Flashback: Ohio State vs. Miami, 2002 BCS Championship

By Joe Beale on September 8, 2010 at 1:00p
Doss came back to win a championship, and win it he did! Mike Doss was one of the heroes of 2002

A nerdy quarterback who was yanked from his last game for ineffectiveness; a true freshman running back from the mean streets of Youngstown with a nose for trouble as much as for the end zone; a skinny receiver from Ft. Lauderdale with a voice higher than that of Mike Tyson; a high school safety who is playing cornerback for the first time; a linebacker who played cornerback the previous season and who was more known for his singing than for his tackling; this does not seem like the makings of a championship team. But this was no ordinary group of players and 2002 was no ordinary year for Ohio State football.

In 2002, Ohio State became the first team in college football history to finish 14-0, winning the Big Ten outright and beating the University of Miami (Fla.) 31-24 in the BCS Championship game. The game was deemed an instant classic, full of twists and turns, turnovers and lead changes, tragedy, drama, and controversy. Some have called it the greatest college football game ever. Without a doubt, it is a game worth watching again and again (if you are an Ohio State fan that is).

The season was going to be an odd one for Ohio State no matter how it turned out. For the first time in the school's history, they were scheduled to play 13 regular season games. The NCAA had recently decided to increase the number of games from 11 to 12, and in addtion to that Ohio State had agreed to host the 13th (and final) Pigskin Classic, an annual contest at the beginning of the season.

Beginning with a 45-21 victory over Texas Tech in that game, Ohio State marched through the regular season undefeated, culminating in a thrilling 14-9 home victory over arch-rival Michigan. The win solidified OSU's #2 ranking and set up a confrontation in the BCS Championship game with defending champion Miami.  Miami had also gone undefeated that season, with their only close call being a 28-27 squeaker over Florida State. Second year coach (and former Ohio State assistant) Larry Coker had yet to lose a game as head coach of the Hurricanes, and the school was gunning for their 35th straight win overall.

Ohio State's many close calls during the season had earned them the nickname "Luckeyes" from critics and pundits, and they were installed as 14-point underdogs for the game. The Buckeyes had won 6 games by 7 points or less, including the "Holy Buckeye" thriller against Purdue and an overtime win at Illinois. ESPN writer Gene Wojciechowski actually wrote a column prior to the game citing "20 reasons why Miami will beat Ohio State". But much like the 1986 Miami team that lost a National Championship against Penn State, this Miami team team was coming to the Fiesta Bowl a bit overconfident.

OSU began the game in an inauspicious manner by going 3-and-out on their first possession. But their defense served notice on the first play from scrimmage that things were not going to be easy for the Hurricanes. As Miami QB Ken Dorsey dropped back to pass, Buckeye DE Will Smith raced around left tackle and sacked Dorsey with one hand. On the next play, Miami's All-American RB Willis McGahee was dropped for a 2-yard loss. It was clear that any yardage that the Hurricanes gained on this night would have to be earned.

On their 2nd possession, Miami scored when Dorsey hit Roscoe Parrish on a 25-yard touchdown strike. It looked like the Miami offense was finally starting to get in gear. But on their next possession they were forced to punt, and then they turned it over on the next 3 times they had the ball. The first of those turnovers was an interception by cornerback Dustin Fox. The former safety returned it 12 yards but OSU stalled and the field goal unit came out. Ohio State coach Jim Tressell reached into his bag of tricks and called for a fake FG, but apparently not everyone got the call and the fake was unsuccessful. Undaunted, the Buckeyes got an interception from senior safety Mike Doss and he returned it all the way to the Miami 17 yard line. From there, OSU drove to a score as QB Craig Krenzel kept for a touchdown on a 4th-and-1 play from the 2-yard line.

On Miami's first play after getting the ball back, Dorsey dropped back to pass and was sacked by OSU DT Darrion Scott. On the tackle, Dorsey fumbled and Scott recovered, giving the Buckeyes ball back at Miami's 14-yard line. Aided by an offside penalty, Ohio State hit pay-dirt again on a 7-yard TD run by freshman RB Maurice Clarett. The score put OSU up 14-7 and completely changed the momentum of the game going into halftime.  

Miami got the ball to start the 3rd quarter, but they went 3-and-out and Krenzel and Co. took over at their own 27. Clarett began to make some progress on the ground, and then Krenzel unleashed a 57-yard bomb down the left sideline caught by WR Chris Gamble. Gamble had begun the season playing receiver only, but had shown so much defensive talent in practice that he eventually took over the primary CB position. Having kept Miami's star receiver Andre Johnson under wraps for much of the game, now Gamble was putting major pressure on the Hurricane DB's. The long pass set the Buckeyes up with a first and goal at Miami's 6-yard line.

At this point, it appeared that OSU was about to break things open. But on first down, Krenzel tossed an ill-advised pass into the end zone intended for TE Ben Hartsock. The pass was intercepted by Miami safety Sean Taylor and Taylor returned it 28 yards before being tackled by Clarett. What Taylor didn't realize was that Clarett was stripping him of the ball on the tackle, and Ohio State regained possession at the Miami 28. From there, they were unable to move the ball and K Mike Nugent booted a 44-yard field goal to put the Buckeyes up 17-7.

Miami went 3-and-out on their next possession, but then their defense rose up and forced OSU to punt, which gave the Hurricanes excellent field position at their own 45. A pair of good rushes from McGahee and a trio of Dorsey completions to TE Kellen Winslow, Jr. gave Miami a first-and-goal at the OSU 9.  From there, McGahee swept around right end for a TD and the Hurricanes closed the gap to 17-14 going into the 4th quarter. Ohio State failed to move the ball, and the subsequent punt set Miami up at their own 24. From there, the Hurricane ground game began to move as McGahee found room to run. Three first downs moved the ball to the OSU 36, but then Dorsey went to the air with no success, missing on 1st and 2nd downs. On 3rd down, Dorsey connected with McGahee on a swing pass to the right side, but as the Heisman Trophy finalist turned to go upfield, OSU safety Will Allen came crashing into McGahee, sending him to the ground for a 2-yard loss. On the play, McGahee tore 3 ligaments in his knee and was out for the remainder of the game (watch, if you can take it). Miami's Todd Siever's attempted a 54-yard field goal on 4th down, but it was no good.

Getting the ball back at their own 37, Ohio State drove to Miami's 25 but stalled there, and Mike Nugent pushed a 42-yard field goal wide left. Miami then mounted a drive of their own but it ended when Roscoe Parrish fumbled the ball away to Will Allen after hauling in a 16-yard pass from Dorsey. OSU now had the ball at their own 26 with 5:08 remaining in the game. They managed to gain a first down and run some time off the clock, but on a 3rd down pass Chris Gamble caught the ball out of bounds (maybe) and Ohio State was forced to punt. Unfortunately, there was a coverage breakdown and Parrish returned the ball 50 yards to the OSU 25. From there, Miami drove to a tying FG to send the game into overtime. 

The first overtime began with Miami driving to a touchdown on Dorsey's 7-yard pass to Winslow over the middle (note: OSU was called for pass interference on the play, which Miami declined). Ohio State then drove down to the Miami 5 (after converting a 4th-and-14 on a 17-yard completion from Krenzel to WR Michael Jenkins), and faced a 4th-and-3 from there. Krenzel dropped back and threw to Gamble on the right side. As Gamble came off the line, Miami CB Glen Sharpe grabbed him with both arms and held up his pattern. Gamble turned inside to try and catch the ball, but Sharpe face-guarded him. As the ball bounced off of Gamble's arms and fell incomplete, the Miami players stormed the field, thinking they had won. In fact, Field Judge Terry Porter had thrown his flag late and he signaled pass interference on Sharpe. With new life and a 1st down at the 2-yard line, Ohio State punched it in on Krenzel's 1-yard keeper. With the score tied at 24, the game went to a second overtime. To this day, many Miami fans (undoubtedly fueled by commentator Dan Fouts' infamous "Bad call! Bad call!") still claim that there was no interference on the play, but the claim is utter nonsense.

In the 2nd overtime, OSU quickly drove for a touchdown, with Clarett taking it the final 5 yards in his final play as a Buckeye. Miami got the ball back for another chance, but on 4th and goal from the 2 Dorsey was harassed by Cie Grant and forced to throw wildly into the end zone. The ball fell harmlessly at the feet of OSU safety Donnie Nickey and the game ended with the Buckeyes winning their first national championship since 1968.

As the final play ended, Ohio State players stormed the field and fireworks went off not only in Tempe but also two doors down from my house as my neighbors celebrated. I stayed up half the night watching post-game commentary and at work the next day most of the office where I worked was abuzz with talk of the game. There was nothing else going on in the world that was really worth talking about at that moment. The game was one for the ages, and will live on for many years as a collectors item in the homes of many OSU fans all over the world.


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jack's picture

made my life at age 42.

seriously, best night of my life, and what topped it off was that I was a Buckeye living in Fort Lauderdale at the time. 

great recap!


Thsi was the real officiating travesty from that night....The catch was good (watch the replay), Gamble was held twice (not called) and there was a late hit on Krenzel (not called)... any of the above results in an OSU 1st and 10 with less than 1:...30 to go, Up by 3 and No time outs for Miami. Game over..... it should never have got to OT in the first place. So if you wanna cry about Ref calls--let's talk about this one! Buckeyes win!



Joe Beale's picture

Indeed, what you mentioned here is the subject of Ramzy's post to which I linked on the word "maybe" in parentheses.


Yea, sorry Joe... I noticed that after my rambling post...lol

Irricoir's picture

Most of the information I could find on "The Call". Copy and paste this for all of your blogging discussions.

This of course leads to great irony of this story, being the controversial flag on Sharpe in the first overtime. It was the right call. It was just egregiously late, and Porter signaled both pass interference as well as defensive holding, further confusing the issue. The National Association of Sports Officials named it one of the 18 best calls in officiating history. Regardless, Miami fans scapegoat and misdirect their ire at Terry Porter. It’s easier than remembering details. They may not be able to fill half of a stadium, but they’re very loud, which is the defining characteristic of all angry, uninformed people.


In the age before coaches' challenges and referee reviews were included within the NCAArules, the call was subsequently validated by the National Association of Sports Officials[9], and was also selected by Referee Magazine as one of the "Best 18 Calls of All Time."[10]

"The Call" was also discussed on the ESPN Classicshow, The Top 5 Reasons You Can't Blame..., in an episode titled, "The Top 5 Reasons You Can't Blame the Referees for Miami losing the 2003 Fiesta Bowl."[11]

I don't always take names when I kick ass but when I do, they most often belong to a Wolverine.

SouthBayBuckeye's picture

renewing my subscription to referee magazine as we speak....


just wait til you see the centerfold.

Banned from ATO since June 3rd 2PMish PST

Denny's picture

Mmmm... sweet, sweet ref-porn.


SouthBayBuckeye's picture

Banned from ATO since June 3rd 2PMish PST

Bucksfan's picture

It was on this morning on BTN, so I watched it before I went to work.  I feel lucky to have been a student that year, had the block of 4 games with my fraternity, my first Mirror Lake jump, first Michigan game in person, then for the Bucks to have won a national title amidst all of that, beating an all-time Miami team after 34 years of drought...there's nothing that will ever equal that for the rest of my life as a football fan.

Funny story to go along with this, just to put it into perspective.  For my engineering survey class in the Fall of 2001, we had to go listen to this MechE professor talk to us about ME as a major, what it means to take his class at 7:30 AM, blah blah blah, he saw himself as a real hardass.  Somehow he got on the topic of Ohio State football, to which he said the following, "Ohio State's glory days are forever in the past.  They will never again be what they once were."  Of course, the man was partially validated by a woeful 7-5 year.

I ended up switching out of Engineering by Spring Quarter 2002 (btw, current Buckeye students, Biochemistry is not any easier), and the Bucks went on to go 14-0 that Fall, continue on to boast the greatest streak against Michigan they've ever seen, a record # of consecutive Big Ten victories at one point, a Heisman Trophy winner, and there are murmerings that we will undertake legit future debates as to who was greater, Woody or Tress?  I always use this story as vindication that I made the right choice in not finishing in Engineering.

Doc's picture

My wife and I were at the game.  We had to sit next to an obnoxious drunken Miami fan, is there any other kind?  It is still one of the greatest days of my life.  Go Bucks!  Beat Miami like a drum and leave no doubt who the better team is!

CJDPHoS Member

The Official DDS of 11W

DallasTheologian's picture

I believe they were co-champs in the Big 10 that year as they did not play Iowa who also went undefeated in the Big 10 schedule.

Joe Beale's picture

You are correct!  I have fixed that paragraph.  Thanks for the heads-up.

DotThei's picture

I can't think about the 2002 season without being emotional. My mother--an OSU grad, bona-fide football nut, and someone who took me to games since 1977--died earlier that spring. Her presence stood with me during each one of those crazy games that fall. When Jenkins caught that fourth down pass against Purdue, I was clutching her photo, wearing her lucky Buckeye hat, and praying with all I had. I was in the stadium in Tempe. In my pocket was the cross she had in her hand when she died. And I squeezed that sucker so hard that evening it left marks on my hand. When we were facing that early-overtime, long 4th down, I mumbled something to the effect of thanking her for making me a Buckeye fan and that I was okay with however things went from there. Jenkins picked it up on an out pattern, and I knew we were going to win. I started laughing and when the final play happened below me in the end zone a short while later, me and a lifetime fiend (also a friend of my mother's) tackled one another and fell maybe three or four rows. Pure magic. Unforgettable.


This photo was taken of my Mom and I at the 1994 Ohio State v Michigan game.


Ms. Scarlet Gray's picture

Your post brought back my own memories. My father died that season--in early November, the day before the Purdue game. He was an OSU grad and he turned all of us into lifelong fans. It seemed we won one incredible game after another that year. He was in the hospital and tried to watch the games, but most of the time we would be reading the write up from the newspaper to him on Sunday. There must have been a lot of Buckeyes up there watching the National Championship game with your mother and my dad. Go Buckeyes!

BTwrestle04's picture

Picture that clearly depicts either Defensive Holding or Pass Interference in the 2002 title game: 

Joe Beale's picture

The linesman who is standing right in front of the play is the one who should have taken heat for not calling anything.  Was he daydreaming or something?

Is it Saturday Yet's picture

This is amazing.  Isn't this a poster that can be ordered without all the yellow writing?

SilverBullet33's picture

I watched the replay too.  I honestly wish I could get a version with Keith Jackson w/o Fouts who was so obviously rooting for his old TE's kid and team.  The "bad call, bad call" certianly DID fuel the fire.  Listening to him again, even though I know the outcome, always takes the enjoyment out of it for me.  That game is my #1 sports memory and frankly the replay I watched yesterday was the first time I watched the game since......because of Fouts.  Am I crazy or what?  I would love to have that DVD to show my kids one day, but I can't get past Fouts' awful job.  I know mute it, right?  As much as I hate Fouts, I loved Jackson.  His voice makes me think of college football and he was always thrilled to be "on the banks of the Oletangy"

+1 HS
canes4137's picture

Miami would have won that 03' NC game 9 out of 10 times played. But obviously that's neither here nor there. They just came out too confident and didn't play to their full potential. On the other hand, osu played the best football they could ever imagine and barely came out with a win. I wouldn't say the better team won by any stretch because your a moron if you think Miami ultimately wasn't the better team. I would just say the better team got outplayed.

Oh and just to throw this in for good measure, "the ohio state" football program has won a total of 7 national titles! very impressive, congratualtions! Now can anyone guess how many they have won in the last 35 years?? 1, solo, uno national championship! Thats pathetic!! osu is similar to the over rated notre dame teams year after year! Now since Miami has come on the scene in college football in the early 80's, they have won 5 National Championships!! This is why they are called "THE U". This is why they have been the best fb program and still are for the last 30 years!

Cant wait to see Miami be a top of copllege football again after this weekend!!

gravey's picture

Sorry Mr. Troll.  We only serve class, wit and logic.   We're all out of sour grapes here.  I understand they've been growing wild around Coral Gables since 2003.  

woodward.72's picture

Oh no you DI'INT! LOL

JakeBuckeye's picture

You guys are the ultimate program.

Ohio State is merely fit to shine your shoes. You clearly own Ohio State and the Big Ten altogether as you've shown through playing us on the football field. You take part in no baseless trash talk and are class acts as players and fans. Your stadium is full week-in-week-out to support your team, no matter the opponent. I am humbled to be in your graceful presence and cannot wait to see my guys kick the living shit out of yours come Saturday.

Jason Priestas's picture

See, this is what I don't understand. Yes, it ended on a controversial call and if I were a Miami fan I would be bent as well (though, it's indisputably pass interference, albeit late), but Ohio State came to play in that game.

How can you say Miami would have won the game 9 times out of 10 when Dorsey was sacked on the very first play of the game?  Entering the game, all we heard about was how he is never sacked and that wasn't it -- OSU hit Miami in the mouth all night long. It was an epic matchup of two heavyweights that each sent a ton of guys to the NFL.

You are a fine troll, sir, but you lack a grounding in reality.

canes4137's picture

Alright enough about the game, you could go on forever about the different plays, penaltys and calls throughout the game but one thing is obvious. Miami is the better program. Can anyone name the years osu won their national championships? were any of you even born for 6 of them?

woodward.72's picture

Congratulations to Miami for winning 5 national championships between 1983 and 2001, but what have you done for me lately?

Bucksfan's picture

How many losing records does OSU have this decade?  And Miami?


canes4137's picture

ummm im pretty sure i just summed that up. Miami is about winning national championships and like i said they have 5 in the last thirty years and osu has 1. so what has osu done lately is the question? oh wait ill answer that for you, 1 championship in the last 30 years haha osu cant win that battle.

poguemahone's picture

You know what OSU hasn't done? Lost 48-0 at home to Virginia 

Bucksfan's picture

Actually OSU can win that battle, like the one they won over Miami.  By the way, you guys cheated the whole time.  Did you watch the 30 for 30 on The U?  Are you going to read that new book about how much money your players were paid in that era?

canes4137's picture

All I have to say is Maurice Clarret. And i can tell all of you are great osu fans. None of you can name the years that osu won championships. And again
Miami wins National Championships. We could care less about bcs bowl games if there not national championships

Doc's picture

Lame4137, let's not get into a discussion about police blotters.  Thug "U" has plenty of their own.  Secondly tOSU has more National Championships than Da U, overall wins too.  Not caring about BCS bowl games comes from fans whose teams are not invited to said bowl games.  Now about those Championships we can not name, how bout '42, '54, '68, '70, and 2002, or have you forgot.  And those are just the ones off the top of my head.

CJDPHoS Member

The Official DDS of 11W

canes4137's picture

and that 30 for 30 was awesome. osu could only wish that they had a film about them like that. you wish they made a film about osu like that.

BigRedBuckeye's picture

Couple of things. The 3rd down play, Gamble Hold(egregious)/Gamble Hold(less obvious)/Gamble-In-bounds-but-ruled-out(hard to tell)/Krenzel-hit-late-(borderline but not a slam dunk)...on that play, it was 3rd and six. Obviously, a catch is a first down. Of the other penalties that might have been called, would all of them have resulted in a first down? My gut is that the late hit would have. What about PI? Or, most pertinently, defensive holding? Just something I was thinking about. Does anyone remember the 2002 rules/know the rules better than I do????

A worse call may have been the missed block-in-the-back on AJ Hawk during Parrish's punt return. 


See 0:55 - 0:60 or there abouts. 

I think the PI call in the first OT was ticky tack, but viewed in light of the way the whole game was called, a penalty HAD to be called on that play. As various pundits have pointed out, there were probably 3 separate penalties on that play. Defensive holding was the most obvious, I would call it "moderate" level holding. Then there was the PI, which I would say was certainly present, but not as obvious. However, to this day, Light PI + Face Guarding = penalty probably 80%+ of the time. Lastly was the facemask after the ball was tipped, but WHILE IT WAS STILL LIVE. Though brief, this is probably an easier call to make bc you can't argue that the ball was live and that Sharpe had his hand on the facemask. 

Lastly, I would argue that not only was a flag appropriate on that play for any of the above 3 infractions (or perhaps, in a certain sense, for the totality of all of them), but I would also argue that it was not really as late as everyone says.


In this video, the pass occurs at the 0:06 mark and the flag is on the ground by 0:09. The Miami players/sideline (and whoever had their trigger on the fireworks) is probably most to blame for the revisionist position that the flag was late. It wasn't that late at all, esp. when you consider that the ball was live after the infraction took place, and the ref may have been waiting for the ball to go dead before throwing the flag (which I think is normal for PI calls, no?)

And you guys should stop taking the bait of this teenage Cryami fan. Miami was the team loaded with more talented players. That doesn't make them the better team. The better TEAM won. 

And we'll drink to old Ohio, 'Til we wobble in our shoes!