Craig Krenzel is a winner.
If one were allowed just one word to describe this student-athlete for Ohio State, that would be the most apt description.
Whether in the classroom or on the field, all this young man does is meet and exceed expectations. Overlooked by Michigan in the stampede to win the services of blue-chipper Drew Henson, Krenzel has been so impressive that most fans of the Maize and Blue would undoubtedly like to hop in their "way back" time traveling machine and have a chat with Lloyd Carr on his recruiting choices.
While others around the country pad their statistics and their coaches try to get them meaningless touchdowns against woeful foes, Craig is interested in one thing and one thing alone.
Maybe he didn't throw the ball as many times as Pickett, but the Buckeyes emerged victorious.
"I feel satisfied that we won," remarked Krenzel. "I mean, that is the number one thing we come out here to do. Whether that means we run the ball 100 times or we throw the ball 100 times or we go 50-50, all we want to do is win football games. If we can play well enough to do whatever it takes, that is all that counts."
Indeed it is. In the words of the great champion Vince Lombardi, "Winning is not just everything; it is the only thing."
Once teams take the field, it is all about winning football games, and Craig understands that this is the whole point of the exercise. He does not mope on the bench after being asked to hand the ball off to the running backs. He is not sitting around whining that he would like to throw the football more during post game news conferences.
He concentrates on winning, and Saturday's game was no exception.
Being blunt, this is why Craig will be remembered long after other passers with more gaudy numbers have been long forgotten. This is why in fifteen years, few outside of the state of Washington will recall that Cody Pickett set Pac Ten records passing the football. It is why Kliff Kingsbury's years at Texas Tech will not be long noted outside of Texas. It is why that for all the numbers Chris Simms compiled, he still was not as adored as Major Applewhite in Austin. It is why John Navarre has been roundly booed by the masses at Michigan despite the fact that with a healthy season he will go down as one of the most prolific passers in Michigan history, holding Wolverine records in at least 13 different offensive categories.
Each of these quarterbacks may have set individual records, but their teams never won the big games.
To quote George C. Scott in Patton, "Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser. Americans play to win all the time... The very thought of losing is hateful to Americans."
Dueling with Pickett
Considered the lesser of the two quarterbacks by most before the contest, all Krenzel did was shine as brightly as a newly polished penny.
Through the first three quarters with starters from both squads playing, Craig went 13 of 24 for 194 yards and rushed 7 times for 30 yards and two touchdowns. Meanwhile, Pickett managed only a 19 for 35 and 140 yards while rushing 4 times for -3 yards.
Particularly telling were the two touchdown scrambles by Krenzel. The first came on a 2nd and 9 play from the Washington 23. Finding his targets covered, Craig scrambled left and turned the corner on the defense. So much for him not being fleet of foot. The second, more impressive feat with his feet came as time was running low in the second quarter. Ohio State found itself face to face with an opportunity to break the back of the Huskies. With less than 20 seconds on the clock, the Buckeyes faced third and 10 from the 11 yard line. Despite the three defenders in front of him and several pursuing him from behind, Craig left jocks lying on the field as he juked left and darted right at the last moment to squeeze into the corner of the end zone.
And if you want to see the most important statistic of the entire day, check out the box score.
When Craig left the game, Ohio State was winning 28-3.
Leaving a Legacy
Thought to be pedestrian only a season ago by the talking heads, Craig's ability to win a game for his team was questioned. Repeatedly it was opined, "Sure, this guy might not lose the game for his team, but can he actually win a game when he is forced to carry his squad?" His perceived weakness was cited for not voting the team higher when Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Miami, and Georgia all stood between the Buckeyes and the number one ranking.
Since then, he has done more than merely prove the critics wrong.
He has been putting his stamp on the Buckeye record books. With a 15-1 record as a starter, he has a winning percentage of .9375. Numbers like that have not been seen in the Horseshoe since the days of Cornelius Green (1973-1975) and Rex Kern (1968-1970) during the glory days of Woody Hayes.
Further, even the one loss (suffered to #14 South Carolina) cannot be fairly attributed to Krenzel since he played a grand sum total of 8 snaps in that Outback Bowl.
Craig sits at 15-0 when allowed to start and finish a game. He has victories over four teams in the top 15: #1 Miami 2003, #10 Washington State 2002, #11 Michigan 2001, and #12 Michigan 2002. Craig owns an additional three victories over teams in the top 25 with wins over #17 Washington 2003, #18 Penn State 2002, and #23 Minnesota 2002. Excluding the contest with South Carolina that he did not finish, Craig is 7-0 against teams ranked in the top 25.
Just having fun
And the most interesting part of the whole story is that Craig is like the real life version of Bo and Luke Duke on The Dukes of Hazzard. He is simply enjoying himself and having fun playing football even if ‘that's just a little bit more than his opponents would like to allow.'
From joking with Michael Jenkins during the post game press conference to competing on the field, he is clearly having the time of his life.
"I always have fun," Craig commented to reporters. "I think that we have the opportunity to play the greatest game on earth. I am blessed enough to play the greatest game on earth with the greatest guys on earth on the greatest stage in the country. I think any time you have that no matter what is going on you just have to enjoy yourself."
With the Buckeyes sitting at #2 in the country and coming off of a win against Washington to open their season, Craig is not the only one having fun right now...
Enjoy him while you can Buckeye fans, because if college football is the greatest game on earth, then Krenzel is putting on the greatest show on earth each week in the Horseshoe.