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
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
"I was just happy it was over. Once I hit him I knew it was over. I knew he
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
"We had practiced that adjustment because they had done that earlier,"
he said. "We had practiced the different adjustments to adjust out certain
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."
Defense saves the day
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