Buckeyes prevail behind five Nugent field goals

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- Compared to the kick he made last week,
these field goals were easy for Mike Nugent. He certainly made them
appear that way.

Nugent tied a school record with five field goals and Ohio
State (No. 7 ESPN/USAToday; No. 9 AP) made up for a shoddy day offensively by forcing five
turnovers in a 22-14 victory over North Carolina State on Saturday.

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.

"I think that was probably the toughest situation a kicker can
face," Nugent said of his kick last week. "It does kind of raise
your confidence. If the snap is good and the hold is good, I feel I
should do my job and kick it through."

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.

"To come down here with a young team like we have versus a
veteran team like what N.C. State has, I'm just so proud of our
guys," Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said. "They fought like
crazy, caused turnovers, didn't commit turnovers. They just did a
great job."

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.

"Any time a quarterback turns over the ball that many times,
it's easy to lose the game," Davis said. "I will learn from my
mistakes and get better."

Davis returned from the sideline and threw an 26-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.

"If we don't score a touchdown there, that's probably a moral
victory for them," Tressel said. "That was a big play."

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.

"I felt revived," McLendon said. "I am blessed to be back. It
was great to be on the field again."

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.

"I'd rather kick extra points all day," Nugent said. "The
defense just gave us great field position. I just want the coaches
and the other guys to have enough confidence in me to know that
it's three points when I go out there."

That final kick 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.

"They had a great defense. Our quarterback was scratching his
helmet," N.C. State coach Chuck Amato said. "Jay will learn just
as many valuable lessons today as he did when we won."

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