Buckeyes survive Kansas State 35-28 for repeat here, albeit with less at stake.
By PETE YOUNG
Published January 3, 2004
TEMPE, Ariz. - The Fiesta Bowl victory Ohio State fans, and all college football fans, will remember came last season. Friday's is certain to be shuffled to the rear of the memory bank as the years click past.
Still, a BCS win is a BCS win, and the Buckeyes claimed the double honor of back-to-back Fiesta Bowl and BCS triumphs by surviving an exhilarating Kansas State comeback to win 35-28 before 73,425 at Sun Devil Stadium.
KSU, which twice trailed by 21, drove from its 10 to midfield with 35 seconds left and no timeouts. On fourth and 9 from the OSU 47 with nine seconds left, quarterback Ell Roberson launched a desperation pass that was batted down at the 5.
No.7 OSU (11-2) won for the 25th time in its past 27 games. No.8 Kansas State (11-4) had its seven-game winning streak snapped.
OSU got four touchdown passes from Craig Krenzel, a school bowl record, and a big game in his career finale from Tampa's Michael Jenkins. The Leto High graduate established a school record for receiving yards in the third quarter on a 37-yard fade pattern, eclipsing David Boston's mark of 2,855. He finished with 2,898.
"It's a special honor to be up there with those guys," Jenkins said. "Guys like Joey Galloway, Cris Carter and David Boston. It's an honor."
On the next play he stretched his 6-foot-5 frame to seize an 8-yard touchdown to give Ohio State a 28-14 cushion. He finished with five catches for 94 yards and two touchdowns.
Early on, OSU's suffocating front seven kept the nation's rushing leader, Darren Sproles (13 carries, 38 yards), and ultraproductive dual threat Roberson under wraps while staking a 21-0 lead. The Wildcats didn't cross into OSU territory until less than six minutes remained in the first half.
In its biggest bowl game, KSU was overwhelmed early. The Wildcats entered amid a major distraction as Roberson played despite a sexual assault accusation reported Thursday.
The school announced before the game that it had concluded no criminal act occurred. After a dismal opening 30 minutes, Roberson erupted, going 15-for-32 for 234 yards and a touchdown after intermission.
OSU's special teams struck for the opening touchdown with 6:41 left in the first quarter on a punt block. OSU's Harlen Jacobs bolted around the end and stuffed it, and John Hollins scooped it up and ran 7 yards for the 7-0 lead.
OSU pinned KSU again on the next series, getting great field position at the KSU 43 and pouncing for the 14-0 lead on a 6-yard pass from Krenzel to Santonio Holmes.
Krenzel (11-for-24, 189 yards), who led OSU to its first national title in 34 years with the 31-24 double-overtime win over Miami last season, looked shaky early, throwing two interceptions to Cedrick Williams on poor passes intended for Jenkins.
OSU's special teams and defense handed the offense the third touchdown. Punter B.J. Sander, the Ray Guy Award winner, downed one at the Wildcats 5. The OSU defense blitzed Roberson on the first play, and he was picked off by Chris Gamble. On the next play, Krenzel hit Jenkins from 17 yards to make it 21-0 with 6:49 until intermission.
KSU's stymied offense - one first down in its first seven possessions - suddenly came alive, marching 70 yards in 11 plays, capped by a 6-yard run by Sproles, to trim it to 21-7 at intermission. The Wildcats then made things interesting by taking their first possession of the third quarter 70 yards to make it 21-14.
OSU quickly responded. Krenzel guided a 74-yard scoring march capped by Jenkins' second touchdown with 4:53 to go in the third. OSU got a stop, then stretched it to 35-14 entering the final quarter. Krenzel threw his fourth touchdown, 31 yards to a streaking Holmes in the back of the end zone.
Trailing 35-21, Roberson just missed Jermaine Moreira in the back corner of the end zone. Joe Rheem's 45-yard field-goal attempt then clanked off the left upright with 7:59 to go.
KSU capped its next series, a 74-yard drive, with a 1-yard score by Roberson with 2:47 to go, trimming it to 35-28.
KSU got the ball one final time with more time on the clock than expected when Tampa's Lydell Ross (19 carries, 75 yards) ran out of bounds with a third-down carry with 1:20 to go.
KSU took over at its 10, quickly got to midfield but came up short when the final pass was knocked away.