Defense saves the day

The Ohio State/NC State game went on for over four hours, and both teams gave it their all to prevent being the one on the losing side. In the end, it came down to just one play, and the Buckeye defense was the side to step up and get it done.

It all came down to one crucial play.

After 60 minutes of regulation and two overtimes, North Carolina State had the ball 4th-and-goal on the 1-yard line.

Ohio State already scored a touchdown in third overtime possession but missed the required 2-point conversion after score to take a 44-38 lead. NCAA rules require teams to go for the 2-point attempt after the first two overtime periods.

NC State had the ball first-and-goal at the 4 yard line, when the pass-happy Wolfpack offense decided to go conservative near the goal line.

On first down, Bobby Carpenter hammered Phillip Rivers on a quarterback sneak that went for two yards to the 2. On Second down, Rivers threw an incomplete pass with pressure coming at him from the middle. On third-and-goal, Rivers was stopped for a one-yard gain to the 1, which set the stage for the game-winning heroics by the defense.

On fourth down, North Carolina State coach Chuck Amato decided to call on the injured T.A. McLendon with a toss pitch to the left side of the offense, to no avail. Safety Will Allen made the big hit on McLendon at the 1 and A.J. Hawk was right there to assist on the stop and prevent the game-tying score.

"With the formation they were in we have a certain type of defense we play to that," Allen said. "I was the inside guy and if they ran a pass I was deep and inside, and if they run I have support. So I seen them run the ball and a guy came out to block me. The first thing I did was see (McLendon) cut back because we had the field cut off, so I threw the block off and just came up and met him and that was it. I knew he was going to cut back so I just went forward.

"I was just happy it was over. Once I hit him I knew it was over. I knew he didn't score."

Hawk, who forced McLendon into Allen, actually got a piece of the sophomore running back before cleaning up on Allen's hit.

"They had that formation out there to the field with all of the players out there so we had to adjust our defense to get out there," he said. "We knew there was going to be a good chance they were going to run that sweep. I saw him run and we had great pursuit to the ball and he cut back and luckily I got to be a little bit a part of the tackle I guess."

The stellar sophomore linebacker, who led the team with 12 tackles and almost returned an interception for a score, said that NC State obviously didn't try to fool anyone on the fourth-down play.

"We've seen that formation before in practice so we had an idea what was going on," Hawk said. "They hadn't ran all day that much. We knew when McLendon was in, he was a little banged up, they were going to try get him the ball so we knew what to expect."

Ohio State defensive coordinator Mark Dantonio said the Buckeye defense was well prepped on that particular play.

"That's the play that we had practiced throughout the week, them doing that," the coach said. "That's been a successful play for them throughout all of last year."

The defensive play Dantonio called for on fourth down was "Goal line base man."

"We had practiced that adjustment because they had done that earlier," he said. "We had practiced the different adjustments to adjust out certain things."

And according to the Buckeye defensive coordinator, despite it being in the third overtime, the effort put forth by the defense on that all important last play looked to be as good as it was the rest of the day.

"We were running," he said. " I knew we were running, we were cutting the field off and he couldn't get outside. He tried to turn it back and we were running inside out and somebody but a pretty good hit on him and stopped him for (no) gain."

For the game, NC State passed for 315 yards and rushed for just 21 and yet the Wolfpack chose to go with a run play on three of the four downs.

"Their deal has been to put a bunch of people out there and run the sneaks and run the toss sweep." Dantonio said. "They've got a couple of different things they'll go to based on the look they probably get."

But even on fourth down, in a game that the Wolfpack had been pointing to all during the off-season, Rivers, who was 36 of 52 with four touchdown passes, tosses the ball to McLendon.

"That's a pretty good back to toss it to," Dantonio said. "That guy had been having success in the fourth quarter catching swings and he showed some speed getting to the edge a couple of times just on swing passes so I think that he's a guy they wanted to put the ball in his hands. There is a lot of things that could happen when you throw it and two of them are bad."

NC State would have had their shot at a 2-point conversion and the victory if they were able to score on fourth down so the nation's longest college winning streak was on the line.

"It was really no different than any other play," Tim Anderson said. "We obviously knew it was fourth down and this was the last play and we knew that we had to stop them. But there was no worry or concern or anything like that, everybody knew what they had to do."

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