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 three years. And then the ups and downs of that night, the physicality of the game, the momentum shifts, just trying to battle and battle and battle. And then losing the way we lost—man, that was tough."
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.
WILL ALLEN, OHIO STATE CORNERBACK: I remember walking from the locker room ... down into the stadium, not seeing anyone, just my teammates. It was quiet and as we approached the field the place erupts, this roaring sea of red. And I just felt this peace over me, this overwhelming peace.
Ohio State got the ball first and went three-and-out on a series. Craig Krenzel, the Buckeyes' 230-pound senior quarterback, survived a jarring hit from Taylor, the hyper-athletic sophomore safety who outweighed him.
CRAIG KRENZEL, OHIO STATE QUARTERBACK: We had heard for weeks that we didn't have the athletes that could hang with them and we felt on a number of levels that that was wrong. We felt that our skill guys, the Michael Jenkinses and Chris Gambles of the world—personally I feel like those guys could have gone down to Miami and played without a doubt ... We did not feel like we were mismatched athletically as much as people said.
WILL SMITH, OHIO STATE DEFENSIVE END: Our practices that week were fluid and fast and we carried that over into the actual game ... I got a sack and then a couple other guys got a sack. They hadn't given up a sack in like two years. (Miami allowed eight sacks that season.)
On third-and-15, Miami quarterback Ken Dorsey found Andre Johnson, the sophomore who averaged a Division I-best 21.6 yards per catch that season, for a first down. Miami converted another third down on a short pass to Johnson after which he and cornerback Chris Gamble jawed at each other as they returned to their huddles.
MIKE DOSS, OHIO STATE SAFETY: Gamble followed Andre all over the field all night, we wanted to put our best cover guy on him every snap.
The drive stalled when Ohio State gang-tackled tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. short of a first down. Antrel Rolle batted the ensuing punt out of the end zone, where Taylor downed it inside the Buckeyes' one-yard line.
VILMA: Our big thing was Clarett. Maurice Clarett was having a really good year so our main focus was on stopping him. We felt that he hadn't faced a defense that was as quick as our defense.
Miami forced a three-and-out that was more stifling than the first one. On first down, McGahee ran off tackle and was met head-on at the line by Doss. The impact would have knocked most men unconscious. The two first-team All-Americas adjusted their helmets and lined up for more.
DOSS: We had 45 days to prepare. We'd call out the play before they snapped it. 'Power right!' 'Stretch right!' ... I shot my gun and Willis shot his and we hit. And right then I knew: We can play with these guys ... Everyone was looking for that first contact between me and Willis. After that, those guys had to know it was going to be a long night. It was like, you better buckle your chin strap because we're right here.
WILLIS McGAHEE, MIAMI RUNNING BACK: We could tell it wasn't going to be a gimme game like when we whooped on Nebraska [in the previous year's title matchup]. They came to play.
Dorsey hit Winslow for 28 yards. McGahee was stuffed for a two-yard loss after which Will Smith landed an open-handed haymaker to Winslow's earhole that the officials didn't see. Two plays later, it was third-and-12 at the Buckeyes' 25.
DOSS: We were in man coverage. I was on Roscoe [Parrish]. I should not have been on Roscoe.
DUSTIN FOX, OHIO STATE CORNERBACK: A few plays earlier I had I blitzed off the edge and McGahee almost knocked me out. I'm pretty sure I had a concussion. I don't remember too much about the game after that hit, but I do remember I was supposed to be on Roscoe. I told Doss, "I don't know what's going on. I don't know where I am." So Doss took Roscoe.
ROSCOE PARRISH, MIAMI RECEIVER: I think Fox was supposed to be on me. Yeah, because I was [teammates] with him in Buffalo and we talked about it. And then Mike Doss came over and pressed me and when a guy gets in your face and you got a go route you're licking your chops.
KEN DORSEY, MIAMI QUARTERBACK: I think we actually audibled to that one. They were showing a blitz look and Willis picked it up. Their corners jumped both out routes and I had time to look for Roscoe.
Dorsey hit Parrish in the end zone for a touchdown to give Miami a 7-0 lead with 4:09 remaining in the first quarter.
DOSS:Will Allen and those guys were on me. "You didn't have to press him!" I just said, "I know, it's on me. I'll get it back."
On Ohio State's next offensive play, Krenzel threw deep down the middle a second before being sandwiched. Taylor tipped the ball and intercepted it as he fell onto his back near midfield.
KRENZEL: You had to know where he was at all times. He was a freak. His size, his speed, how much ground he could cover ... He's the best safety I ever played against.
QUADTRINE HILL, MIAMI FULLBACK: If I'm one-on-one against a 270-pound defensive tackle someone has made a mistake. Somebody messed up and I'm picking up the slack. I'm 212 pounds ... There was stuff going on that we weren't prepared for.
BRETT ROMBERG, MIAMI CENTER: We weren't finding solutions to the things that were going on up front. It wasn't that we weren't physically able to match up with them, there was no doubt about that. It was more adjustment-oriented. Expecting one thing, getting another thing and struggling to fix it. We never did get it right.
SMITH: We moved our line a lot during that game ... We knew they were a great run-blocking team. We knew we had to stop their run game. If we could stop their run game we could get after Dorsey. No one ever had a chance to pass rush those guys because of McGahee.
Dorsey was visibly angry as he entered the huddle before Miami's fifth possession of the game. On first down he hit wideout Ethenic Sands for 14 yards. Two plays later, he looked back to Andre Johnson and was intercepted by Doss, who returned it to the Miami 25.
DOSS: I actually stumbled out of my break. [Linebacker Matt Wilhelm] got his hands near Andre's face and it hit off [Johnson's] hands and as I finally came out of my break I saw the ball hang right there in the air in front of me and my natural instinct was to pluck it out of the air ... You can see me hit my chest when I got up. That was for my teammates, to let them know I got it back after giving up Roscoe's TD.
KRENZEL: We knew our defense was going to be the best that they'd ever seen ... We played a pretty conservative brand of football and when you play that way you've got to make some big plays here and there and that interception by Doss—we knew we had to put some points on the board.
When a goal-line sneak by Krenzel came up short on third down, Doss stood next to Tressel on the sideline, dropping all pretense as he shouted at his coach, "Go! Go!"
DOSS: Being a captain and coming back for my senior year just to get a national championship, once we got there in that moment we didn't want to miss that chance.
KRENZEL: There were a couple points in my career where I would make a gesture, just to let Coach Tress know, "Hey, we got this." He just kinda gave it the nod and that just means, "You guys better go get it."
Krenzel got it, bursting into the end zone to tie the game at 7-7 with 2:28 remaining in the half.
ROCKY McINTOSH, MIAMI LINEBACKER: I hit him solid but he spun and his momentum took him in ... He was a big guy and he was able to withstand all the hits we put on him. He didn't punk out.
On Miami's next offensive snap, Dorsey was stripped by defensive tackle Kenny Peterson. End Darrion Scott recovered the fumble at the Miami 15. The sea of red that had greeted Will Allen erupted at the prospect of scoring a second touchdown one minute after the first. Clarett, bolstered by center Alex Stepanovich's crushing block on Vilma, ran into the end zone to give Ohio State a 14-7 lead at the half.
VILMA: Clarett was a lot more quick than fast so I wasn't worried about him running away from me ... I was like, let me just go ahead and shoot it and maybe I can make this play and then the center—it was just a great play by him.
KRENZEL: I remember thinking, "My goodness. Alex just made the play of the season."
LARRY COKER, MIAMI COACH: We didn't play very well in the first half. I'm accountable for that. I don't know if I had our guys ready to play. Thirty-four in a row ... I don't know how you imagine you might lose.
Just before the second-half kickoff, Tressell told ABC sideline reporter Todd Harris: "It's gonna be down to the final second. We're gonna play as hard as we can and see if we deserve it."
Miami went three-and-out to start the second half. On third down of the ensuing possession, Krenzel lofted a bomb down the left sideline that Gamble ran under and caught for a 57-yard gain. It was Ohio State's longest pass play of the year, and it gave the Buckeyes first-and-goal at the Miami six. But Krenzel was picked off in the end zone by Taylor.
CIE GRANT, OHIO STATE LINEBACKER: You talk about a shift in momentum.
VILMA: I thought Sean was going to score. Sean had done that so many times. Once he got it and took it out [of the end zone] I was like, "He's gone." I started celebrating.
KRENZEL: I'm trying to chase him down and he's on the 35-yard-line and then I get blasted.
VILMA: And then out of nowhere comes Maurice Clarett.
KRENZEL: And when I get up I realize Maurice Clarett's got the football.
VILMA: Not only does [Clarett] prevent Sean from scoring, he gets the ball back. And not only does he get the ball back, but they end up getting three points out of it. That was a hell of a play by Maurice Clarett.
DONNIE NICKEY, OHIO STATE SAFETY: That was the game right there ... It was like God put his hand on Maurice and pushed him to go get that ball and get it out.
COKER: That play—(pause) Maurice Clarett was a football player.
DOSS: It just showed his football savviness. His intelligence, his experience. Coming from Youngstown, Ohio—that's all they did growing up was football.
KELLEN WINSLOW JR., MIAMI TIGHT END: I was like, 'That damn Clarett, man!'
The teams traded three-and-outs. The hitting was getting unsustainably violent. On Miami's third possession of the half, McGahee "took a lick right upside the head" from Nickey, who would go on to an eight-year NFL career.
NICKEY: Yes. That was a hit. I wasn't gonna back down, he wasn't gonna back down. That was a big-ass hit. I haven't thought about that in a long time ... It was like that the whole night. It was just a slugfest. We both knew the other guy wasn't gonna quit.
ALLEN: It was intense. Every snap and every blade of grass was crucial.
McGahee, who had rushed for 1,753 yards and 28 touchdowns in the regular season, began running downhill. McGahee's nine-yard run for a touchdowncut the deficit to 17-14.
FOX: I had never played against someone so strong in my life. He was already an NFL player.
McGAHEE: When we were traveling it was always more of an away crowd but we'd turn it into a quiet home game by the end of the day.
Miami was clicking now, on both sides of the ball. The Miami defense forced yet another three-and-out. Dorsey hit Parrish for eight yards. McGahee ran for nine, then four. Dorsey found Sands for nine yards. It was third-and-10 at the Buckeye 46 when Dorsey completed a 10-yard pass to Winslow over the middle.
WINSLOW: Is that the play where I caught the ball against my helmet?
ALLEN: I hit him pretty good and the ball was coming out. He held onto it with one hand, kind of pinned to his helmet ... He was just a sophomore. The talent on the field that night was incredible.
SMITH: Kellen was the Energizer bunny. We could tell they were surprised [by how well OSU was competing]. He was the guy who pumped those guys up and led them back.
WINSLOW: I don't even think I knew it was third down. That's how young I was. I was just out there trying not to let Dorsey down, that was the biggest thing.
GRANT: You don't see those types of tight ends in the Big Ten.
Three plays later, on third-and-10, McGahee got the ball—and what happened next still makes people cringe.
ALLEN: We knew the screen was coming based on their formation. I was breaking on it before the ball was thrown.
Allen leveled McGahee and his knee twisted so viciously just about everything tore and he let out a scream that those around him can still hear to this day.
DOSS: We were congratulating Will for making a play. Then we saw the look on Willis's face and we knew it wasn't good.
GRANT: I can remember the yells, the sounds of agony. I've never seen a knee swell up that quickly.
COKER: I thought of Willis's mother. I knew her well. They were very close. At the time, there was talk that he was going to be a top-three pick.
ALLEN: I got on one knee and said a prayer. Prayed to the Lord that he would protect him and heal him.
McGAHEE: When someone gets hurt like that people are going to think that that person will never get back to playing football again. That was my situation. That was the hand that was dealt ... After that, they said I wasn't gonna make it in the NFL. Then they said I wasn't gonna last four years. Then they said I was done two years ago. Look at me now. Still fighting. Still writing my own book.
VILMA: What really bothered us, our whole team, was that they kept showing that play over and over and over again on the Jumbotron and we were like, this is beyond football, the guy is seriously hurt. Just stop showing the damn play already. It pissed us off ... We played with a little more juice after that.
Ohio State was still leading, 17-14, with 6:36 remaining in the game. But the Buckeyes looked tired. Dorsey shifted into a no-huddle, hitting Winslow for 12 yards, then again for 10. With 5:19 left, it was third-and-eight at the Ohio State 47.
ALLEN: I was in man coverage, [on] whoever was in the slot ... I turn around and I see Parrish make the catch and spin off of [Nickey] and then [Fox] came over the top and knocked ball out and I just jumped on it.
Wilhelm woofed at Parrish as the receiver lowered his head and walked to the sideline. Nickey did the same to Winslow, grinning and removing his mouthpiece so the tight end could hear him.
WILHELM: There was more [trash talk] from our side than their side because they had been there and done that. They were like, "We're not gonna come down to your level. We're just gonna win like we've done 34 consecutive times." But we were hitting them in the mouth. Letting them know we're not going anywhere.
NICKEY: I don't remember saying anything to Kellen. To be honest, Sean Taylor hit me [when Nickey was covering a punt] early in the game and knocked me into next week and that fuzzed up the rest of the game for me. My memories come and go after that.
PARRISH: I was just hoping for a three-and-out [on Ohio State's ensuing possession], hoping our defense would give me another chance because I knew I had to make a play to make up for my mistake.
A scramble by Krenzel gave the Buckeyes a first down. A Krenzel pass appeared to have earned them a second one, which might have sealed their victory, but Gamble was called out of bounds. Replays showed that it was a catch, but there was no instant replay in college football at the time.
KRENZEL: It's amazing how often I get asked about the pass interference call in overtime. But Miami fans get real quiet when you ask 'em, "Hey, what about that third down play in the fourth quarter? What about the fact that if we had the current replay system that we have now, that play gets reviewed and more than likely we run the clock out and they set off fireworks about an hour earlier than they ended up doing it?"
DOSS: If they had gotten that Chris Gamble call right [Miami] might not have seen the ball again.
Clinging to a 17-14 lead, Ohio State lined up to punt with 2:18 left.
ALLEN: Me and Mike Doss were our gunners. We hadn't played it all year but we needed our best guys [on punt coverage]. All night we had kicked the ball away From Roscoe. That last punt, I was so tired and Doss was so tired. And Andy [Groom] kicked the crap out of the ball.
PARRISH: I remember we had called a right-set return.
DOSS: I kind of overran [Parrish]. He took a little jazz step and hit it up the sideline ... I knew if he scored it was going to turn the game in their favor. Andy [Groom] ran a 4.4 40. He was a very good athlete. He turned his jets on and got the angle on Roscoe and got him to hesitate and I jumped on his back.
Parrish returned it to the Ohio State 26 with 1:50 remaining. Jarrett Payton, McGahee's replacement, ran for no gain. Dorsey was sacked, then he found Payton for six yards. A smiling Coker called timeout with three seconds left.
COKER: I was pretty happy from the standpoint of—we had turned it over five times and we were still in a great position."
Tressel waited until Miami kicker Todd Sievers was ready for the snap, then he called timeout. Tressel did this twice. At least five and a half minutes passed between Payton being tackled and the actual field goal try.
TODD SIEVERS, MIAMI KICKER: That was before the rule that prevented coaches from calling two straight timeouts. I thought it was funny ... Chuck Pagano, who recruited me to Miami, he always coached us to avoid distractions. I just stayed relaxed. You can see me smiling on the tape.
DON SIEVERS, TODD'S FATHER: I was there, sitting with Todd's mom one side and his grandmother on the other side and they were curled up in fetal position, at the bottom of the bleachers, where your feet are. They couldn't take it.
Sievers nailed the 40-yard field goal as time expired to send the game into overtime. The ABC cameras showed Sean Taylor finding Sievers and embracing him for several seconds, whispering in his ear.
TODD SIEVERS: He told me, "I knew you could do it. We had faith in you the whole time. I love you, man. We'll get this in overtime, watch." And he mentioned the play where he was stripped by Maurice Clarett and he thanked me for picking him up. Sean was a true leader and a true man.
ALLEN(to his teammates on the sideline): This is a game for the history books.
ROMBERG: Our first series in overtime I was trying to grab the football and I was so dehydrated I couldn't hold it because my hands were cramping up.
Miami got the ball first and scored when Winslow grabbed a Dorsey pass off the top of Allen's helmet in the end zone. It was Miami's first lead since the first quarter.
WINSLOW: It was a super bad route (laughs). Real impatient route. I hate just watching it. It was just a five-yard out and up, Dorsey threw it and I just focused on the ball.
ALLEN: We were teammates in Tampa. [Winslow] would see me in the halls or in the locker room and make that move, making the catch over my head. He got a kick out of that.
DORSEY(yelling to teammates on the Miami bench): "This ain't over! Okay? This ain't over! Come here! Listen to me now! Get ready to go back out there. Put it in your mind! We have to go back out there! Alright? It ain't over! Stay focused!
An Ohio State penalty, Miami's first sack of the game, and an incomplete screen pass to Clarett brought up fourth-and-14. If the Buckeyes don't convert, they lose.
KRENZEL: Not a lot was said in the huddle. It wasn't like, "Hey we really need this." Our guys knew the situation. I saw that the corner didn't really play a true "under" technique where he could prevent Mike from getting back to the ball on a comeback. That was a route that Mike and I threw—I couldn't tell you how many times between practice and games.
Krenzel calmly stepped back and found Jenkins on the sideline for a first down.
JENKINS: It was expected. No celebration in the huddle. Just on to the next play.
GLENN SHARPE, MIAMI CORNERBACK: I played with him [Jenkins] when I was with the Falcons ... I was just a freshman and I got too high on his hips and he was able to swipe me by. They're not gonna call that on receivers.
JENKINS: That was my former teammate Glenn Sharpe. Yeah, we talked about it [when we played for the Falcons]. Guys got on him about giving that play up. (laughs)
NICKEY: Maurice stripping Sean Taylor and then that fourth-and-14 play—some guys don't have moments like those in a whole career and you had two of them in one game.
On third down, Taylor broke up a pass in the end zone. Miami called timeout. It was fourth-and-three. It was one of four fourth downs in the game where failure by the offense meant the game was over. Taylor, one play from victory, walked slowly toward the sideline with his teammates. Near the other hashmark, Krenzel shouted, "Hey hey hey hey hey hey!" to the loose huddle of skill position players around him and Tressel.
KRENZEL: Here's the play (to Gamble): Fade stop. If you got one-on-one, I'll put that bitch right on you. No thinkin' about it.
TRESSEL (to Gamble): Okay?
KRENZEL (to Jenkins): You got a slant.
TRESSEL: All right, let's go.
Krenzel threw the ball to Gamble in the end zone and the pass fell incomplete. Miami players began celebrating, but there was a late penalty flag.
PARRISH: We had grabbed Miami National Champions shirts and started celebrating ... You've seen the game. You see what kind of call it was. I remember being just, wow, really?
COKER: Helmets were off, there were fireworks above the stadium. They were getting ready to name Kellen MVP of the game. And then we had to reel all that emotion that in. That hurt us.
HILL: It sucks your soul out.
Referee Andy Crystal announced field judge Terry Porter's call: Pass interference. The call gave Ohio State a first-and-goal at the two-yard line.
KRENZEL: To this day, if you ask Chris Gamble he'll tell you that it shouldn't have come down to them having to call the penalty. The ball hit him in the hands. He could have come down with the ball and once again it would have been a moot point and we wouldn't be talking about a pass interference call.
SHARPE: To this very day I still truly in my heart believe I didn't commit pass interference on this guy, I truly believe that.
COKER: It was a very ill-timed call, let's put it that way. Yeah, it does stick in my craw... It's hard to accept a call of that magnitude in that setting.
SMITH: I remember Vilma and Wilfork celebrating and then—Oh hold on. Okay. We got a first-and-goal.
WINSLOW: I was on the sideline and I was like, Man, that's bull----. What are we calling here? That was the first call I can remember in all my years of football just being a b.s. call. It was just so clear and plain that—(long pause) I don't know.
NICKEY: It is, it was and it always will be [interference].
Miami chased Clarett out of bounds for a one-yard gain on a sweep. Taylor missed that play because he was piecing his helmet back together after throwing it. On second down, Taylor stonewalled Clarett on a run up the middle. On third down, Krenzel twisted into the end zone behind his right guard. After the extra point it was 24 all.
NICKEY: It was like, Okay we're destined to win this thing now.
Ohio State's offense stayed on the field and rode their momentum as Clarett darted in for a touchdown from five yards out, sidestepping Miami safety Maurice Sykes in the backfield, giving the Buckeyes a 31-24 lead.
DORSEY: I never felt like we weren't going to win the game. At no point was there any panic. At no point was there any doubt that we could win the game. At no time did I ever feel like there wasn't 100 percent confidence on our sideline.
On second-and-11, Dorsey took a hit from Wilhelm that was nearly identical to a helmet-to-the-chest, spine-to-the-ground shot delivered to Krenzel by Vilma. Shaken, Dorsey was helped off the field and replaced by his backup Derrick Crudup for one play.
COKER: He was hurt more than we thought he was ... he had a concussion. I'm sure his thinking was, "We already lost Willis, there's nothing keeping me off that field."
HILL: We couldn't tell in the huddle that [Dorsey] was hurt. Everyone was hurt.
It was fourth-and-three at the 18. Another potential final play. Winslow got open on a seven-yard out and Dorsey hit him perfectly for the first down. Winslow's helmet slammed into Fox's. In a flash, Fox's body went limp as he involuntarily jerked Winslow's facemask so hard that Winslow was looking almost directly behind him.
FOX: Another shot to the head that I don't remember. After the game I didn't even know I had I grabbed his facemask. Someone said, "Dude, you violently grabbed his facemask!" I did what?
Of all the game's forgotten wrinkles, the interference flag Chris Gamble earned by grabbing Andre Johnson on a slant route on first-and-five from the Ohio State six may be the most potent. It was Gamble's 117th play of the night, including offense and special teams. Surely he was gassed. Johnson would have been open. The touchdown and extra point would have sent the game to a third overtime. Might they be still be playing? Instead, Payton was stuffed, Hill was stuffed, and Dorsey missed wide-open freshman tight end Eric Winston. It was fourth down.
SMITH:We called a blitz we ran all the time.
NICKEY: It was our bread and butter.
DOSS: It was called Tight Will Tulsa.
SMITH: I told Cie, "Make sure you get there. Just make sure he can't throw the football."
GRANT: When I lined up and saw there was no tight end in front of me I knew the game was over ... I got one of my better jumps. Earlier in the game I had caught my right pinky in Willis McGahee's facemask and broke it. If you look at the tape, that's why I grab Dorsey with my left hand.
Grant pressured Dorsey, whose pass fell incomplete. Ohio State had won the game.
DOSS: I didn't see the ball hit the ground. I just remember hearing the crowd go nuts and I took off running down the field holding my helmet up over my head. One year almost to the day that I made the decision to return for my senior year so we could win a national championship and I'm running down the field, like, we did it. We actually did it.
KRENZEL: I didn't watch the play, I just kinda sat there and stared down at the ground and waited for the crowd's reaction ... That place lit up.
SHARPE: It wasn't ever supposed to get to that point. We won.
McGAHEE: I was in the locker room. I was just laying on the training table. I don't even think I was worried about a game.
FOX: Right after the game I went to hotel and went to bed. I was asleep within 20 minutes of the end of the game. I was so tired and emotionally drained.
WINSLOW: I feel like we won the game. I don't see it as a loss. I kind of view it differently maybe, I don't know. I just don't feel bad and I think we won. We know what happened.
SMITH: Jonathan [Vilma] is still real bitter about the game. (laughs)
VILMA: Some games I can't really watch. That game. The San Fran game that we lost in the playoffs last year. I can't watch that either.
ROMBERG: To this day I've never seen the game. I refuse to watch it. The majority of us haven't seen it.
McGAHEE: I don't dwell on the past, like "Man, we should have won." Listen here man, we were the best college team ever. You can compare us to anybody—Nebraska, whoever. We lost two games in three years. Not too many people can say that.
ROMBERG: What I remember most was climbing on the bus with my wife—girlfriend at the time—and trying to step over Willis McGahee. His leg stretched over a couple of seats and he was in a pretty bad situation. A lot of us had stayed late in the locker room to get IVs and to get medical attention, and it was almost like a dreamlike state.
COKER: It was a devastated dressing room. It was my first loss as their head coach. I just told them, "Unfortunately you're going to remember this for a long time." And we still do.
VILMA: I remember sitting on the bench and I didn't want to leave. I was not ready to get up. I was trying to figure out a way to keep the game going.