This week at The Student Section, we have been exploring the Big Ten as we prep for the college football season. Terry Johnson also took a look back at “7 season changing plays.” When I think about the Big Ten and season changing plays, it brings one team to my memory… the 2002 Ohio State Buckeyes.
Some call it luck, others call it destiny, but one thing is for sure, a lot of things had to go right for the Buckeyes to win the 2002 BCS Championship (which was also the last time the Big Ten had the top team in the nation once the dust settled).
This team was tied or trailed in the second half seven times. Seven times! Out of their 14 wins, half of them were by a touchdown or less. In their last four games, two of them were decided in overtime.
Somehow the Ohio State Buckeyes navigated the regular season to face off with the heavily favored Miami Hurricanes for the national championship.
After 60 minutes of football and some incredible plays, including a crazy play in which Miami’s Sean Taylor intercepted a pass in the end zone but then was stripped by Maurice Clarrett on the return, the score was tied 17-17.
In the first overtime, Miami did its part by scoring first and turned the game over to its defense. After already completing one fourth down pass on the drive, the Buckeyes were faced with a critical 4th and 3 at the Miami five yard line. A Craig Krenzel pass fell incomplete but a late and very questionable flag was thrown and instead of the game being over, Ohio State got another chance. Three plays later a quarterback sneak tied the game up and sent the game to double overtime.
The Buckeyes scored on the first possession of the second overtime on a five-yard Maurice Clarett run, putting all the pressure on Miami. The Hurricanes completed a 4th and 3, and after a penalty had the ball first and goal on the two yard line. The Buckeyes’ defense held and gave them an improbable win and capped an unforgettable season.
Jim Tressel’s tenure at Ohio State ultimately may not be remembered for the run that this team had, but there is no denying that something special happened this season for the Buckeyes. Along the way, every national championship team has to have a little bit of luck, and these Buckeyes had more than their fair share. Was it luck or was it destiny? It’s all in the eye of the beholder.