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The Best Damn Team... Win The Big One
Austin Murphy
January 13, 2003
Underdog Ohio State stunned mighty Miami in a two-overtime thriller to win its first national championship since 1968
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January 13, 2003

The Best Damn Team... Win The Big One

Underdog Ohio State stunned mighty Miami in a two-overtime thriller to win its first national championship since 1968

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Clarett's coaches and teammates offered condolences for his loss, sympathy for his frustration at missing the funeral and bemused shrugs at his decision to air them so publicly. "There's no question he's a team player," said Krenzel. "His heart's in the right place."

Clarett himself has a knack for being in the right place. Despite being bottled up much of the time by the Hurricanes' defense, which held him to 47 yards on 23 carries (he had rushed for 1,190 yards and averaged 6.0 per carry this season), Clarett found ways to leave his mark on the game. Every bit as important as his two rushing touchdowns was the defensive play he made in the third quarter. After Miami safety Sean Taylor had picked off Krenzel in the Hurricanes' end zone, Clarett stripped Taylor of the ball on the return, leading to a Buckeyes field goal.

That outrageous sequence was the signature play of a game in which emotions, and momentum, whipsawed. Whenever the tension seemingly could not be ratcheted any higher, it was. After enduring two Ohio State timeouts with :03 left in regulation, Miami kicker Todd Sievers drilled a 40-yard field goal to send the game into overtime. Winslow, who would finish with 11 receptions for 122 yards, capped the Hurricanes' first OT possession with a circus catch, contorting his body in midair and reaching around a defender's head to snare a seven-yard touchdown pass. Miami had momentum.

But back it swung to the Buckeyes with the flight of side judge Porter's flag, the signal to the Hurricanes that their celebrations were premature. Obscured by that bizarre turn of events was the gutsy play four snaps earlier that had made it possible. On fourth-and-14 from the 29, with the season on the line—and with his mother, Debbie, in the stands saying, "Time to throw it to Mikey"—Krenzel took a three-step drop and hummed a 17-yard strike to wideout Michael Jenkins at the right sideline.

Putting Krenzel in pressure spots is like throwing Brer Rabbit into the brier patch. The junior from Sterling Heights, Mich., led Ohio State to five fourth-quarter comebacks this season, leaving him with a somewhat cavalier attitude toward do-or-die situations. "It's sort of like, 'Yeah, our season's on the line again,' " he says. "So let's do something about it."

Krenzel's rise was one of the many unexpected twists in a surprising Buckeyes season. When he won the starting job last fall, it was widely assumed he would merely be keeping the spot warm for redshirt junior Scott McMullen or highly touted freshman Justin Zwick. But Krenzel has a nice arm and is a good runner, as Miami discovered. The 6'4" 215-pounder rushed for a game-high 81 yards, taking advantage of the Hurricanes' man-to-man coverage to pull the ball down and scramble for solid gains. Mostly, though, Krenzel is smart—a molecular genetics major who pulled straight B-pluses in his three fall courses: Molecular Genetics 608, Molecular Genetics 701 and Microbiology. "Those are graduate-level courses," says his brother, Brian, a medical student at Louisville who played strong safety at Duke. Brian is fiercely proud of his little brother but saves his praise for when Craig is out of earshot.

Last Saturday afternoon, long after many other Buckeyes had left for home, the Krenzel brothers and their uncle Stan played a round of golf at a public course in Phoenix. Stan is a lifelong Michigan fan who pulls for his nephew during the football season but makes him pay when it's over.

"Watch Stan. He'll spend the whole round talking during Craig's backswing, trying to screw him up," said Brian, himself not above attempting to sabotage his brother's game. Both uncle and brother had parred the first hole when Craig bent over a five-foot par putt.

"This is where his game falls apart," said Stan.

"Awful quiet, isn't it Craig?" said Brian.

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