A lot has happened in the eight years since Miami and Ohio State met under a panoramic desert sky in an unforgettable national championship game.
The teams have a lot of catching up to do today, when the 12th-ranked Hurricanes visit Columbus and No. 2 Ohio State.
Some of the ’Canes, including most of their alumni, have never really gotten over the 31-24 double-overtime loss Jan. 3, 2003, at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz.
“That seems to be their theme for this game — it’s a revenge game,’’ Buckeyes tight end Jake Stoneburner said. “Some guys said they’ve been waiting since they were, like, 10 years old to come back and beat Ohio State, show them who the real team is.’’
The Hurricanes lost a bit of their swagger that night, dropped out of the national picture briefly, and now are itching to get back to being the most intimidating and feared program in the country.
“Everyone in the UM family, they want this win badly,’’ cornerback Brandon Harris said. “And so do we.’’
Controversy still shadows the game after all this time.
In the first overtime, the ’Canes were already on the field celebrating their second straight national championship after stopping Ohio State on a fourth-down play. All of a sudden, at the far corner of the field, official Terry Porter waited several seconds before calling pass interference on a Miami defender.
That yellow flag kept Ohio State alive. Freshman tailback Maurice Clarett, who would never play another collegiate game, scored on a 5-yard burst over the middle in the second overtime for the winning points. Miami quarterback Ken Dorsey’s pass fell incomplete at the end, sealing the Buckeyes’ first national championship in 34 years.
This game will pit two solid, hard-hitting defenses, along with offenses that feature Heisman Trophy candidates. The Hurricanes’ Jacory Harris likes nothing more than beating a secondary deep. The Buckeyes’ Terrelle Pryor can fling the ball or sprint out of the pocket to gain yards.
Miami wide receiver LaRon Byrd spoke for a lot of players on both sides of rivalry.
“I heard it’s going to be rockin’,’’ he said of Ohio Stadium, expected to be jammed with more than 105,000 fans. “I’m ready for the challenge. Bring ’em on.’’
In other key games today, No. 1 Alabama hosts No. 18 Penn State; No. 10 Oklahoma hosts No. 17 Florida State; and Michigan visits Notre Dame
Penn State and Alabama meet for the first time in two decades. The onetime rivals forged a tradition of classic games in the late 1970s and into the 1980s.
If only Joe Paterno’s and Nick Saban’s teams could toss a Heisman Trophy winner into this tasty football stew. But Crimson Tide tailback Mark Ingram seemed less likely to return for the game from a knee injury as the week went along.
It’s also the first chance for Alabama to offer evidence it’s worthy of top billing. And for Penn State to make its own statement.
The Seminoles didn’t face much resistance in winning, 59-6, last week against Samford. Christian Ponder, promoted by the school as a Heisman Trophy candidate, threw four touchdown passes in the first half and then called it a day.
Oklahoma also got about two solid quarters of play from quarterback Landry Jones, although he went the distance in the 31-24 win against Utah State. He misfired on more passes than he completed and had two picks to go with his two touchdowns.
Michigan (.737) and Notre Dame (.734) are 1-2 in all-time winning percentage. Michigan’s 878 wins are the most in the NCAA and Notre Dame is third with 838.