnie Nickey, dotting the "i" as the Ohio State marching band performed its legendary Script Ohio.

All-America punter Andy Groom choked back tears as the seniors addressed the media afterwards.

"I looked up in the stands to see my parents for one last time and my dad was losing it," Groom said. "I never saw him cry in my life. It's hard to say bye."

Nickey doesn't plan to, at least when it comes to this senior class.

"We've connected on a family level," he said. "I have a lot of friends, but to go through what we've gone through (as a football team), there's a lot of love. We'll always love each other."

He also praised the fans who came out on one of the coldest days in recent memory.

"To see all those people ... this is the last page in our book," Nickey said. "It's over for us. We went out on the highest of highs."

Ironically, the pep rally was held two years to the day after Jim Tressel was introduced as Ohio State's head coach.

"Each day the last two years wasn't perfect," Tressel said, "but, hopefuly, we'll keep getting better and have more great experiences."

Tressel, who won four Division I-AA national championships at Youngstown State, was asked if dethroning Miami and snapping the Hurricanes' 34-game winning streak was the pinnacle of his career.

"Isn't pinnacle the single moment where you'll never be up that high again?" he said. "I hope not."

Fans who showed up expecting to see Tressel's hair in cornrows were disappointed. He said in a pre-season promise he would braid his hair that way if the Buckeyes finished the season unbeaten.

"I'm going to spring it on you when you least expect it," Tressel joked.

Doss was all smiles, too, as he talked about adjusting his diet.

"I kept eating Tostitos since last January," he said, poking fun at the sponsor of the Fiesta Bowl. "I finally don't have to eat them anymore.

"All the hard work that took place behind the scenes paid off. You guys (media and fans) got to see the finished product."

UC 77, Tulane 54
UC notebook: Flowers uses his time wisely

Xavier 86, UMass 73

No. 16 Kentucky 88, No. 10 Notre Dame 73
Short benching at Vandy motivates Hayes to play
No. 18 Indiana 84, No. 8 Illinois 66
No. 15 Louisville 87, TCU 74
Miami 77, Ohio 65
No. 17 Maryland 87, No. 1 Duke 72
Top 25 roundup
How the Top 25 fared
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Women: UConn sets win streak record

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Daugherty: Team must rethink scouting
QB coach Anderson next to go

Curnutte's NFL playoff picks
Raiders feeling pressure to win now
Titans have something to prove
Matchups for AFC championship game
Eagles eager to savor football's best feeling
Bucs savor opportunity of NFC showdown
Matchups for the NFC championship game

Fans celebrate Buckeyes' championship
OSU seniors have trouble saying goodbye
Senior Bowl: North 17, South 0

Fay: Reds insider
Reds Q&A
Ozzie says Rose should admit wrongdoing
Gwynn wants more than ol' college try

Groeschen: St. X ready to rebuild its stadium
Schmidt: Kentucky insider
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Girls: Riley's 1,000th point sends Trojans to win
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