LENNY IGNELZI / AP Enlarge
COLUMBUS - The Arizona desert erupted in a sea of scarlet and gray celebration when the Ohio State defense slammed the door on top-ranked and heavily favored Miami, giving the Buckeyes a win in the 2002 national championship game.
The two teams meet Saturday for the first time since that historic double-overtime battle in Sun Devil Stadium.
Most of the current Ohio State players were in elementary school or junior high at the time, so they don't see this matchup of the No. 2 Buckeyes and No. 13 Hurricanes as any sort of rematch.
"That was eight years ago," Ohio
State quarterback Terrelle Pryor said about the 31-24 win by the Buckeyes in which Maurice Clarett scored what turned out to be the winning touchdown.
"If that's what they want to use as revenge ... times have changed. You come and play this game and you can't look back. You've got to look forward. I know we're not going to look at it like we should have lost."
The perspective is a bit different in south Florida, where the Hurricanes were on top of the college football world prior to suffering that stunning upset in the Fiesta Bowl. Miami has been trying to regain its stature in recent years.
Defensive lineman Olivier Vernon, a Miami native, said that 2002 title game matters on the Hurricanes' end.
"I was a little young, but I remember it," Olivier said. "It's revenge time. Nobody's forgotten about it."
The stage is firmly set for this showdown after both Ohio State and Miami were lopsided winners in Thursday's season openers. The Buckeyes pounded Marshall 45-7, while Miami took out Florida A&M 45-0. Neither team's defense surrendered a point - Marshall's touchdown came on the return of a blocked field goal.
Miami coach Randy Shannon, who led the Hurricanes to a 9-4 mark last season, wants to keep his team in the present and not dwell on what happened in early January of 2003.
"A loss is a loss. Games are games, and they go and come," said Shannon, who was an assistant on the Miami staff the last time the two powers met. "You just have to enjoy the times you play in them and keep moving on."
Ohio State junior wide receiver DeVier Posey, who caught two touchdown passes against Marshall, said too much time has passed since that 2002 national title game.
"That didn't have anything to do with our team, or their team," Posey said. "We wear the colors, but it's a lot of different guys in the uniforms."
The Buckeyes finished 14-0 with the 31-24 win over Miami in the 2002 Fiesta Bowl, and stopped the Hurricanes' winning streak at 34 games.
OSU coach Jim Tressel, who was in just his second season in charge at the time, said revenge or not, Saturday will present his team with a significant test.
"It's going to be a more difficult world next week," Tressel said after the Buckeyes easily disposed of Marshall. "We have to get ready for what we know is going to be a great challenge."
Blade wire services contributed to this report.39.96196 -83.00298