Share

Nov. 4, 2003

TRESSEL: Ohio State versus Penn State last weekend. A whale of a football game. Two teams playing extremely hard. Physical game. I’ve had a chance to watch two Big Ten games from last weekend, obviously ours both live and studying in video, and the Michigan State/Michigan game, which was an extraordinary football game, hard fought, full speed, lots of banging, and that’s the way that the Ohio State/Penn State game was.

Penn State came in very well prepared, very emotionally pitched, playing at home with really the pride of Penn State on the line, and I think they could walk out of that stadium knowing that they gave everything they had for Penn State, and our guys could walk out of the stadium knowing that we gave everything that we had for Ohio State.

Obviously a play here and a play there makes the difference in any football game. And also the general performance throughout the game of the people playing it. We had a number of guys that did grade winning performances on both sides of the ball. We thought the consistency in a lot of areas was very, very good. We thought there were some outstanding performances. The special units player of the week was Bobby Carpenter. Bobby does a great job on our kickoff coverage. Does a great job on our punt protection and coverage. And he does a good job on our kickoff return. And he was our special teams player of the week.

Our defensive player of the week was Will Allen. And Will did an excellent job coming down out of the secondary, keeping the secondary in passing situations, in the right places, and just had an outstanding game, and continues to be an excellent leader in the back end of that defense.

The offensive player of the game was Scott McMullen. And Scott stepped in to a 17-7 deficit, and, I thought, handled things extremely well. I thought the drive he engineered to start the second half really lit a fire and sense of belief with each and every one of us. And he continued to play solid the whole game, then came up with the game-winning play along with Michael Jenkins and the guys protecting. So Scott McMullen, I think, was 12 for 17, and I thought played a very solid half a football game.

The offensive lineman of the week was Shane Olivea. Shane graded 93%, I think it was, which was extremely high. We felt he was going to have an excellent game, because if you recall, he didn’t get a chance to play against Penn State a year ago. He had that appendicitis. And he was looking forward to that match-up a year ago and didn’t get to take part and he made sure he played a good game. And I thought he did a great job of leading that offensive football team. When you lose one of your leaders like the offense lost Craig, Scott was focused in on the task at hand, and I thought Shane did an excellent job of leading that offensive football team, and he was the offensive lineman of the week.

The attack force player of the week was Will Smith. He had three tackles for losses and just did an outstanding job. About 10 months ago, Will had a tough decision to make, in my mind, because it was apparent that he could probably be a second round draft choice or maybe even higher, and he had a passion to come back here and, number one, finish his degree, which he had promised his family that he would do; and, two, he wanted to lead this football team, which he’s done an extraordinary job doing; and, three, he wanted to make it without question that he was going to be a first round draft choice. So I’d like to think all three of those things are going to be a reality.

He continues to play extraordinarily hard. He’s a guy that knows our defense through and through and is asked to do a lot of different things and is a great leader out there for an excellent defense, and he was our attack force player of the week.

We haven’t voted on the Jack Tatum hit of the week. There’s two or three nominations. Interestingly enough one happens to be Ben Hartsock hitting an official, but don’t tell the guys that, that will surprise him on the video, see how that gets on the applause meter. But there were some good hits in that game, and there will be two or three hits for the guys to vote on this afternoon.

The scout teams were outstanding again last weekend — or last week, preparing us for the weekend. I think they’ve done a great job, both sides of the ball the entire year, and in the special teams. Anthony Schlagel was selected as the scout special teams player of the week. John Kerr was selected as the scout defensive player of the week. And Anthony Gonzalez was selected as the scout offensive player of the week. All are going to be good football players for us, but until they have that opportunity to do that, they’ve done a good job of helping to prepare the guys that get to play on Saturday.

We talk about November constantly. November is when you really measure yourself as a football team. And as you looked at 2003, you knew that the Ohio State Buckeyes were going to have a grueling November beginning with Penn State and now moving forward to Michigan State. It’s a special time for every team, but it’s most especially a special time for every group of seniors, because the reality of their collegiate career coming to an end becomes more obvious to them. And when you have an opportunity to earn some of the goals, perhaps all of the goals that you’ve set for the year, and you’re in the month of November, I think that’s even more exciting for the seniors.

We feel as if the senior class has done an excellent job. I’ve said often that it was going to be a tough challenge, maybe the toughest challenge a group of seniors at Ohio State has ever had. I think it’s lived up to that billing. Our schedule has been tough. It’s always tough to be the folks wearing the crown, and I think they’ve done an excellent job of leading this football team.

It’s really exciting when you have a guy like Scott McMullen who, for five years, has been paying attention, doing whatever — if I knew the number of practices he’s spent on the scout team since he’s been at Ohio State or throwing balls in perimeter so that our secondary could have the right looks or whatever it happens to be, I’m sure it’s an amazing number. And to see the way that he’s continued to press on and do whatever he could do, whenever he had a chance to do it. When you’re seniors, like Scott McMullen, like Drew Carter was having that type of year, like the guys you expect, Will Smith and Shane Olivea and so forth, you have a chance to have a good team.

And I’ll go right into the medical report, and then we’ll talk a little bit about Michigan State. I know you want to know how we’re doing medically. I think Craig will work light today. He ran yesterday a little bit on his own and felt fine. I think they’ll let him throw and move around a little bit today. I don’t think they’ll let him in any of the team drills and so forth. They’re usually pretty conservative when it comes to those types of injuries. And then Wednesday, I would expect him to be full speed ahead. And Craig Krenzel, barring anything medical, will be our starting quarterback. But the thing I like about our situation is it’s become even more obvious that Scott McMullen can contribute as well. And I’m sure if the situation is right, that that will happen on Saturday with both Craig and Scott having a chance to help this football team.

Alex Stepanovich and Darrion Scott continue to get better. Brandon Schnittker, I don’t know, haven’t really heard of a report as to how he’s doing. Marcus Green will be able to — I think we could have pressed him into service Saturday, but he probably wasn’t 100%, and our people didn’t feel as if the time was right to do that. I’m trying to think of who else. Of course, Drew Carter will be out. Anybody else we’re missing?

So from a health standpoint, going into game number 10, we feel good about the health of our team. I think it’s because they train hard, they train all year around, and they practice hard. They play the game hard, and when you play the game hard, I think there are less injuries, so we’ve been fortunate, I think, from a health standpoint.

Michigan State is going to be a great challenge. That Michigan State/Michigan game was a heck of a battle. No team was ever going to give up in that game, and you could see that, and that’s the way that the Big Ten plays. They come in here with a great quarterback and an offensive scheme that gives you a lot of trouble, a lot of speed, a lot of things maybe that you don’t see every day. And so our defense is going to have an extraordinary challenge going against yet another great quarterback on our schedule.

Their defense has a tremendous amount of speed and quickness and toughness. And I really like the way they played. The Michigan tailback got 200 yards, but it took 50-some carries to do that. And I’ll tell you what, you have to tip your cap, that tailback ran in there, and he was getting hit, and he ran in there again, and that was a heck of a football game. And Michigan State’s got a physical defensive football team.

Special teams might be, if you study the numbers, the area where Michigan State is the strongest. Their net punt is either one or two with us, I’m not sure who’s one and who’s two. Their kickoff coverage is tops in the league. Their kickoff return is tops in the league. They have a solid punt returner. I think he averages somewhere in the neighborhood of 9 yards a return. He’s had a couple touchdowns in his past. He hasn’t had a touchdown this particular year. He’s had some 30-yarders and that type of thing. I think he had a couple last year. So their special teams are going to be as big a challenge as we have going into this Saturday.

They’re a fine football team. John L. Smith I’ve known for years and years, and he’s a guy that wins games. He’s been there, done that, lots of different places. And he’s at a good place that has good players, and he continues to win. And so we know that we’re going to have a heck of a challenge.

And with that, I would open up for questions. Shane Olivea is here, Will Smith is here. Both Scott McMullen and Will Allen and Bobby Carpenter have class that doesn’t end until 12:30, but Shane and Will will handle the questions.

REPORTER: Coach, as I gather from what you’re saying, are you going into this week planning on getting Scott in the game or have you —

TRESSEL: I thought that’s what I said.

REPORTER: Do you have in your mind like a series?

TRESSEL: Not really, no.

REPORTER: Did Krenzel have a concussion? What’s the injury he’s coming back from, do you know?

TRESSEL: You know, I’m not sure. I mean, I haven’t really talked to the doctor as to it was this or that. I know he was — I guess the phrase I keep hearing used is “got his bell rung” and that type of thing. I’d heard people talked a little bit after the game like they thought it was ribs or something like that. I just think he was banged pretty hard.

REPORTER: This represents a bit of a departure, actually a departure, in you planning to play Scott. You haven’t done that, you haven’t made that a part of the plan. Can you go into why? The reasons are pretty obvious. But just go into why and whether you think this — why this might not compromise Craig’s confidence or the team’s confidence in Craig, playing a second guy?

TRESSEL: You know, I think plain and simple, Scott has earned the’s opportunity to play some. Now, I’m not ever going to sit and promise anyone how much they’re going to play and those types of things. We alternate at many, many positions. Obviously, it’s more visible when you do it at quarterback. But in many cases, there’s a difference in what quarterbacks can do. The thing that I felt good about Scott stepping into our ball game this past weekend was that he knows what we’re doing, he can do what we’re doing, and he’s demonstrated as a starter that he’s very, very capable.

So I wouldn’t — I would hope that the way Craig would look at it is we’ve got one more good guy that’s going to help us win.

REPORTER: Could you elaborate a little bit, you said Michigan State does a lot of things you don’t see every day.

TRESSEL: Well, their spread attack is not anything like what Penn State does, for instance, which we got ready for last week. The week before that was Indiana. The week before that was Wisconsin. There nothing like those three teams. They may be a little bit more like, I suppose, maybe NC State. I’m trying to think of who we’ve played that has done a good job, spreading out Bowling Green, Northwestern. They’re going to spread you sideline to sideline, control passing game and do it well.

REPORTER: Their team has really had great success doing that to you, though. Are there any wrinkles in their spread attack, or is it the Texas Tech, San Diego State, NC State that we’ve seen the last two seasons?

TRESSEL: I think it’s definitely a spread look, but I think it has a character of its own. No matter how you line up, you still feature what your guys can do. And a lot of it will be based upon how we line up, because that’s what you do in offense and defense. You may want to do one thing, but we line up another way, so they have to do something different. But it will be plenty challenging.

REPORTER: Jim, during your championship — national championships that you won at Youngstown State, did you have an occasion where you played two quarterbacks, or wasn’t there a year where you switched quarterbacks in midstream?

TRESSEL: You know, there was probably one year where we played two guys and it might have been like 80/20 type thing. I don’t think I’ve ever had a 50/50 type situation.

REPORTER: Is that what you’re envisioning for this weekend, Scott playing a lot of the game or just a little bit?

TRESSEL: I don’t really have a vision right now at all.

REPORTER: This is something, though, he’s earned.

TRESSEL: Yeah.

REPORTER: Does it go against a little bit the way you would like to do things? You seem to prefer one quarterback, at least that’s what we’ve been able to take here the last three years.

TRESSEL: Well, I prefer to do what’s best for our team and the guys involved. And as I said at the outset, November’s a special time, most especially for seniors. And it just so happens, it’s a little bit unusual that you’ve got two seniors at quarterback, and both have, I thought, done great things. I don’t know what Craig Krenzel’s record is as a starter, but it’s pretty fair. And Scott McMullen, when he’s had opportunities here in particular this year, has made the most of them.

So I guess I’m looking at it as I’ve always felt you better have two good quarterbacks if you want to win at all; and how much each of them play, I would be kidding you if I knew what that was.

REPORTER: Jim, a couple years ago, you seemed to suggest that you were looking for more of a competitive fire out of Scott. Do you see that now, or have you come to the conclusion that maybe he’s just one of these guys that can get the job done with more of a laid-back type of personality?

TRESSEL: You know, I don’t remember exactly saying that. Maybe I did. I know Scott a lot better than I did a couple of years ago. And I think Scott has a lot more confidence in what he can do than he did a couple of years ago. And that in itself is going to translate into performance. But I don’t know if I’ve ever questioned anyone’s competitive spirit.

REPORTER: How much attention do you pay to the BCS right now, and what do you think has to happen to get you back to that championship?

TRESSEL: I just heard from Steve this morning, what did you say we were, fifth? Fifth, that’s about as much — he said you’re probably going to get a question about the BCS, and I said, well, where are we, so that I would know. You know, it’s irrelevant unless we do well. If we win all our games, and they send us to wherever, we go there; if we don’t, they send us somewhere else.

But Michigan State, come watch some of the film, you won’t think about the BCS.

REPORTER: As a competitor, though, aren’t you a little concerned Virginia Tech leap frogged over you from so many spots behind, and Miami is right in front of you? I mean, I know you say it’s irrelevant. But still, the voters seem to not respect where Ohio State is at this point.

TRESSEL: I can’t worry about what the nation’s voters are worried about. I’m worrying about becoming the best we can be. You can’t spend your life worried about what others are saying or thinking or doing.

REPORTER: Does that motivate you?

TRESSEL: No. That’d be a good question for these guys. It doesn’t motivate me. Shane?

OLIVEA: No, I think like coach said, you can’t worry about what other people think too much. You’ve got to focus each week on the game at hand, because if we lose this week, it doesn’t matter where we are. So we need to go out and take care of business for us to even think about that.

SMITH: I would have to agree with Shane. It will all be determined after we play Michigan, so then you can ask all those questions, and we can tell you if we get respect, I guess.

REPORTER: Will, when you look at tape of Jeff Smoker, what do you see?

SMITH: I see a quarterback that’s smart. He runs his offense very well. The offense is based around him. And it’s just the Jeff Smoker’s show. So we know the key is to get after Jeff Smoker, and to put some pressure on him, and help out the DBs at the defensive line, and just play an all-around good attack against them.

REPORTER: Jim, you said after the Penn State game that you and Joe, before the game, were talking about you both need an emotional game, and it’s obvious with their struggles why they needed one, but I’m curious as to why you needed one?

TRESSEL: I think when you play at Penn State, you better play emotionally, you better play all the way to the end or you won’t have a chance to succeed. So I’m sure that’s why I felt we did. I’m sure he did, because their team is a lot better than they’d been demonstrating, and they had been doing some things that hadn’t allowed them to succeed, and sometimes that can affect your emotion, and he felt he needed his team to be emotionally feeling as if, hey, they’re going to go out and do it. And I think the way they played, they played a heck of an emotional football game, as did we. That’s why it had to be a good game to watch. I don’t know, I didn’t watch it, but it had to be. Those two teams went at each other.

REPORTER: On a typical week, how many conversations do you have with Mark Dantonio or the defensive staff about things you may have seen or you want switched, or does that happen at all?

TRESSEL: I don’t usually say anything about wanting anything switched. We meet as a staff every day and talk about practice and about how we can service each other and how can we help you guys get ready for what you’ve got and you help the offense get ready for what they’ve got.

And sometimes on Thursday, after watching film for five days, you say, this might be something that they might do or be alert for this or that.

But how many times a week? Maybe once, maybe bi-weekly, not often.

REPORTER: Is there any danger to switching up what’s worked so well for two years to now bring Scott into the mix? Some people look and say, Craig has struggled at times, but not really broke, he’s 22-1 in the last two years or whatever it is. What kind of danger lies in shaking it up now this late in the year?

TRESSEL: About the same danger you have with every decision you make. Just like should Alex play a little bit of left guard? He’s been playing center and right guard, that type of thing.

Which leads me to another injury, I think Mike Kne is questionable. That was the other guy. Mike Kne, I think, is questionable.

But the same amount of danger that goes with any decision you make.

What you work hard to do is make the best decisions you can, most especially in the flow of the game.

REPORTER: Shane, what do Craig and Scott both bring to the huddle, bring to the offense leadership-wise? Is there any difference when they’re out there for you guys?

OLIVEA: There’s a little bit of difference, I think because Craig has maybe a little more game experience in crucial situations. And I think this past week was Scott’s first opportunity in, like, a tight game, when we needed to make play, he made a play. I just think that Craig has been in that situation so many times with the course of the season last year. But I think this is the first time that Scott was actually put in a situation where the game was on the line, and that final drive, we needed him to sort of grow up really quick.

But as far as a difference, a person to better ask would probably be the wide receivers because they’re more directly affected by it. As far as an offensive lineman, I still have to block my man, I still have to give Craig and Scott time to read. It doesn’t affect an offensive line really, it would maybe affect a wide receiver. But Scott did a hell of a job when he was in there and so does Craig.

It’s nice to have two guys; but, to me, there’s not a whole difference because I’m not directly affected by it.

REPORTER: Shane, do you have more confidence in Scott now because he has been put through that kind of an under-fire situation? Maybe more so than you had going into the game?

OLIVEA: Not a whole lot, because I’ve been with Scott for four years now. When you go up our first team in defense, it’s still a lot of pressure. Defense wants to stop us, we want to stop them. But I think Scott’s been playing well, like Coach said, he’s maybe earned the right. But like I said, you have two quarterbacks that are capable of doing the job, and that’s only going to help our team.

REPORTER: Why was Scott able to have success throwing the ball Saturday that Craig wasn’t? Is he recognizing things better now? Does his release enter into that? It appears the blocking and receivers and the personnel around him are the same and yet the results were somewhat significantly different. Why the difference, in your estimation grading those guys?

TRESSEL: I think we evolved to doing a couple different things, once we had a feel for what Penn State was doing. A couple of the incompletions that Craig had, we didn’t throw those routes as the game went on, and a couple of the completions that Scott had, we hadn’t thrown those routes yet, which we thought were going to be there.

So I think Scott just came in and was very comfortable and executed, and I don’t know that it’s anything other than that.

REPORTER: Is it too simple to say that Scott’s getting an opportunity this week because he gives your throwing game a boost that Craig hasn’t given to your satisfaction lately? It seems if you were satisfied with Craig’s throwing participation in the game, you might be hesitant to make this kind of a change.

TRESSEL: Well, I go back to Indiana, where Craig threw it, I don’t know how many times, 27 times, and completed —

REPORTER: 18.

TRESSEL: How many? 18 or 19 or something.

Of course, he missed a couple games, and you go back to NC State, he threw 26 out of 36 or something.

Wisconsin was a struggle for anyone who wanted to try to throw the football.

But, no, I don’t know that it is too simple in any way, shape, or form. Scott McMullen is a senior on our football team, and, I think, has earned a chance to play a little bit. Now, how much is that? I don’t know.

REPORTER: Coach, your last three games were against predominantly passing teams. Can you talk about your pass defense and the last few weeks haven’t been as much, but the first four or five games of the year, you saw this a lot. Is that going to help?

TRESSEL: We’ve seen it a lot in the last two or three years. I think the fact that we did play Washington and San Diego State and Bowling Green and North Carolina State and Northwestern is going to give these guys a great ability to go back and say, okay, we’re doing some of these things now. You still better stop the run. If you look at Michigan State’s victories, you’ll see some good running. And so you better stop the run, number one.

But I think you’ll use, maybe, some of your package that you haven’t used as much, because you’ve faced a little bit different style. But Will might answer that better than I.

SMITH: I would have to agree with Coach Tressel. The past two or three years, we’ve played teams that haven’t been throwing the ball, so I think we have a pretty good feel for teams that aren’t going to throw the ball and have a pretty good scheme. As long as we follow the scheme and play what we’re supposed to play, I’m pretty confident.

REPORTER: Jim, you guys have had success, though, against a lot of these nonconference quarterbacks by pressuring them. Is Smoker more adept at facing the pressure because he plays in the Big Ten, he plays them week in and week out?

TRESSEL: The key to playing these quarterbacks is to put pressure. We do it against run teams by having eight or nine guys up in the box.

Is Smoker more adept? He’s awfully good. We haven’t faced him. I think I’d have a little bit better barometer if we’d faced him the last couple of years, but we haven’t. But he certainly appears on film to be unflappable. And he’s going to makes plays. He’s going to throw it away when he needs to. He’s going to step up and run when he needs to and’s pass when he needs to. He’s good. I don’t know that you really even know the size of the challenge until you’re faced with it, and we’ll find out Saturday.

REPORTER: Will, could you talk a little bit about he Smoker and the kind of quarterback he is and the way the defensive front is playing for Ohio State?

SMITH: I think Smoker is an outstanding quarterback. We played him my freshman year at the ‘Shoe, at Ohio State. He had a pretty good game. I think we won the game, I think it was 44 to something. I think over his four years, he has gotten better with all the problems that he went through, and I think he’s just finishing off his career having a great season so far.

And defensive line-wise, I think a lot of older guys are stepping up, like Darrion is getting better, and Tim is playing good. Younger guys are getting a lot of playing time, and they’re also showing a lot of promise. So I just think there’s a lot of big things to come. And I know a lot of the guys want to finish hard these next three games and come out with a victory.

REPORTER: Are you satisfied with the way the year’s going for you?

SMITH: Am I satisfied? Yeah, as long as we keep winning, I’m always going to be satisfied. We’ve got a game this week against Michigan State, so after the game, if we win the game, then I’m going to be satisfied.

REPORTER: Coach, I noticed that Michigan State is first in the margin, 25 take-aways, what do you see defensively on how are they getting take-aways?

TRESSEL: I think there are two things, maybe three that contribute to your turnover margin. Number one, if you have excellent quickness on defense, you’re going to come up with turnovers. Balls that are on the ground, you’re going to have the quickness to get them, balls that are in the air, you’re going to have the quickness to get it. Offensively, they have a veteran quarterback that takes care of the ball, and it’s in his hands most of the time. And their special teams have good speed and can disrupt and cause turnovers and that type of thing. And I think last weekend was the first time they had had a turnover in the Big Ten. And I don’t know exactly how many they had, I can’t remember. But that was — that was their fifth Big Ten game, maybe sixth, I don’t know. Maybe fifth Big Ten game.

So there’s no secrets to this world. If you’re tops in the league in the turnover margin, you’ve got a good chance of being tops in the league period.

REPORTER: Lydell Ross 100% this week?

TRESSEL: I think so. I thought Lydell played hard last weekend. I thought the guys up front did an excellent job of giving him an opportunity. And he’s going to need to continue to grow if we’re going to be a group that meets our goals.

REPORTER: What happened to him, do you know?

TRESSEL: He got dinged up a little bit. He was back in after that.

REPORTER: That being said, Shane, can you talk about the running game and how it’s improved the last couple weeks and what you guys have done, if anything, differently?

OLIVEA: I think we sort of got in a rhythm with Lydell and ourselves. We kind of just said to a man, play your last five games like it is your last game because for many of us it is. I think we stopped pressuring ourselves and stressing ourselves and went out there and played hard. That’s one thing coach Tressel and Coach Bollman always stress is go until you hear the whistle. You look at film on Sunday, you see a lineman giving Lydell a little extra help or linemen getting down field and taking someone out. So I think we’re trying a lot harder and sort of been relaxing and letting the run game come to us instead of stressing and doing things we weren’t accustomed to before.

But for whatever reason, I think we just sort of got into a rhythm with Lydell, and he’s sort of seeing some of the same things that we are, and it’s taking a lot of pressure off the defense, and some of us being able to control the clock and putting points on the board.

We had two impressive opening drives this past weekend opening third quarter to start the game with. Anytime you can do that, start the game on that kind of a note, it’s always going to help you out.

REPORTER: Jim, can you talk about the growth of Lydell? I think Coach Daniels told us at the end of last week, he knew he wanted that job, wasn’t sure he had the confidence to take it. I think he’s gained the confidence the last few weeks.

TRESSEL: I think confidence is really enhanced when you practice and practice well. He missed a lot of practice in preseason. And, of course, when you get into games, and if you stay healthy, and if you perform and learn lessons and you don’t maybe have a great play, but you learn lessons and so forth, that helps enhance your confidence. He’s had two games where he’s had over 20 carries. I think that helps the confidence.

Now he’s got to take it up another notch because the challenge this week is greater. I think he’s anxious to do that.

REPORTER: You know John L. Smith, you said you’ve known him for a while. What’s his personality and does this team reflect his personality? It’s been a turnaround.

TRESSEL: Yeah, he wins. You go back to Utah, I don’t know where all he’s been, he wins. He’s got his guys believing that they’re going to win. They’re playing good football, and they have outstanding athletes, and good scheme on both sides of the ball, and obvious commitment to special teams, and that’s what John L. has done wherever he’s been.

REPORTER: Some would say there were some controversial calls by the officiating crews over the past season. Where do you fall on the instant replay with the Big Ten? Is that something we should consider, maybe with the seniors too, what do they think?

TRESSEL: I’m not a real instant replay fan, unless they’re going to do it on holding calls. If I had a nickel for every hold on Will Smith. There are seven human beings out there trying to do the best they can do officiating the game, and they’re going to miss some things. I’m not really for scrutinizing some of those things and not all of those things. If we scrutinized all of those things, the game would be six hours. So I don’t know that it’s practical.

That’s just my opinion. I may be wrong. You guys?

SMITH: Well, like Coach said, the refs are out there trying to do their job, we know they’re not perfect, they’re not going to make all the right calls, that’s just part of playing the game. There are going to be a lot of points during the game where you don’t get the call, and you have to step up and make a play. That actually makes the game better when you face a little adversity.

OLIVEA: Kind of agree with Will. They’ve got a job to do, and they try to do it to the best of their ability. And they’re not purposely trying to miss a call but certain things happen. But I don’t think instant replay would help. It just gives you more motive the next time to go out and do a better job the next play to make it more obvious.

But they’re human, they’re allowed to make mistakes. But I don’t think instant replay would drastically change it.

REPORTER: With Chris Gamble playing offense, some of the games you’ve played teams that pass a lot and you’re less likely or whatever to use him on offense. What are your thoughts going into these last three weeks of those teams all being passing teams?

TRESSEL: We played Chris 68 plays on defense, 17 on offense, and another handful, 10 or so, special teams. So he was somewhere in the 90 to 95 range, I believe, of his plays, which was a lot. Too much if it’s 80 degrees. Whether a team’s passing a lot or running a lot, it takes a little energy to tackle guys, too, just like it does to cover them. I think we’ll get a feel for the flow of the game, and just see how he’s feeling, and talk to him a little bit on Monday about how a hundred plays felt. He hadn’t done that for a year, and he felt like he was fine. He felt like he was fresh. I think as the weather cools, that will help him a little bit. But, again, I think Chris has earned a chance to play some on offense, but I’m not ever going to say it’s going to be X amount, because things really are based upon the practice week and then what goes on during the course of the game at every position.

REPORTER: Jim, before Craig got hurt, there was a couple times it looked like he was holding the ball a long time. Was there nobody open or I wonder what —

TRESSEL: Are you talking about Saturday?

REPORTER: Saturday, yeah.

TRESSEL: I think there were a couple times, perhaps, that we didn’t hit things rhythmically, but I don’t remember a whole bunch of them. I think he only threw it like 12 or 13 times. He threw some solid ones in there. And the time that he got banged, he made a great read. Mike Jenkins had a chance for a huge play and it was just overthrown. But that was exactly where he should have gone. He needed to let it go .

maybe a little earlier than he would have liked to, but he had to. I don’t think you have to worry about Craig from that standpoint. We didn’t have him in the second half, and Scott McMullen stepped up and did well. Like Shane said, it’s great to have two guys that can help.

REPORTER: Is that magnified, though, because Scott’s in the shotgun and he’s just winging it back there? I mean the difference between the two guys.

TRESSEL: Scott was in there when it was 17-7, but quickly it was 17-14, which is a whole different world. We didn’t do well on a couple drives, and so all of a sudden now you’re at the five-minute mark, and it’s not like, okay, we’re going to have two more shots at this, let’s not worry. We needed to go to work, and Scott loves being back there, under pressure, and that’s why — I think that’s why he’s progressed, even though he hasn’t had as much playing time as a normal kid in his fifth year. He loves practicing. He loves competing against Will and those guys, and he gets better in practice, which is a real plus. It would be easy for a fifth-year quarterback playing behind a guy that took a team to the National Championship just to sit there and say, I’m not going to get better, I’ll let these young guys, because everyone wants to talk about who’s going to be the next quarterback, blah, blah, blah. Scott didn’t do that, he wants to help the team.

REPORTER: Coach, have you had a chance to talk to Craig and how do you think he’ll react to the prospect that he’s won a national title? He’s been the starting quarterback basically since Bellisari left, will he react okay or accept the fact, okay, that I know when another guy is going to get some snaps, and I know I’m going to be possibly sharing time with Scott.

TRESSEL: How do I think he’ll react?

REPORTER: Or have you had a conversation.

TRESSEL: No, we’ve not had a conversation. I think he would react like he reacts to everything else in terms of our team. All he wants to do is win. And that, in my mind, will be exactly how he’ll react, and he’ll do the best he can possibly do. And when Scott’s in the ball game, he’ll be signalling the plays and talking to them on the sideline just like at the end of the game, when he’s the guy that stepped up and said, hey, here’s what we need to do, and he called the touchdown play. Craig just wants to win.

REPORTER: Coach, how did you grade Craig against Penn State up to the point he was injured?

TRESSEL: He was in the high 70s somewhere. It’s hard to be much above that when you have a turnover. But he was in the 70s somewhere.

REPORTER: Was his decision-making this season, and particularly lately, been where you want it to be, particularly in the throw over the middle that was intercepted and Saturday he had another interception? I just wonder if you’re happy with his decisions, Craig’s.

TRESSEL: I think in general, yes. But those are two great examples .

of “no.” So I don’t want you to write it as if “no,” you picked out two plays, he’s played 100-and-some others, and does a great job of getting us in and out of the right play and goes to the guy that the ball needs to go to. As I mentioned, I think the two times when he was healthy and under good conditions that stick out in my mind are NC State and Indiana, and you add those numbers, those are pretty good.

REPORTER: Jim, do you give Scott the same freedom, the same sort of options to change things at the line that you would give Craig?

TRESSEL: Sure, yeah. All of our quarterbacks have the same degree of what they need to know and what they ought to know and what we want them to do when they’re up there.

REPORTER: How did you judge Santonio Holmes’ performance?

TRESSEL: I think Santonio has done a great job of stepping up when the team needs him. Drew Carter was having an outstanding year which limited Santonio’s opportunities a little bit. Santonio now has had more opportunities. I think he’s made the best of them, and he’s a red shirt freshman guy that came in and helped a little bit early. But when you don’t play as much, that means you don’t get as many practice reps, and you maybe don’t progress as fast. All of a sudden now he’s getting more reps. I think Santonio Holmes has done a great job myself.

REPORTER: Jim, nearing the latter part of your regular season, I’m wondering, is Maurice Clarett on track for reinstatement to the team? Could you give us an update on Maurice and if you’re satisfied with what you’ve seen out of him?

TRESSEL: Well, I haven’t seen much of him. But my assumption is that he’s doing what he needs to do academically, and that we’ll cross that reinstatement bridge and those types of things when the time is right for that. But, no, I don’t really have a sense.

REPORTER: Have you seen him at all in the last five, six weeks?

TRESSEL: Yeah, I saw him about two or three weeks ago, he stopped through, and he seemed to be doing good.

REPORTER: Have you heard anything about them dropping their $2 million lawsuit and seeking his academic records instead?

TRESSEL: No.

REPORTER: You said at the one press conference awhile back that there’s a chance he could return to practice with the team. Has that been kind of pushed aside with his pursuance of the NFL, or is that still a possibility?

TRESSEL: Haven’t really talked about it.

REPORTER: Did you talk about his knee surgery at all? Did he mention that to you? Or are you aware of his medical condition on that front?

TRESSEL: He didn’t mention anything to me about it.

REPORTER: Was he limping at all when he came in?

TRESSEL: See what I put up with every week, Will? These guys wonder why Tuesday I’m in a bad mood at practice. .

REPORTER: Here’s the deal, we heard he had knee surgery, but nobody’s seen him. And the fact that you saw him a couple weeks ago, maybe you saw some sign of that.

TRESSEL: Did not.

REPORTER: With the way Michigan State is spread around, wouldn’t you have to be aware offensively — Will, if you want to, chime in on this too — personnel other than Jeff Smoker, who is he getting it to? Who are the headline guys?

TRESSEL: The guys I see the most, their back does a great job catching the ball and running it — is it Hayes? Okay, Hayes. And then the guy’s name, Shabaj. You see him making a lot of plays. The big tight end is really good. But it’s like anything else, if they line up with a tight end and three wides, you can’t say, well, they’re just going to go to Shabaj, so we won’t worry about the other guys, Smoker’s going to go to who’s open. That’s, in my mind, what you have to worry about, is it could be sprayed anywhere, and they could run the football, and Jeff Smoker could step up and go with it himself.

REPORTER: Do they look more capable of adding a running element to the spread than some of the other spread teams you’ve played? NC State was essentially without McClendon for most of the game, and those spread teams mostly throw it for most of the game. Do they have some run capability?

SMITH: Yes, they have some run capability. They have two running backs, I think 31 and 34. I’m not sure about both of their names, but they do a pretty good job. When they run the ball, they usually get about 10 yards because they’re throwing the ball so much. They can hurt you with the run if you’re not aware of what they can do.

TRESSEL: One more, because we’ve got meetings here coming up.

REPORTER: On this election Tuesday, have you ever considered running for public office?

TRESSEL: No. Thank you, have a nice day.