A once-proud program from the Midwest seeking its first title in decades. A dynasty from the Southeast trying to repeat as BCS champions. Sound familiar?
If Monday night's title game between Alabama and Notre Dame winds up being half the game the 2003 Fiesta Bowl was, college football fans should be grateful. The claim that Ohio State's and Miami's tooth-and-nail struggle for the crystal football 10 years ago was the greatest college football game ever played is supported by a mountain of evidence. At its base is the testimony of the men who lived it.
"One, it was so emotional," said Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, the Hurricanes' defensive captain that night. "Two, the magnitude of that game. We had not lost in like
It was a four-quarter, two-overtime epic, punctuated by collisions that would get modern-day NFL players fined, and a premature fireworks show that broke out when everyone thought the carnage had ended. Everyone, that is, but a bespectacled field judge who emerged from a corner of the south end zone.
It was the late Sean Taylor's finest hour. It was not only the last game Maurice Clarett played for Ohio State, but also the 19-year-old phenom's last meaningful game of any kind. Clarett, his former coach Jim Tressel and his teammate Chris Gamble could not be reached for comment, but most of those who did speak with SI.com are in their early 30s now. Phone conversations with them were soundtracked by children playing in the background or NFL locker room banter. Former Miami coach Larry Coker had just finished mailing Christmas cards to the men he coached that night in Arizona. Most of them still bear scars from the game, physical and otherwise, of varying depth and thickness. And they all remember the game.