If Saturday's rematch against seventh-ranked Ohio State was going to be an opportunity for this year's NC State team to learn just how good it is, NC State learned that perhaps it is indeed very good. Just maybe not at holding onto the ball.
Ohio State, which had yet to force a turnover this season and had already given up seven in its first two games, forced five Pack turnovers to keep control of the game, including three interceptions by new starting quarterback Jay Davis.
After the Buckeye's first possession of the second half, Ohio State had already taken the ball away four times, two of which resulted in their possession inside NC State's 10-yard line. However, following placekicker Mike Nugent's third field goal the Pack's luck began to change, thanks to the resurrection of star junior tailback T.A. McLendon.
The gimpy McLendon started behind freshmen backs Bobby Washington and Darrell Blackman, but knew what to do with the ball on the Pack's next drive. McLendon singlehandedly re-introduced the Pack offense to the end zone, breaking off a 44-yard run and later a 11-yard touchdown.
NC State's defense, revamped under new coordinator Reggie Herring, kept the Pack in the game, repeatedly holding the Buckeyes to only a field goal after the offense turned over the ball in Ohio State territory.
Herring called blitzes and stunts throughout the game, and the Wolfpack defense maintained pressure in the backfield all day, grabbing two sacks and compiling multiple tackles for a loss in the backfield. Sophomore Manny Lawson and Oliver Hoyte each had a sack, and Freddie Aughtry-Lindsay would recover a Ross fumble. Senior cornerback Lamont Reid also played well, holding Buckeye wideout and Heisman candidate Santonio Holmes to 2 catches for 16 yards.
Ohio State routinely utilized quick slants and timing routes to combat State's constant pressure, but could not move the ball. It did not matter, however, because the Pack consistently gave the ball away to the Buckeyes in good field position.
After it looked like NC State would make a game of it with McLendon's score, Davis threw his third interception in Buckeye territory. The NC State defense once again held the Buckeyes to another Nugent field goal, but the Pack's exhaustion and frustration became evident.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Marcus Stone came in for NC State's next series, but also was unable to move the Pack upfield.
Ohio State would continue to pound the ball, wearing down the Pack's defense, draining the clock and racking up more Nugent field goals. The strong-legged senior would finish the day with five field goals, three of which were longer than 45 yards.
Davis returned for the Pack, and with the help of a solid running game led NC State on a 79-yard scoring drive, culminating in his 26-yard touchdown throw to Brian Clark, cutting Ohio State's lead to 8 points with 1:28 left in the game.
Wolfpack kicker John Deraney lined up for the onsides kick, but after the Buckeyes recovered they only needed to run out the clock to secure the victory.
For the game NC State's defense held the Buckeyes to a mere 137 yards of total offense, an outstanding effort from the Wolfpack. Linbackers Oliver Hoyte and Stephen Tulloch led the defense with 14 and 12 tackles respectively.
Offensively, running back T.A. McLendon paced the team, finishing with 94 yards and 1 touchdown on 15 carries.