TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) – For three-and-a-half seconds, Miami was national champion once again.
Then the flag came flying, the celebration was halted and one of college football’s greatest games kept going.
The fourth-down pass-interference call that gave Ohio State another chance was just one of many unforgettable plays in a finish for the ages at the Fiesta Bowl.
Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel had a hard time singling out just one the morning after his team’s 31-24 double-overtime shocker that ended Miami’s 34-game winning streak and bid for consecutive national titles.
“There were a lot of great plays,” Tressel said Saturday. “We’ll all be able to sit back and talk about which one turned the tide most.”
There was Craig Krenzel’s 17-yard pass to Michael Jenkins on fourth-and-14 to prolong the first overtime; the penalty on Glenn Sharpe; touchdown runs by Krenzel and Maurice Clarett; and Cie Grant’s blitz that never gave Ken Dorsey a chance on Miami’s final play.
The Hurricanes had their share of great plays too, starting with Todd Sievers’ 40-yard field goal as time expired in the fourth quarter.
Kellen Winslow Jr. made a leaping touchdown grab to open the overtime, and Dorsey returned after a crushing hit to convert a fourth-down pass.
In all, there were 32 plays that could have been the final snap of the game.
“I just said somebody has to make a play, let everyone step up,” Ohio State All-American safety Michael Doss said. “At least once a week we have one play where it’s the last play in the world and it means everything. We stepped up to the challenge.”
Did they ever.
The 11 1/2-point underdog Buckeyes took it to Dorsey and the confident ‘Canes right from the start. They sacked Dorsey twice on the opening possession and throttled him and running back Willis McGahee all night.
Both Heisman finalists eventually ended their nights in tears: McGahee after being carted off the field with a possible torn ACL in his left knee and Dorsey after ending his college career in defeat.
“It hurts. Losing hurts,” said Dorsey, who committed three turnovers. “For me, it hurts even more thinking back to what this team has done. I should have made some of those throws, and I take responsibility for that.”
Despite the struggles, Dorsey nearly ended up a champion again.
After Roscoe Parrish atoned for a fumble with a 50-yard punt return, Miami took over at the Ohio State 26 with 2:02 left, trailing 17-14.
Larry Coker, who lost for the first time in 25 games as a coach, seemed content for overtime, not taking a shot down the field and settling for Sievers’ tying field goal.
That’s when it got really exciting.
Ohio State won the toss and chose to start on defense in the overtime.
On second down from the 7, Dorsey threw a pass over the middle. Winslow jumped and reached back over a defender to make perhaps the best of his 11 catches to give Miami a 24-17 lead.
A penalty and a sack put Ohio State in trouble with a fourth-and-14 from the 29. Krenzel, who had completed only five passes at that point, converted a 17-yard pass for a first down.
“He’s an extraordinary kid who’s competitive and wants the ball in his hands,” Tressel said. “I can’t say enough about Craig Krenzel. He’s a winner.”
Krenzel then ran it to the 5, but Ohio State once again faced a fourth down. Krenzel looked for Chris Gamble in the corner of the end zone but the pass fell to the ground and officials waved incomplete.
Miami’s Sean Taylor threw his helmet in the air, fans and players rushed the field, and the celebration was on.
Field judge Terry Porter threw his flag and signaled interference on Glenn Sharpe.
“I replayed it in my mind,” Porter said. “I wanted to make double-sure that it was the right call.”
Security quickly cleared the field and Krenzel then scored to tie it.
“If you’re going to make the call, make it right away,” Miami linebacker D.J. Williams said. “The guy from the back called it late. I thought we had it won.”