Coverage: ABC Regional coverage
12:10 PM ET, September 13, 2003
Ohio Stadium, Columbus, OH
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) _ Craig Krenzel hit Michael Jenkins on a 7-yard scoring pass in the third overtime and No. 3 Ohio State made a goal-line stand to beat North Carolina State (No. 22 ESPN/USA Today, No. 24 AP) 44-38 on Saturday.
Jericho Cotchery gets in the end zone ... something N.C. State fell half a yard short of in the third OT.
It was the first overtime game in 81-year-old Ohio Stadium, coming in the old gray horseshoe's 472nd intercollegiate game.
Will Allen barreled into Wolfpack tailback T.A. McLendon on fourth-and-goal, lowering his left shoulder to stop McLendon just inches from the end zone as the defending national champion Buckeyes (3-0) won their 17th consecutive game.
It took several moments for the officials to determine that McLendon had not crossed the goal line. When they finally signaled that he had not, the Buckeyes wildly ran around the field,tossing their helmets in the air in celebration.
McLendon lay where he fell, surrounded by teammates and coaches. Some protested to the officials as they left the field.
Last Jan. 3, No. 2 Ohio State needed double-overtime to beat top-ranked Miami 31-24 in the Fiesta Bowl, capturing its first national championship in 34 years. The Buckeyes also beat Illinois in overtime a year ago to remain unbeaten.
North Carolina State (1-2) trailed 24-7 with just over 8 minutes remaining in regulation, but scored on its next three possessions to force overtime.
Philip Rivers, who completed 36 of 52 passes for 315 yards and four touchdowns with two interceptions, led the charge. He found Jerricho Cotchery on a 9-yard score, then after A.J. Davis picked off Krenzel's pass, Adam Kiker kicked a 24-yard field goal with 5:51 left to cut the lead to 24-17.
North Carolina State pulled even on Rivers' 5-yard scoring pass to T.J. Williams with 21 seconds left.
The Wolfpack won the coin flip and elected to play defense first. Ohio State needed four plays to score, with Krenzel connecting with Ben Hartsock on a 10-yard pass and Mike Nugent adding the first of two extra-point kicks in overtime.
The Wolfpack countered with a three-play scoring drive, with Rivers hitting Tramain Hall for the score on second-and-goal from the 17. Hall went high between Chris Gamble and Nate Salley, helicoptering to the ground after he was hit, but holding onto the ball. Kiker added the important point-after kick.
North Carolina State had the ball first in the second overtime, and scored in three plays on McLendon's pitch-sweep around right end with Kiker converting the kick.
Krenzel, who completed 26 of 36 passes for 273 yards and career highs of four touchdowns and three interceptions, then found tight end Ryan Hamby over the middle on a 2-yard pass. Nugent added the extra point to tie it at 38-38.
In the third overtime, on third-and-3 at the 7, Krenzel faked a handoff to Lydell Ross and found Michael Jenkins between two defenders. Teams are required to go for a 2-point conversion after the second overtime, with Krenzel's pass for Maurice Hall batted down by linebacker Pat Thomas.
The Wolfpack benefited from Ohio State mistakes on their final possession. The Buckeyes _ who finished with five turnovers and 129 penalty yards _ were flagged for offsides, facemasking and defensive holding as the Wolfpack moved to a first down at the 4.
Rivers kept for 2 yards, then his pass for Hall was wide. Rivers picked up a half-yard on another keeper before both teams took timeouts to assess the fourth-down play from just outside the 1.
With four receivers split out wide, McLendon took a pitch from Rivers and cut back off left tackle. He made contact with linebacker A.J. Hawk, but it was Allen's shoulder that prevented him from tying the game.
The Wolfpack held the upper hand in first downs (28-15), yards (336-317) and had fewer turnovers (4-3) and penalty yards (129-46).
The Buckeyes scored 14 points in the span of four plays and 86 seconds in the second quarter.
After Jenkins scored on a 44-yard pass play from Krenzel, the ensuing kickoff was high and near the center hash mark where Richard Washington and Tramain Hall were the deepbacks. As the ball fell, Washington stumbled into Hall and the ball ricocheted off the top of his helmet. Allen, racing downfield on coverage, was stunned to find the ball bouncing near him. He recovered it at the 3.
Three plays later, Ross' second surge up the middle gave the Buckeyes a 14-0 lead.
Rivers was 6-for-6 passing _ each for more than 10 yards _ including the 11-yard touchdown throw to Cotchery with 18 seconds left in the half to cut the lead to 14-7.
Rivers ended up setting Atlantic Coast Conference career records for passing yards, touchdowns and completions.