The roller coaster of emotions that occurred in the final seconds of regulation in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl still creep through the minds of many Hurricane players and fans day in and day out.
But vengeance is finally at the doorstep.
Now, the No. 12 Miami Hurricanes have to rise to the occasion and show the country the Canes are a perennial powerhouse.
Frustration and anger has built inside Hurricane nation for nearly a decade and finally the Miami Hurricanes have an opportunity to extract some revenge in Columbus, Ohio at the Horseshoe against No. 2 Ohio State, Saturday at 3:40 p.m.
Head coach Randy Shannon has downplayed the matchup against the Buckeyes since the start of fall camp but is eager to get things rolling.
“This is great for us in football season because you have an opportunity to play such a good team in a great place the second game of the season,” said Shannon, whose team is a 9.5-point underdog. “It’s a great opportunity for us. There’s a lot of enthusiasm from the crowd.”
In the 2003 Fiesta Bowl, considered one of the best national championships of all time, Ohio State was a two-touchdown underdog to the Miami team that had won 34 straight games.
The Buckeyes stunned and upset Miami in a thrilling double overtime win, 31-24. The game was blemished by a late penalty on Miami’s cornerback Glenn Sharpe for pass interference on Ohio State’s Chris Gamble in the end zone on fourth-and-three from the five yard line.
Miami thought they won as fireworks exploded and the Hurricane players celebrated the back-to-back national titles.
Shannon has previously stated that was the last time he has celebrated during a game when he thought Miami won the national title. But the late flag ruined all of that. Ohio State went on to win after Maurice Clarett’s rushing touchdown in the second overtime.
The Hurricanes are still haunted by that call.
“I was a little young, but I remember it,” said sophomore defensive end Olivier Vernon, who had a career-high 3.5 sacks against FAMU. “It’s revenge time. Nobody’s forgotten about it. I feel like I was playing that game.”
On the other hand, most of the players on the rosters where in middle school when the last time these two schools played.
“It is another game on our schedule,” redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Marcus Forston said. “We have to play it. So we’re just going into the game and prepare like any other team.”
One goal Shannon has this week is to keep the focus on as a total team, not on the two Heisman hopefuls. It will be hard for Shannon to do that as both sidelines will have elite quarterbacks on them.
Ohio State junior quarterback Terrelle Pryor threw three touchdown passes last week as they smashed Marshall, 45-7. Junior quarterback Jacory Harris was just as impressive as he completed 12 of 15 passes for 210 yards and had three touchdowns in his first and only half in a 45-0 thrashing against over Florida A&M.
Shannon is ready for all eyes to be focused in on his team.
“Everyone in the country will be watching this game. It’s not Terrelle Pryor against Jacory Harris,” said Shannon, who has freshman Stephen Morris playing Pryor on the scout team. “It’s players being the best they can be, and understanding the process of the game and staying focused.”
The players haven’t forgotten what it would mean to knock off Ohio State.
“This is a great rivalry that goes back,” said redshirt junior defensive end Adewale Ojomo, who had two sacks last week after missing the entire 2009 season. “We’re giving it our all. It’s hard to say it’s a normal game week. It’s not important, it’s critical.”
Lelan LeDoux may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.