There was absolutely no doubt about who our honored guest would be for Day #16. The legendary season of 2002 was all we ever needed to see in order to make the name Craig Krenzel a household name throughout the glorious state of Ohio.
We could start a poll and try to select a play from the 2002 National Championship season that truly encompasses the magnificent year that Krenzel and the Buckeyes had….but no single play could ever do it justice. Yes, Holy Buckeye would win that poll, but there were at least 10 other plays that will still bring a tear to my eye.
As a matter of fact, there were so many ridiculous plays from that season, I actually had to break out my list of box scores from 2002 to see if I missed anything.
Two plays will always stand out in my mind as the best possible result for Buckeye fans. Let’s jump in the Way-Back Machine for this journey.
Play #1 – November 16th, 2002 – Ohio State is 11-0 heading into a showdown with Illinois. Traditionally, Illinois always gives us problems. Being the game before Michigan Week just made this game extra-extra-scary. Letdowns happen, as many Buckeye fans will attest.
The Illini have again shown us that they are for real, and they will not go away quietly. Their defense has been tenacious and Krenzel has had a hard time throwing the ball successfully. With 8 minutes to play in the game, Ohio State has a precarious 16-13 lead and a tough 3rd-down-and-9 situation at the Illinois 35.
Krenzel went into the shotgun formation and took the snap. He dropped back a few steps, got happy feet and retreated to the 45, where he was being surrounded. One defender came at him hard from his left, while another grabbed his right arm. They spun him around a full rotation and the Illinois crowd roared for the apparent sack.
But Krenzel didn’t go down. The spin move he was forced into actually freed him from his opponents’ grasp, and he stumbled a few feet as he ran towards the left side of the field. He regained his form and picked up speed as he approached the first down marker, and was hit at the 28. His momentum carried him over the 25 for a huge first down, as WR Chris Vance pumped his fist into the air near the end of the play.
Watch the play here – it’s the second play in this short highlight film;
Play #2 – November 9th, 2002 – Ohio State is at Purdue, and they’re in big trouble. On what would most likely be their final chance with the ball, the Buckeyes take possession at the Purdue 46-yard-line, trailing 6-3. Ohio State loses four yards on their first two plays. On 3rd-and-14, Krenzel escapes pressure and finds TE Ben Hartsock for a 13-yard gain at Purdue’s 37. Facing 4th-and-1 on the road, and more pressure than any team should ever experience, Jim Tressel did something NONE of us thought he would do. He sent in a pass play.
The sold-out crowd was erupting. The Boilermaker whistle was blowing loudly. Two full fan bases were facing heart attacks as the players approached the line of scrimmage.
The rest of the story is summed up in two words from the lips of Brent Musburger…..”Holy Buckeye”.
Watch the final two plays here and feel the excitement;
If you’re not getting tears in your eyes right now, you’re not human. Or you’re not a Buckeye fan.
Craig Krenzel had ice water in his veins every single week. He will never be listed among the greatest quarterbacks of all-time at Ohio State, but for 14 straight games, he never let us down. In the end, he earned his biggest title of all – Champion.
Here’s to you, Craig Krenzel.
16 days to go!