Sept. 13, 2004

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Ohio State’s young football team figures to be in for its toughest challenge of the young season Saturday when the Buckeyes travel to Raleigh, N.C., to meet the 1-0 North Carolina State Wolfpack. It will be the first road game of the year for the 2-0 Buckeyes, who are coming off a hard-fought 24-21 win over Marshall that was decided by All-American Mike Nugent’s 55-yard field goal as time expired. ABC will televise the game from sold out Carter-Finley Stadium (cap. 53,800). Kickoff is scheduled for 3:37 p.m. Brad Nessler, Bob Griese and Lynn Swann will call the game. WBNS Radio will carry the game on the statewide Ohio State radio network with network programming beginning an hour before kickoff. Paul Keels, Jim Lachey and Jim Karsatos will describe the action.

Ohio State has moved up to seventh in this week’s ESPN/USA TODAY poll, its highest ranking of the year. N.C. State is receiving points in both the ESPN/USA TODAY and the Associated Press polls, but has not yet cracked the Top 25.

The Buckeyes have a modest three-game winning streak intact, dating back to last year’s win over Kansas State in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. The Wolfpack, idle this past week, has won two in a row, downing Kansas (56-26) in the Tangerine Bowl last December and opening up the 2004 campaign with a 42-0 thrashing of visiting Richmond two weeks ago.

This will be just the second meeting between the two schools. ABC televised last year’s first meeting and more than got its money’s worth with a four hour and 17 minute marathon in which the Buckeyes emerged with a 44-38 victory in triple overtime.

It is also Ohio State’s first visit to the state of North Carolina for a football game and marks the first time the Buckeyes have played in the home venue of an Atlantic Coast Conference team.

The Buckeyes were 2-2 on the road last year, not counting their win in the Fiesta Bowl. This is Ohio State’s first non-conference road game since Cincinnati in 2002.

Ohio State place-kicker Mike Nugent has been selected as the Big Ten co-special teams player of the week following his 55-yard, game-winning field goal against Marshall this past Saturday. Nugent’s kick came as time ran out and snapped a 21-all tie.

The Buckeyes head to North Carolina averaging 432.5 yards and 25.5 points a game on offense and giving up an average of 264 yards and 13.5 points per game on defense. Coach Jim Tressel knows, however, that OSU’s seven turnovers to date (four interceptions and three lost fumbles), coupled with no takeaways by the Buckeye defense, is a ratio that has to change if Ohio State wants to stay on the unbeaten track.

“Most of the time when you are down seven in the turnover department like we are you expect to be 0-2 and not 2-0,” said Jim Tressel. “They (the turnovers) have to stop and we need to start getting a few of our own.

“But having said that, I am pleased with how hard we have played the first two games. Somehow, even with those mistakes, we found a way to win. That gives us something to build on.

“We just need to keep working hard and get a lot better in all areas. That will be our focus this week as we get ready to play a very good N.C. State team that is playing in front of its home crowd.”

Ohio State is throwing for 283 yards per game and rushing for 149.5. The Buckeyes’ first two foes have averaged 151 yards through the air and 113 yards on the ground.

Sophomore quarterback Justin Zwick has completed 32 of 56 passes for 537 yards and four touchdowns. He has been intercepted four times. Against Marshall, the 6-4 signal caller threw for 324 yards and three touchdowns, becoming just the second sophomore in Ohio State history to top the 300-yard mark in a game It was the 10th best single-game performance in school annals.

Zwick’s favorite target has been sophomore sensation Santonio Holmes. Holmes put on a clinic against Marshall with 224 yards on 10 catches and now has 14 receptions for 315 yards on the year. Holmes had a pair of TD receptions against Marshall, the first covering 80 yards and the second 47. Split end Roy Hall also caught a TD pass against Marshall, his first career six pointer.

In the rushing department, senior tailback Lydell Ross has 231 yards on 41 carries and is averaging 5.6 yards per carry. After a 141-yard performance against Cincinnati, Ross had 90 yards on 24 carries against Marshall and is averaging 115 yards a game.

Defensively, junior linebackers Bobby Carpenter (22) and A.J. Hawk (21) have combined for 43 tackles and safety Nate Salley has 13. Middle linebacker Mike D’Andrea has a team high 2.5 tackles-for-loss. The Buckeyes recorded three sacks against Marshall: one each by D’Andrea, Marcus Green and Jay Richardson.

Marshall mounted only one sustained drive against Ohio State, a 12-play, 80-yard TD march in the first quarter. Marshall’s other two scores came following turnovers – one on a 27-yard fumble recovery, and the other following an interception that gave the visitors the ball on the Ohio State 13-yard line. Marshall scored five plays later to tie the game.

The Ohio State offense, meanwhile, demonstrated the ability to move the ball and the capability of striking quickly with scoring drives of 80 (one play), 85 (seven plays) and 80 (eight plays) yards.

Jim Tressel’s troops have won 13 of the last 14 games decided by seven points or less. That ledger includes four overtime games, including the 2002 National Championship game and last year’s triple-overtime win over this week’s opponent, North Carolina State. During his stay at Ohio State, Tressel is 16-5 in games decided by a touchdown or less. Under Tressel, the Buckeyes are 23-2 when leading at the half and 25-3 when ahead at the start of the fourth.

Since the beginning of the 2001 season, the Buckeyes are 12-1 in the month of September, the lone loss coming at UCLA in Jim Tressel’s first season at Ohio State. With a win at North Carolina State this week, the Buckeyes would notch their third-consecutive 3-0 start.

Sophomore flanker Santonio Holmes was one of four players nominated for this week’s Cingular Wireless/ABC Sports All-America Player of the Week. Holmes caught 10 passes for 224 yards and a pair of touchdowns in Saturday’s 24-21 win over Marshall. Two of those receptions came on the Buckeyes’ final drive which set up a game-winning field goal by Mike Nugent. The 224 yards is the second highest single-game figure in Ohio State history, surpassed only by Terry Glenn’s 253 yards against Pitt in 1995. Holmes is just the fourth Ohio State player to register more than 200 yards receiving in a game. Gary Williams had 220 vs. Florida State in 1981 and David Boston had 217 against Michigan in 1998. He is also the first sophomore to top 200. In the last seven-and-a-half games, Holmes has 43 receptions for 812 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Ohio State’s fabled Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin still talks about the “Three D’s” – Desire, Determination and Dedication – and the effect they had on his life. This past Saturday, Ohio State place-kicker Mike Nugent was more in tune with the “Three C’s” – calm, cool and collected – as he demonstrated why he is a strong candidate for the Lou Groza Award as the top kicker in college football.

With Ohio State and Marshall tied at 21, two seconds remaining in the game and the crowd of more than 104,000 chanting “Nooge, Nooge,” the 5-10 senior calmly booted a career-long 55-yard field goal to give the Buckeyes a thrilling 24-21 win in Ohio Stadium.

“I honestly wasn’t nervous,” said Nugent. “Coach (Jim) Tressel puts us in that situation all the time in practice and scrimmages. I just tried to go through the same routine that I go through on an extra point. My teammates did their job with a great snap and a great hold and fortunately I was able to make the kick. But I don’t feel like I won the game, it was a team victory.”

Nugent, who also won last year’s Purdue game with an overtime kick, is three-of-four this year and has made 51 of his 65 field goal attempts as a Buckeye. He needs just nine more field goals to break the school record of 59 that currently belongs to Dan Stultz (1996-2000).

Ohio State jumped two spots in this week’s ESPN/USA TODAY poll, moving up to seventh from ninth. The Buckeyes remain ninth in the Associated Press voting.

The Buckeyes dodged a green and white bullet last week and emerged with a 24-21 win over visiting Marshall in front of 104,522 exhausted fans. All-America kicker Mike Nugent nailed down the win with a 55-yard field goal (that would have been good from 60) as time ran out, extending the Buckeyes winning streak in Ohio Stadium to 18 games and keeping the Buckeyes unbeaten. In addition to being a career long, Nugent’s field goal tied (with Dan Stultz in 1997 against Indiana) for the longest ever in Ohio Stadium by a Buckeye.

Nugent was one of several Buckeyes who turned in outstanding performances against Marshall. Flanker Santonio Holmes literally had a career day, hauling in 10 passes for 224 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Holmes scored on catches of 80 and 47 yards in compiling the second best single-game receiving yardage total in Ohio State history. The speedy sophomore had a pair of key grabs on the Buckeyes’ final drive which set up Nugent’s game winner.

In just his second college start, quarterback Justin Zwick completed 18 of 30 passes for 324 yards and three touchdowns. Zwick was intercepted twice in the second half, but on the Buckeyes’ final possession the young signal caller stayed cool under fire by completing all three of his pass attempts and moving the Buckeyes from their own 45-yard line to the Marshall 33.

On the defensive side of the ball, Bobby Carpenter was credited with a career-high 13 tackles and A.J. Hawk equaled his career best with 12 stops. Donte Whitner had nine tackles, a career high for the hard-hitting sophomore safety.

The Buckeyes paid a heavy price, however, losing cornerback Dustin Fox on the first defensive series with a broken forearm. Fox, who is expected to miss four to six weeks, had started 30-consecutive games.

Now in his fourth year at the helm of the Buckeyes, Jim Tressel has compiled an impressive 34-7 record in his short stay in Columbus. Included in that figure is a 19-5 mark in Big Ten play and a 15-2 record in non-conference action. His teams have been especially successful at home, winning 22 of 24 starts, including the last 18-consecutive outings.

After a 7-5 record in 2001, Tressel led the Buckeyes to a perfect 14-0 record, a share of the Big Ten title and a consensus national championship in 2002. He was the Football Writers choice as national coach of the year in 2002. In 2003, the Buckeyes posted an 11-2 record and played in a BCS game for the second-consecutive year.

Now in his 19th season as a head coach, the 51-year-old Tressel has compiled a lifetime record of 169-64-2. During his stay with the Buckeyes, he has posted a 14-4 record against teams in the Top 25 and a 5-1 slate against teams in the Top 10. Masterful in close games, he is 16-5 in games decided by a touchdown or less. Each of his last two teams have finished the season ranked in the Top 5 (1st in 2002 and 4th last year).

Prior to coming to Ohio State, Tressel spent 15 years as the head coach at Division I-AA Youngstown State, where he won four national championships and appeared in the playoffs 10 times.

He is 1-0 against North Carolina State, that victory coming last year in Columbus.

This will be the second meeting between North Carolina State and Ohio State. The two teams played last year in Columbus with the Buckeyes coming away with a thrilling 44-38 win in triple overtime. The 2003 shootout lasted four hours and 17 minutes and was the longest game ever played in Ohio Stadium. Ohio State has an all-time record of 7-2 against teams from the state of North Carolina (1-0 vs. N.C. State, 3-1 vs. Duke, 3-1 vs. North Carolina).

Last year’s game will be hard to top in terms of sheer excitement and entertainment value. Ohio State led 24-7 with 9:26 to play, but the Wolfpack, behind the brilliant play of Philip Rivers rallied to tie the score with 21 seconds to play, sending the game into overtime.

As it turned out, it took three extra sessions to determine a winner, Ohio State escaping with a 44-38 victory when linebacker A.J. Hawk and All-America safety Will Allen stopped N.C. State tailback T.A. McClendon just inches short of the goal line on fourth down in the third overtime.

Rivers threw for 315 yards and four touchdowns in a losing effort. Ohio State quarterback Craig Krenzel, playing with a hyper-extended throwing elbow, threw for 273 yards and four scores and also rushed for a touchdown.

Hawk had a career-high 12 tackles and a 55-yard interception return that led to a 22-yard Mike Nugent field goal. Six different receivers caught three or more passes for N.C. State. Ohio State had three receivers with six or more catches.

Rivers called it, “The most exciting game I have ever played in.” The Ohio Stadium crowd of 104,890 was in complete agreement.

Ohio State has an all-time record of 8-6 vs. teams now playing in the Atlantic Coast Conference. OSU is 3-1 vs. Duke and North Carolina, and 1-0 against both N.C. State and Virginia. The Buckeyes are 0-3 against Florida State and 0-1 vs. Clemson, and have not played either Maryland or Wake Forest. Two of the losses came in bowl games – 17-15 to Clemson in the 1978 Gator Bowl, and 31-14 to Florida State in the 1998 Sugar Bowl.

Several Ohio State players are candidates for major awards in 2004. They include, center Nick Mangold (Rimington Award and Outland Trophy), All-America kicker Mike Nugent (Lou Groza Award), tailback Lydell Ross (Doak Walker Award), linebacker Bobby Carpenter (Butkus Award), linebacker A.J. Hawk (Butkus, Lombardi, Lott and Walter Camp Awards), defensive end Simon Fraser (Ted Hendricks Award), cornerback Dustin Fox (Thorpe Award) and flanker Santonio Holmes (Biletnikoff Award).

After the first two weeks of the season, senior tailback Lydell Ross leads the Buckeyes in rushing with 231 yards on 41 carries, an average of 5.6 yards per carry. Ross opened the season with 141 yards against Cincinnati and followed that up with 90 yards on 24 carries in the win over Marshall. In the Cincinnati game, he recorded a career-best 68-yard scamper, eclipsing his previous high of 51 that came in 2001. The 20-year old Ross has rushed for 2,095 yards during his career.

All-America place-kicker Mike Nugent added six more points to his resume in the win over Marshall and now has 269 career points to his credit. The school record for career points (348) is held by fullback Pete Johnson (1973-76). Nugent needs 79 points to tie the mark and 80 to surpass it. Nugent scored 48 points as a freshman, 120 as a sophomore in 2002, and 86 last year. He currently is seventh among OSU career scoring leaders. The sixth spot on that list belongs to Eddie George with 272 points. Nugent now has 51 career field goals in 65 attempts, for a conversion percentage of .785. The latter is the best mark in school history.

Buckeye flanker Santonio Holmes caught 10 passes for 224 yards in the win over Marshall. Both were career highs for Holmes, who hauled in touchdown passes of 80 and 47 yards against the Thundering Herd. The 224-yard figure is the second highest in Ohio State history, surpassed only by Terry Glenn’s 253 against Pittsburgh in 1995 and is the most ever by an OSU receiver in a game played in Ohio Stadium. Holmes has 14 catches for 315 yards and three touchdowns in the first two games and is averaging 22.5 yards per catch and 157.5 receiving yards per game. Against Cincinnati, Holmes had a career long 53-yard reception. He bettered that against Marshall with his 80-yard catch and run that ties for the third longest pass play in Ohio State history.

Following this year’s 27-6 win over Cincinnati, the Buckeyes have an all-time opening day record of 99-12-4 and have won their last 26 home openers dating back to 1978. Ohio State’s last opening day loss at home was a 19-0 setback at the hands of No. 5 Penn State in 1978.

The Buckeyes first fielded a football team in 1890, compiling a 1-3 record in their first season. From that modest beginning, Ohio State has gone on to post an all-time record of 759-294-53 in 114 years and has experienced just 11 losing seasons.

Ohio State has an all-time record of 352-101-25 in Ohio Stadium (opened in 1922). The Buckeyes are 18-0 at home since the beginning of the 2002 season and are 22-2 in three years under head coach Jim Tressel. Ohio State’s last loss at home was against Illinois in the final game of the 2001 campaign.

Seniors Mike Nugent, Lydell Ross, Simon Fraser and Dustin Fox have been selected by their teammates as the 2004 captains. Nugent is the first kicker to be chosen since Tom Skladany in 1976. Fox is the fourth member of his family to captain the Buckeyes, joining uncles Mark Stier (1968), Ken Kuhn (1975) and Tim Fox (1975).

Fifth-year seniors Kyle Turano (punter, Worthington Kilbourne), Roshawn Parker (tailback, Columbus Eastmoor), Mike DeMaria (tailback, Oregon Cardinal Stritch) and John McLaughlin (offensive tackle, Fairview Park, Ohio, Cleveland St. Ignatius) have been awarded scholarships for the 2004 academic year.

There are two new faces on the Ohio State staff this year. Darrell Hazell has taken over as coach of the wide receivers and John Peterson is the new tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator. Hazell, a graduate of Muskingum College, comes to Ohio State from Rutgers. Peterson, a former OSU offensive lineman (1987-90), has spent the past five seasons at Miami of Ohio. Additionally, Dick Tressel has replaced Tim Spencer as running backs coach. Tressel has spent the past three seasons as associate director of football operations for the Buckeyes.

Starting cornerback Dustin Fox broke his left forearm in the first quarter of the Marshall game and is expected to miss four to six weeks. The Buckeye co-captain had started 30 consecutive games prior to being hurt. Senior fullback Branden Joe has missed the first two games of the season with an ankle sprain, but could return to action Saturday against North Carolina State. Defensive end Mike Kudla is also expected to miss this week with a shoulder injury. Redshirt freshman Devin Jordan (Massillon, Ohio) suffered a leg injury in fall camp and is expected to miss most of the season.

Ohio State assistant coach Jim Bollman spent three seasons (1983-85) as an assistant coach at North Carolina State under Tom Reed. Bollman, the Buckeyes’ offensive coordinator, was assistant head coach for the Wolfpack and also coached the offensive line his first two years and the inside linebackers during his final year. Following the 1985 season, Bollman moved to Youngstown State as an assistant to Jim Tressel.

Ohio State’s highly touted freshman class is making its presence felt. Thus far nine members of the class have played in either one or both of the Buckeyes’ first two games. They are: Ted Ginn Jr. (WR), Rory Nicol (TE), Antonio Pittman (TB), Devon Lyons (WR), Curtis Terry (ST), Rory Nicol (TE), Vernon Gholston (DE), Marcus Freeman (LB) and Sirjo Welch (ST)

Six current players have fathers who played for Ohio State: Offensive Guard Doug Datish (Mike Datish, offensive lineman), Fullback Dionte Johnson (Thomas “Pepper” Johnson, linebacker), Cornerback Shaun Lane (Garcia Lane, cornerback), Linebacker Ryan Lukens (Bill Lukens, offensive guard), Flanker Kyle Ruhl (Bruce Ruhl, defensive back), Fullback Stan White Jr. (Stan White, linebacker).

After losing a triple-overtime thriller, 44-38, last season in Columbus, N.C. State won six of its last nine games to earn a date against Kansas in the Tangerine Bowl. The Pack won 56-26 to finish 8-5 overall and 4-4 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Quarterback Philip Rivers was selected fourth in the NFL draft last season by the New York Giants and then was traded to the San Diego Chargers.

This season without Rivers, N.C. State opened the season with a 42-0 shutout victory over Richmond. Junior tailback T.A. McClendon, who had eight carries for 32 yards and touchdown and three catches for 56 yards against the Buckeyes last year, sat out the opener against Richmond. He missed the sixth complete game of his career with a hamstring injury, though he is expected to return for the Ohio State game.

The Wolfpack put up 403 yards of total offense against the Spiders, including 229 yards though the air. Josh Davis completed 16-of-22 passes for 168 yards and two touchdowns, while backup Marcus Stone completed 8-of-10 passes for 61 yards. N.C. State has lost only twice at home in the last two seasons and is 21-6 at Carter-Finley Stadium under Chuck Amato, who began coaching the Wolfpack in 2000.

The Wolfpack did not play last week, a week after opening the season with a 42-0 victory over Richmond. The win was the eighth straight by N.C. State, which improved to 5-0 in openers under Chuck Amato and was the fourth shutout victory for the Wolfpack under Amato. N.C. State held Richmond to just 11 first downs and 167 yards of total offense. The Spiders moved into Wolfpack territory three times. Rookie tailbacks Darrell Blackman and Bobby Washington combined for 22 carries and 114 yards and a touchdown, while Reggie Davis added five carries for 25 yards and a touchdown. Redshirt junior quarterback Jay Davis, taking over for Philip Rivers, completed 73 percent of his passes and was the best for a Wolfpack QB in his debut since 1973.

Chuck Amato (N.C. State, 1969) is in his fifth season at his alma mater and is 34-17 (.667) overall and 17-15 (.531) in the ACC. He has won at least seven games in each of his first four seasons and guided the Wolfpack to a bowl game each year as well. The 2002 season was his best in Raleigh, going 11-3 in 2002 that included a 28-6 victory over Notre Dame in the Toyota Gator Bowl to finish 11th in the coaches poll. Amato became the head coach at N.C. State in 2000 after winning the national championship in his 18th season as an assistant coach at Florida State. Amato was a three-year linebacker at N.C. State, earning letters in 1965, 66 and 67.

Former Buckeye standout Bo Rein (1964-66) spent four years as the head coach at North Carolina State, compiling a combined record of 27-18-1 between 1976-79. Rein was a three-year starter at running back for Ohio State. Bo also played baseball for the Buckeyes and was a member of the 1966 National Championship team. He lost his life in a plane crash in 1980 shortly after becoming head coach at LSU.

The Buckeyes have a bye next week and then open their Big Ten season Oct. 2 in a prime time (9 p.m. EDT) game at Northwestern. ESPN2 will televise the game. The Buckeyes next home game is Oct. 9 against Wisconsin.