Ohio State shocks Miami for NCAA title
TEMPE, Ariz., Jan. 4 (UPI) -- The Ohio State Buckeyes won the national college football championship in epic and controversial fashion Friday night.
The Buckeyes claimed five turnovers, knocked Miami's star running back out of the game and stopped the Hurricanes inside the two-yard line four times in the second overtime period to win the Fiesta Bowl, 31-24.
Cie Grant became the last in a long line of Ohio State defensive heroes, forcing quarterback Ken Dorsey to throw a fourth-down incompletion in the second overtime that ended the dramatic contest.
Ohio State, an 11-point underdog, finished the season as the only unbeaten team in Division I-A at 14-0 and ended Miami's 34-game winning streak, the third longest in Division I-A history. The Buckeyes did so after the Hurricanes had begun to celebrate in the first overtime when, at least for a moment, they thought they had won their second consecutive national title.
The final game of the college season saw the momentum change time and again and the contest went beyond the regulation 60 minutes when Miami's Todd Sievers kicked a 40-yard field goal on the final play of the fourth quarter to force a 17-17 tie. The field goal was set up by a 50-yard punt return from Roscoe Parrish, who with five minutes left in regulation fumbled the ball away at the Ohio State 18 for the Hurricanes' fifth turnover of the game.
It was the first overtime title game in the brief history of the Bowl Championship Series and Miami took command in the initial extra period when Dorsey, trying to equal an NCAA record by quarterbacking his 35th collegiate victory, hit Kellen Winslow, Jr. with a seven-yard touchdown pass. Winslow caught 11 passes for 121 yards.
Ohio State, therefore, had to score a touchdown to keep the game alive and the Buckeyes needed 10 agonizing plays to do it. Buckeyes quarterback Craig Krenzel kept the drive going by hitting Michael Jenkins with a 16-yard pass on fourth and 14 from the 29.
The Buckeyes again faced fourth down moments later from the five-yard line. Frenzel threw into the end zone in an attempt to hit Chris Gamble, but Miami defensive back Glenn Sharpe made what appeared to be a solid defensive play, hitting Gamble an instant after the ball arrived.
The incompletion touched off jubilation on the Miami sideline and players began to run onto the field to celebrate what they thought was a victory.
But a flag was thrown on the play and Sharpe was called for interference, a call that will live in infamy as far as the Hurricanes are concerned.
Given a first down on the two-yard line, Ohio State produced the tying touchdown that came on a third-down quarterback sneak from the one by Frenzel.
The teams then moved into the second overtime, this time with Ohio State getting the ball first. The Buckeyes needed just five plays to score this time with freshman sensation Maurice Clarett breaking a tackle at the line of scrimmage and going in on a five-yard run.
The pressure fell back on Miami and the Hurricanes' final possession was indicative of the entire night -- loaded with drama.
On second down from the 25, Dorsey came under a heavy rush by linebacker Matt Wilhelm and threw an incompletion. Dorsey was so shaken up by the hit that he had to leave the game, bringing in sophomore Derrick Crudup to quarterback the Hurricanes.
Crudup, in the only play he participated in all night, threw a seven-yard pass to fullback Quadtrine Hill and Dorsey returned to the field for fourth and three from the 18. With the game on the line, Dorsey hit Winslow for the first down to the six and an interference penalty in the end zone on the next play put the ball on the two.
Miami thus seemed set to force a third overtime. But Jarrett Payton, son of NFL Hall of Famer Walter Payton, could pick up only one yard on first down and Dorsey missed a wide open Eric Winston in the right flat on second down.
Hill was handed the ball on third down and he was stood up by Wilhelm at the line of scrimmage, bringing up a must situation for the Hurricanes.
Rather than trying to plunge for the final yard, Miami chose to go to the air, but when Dorsey dropped back to pass, Grant was on top of him in an instant. As the linebacker was in the process of dragging Dorsey to the ground, the Miami quarterback threw a desperation pass. But the ball fell at the feet of a crowd of players at the goal line.
Ohio State won its fifth national championship and its first since 1968. In the fifth year of the BCS, the Big Ten Conference became the fifth different league to win the NCAA crown. Miami had to play much of the second half and all of the overtime without running back Willis McGahee, who was knocked out of the contest with an injured knee.
Nets win eighth straight
Jefferson had 19 of his 26 points in the first half and Kidd collected 13 points and 13 assists.
New Jersey set a franchise record with 52 wins last season and went to the NBA Finals, but its longest winning streak was seven games.
The Nets have won 12 of their last 14 games and are in the midst of their longest winning streak since a team-record 11-game run that ended Jan. 12, 1983.
Jefferson made 10 of 14 shots and fell one point shy of his season high. Kidd was five of eight from the floor and had one fewer assist than Miami had as a team.
Lucious Harris scored 16 points and Kenyon Martin added 12 and 10 rebounds as the Nets shot 58 percent from the floor and held a 44-32 advantage on the glass.
New Jersey never trailed after scoring the game's first seven points and led by as many as 18 in the first quarter. The Nets had a a 54-39 halftime cushion after scoring 16 of the final 23 points in the second quarter.
Other NBA results: Cleveland 81, Toronto 80; Portland 108, Boston 103; Memphis 116, Los Angeles Clippers 111; New York 98, Indiana 96; Utah 118, Milwaukee 115; New Orleans 100, Orlando 89; San Antonio 98, Golden State 95; Denver 94, Seattle 82.
Coyotes slow down Red Wings
DETROIT, Jan. 4 (UPI) -- Sean Burke made a season-high 40 saves in boosting Phoenix to its season-best fourth straight triumph, 4-1 over the Detroit Red Wings.
Ladislav Nagy contributed a goal and two assists.
After missing 29 games with a high ankle sprain suffered against Nashville on Oct. 22, Burke is 4
Sean Avery spoiled Burke's shutout bid with just under four minutes left in the second period, but the Red Wings' nine-game unbeaten streak was snapped.
The Red Wings, who lost for just the second time in 16 games (10-2-4), allowed more than two goals for the first time in nine contests.
Other NHL results: Buffalo 6, Carolina 3; New York Islanders 8, Boston 4; Columbus 2, Washington 2; Pittsburgh 4, Atlanta 1; New Jersey 2, Toronto 0; Philadelphia 1, Anaheim 0.
Sid Gillman dies at 91
LOS ANGELES, Jan. 4 (UPI) -- Hall of Fame coach Sid Gillman, regarded as one of football's greatest offensive minds, died Friday. He was 91.
Gillman, who had recently been in poor health, died at his home.
The first coach to win division titles in the AFL and NFL, Gillman coached the Los Angeles Rams, Los Angeles-San Diego Chargers and Houston Oilers during an 18-year career.
He posted a lifetime coaching record of 123-104-7. Gillman was a major reason the AFL became so popular, winning a league title and five division crowns in its first six years of existence, all with the Chargers.
In the NFL, Gillman was named AFC Coach of the Year with the Oilers in 1974.
"Sid had a profound impact on the sport," Pro Football Hall of Fame Executive Director John Bankert said. "His love and appreciation of the game was unparalleled."
Lefty Driesell retires
ATLANTA, Jan. 4 (UPI) -- Georgia State's Lefty Driesell, the fourth winningest coach in Division I basketball history, announced Friday he was retiring immediately.
The 71-year-old Driesell missed the Panthers' 73-62 victory at Furman Thursday night while suffering from the flu.
"I woke up New Year's Day and I told (wife) Joyce, I've worked 49 years and most people retire after 25 years," Driesell said. "I'm just tired and I've got this bad cold and I'm just going to retire. I'm looking forward to not having a job. I can get up when I want to and do what I want to."
Assistant Michael Perry will take over for Driesell on an interim basis beginning with Saturday night's home game against Gardner-Webb.
One of 14 finalists last year for the Basketball Hall of Fame, Driesell has 786 career wins and is the only coach to win 100 games at four different schools. He also shares an NCAA record by taking four teams to the NCAA Tournament.
In his sixth season at Georgia State, Driesell has a 103-59 record. But his team has struggled this season with a 4-6 mark.
Report: Kobe plans Olympic trip
LOS ANGELES, Jan. 4 (UPI) -- The Los Angeles Times reported Friday that Kobe Bryant has notified USA Basketball of his intention to accept their invitation to play in the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
Kobe also plans to take part in next year's qualifying tournament in Puerto Rico.
"I just want to play," the Los Angeles Lakers star guard told the newspaper. "I want to compete and bring home what's rightfully ours."
With a team made up of players that clearly were not the best the NBA had to offer, the United States lost three times and finished sixth in the World Championships last summer.
Superstar center Shaquille O'Neal and Bryant, who have led the Lakers to three straight NBA titles, reigning Most Valuable Player Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs, Jason Kidd of the New Jersey Nets and Tracy McGrady of the Orlando Magic were among the stars who did not play for Team USA in the World Championships.
Duncan, Kidd, McGrady and Milwaukee Bucks guard Ray Allen have committed to represent the United States at the 2004 Olympics.
In order to defend its Olympic gold medal in 2004, the United States must enter a team in next summer's FIBA America Olympic Qualifying Tournament and place in the top three.
NFL playoffs open Saturday
GREEN BAY, Wis., Jan. 4 (UPI) -- Matchups of veteran and young quarterbacks will highlight the opening day of the NFL playoffs.
Favre and the Green Bay Packers (12-4) withstood a strong challenge by Vick and the Atlanta Falcons (9-6-1) in their season opener and the two will meet again at Lambeau Field Saturday night.
"It's old school against new school with Favre and Vick and we think it's time for the new era," Falcons cornerback Ray Buchanan said.
Former division rivals face off in the AFC wild card game when Manning and the Indianapolis Colts (10-6) visit Pennington and the New York Jets (9-7).
The toughest assignment belongs to Vick, who will be asked to do what's never been done before -- beat the Packers in a playoff game at Lambeau Field. The most pressure is probably on Manning, who needs to win a playoff game to validate his standing as one of the league's elite quarterbacks.
Favre , 33, is the playoff veteran with the Super Bowl ring who thrives in the cold weather at Lambeau Field. And with a starting time of 8 p.m. EST, the temperature is expected to be in the 20s. Favre is 35-0 when the kickoff temperatures is below 34 degrees.
Cubs sign Veres to one-year deal
CHICAGO, Jan. 4 (UPI) -- The Chicago Cubs, whose bullpen was a major part of the team's struggles last season, took a workhorse away from a division rival Friday.
Righthanded reliever Dave Veres, who made 71 appearances each of the last three seasons and totaled 48 saves for the St. Louis Cardinals, signed a one-year contract with the Cubs on Friday.
Financial terms were not disclosed, but the deal is reportedly worth $2 million.
The 36-year-old Veres went 5-8 with four saves and a 3.48 ERA last season. Primarily used as the set-up man for Jason Isringhausen, Veres allowed 67 hits, walked 39 and struck out 68 in 82 2/3 innings.
Veres had a career-high 31 saves in 1999 for the Colorado Rockies and 29 in 2000 for the Cardinals.
Americans reach Hopman Cup final
PERTH, Australia, Jan. 4 (UPI) -- Women's world No. 1 Serena Williams guided the United States into the final Friday at the Hopman Cup.
Williams gained revenge against Belgium's Kim Clijsters with a 7-5, 6-3 victory before teaming up with James Blake for a 7-6 (8-6), 3-6, 10-5 triumph over Clijsters and her countryman Xavier Malisse.
The tournament uses a "super" tiebreaker in the third set, in which the first team to 10 points that wins by at least two points wins the match.
There were eight breaks in the first set of the women's singles, but Williams broke in the 12th game and held her own to go up, 7-5. She jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the second set and cruised to victory over Clijsters, who had won their last meeting in the final of the season-ending WTA Championships at Los Angeles in November.
Malisse squared the Group A encounter at a match apiece by beating Blake, 7-6 (8-6), 6-2.
The United States now faces Australia in the final. Williams will meet Alicia Molik and Blake will take on Lleyton Hewitt.