FIESTA BOWL Buckeyes ignore critics, focus on the Hurricanes



Quarterback Craig Krenzel and wideout Chris Gamble shared team MVP awards.
COLUMBUS (AP) -- Ohio State coach Jim Tressel took his coaching staff on a road trip earlier this year to watch the national champion Miami Hurricanes during spring workouts.
Now Tressel will get a much, much closer look.
Miami's 56-45 victory over Virginia Tech on Saturday earned Miami (12-0) a berth in the national championship game on Jan. 3 in the Fiesta Bowl. The Buckeyes (13-0) already had been assured of a spot when they completed their regular season two weeks earlier.
Miami likely will be a lopsided favorite, but that doesn't bother Tressel.
"I don't think we get too involved in the broad type of things, like who's the underdog or who's not," Tressel said Sunday shortly after the Hurricanes officially were invited to defend their title. "I think our guys are just excited to have a chance to play in the Fiesta Bowl and to play against the national champions."
Ohio State quarterback Craig Krenzel said the Buckeyes will not pay much attention to what everyone outside of the two teams will be saying in the weeks leading up to the game.
"I know there are going to be a lot of people around the country saying, 'Ohio State does not belong in this game. Ohio State can't win this game,' " Krenzel said. "I don't think that's true, and none of the guys on our team believe that's true. We believe we deserve to be playing on Jan. 3. We respect Miami and we know they're a great team, but there's not a guy on this team who doesn't think we can compete, who doesn't think we can't go out and win."
Familiar
Both coaches are familiar with the opposing program -- and it goes back further than spring practice.
Miami coach Larry Coker spent two seasons as an assistant to Ohio State coach John Cooper in 1993 and 1994. He served as an assistant at Miami before taking over the head coaching position two years ago -- and has never lost.
"I have great memories of Columbus, Ohio, and The Ohio State University," Coker said. "It was just a great experience for my wife and myself. We loved every moment of it. It's very intense. Football is very important to Ohio State: the intensity of the season, the rivalries and the tradition."
Tressel was a candidate for the Miami job -- there were reports at the time that he was offered it and turned it down -- when current Cleveland Browns coach Butch Davis was hired to take over the program in 1995.
Tressel denied that he was ever offered the job. He said he interviewed for it, but said the timing wasn't right for all the parties involved.
"It's interesting in life: usually things work out," Tressel said. "They made the right decision in hiring Butch Davis and his staff. Things worked out for all of us and here we have a chance to be at Ohio State. Things always work out."
Krenzel, Gamble share MVP
Krenzel and Chris Gamble, a sophomore who starts at both receiver and defensive back, were named the team's most valuable players during a banquet Sunday.
Krenzel, of Sterling Hts., Mich., completed just under 62 percent of his passes for 1988 yards and 12 touchdowns. His passing efficiency rate was second in the Big Ten and eighth in the nation. He also ran for 287 yards and a touchdown.
Gamble, of Sunrise, Fla., started every game at flanker and was a starting cornerback in the last five games. He is the first two-way regular starter for the Buckeyes in nearly 40 years. Gamble caught 29 passes as a flanker and had a team-high four interceptions. He broke up six passes and made 19 tackles. Gamble also led the team in punt returns and was second in kickoff returns.
Krenzel also was selected as the offensive player of the year. Safety Mike Doss, a senior, won defensive player of the year. Senior linebacker Cie Grant won the most inspirational player award. Junior tight end Ben Hartsock won the academic excellence award.
Other winners included: outstanding special teams player award, Mike Nugent; outstanding linebacker award, Matt Wilhelm; outstanding defensive back, Donnie Nickey; outstanding defensive lineman, Darrion Scott; outstanding offensive lineman, Alex Stepanovich; outstanding receiver award, Michael Jenkins; outstanding offensive back award, Maurice Clarett; outstanding player in the Michigan game award, Doss; outstanding first-year offensive player award, Clarett; outstanding first-year defensive player, A.J. Hawk.

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