For Ohio State, the 2002 season isn’t one that will be forgotten anytime soon. The Buckeyes closed the year by upsetting Miami in double-overtime in the Fiesta Bowl for the national championship.
That moment, however, would never have come to fruition with the one that took place on this day 20 years ago. Facing a critical fourth down, Ohio State used a late touchdown pass from Craig Krenzel to Michael Jenkins to rally past Purdue, 10-6.
Setting the Stage
At 10-0, Ohio State was ranked third in the country as it arrived in West Lafayette, Ind. on Nov. 9, 2002. The Buckeyes were coming off back-to-back home wins over ranked teams in Penn State and Minnesota.
Purdue was just 4-5 for the season, but the Boilermakers had been no slouch. Each of their five losses had come by seven points or less. With less than two minutes to play, they were on the verge of their biggest upset of the year.
Krenzel Finds Jenkins
For more than 58 minutes, three field goals had accounted for all the scoring. Berin Lacevic’s 32-yard make with less than eight minutes left had put Purdue in front, 6-3.
Defensively, the Boilermakers had held Ohio State to less than 300 yards of offense and sacked Krenzel three times. Krenzel had escaped pressure to hit Ben Hartsock for a 13-yard gain on third down, but it was shy of the first down.
With less than two minutes to go, Ohio State faced 4th-and-1 at the Purdue 37-yard-line. Kicker Mike Nugent had made 21 straight field goals, but rather than try a 54-yard attempt, head coach Jim Tressel kept his offense on the field.
It was the right call.
Purdue was able to again get pressure, but Krenzel again stepped up in the pocket. With Jenkins matched up in man coverage, Krenzel delivered a perfect pass for the 37-yard touchdown with just 1:36 remaining. For the first time all day, Ohio State led, 10-6.
Chris Gamble would intercept Purdue’s Kyle Orton to seal the victory. The Buckeyes had somehow improved to 11-0 and the dream was still alive.
Purdue would respond with three straight victories to cap a winning season. A 34-24 win over Washington in the Sun Bowl gave the Boilermakers a 7-6 record to close the year.
For the Buckeyes, the comeback victory would be the first of four straight 1-possession wins to close the year as they finished 14-0 and national champions for the first time since 1970. It required a long touchdown pass on fourth down and came on this day two decades ago.
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