Ohio State won the 2002 BCS national championship with a dramatic 31-24 victory against top-ranked Miami in the Fiesta Bowl in what is arguably one of the best bowl games in college football history.
"It was just like two great heavyweights slugging it out," Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel said.
The majority of college football experts did not view the No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup as a boxing match. Instead they saw the game as a coronation for the defending champion Hurricanes. Miami had been ranked No. 1 all season, had won 34 straight games and were an 11½-point favorite going into the game. However, none of that mattered once the game started. Ohio State's defense did its job by holding the Hurricanes' powerful offense in check for most of the evening, and the Buckeyes' bounced back from an early 7-0 deficit to take a 14-7 lead into halftime.
Both OSU touchdowns were aided by Miami turnovers. The first came after an interception by All-America safety Mike Doss, who caught a Ken Dorsey pass at the OSU 48 and returned it to the Miami 17. Seven plays later, Ohio State was on the scoreboard thanks to a 1-yard touchdown run by Craig Krenzel with 2:28 left before halftime.
The Buckeyes then got another break when on the next play from scrimmage Dorsey fumbled when hit by Kenny Peterson. Darrion Scott scooped up the loose ball at the Miami 14, and Ohio State was back in business. Clarett gave the Buckeyes the lead with a 7-yard touchdown with 1:10 left, sending the primarily scarlet and gray-clad crowd into a frenzy.
Ohio State extended its lead to 17-7 on a Mike Nugent 44-yard field goal in the third quarter before the Hurricanes started to claw their way back. Miami cut the deficit to three on a 9-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter by William McGahee, who would later suffer a severe knee injury early in the fourth quarter.
Miami then forced overtime with a 40-yard field goal by Todd Sievers on the final play of the fourth quarter.
The first overtime provided much of the drama that casual fans still remember. The Hurricanes started OT by scoring a touchdown and putting the pressure on the Ohio State offense. The Buckeyes converted a fourth-and-14 pass and then later, on a fourth-and-3 from the 5-yard line, had the game continue on a pass interference call on an incomplete pass. The play saw Miami cornerback Glenn Sharpe harass Ohio State's Chris Gamble as the ball fell to the ground. Fireworks went off, and Miami's players raced on the field in celebration. But a penalty flag was thrown on the play by field judge Terry Porter, giving the Buckeyes new life.
"He was holding me. He was in my facemask and my shoulder pads," Gamble said. "I was waiting for the flag, but he kind of hesitated. I didn't see him going for the flag and I thought, ‘He ain't going to throw it.' Luckily, he did, and I'm like, ‘whew.' "
"I saw the guy holding the guy prior to the ball being in the air," Porter said. "He was still hodling him, pulling him down while the ball was in the air."
A 1-yard touchdown run by Krenzel extended the game, and the second overtime started with the Buckeyes on offense. Clarett gave Ohio State the lead for good with a 5-yard touchdown run, and then the Buckeye defense stood tall one last time. Miami was able to drive to the 1-yard line before Cie Grant forced a weak fourth-down throw by Dorsey, who was shaken up earlier in the possession.
The final incomplete pass gave Ohio State its first national title since 1968 and competed an unlikely unbeaten season. The Buckeyes won by seven points or less for the sixth time in the 2002 season.
"It's no different than what we've done all year," Krenzel said. "We make plays in the big games when we had to."