FIESTA BOWL WRAP-UP Ohio State is already looking ahead



The Buckeyes lose several standouts, but could be more talented next year.
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -- Jim Tressel loves to tell the story of how, after he won his first I-AA national championship as the coach at Youngstown State, he was met by a reporter as he left the field.
"Can you repeat?" Tressel was asked.
The point is that success is fleeting. No sooner do you win a national title than people are asking whether you can do it again. There's no chance to savor the moment.
So it came as no shock after No. 2 Ohio State's dramatic 31-24 double-overtime victory over No. 1 Miami in Friday night's Fiesta Bowl that Tressel was kiddingly asked whether he thought the Buckeyes could repeat as national champions.
"Life is about what comes next," said Tressel, who won four titles at Youngstown State and was in only his second year with the Buckeyes. "You know, we'll go to work pretty soon."
Miami, seeking to become the first repeat national champion since Nebraska in the 1994-95 seasons, had won 34 straight games -- the sixth-longest streak in major-college history.
Could be better
Ohio State, meanwhile, went 14-0 this season to win its fourth national title and first since the 1968 season.
The scary part for opponents is that Ohio State, which went 7-5 in 2001, was considered a year away from challenging for a championship this season.
Looking ahead to next year, the Buckeyes lose only backup flanker Chris Vance on offense. From the defense, which forced five turnovers and limited one of the nation's best offenses to just 65 yards rushing, five starters graduate, including three-time All-American strong safety Mike Doss and first-team All-American linebacker Matt Wilhelm. Yet almost everyone believes the Buckeyes may be better in 2003.
"What do we do next? We go back to the national championship," said defensive back Will Allen, who knocked Miami tailback Willis McGahee out of the game with a devastating hit to his left knee early in the fourth quarter.
"You work even harder," Allen said. "Now we're marked. Teams are really going to try to come after us next year. We've got to stay poised, stay focused and keep going. Just keep fighting and scrapping. Pretty soon, everybody'll be talking about us like they talked about Miami."
Tough schedule
The Buckeyes face a formidable schedule for 2003, although they play eight games at Ohio Stadium, including the first five: against Washington, San Diego State, North Carolina State, Bowling Green and Northwestern.
In the Big Ten, Ohio State will play conference co-champion Iowa, Michigan State and Purdue at home, with road games against Wisconsin, Indiana, Penn State and rival Michigan.
"We want to go out and put up a winning streak like Miami did," starting cornerback/flanker Chris Gamble said.
The returnees include quarterback Craig Krenzel, leading receiver Michael Jenkins, the entire offensive line, top rusher Maurice Clarett, three of the four defensive linemen, linebacker Robert Reynolds, both cornerbacks and All-American kicker Mike Nugent.
"We've got a very young team," said cornerback Dustin Fox, who had one of the Buckeyes' two interceptions. Fox recounted a saying from secondary coach Mel Tucker: " 'If you get an A on the first test and then a C on the next one, are you going to settle for a B? No. You want A's all the way through.' So we're going to come back and try to repeat."
Both Ohio State coordinators -- Jim Bollman on offense and Mark Dantonio on defense -- said they were pleased with their units, but that they had made numerous mistakes that need to be corrected. Both said there was plenty of room for improvement.
Among the senior losses is four-year starter Donnie Nickey at free safety.

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