BUCKS RAZE CANES



By ROB TODOR
VINDICATOR SPORTS EDITOR
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Buckeye Nation, try this one on for size -- "National Champions."
And you can add the names of Grant, Nickey, Krenzel and Clarett alongside the likes of Cassady, Kern, Griffin and George as heroes in the Scarlet and Gray.
The Ohio State Buckeyes, picked in the summer to finish as low as fourth in the Big Ten Conference, today stands as the best team in college football.
Their 31-24 double-overtime victory over Miami Friday night in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl will go down as the biggest win in school history since the 1969 Rose Bowl, and the first national championship for the storied program in 34 years.
"That's how you win championships, by making plays," Coach Jim Tressel said. "[Quarterback] Craig Krenzel made plays and he played tough."
Dethroned Hurricanes
In the process, the Buckeyes dethroned the defending national champions, a team that had won 34 consecutive games and was poised to lay claim to a college football's latest dynasty.
"We've always had the best damn band in the land," Tressel said. "Now we have the best damn team in the land."
The Buckeyes' victory followed the same script as the one that led them to 13 regular season victories -- a dominant defense and an offense that didn't turn over the ball.
Ohio State forced five turnovers, including two interceptions of Miami quarterback Ken Dorsey, and stopped the Hurricanes twice from the 1-yard line in the second overtime.
On fourth down, linebacker Cie Grant blitzed from the left side of the defensive line and was untouched. He forced Dorsey to throw a weak pass off his back foot. It was surrounded in the air by Buckeyes and safety Donnie Nickey knocked it down, sending the great throng of Buckeye fans in the stadium into a frenzy.
Safety Michael Doss, whose tearful announcement last winter to return for his senior season perhaps set the tone for the season, was close to emotional on the field after the game.
"I believed in this team, I believed we would win the championship," Doss said. "I've won championships at every level since I was 8 years old. To do it in college is a great honor."
Stayed with game plan
The Buckeyes worked their game plan pretty well. The offense, while far from perfect, controlled the ball for almost three minutes more than Miami in the regulation.
Krenzel completed 7-of-21 passes for 122 yards and rushed 19 times for 81 yards. He was named offensive player of the game.
And the defense held Hurricanes running back Willis McGahee in check for a majority of the contest, sacked Dorsey four times -- he had been sacked only 11 times in 12 regular season games -- and forced him into a pair of interceptions.
And the Buckeyes knocked McGahee out of the game in the fourth quarter when Will Allen's helmet hit his knee with 11:39 remaining.
Dorsey finished 28-of-43 for 296 yards and two touchdowns.
"We gave ourselves a chance to win," said Miami coach Larry Coker, who tasted defeat for the first time after 24 straight wins. "It just wasn't meant to be."
The Hurricanes stormed the field at the end of the first overtime, believing they had won the game when cornerback Glenn Sharpe broke up a fourth-down pass intended for Chris Gamble in the end zone.
Costly penalty
But Sharpe was flagged for interference, giving the Buckeyes a first-and-goal at the 2. Three plays later, Krenzel powered in from the 1-yard line, his second score of the game, and Mike Nugent's extra point tied the score at 24.
"I didn't have a chance to see the call," Coker said. "That's what we have to deal with, to adjust and go to the next play. You hate for an official to have to make that call. You would like for it to be a legitimate call."
In the second overtime, Ohio State had the ball first, and scored in five plays. Freshman Maurice Clarett, held in check for much of the game (23 rushes for 47 yards), scored from 5 yards out and Nugent's kick made is 31-24.
The Hurricanes gained no yards on first down from the 25, then linebacker Matt Wilhelm pounded Dorsey into the ground on a pass attempt, knocking the quarterback out of action for one play. In his absence, back-up signal caller Derrick Crudup completed a pass for 7 yards.
Dorsey returned to the lineup and on fourth down completed a 7-yard pass to tight end Kellen Winslow. A facemask penalty gave the 'Canes a first down at the OSU 6.
A pass interference call on Gamble in the end zone moved the ball to the 2, but Jarrett Payton was stopped at the 1, then Dorsey misfired to tight end Eric Winston. On third down, fullback Quadtrine Hill was stuffed short of the goal line, setting up the final play.
First blood in OT
Dorsey and Winslow, who teamed up 11 times for 122 yards on the night, put Miami ahead in the first overtime, from the 7, but Krenzel hit Michael Jenkins for 17 yards on a fourth down, giving the Buckeyes a first down at the Miami 12.
Four plays later, Sharpe was called for the pass interference.
"I thought there was pass interference, but I didn't see a flag," Tressel said. "It was good to see that guy come from the back of the end zone and throw that flag."
Todd Sievers, 4-of-10 this season on field goal attempts from 40 yards and farther, kicked one exactly that distance at the end of regulation to bring the 'Canes back from a 10-point deficit.
That was set up by Roscoe Parrish's 50-yard punt return.
Miami closed to 17-14 with 2:11 remaining in the third quarter on a 9-yard run by McGahee, culminating a seven-play, 55-yard drive following an uncharacteristically poor, 30-yard punt by Ohio State's Andy Groom.
On the drive, Dorsey completed three passes to Winslow, including a 7-yarder on the play that preceded McGahee's run.
The 'Canes next push made it to the Ohio State 35, but on third-and-10, Dorsey's screen pass to McGahee lost 2 yards. More importantly, McGahee was lost for the remainder of the game,
Afterwards, Sievers' 54-yard field goal attempt was wide right, and the Buckeyes drove from their 37 to the Miami 25, but Nugent's 42-yard field goal try was also wide right, leaving Ohio State with a three-point lead with 6:36 remaining.
The two drives combined to take more than four minutes off the clock, and more importantly, the Miami offense on the sideline.
Buckeyes take lead
The Buckeyes took the lead with a pair of touchdowns late in the second quarter.
Kenny Peterson sacked Dorsey and stripped the ball from the Miami quarterback. Darrion Scott recovered at the 'Canes 14, and two plays -- and one offsides penalty on Miami -- later, Clarett powered his way in from the 7 for a 14-7 lead.
Ohio State's first scoring opportunity came following Dustin Fox's interception of Dorsey and return to the Hurricanes' 37. Krenzel directed the offense to one first down and then to fourth down-and-1 at the Miami 17, but, the Buckeyes' Andy Groom, their punter and holder on field goal attempts, was stopped short on a fake.
Ohio State didn't fail on its second chance, though, following another interception of Dorsey, this time by Doss, who returned the theft 35 yards to the Miami 17.
Seven plays later, Krenzel dove in from the 1, and Nugent's extra point tied the score at 7 with 2:28 remaining in the half.
The Buckeyes' first four possessions ended in three punts and an interception. On the turnover, Krenzel, from the Ohio State 15, avoided a rush and threw deep down the middle for Chris Vance. Miami cornerback Kelly Jennings appeared to interfere with Vance, but no penalty flag was thrown, and safety Sean Taylor tipped the ball and caught it at the Miami 35 while falling to his back.
Miami took the lead on its second possession, following an Ohio State punt.
Starting from the Hurricanes' 48, Dorsey guided them to the end zone in five plays. He completed 2-of-3 passes in the drive, including a 25-yard scoring strike to Roscoe Parrish for the TD.
The Buckeyes sent safety Donnie Nickey on a blitz, leaving Ohio State in man-to-man pass coverage. Parrish got past Doss at the line of scrimmage and Dorsey hit him in stride at about the 7. Parrish then dragged Doss into the end zone.
todor@vindy.com

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