Offense Overcomes Mistakes In Win

The Buckeye offense turned the ball over and wasn't quite able to establish the run the way they wanted to yesterday, but they were able to get points on the board with the pass. Gary Housteau has a look back at OSU's offensive output against Marshall.

The cameras followed Mike Nugent from the moment he made the game-winning 55-yard field goal, through the prayer at midfield, while he sang Carmen Ohio and right up until he was about to disappear under the red awning to head for the locker room.

That's when he met up with his mom.

"Oh my gosh, that was unbelievable," Nugent said. "Someone was trying to tap me on the shoulder and I looked over and it was my mom and I just gave her the biggest hug ever. I wish my dad could have been out there with me too."

Nugent did connect mentally with his father during the game about 10 minutes before he made the winning field goal.

"I kind of looked up at him and he kind of gave me that look like, ‘You've got to be ready, this game's not over yet.' I can read him like crazy," he said. "So he kind of gave me that look and just made sure everything was okay."

The kick was the longest field goal of Nugent's career and it tied an Ohio Stadium record. And it sent most of the 104,000-plus people, who all stuck around till the very end, home very happy.

Despite a fourth quarter full of Buckeye turnovers, Ohio State still had one last shot to win the game in regulation when the defense forced Marshall to punt on fourth-and-12 from their own 29. A shanked kick from the Marshall punter gave Ohio State the ball on their own 45-yard line with just 25 seconds remaining on the clock.

"Our defense hung in there tough and did a great job of stopping them there on that last drive," Jim Tressel said. "We appeared like we were going to put pressure (on him) and he kind of shanked it and we were really trying to set up a return. We wanted Santonio (Holmes) to see if he could bring it back then maybe throw for it and skip that overtime stuff. But we were fortunate."

Quarterback Justin Zwick followed the short punt with three short pass completions and then he spiked the ball into the ground to set up the Nugent heroics.

"I was confident (in Nugent). We've put him in that position many times in kick scrimmages," Tressel said. "It's the last play of the game, here's what we've got to do. He's a great kicker. There's not a better one in all of college football and I think he proved that today."

After an inauspicious start for Ohio State, going three-and-out on their first possession of the game, the Buckeyes opened the scoring on a one-play, 80-yard arial strike over the top of the Marshall defense to Santonio Holmes to take 7-0 lead.

"We saw their safeties were down in the first series and they wanted to get in on some run support and we thought we could get Santonio behind them," Zwick said. "With the (play-action) fake we were able to do that. He made a great catch and a great run."

In just his second career start, Zwick seemed very comfortable and confident running the offense, particularly in the first half.

"I do feel comfortable with, for the most part, everything that I see out there," he said. "Guys were running great routes and we had great protection and that's what happens when you get that."

The former Massillon Tiger who began his prep career at Orrville and threw for over 10,000 career yards in high school became the first Buckeye sophomore to throw for over 300 yards since it was last done in 1952, the only two times a sophomore signal caller accomplished such a thing in OSU history.

On Ohio State's second touchdown with 18 seconds remaining in the first period, Zwick found Holmes again, this time on a deep slant that covered 47 yards. Holmes, however, downplayed the potential for the two redshirt sophomores becoming a prolific passing combination together.

"It's more of a team thing, you can't look for a quarterback and receiver to just hook up every play," Holmes said. "The guys have to protect and the running backs, have to run the ball in order to take the pressure off the receivers and running backs."

Holmes cramped up in the third period and he had to go to the locker room for IV and wasn't an available option for Zwick during that time.

"I feel comfortable with all of the receivers we have," Zwick said. "Maybe we weren't able to make some of the big plays that we did when he was in, but I was comfortable with the guys that we had out there."

On the day, six different Buckeyes were on the receiving end of Zwick's passes. In the second stanza, Roy Hall converted one of his three catches into a 20-yard touchdown to give the Buckeyes a 21-14 lead at the intermission. It was Hall's first career TD catch and his longest career reception to date.

"It was just a simple inside post pattern and Justin threw a great ball. I just made the catch and stepped in," Hall said. "It feels good to score a touchdown. I scored a lot in high school and it's been about three years since I've scored one, but that's nothing. I would have liked to have gotten in a couple of more times so we wouldn't have had to get this close of a game, but it felt good."

But it was really a tale of two halves mainly for Zwick and the Buckeye offense both on the scoreboard and in the statistical department. By halftime, the Buckeyes amassed 279 yards of total offense, from which 255 of it came via the airways. The Buckeyes finished the contest with 397 yards of total offense as Zwick competed 18 of his 32 passes for 318 yards and two fourth-quarter interceptions.

Ohio State's second half drive chart consisted of punt, fumble, interception, interception and punt before Nugent split the uprights on the game's final play. Be it through the air or on the ground, the Buckeyes weren't able to sustain any prolonged drives that resulted in points in the second half.

Lydell Ross rushed for 90 yards on 24 carries but the Buckeyes were held to 79 net yards rushing for the game. Ross picked his game up a bit in the second half after rushing 13 times for just 35 yards in the first half.

"The way we wanted to play this team, the way we wanted to run, personally I don't think we got it done as good as we wanted to," said Ross, whose fumble in the second quarter was returned 27 yards for a Marshall touchdown. "But we'll get better. We've just got to correct our mistakes."

Tressel gave the Marshall some of the credit for stopping the Buckeye running game.

"I think part of it is that Marshall is a good football team," he said. "Part of it is we've got to get better. Part of it is a numbers game where there's more folks there than we can block, and that's why we had 300 and some yards passing because everyone was at the line of scrimmage.

"They committed themselves to that plan. They thought that that's the way that they could win the game, and you know? I'd say it was probably a good plan. They almost won the game."

Holmes was the big offensive star of the day for the Buckeyes, catching 10 of Zwick's passes for 218 yards to go with those two long scores. He actually forecasted the big pass play that got the Buckeyes on the scoreboard early.

"I had told Coach that I think that would be my favorite play to run in the game today, and I think it would be open and that we could get them cheating a little bit and hit one over top," Holmes said. "They were ready to shut down our running game, and I think they're DBs came in with the confidence that they would lock down any two receivers that they put in front of them.

"I had read the article right before we went out before we went out to the skull session and it kind of lingered in my mind a lot. They said in the article that you put any two receivers (out there) and we'll lock them down. That kind of got to me a little bit and that kind of made me fired up a little bit. And I just wanted to come out here and prove a point for myself and help my team."

Three touchdowns, all through the air, isn't exactly a typical day at the office in Ohio Stadium. But with this current cast of skilled performers it could become the norm if teams try to take the run away.

"Those guys really got after our run game and we had to find another way to beat them," Holmes said, "and through the air was one of them. We just have to do the best thing for our team to come out with victories. You just have to make plays the best way they come."

Tressel however cautioned against using the moniker "Air Tressel" to describe this offensive unit.

"Do we want to throw for 300 (yards) and run for 100? No," he said. "Do we want to be able to throw it well? Absolutely. Do we want to people concerned about our passing game? Yes. But we have to do both."

So after just two weeks into the season, center Nick Mangold is excited about the potential of the offense.

"We've got great potential. If we get things done, we can make big plays as we showed today, whether it be in the pass or the run," he said. "So I think if we keep working on it, we can even those kind of things out and make big plays during the game on both sides."

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