Hawk Has Huge Day In Dramatic Victory

Sophomore linebacker comes up big with interception, assisted tackle on game's final play in third overtime.

Linebacker A.J. Hawk is quickly making a name for himself as a mainstay with the Ohio State defense. He was everywhere on Saturday as the Buckeyes held off hard charging N.C. State 44-38 in three overtimes.

Hawk, a sophomore from Centerville, Ohio, led the Buckeyes with 12 tackles (six solos).

But he also made a key interception and returned it 55 yards.

And, for good measure, he and teammate Will Allen capped the heartstopping victory with their tackle of N.C. State tailback T.A. McLendon inside the 1-yard line on the final play of the third overtime, preserving the win.

"The biggest thing our defense tries to do is run to the ball, make plays and have fun," Hawk said. "That's all I'm trying to do. When it comes down to it, all we try to do is play and have fun. This was just good experience to be in a game like this that was pressure packed."

Hawk was in on the final tackle, assisting Allen in keeping McLendon out of the end zone on fourth-and-goal from just outside the 1. Had he scored NCSU could have won the game with a two-point conversion.

"We kind of knew what to expect based on the formation they were in," Hawk said. "We thought they may try and isolate the ball out there. We tried to shift our defense out there."

Replays showed that McLendon's bottom touched the ground outside the end zone with the ball clearly away from the goal line.

"I didn't think he got in, but you never know," Hawk said. "I looked down at the ref. The guy on the side was shaking his head no. I just hoped the other guy would agree with him."

Hawk and his teammates were helpless for what seemed like an eternity before head linesman Mike Samples convinced line judge Sterling Allen that McLendon had not broken the plane of the end zone before he touched down.

"It seemed like it was forever," Hawk said. "It took them a while before they made a decision. Luckily, we stopped them and they made the right call."

Hawk said he and his teammates lobbied the officials hard in those intervening seconds. When the decision was made, a huge roar erupted in Ohio Stadium and the Buckeyes sprinted up the field in celebration.

"They tried to push us away," Hawk said. "We tried to do what we could do and tell them he didn't get in. Luckily, the one guy kept saying he didn't get in."

Hawk only had good things to say about NCSU quarterback Philip Rivers, who helped his team score on five straight possessions over the fourth quarter and first two overtimes.

"He's a great player," Hawk said. "We knew that coming in. He can throw the ball. We studied a lot of film. They play a lot of weird formations to try and confuse you and make you play slow. I have respect for him and how he controls his team."

Hawk and the rest of the Buckeyes were euphoric after the win. But he knows the real pain will probably set in on Sunday after a four-hour, 17-minute marathon that included 150 plays.

"I have never played in a triple overtime game," Hawk said. "I feel all right now, but I know I'll be sore tomorrow. We‘re glad we won."

Hawk also discussed his interception, a third quarter pick that led to an OSU field goal. NCSU's Brian Clark tracked him down from behind at the NCSU 7-yard line or Hawk would have scored.

"The D-line did a good job of pressuring and he had to get rid of the ball real quick," he said. "I was where I was supposed to be and he just threw the ball right to me. It was tough not getting in. I was disappointed.

"I felt the guy on my back and tried to turn away from him. I knew he was going to go for the fumble so that's why I changed hands. But he caught up to me."

Hawk now leads the Buckeyes with 26 tackles and five tackles-for-loss this season.

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