The Buckeyes surrendered scoring drives of 80 and 79 yards to the Wolfpack. However, the yardage and turnover totals were strong for the OSU defense. The Buckeyes gave up 256 yards total offense and feasted off five N.C. State turnovers in the win.
"It was a total team effort," Snyder said. "The offense played to the defense and the defense played to the special teams. I was very proud of the kids to finally come up with some turnovers. Any time you can win the turnover margin on the road you're going to give yourself a chance."
OSU had failed to force any turnovers in either of its first two games. But the Buckeyes succeeded in pressuing N.C. State quarterback Jay Davis, making his second career start, into three interceptions. OSU was also on the spot as N.C. State's T.A. McLendon fumbled a pitch and OSU's Marcus Green recovered it. Plus, OSU freshman Sirjo Welch popped N.C. State punt returner Tramain Hall to force a fumble, which Tyler Everett recovered.
"We had some extra concentration on turnovers," Snyder said. "It was our goal to try and confuse the young quarterback. We got some good pressure up front. Our coverage got the job done and the kids made plays today. We've had our hands on a lot of balls, but we just haven't been catching them. We caught them today."
Snyder thought the defensive effort was among its best.
"So far this year, this was probably our most complete game," he said. "But I'd like to get better. I'd like two have two of those drives back."
While N.C. State and its faithful will complain about their team's 14 penalties for 121 yards – marks that tied for the most penalties and yards in school history at least back to 1959 – the fact is OSU committed personal foul penalties on each of N.C. State's scoring drives.
"We do our job and get off the field and then we have a silly penalty," Snyder said. "That's youth."
But the good far outweighed the bad. Linebacker Mike D'Andrea pressured Davis into his first interception to corner Ashton Youboty, who was making his second career start in place of the injured Dustin Fox. Then, safety Donte Whitner, making his first career start, stepped in front of a Davis pass in the right flat and returned it down to the NCSU 3-yard line, setting up OSU's first touchdown.
Finally, defensive end Simon Fraser pressured Davis into the third pick, which linebacker A.J. Hawk made with a diving grab in the third quarter. The play set up a Mike Nugent field goal and a 22-7 lead.
Snyder credited co-defensive coordinator Mel Tucker for getting his young secondary ready to play.
"Mel Tucker, our secondary coach, went to work this week," Snyder said. "I'm here to tell you. He brought those guys together. He put a package together. We brought Dustin along to be on the sideline and help out the best he could. They played extremely well."
Whitner ended his first start at strong safety with three tackles, one for a loss, and his 24-yard interception return.
"We told Donte after last week's game we were going to start him this week and we were going to feature him," Snyder said. "We tried to feature him today and he came up with the plays."
Whitner reflected on the interception that helped turn the game in OSU's favor.
"He didn't throw it right to me," he said. "Our defensive line had great pressure on him. On third-and-long, they were running diagonal sets. That's an out with a curl behind it. On that particular play, they didn't run the diagonal. They ran something else. But they still ran the curl. I was able to get up under the curl and make the play."
It was Whitner's third career interception.
"I've been thinking about that a lot, since winter conditioning," he said.
Whitner discussed how this game could be a springboard as OSU heads into the Big Ten season.
"This is a big step, a very big step," he said. "We want to go on and win the conference title. N.C. State is a good team and to beat them here at home, I think that will give us a lot of momentum going into the Big Ten."
OSU's linebacker corps enjoyed a big day. Hawk had nine tackles to go with his pick. Anthony Schlegel added five tackles and a sack. D'Andrea and Carpenter each had three tackles.
"The biggest thing was our D-line did a good job coming in and putting pressure on (Davis)," Hawk said. "Then it was great to see our DBs making plays on the ball."
Hawk was mad that he was denied a second interception on N.C. State's scoring drive late in the game. Similar to his first pick, Hawk appeared to make a diving grab of a Davis pass.
"The first one was (an interception) and the second one was definitely an interception," he said.
Hawk said the Buckeyes were fired up to win in a hostile environment.
"With all the hype that was put on this game – and N.C. State is a great team – but all we've heard for a year was `You guys were lucky,' " Hawk said. "I give credit to N.C. State they played a good game today. But to win like this feels good.
"I love seeing the young guys play good. To see Ashton Youboty step in there and make an early interception, I'm sure that gave him some confidence. It's fun to see guys play well."
Hawk said Fox still did his part despite the injury.
"Dustin is kind of a player/coach right now," he said. "Dustin knows the defense inside-out. He's up there talking to Coach Tucker and letting them know what it looks like from the sidelines."
Carpenter was also pleased to see the defense stand tall.
"I'd say it was relentless until that last drive," he said. "We gave up two long drives and they cost us touchdowns. We they get into the red zone, we've got to hold them to field goals. We didn't get that done today."