Sept. 27, 2004

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Windows A/V Press Luncheon
Transcript of Press Luncheon
Player Quotes
Depth Chart
Top 25 Polls

Ohio State opens its 2004 Big Ten season Saturday at Northwestern. The Buckeyes and Wildcats are meeting for the 70th time since the series inaugural game in 1913. Saturday’s game in Ryan Field (cap. 47,130) will kickoff at 8:07 p.m. CDT (9:07 p.m. EDT) and will be televised nationally by ESPN2. Eric Collins, Andre Ware and Jimmy Dykes will call the action for the network.

As always, WBNS Radio will carry the game on the statewide Ohio State radio network with network programming beginning an hour before kickoff. Paul Keels, Jim Lachey and Jim Karsatos will describe the action.

Coach Jim Tressel’s squad, idle last week, is 3-0 on the year and ranked sixth nationally in the latest ESPN/USA TODAY poll. The Buckeyes are coming off a convincing 22-14 win at North Carolina State two weeks ago in which All-American kicker Mike Nugent booted five field goals and the OSU defense pilfered three interceptions and recovered two fumbles. The victory, in their first visit to an Atlantic Coast Conference football stadium, stretched the Buckeyes’ current winning streak to four games, dating back to last year’s Fiesta Bowl win over Kansas State. A win at Northwestern would give the Buckeyes their third-consecutive 4-0 start under Tressel (14-0 in 2002 and 5-0 in 2003).

Northwestern enters the game with a 1-3 record. The Wildcats are coming off a 43-17 loss at Minnesota in their Big Ten opener. They are 1-1 at home, losing to Arizona State in their home opener but bouncing back to down Kansas the following week.

Ohio State is beginning its 92nd season of Big Ten play. Since joining the league in 1913, the Buckeyes have posted an all-time record of 414-157-24 and have either won outright or shared 29 conference championships. That ledger includes a 55-13-1 record against Northwestern.

Under Tressel, the Buckeyes have a three-year Big Ten record of 19-5 and are 14-2 the past two seasons. Ohio State finished with a 6-2 conference record last year and tied for second in the final standings. Both of those losses were on the road. The Buckeyes have never lost a conference opener under Tressel.

After beginning the season in the ninth spot in both the ESPN/USA TODAY and the Associated Press polls, OSU has climbed to sixth in the former and seventh in the latter.

The Ohio State team and official travel party will depart Friday afternoon via private charter from Rickenbacker Airport. The team will stay at the Doubletree in Skokie and will return home immediately after the game.

On the heels of the win over North Carolina State, Ohio State moved from seventh to sixth in the ESPN/USA TODAY poll and from ninth to seventh in the Associated Press voting.

Ohio State place-kicker Mike Nugent was named Big Ten special teams player of the week following Ohio State’s 22-14 win at North Carolina State. The Buckeye senior kicked a school record-tying five field goals against the Wolfpack, including three boots of 46 yards or longer. He also converted his only extra point attempt and had six touchbacks on seven kickoffs. Nugent was the Big Ten’s co-special teams player of the week following the Marshall game in which he booted a career-long 55-yard field goal as time ran out in a 24-21 OSU victory. He currently leads all kickers nationally with 2.67 field goals per game.

On the year, Nugent, a first-team All-American in 2002, is eight-of-nine in the field goal department and seven-for-seven in PATs. He has scored 31 of the Buckeyes’ 73 points. Nugent’s lone FG miss – from 53 yards away – had plenty of distance but was just wide to the right. Since that miss, he has been perfect on his last seven attempts.

Nugent has set or tied 16 school records during his career at OSU. With 16 points at North Carolina State, the Buckeye co-captain has 285 career points and ranks seventh on the all-time OSU scoring list. The school record of 348 points belongs to fullback Pete Johnson (1973-76). He trails Johnson by 63 points and is just 16 points away from taking over the No. 3 spot. He also has 56 career field goals, leaving him three shy of the school record of 59 by Dan Stultz (1996-2000). Nugent has made 80 percent of his field goal attempts (56 of 70), including 49-of-56 the past three years, and is five-of-six from 50 yards or more.

The Ohio State linebacking corps of A.J. Hawk, Mike D’Andrea, Bobby Carpenter and Anthony Schlegel was touted as one of the best in the country coming into the 2004 season. That group has lived up to its advanced billing after three games, combining for 77 tackles, 6.5 tackles-for-loss, two sacks, four passes broken up and an interceptions.

Thanks to an aggressive, hard-hitting defense and outstanding special teams play, Ohio State is off to its third-consecutive 3-0 start.

In the win at North Carolina State, the OSU defense forced five turnovers and completely controlled the tempo of the game. In the special teams department, Mike Nugent kicked five field goals and had six touchbacks on seven kickoffs, punter Kyle Turano pinned the Wolfpack inside their own 20 on two occasions, and the punt team forced and recovered a fumble that led to Nugent’s second field goal. The offense was held to 137 yards by a good N.C. State defense, but committed just one turnover after giving the ball away seven times in the first two games. And the turnover at N.C. State came late in the fourth quarter with the Buckeyes in command 22-7.

“I was pleased with the win and with the determination we showed,” said Tressel, whose Buckeyes are the Big Ten’s highest-ranked team. “This game was a great test for our young team. To go on the road and play in a hostile environment like this was, and win, says a lot about the character of the players. Our defense played well and our special teams took advantage of their opportunities. We need to move the ball more consistently on offense. That will be a lot of our focus between now and the next game at Northwestern.”

The Buckeyes’ young offense is averaging 24.7 points and 334 yards per game. They are passing for 213 yards a game and running for another 121. Five of the seven touchdowns have come via the pass, the other two on runs. By way of comparison, at this time last year, OSU was averaging 29.3 points and 286 yards a game (102 rushing and 184 passing).

Sophomore quarterback Justin Zwick is completing 54 percent of his passes and has thrown for 610 yards and four touchdowns (4 interceptions). Flanker Santonio Holmes, the Buckeyes’ talented young Biletnikoff candidate, has 16 receptions for 331 yards and three touchdowns. He is averaging 20.7 yards per catch and 110.3 yards per game. Bam Childress is second in the receiving department with 10 catches for 125 yards.

Senior Lydell Ross has rushed for 282 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 66 carries and is averaging 94 yards a game. Freshman Antonio Pittman has 75 yards on nine attempts, an average of 8.3 yards per carry.

The OSU defense, meanwhile, is giving up 13.7 points and 261.3 yards per game. Teams are averaging 133.7 yards passing and 127.7 yards rushing against the Buckeyes. The Buckeyes have forced five turnovers, all against North Carolina State.

Junior linebackers A.J. Hawk and Bobby Carpenter lead the Buckeyes in tackles with 30 and 25 respectively. Middle linebacker Mike D’Andrea has a team leading 3.5 tackles-for-loss. Hawk, who had one interception at N.C. State and narrowly missed another, leads the team in passes broken up with three.

Defensive tackle Quinn Pitcock – who has a 36-inch vertical at 285 pounds – paces the defensive line with 13 tackles. His running mate inside, junior tackle Marcus Green, has three tackles-for-loss and a team-best two sacks. He also has forced one fumble and recovered another.

In the secondary, free safety Nate Salley has 15 tackles and strong safety Donte Whitner 14, including two tackles-for-loss. Whitner also has one of the Buckeyes’ three interceptions. Cornerbacks E.J. Underwood and Ashton Youboty have 13 and 12 tackles, respectively. Youboty’s interception at N.C. State was the Buckeyes’ first takeaway of the year.

The Buckeyes have been penalized 13 times in the first three games, compared to 28 penalties by the opposition.

COACH Jim Tressel
Now in his fourth year at the helm of the Buckeyes, Jim Tressel has compiled an impressive 35-7 record in his short stay in Columbus. Included in that figure is a 19-5 mark in Big Ten play and a 16-2 record in non-conference action. His teams have been especially successful at home, winning 22 of 24 starts, including the last 18-consecutive outings.

After a 7-5 record in 2001, Tressel led the Buckeyes to a perfect 14-0 record, a share of the Big Ten title and a consensus national championship in 2002. He was the Football Writers choice as national coach of the year in 2002. In 2003, the Buckeyes posted an 11-2 record and played in a BCS game for the second-consecutive year.

Now in his 19th season as a head coach, the 51-year-old Tressel has compiled a lifetime record of 170-64-2. During his stay with the Buckeyes, he has posted a 14-4 record against teams in the Top 25 and a 5-1 slate against teams in the Top 10. Masterful in close games, he is 16-5 in games decided by a touchdown or less, including a 13-1 mark in the last 14 games. Each of his last two teams have finished the season ranked in the Top 5 (1st in 2002 and 4th last year).

Prior to coming to Ohio State, Tressel spent 15 years as the head coach at Division I-AA Youngstown State, where he won four national championships and appeared in the playoffs 10 times.

Ohio State and Northwestern are meeting for the 70th time. The Buckeyes lead the series 55-13-1 and have a 24-5-1 edge in games played in Evanston. Ohio State has won the last 24 meetings between the two schools, dating back to a 14-10 setback in 1971 in Columbus. The Buckeyes also have won 14 straight in Evanston, last losing there in 1958 in a 21-0 contest that represents the lone shutout by the Wildcats. Two of the last three games have been night games. In 2001, OSU defeated the visiting Wildcats 38-20 in a prime-time contest in Ohio Stadium. In 2002, the teams again played under the lights, this time at Ryan Field, where the Buckeyes came away with a hard-fought 27-16 victory. Last year’s afternoon game in Columbus resulted in a 20-0 Ohio State victory, the Buckeyes’ only whitewashing of the year.

The Buckeyes opened their Big Ten campaign with a 20-0 decision over the visiting Wildcats, chalking up their fifth win of the year in as many starts. Ohio State scored on its opening possession, marching 59-yards in 10 plays for a quick 7-0 lead. Lydell Ross scored all the points the Buckeyes would need on a 12-yard run. Mike Nugent’s two field goals, sandwiched around a Scott McMullen to Ryan Hamby touchdown pass, completed the scoring. McMullen was making his second start of the year in place of injured Craig Krenzel, who suffered a hyper-extended right elbow two weeks earlier against North Carolina State. Justin Zwick made his collegiate debut for the Buckeyes and completed three of his seven passes for 20 yards.

There have been a number of outstanding individual performances in the Ohio State-Northwestern series. One of the most noteworthy was turned in by Northwestern quarterback Sandy Schwab who threw for 393 yards and three touchdowns in a 40-28 loss in Evanston in 1982. Joe Germaine put up big numbers for the Buckeyes in 1998, completing 19-of-35 passes for 342 yards in a 36-10 in Evanston. In 1994, Eddie George recorded his first 200-yard rushing game, finishing with 206 yards and a touchdown on 39 carries in a 17-15 OSU road win. From a team perspective, the 639 yards in total offense racked up by the Buckeyes in 1981 (a 70-6 victory) represents the fifth highest output in school history.

Kicker Mike Nugent leads the Big Ten in several individual statistical categories. The senior Groza Award candidate is first in kick scoring (10.3 ppg.), field goal percentage (.889/8-9), and point after touchdowns (7-7/1.000). His 10.3 points a game also is second in overall scoring. Returner Maurice Hall is the leading kickoff returner with an average of 36.7 yards per return. Receiver Santonio Holmes is the second-leading receiver with 110.3 yards a game. Tailback Lydell Ross is the league’s third-leading rusher with 94.0 yards per game and quarterback Justin Zwick is third in passing yards per game with 203.3. As a team, the Buckeyes are second in pass defense, allowing 133.7 yards through the air per game. The squad also is second in total defense (261.3 ypg.) and red zone scoring (8-9/.889). Ohio State is the league’s top kickoff returning team with an average of 30.2 yards per return.

Kicker Mike Nugent is one of several Ohio State players who are in the running for major individual awards in 2004. Nugent, a leading candidate for the Lou Groza Award, is joined by center Nick Mangold (Rimington Award), tailback Lydell Ross (Doak Walker Award), linebacker Bobby Carpenter (Butkus Award), linebacker A.J. Hawk (Butkus, Lombardi, Lott and Walter Camp Awards), defensive end Simon Fraser (Ted Hendricks Award), cornerback Dustin Fox (Thorpe Award) and flanker Santonio Holmes (Biletnikoff Award).

Jim Tressel’s troops have won 13 of the last 14 games decided by seven points or less. That ledger includes four overtime games, one of which was the 2002 National Championship game. During his stay at Ohio State, Tressel is 16-5 in games decided by a touchdown or less and the Buckeyes are 24-2 when leading at the half and 26-3 when ahead at the start of the fourth quarter.

Since the beginning of the 2001 season, the Buckeyes are 13-1 in the month of September, the lone loss coming at UCLA in Jim Tressel’s first season at Ohio State.

Buckeye flanker Santonio Holmes caught 10 passes for 224 yards in the win over Marshall. Both were career highs for Holmes, who hauled in touchdown passes of 80 and 47 yards against the Thundering Herd. The 224-yard figure is the second highest in Ohio State history, surpassed only by Terry Glenn’s 253 against Pittsburgh in 1995 and is the most by an OSU receiver in a game played in Ohio Stadium. The 80-yard TD catch ties for the third longest pass play in Ohio State history. Holmes, who has 16 receptions on the year and is averaging 20.7 yards per catch, has caught passes in nine straight games and has two or more receptions in each of those games.

Senior wide receiver Bam Childress hauled in a career-best five receptions at North Carolina State and now has 10 receptions for 125 yards in the Buckeyes’ first three games. The 5-10, 185-pound Childress, who had 11 receptions for 133 yards last year and 16 career receptions prior to this year, is clearly in the midst of his best season as a Buckeye. Childress is still waiting for his first collegiate touchdown. He had one called back in the opener against Cincinnati.

Versatile sophomore Stan White, Jr. made his first start at North Carolina State, starting at fullback for the Buckeyes. White came to Ohio State as a linebacker/tight end, but began concentrating on fullback in the spring. “Stan is a good athlete who can help us at a number of positions,” said offensive coordinator Jim Bollman. “As a fullback, he can block, run and catch, so he brings a lot to the table. And he has gotten a lot of reps this fall because he has been able to stay healthy.”

The Buckeyes first fielded a football team in 1890, compiling a 1-3 record in their first season. From that modest beginning, Ohio State has gone on to post an all-time record of 760-294-53 in 114 years and has experienced just 11 losing seasons.

Ohio State has an all-time record of 352-101-25 in Ohio Stadium (opened in 1922). The Buckeyes are 18-0 at home since the beginning of the 2002 season and are 22-2 in three years under head coach Jim Tressel. Ohio State’s last loss at home was against Illinois in the final game of the 2001 campaign. The 18-consecutive home wins is the second longest streak in the nation. Boise State leads the country with 21 in a row at home.

Seniors Mike Nugent, Lydell Ross, Simon Fraser and Dustin Fox have been selected by their teammates as the 2004 captains. Nugent is the first kicker to be chosen since Tom Skladany in 1976. Fox is the fourth member of his family to captain the Buckeyes, joining uncles Mark Stier (1968), Ken Kuhn (1975) and Tim Fox (1975).

Fifth-year seniors Kyle Turano (punter, Worthington Kilbourne), Roshawn Parker (tailback, Columbus Eastmoor), Mike DeMaria (tailback, Oregon Cardinal Stritch) and John McLaughlin (offensive tackle, Cleveland St. Ignatius) have been awarded scholarships for the 2004 academic year.

There are two new faces on the Ohio State staff this year. Darrell Hazell has taken over as coach of the wide receivers and John Peterson is the new tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator. Hazell, a graduate of Muskingum College, comes to Ohio State from Rutgers. Peterson, a former OSU offensive lineman (1987-90), has spent the past five seasons at Miami of Ohio. Additionally, Dick Tressel has replaced Tim Spencer as running backs coach. Tressel has spent the past three seasons as associate director of football operations for the Buckeyes.

Starting cornerback Dustin Fox broke his left forearm in the first quarter of the Marshall game and is expected to miss four to six weeks. The Buckeye co-captain had started 30-consecutive games prior to being hurt. Senior fullback Branden Joe missed the first two games of the season with an ankle sprain, but returned to action at North Carolina State. Defensive end Mike Kudla missed the N.C. State game with a neck injury, but is expected to return for Northwestern. Redshirt freshman Devin Jordan (Massillon, Ohio) suffered a leg injury in fall camp and is expected to miss most of the season.

Ohio State’s highly touted freshman class is making its presence felt. Thus far eight members of the class have seen action in the Buckeyes’ first three games. They are: Ted Ginn Jr. (WR), Rory Nicol (TE), Antonio Pittman (TB), Devon Lyons (WR), Curtis Terry (ST), Vernon Gholston (DE), Marcus Freeman (LB) and Sirjo Welch (ST).

Six current players have fathers who played for Ohio State: offensive guard Doug Datish (Mike Datish, offensive lineman), fullback Dionte Johnson (Thomas “Pepper” Johnson, linebacker), cornerback Shaun Lane (Garcia Lane, cornerback), linebacker Ryan Lukens (Bill Lukens, offensive guard), flanker Kyle Ruhl (Bruce Ruhl, defensive back), fullback Stan White Jr. (Stan White, linebacker).

Northwestern is 1-3 on the season after opening with consecutive losses to TCU (48-45 in overtime) and Arizona State (30-21). The Wildcats won a 20-17 contest against Kansas before losing to Minnesota last week in Minneapolis.

Offensively, Northwestern is averaging 426.0 yards and 25.8 points per game. That includes figures of 161.0 rushing and 265.0 passing. Quarterback Brett Basanez has thrown for 1,054 yards in four games, completing 58.5 percent of his passes for five touchdowns and an average of 263.5 yards per game. He has hit Jonathan Fields for three scores though Mark Philmore has 30 catches for 362 yards, an average of 90.5 per game. On the ground, Noah Herron has 74 carries for 362 yards and three TDs. Basanez has kept the ball himself three times for scores.

On defense, the Wildcats are allowing 440.0 total yards and 34.5 points per game. Teams have gotten 291.5 yards by the pass and 148.5 on the ground. Northwestern has six sacks on the season, led by Barry Cofield, who has 2.5. Tim McGarigle, who has a team-high 38 tackles, has four tackles-for-losses totaling 9 yards to pace the Purple and White. The unit has forced only two fumbles and has one interception in four games.

Northwestern lost to Minnesota 43-17 last Saturday in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. Golden Gopher Laurence Maroney finished with 145 rushing yards, including a 50-yard touchdown for Minnesota’s first score, and freshman Justin Valentine had three short TDs to lead the Gophers. Northwestern junior cornerback, Jeff Backes, who played high school football with Buckeye Simon Fraser at Upper Arlington, returned his first kickoff return 97 yards for a score to pull within 14-10 with 3:38 to play in the first quarter. He added a 39-yard return. Northwestern quarterback Brett Basanez was 13-for-26 for 121. The Wildcats’ only offense touchdown came on his 15-yard run on the opening drive of the third quarter. Northwestern finished with 267 yards of total offense, including 140 on the ground.

Randy Walker (Miami-Ohio, 1976) is 25-38 in his sixth season at Northwestern and is 84-73-5 in his 15th year as a college coach. He was 59-35-5 in nine seasons at Miami (Ohio), leaving with a winning percentage of .621 and as the winningest coach at the school that has produced such noted coaches as Bo Schembechler, Bill Mallory, Paul Brown and Woody Hayes. Overcoming a 2-4 start last season, Walker became just the second Wildcat coach to take two teams to bowl games. Following up a trip to the Alamo bowl in 2000, his 2003 squad took a 6-6 record to the Motor City Bowl. In 28 seasons that have included stints at North Carolina, Miami (Ohio) and Northwestern, Walker has coached a running back to a 1,000-yard season 23 times.

The Buckeyes return home to begin a two-game home stand by hosting the Wisconsin Badgers. Kickoff is set for 3:36 p.m. EDT on ABC.