COACH TRESSEL: As you know, we had the open week. We had two real good practices on Wednesday and Thursday. Our Friday was a little bit different. We broke it up into film work and lifting and short practice run-through-type things, but I thought we used our time wisely. Hopefully we’ll be back on the field with a lot of enthusiasm and pep in our step.
We did work out Sunday afternoon for about an hour and the guys seemed to be refreshed, so if we can have a good one this afternoon and another good one tomorrow and a good rehearsal on Thursday and be ready to go with a lot of energy and a lot of emotion, I think if there’s anything that you can accomplish during an open week, it’s perhaps to fill your emotional gas tank back up. Their bodies, to a certain extent, can get rested up, but that takes sometimes months. But your emotions, I think, sometimes you can get that put back together and hopefully our guys will have had that opportunity to do that because we’re going to need every ounce of emotion we can get as Penn State comes in.
Everyone knows the consistency of the Penn State program and they do things the way they do things and we could probably not even study this year’s film and still have a pretty good idea of what defense they’re going to play, what offenses they’re going to play, how they’re going to do their special teams because they are who they are, they’re good at what they do, and as their players gain more experiences, they get better and better and better.
And so it’s game 10 now and some of their folks that maybe were newcomers 10 weeks ago are no longer newcomers. I think they too have gotten a little healthier. I think they were a little banged at the beginning of the year and gotten some of those folks back, and they’ve now played two quarterbacks and I would expect that we may perhaps see both of them. That’s the way we would prepare. I don’t think they’re dramatically different.
I think Evan Royster is a guy that now has hit it into gear. I think at the beginning of the year he probably wasn’t himself and as the year has gone on, just like most tough backs do, he got himself back to where he’d like to be, plus he’s got some great sidekicks who, I’m sure, have competed with him to make him better, but also spell him to make him better. And the receiver corps has grown. Their offensive line has gained experience playing together. Defensively their D line, they’re using a lot of different players, and so they come in with great energy and great freshness.
Their linebacker corps, they rotate a little bit. Their corners have been intact. They did lose one safety. I’m not sure if he’s back. Again, it won’t change their scheme. It won’t change how they play the game. They’re excellent open field tacklers. They’re excellent special team players. They have a return guy, receiver Number 20, that they say is the fastest guy in college football and he can go. They love to get him in the return game. And so it will be a typical Penn State team coming into Ohio Stadium, which is obviously a great compliment, because over the last 45 to, I guess, even count Coach Engle’s 15 years there, the last 16 years have been extraordinary teams at Penn State, and we know what’s coming in and now we have to make sure that we meet the challenge.
REPORTER: I want to ask, did you watch the game that they played last week against Northwestern live or —
COACH TRESSEL: Live? No. We’re not allowed to scout.
REPORTER: On television, I mean.
COACH TRESSEL: I watched about the first quarter and then I headed to a high school game, so I was listening to it on the radio.
REPORTER: So as you watched it unfold —
COACH TRESSEL: I’ve watched it since though.
REPORTER: You knew the result obviously, but they got off to a terrible start, 21-0, and came back and had an emotional win. In your experience as a coach, how do you feel a team will respond after going from night to day in a period of one game, it seemed?
COACH TRESSEL: Well, the thing that’s made Penn State good over the years is they’re so steady. They’re never going to be too high and they’re never going to be too low. When it’s 21-0, they’re not going to fold the tent. That’s just not how they’re made. When they end the game winning 35-21, they’re not going to say, hey, we have arrived and we’re now the new kings of college football. They’re going to go to work and get ready for Ohio State, and within the course of our game, they’ll never get too high or never get too low and it will be one of those, you’re going to have to play 60 minutes to compete with them.
REPORTER: Everything you got to do from a self-evaluation during the bye week, is there anything about your offense today that you learned anything different or you discovered anything about yourself in that self-evaluation that maybe is different than how you looked at things before the bye week with your offense?
COACH TRESSEL: I think we affirmed some of the things we were thinking, that we were improving running the ball. The thing that we all know is that we throw the ball pretty well when we have good protection, that we’re a good football team when we don’t turn it over and when we can come up with takeaways, all of the things that you’d think.
There was nothing that really popped up and said, oh, my gosh, you know, I thought we’d be better than this at that or we’ve got to stop doing this, start doing more of that. We need to be balanced. In this day and age, balance is so critical and we’ve gotten to the point, I think, where we’ve got probably better balance right now than maybe since Troy was a senior. So now we’ve got some real challenges to find out how well we can do with that balance coming up, but nothing alarming.
REPORTER: You always talk about getting better as the year goes on, your November record is very good here. Why do you think that is? Why do you think you’ve had so much success in November?
COACH TRESSEL: I think our guys do believe that you have to get better as the year goes on and hopefully we don’t get too high or too low. I think it’s difficult sometimes as the expectations get heaped on young people, it’s easy for a coach not to get too high or too low because we’ve been both ends and we know how fast it goes. But that’s not so true for a 19- or 20-year-old. They can buy the thoughts either direction, that, hey, you’re terrible, they might buy that, or, hey, you’re wonderful, they might buy that because they haven’t found out that neither is true. But I think they’ve done a pretty good job of believing you have to keep working to get better and if you keep working to get better, you probably will. Then it gives you a chance in November.
When I saw these schedules about four or five years ago when they said you’re going to have Penn State to start your November for a few years, I thought, oh, that’s — not to mention you’re going to have Iowa and Michigan right after them, that’s going to put a challenge on any November record anyone would have, but I think our guys believe that this is a very important time.
REPORTER: When you look at your running game and you talk about it’s kind of to the point where you’d like, but it’s been improving, what changed over the course of that? Was it just putting more emphasis on it? Was it giving the ball to Boom Herron more? What changed in the last three games?
COACH TRESSEL: I think that we’ve grown up front with our communication together and we haven’t had too many situations where we’ve had minus yard plays where someone might say, well, I thought you called this or that, so we’ve had a little bit less mistakes. I think Boom has raised us through his play. I think his play has been excellent and if he’ll play like he did this past month and like he did last November, we have a chance this November, and because I think he’s a difference-maker.
REPORTER: Your record’s 2-4 after bye weeks. Is there any explanation for that or is it just another statistic that may not pertain to anything in the future?
COACH TRESSEL: It’s probably irrelevant if we become 3-4. It becomes a big deal if we become 2-5 like most things. I guess part of it, we were talking earlier with a group, I forget who it was, that we said probably the most impactful thing about bye weeks is who you play after the bye. And I know we played Penn State after the bye in ’05 and we were going to end up with a good team in ’05, we felt, we weren’t great yet, we felt, and that was a September bye, which is probably not a great time for a young team to have a bye. We came back and we didn’t beat Penn State, so that’s obviously one of those four, but I think every — if there was a formula as to how to do your bye week, we’d all use it, but it’s according to where you are health-wise, where you are development-wise, but it’s probably most impacted by who are you playing after the bye and so we’re playing a pretty good team after the bye.
REPORTER: Why would you say it’s not as good to have an open week early for a young team?
COACH TRESSEL: You don’t have enough data to really know who you are. We had it after three nonleague games, we hadn’t even played a Big Ten game, so we had no measuring stick as to who we were and then all of a sudden we had a lot of 19- and 20-year-olds playing and they started reading and listening to all the expertise and they bought it and all of a sudden three weeks later they’d lost three games in a row. That’s just not a healthy time. You have to know someone’s limitations, and someone with very little experiences, that’s probably not going to be something they can handle as well as maybe nine games into it, hey, you’ve got some reality, you might be 5-4, you might be 4-5, you might be whatever, but there’s some reality to deal with as to what can I do to get better during this period of time.
REPORTER: Talking fundamentals, was it a good week for younger guys? Did they get extra reps during practice?
COACH TRESSEL: Our guys get — when we’re in a fundamental practice, all of our guys get the same amount of reps. The times that our young guys don’t get reps is when they’re running the other team’s plays, but then our guys aren’t getting fundamental reps, per se, they’re getting a lot of learning reps. They’re getting a lot of reading-type reps. So our guys — in our practice set-up, our young people get a lot of reps, especially in a week like this or in a spring practice or in a preseason, our young people get a ton of reps.
REPORTER: How has Ross Homan’s foot progressed and what’s your expectation for him this week and Saturday?
COACH TRESSEL: Good. I would expect Ross to be ready.
REPORTER: Limited in any way?
COACH TRESSEL: I hope not. He’s been out there. We didn’t go live or anything. He was out there, ran 7 on 7 Sunday. Just like the trainer said, the key will be how does he do, like, two days in a row to see if there’s any issues, but based upon after Sunday, I would say no doubt. He and Dorian Bell we would have back for sure, unless something happens in those two days. And then the guys that were lost for the year, we’re not going to have Christian or Corey or Tyler or C. J. I guess that’s the group. We wouldn’t have them back, of course.
REPORTER: Is it better to catch Penn State the week after they’ve won this landmark 400th win for Joe rather than if they were 399 coming in here?
COACH TRESSEL: Well, you know, selfishly, that was kind of like the guy that let them beat Bear Bryant, if you remember. I’m not sure I would have wanted that double play to be — but, no, I don’t think it makes any difference. Someone mentioned that two old coaches with the most wins or something are squaring off in this game and I’m not sure how I took that.
REPORTER: How do you take it?
REPORTER: Are you surprised that Coach Paterno is still at it? Like you said, it was ’01 when he hit that one milestone, would you have thought, well, yeah, 10 years later he’ll still be going or nine years later?
COACH TRESSEL: You know, you never know what goes through people’s thinking and that’s been his home for so long and I don’t know if he envisions there being anything different than that. He’s been there 50 — I don’t know, 55 years or something. 60? Yeah, he’s been there longer than I’ve been alive. So I don’t know if he can envision doing anything else, and, so, no, that doesn’t surprise me that he’s — I just saw in the little press release thing that they have like the sixth most wins in the last five years of any program. So he’s doing fine.
REPORTER: Jim, but, you know, like you just pointed out though, when they marquee this game, it will be the two winningest coaches in college football. Is that a little bit of a bragging point for you? I know you’re not big into the pride thing, but what does that mean to you?
COACH TRESSEL: It means there’s a huge disparity between one and two. That’s the biggest thing it means to me. Where did all those guys go in between us two or am I that close to there? I don’t know.
REPORTER: Jim, you talked about balance, the importance of balance. The last couple late seasons, Novembers have gone very run heavy. How much of that has been just the circumstances of the team, Pryor last year with an injury, and how much of that is just what you do in November in the Big Ten or is there any of that?
COACH TRESSEL: There may be a little bit that if all of a sudden the wind is howling and you can’t — but in a perfect world, I think part of it last year, Terrelle was banged those last three games and so much of — because he’s so careful with the ball, he’s not sure if he’s taking it down running, well, that really wasn’t part of the equation near the end there. So I’m sure that had some to do with it. I don’t remember vividly what the weather was like last November, but I don’t remember it being awful, but you do what the defense allows you to do and — but we’ve never been bashful about saying, if you do do well with the run game, you’ve got a chance to win.
REPORTER: Penn State did well here in ’08. Have you ever heard Terrelle bring that game up in any context since then? You guys all talk that losses are sometimes harder to shake than the wins.
COACH TRESSEL: Maybe when we’re practicing quarterback sneaks sometimes he’ll humbly, you know, bring up that, hey, this is an important practice rep. I know, you know, type thing. But we don’t really harp on a loss. We might harp on things that occur within losses. Maybe poor punt protection, had a punt block that led to a loss or whatever, but we don’t sit around talking about losses that much.
REPORTER: Was that play, though, an indicator to you that this guy was going to look for that play, look for the — you know what I mean, as opposed to just do the average?
COACH TRESSEL: He is a guy that wants to make a difference for his team. I mean, if he could — if he could do anything so that his team would succeed, he would do it. He’s always looking for it, like you say. Heck, you could — if that guy doesn’t luck out and get his hand on it, he’s still running around the corner and it might be one of those plays everyone remembers that wasn’t that creative, but above all else, it was a great lesson learned, that, hey, we didn’t need that at that moment, we just needed a yard, and he’s the first to admit he understands that and we haven’t had to harp on it.
REPORTER: He’s one of your seven or eight guys from Pennsylvania. How do you explain the success you’ve had going into Pennsylvania and who are a couple of the assistants that really do a good job over there? You got Bell, the two Corey Browns, Sweat.
COACH TRESSEL: I think it all started with the fact that Joe Daniels in 2001 — by the way Joe’s in the hospital, nothing horrible, but keep your thoughts and prayers with Joe. Joe went there beginning in ’01, and we probably went, I don’t know, three or four years with maybe getting one guy, I think maybe Rory Nicol and Kyle Mitchum might have been the first two, and it took us some years, but you know Joe, he just kept plugging and plugging and plugging, and then when he became ill, Luke Fickel took over and followed up on all the groundwork that Joe had, and Joe was from Pittsburgh and Joe had a great relationship — and we had a lot of kids at Youngstown from Pittsburgh, so we had a good relationship with the coaches from there, and I think the fact that it’s so close. You know, you get on Route 70 and you’re here as fast as you’re some other places, and so it’s just a natural proximity. But I have to say that it starts with Joe.
Now, Coach Bruce would tell you it starts with him. Where’s Coach Bruce? Not here? He was here earlier. Coach Bruce was the Pennsylvania recruiter back with Basch Nagel and Jan White and Fred Pagac, so I guess I should make sure if you’re writing a story he might read, put that it started with Earle and then Joe took over because I don’t want to have to — you guys have been there.
REPORTER: Terrelle being a junior now, is this game, playing against his home state and a lot of guys he knows in and that coaching staff that he knows, has the novelty of that and being an exciting kind of game for him worn off or do you think it’s still a game that —
COACH TRESSEL: Ohio State-Penn State period, and the fact that he happens to be from there, just like I’m sure the kids from Ohio that are there, there’s been plenty of great ones over the years, that makes a special game even more special.
REPORTER: Jim, do you remember the first time you ever met Coach Paterno?
COACH TRESSEL: Yeah.
REPORTER: And could you tell us what it was?
COACH TRESSEL: I was interviewing with him for a graduate assistantship in December of 1974 and they were getting ready for the Cotton Bowl and they played Baylor and it was a thrill.
REPORTER: Because you are his peer, I’ve heard him refer to you as Little Jimmy on more than one occasion. How do you take that?
COACH TRESSEL: You know, I’m starting to like it more and more. When you’re young you don’t like it, when you’re old you start liking it, someone thinks I’m Little Jimmy. It’s been a special relationship with him in that I did have a chance to visit with him when I was aspiring to become a coach and I was one of those kind of guys, I didn’t end up being with him, but I ended up staying in touch with him, and then all of a sudden when I became a head coach just three hours down the road from him, we had a chance to interact a little bit more and connect in different ways and so now coaching with him for 10 years, you know, in the same Big Ten meetings and so forth, it’s really spanned quite a distance, but I’m sure he looks at me no different than — there have been times he’s called me Lee, so —
REPORTER: I was going to say, he’s known you since you were — he’s referring to you when you were a child and he knew you through your father.
COACH TRESSEL: You know, he knew my father. I’m not sure that I had met him, maybe I did, but when you’re that little, who cares who a college football coach is, but, you know, when I vividly remember meeting him was when I had a chance at — during my senior year of college to interview with him.
REPORTER: Has he ever given you any feedback on why you didn’t get the job?
COACH TRESSEL: Didn’t get which job?
REPORTER: Did he ever give you any feedback on why he didn’t hire you that day?
COACH TRESSEL: Well, I’ve told you guys this story before. I don’t know that I didn’t get the job, and I’m not saying here I was offered the job, but I knew riding home from Penn State I wasn’t going there because my dad told me I was going to Akron. So, now, was I offered the job? Maybe my dad knew I wasn’t, I don’t know. But it was the right thing to do because I got more responsibility where I went. It was probably the more glamorous thing to do because I was all taken by the Penn State and all, but — so I don’t know why I didn’t get the job. Do you know something? Did Joe tell you —
COACH TRESSEL: — that Little Jimmy wasn’t going to get the job anyway? Natalie, last one here.
REPORTER: Okay. I’m glad I was able to give you the head’s up and I’m going to talk about the award you were just given from our friends here.
COACH TRESSEL: Now all your male friends here are groaning.
REPORTER: I know, that’s why I’m glad I was able to at least give you the head’s up.
COACH TRESSEL: Lori will spark them back up.
REPORTER: Okay. I’m going this route for a little bit. Curious about your players’ reaction, we have heard you say that you are very humbled to get this award, but when servicemen and women come into practice, what kind of impact do you think it has on the team?
COACH TRESSEL: I think their awareness level is heightened during this time while they’re at Ohio State. May be the first time they meet a serviceperson then all of a sudden a serviceperson comes in, and we have a lot of them speak to us and all of a sudden you can see our guys are rivetted and the more and more they grow to appreciate — and that’s really our goal, is to get them to understand how blessed we are and that we didn’t just wake up as this country and you wake up as this guy that can come play football at Ohio State, that there were a whole lot of people that paid a dear, dear price for any of this to ever occur. And how would you know unless you were presented with it. Most of us, in eighth grade history and ninth grade history, yeah, we got through it, but did we really know it? Did we understand it? When they meet these soldiers and they see these units come in and they talk to them a little bit about the fact they’re leaving their jobs and families and so forth to go and serve us and here we are, our guys are belly aching about the training table food last night because the steaks weren’t done well, so it really is very important to us and we’re lucky to be where we are to have the folks willing to come in and help our people grow and really help all of us because I don’t care how long you’ve been living, sometimes you forget how fortunate we are to live in this country. Lori?
REPORTER: Is a bye week the time you can install something new on offense or defense or experiment, say, in kick coverage or especially given that it’s week 10 in the season, is a team that’s going to come out of a bye week pretty much the same team that went in maybe just a little bit healthier?
COACH TRESSEL: We’ve got all kind of trick plays we’ve got ready and we’ve got this new defense we’re going to try. But I think it does two things. One, you can go back and you can work on your fundamentals, talking two things specifically to football. And then two, you can study yourselves and others and say, you know what, we probably need to do a little bit more of this or, hey, this probably fits our personnel better and so forth, so those two things you do. I think as I’ve looked back at bye weeks that maybe haven’t fared as well, I’ve gotten overzealous about studying my next opponent, and by the time I was to the real game week, we were so clouded with information about our next opponent that we knew too much and it really wasn’t who they were.
So, yeah, we’ve got to work on ourselves and, yeah, we’ve got to come up with some things maybe that will enhance what we do, and then hopefully the right thing is have the studying of our opponent in the right doses.
Now, the reality is, what happens in the game I guess will determine whether that was the best approach, but we felt that for the moment we’re in, those were the things that we needed to accomplish.