It was strange, really.
Tuesday night, I'm having a chat with Jerry Rudzinski, and I tell him that my optimism for the Buckeyes' chances in the Fiesta Bowl was lower than ever. After listening to the reports from the Miami side that the Hurricanes were as focused as ever and that the Buckeyes were dealing with a little controversy on the side, I began to seriously wonder if OSU would be able to hang in this game.
Then, for no reason, the feeling changed. It was almost like there was something in the air as all of a sudden, on Thursday after walking out of the pep rally, I turned to the friend I came to Tempe with and said something like, "I can't explain it, but I just feel the Buckeyes are going to win this game."
He agreed and said he felt the same way.
That feeling strangely never wavered before game time on Friday. It just seemed like it would be the Buckeyes' game. For that reason, I'm not sure I'm overly surprised OSU won. I'm still trying to come to grips with the fact that it was in one of the greatest games ever.
It was a game that was a privilege to watch. All those unbelievable games that OSU had during the regular season are dwarfed by this monstrosity of a football classic. It was strangely fitting, too – when you look back at what OSU did during the regular season, this game fits right in.
The roller coaster ride of emotions in the stadium was unreal. There were nerves during the first part of the first quarter. The much-talked-about 10-minute mark passed and the Buckeyes were doing well. Then Miami took momentum on their first touchdown drive, and it felt like a bit of an uphill climb as OSU was struggling offensively.
The Buckeyes then began to do what they did all year – they made plays. They forced turnovers and turned it into points. They began to take charge defensively. They took the lead into the half and kept it going in the third as they stifled Miami's opening drive and then took a 17-7 lead after a crazy exchange of plays – a bomb to Chris Gamble and an interception that was stripped back by Maurice Clarett.
The Canes then clawed back. The Buckeyes found themselves in a familiar place – hanging on to the lead by a thread. The time slowly, slowly ticked off the clock, but then Miami's Roscoe Parrish broke a big punt return, putting the Hurricanes in position to tie or take the lead. Tie they did, but it was on a curve ball of a field goal that looked like it was heading wide on the stadium screen before coming back through the goal posts.
The game soon headed to OT, which, needless to say, is when things really got unbelievable. The Hurricanes scored. The Buckeyes were on the ropes in the biggest way as they had a 4th and 13 in their possession (before which I saw a father and his family leave the stadium… too bad for them). Then another clutch play – Krenzel to Jenkins for the first down. Another fourth down arose, and controversy followed…
I would like to see the play again before making a final call. While watching the replay at the bar after the game, it seemed to be a bad call, but I read that there was holding before that, and I'd like to see it again for that reason. But the emotion at this time took an unprecedented turn as Miami stormed the field and fireworks – and a yellow flag – soared into the air. It was too much to believe, and if the fans hadn't realized it before, they came to the realization that they were watching one of the all-time great games.
The Buckeyes wound up evening the score, and the thought then was whether or not they could score touchdowns on consecutive possessions. They did, as Maurice Clarett squeaked through the middle for the deciding TD. By no way though did the game seem over as Miami's offense still needed to be stopped.
More twists and turns came when Ken Dorsey was knocked out of the game as he was drilled to the ground and flopped around like a fish before walking off. Then the goal line stand, where one of the best offensive teams ever had just feet to go to tie the game, but they couldn't get it done.
Craziness ensued as Ohio State fans jumped up and down in glee, hugged strangers and screamed in pitches that they probably thought they couldn't reach. Players jumped, fireworks flew, and David had officially slew Goliath. Unprecedented elation ensued, and in the middle of all this existed a sense of thanks – not only for the tremendous effort from the Buckeyes, but for the privilege of being witness to possibly the greatest game in college football history. It was, indeed, a night to remember.
Some random thoughts:
- Right after the Buckeyes had sang Carmen Ohio, Kellen Winslow's mug appeared on the screen, and his comments were broadcast to all those still remaining in attendance. Out of my mouth came a big boo, and out of each of my hands came a middle finger extended in his direction. I don't usually react to things like that, but I think that reaction summed it up…
- The Buckeyes beat one of the best football teams ever, period. This Miami team was a great team, and OSU beat them. I still think Miami would likely beat every other team in America, including everyone's new favorite, USC.
- For the fans I chatted with for a bit yesterday -- yes, my voice is quite a bit gravely today. :-)
- I'd call it a subdued but very happy celebration on the Tempe streets afterwards… Buckeye fans were giving high-fives and big cheers, and it seemed to be a crowd that was just satisfied. Everyone was having fun; in a bar later on that night, I witnessed fans of all ages -- from college students to men with gray hair – smiling, laughing, and having a good time (one of those gray hair guys even got down to some rap music). Miami fans, meanwhile, were not surprisingly shocked. Some were crying foul, while others just shook their head and admitted that it was one heck of a game.
- Not every ticket was used. I had section 216, row 31, seat 3, and seats 4 and 5 were empty. Certainly one of the last things I expected was to be sitting next to empty seats at the national title game, but I imagine those were seats held by brokers/scalpers that they couldn't sell. I have a hard time believing that someone had those tickets and elected not to come.
- The fans stepped up though. I heard earlier in the week about how Miami feeds off opposing fans, but I certainly think OSU's fan advantage played a role. The fans gave the 110% that Coach Tressel asked for at the pep rally, and it seemed like the Buckeyes fed off that.
- The Hurricane cheerleaders are very cute. But our cheerleaders ruled! It was awesome at halftime to see them make both those field goals. I can't remember the names off the top of my head, but the male cheerleader absolutely booted his. That was a sign that it was OSU's night for sure. I thought at first that it was a bit strange there wasn't something big at halftime planned, but I found the band performances from the two schools and the field goal kicking contest more enjoyable than something like the Orange Bowl put on (a barrage of not-quite-ready-for-the-Rock-n-Roll-Hall-Of-Fame pop singers).
- I was standing right in front of the ESPN broadcast before the game… those Miami fans sure did give Lee Corso a hard time. Two things didn't die in this game – the hatred of Michigan from OSU fans (I saw signs that said "Michigan Still Sucks!") and the hatred of FSU from Miami fans. Everyone asked Lee to pick the other team.
What a wonderful time… I feel honored to have been there. It certainly is going to be a happy, happy trip home.