Ohio State started 2002 ranked 13th in the country. "Experts" believed the Buckeyes could possibly compete for the Big Ten title.
For his second season, Jim Tressel had seven defensive and five offensive starters returning. All-American LeCharles Bentley was not back to anchor the line, but Mike Doss' decision to return created the most buzz. The senior safety stated he was coming back to win a national championship. People liked his optimism, but few believed in his words.
|The 2002 Buckeyes|
|B1G Record||8–0, 1st|
|Coach||Jim Tressel (2nd year, 21–5)|
|CaptainS||Mike Doss, Donnie Nickey|
Games of Note
August 24th • Texas Tech • Ohio Stadium
For the first time since 1943, a true freshman tailback started for Ohio State. Clarett did more than just start, the 2001 USA TODAY national high school Offensive Player of the Year ended the day with 175 rushing yards and three touchdowns. His performance had fans buzzing about his powerful running style and how he still had the speed to outrun defenders. An electricity percolated Ohio Stadium on that 83-degree and sunny afternoon and No. 13 provided the power.
The Warren Harding graduate had touchdown runs from 59, 45 and two yards. The Buckeyes ran the ball 57 times for 317 yards in the 45-21 rout of Mike Leach's Red Raiders.
Clarett didn't break the century mark in the Week 2 game against Kent State, but he did average 5.3 yards per carry and score a touchdown in the 51-17 victory. He also recorded his first receiving touchdown. Craig Krenzel completed his first 11 passes and finished 12-of-14, for 190 yards and the scoring toss to Clarett.
The legs of Mike Nugent and Clarett carried the sixth-ranked Buckeyes past No. 10 Washington State. Nugent made an Ohio State record three field goals of 40 yards or more and Clarett rushed for 230 yards – just nine fewer than Archie Griffin's freshman record of 239 in 1972 – in the 25-7 victory.
|AUG. 24||TEXAS TECH||OHIO STADIUM||W, 45–21|
|SEP. 7||KENT STATE||OHIO STADIUM||W, 51–17|
|SEP. 14||NO. 10 WASH. ST.||OHIO STADIUM||W, 25–7|
|SEP. 21||CINCINNATI||PAUL BROWN||W, 23–19|
|SEP. 28||INDIANA||OHIO STADIUM||W, 45–17|
|OCT. 5||NORTHWESTERN||RYAN FIELD||W, 27–16|
|OCT. 12||SAN JOSE STATE||OHIO STADIUM||W, 50–7|
|OCT. 19||WISCONSIN||CAMP RANDALL||W, 19–14|
|OCT. 26||NO. 18 PENN STATE||OHIO STADIUM||W, 13–7|
|NOV. 2||NO. 23 MINNESOTA||OHIO STADIUM||W, 34–3|
|NOV. 9||PURDUE||ROSS-ADE||W, 10-6|
|NOV. 16||ILLINOIS||MEMORIAL||W, 23–16 3OT|
|NOV. 23||NO. 12 MICHIGAN||OHIO STADIUM||W, 14-9|
|JAN. 3||NO. 1 MIAMI||BCS CHAMP.||W, 31-24 2OT|
September 21st • Cincinnati • Paul Brown Stadium
Maurice Clarett sat out this game as he recovered from arthroscopic knee surgery. Lydell Ross took advantage of his opportunity and rushed for 130 yards.
Craig Krenzel was responsible for three touchdowns and Mike Nugent kicked a field goal to account for Ohio State's 23 points.
The Bearcats had the ball on their own 20-yard line with 3:39 to play. Trailing 23-19, Gino Guidugli guided his team 65 yards in eight plays. On 1st-and-10 from the 15-yard line, Guidugli threw a strike to the right corner of the end zone, but Jon Olinger dropped the ball. Guidugli targeted Olinger again on second down but again missed. On third down, he threw a fantastic fade to George Murray in the left corner, but Murray could not hold on as he dove.
Facing 4th-and-10 from the 15, Guidugli again went to the air. This time, his pass to the end zone fell into Will Allen's hands after Matt Wilhelm tipped it. The Buckeyes ran out the final 26 seconds and escaped with the four-point win.
"Linebacker tipped it, but you know how coaches are. I thought their guy might catch it," Tressel said. "We're glad Allen was there."
Another key play in the game came when Darrius Scott forced a Guidugli fumble on a sack. David Thompson recovered and gave the offense the ball at Cincinnati's 47 with close to eight minutes remaining. Ohio State trailed 19-17 at the time and Krenzel turned the turnover into six points nine plays later when he rushed in from six yards out on a keeper.
"Turnovers are everything," Tressel said. "Scott's play sent electricity to our sideline and our fans."
October 19th • Wisconsin • Camp Randall Stadium
The Badgers led 14-13 just after the start of the fourth quarter, and Ohio State faced 3rd-and-7 on its own 16. Krenzel connected with Michael Jenkins on a 45-yard pass play. Instead of having to punt from their own 16, the Buckeyes found themselves on the Badgers' 39.
"We just felt like we had to strike with some big ones if we were going to have a chance to beat them," Tressel said. "A year ago, if you remember, we had some guys open and we did not hit them. It was good to see Mike come up with a couple of big plays."
A few plays later in the drive, Krenzel faked a pitch and threw to a wide open Ben Hartsock for the game-winning 3-yard touchdown.
"I thought the key play of the game was 3rd-and-7 in the fourth quarter. They really hadn't done much for a quarter and a half and the ball was up in the air," Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez said. "We had two guys in position, no one made a play on the ball and they made a big completion and were able to go down and score."
Wisconsin had a chance to retake the lead, but Chris Gamble intercepted Jim Sorgi's pass in the end zone on 3rd-and-11 from the 29.
"He catches things better than most people," Tressel said. "It does not matter if it was intended for him or if he was covering the guy. He can go up and catch the football. That was a pretty big one. He is just outrunning athletes and you wish you could play him all the time."
Clarett finished the game with 133 rushing yards and Doss had a game-high 14 tackles and also forced a fumble.
October 26th • #17 Penn State • Ohio Stadium
The 17th-ranked Nittany Lions led 7-3 at halftime on the 52-degree mostly cloudy late October Saturday. Penn State received the second half kickoff and after two plays netted negative three yards, Joe Paterno called for a Zack Mills pass on third down. He threw for the sideline, but Gamble stepped in front and grabbed the ball. The talented cornerback raced 40 yards to the end zone to put the Buckeyes ahead 10-7.
Gamble impressed as he played on both offense and defense and was on the field for almost every snap. The Buckeyes needed his talent when Clarett left the game after injuring his left shoulder. Before he got hurt, the freshman rushed for 39 yards that put him over 1,000 for the season.
Ohio State's defense stopped PSU's second drive to give the offense a chance to extend its lead. Krenzel directed a 14-play, 72-yard drive that Nugent capped off with 37-yard field goal.
With the Buckeyes leading by six, the defense forced the Nittany Lions to punt four times in the final period. With 3:02 left, the Nittany Lions went for it on 4th-and-6 from their own 19. Mills' slant pass to Bryant Johnson fell incomplete and Ohio State ran out the clock for the win.
OSU's defense held Larry Johnson to 66 yards rushing and 179 total. To go along with Gamble's pick-six, A.J. Hawk and Will Smith also came up with interceptions in the 13-7 victory.
"I think Ohio State is a better defensive team than they were last year. ... I think it was a combination that they played very well and we just couldn't make the play," said Paterno.
|SAN JOSE STATE||W1||1–0|
November 9th • Purdue • Ross-Ade Stadium
With under two minutes to play, No. 3 Ohio State trailed the Boilermakers 6-3 and had 4th-and-1 at the home team's 37-yard line.
With the game and perfect season on the line, Krenzel dropped back and threw into the wind, down the left sideline toward Jenkins. The tall receiver caught the ball over his shoulder and gave the Buckeyes a 10-6 lead.
Krenzel was not supposed to throw to Jenkins but called an audible, confident he could hit the All-American receiver with the pass. His gamble paid off and brought term "Holy Buckeye!" into the national consciousness.
"Purdue's defense seemed to think that we were running," Krenzel said. "I would probably think that on 4th-and-1. I was throwing into the wind. Fortunately, our offense stepped up, I stepped into the pass and it floated over his shoulder."
Another big play in the game was Nugent's 21-yard field goal as time expired in the first half. Wilhelm's interception of Purdue quarterback Kyle Orton set up Nugent's chance.
To this point, Nugent made all 21 of his field goals on the season.
November 16th • Illinois • Memorial Stadium
Following the four-point victory over Purdue in West Lafayette, Ohio State traveled to Champaign to play the Illini. Cold and windy 40-degree weather greeted the Buckeyes as they entered Memorial Stadium.
Clarett did not play due to his injured left shoulder and OSU's offense struggled without him. The team only scored six points in the first half, all coming from Nugent's leg.
Illinois kicked its own field goal with 31 seconds left to make the score 6-3 at halftime. The Illini held the Buckeyes to a three-and-out on the opening drive of the third quarter. Andy Groom hit a 48-yard punt, but Illinois' Eugene Wilson returned it 52 yards to the Ohio State 23-yard line.
Three plays later, Jon Beutjer completed a 19-yard touchdown pass to Walter Young to give Ron Turner's team its first lead of the day. Four plays after receiving the ensuing kickoff, Krenzel threw deep to his favorite target, and Jenkins came down with a 50-yard touchdown catch. The Buckeyes now led 13-10.
The Illini tied it at 13 with only 2:55 left in the third. Nugent again gave the Buckeyes a three-point lead when he kicked a 37-yard field goal with 14:14 left. Later in the quarter, he missed his second field goal attempt of the game – and season – and it proved pivotal at the end of regulation.
Illinois' Jon Gockman lined up for a 48-yard field goal and put the ball through the uprights with zeroes on the clock. The two teams needed overtime to determine a winner.
Ohio State only needed five plays to get Maurice Hall over the goal line to take a 23-16 lead. The Illini made it to the Ohio State 9-yard line where they faced 4th-and-8, but Beutjer could not connect with Tim Anderson.
Jenkins had a game-high 147 yards receiving and a touchdown and the defense held Illinois to 53 rushing yards. The Illini's Beutjer finished with 305 passing yards and a touchdown.
The Buckeyes' escaped Champaign with their Big Ten and national championship dreams alive. Jenkins had a game-high 147 yards receiving and a touchdown.
November 23rd • #9 Michigan • Ohio Stadium
The Big Ten title and a berth in the BCS National Championship game were on the line for No. 2 Ohio State when ninth-ranked Michigan entered Ohio Stadium for the 99th meeting between the schools.
From USA TODAY:
Next stop, Tempe. Maurice Hall scored on a three-yard run with 4:55 left and second-ranked Ohio State forced two key turnovers in the final minutes to move within one win of its first national title in 34 years with a 14-9 victory over ninth-ranked Michigan.
Maurice Clarett carried 20 times for 119 yards and a touchdown and caught a 26-yard pass from Craig Krenzel that set up the score by Hall. Hall took a pitch from Krenzel and raced to the right corner of the end zone, giving the Buckeyes a five-point lead.
"That was the first time all season that we ran the option," Hall said. "We felt like it was going to be a good play at the goal line, because it would keep them off-balance and it worked."
Krenzel kept the eight-play, 57-yard drive alive moments earlier when he dove forward for a first down on 4th-and-one at the Michigan 33.
But it was the defense that again delivered when it mattered most, forcing a fumble by Wolverine quarterback John Navarre that was recovered by defensive end Will Smith.
Michigan got one more chance and moved inside the Ohio State 25 in the final seconds before cornerback Will Allen picked off a pass by Navarre thrown into heavy coverage.
"We wanted to leave it out on the field," Doss said. "When it was time for us to make a stop, we had to make it and we did that in the second half."
Thousands of the 105,539 in Ohio Stadium rushed the field to celebrate with the Big Ten champions and Tempe-bound Buckeyes.
January 3rd • #1 Miami • BCS National Championship
No. 2 Ohio State entered the national title game as a heavy underdog against No. 1 Miami. The Hurricanes were the defending national champs and boasted a 34-game winning streak. The talk going into the game was about where Miami would rank among the all-time great teams after it beat the Buckeyes.
From the 2015 Ohio State Team Guide:
Ohio State worked two overtimes to rip the national championship from the
Miami Hurricanes in one of the greatest college football games ever.
Maurice Clarett ran 5 yards for the winning touchdown, and Ohio State’s
defense turned back one final Miami bid to tie the game. With that, the
Buckeyes completed an unbeaten run to their first national title in 34 years
with a 31-24 win.
Trailing 24-17 in the first OT, Ohio State converted a 4th-and-14 on a pass by Craig Krenzel. But the Buckeyes then faced a 4th-and-3 at the 5 when Krenzel threw to the right corner of the end zone for Chris Gamble. A flag was thrown from the back of the end zone indicating pass interference and three plays later Krenzel scored from the 1 to send the game to a second
OT. In the second OT, the Buckeyes went first and Clarett capped
the five-play drive.
The Buckeyes took a 14-7 halftime lead, turning two turnovers into touchdowns in a 78-second span, and extended the margin to 10 points on Mike Nugent’s 44-yard field goal. The Hurricanes closed to 17-14 on Willis McGahee’s 9-yard scoring run in the third quarter to set the stage for Todd Sievers’ 40-yard kick at the end of regulation.
After giving Miami its fourth loss in four tries in the Fiesta Bowl, Tressel celebrated the title by telling the crowd: "We've always had the best damn band in the land. Now we've got the best damn team in the land."
Ohio State did the improbable and won its seventh national championship by defeating the loaded Hurricanes.
- Maurice Clarett rushed for 175 yards and three touchdowns in No. 13 Ohio State's 45-21 victory over Kliff Kingsbury and Mike Leach's Texas Tech Raiders.
- In the first meeting between the Buckeyes and Kent State, Craig Krenzel completed his first ten passes as OSU routed their in-state opponent 51-17.
- Mike Nugent became the first Ohio State kicker to make three field goals of 40 or more yards in the same game, and Clarett rushed for 230 yards in the 25-7 win over No. 10 Washington State.
- No. 6 Ohio State needed a late Krenzel touchdown pass and Will Allen's interception in the end zone to secure a 23-19 victory over Cincinnati.
- Chris Gamble scored on a 43-yard rushing touchdown, and Clarett returned from knee surgery with a three touchdown 103 yard performance as the Buckeyes defeated Indiana 45-17.
- Northwestern had leads of 6-0 and 9-3 in the first half, but Ohio State scored 17 straight points and held on for a 27-16 win in Evanston. Clarett had 140 rushing yards and two touchdowns and Matt Wilhelm led the team with 15 tackles.
- Craig Krenzel threw for three touchdowns and Maurice Clarett rushed for three touchdowns in the fifth-ranked Buckeyes 50-7 beat down of San Jose State.
- No. 4 Ohio State trailed 14-13 at halftime, but a fourth quarter Ben Hartsock touchdown catch gave OSU a 19-14 win in Madsion.
- Chris Gamble returned an interception 40 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter in the Buckeyes' 13-7 defeat of Penn State.
- Jim Tressel showed the fans that he was the correct choice for Ohio State as he beat Glenn Mason's Minnesota team 34-3.
- Michael Jenkins and Craig Krenzel hooked up for "Holy Buckeye!" with 1:36 left to play in the 10-6 win at Purdue.
- Maurice Hall's 8-yard touchdown run in overtime gave Ohio State a 23-16 victory over Illinois.
- Will Allen's interception as the clock hit zeroes closed out the Buckeyes' 14-9 win over Michigan.
- Maurice Clarett scored the game-winning touchdown and forced a game-changing fumble as Ohio State defeated No. 1 Miami 31-24 in double overtime.
- Mike Doss, Andy Groom, Mike Nugent and Matt Wilhelm earned All-American honors. This was Doss' third honor.
- Mike Doss, Kenny Peterson, Cie Grant, Matt Wilhelm and Donnie Nickey were selected in the NFL Draft.
- Ohio State started the season ranked No. 13, rose to second and finished No. 1.
- The 2002 Buckeyes won the program's seventh national championship.
In 2001, Jim Tressel lived up to his promise that fans would be proud of his team when they played in Ann Arbor. In 2002, Mike Doss followed through on his promise that he was coming back to win a championship. The team had several games that it was on the brink of losing, but always found a way to win.
Chris Gamble's two-way play was remarkable. The deeper the season went, the more plays Gamble stayed on the field. His performance on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball were critical to the championship season.