CRAIG KRENZEL Quarterback play is crucial for OSU
The redshirt junior's decision-making has been impressive.
By ROB TODOR
VINDICATOR SPORTS EDITOR
PHOENIX -- The quarterback has lost only one game in which he has started. The running back gets a lot of the attention, but if his team is to come out on top in the BCS national championship game, it's the signal-caller who will have to make the difference.
We're not talking about Ken Dorsey of Miami, but his counterpart, Ohio State's Craig Krenzel, the redshirt junior from Sterling Heights, Mich., who will pull the trigger tonight in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.
Krenzel has led the Buckeyes to 13 consecutive wins heading into tonight's showdown. He has been extremely accurate, completing 61.8 percent of his pass attempts, and mistake-free, tossing just five interceptions.
Krenzel's decision-making, which includes play-calling at the line of scrimmage and making reads as the play is developing, has been impressive.
What he's lacking
He doesn't have Dorsey's flashy statistics or the national respect, but they are the only two unbeaten quarterbacks of major college football teams this season.
"I've always been laid back and calm regardless of the situation," said Krenzel. "Emotionally and the way I handle myself.
"Just from the sheer experience, the past attempts, all the opportunities ... I think I've grown a lot as a quarterback at this level."
Krenzel was redshirted his first year in Columbus, then was a backup to Steve Bellisari for all of the 2000 season and most of the 2001 campaign.
He was thrust into the starter's spot prior to the Michigan game after Bellisari was arrested on a drunken diving charge.
He led the Buckeyes to a 26-20 victory, despite completing only 5-of-9 passes.
This season, he has started all 13 games, completing 141 of 228 passes for 1,988 yards and 12 touchdowns. He ranked second in the Big Ten in passing efficiency.
Krenzel is a molecular genetics major, and he carries that studious attitude into the locker room, where he is obsessed with studying game films. His greatest strength is calling the right formations and plays for the situation.
"I like being known as a smart player, a person who makes good decisions," he said. "I'm sure Ken Dorsey will tell you that's what you need to win in this position. You need a quarterback who is not going to make mistakes and turn the ball over."
In addition to his passing skills and decision-making, Krenzel has the athletic ability to be a good scrambler and ball carrier. This season, he rushed for 287 yards and a touchdown.
"If they play a lot of man-to-man [pass coverage] defense with two safeties behind it, they have really no one on the quarterback," Krenzel said of the Miami defense. "That's where a lot of [scrambles] have come into play; we've seen that on film.
"Whether or not they can play it against us, that's to be seen, and we're going to have to adjust to that. It's kind of a reaction."
In the Ohio State offensive scheme, it is Krenzel's decision-making and ability to not make turnovers that has his coach, Jim Tressel, most happy.
"The guy with the ball in his hand is most crucial," said Tressel. "The decisions he makes before the ball is snapped, then the decisions and the plays that he makes or doesn't make will determine the outcome of this game. [In that respect], you're seeing two of the best."
Ohio State trailed in nine of its 13 games this season, but each time Krenzel was able to deliver the Buckeyes a victory. Perhaps his signature moment was the fourth down touchdown pass to Michael Jenkins against Purdue.
"He doesn't get rattled," said junior offensive tackle Shane Olivea of Krenzel. "He's really tough. He's someone you want to have in that huddle [when it's] fourth-and-one."
Krenzel said that experience may be a factor tonight.
"As a team it will definitely help us," he said. "Having played in so many close games, we know how to keep our composure and keep our focus on the game to go out and make the plays to win."