Exactly one year to the day after trouncing Nebraska 37-14 in the 2002 Rose Bowl to claim a national championship, Miami-Florida found itself on a similar stage.
Although the location was different, this time it was the Fiesta Bowl, the Hurricanes were again playing for the crystal ball and the title.
The date was January 3, 2003. Miami had won 34 consecutive games, its last loss coming on September 9, 2000, on the road against No. 15 Washington by five measly points. Ten victories after that defeat, Hurricanes coach Butch Davis left. Larry Coker took the reins, led Miami to a title, and had the 'Canes primed for back-to-back perfect seasons following a romp through the Big East Conference that had ended December 7, 2002, with an 11-point win over Virginia Tech.
Only one thing remained – Ohio State University.
This was the year the term "Luck-eyes" was coined. The Buckeyes has survived an early season game against Cincinnati, 23-19; held on to beat Wisconsin, 19-14; edged Penn State, 13-7; had a scare against Purdue, 10-6; defeated Illinois in overtime, 23-16; and fended off Michigan, 14-9, to make it through their schedule unscathed. Ohio State had finished the previous season with a 7-5 mark under new head coach Jim Tressel.
Tressel had won four national championships as the coach of Youngstown State between 1985 and 2000. After a lengthy search, he had been tapped to replace John Cooper at Ohio State. Following a less-than-stellar first year, everything seemed to align, though.
The defense was certainly going to have to pull the load until the offense could catch up, but quarterback Craig Krenzel was going to receive some much needed help in the form of freshman running back Maurice Clarett.
All the Buckeyes would need to do now is stop the likes of Kellen Winslow Jr., Willis McGahee, and Ken Dorsey.
At the end of regulation, the scoreboard in Tempe, Ariz., read 17-17 after 'Canes kicker Todd Sievers hit a 40-yard field goal on the last play of the fourth quarter. Ohio State and Miami would need overtime to decide the outcome, and already the game had been one of epic proportions. The 'Canes had shut down Clarett for the most part, and his most valuable contribution thus far had actually been stripping the ball away from Miami's Sean Taylor following an interception.
Without McGahee, who left early in the fourth quarter with a knee injury, Miami took the lead in the first overtime with a 7-yard pass from Dorsey to Winslow Jr. Down by seven, the Buckeyes converted on a fourth-and-14 to keep their hopes alive and then faced a fourth-and-three at the Miami 5-yard line when Krenzel fired a pass to the right corner of the end zone for Chris Gamble that fell incomplete.
The game was over. Miami had repeated as national champions. Coker had won the title in both his first and second years as head coach. Ohio State, an 11 ½ -point underdog, had put up a tremendous fight but simply could not close the deal.
Seconds that seemed like an eternity passed, and then field judge Terry Porter's flag hit the turf. It changed everything. Miami's Glenn Sharpe was called for defensive pass interference as his teammates and team's fans rushed the field. Three plays later, Krenzel rushed in from a yard out to extend the game.
Clarett put the Buckeyes ahead with a 5-yard run in the second overtime, and Ohio State's defense held Miami out of the end zone to preserve its first national championship in 34 years by a final of 31-24.