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Buckeyes Raze 'Canes

Ohio State gets a little official help and wins first national championship since 1968. Miami's streak ends at 34 victories in a thriller at Tempe.

January 04, 2003|Chris Dufresne | Times Staff Writer

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Ohio State thought it won the national title, then Miami did, then no one could say for sure. Then, yes, it was true ... Ohio State wins.

Did the officials know?

How come that flag was tossed in the end zone? How come Miami first ran on the field and fireworks went off while the Ohio State quarterback lay in dejection on the ground?

Has there ever been a Fiesta Bowl like this? A national title like this? Anything like this? No, no, and no.

Friday's national title game, played out spectacularly and dramatically before a crowd of 77,505 at Sun Devil Stadium, was one for the ages -- is it really, really over? -- and captured in the end by Ohio State, 31-24, in double overtime.

Ohio State, in the proudest of dig-in traditions, stopped Miami four times inside the two-yard line to preserve victory in the second overtime.

"That's what the national championship game should look like -- double overtime," Ohio State Coach Jim Tressel said.

Ohio State scored the eventual game-winning touchdown on its possession in the second overtime, tailback Maurice Clarett scoring on a five-yard scamper.

Then Miami had its chance on offense to tie the score, and appeared on its way to doing so after a pass-interference call gave the Hurricanes a first-and-goal at the two.

But the Buckeyes buckled down.

With Miami facing fourth down from the one, Buckeye linebacker Cie Grant shot in from the left side and forced Miami quarterback Ken Dorsey into a wobbly incompletion.

In that moment, Ohio State won its first national title since 1968, Miami's 34-game winning streak was history and the rest of us were left to sift through the weird and wonderful rubble.

When it was over for good, Ohio State players rushed the field as Miami players stood stunned.

How could it end like this?

The game wasn't supposed to be close. Miami was favored by 13 points, but three Hurricane turnovers led to 17 Ohio State points and kept the Buckeyes in the game for four quarters -- and longer.

"It just wasn't meant to be tonight," Larry Coker said after suffering his first loss as the Hurricanes' head coach.

Ohio State capped a perfect season at 14-0, with Miami at 12-1.

Everyone said Miami would be too fast for Ohio State, but the Buckeyes kept saying this wasn't a track meet.

"Out on the field, it's a game of football speed, and we feel we can play with any team in the country," safety Michael Doss said.

Still, it figured Ohio State would need some help to win, and the Buckeyes got it in the form of five turnovers.

Dorsey, trying to end his career with a 39-1 record, threw two interceptions and also fumbled.

The Dorsey turnovers, all in the second quarter, kept hope alive for Ohio State after Miami took a 7-0 first-quarter lead on a 25-yard scoring pass from Dorsey to Roscoe Parrish.

Miami fell behind, 17-7, in the third quarter but fought back to get in position to win a second consecutive title, even after star tailback Willis McGahee was knocked out with a knee injury.

Miami cut the deficit to three on a nine-yard scoring run at the end of the third quarter and appeared to have a chance to win the game in regulation when Dorsey complete a 29-yard pass to Roscoe Parrish.

But Dustin Fox jarred the ball loose from Parrish and Will Allen recovered.

Miami got the ball back, though, and Parrish redeemed himself with a 50-yard punt return that gave the Hurricanes a first down at the Ohio State 26 with 2:02 left, setting up Sievers' tying field goal at the end of regulation.

Ohio State called two timeouts in its attempt to freeze Sievers, but his 40-yarder was true.

The Hurricanes struck first in overtime on a seven-yard Dorsey-to-Kellen Winslow pass, Winslow making a beautiful grab over the defensive back Allen.

Then, it was Ohio State's turn on offense, and the situation soon turned bleak when the Buckeyes went backward and were staring at fourth and 14 at the 29.

If Ohio State doesn't make the first, the game's over, yet Craig Krenzel kept the drive alive with a 17-yard sideline pass to Michael Jenkins.

Then, another fourth-down play, this one from the Miami five, and a play that will be talked about for years.

Krenzel threw what appeared to be an incomplete pass in the end zone, with Glenn Sharpe playing tight defense on receiver Chris Gamble.

Miami players stormed the field, thinking they'd won the title, but then came a late flag.

Krenzel got hit on the play, and the only thing he saw was Miami players rushing the field. He thought Ohio State had lost.

"It was a feeling of dejection, thinking the game was over," said Krenzel, who completed seven of 21 passes for 122 yards. "I thought there was contact, but I didn't see the flag until after I got up. I think it was the right call."

Said field judge Terry Porter: "I saw the guy holding prior to the ball being put in the air. He was still holding him, pulling him down while the ball was in the air. I gave the signal for holding. Then I realized it should be pass interference because the ball was in the air."

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