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PREVIEW: Here Comes the Buckeyes!

NC State hosts Ohio State in a huge non-conference game for both teams. Game time is set for 3:30 today, and the game is televised nationally on ABC. <P> Premium Subscribers can chat Live in the <a href=http://insiders1.ezboard.com/fnorthcarolinastatefrm17>PackPride.com Premium Chat Room</a> via the "Join Live Chat" Link. <P>

Carter-Finley Stadium

NC State (1-0) vs. Ohio State (2-0)
Saturday, September 18, 2004
3:30 pm Carter-Finley Stadium (55,600)
Raleigh, NC

Ohio State Links

Ohio State Official Site



Game Notes

Injury Report

NC State

T.A. McLendon, TB -
Hamstring strain
Kalani Heppe, OL - Broken foot
Derek Morris, OL - Ankle sprain

Merci Falaise, OL -
knee sprain
Luke Lathan, C - MCL sprain

Ohio State

CB Dustin Fox - Out, broken arm
DE Mike Kudla- Out, shoulder injury
FB Branden Joe - Questionable, ankle sprain

Ohio State Scouting Report

Lydell Ross will lead OSU's rushing attack
12 Justin Zwick, QB – Third-year sophomore finally gets a chance after Craig Krenzel's departure, but has also shared some reps with classmate Troy Smith. Zwick has great command and will make good to great throws at times. But he already has 4 INTs on the young season, most of them as ill-advised passes a young guy might attempt. Still, he's coming off a monster 318-yard, three-touchdown game against Marshall.

4 Santonio Holmes, FL – Proving to be one of the top receivers in college football this year. Coming off a 10-catch, 218-yard, two-TD performance against Marshall. It would have been better, but he missed the third quarter due to cramps. Will run the post and/or the fade once a quarter, so be ready. Hard to get a good hit on him in the open field and will deliver big yards after the catch.

30 Lydell Ross, TB – Kind of a plodder. Works hard, runs hard, good physical specimen. Will have a ton of 3 and 4-yard runs, then finds an opening once in a while for that home run play. Had 141 yards against Cincinnati. Tons of experience backing up oft-injured Maurice Clarett in 2002 and as the starter last year. Has over 2,000 career yards. Co-captain.

85 Mike Nugent, K – An All-American in the national championship season of 2002, when he was 24 of 27 on field goals. Coming off a game-winning 55-yard field goal on the final play of the game against Marshall. So well respected his teammates voted him as a captain.

75 Simon Fraser, DE – Plays his assignment well. Won't make a bunch of sacks, but he puts consistent pressure on the passer. Strong physically and mentally. Co-captain.

47 A.J. Hawk, OLB – All-Big Ten as a first-year starter last year as a sophomore. Preseason Big Ten defensive player of the year candidate. Has picked up where he left off last year in first 2 games. One of the unquestioned leaders of the defense. Just makes a ton of tackles. Will be where the ball is all day. Helped Will Allen make the final stop on T.A. McLendon a foot outside the goal line on the final play of last year's game.

42 Bobby Carpenter, OLB – First-year starter as a junior and has gone right to work. Team-high 22 tackles in two games. Makes plays all over the field.

OSU wants to establish the run. The Buckeyes were able to do that against Cincinnati in a three-touchdown win, but struggled in that regard against Marshall. The offense has seven turnovers in two games, so they are mistake prone. Zwick is still learning, but he seems capable of a wide array of throws. Holmes is just special. Ross wants to be a workhorse, but Joe could be the last piece of the puzzle to get this unit in gear.

Mark Snyder replaced Mark Dantonio as the coordinator, but kept all of the key strategies with the base 4-3. Have not blitzed as much as they were expected to. A very young but extremely talented defense. Marshall succeeded in running the ball when Cincinnati was unable to. Young players may lack patience against a good, controlled passing attack.

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.

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.

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.

NC State News and Notes

Ö NC State has not played a top-10 non-conference opponent in Carter-Finley Stadium since 1996.

Ö NC State leads the nation in passing efficiency defense (41.82) after finishing last season ranked 83rd nationally.

Ö Chuck Amato posts an 18-2 record against non-conference competition.

Ö NC State boasts the nation's sixth-toughest schedule this season, according to nationalchamps.net and espn.com.

The Wolfpack extended its consecutive string of victories in season openers to eight with a 42-0 win over Richmond on September 4. The Pack is now 5-0 in openers under Chuck Amato and the win marked the fourth shutout for NC State under Amato. Richmond managed just 11 first downs in the contest and 167 yards of total offense. The Spiders moved into Wolfpack territory just three times, once when they recovered a fumbled kickoff return in the third quarter at the State 31 but ended up missing a 43-yard field goal and again when Marcus Hudson picked off a pass at the 12. Richmond's average field position was their own 24 yardline.

Despite being slowed (and even sometimes stopped) by injuries each of his first two seasons, junior tailback T.A. McLendon has gone over the 100-yard mark in rushing seven times in his career. The Wolfpack's record in those contests? 7-0.

Last season, McLendon came back from a double knee scope 10 days before to gain 216 yards of total offense and score the game-winning touchdown against Virginia. With 112 yards on 18 rushes and 104 yards on 11 receptions, he became the first back in school history to go over the century mark in terms of receiving and rushing in the same game.

During his career, McLendon has been beaten and battered, suffering from a shoulder injury and a broken wrist as a rookie.

Last season, he strained his patella tendon the week before the Wake Forest game, missing that contest and playing at less than 100 percent the next week at Ohio State. He was cleared to play against Texas Tech, but suffered a severe hamstring injury while running for a 67-yard gain in that contest (his career-long run). He missed the next two games (North Carolina and Georgia Tech). Against Clemson, he suffered a torn meniscus in his knee and underwent two arthroscopic surgeries before the Duke game, which he missed. He came back to play 56 snaps in the win over Virginia.

McLendon missed the season opener with a hamstring strain.

When asked after the Richmond game what impressed him the most about what his young tailbacks did, Chuck Amato replied that he was most impressed with what they didn't do: put the ball on the ground. The Wolfpack's two rookie runners, Darrell Blackman and Bobby Washington, combined for 22 carries and 114 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore Reggie Davis added five carries for another 25 yards and a touchdown. The only miscue by the squad's young backs came when Davis fumbled a kickoff return. Blackman started the contest in his first collegiate game, subbing for the injured T.A. McLendon. He ended up playing 28 snaps, while fellow rookie Washington was in for 33 plays.

Redshirt juniorJay Davis posted the second-most accurate debut for a first-time starter at quarterback since 1971 when he completed 73% of his throws (16-22) against Richmond. That completion percentage was the best for an NC State quarterback in his first start since Dave Buckey went 7-9 (.778) in his first start against North Carolina in 1973. Davis boasted a passing efficiency mark of 166.86 for the game, just under the mark Philip Rivers posted to lead the nation last season (166.86).

Although Jay Davis was impressive in his starting debut, redshirt freshman signal caller Marcus Stone also did a solid job in his collegiate debut. Stone played the entire second half, connecting on eight of his 10 throws for a gain of 61 yards. He also led the Pack on a 29- yard scoring drive in the fourth quarter.

Sophomore kicker/punter John Deraney is one of just 11 kickers in Division I who is currently handling all of the kicking duties for their respective teams. Deraney was one of the Pack's busiest players in the opener, as he kicked the ball 18 times (eight kickoffs, four extra points and three field goal attempts). Four of Deraney's eight kickoffs against Richmond resulted in touchbacks, giving him 44 in his 83 career kickoffs. He was 4-4 on PATs and 2-3 on field goals, but was perhaps most impressive on his punts. In his first game as a punter, Deraney averaged 50.3 yards on three boots, the seventh-best single-game total in school history.

LERUE... LERUE... LERUE IS ON FIRE Redshirt freshman linebacker LeRue Rumph certainly made the most of his playing time in the season opener. Playing in his first collegiate game, the Clearwater, Fla., native tallied eight tackles in just 14 snaps from scrimmage, and added another stop on special teams. Rumph redshirted the 2003 campaign at roverback, but moved to linebacker in preseason workouts.

Sixteen Wolfpack players saw their first action in the red and white against Richmond, including seven true freshmen. Those true freshmen include TB Darrell Blackman (who started), TB Bobby Washington, WR John Dunlap, WR DaJuan Morgan, DT DeMario Pressley, FS Miguel Scott and TE Anthony Hill. Redshirt freshmen who played for the first time were LB LeRue Rumph, CB Jimmie Sutton, OT Jon Holt, CB Phillip Holloman, QB Marcus Stone, DT Martrel Brown, OG Luke Lathan and OG Yomi Ojo. Junior college transfer Merci Falaise also saw action on the offensive line.

Ten different players caught passes in the Wolfpack's first game, while seven different players were in on rushing plays.

Game Analysis

Ohio State, as they do in most games, will look to establish the running game against the Wolfpack. With three new starters along the offensive line, that could be difficult against NC State's defensive front, but expect Tressel and company to try and get Lyndell Ross going early.

Also, look for the tight end to be a major weapon for sophomore quarterback Justin Zwick. Last year Ohio State used the tight end early and often against the Wolfpack, and he'll be a nice safety valve for the freshman. Expect NC State to use Pat Thomas in coverage or allow Marcus Hudson the freedom to defend the tight end.

Finally, can NC State stop Santonio Holmes? Coming off a two-touchdown 210-yard performance against Marshall, Holmes is developing into a difference maker for the Buckeyes. Will Lamont Reid, NC State's top cornerback, be able to take him out of the game? If so, NC State could end up being in great shape defensively.

However, the most important factor will be if Ohio State's offensive line can give Zwick time to throw the football. Wolfpack coordinator Reggie Herring will blitz... alot, and with the linebackers, Mario Williams, John McCargo and company coming all day, OSU's line best be ready.

Based on the latest injury report, running back T.A. McLendon is listed as 'probable,' meaning he'll play against Ohio State. Priority #1 for the Wolfpack should be to establish the running game behind McLendon, Bobby Washington, Darrell Blackman, and Reggie Davis.

Quarterback Jay Davis will need to get comfortable early, and that means the offensive front will have to give him time to throw against Ohio State. The Buckeyes will use a 3-4 alignment the majority of the time, and can disguise their blitz/zone packages well. Davis needs time to read the defenses for the Wolfpack to have success in the air.

Finally, NC State's got to get the ball into the hands of their playmakers. T.J. Williams, Tramain Hall, Richard Washington, and the other athletes for the Wolfpack give them an advantage at wide receiver and tight end versus OSU's defense, so they will have to make plays. No drops, no fumbles, and no missed blocks will be crucial for NC State to sustain drives against the Buckeyes.

NC State K John Deraney vs. Ohio State K Mike Nugent: Wolfpack Head Coach Chuck Amato always says the special teams could be the deciding factor in ball games and that could be the case this weekend. In what may be horrible weather conditions, the play of Deraney and Nugent could be a deciding factor. Will John Deraney be able to make his first pressure-filled kick? Can Mike Nugent duplicate his heroics from last weekend? Will the NC State block units again come up big at home? Answers to those questions could determine the NC State-Ohio State winner.

#4 Santonio Holmes

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Thanks to NC State and Ohio State Athletics for much of the information in this preview.

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