Nugent Believes OSU Serious About This Fiesta

OSU kicker Mike Nugent recognizes that some people may not be excited about his team's return trip to the Fiesta Bowl. But he says the players are taking this game with Kansas State seriously.

OSU kicker Mike Nugent concedes that something could be missing from this year's Fiesta Bowl, where the Buckeyes return to face Kansas State.

A victory will not mean a national championship, as it did a year ago when the Buckeyes vanquished heavily favored defending champion Miami (Fla.) 31-24 in double overtime.

"It might be a little different from the mind-set that it is not a national championship game," Nugent said. "But it is still a BCS bowl game. That's the one thing I'm happy about. We didn't make it to the Sugar Bowl, but at least we are back in a BCS game. I'm happy to be there.

"Everybody is excited because it is a BCS bowl. Our goal at the beginning of the year was the national championship game. Even though we didn't get there, we can still go to a BCS game. Everyone is taking every game like it's their last game."

Travel agents have reported they have had no luck selling packages to this year's return trip to Tempe. So, although the Buckeyes won't have 50,000 fans on their side this year, they aren't that concerned about what happens outside the lines.

"It is going to be different if there are fewer Ohio State fans," Nugent said. "Last year, it was a national championship game. That may be the biggest difference between the fans and the players. We are still going to treat this as if it is a national championship game for us."

Nugent, a junior, is hopeful a good showing in this game will set the tone for the 2004 season.

"Going into next year, we can know we finished this year off by playing hard," he said. "It's like a kickoff for the new year. That is still six or seven months away, but time flies. No matter who you play, you want to win.

"You also think about the future. The seniors want to finish their careers off the right way. But the guys who are up and coming seniors are just going to work hard because it will set things up for the future."

With each side possessing a great defense, this game could come down to the wire. Nugent said he is ready if a special teams play helps decide the outcome.

"The way we take special teams makes it so important," he said. "We don't look at it as something we have to deal with. We look at it as something we want to deal with. We start practice with that and try to do a solid job to start it out the right way."

Nugent commended long snapper Kyle Andrews and holder B.J. Sander, who won the Ray Guy Award as the nation's top punter, for doing a fine job in helping him succeed this year.

"The whole snapping aspect is that nobody really notices him until something goes wrong," Nugent said of Andrews. "He hasn't done anything wrong the last two years, so he hasn't gotten much attention. For B.J., it was his first year as the holder. He worked really hard on it and did a good job, too."

Nugent followed an All-American season last year with another fine campaign. He was 16 of 19 on field goals this season with made kicks of 53 and 52 yards. In his career, Nugent has made 48 of 61 kicks for an OSU-record percentage of .787. That mark is among 10 school records Nugent holds. He is also OSU's career leader of field goals of 40 or more yards, making 17 of 22 kicks from 40 and beyond in his career.

Nugent also made all 33 of his PAT kicks this year and has made 45 in a row dating to last year. Nugent said he likes the anonymity -- kind of like the long snapper position -- that goes with just doing what is expected.

"If you're a kicker and doing your job and nobody notices until you do something wrong, then you must be doing something right," he said.


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