WON 45-21

Clarett Makes History on Buckeye Opener

Ohio State downs Texas Tech 45-21 in Pigskin Classic

Aug 24, 2002

COLUMBUS, Ohio-Even though it was an unprecedented game for an Ohio State freshman tailback, Maurice Clarett acted as if it were no big deal.

"I just wanted to do my job and everything just fell its own way," Clarett said after becoming the first true freshman to ever start at tailback in an Ohio State season opener.

Clarett more than did his job. He rushed for 175 yards and three touchdowns as the No. 13 Buckeyes beat Texas Tech 45-21 on Saturday in the Pigskin Classic.

Clarett scored on runs of 59, 45 and 2 yards - and set up two other short touchdown runs by Lydell Ross as the Buckeyes rolled up 318 yards on the ground.

Early in the third quarter, after he ran untouched through the right side for the 45-yard score, the crowd of 100,037 at Ohio Stadium chanted, "Mau-rice! Mau-rice!"

"I'm just kind of soaking it in," Clarett said. "It's only one game. If I'm successful all season, I guess then I can call myself a success."

Clarett's teammates were impressed.

"He's the real deal," quarterback Craig Krenzel said. "Sometimes you get recruits that are highly touted and they don't pan out. His performance today proved he's ready to play."

Tech quarterback Kliff Kingsbury, touted as a Heisman Trophy contender but befuddled most of the day by the Ohio State defense, completed 26 of 44 passes for 341 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. Two of his touchdown passes and more than 140 of the passing yards came in the fourth quarter after the Red Raiders fell behind 38-7.

"We knew they were good up front but when you get behind 21-7 you get out of your game plan and you're scrambling for things to do," Kingsbury said. "We never recovered."

Kingsbury had a shot at getting the Red Raiders back in the game after they fell behind 21-7 midway through the second quarter. But he bumped into halfback Foy Munlin on a fourth-and-goal handoff at the 1 late in the half, with Ohio State's front line smothering the play.

"They just blew it up," Kingsbury said.

On Tech's first series of the third quarter - after Clarett burst through on a slant play for another score - Kingsbury underthrew a wide-open Nehemiah Glover on a short pass and Ohio State's Dustin Fox picked it off at the goal line.

"That's a 14-point turnaround," said Carlos Francis, who provided Tech's first touchdown on a 37-yard pass from Kingsbury. "It hurts bad. It hurts in PlayStation and it hurts in real life."

Ohio State defensive end Will Smith was a key component in disrupting the Red Raiders' spread offense. In one second-quarter series, he sniffed out Kingsbury's shovel pass to Taurean Henderson for a 3-yard loss, almost picked off Kingsbury's pass over the middle and then rushed Kingsbury and forced him to throw a pass away.

Tech ran for just 31 yards on 20 attempts.

Smith only had four tackles but all four were for negative yardage including two sacks. The Buckeyes totaled seven sacks and nine tackles for a loss.

"We didn't have any tricks up our sleeves and Ohio State didn't have any up their's, either," coach Mike Leach said. "It was pretty much base stuff and they just executed better than we did."

Clarett was Ohio's Mr. Football last year at Warren's Harding High School and also was USA Today's national offensive player of the year. He graduated from high school in December and enrolled at Ohio State for the winter quarter so he could go through spring drills with the team.

He carried four times for 10 yards and caught an 8-yard pass for a first down as the Buckeyes took a 7-0 lead on their first possession on Ross' 2-yard run.

Clarett broke two hand tackles at the line and fought off Tech's Joselo Hanson the final 10 yards on a 59-yard run that made it 14-0.

Ohio State also scored on a Ross 1-yard dive, backup quarterback Scott McMullen's 1-yard keeper and Mike Nugent's 45-yard field goal.

Kingsbury's late touchdown passes covered 36 and 34 yards to Wes Welker.

Ahead 21-7 at the half, the Buckeyes pulled away by scoring on each of their three third-quarter possessions. Clarett, who gained 100 yards on 12 carries in the first half, had seven carries for 71 yards in the period.

He also ended up as the Buckeyes' leading receiver with four catches for 30 yards.

"There's no question that Maurice has great ability," Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said. He added, "I think we have three guys who can bang it in there."

Krenzel was almost flawless, completing 11 of 14 passes for 118 yards and running for 34 yards - three more than Tech's leading rusher.

Much had been made about how good Tech's passing game was - and how many question marks the Buckeyes had up front and in their offensive backfield.

"I felt the physical factors would be in our favor and that if we got a chance to outhit them we would," Tressel said. "And we did."




WON 51-17


Ohio State Golden Against Kent State in 51-17 Win

Buckeyes pass for 268 yards and aided by two defensive touchdowns in victory.

Sept 7, 2002

COLUMBUS, Ohio - No. 8 Ohio State scored 40 points for the second-consecutive game, including two defensive touchdowns, as the Buckeyes cruised to a 51-17 victory over Kent State Saturday at Ohio Stadium in front of 98,689 fans.

Quarterback Craig Krenzel completed 12-of-14 passes for 190 yards and one touchdown after completing his first 11 passes to start the game. Combine those passes with his final completion vs. Texas Tech in the season opener, and he tied an Ohio State record for consecutive passes (12) completed at Ohio State.

Ohio State completed 11-consecutive passes against Kent State before Scott McMullen threw an incompletion in the second quarter. McMullen finished the game 7-for-11 for 78 yards as the Buckeyes threw for 268 yards and two touchdowns. McMullen hit Ryan Hamby late in the fourth quarter to put OSU on top 51-17.

The defense scored two of the Buckeyes' six touchdowns, both of interceptions. Michael Doss scored on a 45-yard interception return in the first quarter and then A.J. Hawk returned his pick 34 yards for a score in the second quarter.

After Kent State went three-and-out on its first possession. Ohio State's Donnie Nickey partially blocked the punt and began its drive from the 31-yard line. Maurice Clarett gave the Buckeyes the lead five plays later on a 2-yard touchdown run with two minutes, 44 seconds into the first quarter. The blocked punt was the first for Ohio State since Michael Doss blocked a punt at Indiana in the 2000 season.

Doss then picked off a Josh Cribbs pass at the Kent State 45-yard line and returned it for the Buckeyes' second score of the game with 9:21 remaining in the first. It was Doss' fourth career touchdown. Derek Ross had the last Buckeye interception return for a touchdown, also a 45-yard return last year vs. Penn State.

Maurice Hall ran off the right side for 28 yards and the third OSU score of the game to put the Buckeyes on top, 21-0. It was his first career touchdown. A Craig Krenzel 33-yard pass to Chris Gamble on the second play of the four-play, 76-yard drive set up the touchdown.

Krenzel capped a 7-play, 66-yard drive with a 7-yard touchdown pass to Clarett to give OSU a 28-0 lead 1:03 into the second quarter. It was Ohio State's first passing TD of the season against nine rushing scores. Krenzel was 9-for-9 with 104 yards after the score.

Mike Nugent gave the Buckeyes a 31-0 lead with a 40-yard field goal with 9:05 in the second quarter. Hawk scored on the second interception of the game by the Buckeyes, returning it 34-yards for the touchdown. The freshman gave the Buckeyes a 38-0 lead with 7:31 remaining in the first half. The last time the Buckeyes had two defensive touchdowns in a game was against Fresno State in 2000, when the Buckeyes recorded a school-record four defensive scores.

Kent State got on the board thanks to a 28-yards pass from Cribbs to Daryl Moore with 3:11 to go in the first half. It capped a 13-play, 75-yard drive. The Golden Flashes capitalized on an Ohio State fumble on the Buckeyes' next possession and added another touchdown, a 13-yard pass from Cribbs to Antonio King, just before the end of the half. Ohio State led 38-14 at intermission.

Nugent kicked his second field goal of the day, this time from 33 yards out, to put the Buckeyes up 41-14. Kent State kicker Travis Mayle missed a 26-yard field goal try wide right. Nugent then kicked a 45-yard field goal, equaling his career long, which he kicked in the season-opening win over Texas Tech, to put Ohio State up 44-14 with 14:56 to play in the game. Mayle added a 33-yard field goal with 8:25 remaining in the game to pull within 44-17.

Ohio State added a late touchdown in the fourth quarter when McMullen hit Hamby for an 18-yard score with 4:09 to play.

The Buckeyes finished the game with 412 total yards, including 268 through the air. Michael Jenkins had 89 yards receiving while Chris Gamble recorded 87 yards on the day. Clarett was the leading ground gainer with 64 yards on 12 carries.

OSU will play host to Washington State next Saturday at 3:30 p.m. on ABC-TV.



WON 25-7

No. 6 Ohio State Runs Past No. 10 Washington State, 25-7

Freshman tailback Maurice Clarett ran for 230 yards and two second-half scores.

Sept 14, 2002

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Freshman tailback Maurice Clarett ran for 230 yards, including 194 in the second half, to lift No. 6 Ohio State to a 25-7 victory over No. 10 Washington State in front of a record 104,553 fans Saturday at Ohio Stadium.

Clarett's 230 yards rushing on 31 carries were both career bests. His rushing total is the sixth-highest single game total in OSU history and the second-highest mark for a freshman behind Archie Griffin's 239 yards vs. North Carolina in 1972. Clarett earned more than 200 yards for the first time in his career and topped 100 yards for the second time in the first three games of his Ohio State career.

The Buckeyes struggled in the first half and trailed, 7-6, at intermission. Washington State out-gained Ohio State 189 to 109 yards in total offense in the first half, including a difference of 155 to 57 in passing yardage. Clarett had just 36 yards in the first half.

In the second half, Ohio State posted 254 yards of offense, 240 of which came by way of the ground attack. The Buckeye defense forced two interceptions and had two sacks against Washington State's Heisman Trophy candidate Jason Gesser. The WSU senior quarterback completed 25-of-44 passes for 247 yards and one touchdown. For the Buckeyes, quarterback Craig Krenzel was 4-of-10 for 71 yards.

Ohio State forced a punt on Washington State's opening possession of the second half and then drove 91 yards on just eight plays for the go-ahead score, a 3-yard run by Clarett. The freshman tailback opened the drive with a 44-yard rush over the left side. He also had carries of 6 and 20 yards on the drive. The score came at 8:37 in the third quarter and put the Buckeyes on top 13-7.

The Buckeyes extended their lead, 16-7 on a 45-yard field goal by Mike Nugent with 1:57 to play in the third quarter. The kick capped a six-play, 16-yard drive. The field goal was Nugent's third of the game and his eighth straight make, which is the fifth longest streak in OSU history.

Washington State was forced to punt on the ensuing possession and the Buckeyes took a two-point gift when the snap went over the punter's head and through the end zone. The safety gave the Buckeyes an 18-7 lead with 47 seconds remaining in the third quarter.

A one-yard run by Clarett put the Buckeyes up, 25-7, with 10:41 to play in the game. The score capped a 10-play, 66-yard drive that guzzled up 4:58 off the clock. Clarett ran for 37 yards on the drive. The score was the sixth touchdown of his career and was his fifth rushing touchdown.

Ohio State opened the game by scoring on its first possession. Kicker Mike Nugent made a 43-yard try to give the Buckeyes a 3-0 lead with 13:19 to go in the opening quarter. A 33-yard pass from Craig Krenzel to Mike Jenkins set up the score. Jenkins added a 16-yard grab to finish with 49 receiving yards.

Washington State countered with a touchdown on its initial drive, moving the ball 80 yards in 11 plays. The 5-yard completion from Jason Gesser to Devard Darling gave the Cougars a 7-3 lead with 8:33 to play in the first. Darling finished the game with six receptions for 65 yards.

Nugent pulled the Buckeyes within one, 7-6, with his second 43-yard field goal of the afternoon with 12:09 left in the second quarter. Lydell Ross had a 36-yard run in the drive.

The Cougars threatened, going 68 yards to set up a 29-yard field goal with 2:50 to play in the first half, but an errant snap gave the Buckeyes the ball. OSU could get nothing going and were forced to punt. Washington State went three and out and punted the ball for a touchback. OSU downed the ball and headed for the locker room trailing, 7-6.

Next week, Ohio State will play Cincinnati at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio. The game will be televised by ESPN and will begin at 3:30 p.m.



WON 23-19

Buckeyes Stage Fourth Quarter Rally Against Cincinnati

Craig Krenzel fourth quarter touchdown spurs Ohio State on to 23-19 victory.

Sept 21, 2002

AP Sports Writer

CINCINNATI (AP) - So close to pulling off an upset that would have rocked the Buckeye state and the national rankings, Cincinnati coach Rick Minter found little to feel good about.

"There's no solace in playing them close," Rick Minter said. "We had a chance to win the ballgame, and we didn't take it."

Cincinnati receivers dropped two touchdown passes in the final minute, and Ohio State quarterback Craig Krenzel ran for a late touchdown as the sixth-ranked Buckeyes slipped past the Bearcats 23-19 Saturday, in front of the largest crowd to ever watch a sporting event the city.

"We had a couple of near-misses," Minter said. "Give their defensive backs credit, (but) both of those balls should have been caught."

Ohio State (4-0) was playing in Cincinnati for the first time in 91 years, against a team that had beaten the Buckeyes just twice in 12 tries - in 1896 and 1897.

Ahead 19-14 midway through the fourth quarter, the Bearcats (1-2) lost the ball and eventually the lead when Ohio State defensive end Darrion Scott leveled quarterback Gino Guidugli with a blind-side hit at the Ohio State 44.

Ohio State took the lead on Krenzel's twisting 6-yard scramble with 3:44 left.

"That was excellent effort," Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said. "The best part about that play is he didn't try to force it to someone who wasn't open. The thing we couldn't have at that moment was a turnover."

Krenzel lauded the Buckeyes' effort but then sighed with relief.

"We know we made too many mistakes," he said. "We almost beat ourselves today."

The Bearcats gamely came back one more time, as Guidugli led a drive from his own 20 to the Buckeyes' 15 with 1:01 left. On first down, Guidugli threw a pass to the right corner of the end zone, where Jon Olinger had beaten freshman defensive back E.J. Underwood. Olinger had a clear shot at the ball, but he dropped it as half of the 66,319 fans - a record crowd at Paul Brown Stadium - groaned.

After an incompletion, Guidugli tossed a perfect throw on the fade route into the left corner of the end zone on third down. George Murray dived and appeared to have the ball for an instant before it slipped through his hands.

"I knew it was coming my way, and I had it the whole way," Murray said. "When I hit the ground, I curled up, and I thought I had it. Then I patted my chest, and I didn't feel it. That's when my world came tumbling down."

On fourth down with 32 seconds remaining, Guidugli dropped and threw into the middle of the end zone, but his pass was tipped away by Ohio State linebacker Matt Wilhelm and intercepted by Will Allen with 26 seconds left.

"I thought it was pass interference," said LaDaris Vann, the intended receiver. "(Ohio State strong safety) Mike Doss pushed me when I was running through, but the referee didn't call it."

Minter added, "I don't give them any real credit for that interception. It was just playing catch."

Guidugli completed 26 of 52 passes for 324 yards and one touchdown. Through tears in the dressing room, he vented his frustration.

"It sucks. It sucks so bad. You take nothing from a loss - not a damn thing," he said. "It hurts - hurts so bad. We had the No. 6 team in the country on the ropes, and we couldn't knock them out."

Besides his TD run, Krenzel had touchdown passes covering 20 yards to Ben Hartsock and 4 yards to Chris Vance. He provided just enough offense to overcome a lethargic and mistake-prone Ohio State team that trailed most of the day.

"We got a win," Wilhelm said. "We feel we dodged a bullet."

Krenzel was 14-of-29 for 129 yards with two interceptions.

Ohio State was without phenomenal freshman tailback Maurice Clarett, who had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee earlier in the week. But backup Lydell Ross had a career-best 130 yards rushing.

Clarett, who piled up 471 rushing yards and six touchdowns in the Buckeyes' first three games, stood on the sideline in his game jersey, wearing shorts and a knee brace.

In the first half, Cincinnati dominated and Ohio State made mistake after mistake, yet the Bearcats led just 12-7 at the half. Maurice Hall lost a fumble, Krenzel threw two interceptions and Chris Gamble's 96-yard kickoff return was called back by a holding penalty.

Ohio State was helped by Cincinnati's own gaffes.

Guidugli completed 6 of 7 passes for 79 yards on Cincinnati's first possession of the game, with DeMarco McCleskey scoring on a 1-yard run off an option pitch from Guidugli. The Bearcats used a no-huddle offense and frequently had five wide receivers running pass routes.

Jonathan Ruffin, riding the longest extra-point conversion streak (65) in school history, was wide on the point after. It was a miss that would loom large on the last drive, when the Bearcats were four points down.

Ruffin made a 44-yard field goal and a career-best 49-yarder, but he was well short on another 49-yard attempt.



WON 45-17

No. 6 Ohio State Claims 45-17 Victory Over Indiana

Clarett returns with 104 rushing yards and three scores to improve Buckeyes to 5-0.

Sept 28, 2002

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Freshman tailback Maurice Clarett ran for three touchdowns to lift No. 6 Ohio State to a 45-17 victory over Indiana Saturday in front of 104,194 at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.

The game was the first for Clarett after undergoing knee surgery Sept. 17 to repair a torn meniscus. Clarett carried the ball 21 times for 104 yards and three scores as the Buckeyes accumulated 461 yards of total offense, including 244 yards on the ground. Quarterback Craig Krenzel was 11-of-16 for 152 yards, including one score. Michael Jenkins added 93 yards through the air and a pair of touchdowns as the two Buckeye quarterbacks combined for 217 passing yards in the game.

Ohio State scored first on a 2-yard rush by Clarett with 39 seconds to play in the first quarter. The score capped a 12-play, 50-yard drive in which Clarett carried the ball eight times for 34 yards and added an 8-yard catch to account for 42 yards on the drive.

Indiana scored on its next possession capping a 10-play, 48-yard drive with a 49-yard field goal by Brian Robertson to make it a 7-3 score with 12:16 to go in the first half.

Clarett scored his second touchdown of the game with 5:42 to go in the second quarter on a 1-yard run that was set up by a 27-yard pass completion from Krenzel to Jenkins. The drive took six plays and 44 yards.

Indiana marched 81 yards on eight plays for its first touchdown of the day that pulled the Hoosiers within a 14-10 score with 2:09 to play in the first half. Gibran Hamdan hit Tyke Spencer for the 17-yard score. Three plays earlier Hamdan threw to John Pannozzo down the right sideline for a pickup of 41 yards.

Ohio State added a touchdown just before halftime to extend its lead to 21-10. Clarett took the ball around the right side for a 4-yard score with 38 seconds to play capping a five-play, 45-yard drive. It was his third touchdown of the game and his 10th TD of the season.

The Buckeyes out-gained the Hoosiers in yards of total offense (200-169) during the first half. Ohio State had 100 yards on the ground, led by Clarett's 51 rushing yards. Jenkins had 49 receiving yards in the opening half.

On the first drive of the second half, Chris Gamble scored his first career touchdown taking a reverse 43 yards for the score to put Ohio State on top 28-10 with 12:25 in the third quarter.

A block of Ryan Hamre's punt by Dustin Fox on Indiana's next possession led to Ohio State's next score. Krenzel connected with Jenkins for a 4-yard TD pass to give the Buckeyes a 35-10 advantage. The drive went four plays and 18 yards.

Nugent banged in a 51-yard field goal with 1:20 in the third quarter to put Ohio State on top 38-10. It was the longest field goal of his career by six yards.

After stopping the Hoosiers on the OSU 12-yard line on fourth down, the Buckeyes drove 88 yards on 10 plays for their final touchdown of the day. Jenkins caught a second TD pass, this time a 15-yard reception from Scott McMullen, who entered the game for Krenzel. The score came with 5:43 to play in the game.

Indiana was successful on the fourth down of its final drive scoring on a 30-yard pass completion from Eaton, Ohio, native Tommy Jones to Courtney Roby with 3:04 on the clock.

Ohio State held Indiana to 339 yards of total offense, though the Buckeyes gave up 283 passing yards while holding the Hoosiers to 56 yards on the ground. The Buckeye defense had three sacks of Hamdan totaling 16 yards. Hamdan completed 16-of-26 passes for 210 yards. Jones was 3-for-6 for 73 yards and scored one touchdown.

Ohio State travels to Northwestern next week for a 7 p.m. (EDT) kickoff against the Wildcats on ESPN2. Indiana is idle.



WON 27-16

Buckeyes Remain Perfect

Freshman Clarett leads Ohio State to 27-16 victory over Northwestern.

Oct 5, 2002


EVANSTON, Ill. - Ohio State freshman Maurice Clarett ran for two touchdowns, and personally outrushed Northwestern with his fourth straight 100-yard game.

The only number he's going to remember, though, is three - his three fumbles.

Clarett and the rest of the fifth-ranked Buckeyes were hardly at their best, but the freshman made up for his miscues with two scores and the defense held when it mattered most to stave off scrappy Northwestern 27-16 Saturday night.

"Horrible, horrible," Clarett said. "This win doesn't feel good, but it's a win."

Clarett finished with 140 yards, and is now one shy of Robert Smith's school freshman record for 100-yard games. His 715 yards rushing are 411 short of Smith's freshman record.

Craig Krenzel completed 11 of 22 passes for 170 yards and ran for 62 yards as Ohio State improved to 6-0 (2-0 Big Ten) for the first time since 1998.

It was the Buckeyes' 23rd straight victory over Northwestern (2-4, 0-2 Big Ten), a streak dating to 1971.

"The key is to keep improving and I hope we look at some things and say we're better at this or we're getting better at that," Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said. "I hope we improve, I hope we focus on that instead of, `OK, great, we won another one."'

Especially since this one was closer than anyone but Northwestern expected. The Wildcats had plenty of chances to win, but they missed two field goals and had to settle for field goals on two other possessions inside the Ohio State 10.

They also had a touchdown wiped out by a questionable call in the second quarter and ended up with three points. And driving late, Brett Basanez's pass was intercepted at the Ohio State 25.

"There were critical plays and the credit goes to Ohio State. They made them and we didn't," Northwestern coach Randy Walker said. "You can't get some of those plays back on the goal line."

Jason Wright did his best to give the Buckeyes a game, rushing for 95 yards and a score and adding 67 yards on returns.

"I'm really frustrated about being close," Wright said. "Almost does not count."

The Buckeyes had played only one other road game this year, at Cincinnati, and that was dicey, too. After trailing for most of the day, they needed an interception in the end zone with 26 seconds left to seal their 23-19 victory.

This one wasn't supposed to be nearly as tough. Northwestern's defense entered allowing a whopping 522 yards a game, including 309 rushing. Those are the kind of numbers made for Clarett and Ohio State's ground game.

But Northwestern didn't make this easy.

"We prepared all week to play this offense. They didn't surprise us with anything," said linebacker John Pickens, who forced Clarett's second fumble.

"In the second half, we kind of let it slip out of our hands."

Clarett fumbled on two of the first three possessions, setting up Northwestern's first score, a field goal. The Buckeyes didn't score until the second quarter, on a 3-yard run by Lydell Ross. They added another touchdown on Clarett's 2-yard run with 2:43 left in the half, giving them a 14-9 lead.

Northwestern had a chance to seize the momentum - and possibly the game - when Wright ripped off a 31-yard run and followed it with a 29-yard reception, putting Northwestern at the Ohio State 4. But the Wildcats couldn't get into the end zone, and David Wasielewski's 18-yard field-goal attempt was wide right just before halftime.

"It was a huge difference in the game," linebacker Cie Grant said. "A lot of people were saying maybe they'll come out with three, and we're saying, `They're getting nothing."'

Ohio State finally looked like its old smashmouth self in the second half, with Clarett gaining 35 yards during an 11-play, 79-yard drive. He finished it off with a 20-yard run up the middle, diving over the goal line for the touchdown that gave Ohio State a 24-9 lead.

"I just saw the pylon and I knew we had to get points on the board," he said. "So I ran for the pylon."

Northwestern lost 3 yards on the first two plays of its next series, and the game appeared to be just about over. But Basanez hit Jon Schweighardt up the middle for a 36-yard gain.

The Wildcats got a break with a pass-interference call on 3rd-and-8 at the Ohio State 45, getting a first down and 15 yards. Four plays later, Wright rumbled into the end zone, dragging Ohio State safety Michael Doss with him.

But Ohio State answered right back with a field goal, and Northwestern never threatened again.

"That's something we can come away with, that we continue to be great in the red zone," Buckeyes linebacker Matt Wilhelm said. "That's a totally different ballgame if they score a couple of times."



WON 50-7

No. 5 Ohio State Downs San Jose State 50-7

Buckeyes capitalized on four turnovers and did not allow a single rushing yard while improving to 7-0.

Oct 12, 2002

COLUMBUS, Ohio - No. 5 Ohio State didn't need any help to beat San Jose State. The Spartans obliged, anyway.

Freshman Maurice Clarett scored three touchdowns and Craig Krenzel threw three TD passes as the Buckeyes used a balanced attack to beat mistake-prone San Jose State 50-7 Saturday.

San Jose State (4-3) came into the game leading the nation in takeaways with 24, but Ohio State had one turnover while the Spartans lost four fumbles to turn the game into a rout.

"You don't have many opportunities to play the No. 5 team in the country. You have to be perfect," San Jose State coach Fitz Hill said. "And we were far from perfect."

Clarett, who finished with 132 yards on 18 carries, scored on runs of 1 and 5 yards and caught a 7-yard TD pass from Krenzel. Krenzel completed 11 of 14 passes for 241 yards and also had TD passes of 40 yards to Mike Jenkins and 37 yards to Chris Vance.

Clarett and Krenzel went to the sideline midway through the third quarter after the Buckeyes (7-0) scored 31 unanswered points to build a 41-7 lead.

Clarett lost three fumbles last week in a win at Northwestern and also clashed on the sideline with his position coach. This week he got the message.

"The coach told me to protect the ball. My teammates told me to protect that ball," Clarett said. "That was it."

The game was played before a crowd of 104,892, the largest ever to see a game at Ohio Stadium.

San Jose State quarterback Scott Rislov, passing on almost every snap, completed 36 of 44 passes for 265 yards and a touchdown, setting school records for completions and completion percentage.

Hill, who tried to get his team out of this game in the spring, pulled Rislov soon after he set the records. Hill said before the game that he regretted having to travel cross country to play a non-conference game and risk injury in the middle of the Western Athletic Conference season.

San Jose State (4-3) had zero rushing yards on 13 attempts - the fewest number of carries ever against Ohio State.

"We've been stopping the run all year," free safety Donnie Nickey said. "But I never thought I'd see a game where the opponent had zero yards."

Clarett, who has 15 touchdowns in six games - he missed one after having knee surgery - gave the Buckeyes a quick lead on a 1-yard plunge on Ohio State's first possession.

"Maurice likes to get into the end zone, there's no question about it," Tressel said. "He knows how to do that."

After the Spartans pulled to 10-7 on Rislov's 9-yard scoring pass to Charles Pauley in the second quarter, San Jose State turned the ball over on fumbles on its next four possessions. The Buckeyes turned three of them into touchdowns.

"When the takeaways began, and the defense started knocking the ball loose, your could see the tide of the game change," Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said.

Krenzel completed passes of 14 yards to Vance and 17 yards to Jenkins, then found a diving Vance over the middle for the 37-yard score to cap a 68-yard, 56-second drive.

"It's been frustrating to us to have so many big-play guys outside and not be able to throw the ball with any amount of success," Krenzel said. "Today it came together."

Mike Nugent, who kicked a 29-yard field goal on the Buckeyes' first possession of the half, kicked three field goals to tie Vlade Janakievski's Ohio State record of 15 in a row.

Ohio State rushed 49 times for 212 yards and amassed 567 yards of total offense. Scott McMullen relieved Krenzel and hit 8 of 9 passes for 114 yards to give the Buckeyes 355 yards through the air.

Hill looked at those numbers and the Spartans' four turnovers and shook his head.

"The way we beat people, we were beat today," he said.


WON 19-14

Buckeyes Remain Perfect

Ohio State wins tight one at Wisconsin, 19-14.

Oct 19, 2002

AP Sports Writer

MADISON, Wis. - Instead of dancing on the Wisconsin Badgers' logo, the Ohio State Buckeyes gathered at midfield and knelt in prayer.

The fourth-ranked Buckeyes might have been thankful to pull out another close game on the road, edging Wisconsin 19-14 at Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday to keep alive their hopes of a national title.

The visiting team has won the last four games in this series, but the Buckeyes (8-0, 3-0 Big Ten) ended a recent trend in which the victorious players danced on the other team's logo.

Ohio State has just three formidable opponents left - Penn State, Minnesota and Michigan - and they all must go to Columbus. Since the Buckeyes don't play Iowa this season and don't have to play in a conference championship, they could have the inside track to a Fiesta Bowl berth.

"There have been some questions about the quality of our schedule," defensive tackle Tim Anderson said. "But this was certainly a quality win for us."

Freshman Maurice Clarett ran for 133 yards on 30 carries to lead the Buckeyes, who also escaped Cincinnati and Northwestern with close calls.

Clarett had a shoulder stinger on his final carry. But coach Jim Tressel said his running back - who is closing in on Robert Smith's school freshman rushing record - should be just fine for next week's game against Penn State.

The Badgers (5-3, 0-3), who lost for the eighth time in their last 10 conference home games, took a 14-13 lead into the fourth quarter, but Craig Krenzel threw a 3-yard TD pass to Ben Hartsock with 10 minutes left to put the Buckeyes back in front 19-14.

"I was catching that with every part of my body possible," Hartsock said. "It was like there was a baby in there."

Michael Jenkins caught five passes for 114 yards and a touchdown for Ohio State. Krenzel completed 12 of 19 passes for 204 yards, and Chris Gamble made big plays on both sides of the ball.

Krenzel overthrew Ryan Hamby on the 2-point conversion after the TD pass to Hartsock, but the Badgers had to use a timeout because they had only 10 men on defense.

Wisconsin also burned a timeout on a first down on offense, and those two stoppages cost them. The Buckeyes took over with 4:29 left and ran the ball nine straight times to use up the clock.

Krenzel set up the winning score with a 45-yard pass to Jenkins on third-and-6 from his own 16. Jenkins, who caught a 47-yard touchdown pass in the first half, outleaped B.J. Tucker and Brett Bell for the ball.

"I just saw the ball in the air for a very long time," Tucker said. "By the time it came down, I swatted through it. I didn't think he was going to come down with it, but somehow he did."

That play was the backbreaker, Badgers coach Barry Alvarez said.

"They hadn't done much for a quarter and a half, and the ball was up in the air. We had two guys in position. No one made a play on the ball," Alvarez said.

The Badgers reached the Buckeyes 29 on the next series, but Gamble, a flanker, lined up at cornerback and intercepted Jim Sorgi's pass toward Jonathan Orr in the end zone.

"You see the way he can go after a football," Tressel said. "It doesn't matter if it was intended for him or if he was covering the guy. He can go up and catch the football. He is just outrunning athletes, and you wish you could play him all the time."

Sorgi replaced starter Brooks Bollinger, who got a concussion on his fourth sack midway through the second quarter. Sorgi put Wisconsin ahead 14-13 with a 42-yard touchdown strike to Orr just before halftime.

Both teams flashed their quick-strike capability in the first half. Jenkins caught a 47-yard touchdown pass from Krenzel when Tucker went for the interception in man coverage and fell down.

The Badgers responded with their own three-play scoring drive later in the first quarter when Anthony Davis (25 carries for 125 yards) scored untouched on a 41-yard run to tie it at 7.

Two plays later, Krenzel hit Gamble on what would have been an 80-yard touchdown play, had Gamble not tripped at the Wisconsin 32. The Buckeyes settled for Mike Nugent's school-record 16th consecutive field goal, a chip shot from 27 yards, for a 10-7 lead.

Nugent's 25-yarder made it 13-7 after Ohio State safety Mike Doss recovered Bollinger's fumble at the Badgers 32. Doss had 14 tackles.

The Badgers, who fell to 0-9-1 against top-five teams under Alvarez, drove to the Buckeyes 28 before Bollinger was sacked on consecutive snaps. The last one, by Simon Fraser, put the Badgers out of field-goal range and ended Bollinger's afternoon.



WON 13-7

No. 4 Ohio State Claims 13-7 Victory Against No. 17 Penn State

Buckeyes improve to 9-0 overall and 4-0 in the Big Ten with win.

Oct 26, 2002


COLUMBUS, Ohio - No. 4 Ohio State beat No. 17/18 Penn State 13-7 Saturday in front of a record crowd of 105,103 at Ohio Stadium to remain unbeaten. The Buckeyes improved to 9-0 overall and 4-0 in the Big Ten Conference.

Trailing 7-3 at the half, the Buckeyes needed a big play to start the second half. Chris Gamble, who started at both wide receiver and cornerback, picked off Mills for the third time in the game and returned it 40 yards, giving the Buckeyes a 10-7 lead just 2:53 into the second half.

Nugent added a second 37-yard field goal with 1:05 to play in the third quarter, extending his streak to 19 in a row, including 18 field goals this season. The score put the Buckeyes up 13-7 and capped a 14-play, 72-yard drive that guzzled 8:21 off the clock.

The six-point advantage would prove to be enough as the Buckeye defense held the Nittany Lions to just three first downs and 58 total yards of offense shutting out its opponent in the second half for the second consecutive game.

Penn State finished with just 179 total yards as the Buckeyes amassed 253, including 141 on the ground. Ohio State held the Nittany Lions to only 81 yards rushing.

Ohio State drove 79 yards on its opening possession of the game and was threatening to take the ball into the end zone for a score, but on a well-defended third-and-goal pass play from the 5-yard line, Krenzel pulled back and ran up the middle to the 1-yard line where he fumbled the ball. It was picked up by Anwar Phillips and returned 58 yards to the OSU 41-yard line.

Freshman tailback Maurice Clarett had a key 30-yard gain on the drive that gave him more than 1,000 yards rushing for the season. It was the longest run allowed by Penn State this season. Clarett injured his shoulder in the first quarter and did not return, finishing the game with 39 yards rushing on four carries. He now has 1,019 rushing yards this season, just 107 yards behind the Ohio State freshman record of 1,126 by Robert Smith.

Ohio State used four backs to account for 141 yards on the ground. Lydell Ross had 21 carries for 40 yards. Craig Krenzel completed 13-of-20 passes for 112 yards. He was picked off twice, which doubled his season total entering the game.

The Buckeyes promptly re-took control of the ball on an interception by A.J. Hawk on a Zack Mills' pass that was tipped at the line by Ohio State defensive tackle Tim Anderson. After driving to the PSU 33-yard line, Penn State backed up the Buckeyes 14 yards and forced them to punt.

The Nittany Lions took an early 7-0 lead on a 5-yard touchdown run by tailback Larry Johnson with 33 seconds remaining in the first quarter. Penn State moved 80 yards in nine plays keyed by a 35-yard scamper by Johnson.

Mills was picked off for the second time of the game, this time by defensive end Will Smith. The Buckeyes converted the turnover into a field goal as Nugent connected on his 18th consecutive field goal, a kick of 37 yards to pull within a 7-3 score with 6:16 to play in the first half.

The Buckeyes drove down to the PSU 34-yard line and then threw an incomplete pass to Chris Vance in the end zone, but Penn State was flagged for roughing the passer. Taking the ball at the 19-yard line, Krenzel found Vance for a 5-yard gain, but the ball came out and the Nittany Lions recovered. Penn State was forced to punt. Krenzel was picked off for just the third time this season trying to find Vance down the right sideline as the first half expired.

Ohio State had 166 total yards in the first half to Penn State's 121. The Nittany Lions out-gained the Buckeyes by 10 yards on the ground, but the Buckeyes had an 89-yards to 34-yard advantage through the air.

Johnson followed up a 257-yard performance last week against Northwestern with a 16-carry, 66-yard day against the Buckeyes. It was the lowest rushing output of the season. Mills completed 14-of-28 passes for 98 yards.



WON 34-3

No. 4 Ohio State Claims 34-3 Victory vs. No. 19 Minnesota

Victory gives Buckeyes 10 wins to open the season for the first time since 1996.

Nov 2, 2002

AP Sports Writer

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio State's defense appreciates being tested.

"We knew that Minnesota was in the top 10 in the nation as far as running the ball and we didn't want those guys to control the clock," two-time All-American strong safety Michael Doss said after the sixth-ranked Buckeyes defeated No. 23 Minnesota 34-3 Saturday.

"We decided to take that as a challenge."

There were plenty of offensive stars for the Buckeyes. Lydell Ross ran for two touchdowns. Chris Vance, who learned before the game that his brother was shot to death Friday night, caught a 30-yard touchdown pass from Craig Krenzel. Mike Nugent kicked two field goals to set a school record with 20 this season and extend his overall mark to 21 in a row.

But it was the defense that controlled the game, holding Minnesota to just 112 yards while running its streak without allowing a touchdown to 10 quarters. The Golden Gophers (7-2, 3-2 Big Ten) came in averaging 271 yards rushing but finished with just 53 on 36 attempts.

"I knew that we'd have a tough go running against these guys," Minnesota coach Glen Mason said. "That's because they're awful good, and they were putting more guys up there on the block."

Darrion Scott had two sacks and David Thompson had two tackles for losses.

Ohio State improved to 10-0 (5-0 Big Ten) for the first time since 1996 and the 10th time in school history. The Buckeyes, who still trail Iowa (9-1, 6-0) in the conference, have games remaining at Purdue, at Illinois and home against Michigan. Iowa still has to play Northwestern at home and at Minnesota.

"I've never been 10-0 in anything," free safety Donnie Nickey said. "Knowing that we can get to where we set out to go is exciting."

One of the biggest cheers from a crowd of 104,897 came when the score of Notre Dame's 14-7 loss to Boston College was flashed on the scoreboard early in the fourth quarter.

Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said he never mentioned the Fighting Irish's loss to his team, choosing instead to look at what the Buckeyes have ahead.

"We talked about the fact that our guys played an excellent game today, and that we don't get to play at home for another 20 days," Tressel said. "We're going to be on the road for two weeks. We've got to do everything right; we've got to get better at a lot of things if we're going to meet our goals."

Although the Buckeyes' offense foundered with freshman tailback Maurice Clarett out with an injured left shoulder, the defense controlled the game without forcing a turnover.

Ohio State outscored the Gophers 17-0 in the third quarter. During that period, Minnesota ran 13 plays that netted minus-6 yards, without a first down.

Ross ran for 89 yards on 20 carries, scoring on runs of 5 and 9 yards. Maurice Hall added 93 yards on 14 carries.

In the first half the Buckeyes had one punt blocked, lost a fumble and Krenzel was sacked five times for 22 yards in losses - and still led 10-3.

On their first three possessions, the Gophers took over at the Ohio State 27 (after Andy Groom's punt was blocked by Jermaine Mays), and the Minnesota 45, twice. But they managed just 48 total yards on 16 plays, the only points coming on Dan Nystrom's 24-yard field goal.

Minnesota gained just 64 yards in the final three quarters.

Krenzel, who completed 9 of 15 passes for 128 yards, set up the Buckeyes' first touchdown with a 49-yard strike to Michael Jenkins. Ross went off left tackle for the 5-yard TD on the next carry.

Minnesota's Preston Gruening had a punt blocked by Nickey and also dropped a snap. Those two plays led to 10 points as Nugent kicked a field goal, and Ross scored on a 9-yard run two plays after Gruening kneeled after mishandling the snap.

"I was untouched," Nickey said. "I could have run past him. I could have tackled the guy I was there so fast."

The Gophers' Terry Jackson II and Thomas Tapeh had each rushed for more than 100 yards in the last three games - with Jackson topping 200 yards in the last two. But they combined for just 81 yards on 24 attempts.

Vance played after learning of the death of his 21-year-old younger brother, Percy. The senior flanker had his brother's name, birthdate, date of death and "R.I.P." written on his uniform.

"It was my decision to play," Vance said. "And it was my escape. The touchdown was for my brother. I know he would have wanted me to play."



WON 10-6

Buckeyes Bounce Boilermakers

Ohio State defeats Purdue 10-6 on late fourth-quarter touchdown pass.

Nov 9, 2002

Associated Press Writer

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Ohio State was trailing on the road and facing fourth down late in the game, with not only a victory but the Big Ten title and a chance at the Fiesta Bowl berth slipping away.

Craig Krenzel found a way to keep it all within reach for the Buckeyes.

He threw a 37-yard touchdown pass to Michael Jenkins on fourth-and-1 with 1:36 left as the third-ranked Buckeyes defeated Purdue 10-6 Saturday to keep their national championship hopes alive.

The Buckeyes (6-0 Big Ten) are off to their fourth 11-0 start in team history, joining the 1975, 1979 and 1995 teams. More importantly, they probably will remain No. 2 in the BCS standings, keeping them on course for a trip to the Tempe, Ariz., and a shot at the national title.

The Boilermakers (4-6, 2-4 Big Ten) were leading 6-3 when Krenzel dropped back and found Jenkins - who sprinted down the sideline before cutting in - for an over-the-shoulder catch in the end zone.

"It's a situation I wish everybody in the world could feel, with that kind of excitement, that natural high," Krenzel said.

Krenzel attempted only 11 passes but completed nine of them for 173 yards. He had been pressured the entire game by a bruising Purdue defense that held Ohio State to only 267 total yards and sacked Krenzel three times.

But Krenzel, using a no-huddle offense, called the game-winning play at the line of scrimmage, and Jenkins beat Antwaun Rogers to get open.

"That's what a receiver has to do. We have to separate when the ball is coming," Jenkins said.

Purdue got the ball again, but Kyle Orton's long pass into double coverage was intercepted by Chris Gamble.

The Buckeyes though, nearly were done in by the deep pass. Two years ago it was Drew Brees who did the damage, and this time it was Brandon Kirsch, whose 59-yard completion to Ray Williams early in the fourth quarter set up Berin Lacevic's 32-yard field goal that put the Boilermakers ahead by three with 7:50 left.

In that 2000 game, Brees connected with Seth Morales for a 64-yard game-winning TD that sent Purdue to its first Rose Bowl in 34 years and knocked the Buckeyes out of the conference title picture.

The Boilermakers have long been out of title contention this season, and they need wins in their final two games to become bowl-eligible for the sixth straight season. They've lost eight straight games against ranked teams.

"This may or may not be hard to believe, but the game played out exactly as we hoped," Purdue coach Joe Tiller said. "We just wanted to be in position to win the game in the fourth quarter. We just didn't get the key stop on a fourth-down play and didn't operate the two-minute offense."

Strong performances by both defenses ensured a low-scoring game.

The Buckeyes barely had enough time to kick a field goal as time ran out in the first half to make it 3-all. Krenzel escaped pressure and scrambled 15 yards down the middle to Purdue's 13. On third-and-9 from the 12, Krenzel ran again, this time for seven yards but short of the first down.

With no timeouts left and the clock ticking down, the field-goal unit hurried onto the field, and the center snapped the ball just in time for Mike Nugent to kick a 22-yarder. Tiller argued to officials that time had expired, but television replays indicated that there was one second showing when the ball was snapped.

Nugent has made 22 straight field goals dating to last season and is closing in on the NCAA Division I-A career record of 30 straight, set by Washington's Chuck Nelson. Nugent has made 21 straight this year and is within reach of the single-season record of 25, which Nelson set in 1982.

Orton got the start in place of Kirsch, who broke a bone in his right hand when he accidentally struck a wall during a fight at a fraternity party. Orton took command early, going 6-for-9 for 55 yards on the opening drive before a pass was intercepted by cornerback Dustin Fox deep in the far left corner of the end zone.

Orton was benched at halftime for Kirsch but returned in the fourth quarter.

"I don't know the reason, and I didn't ask why," Orton said. "Whatever the head man says goes. There is no discussion or debating the decision."

Orton finished 18-for-28 with three interceptions and 169 yards. Kirsch went 13-for-20 for 116 yards.

Buckeyes running back Maurice Clarett, who had nerve damage in his left shoulder that kept him out of the last two games, started the game and ran 14 times for 52 yards.

Ohio State played without wide receiver Chris Vance, who was attending his brother's funeral.

Ohio State coach Jim Tressel stressed to his team - which plays at Illinois next week - that its first mission should be winning the Big Ten. If it loses and Iowa wins out, the Hawkeyes win the league title.

"We're not going to drop in the Big Ten standings, and that is what's important right now," Tressel said.


WON 23-16 (Overtime)

Buckeyes Prevail In Overtime

Ohio State knocks off Illinios, 23-16.

Nov. 16, 2002

AP Sports Writer

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) - Battered but still unbeaten after another scare on the road, Ohio State is one victory away from playing for its first national title since 1968.

And like always, Michigan is standing in the way.

"It's the biggest game of the year. It's our archrival, and if we win we, go to the Fiesta Bowl," linebacker Cie Grant said after Saturday's 23-16 overtime win over Illinois.

The second-ranked Buckeyes (12-0, 7-0 Big Ten) nearly lost that rare opportunity against the Illini, whose chance to spoil Ohio State's perfect season fell short when Illinois quarterback Jon Beutjer had his final pass batted down at the line of scrimmage in overtime.

Ohio State won the game on an 8-yard touchdown run by Maurice Hall, one of two backs who filled in for injured freshman Maurice Clarett.

The Buckeyes improved to 12-0 for the first time in school history, but to get into the national championship game on Jan. 3, they'll have to beat Michigan in Columbus next week. A victory would leave Ohio State and Iowa both unbeaten in the Big Ten - they don't play each other - but the Buckeyes would have the better overall record.

"Nobody said winning the Big Ten championship would be easy," Jenkins said.

Especially against Michigan. The Wolverines ended Ohio State's bid for perfect seasons in 1995 and 1996.

"We're going to get focused on Michigan, because we know if we lose that, none of this means anything," Jenkins said.

"This is the playoffs," Ohio State linebacker Cie Grant added. "Next week is the semifinals and if we win that we're playing in the finals."

Illinois (4-7, 3-4) came very close to sending the game to a second overtime, but Beutjer's third-down pass to Walter Young in the end zone was ruled incomplete when the official deemed that Young was bobbling the ball when he went out of bounds.

Replays appeared to confirm that officials made the right call. Of course, Ohio State agreed.

"The one on our sideline, he was bobbling it. It's a good call," Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel said.

Illinois sent the game to OT tied at 16 when John Gockman kicked 48-yard field goal on the last play of regulation. The ball started out left and stayed that way, barely falling inside the left upright. It was the third field goal of the game for Gockman, the Illini's long-range kicker who had just three field-goal attempts coming into the game.

It was the second straight week the Buckeyes had struggled on the road against a team with a losing record, only to pull out a win in the end. Ohio State trailed Purdue last week but won 10-6 when Michael Jenkins caught a 37-yard TD pass with 1:36 left.

"We stick together and keep fighting and find ways to win," Jenkins said. "Everyone in the locker room is happy right now. We're just glad to get out of here with a win."

The Buckeyes played without Clarett, who was in uniform but never got in the game. Clarett re-injured his left shoulder last month in a win against Penn State and has played little since. In last week's win over Purdue, he had 14 carries for 52 yards.

Clarett's absence was a surprise. Tressel said earlier in the week that Clarett probably would play, but the coach decided Saturday to only play the freshman if Hall and Lydell Ross faltered.

"We didn't know Maurice wasn't (starting) until game time. So I didn't have time to think about him not being out there," Hall said.

With Clarett standing on the sideline, Hall led the Buckeyes with 69 yards rushing on 17 carries. Ross, who started in place of Clarett, had had 51 yards on 15 carries.

Ohio State kicker Mike Nugent had three field goals, the last a 27-yarder that put the Buckeyes up 16-13. Nugent later missed a 41-yard attempt into the wind with 5:31 to go. It was Nugent's second miss of the game, the only two he's missed all year.

Leading 6-3 at halftime, Ohio State gave up its first touchdown in a month when Beutjer threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Young. Beutjer froze Ohio State's Dustin Fox on a pump fake, and Young ran past the defensive back and into the end zone.

Beutjer was 27-of-45 for 305 yards, but he was sacked six times and was hurried on several other plays by a defense that had been giving up just 12 points a game.

However, the Buckeyes came right back with a long pass of their own. And just like last week against Purdue, it was Craig Krenzel to Jenkins that helped the Buckeyes regain the lead.

After two runs and an incomplete pass, Krenzel threw a 50-yard touchdown pass to Jenkins, who turned to catch the ball moments before defensive back Michael Hall saw it coming.

"I couldn't see the ball. It got up in the lights and I said, 'I can't see it,"' Jenkins said. "Luckily, it fell right in my hands."

Jenkins had six catches for 147 yards and a touchdown.

Illinois needed a win over the Buckeyes to have a shot at making a bowl game, but those hopes are gone - just a year after winning the Big Ten championship and going to a BCS bowl.

"We fought real hard today. We put everything on the line," running back Antoineo Harris said. "I think our defense played a tremendous game. They played the best game that I've seen all year."


WON 14-9

Next Stop: Fiesta Bowl!

Maurice Clarett rushes for 119 yards in 14-9 victory over Michigan.

Nov 23, 2002


AP Sports Writer

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Somehow, the goal posts in Ohio Stadium are still upright. And at long last, Ohio State's perfect season didn't come crashing down against Michigan, either.

Needing every last tick of the clock, the Buckeyes finally got past the Wolverines and will play for a national championship they've been chasing since 1968.

Maurice Hall scored on a 3-yard run with 4:55 left Saturday and the second-ranked Buckeyes survived two late drives by No. 12 Michigan for a 14-9 win that has Ohio State headed to the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 3.

"We might not go out and score 50 points. We might not hold teams to 10 yards," said Buckeyes running back Maurice Clarett, "but we make the plays when we have to."

Will Allen intercepted John Navarre's pass just short of the end zone with 0:00 showing on the clock for the bend-but-don't-break Buckeyes (13-0, 8-0 Big Ten), who have won six games by seven points or fewer this season.

But coming against the hated Wolverines (9-3, 6-2), this nail-biter was sweeter than all the others.

"When Will made the catch, I just started crying," said safety Michael Doss, who decided to put off an NFL career by staying for his senior season. "We had faith we could win very game, that's what makes this team so special."

The Buckeyes, not expected to be national title contenders, earned a share of the Big Ten title with No. 5 Iowa (11-1) and can now sit back and wait to see who they'll play in Tempe, Ariz., on Jan. 3.

"It's time to party," said defensive end Kenny Peterson. "Fiesta, Fiesta ..."

The time off will also give many of the record 105,539 fans in attendance time to recover from the final tense moments of yet another Ohio State-Michigan classic.

With Michigan controlling play and clinging to a 9-7 lead after three quarters, Ohio State seemed destined for more heartbreak against the Wolverines.

The Buckeyes had undefeated seasons and their national title hopes wiped out in 1995 and 1996 by Michigan.

But this team found a way to win - just as it did early this season at Cincinnati, in overtime at Illinois last week and with a fourth-quarter comeback at Purdue two weeks ago.

"This is a huge win," said Ohio State coach Jim Tressel, who accepted a Fiesta Bowl invitation after the game. "It's huge because it's 2002 Ohio State-Michigan. We don't worry about history."

In just two years, Tressel has already matched the number of victories his predecessor, John Cooper (2-10-1), had against the Wolverines. No wonder "In Tressel We Trust" T-shirts are being worn on campus.

Clarett energized the Buckeyes and a record crowd by shaking off a shoulder injury to run for 119 yards, breaking Robert Smith's freshman rushing record in the process.

Clarett also caught a 26-yard pass to set up Hall's game-winning TD.

Taking a pitch from quarterback Craig Krenzel, Hall swept into the right corner of the end zone for the only score of the second half.

"It was the only option we've run all year," said Hall. "We felt like it would be a good play near the goal line. I had to get in, and saw nothing but green."

But Michigan, aided by a pass interference call on cornerback Dustin Fox, moved to Ohio State's 44. Navarre then completed a fourth-down pass to Ronald Bellamy before hitting Braylon Edwards to give Michigan a first down at the 30.

That's when Ohio State's defense, which has given up just 63 points in its last nine games, came up with yet another big play, this one by Darrion Scott.

As Navarre stepped up in the pocket, Scott knocked the ball loose and Smith recovered with 2:02 left.

"We flushed him out, and he didn't have time to do what he wanted to do," said Scott, wearing a tortilla-shaped foam hat.

Ohio State couldn't run out the clock, however, as Clarett only picked up 2 yards on three carries, and Michigan got the ball back with 58 seconds left at its 20.

Out of time outs, Navarre (23-of-46 for 247 yards) drove the Wolverines to the 24. He threw one pass out of the end zone with seven seconds left, and then Allen stepped in front of Navarre's final attempt, triggering a wild celebration.

Allen made a similar pick on the final play to preserve Ohio State's win at Cincinnati on Sept. 21.

"He's our miracle man," said defensive coordinator Mark Dantonio.

Ohio State's players danced in a circle as students lifted Krenzel, from Utica, Mich., onto their shoulders as the 80-year-old, Horseshoe stadium shook.

Moments later, fans attempting to rip down the goalpost in the south end were stopped by members of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, who doused them with pepper spray.

The win puts the Buckeyes on course to face No. 1 Miami, the defending national champs. But Ohio State's next opponent mattered little.

"If it's Miami, Washington State or Iowa, we don't care," said Peterson. "We'll play them. We'll play Buckeye style football. It's time to dance."

Michigan's Adam Finley kicked three field goals in a first half dominated by the Wolverines, who didn't even have to punt.

Michigan closed the half with a 19-play drive that ate up 8:24 and ended with Finley's third field goal, a 22-yarder, that put the Wolverines up 9-7.

Only a pass interference call against Edwards, who pushed Chris Gamble to the ground in the end zone, prevented Michigan from having a bigger lead.

"It's a heartbreaking loss," said Michigan coach Lloyd Carr. "We knew at the half we would need a touchdown to win. That's what's really disappointing."

Clarett sat out two of Ohio State's previous three games hoping his shoulder would heal in time for Michigan. He didn't play on the Buckeyes' first series before making his entrance with eight minutes left in the first quarter.

On his first play, he ran 9 yards with a screen pass, and then followed a 7-yard pickup by ripping off a 28-yard run.

However, Clarett took a blow on his shoulder on his next carry and went to the sideline in pain clutching his left arm. He came back and scored on a sweep to put Ohio State ahead 7-3.

"I wasn't worried about the injury," said Clarett. "I just wanted the win."



WON 31-24 (Two Overtimes)

Buckeyes Back On Top

Ohio State knocks off Miami in Fiesta Bowl thriller.

Jan 3, 2003

AP Football Writer

TEMPE, Ariz. - Perfectly shocking! Perfectly thrilling!

Ohio State worked two overtimes to rip the national championship from the confident 'Canes in one of the greatest college football games ever.

Maurice Clarett ran 5 yards for the winning touchdown, and Ohio State's defense turned back one final Miami bid to tie the game. With that, the Buckeyes completed an unlikely, unbeaten run to their first national title in 34 years with a 31-24 win Friday night at the Fiesta Bowl.

The Buckeyes, 11-point underdogs, ended the Hurricanes' bid for a second straight title and their winning streak at 34.

"It's no different than what we've done all year," Ohio State quarterback Craig Krenzel said. "We make plays in the big games when we have to."

But it would have never happened if not for a late pass interference call at the end of the first overtime - which came with Miami players already celebrating an apparent championship.

Instead, the fourth-down call gave Ohio State the chance it needed to tie the game and send it into the second overtime.

By then, it already was a classic - the first national championship game to go into overtime, in a matchup of the nation's last two undefeated teams.

The greatest ever?

"It's got to be right up there if it's not," Krenzel said.

Miami's Todd Sievers sent the game into overtime with his 40-yard field goal on the final play of the fourth quarter.

The Buckeyes' punishing defense had rattled and pounded Miami quarterback Ken Dorsey all night.



And on the last play of the game, on fourth-and-goal at the 1, Cie Grant blitzed and forced Dorsey to heave a desperation pass that linebacker Matt Wilhelm batted to the ground.

A few plays earlier, Wilhelm hit Dorsey with such force it sent the quarterback to the sideline for one play. He came back in, but the Buckeyes would not be denied against a team trying to secure its place in history as one of college football's great dynasties.

"It feels unreal," Miami fullback Quadtrine Hill said. "After the game was over, it felt like we had one play left. It can't be over. It's something I never want to feel again."

While Miami coach Larry Coker lost for the first time in 25 games, Ohio State's Jim Tressel now has a major college title to add to the four he won in Division I-AA at Youngstown State.

Nine times since Woody Hayes coached the Buckeyes to the 1968 title, Ohio State lost a late-season season that cost it a possible championship. But the Buckeyes finally brought the title back to Columbus with a conservative offense and fierce defense that Hayes would have loved.

Miami (12-1) nearly had its 35th straight victory in the first overtime after scoring a touchdown on its first possession.

Trailing 24-17, Ohio State (14-0) converted a fourth-and-14 on a pass by Krenzel. But the Buckeyes then faced a fourth-and-3 at the 5 when Krenzel threw to the right corner of the end zone for Chris Gamble, who was being covered Glenn Sharpe.

As Gamble reached back for the ball, he got his hands on it but couldn't hold on. Seconds later, field judge Terry Porter threw a flag from the back of the end zone indicating pass interference even as Miami players and fans spilled onto the field.

Order was restored quickly, and three plays later Krenzel scored from the 1 to send the game to a second OT.

After losing All-American running back Willis McGahee to an injured left knee early in the fourth quarter, Miami had the ball first in overtime. The Hurricanes went ahead on Dorsey's 7-yard TD pass to Kellen Winslow Jr., but the Buckeyes answered with Krenzel's 1-yard score.

In the second OT, the Buckeyes went first from the 25 and Clarett capped off a five-play drive with his spinning, slithering cutback through the Miami defense.

Dorsey, a Heisman Trophy finalist, finished off his career with just his second loss in 40 starts. Even though he was groggy from Wilhelm's hit, he came back into the game to try and pull the 'Canes even.

The Associated Press poll of sports writers and broadcasters was to be released early Saturday, with the second-ranked Buckeyes a lock to move up to No. 1.

Ohio State didn't have to wait to pick up the trophy awarded by the USA Today/ESPN coaches' poll, which automatically goes to the Fiesta winner, this season's designated Bowl Championship Series title game.

Ohio State led 14-7 at the half, and extended the margin to 10 points on Mike Nugent's 44-yard field goal. The 'Canes closed to 17-14 on McGahee's 9-yard scoring run with 2:11 left in the third quarter. And that set the stage for Sievers' kick, leaving the Sun Devil Stadium crowd of 77,502 breathless.

When the game ended, players and red-clad Buckeyes fans converged on the field to celebrate their first national title since 1968.

The Buckeyes' ferocious defense had Dorsey in trouble from the opening series with two sacks. Although Ohio State fell behind 7-0, the constant pressure paid huge dividends in the second quarter as the Buckeyes took a 14-7 halftime lead, turning two turnovers into touchdowns in a 78-second span.

Ohio State failed to capitalize on Dorsey's first interception - an overthrown pass right into the arms of cornerback Dustin Fox near midfield - but a second led to the Buckeyes' first score.

All-American safety Mike Doss picked off a pass that went off the hands of intended receiver Andre Johnson and raced 35 yards up the right sideline to the Miami 17.

From there, it took seven plays before Krenzel fought his way into the end zone on fourth down from the 1 with 2:28 left in the half. Two Miami defenders, Roger McIntosh and Jamaal Green, hit Krenzel at the 2, but he twisted his way in for the score.

The Buckeyes were back in business on the next play. Dorsey dropped back to pass, but defensive tackle Kenny Peterson came around from the right side and spun him to the ground as the ball came loose. Darrion Scott recovered at the Miami 14.

Two runs and an offsides call later, Clarett finally broke free for a 7-yard touchdown run with 1:10 left and just like that the Buckeyes were ahead, fireworks were shot off and the Buckeyes fans rocked the stadium.

Dorsey threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Roscoe Parrish in the first quarter, thanks to a block by McGahee on blitzing safety Donnie Nickey.
















Number of Visitors:  Hit Counter