Arden, Buckeyes win it all

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 5, 2003

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Redgie Arden has always been a tough, hard-nosed, aggressive football player. He fit in real well with this season's Ohio State Buckeyes.

After Ohio State upset No. 1 Miami 31-24 in double overtime in Friday's Fiesta Bowl to win the school's first national championship since 1968, Arden, a 6-foot-5, 240-pound redshirt freshman and former Ironton star, said the key was the Buckeyes physical play.

"We just out-toughed them at the end. I don't think anyone has done that to them all year. No one has come out and hit them in the mouth all year like we did," Arden said. "(Ohio State) coach (Jim Tressel) talked to us all year about being tough. They were the fastest team in the country, but we compensated for that with our toughness."

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Arden, a back-up tight end, played in the title game on both the kickoff and kickoff return teams.

"It was a great experience. Not a lot of guys get to do that. For me to get to say I played in a national championship game is something else, and that we won is even better," Arden said.

Ohio State was a 13-point underdog coming into the game despite being ranked second in the country. Arden said winning the title was even better because of all the negative talk toward the Buckeyes prior to the game.

"(Miami) was cocky. They thought they were going to run over us," Arden said. "I can't wait to see what (ESPN college analyst) Trev Albert has to say now. He did nothing but bad mouth us."

Ohio State allowed 368 total yards, but the defense continued to make big plays. The Buckeyes forced a season-high five Miami turnovers that helped set up the three scores in regulation.

"Offense might win games, but defense wins championships. The rule on our team this year was our defense carries us. The offense started stepping up (Friday) night."

Arden said the mass of Ohio State fans who filled the Fiesta Bowl were a factor in the Buckeyes performance.

"It felt like we were playing at home we had so many people there. The whole stadium was red. There were like two patches of green. It helped with the momentum," Arden said.

But the atmosphere in the stands wasn't as impressive to Arden as the Buckeye sideline where numerous former players watched the game.

"There were guys like Eddie George and Shawn Springs on the sidelines. I thought I was watching it on TV. There was a lot of excitement in the air," Arden said.

Arden said the players won't do any real celebrating until they return home.

"Winning the national championship was awesome," Arden said. "but we were so busy we didn't get to do anything after the game. We didn't get in until 12 o'clock, and we couldn't go anywhere because every place shuts down at 1. We all just went to bed. It still hasn't hit me. It'll sink in here before long."

Ohio State finished 14-0, the first time for any Division I-A team to win that many games in one season. Last year the Buckeyes were just 7-5 during Tressel's first season, and even Arden didn't expect this type of success prior to this year.

"Coach might cut some slack. That would be nice. I think people thought coach Tressel would win the Big Ten his second year, but not a national championship. But he teaches us it's all a team game. He's a very pensive guy and never shows much emotion. He stays calm and handles the situation well."