The Ohio State offense has scored 40 or more points in three consecutive games for the first time since 1995. The Buckeyes can make it four in a row today if they’re able to keep their newfound momentum going against Northwestern, which has a defense rated 117th (and last) in Division I-A.
We have comments from OSU coaches and players on the match-up of the OSU offense and the Northwestern defense.
Jim Tressel, head coach
* Comments on the NU defense -- “When you shift gears to their defensive team, it's an interesting study. When you look at their whole season, you would say those numbers aren't as impressive as you'd like. Then, when you pare off their preconference games and take those numbers out of it, and put the numbers of just the conference games, and you start to say, ‘You know what, their numbers are solid.’
“The biggest number, of course, that all of you know is the -- maybe the second most dear number to me is the turnover margin. And they're ranked number one in the conference, whether you count all games or just Big Ten games. And we're last. And, you know, that's something that on Saturday cannot end up that way because the team that wins the turnover margin typically wins the football game.”
* On Troy Smith’s improved play -- “Probably the biggest area that I've seen him grow in is his comfort and command of playing that position. You have to work at it so hard, and you have to understand that people are going to do different things each week. And you have to try to learn the evolution of someone's defense, it's not simply they're going to line up this way against this formation. I've been really pleased with his work ethic to gain that command.
“He's always been highly competitive. And he continues to be so. An excellent leader just by the nature of how much it means to him.”
* On Smith’s film watching -- “Sometimes film-watching is overevaluated, you became like you're in front of a TV set or something, and you're looking for a big hit or something, I call that recreational study. And that's not the way you learn the game. You learn the game by trying to figure out the whys and the wherefores, and that takes time. And the older you get, the more you understand it. And, you know, I've been pleased with his progress. But it's got to continue, obviously.”
* On NU’s poor defensive rankings -- “Well, I think their first three games, there were some extraordinary numbers against them. And sometimes when that happens, you never catch up. And I haven't put a whole bunch of focus on the whole year thing, I've looked at the Big Ten, and I've also asked myself this question: 24 takeaways. What's that worth in yards? You know, if you think about that. You know, how many yards is that, you know, the equivalent of?
“And so I think they get better and better and better. They had, I think -- gosh, probably at least six new starters there early. And if you look at them now, you wouldn't say, you know, that that looks like someone who would have those numbers. And people haven't had those kind of numbers recently.”
Rob Sims, OG
* On whether players congratulate the offensive line -- “(Antonio) Pittman always congratulates any time he has a big gain. Whenever we have great protection and Troy throws a long score, they always congratulate us. They’re thankful for what we do up front.”
* On the NU defense -- “Watching video, you wouldn’t know that they are as bad statistically as people say they are. I think they had some problems in the early games. They gave up some yards and they had some young guys in there as well. They’re well coached. They come and play hard. They aren’t afraid of anybody.”
* On the state of the offense -- “Since I’ve been here, this is probably the best it’s been. This whole year, I think has been better. The offensive line has been playing good as a whole. Tony Pittman has been creating a spark. Troy has been having a great season and we want to finish up strong.
“I think he’s comfortable and he just goes out there and does his thing. He has eliminated those turnovers. If he can do that, he’ll be that great player that we know he is.”
Nick Mangold, C
* On Pittman’s play -- “It’s a great feeling. It shows you how much he wants to be out there and get after people. It’s a great feeling to see that happen. I love to watch him break tackles and run over people. I can’t wait to see him over the next few years become one of the great backs in the Big Ten and in the country.”
* On NU’s defensive ranking -- “I think one of the deceiving things is if you look at the preseason they had some trouble. Maybe they weren’t sure of what was going on. But as the Big Ten has gone on, they’ve been in the middle of the pack.”
* On Smith -- “I think he has had a great year. I think the time he was away – I’m not going to say it put him in his place – but it made him realize how quickly things can be lost. It humbled him a lot. He has taken that in stride and has just kept working.”
* On the way NU battled back to defeat Iowa last week -- “You see that and know you’ll have to play for 60 minutes. No matter what your lead may be, you know they could come back real quickly. One of the goals for our offense will be to hold on to the ball and score points. We have to keep them battling instead of just going back and forth.”
Jim Bollman, offensive coordinator
* On going deep against Illinois -- “We thought we would have some chances to go deep. Some other people have had chances to do that in the past. He made a great throw to Teddy on the one. That is for sure.”
* On Pittman -- “He had some pretty good runs. He was running pretty hard. That touchdown in the second half was a pretty good run.”
* On OSU’s sudden high scoring ability -- “None of us mind scoring points. We might like to score them more consistently than we did in the first half.”
* On whether the offense is satisfied -- “I never have been in 30 years yet. I’m not going to start now. We need to keep the ball rolling. It’s November. (Northwestern) has put a lot of points on people all year. We will have to do our part to put some points on the board and keep the defense off the field.”
John Peterson, tight ends coach
* On the importance of this game -- “It’s that time of year. It’s a championship game. Guys have been flying around and getting ready for the game on Saturday. No question. It’s November and every game is a championship game.”
* On Ryan Hamby’s status -- “Ryan is still doing rehab from a knee injury. He is still day to day.”
* On Marcel Frost stepping in at tight end -- “Marcel has stepped right up and met the challenge when Ryan was hurt. He keeps getting better. With every rep he takes, he learns. He’s doing a nice job for us.”
* On emergency options at tight end -- “You have options with (Andree) Tyree and (Tim) Schafer. They are both big, athletic guys who could step in and fill a role.”
* On the NU defense -- “They’re a very sound defense, well coached. They blitz at key times in third-down situations. They keep you off balance in those situations. They are very sound fundamentally in what they do. They try not to give up big plays and make you earn them.
“They have about 15 interceptions. They do a nice job of sitting on some routes and anticipating what a quarterback does.
“You look at their early season games. I think Arizona State when they went out there they hit a bump in the road. You watch their tape and they get better and better. Their offense puts up a lot of points. They’ve proven that there is no (lead) that makes a difference.
“They can run. Their linebacker corps is fast. They run side to side well. They are very disciplined in what they do.”