TEMPE, Ariz., Jan. 3 (UPI) -- Cie Grant became the last in a long line of Ohio State defensive heroes Friday night, forcing Ken Dorsey to throw a fourth-down incompletion in the second overtime that made the Buckeyes champions of college football with a 31-24 victory over the Miami Hurricanes in the Fiesta Bowl.
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 in controversial fashion after the Hurricanes had begun to celebrate what they thought was their second consecutive national title.
"It was a great game," said Ohio State Coach Jim Tressel. "Miami is a great team. They played their hearts out. We knew we were playing the best team in the country and I don't know if they (Miami) knew they were playing a team that was equally as good.
"That is what the national championship game should be -- double overtime."
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.
"Anytime you have a chance to stand alone at the top of the mountain with the people you love, there is nothing like it," Tressel said.
The Buckeyes' defense starred throughout the evening, coming up with two interceptions and three fumbles and setting up all 17 of the points Ohio State scored in regulation.
After dominating the early stages of the game only to come up with seven points, Miami turned the ball over on three straight possessions to allow the Buckeyes to score two touchdowns and take a 14-7 lead at halftime.
Ohio State took over after those turnovers at Miami's 37, 17 and 14. The first possession ended with a botched faked field goal attempt, but after safety Michael Doss intercepted a Dorsey pass, Krenzel tied the game at 7-7 with a one-yard run with 2:28 to play in the half.
On the first play of Miami's ensuing possession, Dorsey fumbled when he was hit by tackle Kenny Peterson, leading to a seven-yard scoring run by Clarett that put the Buckeyes in front.
The lead was extended to 17-7 in the third quarter on a 44-yard field goal by Mike Nugent, but Miami finally put together a 55-yard drive later in the third that ended when Willis McGahee ran around right end for a nine-yard score.
McGahee had to leave the game in the fourth quarter, however, when he took a hit to his left knee by defensive back Will Allen. McGahee gained 67 yards on 20 carries.
Dorsey, who lost for only the second time as a collegian, completed 27 of 42 passes for 284 yards and two touchdowns, but he was intercepted twice. Krenzel was seven of 21 for 121 with a pair of interceptions -- one of which came in the Miami end zone which prevented the Buckeyes from taking complete control in the second half.
Krenzel was the game's leading rusher with 82 yards on 18 carries.
"We wanted to come out and make people believers in Ohio State," Krenzel said.
Not only did Miami turn the ball over three straight times in the first half, the Hurricanes were unable to put a drive together early in the second half because of faulty execution.
On Miami's first possession of the second half, McGahee needed only to lower his head and plow ahead to pick up the needed yards for a first down after catching a pass, but he gave ground in an attempt to make a big play and wound up short of the marker.
Ohio State then took five minutes off the clock and came up with a field goal.
On the Hurricanes' next possession, Dorsey missed a wide open Andre Johnson with a third-down pass, forcing another punt.