Clarett downplays his big play vs. Miami

Rob Oller
The Buckeyes' Maurice Clarett emerges from the pack with the ball after stripping it from Sean Taylor, after the Hurricanes safety had intercepted OSU's Craig Krenzel in the end zone during the national championship game at the Fiesta Bowl in 2003. [Dispatch file photo]

Maurice Clarett called it “a cool play,” but not much different than any other snap during Ohio State’s 2002 national championship season.

Sure, he sees symbolism in it, noting that stealing the ball from Miami defensive back Sean Taylor in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl against Miami is a metaphor for how he is snatching his life back following his 2010 release after spending 3½ years in prison.

But otherwise, the former Ohio State tailback thinks his pivotal theft of Taylor following an interception of Craig Krenzel “was more meaningful to other people” than to him.

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The play was huge, possibly saving the game for Ohio State, which eventually defeated the Hurricanes 31-24 in double overtime.

Ohio State led 14-7 with 10:33 remaining in the third quarter when Krenzel threw toward his roommate, tight end Ben Hartsock, 6 yards deep into the end zone. Taylor intercepted and started up the left sideline. For a moment it looked like a pick-six.

Enter Clarett, who angled toward Taylor and stripped and snagged the ball, giving possession back to the Buckeyes at the Miami 28-yard line.

“I won’t lie. It wasn’t like I had this big epiphany of what I was about to do,” Clarett said on Friday while speaking at the Ohio News Media Association convention in Westerville. “We’re in the huddle and Ben Hartsock says, ‘I would like a national championship touchdown.’ So I’m thinking (Krenzel) throws it and we’ll be done,” Clarett said.

Not quite.

“Sean Taylor intercepts and then everything is off habit,” Clarett said. “Every day at practice you do ball-security drills, so subconsciously when you see somebody carrying a ball wrong you just know they’re doing it wrong. As I’m getting closer to him I’m like, ‘This guy doesn’t see me.’

Clarett explained that the sure-fire way to strip a ball is to apply pressure between the arm and ribcage.

“And that’s what took place. Mike Nugent kicked a field goal and we moved forward,” he said.

No big deal. Right.


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