Sun, Jan 05, 2003 - Page 23 News List

Ohio State cleans up in Bowl classic

GOLDEN YEARS It was the first national championship game to go into overtime, a matchup of the nation's last two undefeated teams, with Ohio State eventually beating the Hurricanes

AP , TEMPE, ARIZONA

Ohio State worked two overtimes to rip the national championship from the confident 'Canes in one of the greatest college football games ever.

Maurice Clarett ran 5 yards for the winning touchdown, and Ohio State's defense turned back one final Miami bid to tie the game. With that, the Buckeyes completed an unlikely, unbeaten run to their first national title in 34 years with a 31-24 win on Friday night at the Fiesta Bowl.

The Buckeyes, 11-and-a-half point underdogs, ended the Hurricanes' bid for a second straight title and their winning streak at 34.

``It's no different than what we've done all year,'' Ohio State quarterback Craig Krenzel said. ``We make plays in the big games when we have to.''

But it would have never happened if not for a late pass interference call at the end of the first overtime -- which came with Miami players already celebrating an apparent championship.

Instead, the fourth-down call gave Ohio State the chance it needed to tie the game and send it into the second overtime.

By then, it already was a classic -- the first national championship game to go into overtime, in a matchup of the nation's last two undefeated teams.

What a day

The greatest ever?

``It's got to be right up there if it's not,'' Krenzel said.

Miami's Todd Sievers sent the game into overtime with his 40-yard field goal on the final play of the fourth quarter.

The Buckeyes' punishing defense had rattled and pounded Miami quarterback Ken Dorsey all night.

And on the last play of the game, on fourth-and-goal at the 1, Cie Grant blitzed and forced Dorsey to heave a desperation pass that linebacker Matt Wilhelm batted to the ground.

A few plays earlier, Wilhelm hit Dorsey with such force it sent the quarterback to the sideline for one play. He came back in, but the Buckeyes would not be denied against a team trying to secure its place in history as one of college football's great dynasties.

``It feels unreal,'' Miami fullback Quadtrine Hill said. ``After the game was over, it felt like we had one play left. It can't be over. It's something I never want to feel again.''

While Miami coach Larry Coker lost for the first time in 25 games, Ohio State's Jim Tressel now has a major college title to add to the four he won in Division I-AA at Youngstown State.

Nine times since Woody Hayes coached the Buckeyes to the 1968 title, Ohio State lost a late-season season that cost it a possible championship. But the Buckeyes finally brought the title back to Columbus with a conservative offense and fierce defense that Hayes would have loved.

Miami (12-1) nearly had its 35th straight victory in the first overtime after scoring a touchdown on its first possession.

Trailing 24-17, Ohio State (14-0) converted a fourth-and-14 on a pass by Krenzel. But the Buckeyes then faced a fourth-and-3 at the 5 when Krenzel threw to the right corner of the end zone for Chris Gamble, who was being covered Glenn Sharpe.

As Gamble reached back for the ball, he got his hands on it but couldn't hold on. Seconds later, field judge Terry Porter threw a flag from the back of the end zone indicating pass interference even as Miami players and fans spilled onto the field.

Order was restored quickly, and three plays later Krenzel scored from the 1 to send the game to a second OT.

After losing All-American running back Willis McGahee to an injured left knee early in the fourth quarter, Miami had the ball first in overtime. The Hurricanes went ahead on Dorsey's 7-yard TD pass to Kellen Winslow Jr., but the Buckeyes answered with Krenzel's 1-yard score.

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