Woody would have been proud of this OSU team

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 5, 2003

Tribune Staff

Friday night's Fiesta Bowl was without a doubt the game of the century. This century, the last one and the next one, too.

The double overtime, seat-squirming, breath-holding and last moment suspense were all great, but the heart of the new champions is something folks will be talking about for ages.

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Ohio State took the national title from Miami the hard way, and the immortal Woody Hayes would not have wanted it any other way. "Anything you get easy ain't worth a damn," Hayes once said. This one was far from easy for the Buckeyes.

This was exactly what the BCS needed. It was, after all, the perfect matchup. Miami, the defending national champion, against the Buckeyes, a team that was a mere 7-5 last season and had been given little attention going into this season, and a two-touchdown underdog to boot. But when the smoke cleared, an unlikely national champion emerged Friday night.

Ohio State used a brutal defense to force five turnovers, negating Miami's speed and snapping the Hurricanes' 34-game winning streak. After the game, Miami tight end Kellen Winslow said that Ohio State did not beat the Hurricanes as much as the Hurricanes beat themselves. True, Miami did turn the ball over five times, but four of those were more the result of the Buckeyes making plays than Miami making mistakes. Miami's stars just could not overcome Ohio State's grit.

And, Buckeyes fans, as always, turned up to show support. It appeared that at least three-fourths of the crowd of 77,502 at Sun Devil Stadium was wearing red and gray. Even though Ohio State was wearing their road jerseys, the fan support

made it essentially a "home" game for the Buckeyes. And they did not let anyone down.

On Friday night, Ohio State proved that a little man can still win in a fight against a big man, if he remains focused on the task at hand. The Buckeyes' workman-like attitude is what carried them through the season, and Friday's win is a living testament to the old adage that hard work does pay off.

Woody would have been proud to coach this football team.