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College football

Buckeyes extend streak by inches

Ohio State earns its 17th consecutive win with a goal-line stand in triple overtime, denying North Carolina State.

By KEVIN BRAFFORD
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 14, 2003

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Two weeks ago, North Carolina State saw Saturday's game at defending national champion Ohio State as a yardstick to gauge where its program had progressed under coach Chuck Amato.

Last week's surprising loss at Wake Forest aside, the Wolfpack remains at least a couple of feet short, as evidenced by a triple-overtime 44-38 loss. The game ended with N.C. State arguing in vain that tailback T.A. McLendon punched the ball across the goal line on fourth and goal from the 1.

"It's tough to swallow," said N.C. State quarterback Philip Rivers, who completed 36-of-52 for 315 yards. "To come back like we did and then fall short, it tears your heart out."

Rivers moved past Florida State's Chris Weinke to become the ACC's all-time leader in passing yards (10,061 to Weinke's 9,839).

The No.24 Wolfpack (1-2) rallied from a 24-7 deficit in the final 8:26, forcing the first overtime in Ohio Stadium history when Rivers hooked up with tight end T.J. Williams on a 5-yard scoring pass with 21 seconds left.

Both teams scored touchdowns fairly easily in the first two overtimes, the Buckeyes eschewing a poor running game - 44 yards in 32 attempts - to ride the arm of quarterback Craig Krenzel (26-of-36 for 273 yards). The Wolfpack did likewise with Rivers.

Teams are required to attempt a two-point conversion after a touchdown in the third overtime and beyond. N.C. State opted to play defense first, and giving how its offense was rolling, appeared to catch a break when the Buckeyes couldn't convert a two-point play after Krenzel's 7-yard touchdown to Leto graduate Michael Jenkins.

"The way it was going, you didn't like leaving the door open for them," Krenzel said. "But our defense came up big."

But barely. The Wolfpack moved quickly to first and goal from the Buckeye 4, then set up in one of its quirky formations that spread the defense and led to a Rivers sneak to the 2. Second down brought an incomplete pass to Tramain Hall, then another Rivers sneak moved the ball to the 1.

"We felt we had a good play called," Rivers said, "and it looked like T.A. got it."

Only he didn't. The crew of ACC officials huddled before determining McLendon was down before the ball crossed the goal line, a call replays supported.

"It was a great college football game," said Ohio State coach Jim Tressel, whose team (3-0) has 17th consecutive wins, the longest streak in the nation. "I'm just glad we won."


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