Nugent wasn't sure his final kick, coming with two seconds left in regulation, would make it through the uprights.
"I don't know how other guys are when they hit a ball, but every time I hit a solid ball it goes back and forth a little bit," Nugent said in the Sept. 18, 2004, edition of BSB. "It kind of scared me at first. First, it was going dead center, and then it started going back in. I was just telling it to go in, and in that last second, it made it by about two inches."
Nugent also had a 53-yard miss the previous week against Cincinnati on his mind.
"Right when I hit this one, before I picked my head up, it was kind of like that 53-yarder I missed last week," he said. "Before I picked my head up I felt amazing about it, but this one, I kind of sat there before I picked my head up like, ‘That felt good, but I missed the last one I thought I felt good on.' "
Fortunately for Nugent, his teammates and the 104,622 at the Horseshoe, the kick gave the Buckeyes a hard-fought victory over the Thundering Herd. The dramatic final seconds capped a long, hot afternoon in Columbus. The game lasted more than 3½ hours, featured 13 penalties, 68 passes and 138 offensive plays.
The Thundering Herd had a chance to take a lead before Nugent's late heroics. Marshall kicker Ian O'Connor had a 35-yard field goal attempt sail wide to the left with 3:17 remaining. O'Conner later made another crucial miscue when he shanked a punt in the final minute that allowed Ohio State to provide Nugent a final opportunity.
The Buckeyes started their final drive at their own 45-yard line with 25 seconds remaining and no timeouts. Quarterback Justin Zwick advanced the ball to the Marshall 38 after back-to-back sideline pattern passes to Santonio Holmes. That only eight seconds off the clock, but then things got hairy for Ohio State. Zwick found right end Ryan Hamby over the middle for a 5-yard gain, but with no timeouts, a pair of Marshall defenders took their time in getting off Hamby and allowing the Buckeyes to line up.
"I thought we had plenty of time, but then I saw those guys not letting Ryan up," Ohio State center Nick Mangold said. "I kept looking at the clock, then looking back at Ryan. I was beginning to wonder whether we were going to get the snap off in time."
Once Hamby finally got up, the Buckeyes rushed to the line to allow Zwick to spike the ball and stop the clock, which he did with the clock reading 0:02. Unfortunately for Ohio State, Hamby had not set himself on the line by the time the ball was snapped and was whistled for a penalty, making Nugent's final kick from 55 yards away.
The win extended Ohio State's home winning streak to 18 games. It was also the 14th win by seven points or less in its last 29 games.
"I can't really explain how we can win so many close games," Ohio State senior tailback Lydell Ross said. "We just do. We find a way. It's a mind-set, really, that we're somehow going to find a way.
"And through all of those close games, it's usually never the same way. We just get down to the end and have confidence we'll find a way. It happened again today. It looked like we were going down but we found a way."
Despite all the late drama, Ohio State never actually trailed. The Buckeyes drew first blood on an 80-yard touchdown pass from Zwick to Holmes early in the first quarter. Marshall answered the score with a 2-yard TD run by Earl Charles, but Holmes and Zwick again connected in the final quarter on a 47-yard pass to give the Buckeyes a 14-7 lead heading into the second quarter.
Marshall again answered when the Thundering Herd forced a fumble that was returned for a 27-yard score by linebacker Jonathan Goddard with 5:36 left before halftime. The Buckeyes did answer before the break, however, on another TD pass by Zwick. This one was caught for a 20-yard score by Roy Hall.
After a scoreless third quarter, Marshall tied the game with 8:40 left in the fourth on a 23-yard touchdown pass from Stan Hill to Brad Bates, setting up the dramatic final minutes.
Zwick and Holmes starred for the OSU offense. Zwick completed 18 of 30 passes for 318 yards with two interceptions and three touchdown passes. Holmes caught 10 passes for 218 yards. Defensively, linebackers Bobby Carpenter and A.J. Hawk led the way with 13 and 12 tackles, respectively.
1999: No. 13 Ohio State 42, No. 14 UCLA 20 – Sophomore quarterback Steve Bellisari played the hero in leading the Buckeyes past the Bruins at Ohio Stadium.
Bellisari replaced starter Austin Moherman in the second quarter and rallied the Buckeyes to victory. UCLA jumped out to an early 10-0 lead before Ohio State clawed back into it. Bellisari led the charge, completing 11 of 16 passes for 159 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 50 yards and laid a devastating block on a UCLA defensive end on one play.
"I was real glad to get out there and have some fun," Bellisari said in the Sept. 18, 1999, edition of BSB. "It was a real sweet feeling that we were able to go out there and execute like that."
Bellisari was not the only offensive star, though. Wide receivers Reggie Germany and Ken-Yon Rambo combined for 15 catches and earned praise from OSU head coach John Cooper following the game.
"I'm happy for our wide receivers," said Cooper, who saw his team even its record to 1-1. "I thought both Ken-Yon and Reggie had good ball games. We talked all week about how good UCLA's still people are with (Danny) Farmer and (Brian) Poli-Dixon and (Freddie) Mitchell, and probably the two best wide receivers tonight might have been our two guys."
A crowd of 93,283 was on hand for a home opener under the lights and saw the Bruins (1-1) strike first – almost by accident. UCLA scored only 1:58 into the first quarter when quarterback Drew Bennett had a pass batted into the air by OSU safety Perry King. Buckeye defenders Ahmed Plummer and Courtland Bullard then collided while going after the loose ball, which then landed in the hands of Bruin Matt Stanley. The fullback then rumbled 50 yards for a 67-yard touchdown play.
The Bruins added to its lead with 14:13 left in the first half on a 35-yard field goal by Chris Griffith, and UCLA looked to be in control. That changed on Ohio State's next drive, which went 81 yards on 10 plays. Michael Wiley capped the drive with a 3-yard touchdown run with 10:58 remaining before halftime.
Ohio State then took command by adding two more touchdowns before halftime. The first came on a 2-yard touchdown pass to Rambo from Bellisari, while the second came on a 5-yard TD run by Wiley.
"In the first quarter, we were kind of sputtering around," Wiley said. "But in the second quarter, we really got it rolling."
The Bruins attempted to mount a comeback after the break by scoring a 7-yard touchdown on a DeShaun Foster run less than five minutes into the third quarter. However, Ohio State responded with a third-quarter score of its own on a 3-yard run by Jamar Martin and added two more scores in the final 15 minutes, sealing the rout.
UCLA was shorthanded for the game, playing without 11 players serving the second of a two-game suspension stemming from their participation in a parking scandal on UCLA's campus.
Wiley led the Buckeye rushing attack with 119 yards on 22 carries, and Ohio State outgained UCLA in total offense 507-365.
But it was Bellisari who stole the spotlight. In fact, Cooper was so impressed he announced that the sophomore would be the starting quarterback for the Buckeyes' next game against Ohio University.
1993: No. 16 Ohio State 21, No. 12 Washington 12 – In only the second ever night game at Ohio Stadium, the Buckeyes harassed Washington offensive standouts Damon Huard and Napoleon Kaufman in beating back the Huskies.
A week after putting up 31 points against Pac-10 foe Stanford, Washington's high-powered offense was held in check by the Buckeyes. The Huskies managed only 277 yards of total offense and 85 on the ground. They rolled up 315 yards rushing and 500 total against the Cardinal.
"Credit their defensive line," Washington coach Jim Lambright said in the Sept. 18, 1993, edition of BSB. "They did a good job of taking us out of our game play. Naturally, we expected to run the ball more effectively than we did."
Kaufman was held to 51 yards on 18 carries a week after piling up 195 against Stanford. While the Huskies struggled to gain traction, Ohio State's offense found success. The Buckeyes had 325 yards of total offense, mainly coming from senior tailbacks Raymont Harris and Butler By'not'e and junior split end Joey Galloway. Harris and By'not'e combined for 182 rushing yards and Galloway hauled in four passes for 104 yards and a touchdown.
Harris started the scoring, rushing for a 2-yard touchdown less than five minutes into the first quarter. Washington answered with a 29-yard field goal by Jason Hanson, but Ohio State took a 14-9 lead into halftime thanks to a Galloway 35-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Bobby Hoying. After a scoreless third quarter, Washington cut the deficit to 14-12 on a 21-yard field goal by Hanson with 12:46 left in the fourth quarter.
Ohio State sealed the victory a little more than a minute later when By'not'e rushed for a 49-yard touchdown to cap the scoring with 11:04 left.
After the game, Cooper let the media in on a little secret he told his team leading up to the game.
"I'm going to tell you all basically what I told the football team after the game and what I told them during the week in preparation," he said. "I felt, going into the ball game, that we had the best football team. I felt we matched up real well with Washington. I thought it would be a hard-hitting ball game, and it was. I've never been more proud of a football team than I was of our team tonight."
Huard was held to 186 yards on 18 of 32 passing with a touchdown and an interception. Hoying threw for 142 yards on 6 of 21 passing with a touchdown and INT. Lorenzo Styles led the Buckeye defense with 14 tackles.
The crowd of 94,109 was the then-sixth biggest in the history of the Horseshoe. It was also the first to be played under lights since the 1985 season opener against Pittsburgh.
"There was a lot of publicity surrounding this game being at night, but I thought our players handled all of that very well," Cooper said. "The fact that it was on national television (on ABC), played in prime time and against a nationally ranked opponent was all a part of making it a special night."
1982: No. 14 Ohio State 21, Baylor 14 – The Buckeyes opened the season with a physical, hard-fought victory over the visiting Bears.
"We wanted to be very physical today; put it all together a little bit and control the ball," OSU head coach Earle Bruce said in the Sept. 18, 1982, edition of BSB.
In their first game since the graduation of quarterback Art Schlichter, the Buckeyes appeared to be heading back to a power running game. Tailback Tim Spencer rushed for 147 yards and fullback Vaughn Broadnax impressed by adding for 101 yards, giving Ohio State a one-two running attack.
All of Ohio State's three touchdowns came on the ground. Broadnax had the first two, both coming in the first half on runs of 3 and 4 yards. Baylor answered with a touchdown of its own to make it 14-7 at halftime, and the Bears tied the game in the third quarter on an 11-yard touchdown run by Robert Williams in the third quarter.
Sophomore quarterback Mike Tomczak, making his first collegiate start, scored the eventual game-winning touchdown on a 1-yard run with 9:52 left in the fourth quarter.
"I thought it was a tremendous debut for Mike Tomczak," Bruce said. "I think he made some mistakes in the second half, but he most certainly played well in the first half."
Bruce also said the Buckeyes will allow Tomczak to throw the ball more often as the season progresses. He completed 6 of 15 passes for 93 yards against the Bears.
"I think with that kind of attack, when they start committing a lot of people to the line of scrimmage to stop us, we'll be able to throw the ball more," Bruce said. "It wasn't the time today to do that."
1976: No. 4 Ohio State 49, Michigan State 21 – Life after Archie Griffin started off well enough with a season-opening blowout of the Spartans at Ohio Stadium.
The ground game led the way as the Buckeyes built a 35-0 lead by halftime. Junior tailback Jeff Logan scored three touchdowns in the rout and had a fourth called back because of a penalty. Sophomore quarterback Ron Gerald fared well running the option offense, scoring two touchdowns of his own.
While the action on the field featured little drama, there was a little bit of controversy after the final whistle. Ohio State head coach Woody Hayes did not show up for his regular postgame meeting with the media, instead sending assistant coaches Ralph Staub and George Hill in his place. The reasoning was probably because of the presence of reporters from Michigan State's student newspaper, which had run a series of articles prior to the season accusing Hayes of improper recruiting methods.
1971: No. 11 Ohio State 52, Iowa 21 – The '71 season started on a rain-soaked afternoon with a Big Ten thumping of the visiting Hawkeyes.
Ohio State had little trouble in the victory, scoring 17 points in the first 10 minutes. Senior Don Lamka was making his first start at quarterback and rushed for touchdowns of 21, 19, 6 and 1 yard. Junior John Bledsoe rushed for 157 and two touchdowns.
It was the first time the Buckeyes opened the season in conference since 1954 and the first to be played on Ohio Stadium's new Astroturf. The new turf was a gift from former OSU guard Lou Fisher and was dedicated in memory of his close friend and former teammate Joe Campanella.