Sunday, September 14, 2003

Another fantastic OSU finish


Bucks blow lead, but goal-line stand secures 17th straight win

By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

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Ohio State linebacker A.J. Hawk (47) returns an interception away from North Carolina State wide receiver Brian Clark (87) in the fourth quarter Saturday.
(AP photo)
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North Carolina players question the referees standing over tailback T.A. McLendon who lies motionless on the field after he was stopped short of the goal line during the third overtime.
(AP photo)
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COLUMBUS - These were the same faces, sure, but these didn't look like the same Buckeyes. There was no palpable heartbeat, no soul. Then it all came back in a rush.

The magic and moxie of that 2002 championship team returned Saturday in the nick of time, as Ohio State turned a potentially easy victory into one of its patented passion plays.

After blowing a 17-point fourth-quarter lead, the third-ranked Buckeyes stretched the drama to record lengths - triple-overtime - before beating No. 24 North Carolina State 44-38.

It was the first overtime game in Ohio Stadium's 81-year history and the Buckeyes' longest game ever.

"It was crazy," OSU tailback Maurice Hall said. "But having been in all those close games can make a huge difference. It boosts our confidence."

OSU (3-0) has won 17 consecutive games, the longest active streak in college football and second-longest in school history, and nine of those victories have come by seven or fewer points. Three of OSU's last six games have gone to overtime.

After awhile, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

"We know that if you have us pinned in a corner, we'll come out and fight," defensive end Simon Fraser said.

As with last week's game, there was plenty ugly about this one.

Forty-four rushing yards, the lowest total in the Jim Tressel era. Fourteen penalties - tying a single-game school record - for 129 yards. Five turnovers - three of them Craig Krenzel interceptions.

When the Buckeyes stopped Wolfpack tailback T.A. McLendon inches shy of the goal line on the final play, they claimed the first link to the legacy of the title team.

"Those situations (last year), you learn from," senior flanker Drew Carter said. "We don't like going to overtime when we have a 24-7 lead. But we proved that we can make the plays when we need them."

OSU led by that count with 9 1/2 minutes left in regulation and was getting the ball back. But Santonio Holmes fumbled a punt return and gave N.C. State new life.

Philip Rivers, N.C. State's Heisman-candidate quarterback, got hot. He led the Wolfpack on five consecutive scoring possessions, and entering the final series had completed 11 consecutive passes.

OSU had gone first in the third OT and scored on a 7-yard Michael Jenkins TD catch, but failed on a 2-point try that is mandatory for triple-OT.

N.C. State reached first-and-goal at the 4. Rivers got 2 yards on a sneak, threw an incompletion, then sneaked again for a yard to the 1.

McLendon got a pitchout, running left, and linebacker A.J. Hawk grabbed him at the waist. As McLendon went down, falling toward the end zone, safety Will Allen crashed into him and stopped him inches shy.

Officials conferred - "It felt like forever," Hawk said - before signaling that McLendon was short.

"They caught us off guard on that play (in the second OT), but this time we were ready," Allen said.

Krenzel had career passing highs of 273 passing yards and four TDs. Tight end Ben Hartsock had a career-high seven catches for 65 yards. Hawk had a career-high 12 tackles and a 55-yard interception return. Jenkins caught seven passes for 124 yards and two TDs.

Krenzel was so-so most of the day, but down the stretch went 12-of-14 for 82 yards and three TDs.

The running game is a huge concern for the Buckeyes, and the pass defense endured a susceptible stretch Saturday. But at least those are things OSU can address without having endured defeat.

"No one's going to walk out of Ohio Stadium today saying everything's perfect and everything's wonderful," Tressel said, "but I feel good about how hard they played."

Up next for OSU

Saturday: Bowling Green (3-0) at OSU (3-0)

Kickoff: 12:10 p.m.

Buckeyes' great escapes

2002

OSU 23, Cincinnati 19: UC leads 19-14 with possession in the fourth quarter, but OSU pulls ahead and survives four passes into the end zone in the final minute.

OSU 19, Wisconsin 14: OSU pulls ahead with 10 minutes left, then gets a Chris Gamble interception in the end zone.

OSU 13, Penn State 7: No offensive touchdowns; Gamble's third-quarter interception return for a TD is the winning play.

OSU 10, Purdue 6: On fourth-and-1 with 1:36 left, Craig Krenzel hits Michael Jenkins with a 37-yard TD pass.

OSU 23, Illinois 16 (OT): The Illini bobble the potential tying TD on third down and have a pass deflected on their final play.

OSU 14, Michigan 9: The Buckeyes score the winning TD with 4:55 left, then get a Will Allen interception on the game's final play to clinch the victory.

OSU 31, Miami 24 (2 OT): The Buckeyes convert on fourth-and-14, get a pass-interference penalty to keep their first-OT scoring drive alive, then go ahead on Maurice Clarett's TD in the second OT. They clinch the national championship by forcing an errant pass on Miami's fourth-and-1 play that ends the game.

2003

OSU 16, San Diego State 13: The Aztecs reach midfield twice late in a bid to tie or take the lead, but the OSU defense holds.

OSU 44, N.C. State 38 (3 OT): After blowing a 24-7 fourth-quarter lead, the Buckeyes stop T.A. McLendon on the goal line.

NC State0701714-38
Ohio St.1403720-44
First Quarter

OSU-Jenkins 44 pass from Krenzel (Nugent kick), 4:13

OSU-Ross 2 run (Nugent kick), 2:47

Second Quarter

NCSU-Cotchery 11 pass from Rivers (Deraney kick), :18

Third Quarter

OSU-FG Nugent 22, :00

Fourth Quarter

OSU-Krenzel 6 run (Nugent kick), 11:25

NCSU-Cotchery 9 pass from Rivers (Kiker kick), 8:26

NCSU-FG Kiker 24, 5:51

NCSU-Williams 5 pass from Rivers (Kiker kick), :21

Overtime

OSU-Hartsock 10 pass from Krenzel (Nugent kick)

NCSU-Hall 17 pass from Rivers (Kiker kick)

NCSU-McLendon 2 run (Kiker kick)

OSU-Hamby 2 pass from Krenzel (Nugent kick)

OSU-Jenkins 7 pass from Krenzel (pass failed)

A-104,890

NCSOSU
First downs2815
Rushes-yards30-2132-44
Passing315273
Comp-Att-Int36-52-226-36-3
Return Yards7996
Punts-Avg.7-41.65-49.4
Fumbles-Lost4-12-2
Penalties-Yards6-4614-129
Time of Possession29:2930:17

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING-NC State, McLendon 8-32, Hall 4-13, Washington 3-12, Cotchery 2-8, Brown 1-6, Jackson 2-(minus 1), Rivers 10-(minus 49). Ohio St., Krenzel 13-37, Schnittker 1-5, Hall 13-2, Ross 4-1, Team 1-(minus 1).

PASSING-NC State, Rivers 36-52-2-315. Ohio St., Krenzel 26-36-3-273.

RECEIVING-NC State, Hall 9-67, Clark 6-73, Washington 5-39, Cotchery 4-44, Williams 4-18, McLendon 3-56, Jackson 2-15, Barrett 2-5, Hicks 1-(minus 2). Ohio St., Jenkins 7-124, Hartsock 7-65, Carter 6-39, Schnittker 2-17, Holmes 1-29, Hamby 1-2, Hall 1-0, Ross 1-(minus 3).




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