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Ohio State 14   Michigan 9
Columbus, Nov. 23, 2002
Published in The Ohio State University Monthly, December 2002

Before the Ohio State-Michigan game, Mike Doss took a roll of black athletic tape and secured a newspaper article to the back of his shoulder pads. The article remained in place the entire game as Doss' reminder of why he was in Ohio Stadium on Nov. 23 and not in the NFL. 

The headline said it all: "Doss does it for mom."

Diane Doss had urged her son to stay in school, something the Canton Repository wrote about last Jan. 10-the day after the announcement that he would return to Ohio State for his senior year. That's the message Doss put on his back.

"I didn't want to forget where 1 came from, and 1 didn't want to forget the reasons 1 came back-for my mom and for [a chance to win a national title]," said Doss. "There are no words to describe how 1 feel."

While Doss couldn't find words to describe what it felt like to beat Michigan and earn the right to play for the national championship in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 3 in Tempe, Ariz., fans had many words to describe it-words like "unbelievable," "tremendous," and "why won't these darn goal posts come down?"

The 14-9 win against Michigan was like many the Buckeyes managed to squeeze out this season. The offense didn't make mistakes, the game was put on the defense's shoulders, and-most important the Bucks played with heart. What else would you expect from a team with players like Mike Doss?

"I think the way in which we have won has been great for college football," said Coach Jim Tressel. "We win with class. We care about each other. And we play hard for each other."

Maurice Clarett was an example of that. The freshman running back shook off a shoulder stinger to rush for 119 yards and a touchdown and haul in a 26-yard reception on the Buckeyes' winning drive.

I just wanted to play well for the seniors," Clarett said.

While he dismissed the notion that he was playing in pain, his coach didn't.  "Anyone who has ever had a shoulder stinger knows that it is painful," Tressel said. "Maurice knew what this game meant to his teammates, and he knew what it meant to Ohio State. He was going to play no matter how he felt."

All heart.

It was the defense that came up with the biggest play of the day, stopping a Michigan drive deep in Ohio State territory on the game's final possession. Will Allen stepped in front of a Wolverines receiver to intercept a pass and seal the win.

"I knew No. 80 was going to be there because he's their go-to guy," Allen said. "But they shouldn't have done it. They shouldn't have gone his way."

The interception touched off a landmark celebration. Fans rushed the field. Some players donned tortilla-chip hats in anticipation of the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. Some burst into tears.

"It was all heart and soul," said senior linebacker Matt Wilhelm. "I think every Buckeye who plays their last game in the Horseshoe leaves something of themselves out there. It's part of playing at Ohio State."

 

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