Oct. 30, 2004

TRESSEL: Well, we came away with a win and I thought we improved in some areas along the way and — but the thing we talked a little bit in the locker room about is that, you know, we certainly have to improve a lot more. And guys coming up with big plays and that’s part of who we are, a punt return by Teddy and his group there, and Tyler Everett coming up with a big pick for a touchdown, and that’s a little disconcerting, although we turned it over twice, and we’re just not going to be able to become, you know, the top team we would like to be if we turn the football over.

But our defense had some moments where it was getting a little bit tough and they stood up and got the job done, and I’m sure that as our defensive guys and coaches watch the film, there’s going to be a lot of things that they feel as if we need to improve in there. But any Big Ten victory’s a good one, and Penn State’s a physical group up front, especially on their defensive side, and we knew it was going to be one of those kind of battles, and we’ve just got for play a little cleaner and not turn the football, over quite honestly.

REPORTER: Jim, can you just talk about the punt return. They went down the field, you were able to stop them, and then on their second possession, how important it was once they got the interception.

TRESSEL: Well, you know the interception — the first interception was huge because they put a nice drive together and made some conversions and first downs and, to their credit, had a couple third and ones. In fact, I don’t know if it was that first drive they went from fourth down — it was the first or second drive, but they did a good job and we came up with a pick. And then following time they got the ball, I believe, when we stopped them — I don’t know if it was three and out or not, but we stopped them fairly quickly. And, you know, like our punt returns have been all year, they’ve given us some energy and electricity and that’s why we have two of them back there, because we don’t really care who they punt it to because either one of them can make the play. And the other guy normally you’ll see make the key block for whoever caught the ball. So that was huge, and then obviously Tyler’s interception, you know, putting a lot of pressure on them.

REPORTER: Jim, did the early lead give you the luxury of being more careful on offense than you might have otherwise been forced to be if you had to score points with your offense? You’re up 14-0 against a team that’s scored two touchdowns in four games.

TRESSEL: We didn’t really think too much about careful that didn’t have to do with what we normally think of and that’s, you know, we can’t turn it over, regardless of leads, or whatever. You know, it was a little bit windy down there and — and, you know, to throw it all over the place every down was — was not going to be the easiest thing, and we were moving the football on the ground, but, unfortunately, we left it on the ground and, you know, so — but certainly the circumstances of the game always, you know, have an impact on how you do things.

REPORTER: Jim, Ginn’s getting around and got called back, and so — are you seeing much more confidence in him now when he has the ball in his hands? What do you notice that’s different about him from just four or five weeks ago?

TRESSEL: Well, you know, six weeks ago or eight weeks ago, he was playing defense more, but ever since he’s been playing on the offensive side, he’s got a lot of confidence when he has it in his hands and we’ve had some things designed for him and — and that particular drive was a little frustrating, and then we hit the long end around and got a holding and we had the good step up when they went and covered — I think they covered with eight people, rushed two and spied one with the quarterback and we still made the step up and made a big play, and another penalty, and that was a little frustrating, but Teddy Ginn believes when he has his hands on the ball, he’s going to make the play, and if we can get it to him enough, I’m sure he’ll make a lot of plays.

REPORTER: Jim, I was wondering if you could assess Troy Smith’s play. He did some good things. How do you feel?

TRESSEL: I thought — if I could erase from my mind that we had a fumble there and take that out of the equation, you know, I thought he had a real solid day. It wasn’t the easiest day to throw the football around. I thought he made some good decisions stepping up and running, you know, just more recent in my mind, we’re third and five there in the last drive and — and, you know, he came up with the play that we needed and, you know, he — the first ball we — we threw in the first drive, you know, he had Teddy there and, you know, maybe if it’s six inches better thrown, it would be better, but, you know, Teddy had a chance to catch that and run for a while, but all in all, as I review in my mind Troy’s performance, it was solid, he was in command, he was anxious to do whatever the team needed, and that’s what you need from your quarterback.

REPORTER: Coach, Ashton Youboty had that first quarter interception you already talked about. Can you talk about how he’s progressed from being behind E.J. Underwood to now coming out and having — you know, now being like he did today.

TRESSEL: Ashton Youboty is just so dependable. He’s one of those guys that he can play our nickel positions, he can play our corner positions, he can press and play a man, he can play off and play a man, he can play deep zones, just a smart, smart player and very dependable, knows when to break on the ball, and I thought he had a couple real nice pass breakups. I think he and Dustin had a couple key strips where the ball was really thrown fairly well and — so, you know, Ashton is — you know, he’s a good player and going to keep getting better.

REPORTER: Jim, today Maurice Hall set a school record for kickoff return yardage. He also had a good day running the ball. Could you talk about his contributions, since he’s a senior.

TRESSEL: Oh, Mo Hall’s contributions, I think, start with what kind of person he is. He just — he does everything that you would ever hope that a college athlete would do. You know, he tends to his books, he tends to his teammates, he gives to the community, tries as hard as he can at the game of football, whatever you ask him to do. And, you know, Darrell Hazell challenged the kickoff return team this week in practice. Penn State’s coverage unit was ranked number one in the Big Ten and tops in the country, and Mo Hall needed six yards to break the all time yardage record and he challenged them to, you know, not just break it but hit a big one. And, you know, that was 14-7, I think, when — you know, when they kicked off to us and Mo took it out there 60-some yards and — you know, Mo is a team guy and he’ll give everything he’s got and he’s battled through injuries and, you know, his wheels probably aren’t what they used to be, but he doesn’t care because he’s a Buckeye.

REPORTER: Jim, in your evaluation of Troy, did he play well enough today that you’ll say he’ll start the ball game next week since he’s 2-O, or might you have a decision to make at quarterback if Justin’s clear next week?

TRESSEL: I’ll say this, I think he’s done a great job with his decision-making, and so forth, and without having given it any thought, I’d say if we were playing Michigan State right now, obviously Troy, in my mind, would line up and be the guy. And, you know, I don’t know what exactly could change that or — or whatever. You know, I’m just anxious to get Justin back to the point where he can be one of the guys, because today if he would have needed to be put in, he couldn’t have been, and so we have to crawl before we walk in Justin’s case.

REPORTER: What have the past two weeks done for you guys just in the big picture? You come home 3-3, kind of reeling, and now you head back out on the road 5-3, to a lot more possibilities open.

TRESSEL: I think we’ve progressed a little, which is all you can do in life; work hard, see how you do, then evaluate where you are and try to get better, and I think our guys have done that. I think they’re working hard at becoming a better team and I think we all know that, you know, we’re nowhere near the kind of team we want to be, but the good news is, you know, we have some more games, and it starts with Michigan State, and it starts — you know, we get a chance to go back on the road, you know, where we haven’t been as good as we’d like, and that’s our next challenge. And there are more possibilities, there’s no question.

REPORTER: Are there any thoughts on the retirement of Chic Harley’s jersey? I saw Rob go off. Is he all right?

TRESSEL: No, Rob’s not all right. Rob’s going to be out for the year, which, you know, you talk about an ironic thing, Chic Harley’s great-great-nephew, or whatever it happens to be, and he was so looking forward to this game. In fact, he wore Chic’s number all week in practice, even though he couldn’t, you know, wear it in the game because there’s a guy named Hawk that wears it. But I feel bad for — for our Chic Harley, but I know it’s an exciting day for that whole family and — and, you know, what Chic Harley, you know, meant to Ohio State, I’m sure none of us even fully can appreciate because it’s not that close to us, but you hear some of the old-timers talk, there’s no one like Chic Harley.

REPORTER: Jim, would you try to rate Ginn’s speed. There’s a lot of flyers in Division I, but he’s —

TRESSEL: He’s got gear, with the ball in his hand, you know, and that’s — you know, there are some track guys, you know, that are out there masquerading as football players. He’s a football player. He has track speed. He — he’s got gear. On — on that reverse, I mean, all of a sudden he got around the corner and how silly to hold. I mean, they’re not gonna catch him. We should just have each of our guys drop to a knee. But, gosh, I don’t know what word, Bill, to use. Help me, Steve. You’re kind of my ego, alter ego, conscious. Got a word?

SNAPP: He’s fast enough.

TRESSEL: He’s fast enough? He can go, Bill. I’ve never seen one like him.

REPORTER: Coach Tressel, was you pleased with holding them to a field goal early in the fourth quarter, and was that a key to the game?

TRESSEL: That was big, just from an emotional standpoint. You know, they had seized a little bit of emotion, but with — with us turning it over, which we — you know, we gave them a chance to breathe, and then they converted a couple key plays and — and they played hard. I thought that Number 12 played hard. He’s — I can see now why Joe talks about him being one of the more extraordinary guys, you know, he’s ever coached because, man, he plays hard and he made some plays for them, and then to hold them to 3 was huge, I thought, because there’s a big difference between 21-14 and 21-10.

REPORTER: Jim, can you give us any kind of update on Nicol and who else went out — Salley — Nate Salley went out, also, a shoulder thing or —

TRESSEL: Yeah, I think Nate could have gone back in, but they chose not to — my daughter’s making faces. Rory Nicol, I think sprained his ankle, or something — I don’t think it was that major — and I think went back in, maybe, for a play.

REPORTER: For a play.

TRESSEL: Yeah, and just didn’t have quite the push off he wanted. But, you know, I don’t look for those guys to — I hope not — miss a whole bunch of time. I hope to get Jay Richardson back and — who else were we —

REPORTER: Donte Whitner?

TRESSEL: Donte, I hope we get back. Stan White, Brandon Schnittker. You know, for this — we’re going on the road, trying to make something happen, we need all our guys — Justin, you know, we need everyone.

REPORTER: Jim, have you learned anything about Troy over these last two weeks that maybe you didn’t pick up just watching him through practice, to actually see him live in games?

TRESSEL: Oh, I — I think the thing that you always hoped and you never know until someone’s thrust into situations, is that while you know they love to compete, you know, will they compete within, you know, what needs to be done in the flow of a game and — and until you’re thrust in there, you don’t know. And that’s always the thing we, as coaches, you know, wonder about young guys and — and — but Troy has reinforced in my mind that he’s a competitor, and I think the more he’s in there seeing it for himself, I think the more he understands what people try to do to stop us and what we need to do to attack people and — and — but, you know, he’s — it’s been no secret, he’s had a passion to be the Ohio State quarterback. That’s what he wants to be and I’m proud of how he’s going about it.

REPORTER: Is Lydell’s suspension still ongoing or does he start the week eligible to play?

TRESSEL: He’ll probably start this week eligible to play based upon what I know. You know, I don’t — I haven’t gotten any confirmation, per se, but based upon what I’ve been told. You know, it was tough for him to be out there this afternoon, you know, and not be able to walk out with his peers as captain and not be able to get in the game, but I thought he handled it well this week and ran scout team and did what he had to do, and now it’s time to go forward, just like we would with anyone else.

REPORTER: Will he still be a captain?

TRESSEL: You know, I posed the question to our older guys, and — because I don’t know that his remaining captain is my decision more solely, because I didn’t cast all the votes for him, I cast one, quite honestly, but his peers really would prefer that he remain a captain and didn’t feel as if this week was the time, but they would like him to remain as one of the leaders.

TRESSEL: Thank you.