Final N.C. State play stopped inside the one

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) _ Craig Krenzel hit Michael Jenkins on a

7-yard scoring pass in the third overtime and No. 3 Ohio State made

a goal-line stand to beat North Carolina State (No. 22 ESPN/USA Today, No. 24 AP) 44-38 on


Jericho Cotchery gets in the end zone ... something N.C. State fell half a yard short of in the third OT.
Jericho Cotchery gets in the end zone ... something N.C. State fell half a yard short of in the third OT.
AP Photo

It was the first overtime game in 81-year-old Ohio Stadium,

coming in the old gray horseshoe's 472nd intercollegiate game.

Will Allen barreled into Wolfpack tailback T.A. McLendon on

fourth-and-goal, lowering his left shoulder to stop McLendon just

inches from the end zone as the defending national champion

Buckeyes (3-0) won their 17th consecutive game.

It took several moments for the officials to determine that

McLendon had not crossed the goal line. When they finally signaled

that he had not, the Buckeyes wildly ran around the field,tossing

their helmets in the air in celebration.

McLendon lay where he fell, surrounded by teammates and coaches.

Some protested to the officials as they left the field.

Last Jan. 3, No. 2 Ohio State needed double-overtime to beat

top-ranked Miami 31-24 in the Fiesta Bowl, capturing its first

national championship in 34 years. The Buckeyes also beat Illinois

in overtime a year ago to remain unbeaten.

North Carolina State (1-2) trailed 24-7 with just over 8 minutes

remaining in regulation, but scored on its next three possessions

to force overtime.

Philip Rivers, who completed 36 of 52 passes for 315 yards and

four touchdowns with two interceptions, led the charge. He found

Jerricho Cotchery on a 9-yard score, then after A.J. Davis picked

off Krenzel's pass, Adam Kiker kicked a 24-yard field goal with

5:51 left to cut the lead to 24-17.

North Carolina State pulled even on Rivers' 5-yard scoring pass

to T.J. Williams with 21 seconds left.

The Wolfpack won the coin flip and elected to play defense

first. Ohio State needed four plays to score, with Krenzel

connecting with Ben Hartsock on a 10-yard pass and Mike Nugent

adding the first of two extra-point kicks in overtime.

The Wolfpack countered with a three-play scoring drive, with

Rivers hitting Tramain Hall for the score on second-and-goal from

the 17. Hall went high between Chris Gamble and Nate Salley,

helicoptering to the ground after he was hit, but holding onto the

ball. Kiker added the important point-after kick.

North Carolina State had the ball first in the second overtime,

and scored in three plays on McLendon's pitch-sweep around right

end with Kiker converting the kick.

Krenzel, who completed 26 of 36 passes for 273 yards and career

highs of four touchdowns and three interceptions, then found tight

end Ryan Hamby over the middle on a 2-yard pass. Nugent added the

extra point to tie it at 38-38.

In the third overtime, on third-and-3 at the 7, Krenzel faked a

handoff to Lydell Ross and found Michael Jenkins between two

defenders. Teams are required to go for a 2-point conversion after

the second overtime, with Krenzel's pass for Maurice Hall batted

down by linebacker Pat Thomas.

The Wolfpack benefited from Ohio State mistakes on their final

possession. The Buckeyes _ who finished with five turnovers and 129

penalty yards _ were flagged for offsides, facemasking and

defensive holding as the Wolfpack moved to a first down at the 4.

Rivers kept for 2 yards, then his pass for Hall was wide. Rivers

picked up a half-yard on another keeper before both teams took

timeouts to assess the fourth-down play from just outside the 1.

With four receivers split out wide, McLendon took a pitch from

Rivers and cut back off left tackle. He made contact with

linebacker A.J. Hawk, but it was Allen's shoulder that prevented

him from tying the game.

The Wolfpack held the upper hand in first downs (28-15), yards

(336-317) and had fewer turnovers (4-3) and penalty yards (129-46).

The Buckeyes scored 14 points in the span of four plays and 86

seconds in the second quarter.

After Jenkins scored on a 44-yard pass play from Krenzel, the

ensuing kickoff was high and near the center hash mark where

Richard Washington and Tramain Hall were the deepbacks. As the ball

fell, Washington stumbled into Hall and the ball ricocheted off the

top of his helmet. Allen, racing downfield on coverage, was stunned

to find the ball bouncing near him. He recovered it at the 3.

Three plays later, Ross' second surge up the middle gave the

Buckeyes a 14-0 lead.

Rivers was 6-for-6 passing _ each for more than 10 yards _

including the 11-yard touchdown throw to Cotchery with 18 seconds

left in the half to cut the lead to 14-7.

Rivers ended up setting Atlantic Coast Conference career records

for passing yards, touchdowns and completions.