Monday, August 04, 2008
What is 'it' about the clutch players?
By Mark Schlabach
August 1, 2008
What made former Notre Dame quarterback Joe Montana play so calmly in the final seconds of the fourth quarter?
What caused former Ohio State quarterback Craig Krenzel to lead his team to so many comeback victories during the Buckeyes' 2002 national championship season?
What was really running through Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan's veins last season?
If college football coaches knew the answer, they would surely bottle it and pass it on to generations of players to come. But for the most part, coaches really aren't sure what drives the sport's greatest clutch players.
From Montana to Krenzel to Ryan, some college players just thrive under pressure. It is a trait seemingly derived from the same DNA that determines the color of a player's hair and eyes.
Craig Krenzel delivered in the clutch for the Buckeyes.
"Those guys just have it," Tressel said. "They don't blink."
Krenzel barely blinked during his two seasons as Ohio State's starter. As a sophomore, he was thrust into the starting role when teammate Steve Bellisari was suspended for drunken driving, days before the Buckeyes played rival Michigan. Krenzel led the Buckeyes to a 26-20 upset of the No. 11 Wolverines, the Buckeyes' first victory in Ann Arbor since 1987.
Afterward, Krenzel said, "I was surprisingly calm. I was more calm than before my first high school start."
The next season, Krenzel stayed remarkably cool during a series of memorable comebacks. He ran for the winning touchdown in the final minutes of a 23-19 victory over Cincinnati in the opener. Late in the season, when the Buckeyes were trying to remain unbeaten, they trailed Purdue 6-3 late in the fourth quarter. On fourth-and-1, Krenzel threw a 37-yard touchdown to Michael Jenkins with 1:36 left for a 10-6 victory.
Against defending national champion Miami in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl, Krenzel led the Buckeyes to a 31-24 upset in two overtimes. He completed only seven passes, but five of his throws were for first downs. He also ran for a game-high 81 yards and two touchdowns.
"A guy like Craig, because he worked so hard to master the things he needed to do, that gave him the confidence for his innate qualities to express themselves," Tressel said. "One of his strengths was his toughness and his belief in himself. He thought, 'Hey, don't worry about it. I'm going to get it done.'"
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