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Allen's end-zone pick saves Ohio State

9/21/2002

CINCINNATI (AP) -- So close to pulling off an upset that would
have rocked the Buckeye state and the national rankings, Cincinnati
coach Rick Minter found little to feel good about.

"There's no solace in playing them close,'' Rick Minter said.
"We had a chance to win the ballgame, and we didn't take it.''

Cincinnati receivers dropped two touchdown passes in the final
minute, and Ohio State quarterback Craig Krenzel ran for a late
touchdown as the sixth-ranked Buckeyes slipped past the Bearcats
23-19 Saturday, in front of the largest crowd to ever watch a
sporting event the city.

"We had a couple of near-misses,'' Minter said. "Give their
defensive backs credit, (but) both of those balls should have been
caught.''

Ohio State (4-0) was playing in Cincinnati for the first time in
91 years, against a team that had beaten the Buckeyes just twice in
12 tries -- in 1896 and 1897.

Ahead 19-17 midway through the fourth quarter, the Bearcats
(1-2) lost the ball and eventually the lead when Ohio State
defensive end Darrion Scott leveled quarterback Gino Guidugli with
a blind-side hit at the Ohio State 44.

Ohio State took the lead on Krenzel's twisting 6-yard scramble
with 3:44 left.

"That was excellent effort,'' Ohio State coach Jim Tressel
said. "The best part about that play is he didn't try to force it
to someone who wasn't open. The thing we couldn't have at that
moment was a turnover.''

Krenzel lauded the Buckeyes' effort but then sighed with relief.

"We know we made too many mistakes,'' he said. "We almost beat
ourselves today.''

The Bearcats gamely came back one more time, as Guidugli led a
drive from his own 20 to the Buckeyes' 15 with 1:01 left. On first
down, Guidugli threw a pass to the right corner of the end zone,
where Jon Olinger had beaten freshman defensive back E.J.
Underwood. Olinger had a clear shot at the ball, but he dropped it
as half of the 66,319 fans -- a record crowd at Paul Brown Stadium --
groaned.

After an incompletion, Guidugli tossed a perfect throw on the
fade route into the left corner of the end zone on third down.
George Murray dived and appeared to have the ball for an instant
before it slipped through his hands.

"I knew it was coming my way, and I had it the whole way,''
Murray said. "When I hit the ground, I curled up, and I thought I
had it. Then I patted my chest, and I didn't feel it. That's when
my world came tumbling down.''

On fourth down with 32 seconds remaining, Guidugli dropped and
threw into the middle of the end zone, but his pass was tipped away
by Ohio State linebacker Matt Wilhelm and intercepted by Will Allen
with 26 seconds left.

"I thought it was pass interference,'' said LaDaris Vann, the
intended receiver. ''(Ohio State strong safety) Mike Doss pushed me
when I was running through, but the referee didn't call it.''

Minter added, "I don't give them any real credit for that
interception. It was just playing catch.''

Guidugli completed 26 of 52 passes for 324 yards and one
touchdown. Through tears in the dressing room, he vented his
frustration.

"It sucks. It sucks so bad. You take nothing from a loss -- not
a damn thing,'' he said. "It hurts -- hurts so bad. We had the No.
6 team in the country on the ropes, and we couldn't knock them
out.''

Besides his TD run, Krenzel had touchdown passes covering 20
yards to Ben Hartsock and 4 yards to Chris Vance. He provided just
enough offense to overcome a lethargic and mistake-prone Ohio State
team that trailed most of the day.

"We got a win,'' Wilhelm said. "We feel we dodged a bullet.''

Krenzel was 14-of-29 for 129 yards with two interceptions.

Ohio State was without phenomenal freshman tailback Maurice
Clarett, who had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee earlier in
the week. But backup Lydell Ross had a career-best 130 yards
rushing.

Clarett, who piled up 471 rushing yards and six touchdowns in
the Buckeyes' first three games, stood on the sideline in his game
jersey, wearing shorts and a knee brace.

In the first half, Cincinnati dominated and Ohio State made
mistake after mistake, yet the Bearcats led just 12-7 at the half.
Maurice Hall lost a fumble, Krenzel threw two interceptions and
Chris Gamble's 96-yard kickoff return was called back by a holding
penalty.

Ohio State was helped by Cincinnati's own gaffes.

Guidugli completed 6 of 7 passes for 79 yards on Cincinnati's
first possession of the game, with DeMarco McCleskey scoring on a
1-yard run off an option pitch from Guidugli. The Bearcats used a
no-huddle offense and frequently had five wide receivers running
pass routes.

Jonathan Ruffin, riding the longest extra-point conversion
streak (65) in school history, was wide on the point after. It was
a miss that would loom large on the last drive, when the Bearcats
were four points down.

Ruffin made a 44-yard field goal and a career-best 49-yarder,
but he was well short on another 49-yard attempt.

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