WHAT I THOUGHT, WHAT I SAW AND WHAT I THOUGHT I SAW
(AND WHAT A GAME!)
You've seen it. You've read all about it. And it's still hard for me to talk about it. Why? Because I'm hoarse three days later, that's why! But it's easy to write about the game because it's a story that really writes itself.
Yes, we are the national champions.
We are undefeated. With the nation's longest winning streak.
We are the first team in the history of Division I college football to go 14-0 in a season.
The respect is back. The program is home. Two years ago, we were talking "debacle". This week, we're talking "dynasty".
So…this column is 34 years in the making. I told you guys last week: it was my First Annual National Championship column. And, yes, I got some grief over that glib phrasing. But I'd rather take that grief than the grief the national analysts should rightfully get. If criticism was a tangible product, ESPN and CBS would be getting theirs delivered in a manure spreader.
Anyone remember my "call" last week? Ahem. I said we would win by six so I was way off there! I also said we would get to Dorsey and McGahee (and felt a little guilty, actually, when it happened). And I said a whole bunch of things that didn't turn out to be quite as accurate, except for the final prediction that "we would shock the world".
My counter-part at the CanesTimes site was not quite as prescient. I was the most exercised (and I told him so…) when he said that Krenzel "has ZERO mobility". (The emphasis is his, the laughter is mine.) I asked him: what are you guys smoking in Miami? Craig Krenzel has saved us as many times this year with his feet as he has with his arm. And I pouted, "You guys will live to regret that remark". They did. And I won again!
That's right – I am a poor winner and a poor loser. And as you can tell from my injury remarks, not a great sportsman, either.
Those were the basics. But there were some other thoughts and some other things I saw out there in the desert (could this be a mirage, after all?). In particular order:
You've heard this before but it's hard to put in perspective the absolute Sea of Scarlet that was everywhere. At the airports, in the hotels, on the buses, in the desert, and at the stadium. Someone remarked, "Take away 30 degrees and this looks like a Michigan game at Ohio Stadium". It was that dominate. Even the Miami side was more scarlet than it was orange/green.
I told a half dozen people back home that I would bring back programs. Three hours before the game, they were sold out. Honest to God. 200,000 programs went to a bunch of people who know how to work E-Bay. So, sorry Banished Buck, but the mercenary capitalistic forces that caused crappy seats to go for $600 nailed your programs, too!
Back at the stadium…the bands came on the field and I felt sorry for the Canes fans again. No contest. Then Archie was introduced and the place went nuts. It's just great to have the home crowd advantage. Worth at least 6 points?
I snuck out right before kickoff to try to score programs (again…) and asked about OSU shirts and stuff. All sold out. But there were plenty of Hurricane clothes. I wonder how much the Canes stuff went for after the game…
One comment about the stadium: It's a real piece of crap. Terrible facilities, worse restrooms and the most rinky-dink scoreboard this side of Division VI Ohio high school. We went to the game with an ASU student who said, "Hey – there's 40,000 more fans here than we usually get in this stadium. What do you want?" Well, how about a venue worthy for a national championship game?
To put it into perspective, I am sitting here at the game between the most cynical OSU fan in the world (on my left) and the most pessimistic (on my right). We got down 7-0 and they were ready to hit the streets. Me? I was feeling pretty good because we escaped the first quarter without a disaster. They talked about OSU getting one first down in the entire quarter. I talked about how the defense was "warming up". They moaned over the soft pass coverage. I raved about shutting down McGahee completely. I was having a good time. And so were the Buckeyes. It seemed that with each play, they felt they belonged here more and more. Tim Anderson didn't seem intimidated at all – maybe Romberg was pinching the wrong butt in those pile-ups. What with their team speed and all – he could have been pinching a bunch of butts…
The fake field goal was awful. Take your first points off the board? I know they've been practicing that play but give Groom or Nugent (both option quarterbacks in high school) a chance to make something happen.
But the defense was starting to take over. And the turnovers were starting to take a toll. The refs had a lot of trouble spotting Miami holds, but I knew that OSU would just sew up all those torn jerseys at halftime, anyway. Then Krenzel goes over from a yard out. And Clarett plows in from 7. And I start to remember that beer sales are cut off at halftime, and how lousy the restrooms are and…
Are you kidding me? We're up 14-7 at halftime! And the Hurricanes trudged off the field. While the Buckeyes sprinted to the locker room.
Only one OSU completion in the third quarter – but it was for 57 yards. And then an interception in the end zone – but that Miami arrogance asserted itself again as the DB ran it out of the end zone and right into trouble. Miami speed? Clarett catches the guy who caught our pass and strips him naked. Wild play. And the Buckeye karma is still in order. Nugent does what he is supposed to do with his feet but McGahee counters that with a nice sprint into the end zone.
It's 17-14 and my seatmates are sure now that the end is drawing near for our flirtation with history. "It's just a matter of time", one sighs. The other actually asks, "If we lose, do we still stay #2 in the final rankings?"
Clarett has his best showing: three carries for 19 yards. We've been watching Eddie George and Jonathan Wells trying to keep him in the game. Eddie is going nuts, waving a towel and screaming like a madman. Is there a difference between the NFL and college football. You betcha. And Eddie and I are seeing it first hand…
Sievers misses from 54 yards, into the slight breeze. That's expected. But Nugent misses from 43 and I am starting to sweat. That's three times we should have had field goals, but we only got one. Could make a difference, you know. McGahee gets hurt and it looks bad right away. Gamble gets screwed on an out-of-bounds call with just three minutes to go and the sheer weight of the pessimism/cynicism around me is getting heavy. Hard to breathe now….
So instead of running out the game and running out on the field, we punt a 46-yarder and it's returned for 49. That's bad. And after 30 minutes of timeouts and all-out stress, that damn Sievers comes on and boots one through that makes me wistful for those two Nugent field goals I wanted so badly.
And so… it's overtime.
Winslow catches his 23rd reception since halftime and we are down. Actually, my seatmates are down and out. They want to leave to beat the traffic. I want to stay to beat the Hurricanes, or at least watch our boys die trying. Fourth-and-three and Krenzel throws that little duck that gets shot down. I am disconsolate but accepting.
THESE ARE THE LONGEST THREE SECONDS IN OSU FOOTBALL HISTORY.
But the Tressel karma stays intact and a little yellow bird comes a-fluttering from afar. Now think about it, how many times have you gotten to see both teams celebrate a national championship win in the same game? Eh? After they removed the premature revelers, Krenzel (zero mobility…) goes in from the one. And thanks to the osmosis from the guys sweating to the right and to the left of me, I will admit it:
I couldn't watch Nugent's extra point…
Do you realize there were five Fourth-and Games in this affair? A normal game has maybe one. Sometimes two. But, going for all the marbles in the world, it came down to fourth down for the game, and four times; either Miami or OSU pulled it off.
Clarett bulled in from the five. Again, I couldn't watch the extra point. We put Dorsey out on Queer Street for one play. Then the sucker comes back in! I couldn't believe it…
And then from the two-yard line, it's Miami with first and goal. With the best offensive line in the country. With the Heisman candidate quarterback. With all that team speed and a 34-game winning streak and…
They couldn't get through he Buckeye D. They went just three feet in four plays and came up three feet short.
Pandemonium. My guys on either side finally accepted the win. They were one step beyond "stunned". This was not a team you could get down on. This was not a team to turn your back on.
These were national champions and we were there – jaws slacked, mouths open and eyes watering – to witness the whole improbable scene.
Trev Alberts deserves to be shot…Any moron can create a controversy-for-ratings but Iowa City Trev wouldn't give it up. He dissed our Bucks all year and what were his bowl projections, anyway? He said, "Toledo will win big" (they lost). And that it would be "Colorado in a laugher" (they lost). And that "West Virginia wins" (they didn't). That "Iowa is the best team in the Big Ten" (they're not). I don't care if he finally kissed some butt and declared that OSU should be ranked #1 next year. He deserves to be shot. And you can take out that idiot Mark May with him…
The Clinton Portis party…Did they still hold the party Saturday night as planned? I know they passed out plenty of fliers…
Don't bitch about the pass interference…It could have gone either way. But so could all those lousy ball spots and the blown call on Gamble's catch and the no-calls on holding and…hey, this is a Miami team that averaged 85 yards a game in penalties and they were whistled for only 30 in six periods of play. Give me a break. Finally…
Tim Brando should be revoked…He – and the other nitwit-non-believers should show some respect. Brando said it would be 48-10. CanesTimes said 44-10. Even the Wall Street Journal got in on it - said we weren't in the Top Ten. Quit buying what the press releases have been selling. The game is played on the field and not in the tabloids…
I leave this trail of wonder and merriment with a couple of random thoughts. Jerry Rudzinski pointed out to me the next day (over strawberry daiquiris at The Phoenician…) just how lucky any team has to be to win a national championship. After all, Miami won 34 straight games and only got one national title out of it. Jerry is right – it's not enough just to be good. You have to be deserving, as well. And a little luck doesn't hurt, either.
And with my reams of cavalier comments behind me, I just want to say: I've been to 800 or more sports events in my lifetime. And that includes Super Bowls, two World Series seventh games, golf tournament sudden deaths, NBA title games and great college contests. But I have never been to a sports event in my life that was better than the Fiesta Bowl. As our own Kirk Larrabee put it, it was a privilege to be there.
And you know what? It makes you greedy. I can't wait for the Sugar Bowl next year!
It's a great time to be a Buckeye!
E-mail Mr. Bucknuts at email@example.com