Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel began his weekly media sessions with
today's Big Ten coaches teleconference. Tressel opened with a statement about
OSU's effort against Michigan State.
"As you know, we had a heck of a ball game with Michigan State,"
Tressel said. "John L. (Smith) and his staff did a great job. The lead
changed hands often in that game, two teams playing extremely hard, and like we
face each week in the Big Ten, it was a battle down until the end. I'm real
proud of the way our kids continued to play. We fell behind (but) we kept going
after it and I'm very proud of them."
Michigan State was able to put up over 450 yards of total offense on Ohio
State's defense, something that not many people thought might happen. Tressel
was asked about Michigan State's offense.
"I love what they do. They're so balanced. They've got three good backs,
and then you add Stanton in there. I think he had 62 rushing yards in that game
on the plus side. When a quarterback can run for that many yards, that puts such
an additional strain on your team. Then they have all those various wideouts of
different shapes and sizes, they give you all kinds of pressure and put you in
different situations. I love what John L. has always done with this
Tressel agreed that the game's turning point was the blocked field goal
attempt that was returned for a Buckeye touchdown at the end of the first half.
"That was an emotional turnaround," he said. "It very easily
could have been a 20-7 game, which is not an out-of-reach game, but it's a lot
different than 17-14. There's no question about it -- instead of a 13 point
spread, that's a 10-point turnaround, and it was huge."
Ohio State's game against Michigan State wasn't the only Big Ten game on
Saturday where key special teams mistakes played a big role in the outcome.
Among the other costly mistakes were a blocked punt in the Minnesota/Wisconsin
game that put Wisconsin ahead for the win, and Steve Breaston's late kick return
against Penn State that gave Michigan field position to go for the win. Tressel
was asked if coverage had become just as crucial as other aspects of special
"It's hard to quantify the right guard on the punt team or the coverage
guy, the L3 on your kickoff coverage team, but if they make an error, all of a
sudden that returner looks good or the punter doesn't look good or whatever it
happens to be," he said. "That's the beauty of this game -- in every
situation on every play, it takes eleven people on your particular team no
matter what they're doing to give you the best chance to succeed. Now
occasionally, a running back can make three guys miss or a kick returner can
outrun seven guys or whatever, but that's not the norm. The norm is it takes
eleven people doing their job to succeed on each given play."
The Buckeye defense was able to get 12 sacks in the win over Michigan State,
and one lineman who stepped up with a good game was David Patterson, who Tressel
was asked about.
"David's really been a good contributor since he's been here,"
Tressel said. "Even as early as his true freshman year, he played some when
we had some injuries and played significantly a year ago and now plays 40 to 50
snaps a game. What we love about David -- he can play inside, he can play
outside according to what style of team we play against. He's a guy who
could do so much, loves the game, loves practicing it, loves studying film.
David Patterson's a good one."
Several teams in the Big Ten are having some struggles defensively this
season. Tressel was asked if, in this day and age of college football, if a good
offense was all that was needed to win.
"I'm sure that can happen at times," he said. "I think at the
end of the day when you look at the handful of teams at the end of the season
who will be in your top ten, let's say, I think you're going to end up with a
lot of good football teams. That doesn't mean they won't have given up any
points, and sometimes you lose sight of how some of those points got up on the
scoreboard. They might have been scored by the defense. They might have been
special teams. Field position battles are constant. I would subscribe to the
fact that you ought to have as good a defense as you can possibly have.
"It comes down to the win/loss column for sure, but the way that the
win/loss column ends up in your favor is if all three of your units do the
things that your team needs done to win. You can't win with no offense; you
can't win with no special teams, you can't win with no defense. As good as you
can be in all three, I know the best teams I've ever been around have had three
solid units. Maybe one outshone the other, and maybe that was by design or
whatever, but you have to be good at everything to at the end of the year be one
of the top teams in your conference or one of the top teams in the
Tressel was quick to point out that the defensive line is where defensive
"It does start up front with defense, without a doubt," he said.
"Your linebackers can become very heralded if those people in front of them
are creating havoc there. I think if you look at Penn State's defensive line and
our defensive line, those are two veteran defensive lines with fourth- and fitfh-year
guys, that type of thing. Penn State didn't have quite as good a year a year
ago, but they did on defense and they did up front. They kept getting better and
all of a sudden some of the other components of their team started playing with
the excellence that maybe their defensive front did. That's why you see them now
as a no-question contender.
"You look a year ago at Iowa's defensive line. Those were four veteran
guys and to me, they were the heartbeat of that team along with everyone else
contributes. But I think it starts on the defensive line when you're talking
defense, and it starts on the offensive line when you're talking offense."
Head coach Terry Hoeppner of this week's OSU opponent, Indiana, also took
questions today. Indiana is coming off a tough loss to Iowa during which his
team was in the game in the fourth quarter only to see Iowa pull away late.
After the loss, Hoeppner challenged the players to step up more when the game
is on the line. He was asked what he saw during the game to make that challenge.
"To me, the obvious is that we've battled for three-and-a-half quarters,
we're down three with nine minutes, 20-some seconds to go in the game, and we
didn't play very well in any part of the game after that at that point when the
game's on the line," Hoeppner said. "What you don't want is guys
looking for excuses. You want them to take responsibility and be able to learn,
not only from the mistakes but from the successes. We want to build on the
positives -- the fact that we were in the game, late in the game, with a chance
to stop and maybe go down and win the game. Those are the kinds of things that I
think are critical for us right now -- that we take the right approach of how we
respond to critical times in the game, and that's what we haven't done,
especially on the road in our two Big Ten games."
Two players who have performed above expectations this year for Indiana are
sophomore quarterback Blake Powers and redshirt freshman wide receiver James Hardy, who leads the Big Ten in receiving. Hoeppner admitted he has been
surprised with what the players have done.
"I think if you had asked me that question in the spring, coming out of
spring practice, if you would have asked me that question on April 16 and told
me what was going to happen, I would have said 'Yeah, I would be surprised if
that happens to that degree.' I knew they both had talent," Hoeppner said.
"The efforts they put in over the summer, when I saw them August 8th, I
said, 'Wow.' We did what we needed to do over the summer to the point
where now we've got a chance to at least be able to use the system that we play,
the offense that we play. It allows guys with talent a chance to do exactly what
Blake and James have done. To the degree though, yeah, I'm still pleasantly
surprised that we've had the success we've had. It hasn't translated necessarily
in the wins we've won. But I think think both of them have a lot of upside, and
I think as we get deeper in our playbook and develop in our system, they'll get
Hoeppner has coached for many years at the college level, but this has been
his first time taking over as head coach in a program he had not previously been
a part of. He discussed some of the challenges he has had to this point/
"It's a challenge, but -- and this is unique for me because I haven't
been in this position in the college level," Hoeppner said. "I was at
Miami and became the head coach there, so I knew the players. I knew the plusses
and minuses. The learning curve, I told the team, and I said it early on, will
continue throughout this first year. We're learning how to travel. We're
learning how to adjust to various situations as they occur on the field. Our
communications are not perfect yet and all of that stuff.
"I told the staff I'd like to be able to get to the point where your
quarterback turns to your running back in a key situation and says, "What
do you think, should I go for it or not?' as Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush did.
Now you know you've got a system in place and the players are operating on the
field as an extension of the coach. We're not there right now. That takes time.
We've come a long way, but we've got a long way to go."