||Saturday, January 4
Did I say 20 reasons why Miami would win?
By Gene Wojciechowski
ESPN The Magazine
COLUMBUS, Ariz. -- I'll make it short and sweet: I was wrong, Ohio State was 31 points right in the football version of Duke-Kentucky.
Let me count the 20 ways I miscalculated. . .
1. Pure talent.
"We've been there," said free safety Donnie Nickey. "We didn't panic or anything."
Miami didn't exactly panic. The Hurricanes tied the game on the last play of regulation, took the lead in the first overtime and had first-and-goal at the Ohio State 2 in the second OT. But OSU overcame more obstacles (hello, fourth-and-14 in the first OT!).
3. Andre Johnson vs. Chris Gamble.
As it turns out Miami had more problems covering WR Gamble than the other way around. Gamble finished with two catches for 69 yards, but it was the pass he couldn't catch that was the play of the game: a belated pass interference called against UM cornerback Glenn Sharpe as he tried to check Gamble on a fourth-and-3 from the UM 5. Someone pressed the pause button on OSU coach Jim Tressel's heart as he watched the ball fall incomplete. He could have sworn he saw contact between Sharpe and Gamble.
And yet, nothing.
"Isn't that a shame," he said to himself.
"Oh, ----!" thought OSU right tackle Shane Olivea.
"Dejection," said quarterback Craig Krenzel afterward.
Miami's players and fans began to celebrate. Then Porter's flag fluttered to the turf.
"They came out on the field all joyful and happy," said Gamble. "That (flag) took all the joy out of it."
"It took forever," said tight end Ben Hartsock of the interference call. "I couldn't believe how long it took."
"You get a lump in your throat," Olivea said. "Then, 'OK, we got another chance.'"
Three plays later, Krenzel scored from a yard out.
Coffee's for closers, and the Hurricanes couldn't close the deal.
Will a pamphlet do?
The Hurricanes certainly had the motivation, but so did Ohio State.
Insert obligatory OSU we-shocked-the-world, nobody-believed-in-us quotes. And they're all true.
"I honest to God never thought we were going to lose this game," Olivea said.
6. Maurice Clarett vs. Ohio State pencil pushers.
So much for early-week distractions. The Buckeyes said Clarett's Monday-Tuesday quotes would be no factor, and they were right.
7. Willis McGahee and Ken Dorsey.
Dorsey was sacked four times, was pressured twice that many times, fumbled once, threw two interceptions, was knocked silly in the second overtime, threw wide on a sure TD in that same OT, and couldn't do a thing on the final play of the game. He had his moments, but not enough of them.
8. Larry Coker.
Coker was gracious. So was Tressel, who was a bit more animated 10 minutes later, when he told the Ohio State fans: "We've always had the best damn band in the land," he said. "Now we got the best damn team in the land."
9. Kellen Winslow Jr.
10. Maurice Clarett's shoulder.
11. Miami's defensive line.
13. Been there, done that.
"The only thing that will kill us is turnovers and penalties," McGahee said earlier in the week.
It was a bit of unintended prophecy. Miami finished with two interceptions, three lost fumbles, nearly 18 minutes less time of possession, and six penalties, including the Sharpe pass interference call.
15. Sean Taylor.
Still, Taylor finished with 11 tackles -- two solo, nine assists.
"I think you saw what kind of speed we had (Friday)," Gamble said.
18. More numbers.
Uh, no way you have to be a molecular genetics major to see I was wrong.
Krenzel only completed seven of 21 passes for 122 yards (and two interceptions), but he was the guy who suggested the pass play to Michael Jenkins on that fourth-and-14. He was also the guy who put it right on the numbers.
"He stepped in and made some big throws," said Gamble.
In return, Krenzel was handed the offensive MVP award.
But the Buckeyes were helped by what amounted to a home crowd ("A mini-Horseshoe," said Krenzel of the similarity to Ohio Stadium) and a will to win as strong as tuba metal.
In the end, they had a victory and national championship to cherish.
"We're keeping ESPN Classic in business," said Hartsock.
Classic for the ages.
Gene Wojciechowski is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine. He can be reached at email@example.com.
In game for ages, Ohio State nips Miami for title