Defense continues to carry Buckeyes

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 20, 2004

The Associated Press

RALEIGH, N.C. - The Luckeyes' magic is alive and well.

Ohio State made up for a shoddy day offensively by forcing five turnovers, and Mike Nugent tied a school record with five field goals to give the ninth-ranked Buckeyes a 22-14 victory over North Carolina State on Saturday.

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A week after Nugent booted a 55-yarder on the final play to beat Marshall, Ohio State (3-0) needed more good fortune to get by the Wolfpack (1-1) for the second straight season. The Buckeyes managed only 137 yards of offense - 35 coming on their first drive - and converted only two of their 16 chances on third down.

Lydell Ross carried 25 times for 51 yards, and Justin Zwick finished 10-of-21 for another 73. Four scoring drives covered 10 yards or less.

It was barely enough, thanks to a bevy of mistakes by N.C. State and the strong leg of Nugent, who tied Bob Atha's five field goals in 1981 against Indiana.

Jay Davis threw three interceptions before being benched for a series, including one in the final two minutes of the first half that led to Ohio State's only touchdown. Tramain Hall muffed a punt and T.A. McLendon fumbled on the second play of the third quarter to give the Buckeyes another scoring chance.

The Wolfpack were called twice for pass interference and had another penalty for running into Ohio State punter Kyle Turano. It added up to their third straight loss to a ranked opponent, a streak that includes a heartbreaking 44-38 defeat in triple overtime to Ohio State in 2003.

Davis returned from the sidelines and threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Brian Clark with 1:28 left, but the Buckeyes recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock.

The biggest miscues for the Wolfpack were sandwiched around halftime. After Nugent's 30-yard field goal made it 6-0 with 2:33 left in the second quarter, N.C. State appeared content to run out the clock. But Davis dropped back on third-and-10 and underthrew Richard Washington near the sideline, with Donte Whitner there for the interception.

He ran it back 24 yards to the Wolfpack's 3, and Ross powered in on the first play for a 13-point lead.

On the opening possession of the second half, McLendon bobbled a pitch, and Marcus Green recovered for Ohio State at the 16. Three plays netted a single yard, and Nugent kicked his third field goal for a 16-0 lead.

N.C. State then finally got on the board, with McLendon capping the 80-yard drive by scampering into the end zone from the 11. He missed the opener against Division I-AA Richmond with a strained hamstring, and returned in this one to run for 94 yards.

But another penalty, this one a 15-yarder for excessive celebration after McLendon's TD, gave the Buckeyes great field position. They only needed to move 28 yards in seven plays to set up a 46-yard field goal by Nugent, and he added a 47-yarder early in the fourth quarter.

That came after Davis' third interception, and Ohio State lost 1 yard in three plays before the kick. Davis was 12-for-24 for only 99 yards in his second game as the replacement for Philip Rivers.