Offensive Notebook: Nugent, Zwick Discuss Defeat

In the wake of OSU's overtime loss at Northwestern, we have notes on kicker Mike Nugent, quarterback Justin Zwick (pictured) and running back Antonio Pittman. Click here for more.

Moments after Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel completed his postgame remarks following his team's shocking overtime loss to Northwestern, senior kicker and co-captain Mike Nugent stepped into the interview area.

Although Nugent missed a 40-yard field goal in overtime, he was the first player prepared to discuss the crushing defeat with the media.

"This should be a learning experience for us," Nugent said. "We've got a lot of things to work on. I'm going to look at it like we still have plenty of games left. There's no reason we shouldn't go 10-1 this year.

"I don't care who you lose to or whatever happens. Coach Tressel, one thing he says is life is more about how you react to things than what actually happens. He always talks about that. We faced a lot of adversity tonight. We're going to have to do everything we can to make up for it over the next couple of weeks."

Nugent had nailed kicks of 34 and 29 yards earlier in the game before his miss, which made him 10 of 11 on the season. The miss opened the door for Northwestern to win the game with any points in the overtime.

"It was probably one of the best balls I hit tonight," said Nugent, who made a great open field tackle on NU kick returner Jeff Backes to save a touchdown. "I wasn't really sure why it didn't go in. At the end, it usually comes back a little bit for me. But that one just stayed straight."

Nugent said the Buckeyes have enjoyed great success in tight games. (They were 15-1 in games decided by eight points or less since the beginning of the 2002 season.)

"We talked before we went out for the toss (in overtime) and we said, `It isn't like we haven't seen this before. Let's just take what we've had and try to use it tonight.' I feel I let my team down in that regard," he said.

"I'm so proud of my teammates in getting the ball down the field. Justin (Zwick) did a good job at the end. We were trying to score to set up the overtime, and that's exactly what we did."

Linebacker Bobby Carpenter said the loss could not be blamed on Nugent's miss.

"I'll take Mike Nugent on my team any day," Carpenter said. "He's going to miss kicks now and then, but he's a great kicker. That's all I have to say about that."

The Zwick File

When OSU had to have points in the fourth quarter, Zwick stepped forward to help the Buckeyes tie the game and force the overtime. His highlights included a 50-yard bomb to Roy Hall and his 21-yard touchdown strike to Santonio Holmes with 1:54 left to tie the game at 27-27.

Zwick ended up 18 of 38 passing for 211 yards with the one touchdown and an interception. He also gained 56 "positive yards" on plays where he had to run the ball. (After sacks were deducted, Zwick netted 28 yards on 11 carries.)

"That was great," Holmes said. "That's what he needs to do. Instead of forcing the ball into me or Bam, he stepped up. Like Coach says, `You either step up and throw or you step up and go.' He made good decisions with that."

On the downside, Zwick was sacked four times and did throw the costly pick to Backes at the goal line with 4:54 left in the game. He also lost a fumble with 53 seconds left in the first half, a gaffe that set up an NU field goal that put the Wildcats up 13-10 at halftime.

"Our guys were making plays when they had the opportunity, but we just didn't make enough of them," Zwick said. "The fourth quarter was nice, but you can't really be happy about that. You have to play a whole game without mistakes and without turnovers. We weren't able to do that tonight."

The offensive struggles are starting to take a toll, Zwick said.

"I think everybody is frustrated right now," he said. "We want to come out and score points. We can't rely on our defense. We have to be able to get some momentum going and score some points.

"I can't put a finger on anything. We're working hard to get better. We weren't good enough tonight."

Pittman's Time?

OSU's running game got a bit of a punch in the second half as freshman Antonio Pittman stepped in for starter Lydell Ross. Senior Branden Joe also helped as a lead blocker at fullback and also with carrying the ball as the tailback and in single back sets.

Pittman ended up with 32 yards on a career-high 11 carries.

"I saw a good team," Pittman said of the Wildcats. "Everybody told me that once we get to the Big Ten, everybody comes to play. It showed tonight. We came in, overlooked them and thought it was going to be an easy game. We thought we were going to get out of here, but we came up short."

Pittman was asked if he saw this game as a way to show the coaches he can play.

"I don't feel like I had to show them anything because they know I can run the ball," he said. "You know, when you've got two seniors in front of you, you have to pay your dues. I wasn't nervous. I was just ready. I was hoping we would get six out of it."

Did he do enough to supplant Ross as the starter?

"Being a starter doesn't really mean that much to me," Pittman said. "I'm just hoping we don't lose another game. That means more to me than starting. We're concentrated on winning the Big Ten now."

That's What They Said

* Offensive tackle Rob Sims on tasting defeat -- "It really hasn't hit home that we lost tonight. It doesn't happen that much around here. It's unfortunate. We did get some things rolling out there and we did get the ball moving a little bit. But we didn't get it where we needed to go. Up front, we're just going to keep plugging away."

* Holmes on coming up short -- "We just didn't come through at the end. Those guys came out ready to play. They never quit fighting. It was like they felt this was their house and they weren't going to let anybody come in and set up shop in their own place. We just didn't put everything together like we should have. We made a lot of mistakes."

* Holmes on what may have been missing -- "We were making big plays down the field. If we had maybe hit some short passes and moved the ball down the field earlier, it may have opened up our running game. We were able to get over top of them a few times. Justin was rattled a little bit by the pressure they were bringing. They made some great plays on defense."

* Holmes on whether he'll be haunted by the dropped pass he had in overtime -- "Not at all. You live, learn and move on to the next game."

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