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Sept. 14, 2004

TRESSEL: Well, as you know, that was quite a football game on Saturday. I thought both outfits played hard and planned well and did some good things and both of us did some things that we wish we had back. From our standpoint, probably the most glaring situation that we need to confront that is that we can’t turn the football over, most especially and give someone seven points and the second time gave them the ball on the 13 yard line. You’re just not going to be able to become a champion if that continues.

On the flip side, we’ve got to knock it loose and come up with some picks and come up with some great field position for our offense in the same light. We’re currently at I think zero to seven turnover margin which won’t make it. So that’s something that we’re aware of and we need to address and make sure that we turn that around here in the future.

We had some guys have excellent performances. I think we had 10 guys grade winning performance down from right around 20 the week before, so I don’t know that our consistency was as good as it was the week before in some areas, but we did have some excellent performances. Our special units player of the week is no surprise, it’s Mike Nugent and Mike’s here today. He had three touchbacks on his kickoffs with great hang time, three perfect extra points and obviously the game winner tying an Ohio Stadium record for Ohio State kicker.

Our defensive player of the week was Donte Whitner. He was where he needed to be playing a variety of positions and doing an outstanding job there and as Donte keeps getting better and better, so will we. Our offensive player of the game is also here today, Santonio Holmes. Santonio had 10 catches for 224, two touchdowns, one and a half bags of intravenous fluid during the third quarter, so he had a big day, and I’m glad he stayed out for the last drive instead of going to get rid of some of those bags. There was that discussion. But Santonio continues to make big plays for us. But maybe most important, continues to do a good job of leading the receiver corps. He does a great job in the film room with those guys, he does a great job with the young receivers talking to them about the importance of the scout team and giving our defense a great look and giving great effort in learning how to make plays at this level and when you have leadership in each of your meeting rooms, you have a chance to have a good football team. The attack force player of the week was Bobby Carpenter. Bobby had outstanding production with double digit tackles and flying all over the place. He did an excellent job on the special teams and continues to grow in that starting role that he began having during the course of last season.

Also today with us is A.J. Hawk. A. J.’s production was outstanding as well. Lots of tackle, lots of production points. When we break from the general discussion, we’ll have a chance for you to visit with A. J., Bobby, Michael, and Santonio. As we get ready to play NC State, I think it’s exactly what we need at this point in time. We’ve had two ball games to work on who we are and try to figure out what we want to be and learn lessons in a lot of different areas and now we get the opportunity to add one more difficulty to the list and that’s to go play an excellent veteran team, eight or nine starters back on defense, similar number on offense, down in a very hostile environment, people that love to get excited about their home team and I think it’s just what we need to test ourselves even further as to see how good we are and where we want to be and see if we can handle the situation on the road.

As you get ready for NC State, the thing you better get ready for first is great speed, across the front, whether it’s their offensive players, defensive players, special teams players, great speed. What they do on all three fronts is they love to apply pressure, that’s why I have a lot of respect for them as a football team. You love to see teams that put the pressure on you. They’re going to put the pressure on you with their return teams, their cover teams, they’re going to do it with their passing game, their running game, they’re going to do it with the defense up front, with the blitz, with pressed-up man coverage. You’re going to spend three hours with someone in your face all day long down in Raleigh. I think it will be a tremendous opportunity for us to see who we are and grow each and every snap and play against one of the top teams in the country. I know our guys are looking forward to that. REPORTER: I know there’s always things you want to work on, that you’re always working towards. Do you have a priority list as to what’s the most crucial thing you need to work on right now?

TRESSEL: Turnover margin.

REPORTER: Past that, where does it go?

TRESSEL: I think our consistency in the special teams has — you talk about how are you going to become a great team. You better win the turnover margin. You better have great play in your special teams and then you better make big plays on both sides of the ball and so we work on everything. But if you want to talk about what’s going to be critical, it’s going to start with that turnover margin and it’s going to continue with those special units and then on throughout the smallest detail.

REPORTER: Has there been a common thread that runs through Justin’s interceptions or is it one thing here and one thing there, not any one thing you can stop to prevent the interceptions?

TRESSEL: Like with most interceptions or most gains against us, if there’s a 20-yard gain against us, you can probably point to more than just the guy that threw the ball or more than just the guy that made the tackle on the route and there might have been some things that weren’t there, but in terms of what does the quarterback have to do, he has to make great decisions and if things aren’t just right, if the protection isn’t just perfect or if the route isn’t just perfect, obviously if the coverage isn’t the one we want to throw that ball into, we have to make a great decision as to not throw it. We always talk about the fact that your best throw of the day might be the one you throw in the stands. So I think most problems can be solved with decision making and that’s what we’ll keep working on.

REPORTER: Coach, would you say the interceptions on Saturday were more of a decision making?

TRESSEL: Yeah, I think the first one on a third and four might have started with a decision as to what routes he called. We give our quarterbacks a lot of freedom to visual cue with their whiteouts and between the whiteouts and the DB, decide on what’s the best thing. We certainly didn’t do a great job running the routes and we made not a great decision on — that one maybe needed to be thrown in the stands. So that one, more decision making. I think the next one, if the ball was thrown maybe with two feet less trajectory and more on a rope, it might have been another big play, but it wasn’t, and I think that the decision making, the technique up to that, I thought he did a good job with his feet, his eyes and everything, just didn’t place it where it should have been, but you need to place it where it needs to be and if you don’t, sometimes it’s turned over so decision making and technique is going to be involved in many things.

REPORTER: Will Troy continue to see playing time?

TRESSEL: We’ll have to see the situations. I always like to go through the first couple games and say, hey, I don’t care what’s going on in the game, we need to get this guy in at linebacker or defensive end or tight end or whatever it happens to be. As you get more data and so forth, you — and guys get some reps, but, you know, I don’t know that he will or he won’t. I won’t sit here and say he won’t, but, you know, I don’t know that I’d be as far along as I was a few weeks ago saying, yeah, it will be in the first quarter which is what we said last week.

REPORTER: Coach, the weather forecast for Saturday, because of the hurricane, how much do you pay attention to that? It looks like it could potentially be bad, and does that change the way you approach the game plan during the week? Do you wait and see? How do those things factor in?

TRESSEL: I think the only thing, it could possibly change the way we travel, so we’re waiting to see if there’s any travel issues. Other than that, you know, you get there and it’s wet for you and wet for them and you better be on your feet and not be the guy that slips and you’ve got to handle that, but so do they and I don’t know that you would change dramatically what you do. The officials do a good job of keeping the balls dry. I assume they tarp their field and all those kinds of things, so if you play through a driving rainstorm, you do. Whoever holds on to the ball better or makes the least mistakes is still going to win and maybe it’s magnified, but still we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do.

REPORTER: Jim, as a coach, do you find yourself having to be more patient with a younger team and maybe tolerating some things, mistakes, that you wouldn’t tolerate if you had a more veteran group?

TRESSEL: Oh, I’d like to think in general I’m pretty patient. I don’t know that I’m more or less. If it’s an old guy having a performance outcome that isn’t what we need, we’re going to bring it to his attention and if it’s a young guy we’re going to bring it to his attention and not necessarily change the manner in which we do it, but I don’t want to ever say, well, you know, that’s okay, you’re young, because it’s not okay. And we need to get it done right. So, no, I wouldn’t say we’re more patient, but I would say we are patient.

REPORTER: Can you talk about the availability of Antonio fitting in and Branden Joe and just talk about the running game.

TRESSEL: I’d like to think that both will be available, based upon the trainer’s report that I got today, it was optimistic, but now this is Tuesday. I would think we will obviously be without Dustin Fox, which you hate to lose one of your captains, you hate for a guy in his senior year, but I think the good news is, is that he’ll be back somewhere in the front half of that Big Ten, like Indiana/Penn State area, we’ve been told. Mike Kudla, I would say, will miss this game based upon what I heard this morning. Anybody else that was — I don’t think so. I think other than that, and you could even get Marcel Frost back, those hamstrings sometimes are tenuous, but could get him back.

REPORTER: Would you talk about what you lose with Fox out of the lineup and what rotation is at corner then.

TRESSEL: You lose a veteran. You lose a guy that is always under control. A guy that is going to communicate well and help other people get lined up and he’s going to make plays. Just as we finished the game with Underwood and Youboty at the corners, I would expect that would be the way we would go. To me, the one exciting part about the whole deal is a guy like Harlen Jacobs, who’s in his senior year, and we always say a guy better step up when he’s in his senior year and play unlike he’s ever played, he has a chance now to be one person closer to being in there and if we’re in some nickel things and our staff decides to utilize one of those other guys inside or whatever, Harlen may have some opportunities. Someone asked in one of the other earlier things today, would that mean Teddy Ginn would be back playing defense. And I think it would be only from an emergency standpoint. I think some other guys have gotten more reps and are more prepared, but we may get him some emergency snaps this week for 10 or 15 minutes and he could always jump in there a little bit.

REPORTER: Does the situation with Kudla maybe lead you to think of putting frost back over on —

TRESSEL: No.

REPORTER: Not at all at this point?

TRESSEL: No.

REPORTER: Can you talk about your running attack and any changes you anti patriot personnel-wise or otherwise.

TRESSEL: I wouldn’t anticipate any personnel changes because the same guys were on the roster last week, but one change better be is we better not fumble and that’s two weeks in a row we’ve let the ball on the ground. So, yeah, I anticipate that change. I’d be disappointed if it isn’t. Lydell carried the bulk of it last week. We had some thought of maybe Erik Haw having some opportunities. It just didn’t seem like the right fit at the moment. I would anticipate Branden Joe back a little bit and Antonio Pittman and Mo Hall is still in the mix, but I thought there were some decent things about the run game last week, not great, but some decent things. I think that will be something that we can look to improving as we go.

REPORTER: From what you see of Justin through two games, is he ready for a road test and maybe not so friendly of an environment?

TRESSEL: Well, I would hope so. We’ll find out. I think if you really sit back and reflect on last week’s game, things went okay for a while and then they went sour for a while and it’s usually how you end that’s important. I thought he did an excellent job of handling that and I heard Santonio and those guys talking the same, that they thought he was in command of what we needed to do to go down and give Nuge a chance to win it. Now, does that mean a guy’s ready? You know, he’s ready, now we’ve got to go do it. But it’s our first grade opportunity to do that, so obviously I don’t know, but I feel good.

REPORTER: One of the NC State players yesterday alluded to Ohio State not really playing too many nonconference away games very often and I’m just curious for your thoughts, is that a good thing or a bad thing to schedule nonconference away games before the Big Ten season?

TRESSEL: I think it’s helpful to go on the road. I was a little concerned a year ago when the San Diego State game was changed, I wasn’t concerned for the good of the whole, obviously it was a good thing for our fans and our band and our pocketbook and all that, but for our team to not have gone onto the road until the sixth game of the year, I wasn’t sure that was the greatest thing, but it was what the whole group needed, so it was fine. We’ve got NC State this year and I think we’ve got, I don’t know, in the next few years, I think we’ve got a number of games prior to the Big Ten that are away and I think that’s healthy. Not easy, but healthy.

REPORTER: Jim, did Whitner move into the number one spot at strong safety or will you continue to start Everett? Whitner played a great deal, it looked like, Saturday.

TRESSEL: I think they played about the same, I don’t know. Maybe A. J. and Bobby could help you with that one. Maybe not. I don’t know. I don’t know the answer. Maybe I should just shut up and say I don’t know.

REPORTER: But is he coming out? I mean, obviously —

TRESSEL: Yeah, Donte is doing a good job and so is Tyler and Nate and I think we’re getting better as we go there.

REPORTER: Does one of the guys become the nickel, when Youboty became your nickel and becoming the starter, one of those guys probably —

TRESSEL: I think that’s what occurred, I think that’s what happened the last three quarters of the game or two quarters, yeah.

REPORTER: Is it just an aggravation of his earlier thing?

TRESSEL: Yeah, that’s what it appears. It wasn’t quite as bad. The first one, we knew he was going to be out for a couple weeks. I don’t know that it’s that bad, but we’re kind of waiting to see because when you have a reaggravation, you want to take your time and make sure we’re studying the whole situation, and that’s why I would say I would question whether he would be ready this week.

REPORTER: Coach, NC State, talk about Davis at quarterback, what do they lose from what Philip Rivers was able to do.

TRESSEL: Well, from the one little bit what we’ve seen he was 16 out of 22 and did a good job of doing what they do. And he was there the last two years studying with Philip and obviously we hope that Troy and Justin were here studying with Scotty and Craig and Todd is now studying with those guys. I don’t know that much about him other than he looked sharp this past week and I would think that they can attract good quarterbacks, and they have a good — everyone else around them is back there and that sure helps a quarterback.

REPORTER: Jim, is there any unusual challenge going against a team inside a bye week, do they do a little more to get ready for you and playing an opponent the first week, I wonder if they can conceal a lot of who they are.

TRESSEL: We have to assume we have no idea what they’ll do and that’s kind of the case in the first three or four games anyway. Certainly when you’re coming off a preseason, you don’t know what someone’s doing. You don’t know if a team like Marshall withheld some of the things thinking they could get by Troy, might have happened. And certainly NC State was not going to have to do a whole lot in the Richmond game. So we have to assume we don’t know.

REPORTER: And the bye, them having an extra week like that.

TRESSEL: That helps in preparation, I’m sure. I’m sure if there was anyone nicked up. McLendon didn’t play, I understand, in the Richmond game, which gave him two weeks to heal and he’s a great player. So I would imagine in their case it helped.

REPORTER: Jim, are you all in a little bit of a stand-by mode travel-wise because of the projected path of the hurricane?

TRESSEL: We’ve talked to some teams around the country that use the same charter services and so forth. I think we’ve all been put on a let’s wait and see how this hits our country mode and kind of hang loose and obviously safety and that type of thing is the most important thing. That doesn’t change our preparation for the game. It doesn’t change anything other than printing out the itineraries. I understand Tuesday — is today Tuesday? Yeah, Tuesday it’s supposed to kind of take shape as to where it’s heading. We’ll see.

REPORTER: Your preference would be to leave when?

TRESSEL: Friday afternoon.

REPORTER: Coach, when you had that tough decision whether to accept the holding penalty in the game, you describe it in the post game as the difference between a second down situation and a third down situation.

TRESSEL: I fouled that up, third down and fourth down.

REPORTER: Okay. So you knew that.

TRESSEL: I obviously didn’t know it at the press conference, but it was a one play and long or two plays in long in my mind, which down it was is irrelevant, but I asked around and Bobby Carpenter said we should take the penalty, and so, you know, Bobby’s dad’s a coach, he’s been around the game a long time, so I took Bobby’s advice.

REPORTER: You alluded to NC State’s defense. Just give me your impressions. They do have, I think, nine starters back, is the speed the biggest thing, what stands out?

TRESSEL: Their big guys are big. Their edge guys are big and fast. Their linebackers are big and fast. Their secondary, great man cover guys. Safety, number one, great hitter. He’s a Michael Doss type in a little bigger body. Just very, very talented. If you wanted to put into a computer what kind of athletes you’d like to have on your team, those are the kind.