EDITOR’S NOTE – This season marks the 10-year anniversary of Ohio State’s 2002 national championship season. We will share stories on all 14 of OSU’s wins that season, beginning with the Pigskin Classic season opener against Texas Tech. That game was played exactly 10 years ago today on Aug. 24, 2002.
Video highlights from OSU's 2002 Pigskin Classic win over Texas Tech
Throughout 2002, much has been made about whether the Ohio State offense -- and particularly the injury plagued offensive line -- would be able to answer the call.
But if the season opener is any indication, that unit could be something to reckon with -- and the OSU defense isn't too shabby, either.
The 13th-ranked Buckeyes jumped on Texas Tech early and cruised to a 45-21 win in the Pigskin Classic before a crowd of 100,037 Aug. 24 at Ohio Stadium.
The OSU offense churned out 477 yards and 24 first downs, doing much of its damage on the ground with 317 yards in 57 attempts. Meanwhile, the defense kept Tech's star passer Kliff Kingsbury in check much of the day.
"Our defense worked hard and created some opportunities," said OSU coach Jim Tressel. "Our offense took advantage of them and our special teams stepped up. Overall, for an opening ballgame against a good team, it was very solid."
The game served as the coming-out party for freshman tailback Maurice Clarett, who finished the day with 175 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries. He had spectacular breakaway touchdown runs of 58 and 45 yards as the Buckeyes built a 38-7 lead and coasted to the win.
"I was like a kid living a dream," said Clarett, who was believed to be the first true freshman to start a season opener at tailback for OSU since at least World War II. "But I know if I want it to happen again, I'll have to practice really hard."
Clarett actually split time at tailback with sophomores Maurice Hall and Lydell Ross. Hall added 74 yards on 13 carries, while Ross had 40 yards and two touchdowns on 16 attempts.
Cie Grant makes a tackle against Texas Tech
Junior Craig Krenzel moved into the quarterback role on a full-time basis and took command of the OSU offense. He hit on 11 of 14 passes for 118 yards and also carried four times for 34 yards.
"It was just fun to sit back there," Krenzel said. "I had the opportunity to be relaxed and get the ball to our play makers and let them make some plays."
The OSU defense kept Texas Tech's potent spread offense bottled up most of the day. Kingsbury, who threw for nearly 4,000 yards last year, ended up 26 of 44 passing for 341 yards with three touchdowns and one interception.
"They jumped on us and we really didn't recover," Kingsbury said. "We got down 21-7 and were kind of scrambling for things to do."
The OSU defense twice slammed the door on the Red Raiders when the game was in doubt OSU stopped Tech on a fourth-and-goal at the 1 just before halftime, while cornerback Dustin Fox intercepted Kingsbury at the goal line early in the third quarter.
"I didn't think we played together consistently," said Tech coach Mike Leach. "Defensively, we gave up big plays. We could have gotten more out of special teams. Offensively, we never really got in sync.
"The biggest thing was big plays on the run. We gave up big plays on the run. That's probably most disturbing."
As It Happened
OSU scored touchdowns in workmanlike fashion on its first two possessions.
The game began on a good note for the Buckeyes as freshman linebacker Bobby Carpenter dropped Tech kick returner Ivory McCann at the 8-yard line. Kingsbury was sacked at the Tech 5 on third down and, after a punt and a 14-yard return by Mike Doss, the Buckeyes were in business at the Red Raiders' 32.
OSU needed seven plays to find the end zone. Krenzel rifled a 17-yard pass to Michael Jenkins. Then, on third-and-7 at the Tech 12, Krenzel scrambled and dropped the ball to Clarett, who powered down to the 4 for a first down.
Two plays later, the Buckeyes faced second-and-goal at the Tech 2. OSU lined up in a jumbo right formation, but pulled back left and Ross followed the blocking for the 2-yard touchdown run and a 7-0 lead with 10:53 left in the first quarter.
"When we got into the red zone, the offensive line made it happen," Ross said. "They created the holes and I was able to get through and score."
Field position was not in OSU's favor a series later, when the Red Raiders' punt rolled dead at the OSU 4. But the Buckeyes needed just six plays to go the 96-yard distance and extend the lead to 14-0.
Facing third-and-5 on the OSU 9, Krenzel stepped up and tucked the ball for a 23-yard gain and a first down. Then, three plays later, OSU had third-and-1 at the OSU 42. Clarett took a handoff and slid by Tech's Ricky Sailor at the line of scrimmage and was gone down the right sideline. Tech's Joselio Hanson tried to make a last-ditch tackle attempt, but Clarett stiff-armed him at the 10 and finished off the 58-yard TD run with 5:10 left in the first.
Texas Tech then answered with a nine-play, 72-yard scoring march. Kingsbury hit on 5 of 6 passes on the drive. Facing fourth-and-2 at the OSU 37, he hit Carlos Francis on a quick slant. Francis got by OSU cornerback Richard McNutt, who took a bad angle, and was gone on a 37-yard touchdown that cut the lead to 14-7 on the final play of the first quarter.
"We checked to a slant and Carlos just did a good job taking it to the house," Kingsbury said.
OSU went three-and-out on its third offensive series, but then rebounded for a 10-play, 75-yard touchdown march on the fourth.
Again, Krenzel stepped up and scrambled for 16 yards and a first down. He then hit tight end Ben Hartsock, who made a juggling 10-yard grab for a first down at the Tech 13. Clarett converted a third-and-1 at the 4 with a 3-yard run down to the 1. On the next play, Ross followed left guard Mike Stafford into the end zone on the 1-yard TD run that pushed the OSU lead to 21-7 with 7:40 left in the first half.
The Red Raiders then drove 78 yards down to the OSU 1 as Kingsbury completed passes of 29 yards to Wes Welker and a 28-yarder to Mickey Peters. An OSU face mask penalty also helped Tech.
But on fourth-and-goal from just outside the 1, Tech's Foy Munlin tried to go over right tackle to no avail. OSU linebackers Matt Wilhelm and Cie Grant got great penetration to stop Munlin for no gain.
"We had figured that when Kingsbury was under center that they would run the ball," Wilhelm said. "It was a great call by our coaches. We called 'Bullets' and that is where Cie Grant and I try to get through the 'B' gap. I just tried to get skinny, get through there and make a play."
Leach lamented the decision to go for the touchdown, saying later, "We should have probably kicked it there."
The 21-7 score stood at the half, before the Buckeyes came out in the second half and went 80 yards in a quick four plays to extend the lead.
Hall picked up 18 yards on first down, before losing 5 on the second. Krenzel then found Jenkins for a 22-yard gain to the Tech 45.
On the next play, Clarett went right behind pulling guard Stafford and outsprinted Tech's Byron Johnson to complete a 45-yard TD run and up the lead to 28-7 with 13:08 left in the third quarter.
Tech again moved into the red zone, but Kingsbury's first-down pass at the OSU 17 was intercepted by Fox, who fell on the goal line for a touchback.
"It was a nice play by their guy," Kingsbury said. "I just underthrew it."
Fox added, "He was rolling out to his left and I actually thought he was going to run the ball. I came up and I may have baited him. He tried to toss it over my head, but I was able to get back there and get it."
OSU then moved 52 yards before Mike Nugent came on and drilled a 45-yard field goal to make it 31-7 with 6:46 left in the third.
Chris Gamble set up OSU's next touchdown with a 27-yard punt return down to the Tech 33. Hall ripped off a 20-yard run, but Clarett capped the seven-play drive with a 1-yard TD run to make it 38-7 with 1:56 left in the third.
Kingsbury hit Welker for a 34-yard touchdown pass with 9:23 left in the game. B.J. Simmons then came on and hit Anton Paige for the two-point conversion, cutting the lead to 38-15.
OSU backup quarterback Scott McMullen then led OSU on a 12-play, 76-yard scoring drive, keyed by his 26-yard toss to Drew Carter. McMullen capped the drive with his 1-yard quarterback sneak on fourth-and-goal, extending the lead to 45-15 with 2:24 left.
Kingsbury had one last bullet in his holster, though, as he piloted Tech on a last-ditch scoring drive capped by his 36-yard bomb to Welker that made it 45-21 with 12 seconds left. Kingsbury's two-point conversion pass failed.
* The game was not a sellout, snapping OSU's string of 31 straight sellouts dating to the 1997 Eddie Robinson Classic with Wyoming.
* OSU improved to 2-0 all-time against Texas Tech. OSU defeated the Red Raiders 17-10 in 1990 in Columbus.
* The Buckeyes won their third straight season opener, dating to a 1999 loss to Miami (Fla.) in the Kickoff Classic.
This was OSU's 24th straight home opener win, dating to a 1978 loss to Penn State. OSU's all-time opener record is now 97-12-4.
* The Buckeyes are now 4-2 all-time in August, including 2-0 in the Pigskin Classic. The Buckeyes won the 1994 Pigskin game, defeating Fresno State 34-10 on a neutral field in Anaheim, Calif.
Next Up: The Buckeyes hosted Kent State on Sept. 7, 2002.
Relive The Memories
You can still purchase our book on the 2003 Ohio State-Miami (Fla.) Fiesta Bowl, "The Greatest Game Ever Played," directly on eBay with a credit card.
You can click here for more details on the book, including sample pages of the cover, table of contents, my introduction and the chapter on the pivotal second overtime.
To order directly online, click this link for eBay.
Or you may send a check or money order for $20 ($17 for the book, $3 for shipping) to:
P.O. Box 34
Pataskala, OH 43062
Allow 2 weeks for shipping.