Nov. 18, 2003
TRESSEL: Well, another big Big Ten game this past weekend. Purdue, as we talked about going into the game, is an outstanding football team. One of the best defenses in the country, in our opinion. Always good on offense. Always very challenging.
We were very concerned that we match up with their special teams because their punt returner, especially, had broken some games wide open, and as all of you saw, it was a physical football game. Both teams played extremely hard, and it came down to the smallest of margins, and our guys kept playing, as theirs did. There wasn’t a person on the field that gave anything other than tremendous effort throughout the course of the game, and we were certainly proud of the leadership that our seniors gave. It was a special day for them playing their final game at Ohio Stadium against a very, very good team, and they came through and led our team to victory.
We had some special award winners. B. J. Sander, of course, knocked seven punts down inside the 20, five of which were inside the 10. And in a tight ball game, in a big ball game, field position is always huge, and that was very, very important in the outcome of that game.
Our defensive player of the game was Dustin Fox. Dustin had an extraordinary game. He had 10 tackles. He had 5 pass break-ups. He covered an outstanding receiver and held him under his average and just played a tremendous game and what I’ve always felt is one of the most difficult places to play, and that’s that boundary corner where many times most of the pressure comes off the field and you’re left over there by your lonesome, and he did an excellent job fighting that fight all night long. On the offensive side, Michael Jenkins was the offensive player of the game. Michael came up with a number of big catches, probably the biggest of which was that 60-yarder, great concentration, great ability to hang on to a difficult angle on a deep, deep ball, and came up with six catches and continues to be an excellent leader over on that offensive side.
The offensive lineman of the week was Adrien Clarke. Adrien graded nearly 90% and had to play both guard and tackle. We had to do a little bit of patchwork on the offensive line during the course of the game when Robbie Sims went down early. Alex Stepanovich went out some. Mike Kne had to come in and play a little bit, and he really hadn’t practiced for a couple weeks with the foot injury that occurred in the Michigan — one of those, Michigan State game, I believe. And Adrien Clarke did a good job of swinging back and forth and really did a great job leading up there, along with Shane Olivea and Bryce Bishop and the other veterans on that offensive line.
The attack force player of the game was Will Smith. Will is a force. He puts pressure on you from a pass standpoint. He puts pressure on you from a run standpoint. We played a lot of nickel-and-dime packages where he even played a linebacker-type position. He’s versatile. In my estimation, one of the best defensive players in the country, and he was our attack force player of the week.
Our scout teams continue to work hard, did a great job preparing us for the ball game. Our scout special units player of the week was Curt Lukens. Curt is a young guy that if we were not developmentally red-shirting him, he’d be on a lot of our special teams. He’s grooming himself to be a linebacker, has great speed, and just a tremendously hard worker.
The scout defensive player of the week was Marcel Frost. We knew that we were going to be facing two really good defensive ends in number 15 and number 40 there at Purdue, and Marcel Frost did a great job of putting the pressure on us all week long and making sure that we were prepared to face them.
Over on the offensive field, the scout offensive player of the week was Mo Lee. Mo was a senior receiver who obviously in his senior year would like to be playing more than he’s playing, but just did an extraordinary job on the scout field. Their receiver, number 21, has a lot of quicks and so forth, and he just did a great job of studying the film of him and studying his moves and trying to go against our people, and it was a good feeling to see a senior like Mo Lee step up and have a great scout team weekend. He was the scout offensive player of the week.
Quickly, after the Purdue game, of course, your thoughts turn to Michigan. We certainly played a great team in Purdue, and we turn it up another notch as we travel to Ann Arbor. Michigan has a veteran team. I think both Ohio State and Michigan have 26 seniors each. I think that’s accurate, or very, very close, which tells you that it’s two veteran teams. I think when people started talking about the fact that this was the 100th meeting of Ohio State and Michigan, there were hopes that with two veteran teams it could really get some added significance as the year went on. Michigan had a very challenging schedule. Ohio State had a very challenging schedule, and I don’t think any of us took for granted that the game would have quite the amount of added, I don’t know what the right word is, importance or whatever it would happen to be, when you take two of the top five teams in the country and get to square off in the 100th meeting of a rivalry, just a tremendous feeling to be a part of that, tremendous privilege to square off with an excellent team.
I think Michigan is as explosive on the offensive side of things as any team in the country. Their trio of receivers is very talented. One of the best runningbacks in the country, a veteran quarterback who has — I don’t know exactly how many games he’s won, but I usually like to measure quarterbacks on the games that they’ve won, and he’s won a bunch as a starter at the University of Michigan. And then the veteran offensive line.
So you talk about a team that will challenge what I think is a very, very good defense in the Ohio State defense. Our guys know that they’re in for their stiffest challenge of the year.
Then the flip side, on their defensive side, I think they have great talent. They play a lot of different players. They have a lot of speed. They’re very, very aggressive. They put a lot of pressure on you. They, I think, have evolved as the season has gone on to growing into an outstanding defense. And if you look at the course of time, what they were able to do, for instance, versus Purdue, hold Purdue to three points, just an outstanding group. And perhaps the most talented part of their football team are some of their special units return people. Breaston is extraordinary, whether it’s a punt return, kickoff return, whatever it would happen to be. He’s an outstanding player. They have great talent, great speed, great depth in their coverage units, in their blocking units and Michigan is an outstanding football team.
That’s the way that this game stacks up. It’s the 100th meeting of two great universities. Anyone that’s ever played or coached in the game or even ever covered the game knows that it’s the toughest, cleanest, most emotional game of the season, in part because it’s Ohio State/Michigan and in part because it’s the final game. And all of us would like to play the best we could possibly play in our final game of the season.
So we’re looking forward to it. We have great respect for the coaching staff. Their design is excellent. They’re always going to come up with some things on offense, defense, or special teams that will challenge you that perhaps you haven’t seen before, and that’s what gives it an added dimension. I think it’s just two outstanding programs.
REPORTER: Coach, with all that being said and the 100th meeting, all the implications for a potential national title, the fact that there’s so much tradition and history, in the three years you’ve been at Ohio State could you say or would you say this is the biggest game you’ve coached in?
TRESSEL: Well, absolutely, because we’re doing it right this second. It is the Ohio State/Michigan game. I think there’s some significance to the fact it’s the 100th meeting. I think that makes it even bigger, and there is a lot riding on the game. But that’s why the kids came to Ohio State and the kids went to Michigan, is to play in games like this. We as coaches, we look at the game we’re playing as the biggest game ever, so there’s no doubt about it, this is the biggest game ever.
REPORTER: Jim, how concerned are you that offensively your team didn’t score a touchdown against Purdue? How concerned are you about the offensive performance going into Michigan?
TRESSEL: Well, we concern ourselves with things whether they have been outstanding or they haven’t. I’m as concerned about how well we play defense Saturday as I am how well we play offense. I think with the challenge that our defense has, I think it adds a little bit of impetus to the fact that we need to do a good job. We need to get into the end zone. I thought the key to last year’s game was we got into the end zone. If you want to win a big game, typically you need to score touchdowns. So is that a concern? Absolutely.
REPORTER: When you look back at the film, do you see a common thread there in those drives that prevented the score?
TRESSEL: No, I saw probably a good defensive football team that we didn’t make a bunch of 80-yard drives on or 73-yard drives on to get into the end zone. We had some opportunities. The first time we were down there and we had the opportunity to score, we landed on about the 8-yard line or something like that and only came up with three, obviously we would have liked to have gotten 7 there. There were some things, just like we grade every other — there were some things, pass protection-wise, I think twice we got hurt in drives. I think we could go all the way down the line with every phase of things. Maybe a couple times shouldn’t have made that call. There’s a conglomeration of reasons, part of which is your opponent.
REPORTER: Jim, you coached against John Navarre the past couple of seasons. What do you see different in him when you see films of his play this season?
TRESSEL: I think that he’s grown each year. He took over as a, what, red-shirt sophomore? And I’m not sure that that was expected, and all of a sudden, the fellow left for — Henson left for baseball, and he stepped in there. I thought he did a good job. He hadn’t had a whole bunch of experience, and then the following year I thought he got better, and this year, I think he’s gotten even better. You can tell he works hard on his mechanics. We talk about a lot of the little things, your feet when you’re throwing the ball and those types of things. He now has seen nearly every coverage you can show him. He’s seen every blitz. He has an outstanding group around him, and he uses them very effectively. He gets them in the right play. So he’s grown through experience.
REPORTER: Jim, do you remember what your thoughts were the night before the game, two years ago, with a first-time starting quarterback in Craig Krenzel and just kind of discuss how he’s evolved from that guy to what he is now.
TRESSEL: My thoughts in that case are a lot like they are when a lot of guys are going to get opportunities, especially if they’re inexperienced is we’ve got to make sure we do the right things to make him succeed, and that’s the same thing defensively. Special teams-wise, you need to try to make decisions that will help your guys succeed. So I think in my mind, going into that game two years ago, we wanted to make sure we could do what Craig was ready to do. And I thought for the most part, we did some things along that way. His evolution, in my mind, I’m sure when you step into a game like that and you’re successful, and your confidence grows, his work ethic has never been questioned, but when you get experience and you get reps and you get more practice reps and more game reps and you’re a learner like he is, you’re going to get better. I think that’s kind of been his evolution.
REPORTER: Jim, what, if anything, does it do to complicate things for you guys defensively, given the depth — first, the depth they have at wide receiver, and, second, they appear to be more balanced maybe than most of the teams that you’ve played this year? Talk about how you guys defend people. What problems do those two things present?
TRESSEL: I think the teams that give you the most problems are those teams that are balanced. And Michigan’s got great balance. When you’ve got the league’s leading rusher and you’ve got — I don’t know if Navarre is leading passer, but he’s got to be in the top two or three, along with great skill at receiver positions, and they throw the ball to their tight ends and their backs as well. It’s not like you can say, well, let’s match up on these three guys, and we won’t worry about the rest. Because they’re capable in all those areas, that gives you a lot more problems. Very talented up front. They do a good job of handling blitz and they’ve got experience pass protection-wise, and they just do a good job with what they do, and I think their evolution as an offensive team has been excellent. So it gives you a ton of problems.
REPORTER: It may be politically incorrect for an Ohio State coach to admit somewhat envy at Michigan’s offense, but I look at their averages, and it’s 188 rushing, 270 passing and almost 40 points a game.
TRESSEL: That’s where you’d like to be. And I think that gives you a little snapshot of why they’re so difficult to defend, when you rush for that much and you’re able to throw it so effectively, and they can strike with the big play. I think they’ve done a great job of taking command of some games by striking with big plays, and then their defense has done a great job of creating field position and creating turnovers at opportune times. And that’s why they’re one of the top teams.
REPORTER: In the past two years, has Craig grown more mentally or physically?
TRESSEL: Oh, I think Craig’s growth probably has been more mentally because he gets in the weight room and all that, and he’s six four, 230, but he also gets banged around quite a bit. But every experience he has, I think, is a learning experience, and every experience he has, if taken in and kind of handled the right way and understanding why this happened or what they were doing to stop us on that, and he’s a good learner, so I would say mentally is the answer.
REPORTER: Bo Schembechler was quoted yesterday about the topic of losing two in a row to Ohio State, and he said he can’t imagine what it would be like for Michigan to lose three in a row. Do you think there’s more pressure on Michigan to win this game?
TRESSEL: Gosh, I don’t know. I mean, pressure is what you decide to feel yourself be. And I know this: Michigan wants to win this game very badly. Ohio State wants to win this game very badly. No matter what the records are, no matter what has happened in prior years, I’ve never witnessed an Ohio State/Michigan game that wasn’t played with tremendous emotion and with tremendous effort, so I don’t know if I can answer that one very well for you.
REPORTER: Fans have talked about the BCS a lot. You and the players have talked more about an outright Big Ten title. The players mentioned it several times yesterday. Ohio State hasn’t done it since 1984. Can you give us some perspective on how great a thing that would be to earn that outright championship this year, and obviously this game is that opportunity.
TRESSEL: Well, that’s what you come to Ohio State to be a part of, a great tradition at Ohio State, great tradition in the Big Ten. And being the outright champion is what you seek to do when all 11 of us begin playing in the Big Ten, and that’s meaningful. None of us have experienced that, and you always want to try to experience something that’s eluded you.
REPORTER: Coach Tressel how did you grade Craig Krenzel? How likely is it we’ll see Scott McMullen play?
TRESSEL: You know, Craig Krenzel had a solid grade. I’m trying to think back to that game. I know we had a couple that we didn’t do with — one time we had a ball that potentially could have been a turnover, which I didn’t think was a great decision, but the fact that he played 78 plays, got us into the plays and so forth that we wanted to be in, made some big plays, made some good runs, made good decisions, when to throw it away. Sometimes when the ball goes whistling into the stands, people are disappointed and the coach is happy. But I think, in essence, he did what we needed to do to win. And how much more will Scott McMullen play? That’s hard to tell. Someone asked me downstairs in the Quarterback Club, will Scott get to play this week. I would love for Scott to have the opportunity to play this week. Being a senior, his final Michigan game, I think he’s very deserving. I think if he plays, he’ll play well, but I don’t know the answer for sure.
REPORTER: Jim, it looked like just to us that on the field at the Fiesta Bowl last season you were more emotional, more outwardly emotional than you normally are, and we assumed that was because you wanted to send a message to your team. I wondered if there might be a parallel to the Michigan game. Do you show your team a different side of yourself in Michigan week, or do you think it’s more important to be even-keeled because everything else about the game is magnified?
TRESSEL: Well, you have to keep your focus. One thing I’ve heard Jim Bollman talk about to his guys, really all three years leading up to playing in big games is sometimes you can get so emotionally into the game that you don’t even play well. You get so fired up, so I think what’s most important is that you keep your focus on whatever task it is that you have to do. My tasks are different than their tasks.
Do I show a different side during Michigan week? I don’t know. I guess it would be better to ask them that. We get so immersed in planning, maybe our patience in practice isn’t that much that week or not, I don’t know. It’s no different for me than it is for our guys. We better make sure that whatever it is that we are needed to do, that we have the focus to do it and don’t get all caught up in it.
REPORTER: Jim, are you a big pregame speech kind of guy?
REPORTER: There was the Internet thing that circulated last year after the Fiesta Bowl that wound up being bogus. Is that even close to the kind of approach that you take?
TRESSEL: I wouldn’t go with “bogus.” There were maybe little slivers of what was talked about, but I just think someone got it and started writing.
REPORTER: So do you have a speech that you will give a team before a big game like this, or do you just say Xs and Os and let’s go here?
TRESSEL: We just talk about what needs to be done, and some of it is Xs and Os, and some of it is otherwise, but not long. None of us have the attention span 20 minutes before kickoff to hear more than about 45 seconds’ worth.
REPORTER: Jim, a lot of the players said yesterday you were on even keel all the time, and this week they’ve seen some of the other coaches look different, but you’re still the same. But Adrien Clarke said he thinks you go home and shut your doors and then you go, “I hate Michigan!”
TRESSEL: Adrien said that?
REPORTER: Has that ever happened before?
TRESSEL: Wait till I see that little guy. No, that’s never happened.
REPORTER: Is there anything — is there anything that you don’t — do you have any emotions about this that you don’t show the players?
TRESSEL: Well, it’s exciting. I remember as an assistant coach was the first time I experienced it firsthand. I’d watched the Ohio State/Michigan game for years, and it was always, as I mentioned this to you before, it was always special in my house because my dad’s season was over, and it was the first time we got to see him. So it was always a neat time. Then when I experienced it as a coach here, it was awfully special, and now that I’m back as a coach here, I have that same feeling again. But I don’t have any pent-up dislike or close the door and, you know —
REPORTER: You don’t have a Lloyd Carr voodoo doll or anything?
TRESSEL: No, not at all.
REPORTER: You talk about and the players talk about the privilege to play in this game. That’s got to go hand in hand with what you’ve talked about here. You’re privileged to play in the 100th game and already have two wins under your belt. Where does that sit in your list of achievements?
TRESSEL: I think the responsibility you feel because you have that privilege to play in this game is to make sure that it is as tough and as hard and as clean as all the Ohio State/Michigan games have been and that it lives up to an Ohio State/Michigan game, and our part is to do our part, and Michigan’s part is to do Michigan’s part, and you find out who does their part better. But I think it’s a great responsibility to live up to that privilege that we have.
REPORTER: Jim, you guys are coming off yet another close game, overtime. What do you attribute how well you’ve done in close games? Yesterday, Will Allen said that maybe God was a buckeye.
TRESSEL: Well, I don’t know for sure. I think the fact that our guys have done a real good job of just keeping their eyes on what’s going on at the moment. I think if you do that and then you earn the chance to succeed, you will. If you all of a sudden you allow your mind to drift off to what needs to be done right this second, you’re probably not going to earn the chance to succeed. I think our guys have done a good job of that. They really — they play hard. There’s a lot of effort, but there’s a lot of focus in what they do, and they don’t allow themselves to stand around the side line, well, what if? They take action, and that’s all you can do. Sometimes the kicks are going to go through; sometimes they’re not. Sometimes the ball’s going to bounce funny. Sometimes the flag’s going to come out; sometimes it’s not. You know, all those things. But as long as you are focused in on what you’re trying to accomplish and give great effort, you’re going to win your share.
REPORTER: Your predecessor had difficulty beating Michigan. It’s been well documented. Now that you’re 2-0 against Michigan, do you feel at all that the pendulum has swung, perhaps, in Michigan’s favor?
TRESSEL: I wouldn’t say that. I’m watching film for two days. Michigan’s got an outstanding team, and we’re going to have to play the best game we’ve played in 2003 to be successful, so I don’t have that — when you say do I have that feeling, no, not at all.
REPORTER: Are there games where teams go in and they almost expect the worst or they expect the best to happen, just based upon past performance?
TRESSEL: I don’t. I don’t know, I go into every game expecting the opponent to play the best they’re capable of playing and hoping that we do the things that we need to do to play the best we’re capable of playing, and then you’d like to hope that the best you’re capable of doing is going to be good enough.
REPORTER: What’s Rob Sims’ status and some of those other banged-up guys?
TRESSEL: Rob rolled his ankle. Walking through the hallways yesterday, he said he’s fine. But, you know, everyone’s fine this week. This week has a great ability to heal. You know, Alex Stepanovich missed a few plays, but came back in there. Mike D’Andrea is going to miss, and Drew Carter is going to miss. Beyond that, Mike Kne played a little bit last week, and he’ll get healthier. I don’t know that we’ll be without. Is everyone 100%? No, but I’m sure everyone at Michigan is not 100%. We played, what, 11 games and have been physical, but our guys will be physically ready.
REPORTER: Is Mike D’Andrea out for the season?
REPORTER: Could you address the situation with the four players on Sunday morning?
TRESSEL: I suppose I could address part and not address part. The part that I can address is that we had some guys out much later than I think they should be and that we’ll need to take care of things in-house to handle that. As far as from a campus situation, the only thing I know is what everyone else knows. There was a release that was out this morning or something, last night, that mentioned the fact that there was an incident. It is and has been investigated and so forth; that there aren’t any charges pending on any of our guys, and it was described as breaking up a fight. So I can’t address that, but I can address the fact that there are certain privileges, and we’ve got to make some decisions in-house as to how to handle that.
REPORTER: Will those four play this week?
TRESSEL: Like I said, we have to make some decisions in-house.
REPORTER: So they could face some sanctions within the team?
REPORTER: Can you talk about going to Michigan, what that is like, what that means to you, the atmosphere and how you combat that?
TRESSEL: Well, it’s an exciting atmosphere. A lot of our guys have been there; a lot of them haven’t. I think a lot of them don’t even know how difficult the task is, but that’s part of growing up. You go find out just how difficult things are. They have a great crowd like we do. They’re into it. They love their team. They love their school. They want to win very, very badly, and they’re going to be noisy when we don’t need them noisy, but that’s the Big Ten. Wherever you go in the Big Ten, you’re going to — that’s going to be one of your adversities that you better handle, and if you don’t handle that, it can affect your play.
REPORTER: They had some significant special teams problems in their two losses. Have they done anything strategically different since? I don’t think they’ve had those same problems.
TRESSEL: They had some problems in both Iowa and Oregon which they’ve addressed and are doing a good job with both of those — it was more the punt situations, I think, than anything. And they have not had any recent problems. You can tell they’ve put a lot of work into it.
REPORTER: Does their defense have a signature strategic-wise? I know you’ll say they play physical and all that stuff, but is there something they do that kind of sets them apart from people?
TRESSEL: I think the way they attack you, the way they come at you is a signature. They have great athletes, excellent hitters, and they just keep coming. They just keep coming. Their ability to retrace or their ability to pursue, and they’re very physical when they get there. They’re very, very talented. And I think as you watch the film, if you watch it chronologically, you can see the improvement and you can see that they have worked a lot of people into their flow. We always talk about playing 17 or 18 guys on a good defense to keep fresh and so forth, and you can see that that’s what they’re doing. They have played great defense.
REPORTER: Have your players on that incident said that they were breaking up a fight?
TRESSEL: I’m sorry?
REPORTER: Have the players on that incident said that they were breaking up a fight?
TRESSEL: Well, as I mentioned, I can’t address the campus part of the thing.
REPORTER: Have you talked to them?
TRESSEL: Excuse me?
REPORTER: Have you talked to them about what happened.
REPORTER: And they told you they were breaking up a fight?
TRESSEL: No, I said I’ve talked with them about it.
REPORTER: It seems that they move a lot on the defensive front. I’m wondering, in the past two years, Jonathan Wells played on the 4th and 1 last year, and Maurice Hall, some of them were saying you caught them in the right or when they were moving or you guessed right what they were doing. Is that a real key defensively, catching them mid-stunt or whatever?
TRESSEL: If you talk about attacking their defense or talk about attacking our defense, if you can catch them sometimes in the right thing, like Purdue caught us with that blitz coming, and they ran the statue, and it was the only touchdown of the game, wasn’t it? Or the only offensive touchdown of the game. When we scored on a fourth and one or when we scored on the last touchdown of last year’s game, we just happened to have the right thing on, and so I think that is part of the chess match, if you will. And I don’t think against either of these defenses, ours or theirs, you can just line up and say, okay, here’s what I’m coming, here’s what I’m lining up in, and here we go, I’m going to march it right down the field. They’re both too talented for that. You’re going to need to guess a little bit.
REPORTER: Usually this game comes down to both teams being able to stop or run. Can you guess where your running game is, how it shapes up against Michigan’s defense or whatever.
TRESSEL: I think our running game has improved the last five weeks or so, I don’t know, I guess going back to maybe the latter stages of Iowa, where I thought we started showing some signs. It needs to improve even more this week because their defense is very, very good against the run. As far as their run game, it’s been very solid. It’s been very balanced, and it will need to be because I think we have a good defense as well. And so the mixture — Bruce asked the question, the mixture of what do you try to do run-pass-wise, that type of thing. I think it’s going to be critical for the two offenses, but it always is, because while you need to have the right things called, I don’t think you can just sit there and play guess all the time. I think you have to come up with a plan, come up with some things that you think are the right way to attack people and go execute them.
REPORTER: Coach, Michigan’s secondary, I see, lead the Big Ten in interceptions. I know Marlin Jackson is back. What stands out about that? What makes it so difficult for them to pass the football?
TRESSEL: Well, their front puts good pressure, so that helps the secondary to start with, but their secondary is very good, speed, excellent ball drill, ball handling, and so forth. I mean, they’re talented with the ball in the air. Good closing speed. They break on the ball well. I think they’re smart. I think they read route progressions well. They know if number two does this, number one does this a lot, and so forth. And they give you a lot of different looks, and I think if they can put pressure on your quarterback and take his eyes off exactly what’s happening out there, then you can have a mistake created. So they’re just solid, athletic, and smart.
REPORTER: Coach, you’ve been called “lucky.” Do you like that label? Are you guys lucky, and what’s your impression of that?
TRESSEL: You know, I think we’re lucky in relation to exactly what, we’ve shown at times that we do things well, but I think we’ve had good fortune. That doesn’t concern me that someone would say that.
REPORTER: Coach, last week Michigan won by 31 at Northwestern. Ohio State was taken to overtime against Purdue, won by 3. Will that have any effect on this week’s game going to Ann Arbor, the fact Ohio state was taken a little bit further than Michigan was?
TRESSEL: You know, I don’t know. Both teams will be ready to play. Both sets of players will play extremely hard. How well will determine the game, and I don’t think what happened last Saturday in a game like this, at this stage of the season, I’d like to think that that won’t be a negative for us.
REPORTER: Jim, when you look at this game, do you think it’s going to be kind of a classic low-scoring defensive battle, or is it a game where you maybe see one team or another being susceptible to big plays during the game?
TRESSEL: Well, anytime I’ve ever tried to predict a scoring-type thing, I’ve struggled, because if Ohio State and Purdue, last weekend, would have had four turnovers each, that might have been 44-38 in overtime because of what gets created. So we’ve got to assume that every single play is important and it’s going to come down to the last play of the game, regardless of what the score is, and that’s what we’ve got to prepare for. And until the game ends, we’ve got to believe that that’s the case.
REPORTER: Is there an advantage, Jim, to having been in this position last year and having been in this position two years ago at Michigan, not in the position to win a Big Ten title, but knowing you’ve got a win up there in your pocket with this group and knowing you’ve been in this position last year and come away with a victory?
TRESSEL: I don’t know if it will help us execute better. I think our guys are confident in themselves, and when we don’t do things as well as they’re capable of, they’re disappointed in themselves, or when we don’t design the right thoughts, they’re disappointed in themselves. We think we’re a good team, we think we’re capable, but you’ve got to go do it.
REPORTER: You talked earlier about the emotion involved in the game, your emotions. What is game day like, Michigan game day like for you, your players? When you look in your kids’ eyes, is there a difference? Can you tell it’s a different kind of game?
TRESSEL: I think it is. Again, I didn’t know that until I was a part of the coaching staff here. I remember in 1983, preparing like crazy. It didn’t feel that much different, got into that stadium and I’ll tell you what, I can’t even remember the first quarter. I don’t know if I did Mike Tomczak any good talking to him, because it was a different feeling. It’s just a special thing to be a part of, and I think that’s why it’s so storied. I’m sure there are some other hundred-year rivalries going on right now, but they’re not being talked about all over the nation.
REPORTER: Any of those players involved in the incident over the weekend, could they miss Saturday’s game?
TRESSEL: We have to make that decision in-house.
REPORTER: And when would be the last point when you would make that decision, up to what time?
TRESSEL: When would be the last point? I think what you typically do in any decision-making you have, first you act as swiftly as you can, but not ignore the fact that if we have a TV timeout, we talk a little bit more about what’s the next play. That’s just what we do. We don’t at the beginning of the TV timeout say, we want — you know, we want to be decisive and thorough, and I don’t pretend to know everything about everything. I always like to get a lot of counsel.
REPORTER: Does the fact that you’re playing Michigan this week with so much on the line, does that influence how you might discipline?
TRESSEL: I would hope not.
REPORTER: Why would anyone get suspended for breaking up a fight?
TRESSEL: I don’t know. That’s the decision we have to make.
REPORTER: Coach, have you or will you have anyone in to talk with your team this week about the game, some outsider?
TRESSEL: Well, we have a little bit of a tradition over the course of time that we’ve had Coach Bruce come in, and anyone that’s been in that game as many times as he has, in my mind, is as great a source as you could possibly have to help all of us understand. I’d never been in that game as a head coach until three years ago, and some of our guys have never been in that game. So Coach Bruce always comes in on Sunday leading up to the game.
REPORTER: So he’s already been in?
REPORTER: Can you —
REPORTER: Coach, do you have any — we’ve asked you about superstitions before, but is there a tie or a pair of socks you’ve worn the first two Michigan games or anything you’ve done in your agenda, like you wake up at a certain time, you eat a certain thing, anything at all you’ve done on the first two Michigan Saturdays?
TRESSEL: We played at 1:00 last time there, and I don’t know what time we played here. Noon, was it? I can’t remember. No. Been nervous on all of them. How is that for superstition? But I’m nervous before every game.
REPORTER: Did you get a letter from some 1969 guy about one of the players has mentioned that you write them from, how they thought they were going to beat Michigan after winning the national title?
TRESSEL: I get lots of letters. Some of them I read, some of them I don’t. I’ve read a lot of things from former players. And a lot of them have to do with the rivalry because it is so special. Any former player you talk to, that’s one of the — when you talk about games they’ve played in, that’s one of the ones they want to talk about, and I’ve read a number of them.
REPORTER: As great as everybody loves the tradition of the game being the last game of the year, do you foresee the possibility, with all the changes in college football right now, that eventually the Big Ten might have to go to two divisions and have a championship game?
TRESSEL: Not by Saturday. So, I don’t know, I don’t give it any thought. Looking at their defense, looking at their special teams, I don’t —
REPORTER: Do you think that would take away from the game, though? There is some specialness to the fact that it is the last game.
TRESSEL: I don’t know really.
REPORTER: Jim, you mentioned the talent they have on the special units particularly at the return positions. Do you go into this game taking away from those guys, not letting those guys beat you?
TRESSEL: I think you have to come up with a plan as to how you best cover them or how you best place the ball and so forth. I don’t know exactly, because you don’t know what situation we’re in, but we’re going to have to be at our best both in kick placement and in kick coverage.
REPORTER: Your BCS number now looks like you’re going to be in the Sugar Bowl if you win this game had that not been the case, you might be in a situation Saturday where you could win an outright Big Ten championship, go to the Rose Bowl, and have people in town complaining about it. Do you have a feeling, just as a traditionalist and a guy who’s at Ohio State back in the ’80s, of the way the culture of college football has changed from what was traditionally the ultimate for Ohio State and Michigan, now in a certain circumstance can be seen almost like a poor consolation prize?
TRESSEL: I’m sure that if either one of us would win the game and go to the Rose Bowl, no one would be disappointed from that standpoint because there’s a formula and everyone agreed upon the formula, and you follow the formula. I’m a bit of a traditionalist, but I also like trying to figure out ways to figure out who’s the best, and right now, that’s the way, is the BCS, so we know that going in. But, again, I haven’t given it much thought. And what’s most important is what we do on Saturday.
REPORTER: Are you surprised that the numbers have come up for you guys, though?
TRESSEL: I do know that we’re second, but I can’t tell you I know the numbers. I’m not that far along in following it. How about one last question.
We’ve got a public relations class; is that right — public relations class from Ohio State, and since the only one I can see is the one with the letter jacket, why don’t you stand up and ask a question, and I’ll try to do my best. You have to understand the honor of this last question. It usually goes to Marla.
REPORTER: We want to know if you’re wearing the gray or the red sweater on Saturday?
TRESSEL: When we’re on the road and we’re wearing white, I wear the contrasting, so I would wear the red. I’m not that big, they’ve got to be able to find me if I need their attention. When we’re at home and we’re red, I wear the gray. But if it’s cold enough, I’ll probably be wearing a coat. So thank you.