Buckeyes Reach Hard-Earned Off Week

Following a tough road game at N.C. State, Ohio State will enjoy an off week before it begins the Big Ten portion of its schedule. Click this free link for comments from the Buckeyes, including Bobby Carpenter, on having this breather. Plus, we have a ton of notes on Sirjo Welch's first big play, the offense and much more.

Ohio State will enjoy a much deserved week off after disposing of its three nonconference opponents, Cincinnati, Marshall and N.C. State.

The Buckeyes (3-0) have risen to No. 6 in the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll and No. 7 in The Associated Press media poll. However, they will sit this Saturday off as the rest of the Big Ten opens conference play. The Buckeyes will have their conference opener Oct. 2 at Northwestern (9 p.m. Eastern, ESPN2).

OSU coach Jim Tressel discussed how the Buckeyes will approach the off week.

"Well, obviously, I always believe everything comes at the right time," Tressel joked. "We're going to make it a good time. We're headed into the league. We've got a lot of work to do to get ready for the league and to get ready for Northwestern.

"It happens at a good time as we begin school. We start school on Wednesday, and that's good. We're going to make it a good thing."

Linebacker Bobby Carpenter has been one of the breakthrough stories for the Buckeyes in this young season.

"School starts this week and I can speak for the linebackers and say that we have a lot of guys banged up with some little injuries," said Carpenter, who stands second to A.J. Hawk in tackles with 25. "I'm sure we will enjoy having a weekend off. This will give us a chance to heal up and work on some things we need corrected from the first three games."

Flanker Santonio Holmes stands as OSU's top receiver with 16 catches for 331 yards and three touchdowns.

"I think it's going to be a good opportunity for us to get all of the kinks out and to get our game plan down," Holmes said of the break. "This will help us to get ready for the Big Ten season."

Defensive end and co-captain Simon Fraser also discussed the off week.

"This will give us a chance to get back to work on our fundamentals and to get back to work on the Big Ten," Fraser said. "We'll be facing a tough Northwestern team that will be hungry for a victory and it will be at their place. Then, we come back and face Wisconsin at home. We can't look too far ahead. We have to take them one game at a time. We just have to keep improving each week. This week will be good for us to get some good practice in."

Welch's First Big Play

It was a surprise to some that defensive back Sirjo Welch, from nearby Columbus Beechcroft, was not redshirted this year. Instead, Welch has found a home on Ohio State's kick and punt coverage units.

Although Welch wears No. 30, it was clear that it was not Lydell Ross acting as a heat-seeking missle on OSU's punt coverage team Saturday. Welch timed a second-quarter hit on NCSU's Tramain Hall perfectly and forced a fumble at the Wolfpack 47-yard line. The play helped set up one of Mike Nugent's five field goals in the win.

"I was on the kickoff team and now I'm also on the punt coverage team," Welch said. "I'm just happy to help out on special teams. If I can get in on defense, I'll try."

Welch said he timed the hit on Hall perfectly.

"My coach told me to go down there and not to hesitate and to just watch the return man," Welch said. "I thought he was maybe going to call for a fair catch, but he put his hands up and caught it. I just took a gamble and tried to make the tackle."

Welch relished in the chance to make his first big play as a Buckeye.

"It felt good, knowing that everybody was back at home watching me on TV," he said. "It was neat to be able to celebrate on the field with some of the guys for just a little bit."

Also Notable

* Over the course of the N.C. State game, OSU had 23 first downs. The Buckeyes netted 13 yards on those first down plays. They called five pass plays, but never completed a pass. Quarterback Justin Zwick was sacked three times and the two passes that were thrown were incomplete. OSU's longest gains on first down against N.C. State were a pair of 5-yard runs.

* Nugent was named as the Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week for the second consecutive week. Against N.C. State, Nugent kicked five field goals (50, 30, 33, 46 and 47 yards) to tie a school record for most field goals in a game.

He also tied his own school record for most 40-yard plus field goals in a game with three. Nugent has made seven consecutive field goals including a career-long 55-yard attempt as time ran out in a 24-21 win over Marshall two weeks ago. He opened up the N.C. State game with a 50-yard trey thus becoming the first OSU player to kick consecutive 50-yard field goals.

With 16 points on Saturday, Nugent now has 285 career points, leaving him 63 points shy of the school record of 348 currently held by Pete Johnson (1973-76). During his career, Nugent has made 56 of 70 field goal attempts (80%). The school record for field goals made is 59 by Dan Stultz (1996-2000). Nugent is eight-of-nine in the field goal department this year, the lone miss coming from 53 yards (plenty of distance but wide right). He also has made 54 consecutive PATs.

* Safety Donte Whitner, defensive tackle David Patterson and fullback Stan White, Jr., made their first career starts in the game against the Wolfpack.

* For the 93rd consecutive game, Ohio State scored at least a touchdown. The last time a Buckeye team was held without a touchdown was a 13-9 loss to Michigan in the 1996 season.

* Overall, when Ohio State is ranked in the AP top 10, the squad now is 278-65-9. Ohio State's mark when ranked by the AP is 377-118-14.

* Ohio State is 63-44-8 in road openers (.583).

* Tressel's career mark now stands at 170-64-2, including a 35-7 mark at Ohio State. Ohio State now is 13-1 under Tressel in games played in September (the lone loss was at UCLA in 2001).

* Overall, the Buckeyes are 24-2 under Tressel when leading at the half. The Buckeyes held on to the 19-7 advantage after the third quarter. Under Tressel, OSU improved to 26-3 when leading after three quarters.

* The N.C. State game marked OSU's first-ever foray to an ACC stadium. OSU is now 11-7 all-time against current ACC teams.

* Ohio State has won four straight Big Ten openers dating to a 1999 loss to Wisconsin. OSU has also won 10 of its last 11 conference openers dating to a 1992 loss to Wisconsin.

* In addition to the Northwestern game, it has been announced that the Wisconsin game Oct. 9 will start at 3:30 p.m. and will be televised regionally by ABC.

Start times for the Iowa, Indiana, Penn State, Michigan State and Purdue games have not been set. Most will be set 12 days before game day by the networks. The Michigan game Nov. 20 will begin at 1 p.m. and will be televised by ABC.


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