10) My pregame walk through the parking lot en route to the CanesTime.com tailgate I was sideswiped by Kirk Herbstreit as he rolled by on the back of a golf cart. Dressed in my #5 jersey and black "U" cap, I yelled as he went by -- "Herbie, where's the love?" He just rolled by, threw me a sinister smile and gave me that all too famous NFL throat slashing gesture. The same one Will Allen did twice after taking out Willis McGahee's knee. Classy gesture, guys.
As I played the role of masochist today reading every article and getting nauseous over every AP photo, I saw the shot of Herbie three feet airborne next to Eddie George on the Buckeye sideline. Seemed he knew something I didn't. Wonder if he had a pregame talk with official Terry Porter or if any cash exchanged hands between regulation and the first overtime.
9) Ohio State running out of the tunnel before kickoff is tattooed on my brain. They had a bounce in their step that I surely thought we would knock out of them, but it never happened. I looked down at our sideline and saw half the NFL down there. Sapp, Armstead, Buchanon, Portis, Maryland, Reed – they were all representing. It had to be Miami's night. Instead, Ohio State set the tone and Miami would fight hard all game to stay in it. Jim Tressel had the Canes playing Buckeye style football – but it still wasn't enough. The Canes forced overtime and it took a tainted official to play the role of 12th man. Porter stole it. While the Canes never should've been in a position where last second field goals or questionable calls should determine the outcome, Miami clawed back and remained in the game for sixty minutes. Moments later we sealed the win... four seconds later it was stolen. Incomprehensible.
8) Todd Sievers' field goal that set up overtime was as clutch as they get. So was the Roscoe Parrish return that set up that final score. I watched through my fingers and hardly saw the ball go through the uprights. I almost vomited when I heard it was good. We lived to see another day and showed the heart of a champion once again. It was a whole new ballgame in overtime. A quick score, a defensive stand and we were walking home with the trophy. Kellen Winslow reeled in his most impressive catch of the day, the Hurricane defense stood strong and it was in the books.... flag...
7) The four seconds that changed history have been replayed a million times in my head but I have only seen the tape once. That was enough. Never need to see it again. The no catch, the flag, the fireworks and a camera in Brett Romberg's face as he walked back to the sidelines are as vivid tonight as they were 24 hours ago. We stopped them cold, shot our load and had it stolen from us. I felt like I just watched my best friend take a bullet in the skull. Maybe Maurice Clarett isn't so crazy after all for his tirades this week. After the death of his friend and all the controversy his post game comment was something along the lines of this event meaning nothing to him and merely wanting to get home. I second that, Maurice.
6) Willis McGahee getting carted off had me numb. Our playmaker would miss most of the fourth quarter. I thought he would bounce back until hearing via the AM broadcast the severity of the injury. I had no idea what was going down until he drove by me. I could see the tears in his eyes from my seat. The thought of finishing the game without him was petrifying and proved fatal. That said, I found myself more concerned with this silent warrior's well being than this brutal game. McGahee is bigger than all this. Without him we never get to Tempe. All thoughts were with him from that moment on. My heart still aches for this amazing individual. As sick as I am tonight, I can only imagine what is running through #2's head as he had three ligaments in his knee put back together this afternoon. McGahee deserved so much more. He will be a force again and I pray he gets one more go around with the Ohio State defense when it's all said and done.
5) Ken Dorsey getting hit on the final drive of the second overtime, getting up and collapsing like Rocky Balboa in his fight against Clubber Lang. Eerily reminiscent of being a youngster and seeing a young and invincible Mike Tyson knocked down and out for the count. I saw the Canes vulnerable for the first time in 2 1/2 years and couldn't interpret the emotions. I was shell-shocked, scared, sickened and distraught all in one. No time to get lost in the moment as Dorsey overthrew a wide open Eric Winston on the final 3rd down and choked on the last gasp of breath I had left. I saw the tying score and the finale all in one. Winston was completely open and Dorsey was too wounded to get it where he wanted it. The brass ring was in reach, we reached for it and missed. One last try...
4) Dorsey getting tossed like a rag doll on the game's final play was not the way #11 deserved to go out. How many quarterbacks never would've returned after the previous hit? Dorsey strutted back onto the field for one last attempt. It was then that it truly hit me --- that it shouldn't come to this. Even before the last attempt, anxiety became rage. We had it won and it was stolen. I put the phantom call aside because we still had a chance to rectify things and win the game. There still was an opportunity to overcome another horrid call and persevere. Once that was gone and the Buckeyes stormed the field I wanted five minutes with Porter and a tire iron. He robbed us. I have never felt so personally violated. I can only imagine Dorsey's emotions as he kneeled down on that stadium grass. The only thing worse for that competitor would've been watching from the sidelines. Ken Dorsey went down swinging. No shame in 38-2, but that is no consolation to anyone tonight.
3) Walking into the team hotel post game, it was a morgue. Everyone was shell-shocked and bewildered. There were no words as we dug deep to find a way to deal with this moment. Going back to September 9th, 2000 and January 2nd, 1987 all at once. My family and I had a therapy session in the car on the way over to the hotel, while listening to talk radio about the horrid call. Buckeye fans ran rampant in the streets like nothing of the sort even happened. Meanwhile I attempted to convince myself I'd someday get over this one. Wrong. I won't ever forget this feeling. It is burned into my brain.
2) Miami fans clapping for the team for five straight minutes as they entered the hotel was a scene out of a movie. Tell me again that Hurricane fans are fair-weathered and sporadic. As I took notice of every Hurricane in that line, the look in Jon Vilma's eyes stood out the most. It was bewilderment – like he knew he let it slip away. There was anger, aggression, nausea and disappointment beaming from him. He went from hard hitting linebacker to senior team leader in that defining moment. Any question about his heart, leadership ability or play in '02 is over. He just became next year's Ed Reed – the voice of this team. He is going to take over that defense and inject the hunger that was occasionally missing this year. The big chip was just set on this team's shoulder. The '03 Canes will deal with this horrific event and make a positive out of it. Vilma will become this team's leader. I saw it in his hurting eyes last night.
1) My final moment started with Brett Romberg grabbing a few individual deli trays and heading out to the hotel golf cart for a ride back to his room. He signed some autographs, appeased the well wishers and went outside to sit alone. As I passed by he gave me 20 memorable seconds alone to thank him for all he's done as an ultra-Cane. He remembered me as "the guy who owns the acoustic guitar company" when I met him Florida State weekend. Mentioned that he checked my company's website and that our guitars looked sharp. Says he'll be in touch about getting one in the near future. Romberg just lost the game of his life and he is laying compliments on me, making me at ease with the moment. I barely got out a "thanks," walked away with tears in my eyes knowing that was my last experience with 2002 Canes football.