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."