Miami-Ohio State Call: Revisiting the 2003 National Championship Controversy

Benny VargasAnalyst ISeptember 9, 2010

Its been nearly eight years since the 2003 Fiesta Bowl left viewers dazed with its roller coaster ride of a contest.

At the time the Miami Hurricanes went into the game as heavy favorites against a game Ohio State squad.

Despite Vegas odds makers making Miami a double digit favorite to win the game, the Buckeyes were not fazed. They went into the game knowing that it would be a daunting task to dethrone the best team college football had seen in some time, perhaps ever.

The amount of talent on the field that evening was unreal. You had 18 first round picks sharing; in all, 58 players from the game made it to the NFL. 37 of the 43 starters in Sun Devil Stadium that night were drafted after college.

"You think about the amount of talent on the field that day," said former Ohio State defensive end Simon Fraser, "And you realize it wasn't just a regular college football game."

This was an epic battle for the national championship, not just a regular game.

Even better than the talent was the thrilling manner in which the entire game unfolded.

Ohio State came out early and punched the Hurricanes in the mouth. It took nearly three quarters for Miami to regain their composure.

Once they did it seemed as though their talent would be enough to bring them all the way back. Then the ghastly Willis McGahee injury occurred. Suddenly Miami was forced to continue without their best offensive weapon.

The game wound down and Miami managed to hit a field goal in order to send the contest into overtime.

That was when things went from exciting to disturbingly controversial.

Facing a fourth and three at the Miami five yard line and needing a score to stay alive, Ohio State drew up a play for Chris Gamble.

Buckeye Quarterback Craig Krenzel took a three step drop back looked to his right and sent the hopes of all Ohio State fans flying through the air.

The ball had a perfect trajectory, it was headed straight into the hands of Gamble. For a second it looked like he would make the play, but it was not to be.

Gamble choked. He had the chance to make an easy catch and blew it.

Hurricane players began to jump for joy. Fire works began to blast off through out the stadium. Miami's sideline stormed the field in celebration. Krenzel had taken his helmet off and was laying on the field. It was his way of coping with his team having come up short in the biggest game of his life.

Then suddenly amidst all the hoopla a little yellow flag flew on to the field.

Referee Terry Porter had seen a penalty.

Or had he?

Porter elected to throw a flag more than three seconds after the play had been waved incomplete by the sideline official with the best view of the play.

He then proceeded to call for defensive holding but quickly changed that to pass interference. If you look at the footage it is obvious that Porter was the most confused person on the field at that moment.

After making his call, it was the Hurricane players, staff, and faithful that were left confused. Ohio State would get four more downs to even the score. They only needed three of those.

Porter's explanation is even worse than the call.

"I saw the guy holding the guy prior to the ball being in the air," Porter said. "He was still holding him, pulling him down while the ball was in the air."

He then said he took so long because he had to concur with his mental replay.

Wow he really said he has mental replay technology built in to his brain. How does one sign up for that feature? Do the rest of us function daily while using an out dated and older version of the brain? Are we on "Human Mind 5.0" and Porter already has the 8.0 version?

No that's not the case. Simply stated Porter blew the call. To say that Gamble was being held the entire play is absolutely ridiculous. But that's what happens when you have to cover your butt. You come up with crazy excuses and ways to blame others for your gaff. Just ask Kobe Bryant, who did the same thing snitching on Shaq that same year.

In the second overtime period, Ohio State scored to take a seven point lead. Ken Dorsey and Miami were kept from evening it up and thus the game was over.

That play now lives in infamy. It has been dubbed "The Call" and it forever altered the legacy and hard work put in by two college football power houses.

After years of review three things have become evident.

First there were numerous potential infractions that technically could be seen as a penalty. Miami cornerback Glen Sharpe grabbed Gambles jersey for a millisecond. Sharpe also put his hands on Gambles face mask which is a no-no.

Second, it was not a penalty.

Porter blew it.

He made a bogus call, and even worse, he made it way too late. While there was some contact, it's football and in football you could call a penalty on any given play if you wanted to.

What Sharpe did would never be called a penalty under any circumstance. Buckeye fans like to point to a picture that shows Sharpe holding Gamble's jersey.

That's hogwash. If you look at the video in real time you see Sharpe didn't hold on to the jersey for even a second. Furthermore he didn't impede Gamble's route by doing so.

In football you get away with subtle holds here or tugs there. It has to be blatant and be the reason for a player to not make a catch in order for it to be flagged. Neither of those applied.

People have said Sharpe made contact with Gamble at the snap. Well yeah he did but that's because it's allowed within five yards of the line of scrimmage. Lastly he grabbed Gamble's face mask. That would also be correct only he did so after the ball was no longer within range to be caught.

Even Buckeye players have admitted it was not a penalty.

Sharpe, who was Ohio State receiver Michael Jenkins' teammate in the NFL, said  "I know he knows what happened because when I was first with the [ Atlanta] Falcons, Jenkins used to say all the time, 'Yeah man, Chris was like, 'Man, you know that was no pass interference.' But he was going to take it 'cause the ref gave it to him."

Added Sharpe: "Even Jenkins said that it wasn't a penalty. He was like, 'Yeah, they got you.'"

Thus this leads us to our final point. This is all Chris Gamble's fault.

All Gamble had to do was make a routine catch on a sloppy curl route. The ball was his for the taking. He had Sharpe blocked off with his body. The only one that had a chance to make the play was Gamble and he didn't.

This whole controversy could and should have been avoided. If Gamble makes the catch, "The Call" never happens. Terry Porter's name remains famous solely for sharing it with a former basketball player.

Thanks to "Stone Hands" Gamble, the game will eternally be tainted because of how it ended. Doesn't matter that Ohio State dominated the battle. Doesn't matter that they deserved the win because of their gritty play.

In the end all that's remembered is the controversial climax which left many crying foul play.

Here's to hoping that this Saturday's showdown is every bit as competitive and enjoyable as that game was in 2003. Only this time please make sure to leave Terry Porter out of the equation.


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