Dec. 29, 2002

An interview with:


Q: Mark, can you talk about how difficult it is to defend Miami, a team that’s so balanced?
MARK DANTONIO: Well, yeah, I think that, you know, they obviously have a lot of weapons. They run the ball effectively and they also throw effectively. It will present a challenge to us and we’re looking forward to it.
Q: Coach, talk about the match-up between Gamble and Andre Johnson against each other one-on-one; talk about that match-up?
MARK DANTONIO: I think it’s a good match-up. I think that, you know, we’ve seen good receivers in our conference. We see it every week. You know, it will be a great match-up, and a challenge for us. He’s a good football player. It will be run after catch. How we contain him after the catch will be the important thing.
Q: Do you feel like Gamble could wear down late in the game?
MARK DANTONIO: He had 130 plays against somebody.
MIKE DOSS: Penn State.
MARK DANTONIO: So I think he’ll be okay.
Q: Coach, have you faced a team this year that’s able to do what Miami did?
MARK DANTONIO: Probably not yet. Nobody’s run the ball very effectively against us. Thus far I think Penn State coming into our game was pretty effective on run and pass. So, we try to make the game one dimensional. We have been successful so far.
Q: Mike, is this the best offense you have seen? Tell me what makes this seem so special?
MIKE DOSS: I know they are the best team we will face as far as offensively they have a lot of speed and talent. Definitely it can cause a problem out there. We’re working hard and coming out with a good game plan to contain the speed they have and the talent, but we’re looking forward to the game, working hard all week and can’t wait until Friday.
Q: Mike and Donnie, can you guys talk about their apparent advantage in the speed category?
MIKE DOSS: I don’t know about seeing it as an advantage. Florida is a speed state but we have some athletes that are from Florida. I think we can match up everyone as far as skilled position. The difference will probably have to be in the trenches on both teams.
DONNIE NICKEY: I don’t think there is a big advantage. I think that’s something you guys create and naturally Florida gets the speed and I don’t think so. I think we’ve got athletes that can match up.
Q: Coach, can you comment what makes Chris Gamble a shut-down corner?
MARK DANTONIO: I think he plays with tremendous confidence and tremendous deep-ball judgment. He’s very aware, and that gives him an advantage. He’s also been a receiver, so he knows that end of the game a little bit, what people are trying to do against him. He’s a competitor and he plays with great poise.
Q: Coach, you’re talking about how you have been successful in stopping team. Is that hard to do against Miami?
MARK DANTONIO: I think to be successful defensively you have to stop the run. If they’re able to run the football on us, then they’re able to pass the ball more effectively. When we have had our greatest success we’ve stopped the run, made it one-dimensional. We were also able to affect the quarterback and eliminate the big play. That will be the key to our game.
Q: Mike and Donnie, you’re recent history in Bowl games hasn’t been that good. Do you even worry about that right now. Do you think maybe beating Michigan has erased some of that?
DONNIE NICKEY: I think we have come a long way from even last year. We took some momentum out of last year’s Bowl game. I think this game is all we’re focused on.
MIKE DOSS: Exactly. You know, this is the game we’re focused on. We can’t worry about the past. This is a new present for the Buckeyes and we’re trying to relish that and take advantage of the opportunity we have.
Q: All three of you, if you could talk about the momentum you take from the second half?
MIKE DOSS: Definitely that shows the type of heart here at Ohio State we have and the type of program we’re going to be. We continued through the season working hard. As it went on, we got through 13 games and here we are. We’re looking forward to Friday evening. Hopefully we can continue that.
MARK DANTONIO: I think we talk all the time about handling adversity, and the what we have been able to do last year in the second half is come back and handle the adversity. We have been able to respond offensively, defensively and special teams. That’s why we’re here today.
DONNIE NICKEY: I think we realized we could play that well if we believed in each other and didn’t look for somebody to make the play and believed in yourself.
Q: Guys, you have been very successful. This is the first time you’ve placed two Heisman candidates in the same game. What kind of challenge is that for you?
MARK DANTONIO: I think it’s exciting when you come to Ohio State like these guys have. You come to play against the best. You come to play in the Big 10 conference, play against the best teams every week, and so it’s expected to be able to play against the best players what you people and we think are the best players. That’s expected and a great challenge for us. We look forward to that. The thing I have experienced since being here is we play with great confidence. We’re very competitive.
Q: Are you afraid?
MIKE DOSS: Not at all.
MARK DANTONIO: I didn’t think so. We’re ready to go.
Q: Is it earlier in the morning or are your game faces already firmly planted on?
MIKE DOSS: It’s early in the morning. We’re just here to enjoy this. This is definitely business and that’s what we want it to be. We want to take care of all our opportunities and make the best of it.
DONNIE NICKEY: I think we’ve got our game faces on a little bit. I know, when we get around the media and practice we’re all business. We get to enjoy ourselves and the great atmosphere out of practice and out of uniform.
Q: Coach, you faced some pretty good running backs this year can you talk about what McGahee does differently and the challenge of stopping him?
MARK DANTONIO: He’s a cut-back runner. He’s created the plays. He cuts back, makes a play, makes people miss, so, he’s a great running back. Great vision. He can accelerate. He’s a difference-maker for them.
Q: Mike, going back to the “game face” thing, we don’t see you in sunglasses is that because of the early hours?
MIKE DOSS: It’s because of the lights. It’s real early and that’s why I wear the visor.
Q: Coach, talk a little bit about the lay-off you guys have had.
MARK DANTONIO: We’ve talked about it. The biggest difference is when you haven’t played in a while, which both teams have not. I think the biggest difference is how well are you going to be able to tackle their skill. That’s one thing we constantly emphasize. We’re going to have to adjust to the speed of the game on Friday. That will be a big factor for us.
Q: Do you think the lay-off has hurt you guys or was an advantage?
MARK DANTONIO: We started earlier than they did so maybe it’s better. We were the earliest game playing and now we’re the latest. We have gotten healthy, continued to practice. We needed to get healthy in certain positions. It was a good situation for us.
Q: Can you talk about Willis, watching a tape of him and what you see?
MIKE DOSS: As coach said, he’s a difference-maker for those guys. Has great speed. He can catch the ball at the backfield. He gets in the open. Once he gets in the open field and gets past the secondary, he’s gone. Definitely he’s a great athlete, Heisman Trophy candidate.
DONNIE NICKEY: Great speed, runs hard, never see him get knocked back. Reminds me a lot of Maurice Clarett. We practice against him every day, so I think we’ll be prepared.
Q: What comparisons do you see between the two of them?
DONNIE NICKEY: Big body, hard running style. Big body type, strong runner.
Q: What have you seen from Andre Johnson on film that impresses you?
MIKE DOSS: His size. He’s almost like a linebacker; not a receiver. He’s powerful and goes up for the ball. He’s very athletic. It’s going to be a challenge for Chris Gamble. He’s from Florida, so he’s looking forward to playing against the Florida guys. He wants to have a lot of fun. On offense, it’s business; but defense, it’s just having fun.
DONNIE NICKEY: The biggest thing about Johnson is his strength and straight-line speed, his ability to make the play on a deep ball.
Q: Mike, can you talk about there was a lot made about the fact that Miami has been to a national championship before, maybe knows how to handle the press, schedule, et cetera. Is there something to be said for that or are you not having a problem?
MIKE DOSS: Not at all. Columbus media covers us every day. We have big press conferences with our local media. This is the biggest game of them all. We’re looking to it and to enjoy it all.
Q: What is the most challenging thing about the Miami Hurricanes?
MARK DANTONIO: I think it’s the fact that they run and throw equally as well. They’re a very disciplined football team and they have great players, but the thing that makes them good is they play hard every day. They’re very sound. That’s a great question.
Q: What are you going to do about the size of Andre and Gamble’s match-up?
MARK DANTONIO: We’re going to play big.
Q: Back on what you said about being in Columbus, do you guys realize what an opportunity this is for your fans and the whole school? They haven’t won a championship since ’68; are you relishing this chance?
MIKE DOSS: I think the fans are. We’re embracing it as players. We look forward to the fans, that we worked hard this season. They have been behind us. Every home game has been a sold-out capacity stadium. We’re enjoying it as well.
DONNIE NICKEY: Coming out here people line the airport and you can see it in their faces knowing how much it means to them. We play for each other and that’s what has got us this far. We realize the impact though, too.
Q: I would guess if you guys look at your rolls as underdogs do you use it as motivational; anybody who wants to jump on it?
MARK DANTONIO: We expect to win. You guys make us the underdogs. You know, we go into every game expecting to win, and, you know, you one play at a time offensively, defensively, special teams and you’re successful in that play. That will allow you to be successful throughout the game. As I said before, when you’re at a program so deep in electricity like this, Miami and Ohio State, you go into every game expecting to win.
Q: This is for Mike and Mark. Chris Gamble said kind of the genesis of his going two ways was kind of a day in practice him messing around with you and Mark; what kind of gave you the idea he could be offensive?
MIKE DOSS: We were having fun out there. We switched it up for one period. Chris was guarding me and he jammed me pretty hard. The coach said maybe you could do that a little more. Here he is playing in the national championship starting both ways.
MARK DANTONIO: I actually saw him play a little defensive back last year at this time at the Outback Bowl. He was a great player. There was no doubt in my mind given the opportunity he could play that position. It’s been a gradual process and he kept making a couple more plays here and there. The decision was finally made to move him over there and let him play on a constant basis.

An interview with:


Q: Kenny, do you know much about their center Brett Romberg and his sense of humor?
KENNY PETERSON: He’s a great player obviously. He’s got great guys running who can help him. He wouldn’t have gotten the recognition he did if he wasn’t such a great player.
Q: He’ll say it’s pretty much no holds bar. Have you played against guys like that? What kind of effect do they have on you?
KENNY PETERSON: Yeah, I’ve played against some players who have done some extraordinary things against me, but I just can’t let it affect me.
Q: Have you had a guy pinch your butt before?
KENNY PETERSON: No, ain’t nobody ever pinched my butt on the field. That ain’t normal for me. I don’t know about guys who do.
Q: Chris, can you talk about how excited you are facing Andre Johnson?
CHRIS GAMBLE: He’s a good receiver. I want to go out there and play every play. I want to have fun and go out there and play.
Q: What are the biggest challenges he presents?
CHRIS GAMBLE: He’s fast and physical. I have been watching film and taking notes on him. I’m ready to play against him.
Q: Matt, can you talk about last year, the Outback Bowl, the second half, you guys battling, you obviously lost the game, but did that catapult you guys into having the success? Can you talk about that?
MATT WILHELM: Sure, I think what you saw in the second half is what you’ve seen throughout the year this season as a carryover effect to handle any adversity necessary; to come back and make it a game and have the game be determined on a last second touchdown or interception. I think we’ve carried that over even more into the winter and spring workouts. Both physically and on the field, it’s the seniors who have been leaders all along, and along with the leadership of Coach Tressel. The things he does sometimes are abstract, but to us it’s what’s necessary to get us to the point right now.
Q: Can each of you talk about Willis McGahee and what challenges he presents?
MATT WILHELM: I mean, he’s a big physical running back who has outstanding vision. His vision I think is the one thing that jumps out on the field. The speed that he’s able to take around the corner, break a tackle and take a play for 80 yards and run away from defenses.
KENNY PETERSON: Just like Matt said, it’s his vision is extraordinary, and, you know, his size, his speed is deadly, you know what I mean, he’s a physical runner. If he doesn’t see something on the front side, he’ll reverse the whole field and make a big play.
CHRIS GAMBLE: He’s a good physical running back. He’s got good vision. We’re going to go out there and try to contain him and keep him under 100 yards.
Q: Chris, did you play against him in high school?
CHRIS GAMBLE: He’s like two years older than me I think, so, no.
Q: Kenny, you guys know Willis is a talented runner, but you’ve shut down a lot of talented running backs this season. Do you expect anything else?
KENNY PETERSON: Our defense has done a great job containing a lot of running backs. I mean, we have a great challenge in McGahee, and we know we’ve got to go out there and play our guys and let it be said and done after the game.
Q: How much does going against a guy like Clarett help you?
KENNY PETERSON: It helps us a lot. He’s a physical runner. We’ve got other guys that can step up and give us a great look of McGahee; Troy Smith played tailback; guys who have speed and get on the edge and make something happen.
Q: Talk about Chris’s ability to shut down big play receivers and the challenge he has facing Andre Johnson?
MATT WILHELM: He’s got a very large challenge. I think the key factor is Dorsey has full confidence in him to make the catch. The pass might not always be there, but he’s able to redirect and make a big play. Chris has a heck of a challenge ahead of him. It’s going to be a battle of athleticism, speed, jumping ability. They’re going to be intangibles of us coming away with a victory.
Q: Matt, you might face a team that has a good quarterback, receiver and running back. Miami has it all. Can you talk about the challenge of facing a team with so many different weapons?
MATT WILHELM: It’s tough. We’re comparing them with Penn State. A great quarterback who’s patient and efficient. For us as a defense we’re focusing on containing Willis McGahee on the get-go. They play action so much. To stop that early is going to be key for us to have success on defense.
Q: Matt, talk a little bit about Ohio State hasn’t had a whole lot of success in bowl games with the exception of the Rose Bowl a ^couple ^ custom years ago. How do you guys get past that?
MATT WILHELM: I think the key to that is it’s all in the past. We’re a different team. I think we’ve shown that every week throughout the season to overcome adversity. We’re really not going to have to overcome. You know, it’s in the past. We’re looking toward the future and looking toward this game and every day in preparation to get ready for this game.
Q: Kenny, your thought on that?
KENNY PETERSON: Exactly what Matt said; it’s in the past. Guys aren’t dwelling on what happened in the past. We’re in a great situation right now and we just got to go out there and play ball and do what we do.
Q: This is for both Matt and Kenny. You guys were here in the good times and bad, and this was your last go-around. Personally what does it mean to be able to go out this way?
MATT WILHELM: It’s exciting for me. All season it’s kind of a dream come true, struggling through a junior season, coming back hard, earning my position back; winning some ball games and having some true tests throughout the middle of the season and overcoming those. To win the big games, the home game against Michigan, to top off your career in the Ohio stadium and have an opportunity to play in this bowl is something you dream about.
KENNY PETERSON: Definitely we have been through the ups and downs. Coming from a tough, you know, season before, you know, as seniors, we said that we wanted to be in a national championship, and we did a great job of setting goals and working hard and each practice getting better and better and each game trying to improve a lot. Now we’re in the big game. This is what you dream about.
Q: Guys, if you could each address your role as an underdog in this game. I know you’ve heard this question a million times. I would imagine you would use the fact they’re ignoring it as motivation throughout this week. Can you address that?
MATT WILHELM: It’s not affecting us. We’re preparing for this game as we have all throughout the season. That’s for the gamblers; it’s not for us. We’re going to go out 0-0. We don’t feel we’re going to go out up 13 points. We’re going to prepare for this game to win and to deserve the title of National Champions.
KENNY PETERSON: We don’t worry about what the critics say or whatever say about our 13?point deficit. That’s for people in Vegas, and we got to go out there and practice. We’re not practicing to overcome a 13?point deficit, but we’re going to go out and play ball.
CHRIS GAMBLE: It’s like a 0-0 ballgame. We’re going to go out there and play hard and come up with the win.
Q: This is for Matt and Kenny. Going back, you have talked about the good times and bad times. When you guys came in, it was a great year. As you leave, how good does it feel to leave this place knowing you guys are leaving this place really in a good position?
MATT WILHELM: I think it’s great. The type of season we had will always be remembered. We were the first team to win 13 games in Ohio State history. To top it off, to play in the national championship and have an opportunity to win the national championship against a great team like Miami, I think will be remembered for a very long time.
KENNY PETERSON: I think we’re going to leave something great as far as leadership and the young guys see how it’s supposed to be done and they can take that into next season or seasons to come and know what it takes to get it done and how it’s supposed to be done.
Q: Matt, I don’t know how much you know about Brett Romberg, but he’s definitely a guy that likes to speak his mind, kind of you like you. You’ve never seemed guarded. Can you talk about that role, and do you realize that you’re kind of a guy who will say what he really feels?
MATT WILHELM: Sure, I’ll play that role. I’ve done it throughout my career. It’s great. He’s a leader. He’s a senior. He’s going to step up and speak his mind, and, like I said, I’ll do it on behalf of the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Q: He’s said his coaches actually sat him down and said you need to watch it a little bit. Have your coaches ever said anything to you about reeling it in a little bit?
MATT WILHELM: No, they’re confident with me as a mature adult to do what’s right and necessary.
Q: Chris, with the limit in practice hours and limit of film times, it’s pretty remarkable you can play two positions and do well at both. Are you amazed or do you feel confident?
CHRIS GAMBLE: I can handle it. At the Penn State game, I was doing half offense and half defense. I can handle it. I just want to help the team and go out there to keep doing what I have been doing.
Q: Chris, can you talk about the Outback Bowl? The coach talked about that’s when he really realized you could play both.
CHRIS GAMBLE: I just want to play both ways and help the team. The coach has seen what I can do and luckily they put me in and I made big plays. I want to keep doing that.
Q: What about the layoff you guys have had? You guys played your last game before Thanksgiving and Miami played three weeks ago.
CHRIS GAMBLE: I’m ready to play right now. It’s been a long layoff for me. I’m ready to play.
KENNY PETERSON: The layoff to me, it obviously helped to let some of our players get healthy and it helped us get our legs back up under each other. I mean, I’ve really got no comment on that.
Q: Plus, you guys had two extra weeks to watch Miami where they were preparing for other teams. Did you look at Miami or wait until they were done?
KENNY PETERSON: You always want to watch the big game and obviously Miami was the big game. We knew we had a chance to play them. We focused in on them a little bit. They were not the only team we focused on, but we did that a lot over the break and on the time we were off. Now Miami is here and we’ve got to get ready to play.
Q: Can you guys talk about your facilities here? Your practice field is way out in the desert; your hotel is off by itself. Can you talk about how that’s helping you focus or what that’s adding to your preparations for game time being out there?
MATT WILHELM: I think it’s good. Again it goes back to the type of camaraderie. Being out in the middle of nowhere, we have to go and do everything together. It helps us focus more so on the game, and there is not a lot of distractions.
KENNY PETERSON: Just like Matt said, no matter where you go or look, there are your teammates. That’s doing a great job for us. And us being out in the boonies, that’s great for us. Guys can actually sit down and focus on the game and don’t forget why we’re out here. Of course, you want to go out and have a good time, but this is a business trip.
CHRIS GAMBLE: I’m glad they have us out there in nowhere. We can stay focus and be out there and practice as a team, and, you know, just go out and get ready for the game.
Q: Chris, being from Florida, how important is not only this game to you but being in the spotlight with a matchup against Andre Johnson also from Florida?
CHRIS GAMBLE: It’s like a Friday night high school game under the lights. I just want to go out there and play Andre Johnson very well and play hard.
Q: Kenny, are you confident you’re going to win this game?
KENNY PETERSON: Of course. You don’t want to go into a fight saying I’m going to lose. Of course you’ve got confidence going into any game, no matter playing Playstation or football. I’m confident in our offense and defense. We are putting together a pretty good scheme. We’ve got to go out and see what happens on Friday.
Q: What do you guys have that the 34 teams before you that played Miami don’t have?
KENNY PETERSON: Each team they played, had great athletes. We have tremendous athletes too.
Q: What are your strengths?
KENNY PETERSON: We play well as a team. We overcame a lot of adversity. We had great leadership with the seniors and the coach. You put all those together and you’ve got a pretty dangerous group of guys.
Q: A lot of people have made a big issue of you going up against Andre Johnson. What have you seen from Roscoe Parrish on film in terms of his ability?
KENNY PETERSON: He’s very quick. After he catches the ball, he tries to make something happen. I mean, on him I’ll go against him and try to get used to the quicks.
Q: Are you concerned about a wide-open offense? Does that make it very difficult for you?
MATT WILHELM: No, we’ve seen a wide-open offense throughout the season. Especially early. So, athletically, they match up very well with what we’ve seen earlier in the year. We’re not going to be surprised to see wide-open offense.

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