Ohio State coach Jim Tressel and Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis met with the media for the final time Sunday morning before Monday’s Fiesta Bowl match-up (5 p.m., ABC).
Tressel indicated that it was unlikely that senior linebacker Bobby Carpenter, sidelined since suffering a broken leg in the Michigan game, would play in the Fiesta Bowl.
“I would say this: Bobby worked a little more yesterday in practice, but it wasn’t in helmet and shoulder pads and it wasn’t within the scheme of our defense,” Tressel said. “I wouldn’t expect him to have a big role in this football.”
The coach was not sure whether Carpenter would dress or not.
“I don’t know if I have an answer for that now,” he said. “I would question whether he would play. I have seen miracles before. He was running around there last night, but not in the scheme of things. He hasn’t taken any snaps with the defense. But, certainly, he can dress if he would like.”
Tressel said the Buckeyes will base their personnel decisions on whether to use freshmen James Laurinaitis at linebacker or Lawrence Wilson at defensive end on who ND has in the game.
“I expect Lawrence Wilson and James Laurinaitis to both play significant roles in the game,” Tressel said.
Here were some of Tressel’s other comments:
* His opening statement -- “What a wonderful week our players and coaches and families have had at the Fiesta Bowl. All the people here do a tremendous job of making it a wonderful experience for our kids and they have done a good job combining hard work and focusing on a great match-up with having a lot of fun and enjoying great hospitality. The Fiesta Bowl does it right.”
* On establishing Antonio Pittman -- “I think Antonio Pittman has been really one of the keys for us being here. We felt going into the season we needed to develop a more balanced attack. Antonio had just under 1,200 yards. He has gotten better and that will be critical on Monday. You can’t go against a team like Notre Dame and be one dimensional.”
* On Ohio State’s tough regular season schedule -- “Our seniors have done a wonderful job. When you looked at 2005, we had a tough schedule. There were moments when things went as we hoped and there were times it didn’t, but our captains and all the seniors and fourth-year juniors didn’t allow us to do anything but move to the next day. It didn’t matter the score or the situation, they moved us to excel.”
* On Notre Dame’s offense -- “They have tremendous balance. Their folks up front are veterans and have seen so many games over their careers. You can’t show them anything up front that will frustrate them. And they throw to the tight end so well and to the backs and receivers and they run the screen well. Their balance is extraordinary and they do the fundamentals.”
* On the players enjoying themselves at the bowl -- “They really do enjoy one another. That’s one of the great things about being a par t of a team environment. They hang out a lot together and it’s not always with the same guy. They have fun together. There’s no question they enjoy each other and are excited that they have one more chance to play a game. They are trying to savor every moment.
“The hard part about this ball game is that we won’t be able to line up any more with A.J. Hawk and Nick Mangold and Bobby Carpenter and the rest of those seniors.”
* On the Fiesta Bowl experience -- “The environment of the Fiesta Bowl, from the time you land to the game is extraordinary. When the plane rolls up and you see all those yellow coats and see the excitement and the feeling everyone in the Valley has about this game. And the reality is that we are getting ready to play a great Notre Dame team and our guys are going to relish that.”
* On Ohio State’s fan support -- “Buckeye Nation has an incredible love for their football team and they love to be there, both at home and away. It’s a part of what their Ohio State experience is all about. And it’s not just those who had the good fortune to go to Ohio State.”
* On if he expects the majority of the crowd to be for Ohio State like in 2002 -- “I don’t think so. The second year we were here and played Kansas State it was a fairly even crowd. You’ll feel energy from both sides. The Fighting Irish will be well represented and so will the Ohio State Buckeyes. I just pretend they’re all cheering for me so it doesn’t matter.”
* On the brief series history between Ohio State and Notre Dame -- “It adds a lot to this game. We have only played four times before. With Ohio State and Notre Dame we have two great programs here and we are in one of the great settings in college football.”
The Notre Dame coach wants to end his school’s seven-game bowl losing streak. Plus, he feels a win would a special mark on this season.
“I think you are always remembered by how the season ends,” Weis said. “If you are able to go and beat a team – especially a team as good as Ohio State – and end up 10-2, that will leave a good taste in your mouth. But if you lose and you’re 9-3, people will say you made progress but you’re not there yet. To me, it’s a clear case of black-and-white. There is no subjectivity here.”
We will have more from the coaches – and more from several players – later today.