COLUMBUS, Ohio -- In the quiet of the Marshall dressing room, a simple fact stood between the Thundering Herd and one of their biggest upsets ever.
"We had a chance," coach Bob Pruett said softly. "They made their kick. We missed ours."
Mike Nugent kicked a 55-yard field goal as time expired to give No. 9 Ohio State a 24-21 victory over Marshall on Saturday.
Not even Nugent was sure the ball had slid the uprights.
"Every time I hit a solid ball it goes back and forth a little bit," he said. "It kind of scared me at first. It was going dead-center and then it
started going back in. I was just telling it to go in and that last second it made it by about 2 inches."
The Buckeyes (2-0) have won 13 of their past 14 games decided by a touchdown or less over the past two-plus seasons, including a 7-0 record while
winning the national championship in 2002.
"These games happen so often here it seems," linebacker A.J. Hawk said.
With the game tied, Ohio State took over at its own 45 after a poor punt by Ian O'Connor with 25 seconds left. It was O'Connor's second crucial
mis-kick in the quarter. He missed a 35-yard field goal with the score tied at 21 and just over three minutes left.
After the shank, Justin Zwick hit Santonio Holmes -- who had 10 catches for 218 yards and two touchdowns -- for gains of 9 and 8 yards. Zwick then
completed a 5-yard pass to tight end Ryan Hamby, with the clock continuing to run because the Buckeyes were out of timeouts.
Zwick, who hit on 18 of 30 passes for 318 yards and three scores, was able to get under center and stop the clock by downing the ball with 2 seconds
left, with a motion penalty called on the play that made the kick even longer.
Nugent then had more than enough leg -- and time -- to put the ball through out of a perfect hold by Kyle Turano. It matched the longest field goal in
Ohio Stadium's 82 years.
"We're so close to getting a big win and it just slips through your fingers," Marshall quarterback Stan Hill said.
Marshall players hung their heads and fell to the field while the Buckeyes ran to the stands and exulted with a partisan crowd of 104,622.
"We're not going to feel sorry for ourselves," Pruett said. "No one else in the world is."
The Buckeyes survived more than won, as the Thundering Herd missed one field goal and disdained another in the final 16 minutes, with O'Connor running
into a scarlet-and-gray wall on a faked kick attempt.
For the second week in a row, Ohio State didn't force a turnover. Zwick threw two interceptions and the Buckeyes also lost two fumbles. They now have
seven turnovers in two games and have no takeaways.
"We're lucky, I guess, because typically if you're at a minus-7 in turnover margin you're going to be 0-2," Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said. "I've
not been around too many teams that can lose the turnover margin and be a champion."
In addition, Holmes missed the entire third quarter with an injury and three-year starting cornerback Dustin Fox left the game at the half and watched
the second half from the sideline, his left arm in a sling. Fox said he broke his arm and will miss somewhere between four and seven weeks.
Trailing 21-14, Marshall drove 85 yards to the Ohio State 8 late in the third quarter. Rather than go for a field goal, O'Connor took a handoff from
holder Scott Wilks on fourth-and-4. O'Connor was tossed for a 2-yard loss.
The Buckeyes then turned the ball over on three successive possessions. Holmes took an inside screen and was hit from behind by Willie Smith and
fumbled, with Dionte Wilson recovering.
After a punt, Zwick overthrew a pass and Chris Royal intercepted, returning it 16 yards to the Ohio State 26 with the ball moving to the 13 on a
Four plays later Hill, who was 22-for-34 for 140 yards, found Brad Bates on a 23-yard scoring pass to tie the game at 21.
On the first play after the kickoff, Zwick was picked off again by Royal at the Marshall 41. The Herd drove to a first down at the Ohio State 21 with
about five minutes left. With 3:17 left, O'Connor hooked a 35-yarder to would have given the Herd the lead.
The first play reviewed by the Big Ten's new instant replay system at Ohio State went against the Buckeyes.
With Ohio State ahead 14-7, Lydell Ross was held up at the line by Marshall three tacklers. Suddenly, defensive end Jonathan Goddard bolted out of the
pile and headed for the end zone. The play was reviewed by two Big Ten officials in the press box who determined the video showed "indisputable" proof
that the Ross was not down when Goddard pilfered the ball and returned it 27 yards for the score.
On the next possession, Zwick hit Holmes for gains of 13, 9, 13 and 18 yards before finding Roy Hall on a crossing pattern for the 20-yard
Ohio State had forged its early 14-7 lead on two Zwick-to-Holmes scoring passes covering 80 and 47 yards. The first was a perfectly timed and thrown
post pattern with Holmes beating strong safety Curtis Keyes by a step.
Asked repeatedly about the last field goal, Pruett finally asked a reporter how far Nugent's kick traveled.
"That's a long kick," Pruett said, shaking his head. "I guess that's the reason he's an All-American."