Q: Ohio's best offense might be their place kicker?
I left him off the list, didn't I? This guy has been pretty good, needless to say. Mike Nugent is a senior, and to me he is the equivalent of a Nate Kaeding. Not only an excellent kicker for them, but you get the sense that he is a team leader for them; a real high quality, character guy. He is about as good as there is in the country; I can't imagine that there is a better one out there. I think those two guys (Nugent and Kaeding) were two of the best you will ever see in a conference in the same year. Unfortunately, Mike has not dropped off at all. He is still performing pretty well.
Q: Special teams played big role last year in this game. Talk about how you are improving in that area.
I think we are kind of in the middle right now. That is a point that we have made with our football team. We have done some things well and then at times, we have been lacking a little bit. If we are going to have success in the second half of the year that is an area that we have to step it up in. This would be a good week to start, because when you watched game film of Ohio State last year going into our game, and then we saw it first hand, they really do a great job. Their guys really hustle. They had a great punter last year, too. This year, the punter is not quite the caliber of last year, but Nugent and their return guys are extremely dangerous. Their core guys do a good job. We have to get better. We have flashed and done some good things, and in certain areas we have been pretty consistent. But overall, we still have room to improve and that has been a key focal point for us.
Q: Does the losing streak make them more dangerous?
They were pretty dangerous last year. If we would have played them in 2002, they would have been pretty dangerous. Anytime you play Ohio State, you are playing an excellent football team. They are looking for some answers in certain areas. I remember distinctly in 1985, we traveled to Columbus, and supposedly they had a terrible pass defense. A pretty pointed article was printed that Saturday morning or Friday, I can't remember which day it was. But they had an emotional meeting about that article and held us to 100 yards passing that day. You talk about a set up. The one thing that has been pretty consistent of Ohio State, it's hard to look at a film, in 20 some years of experience, and not see excellent football players out there, and they have a lot of them. They are not as experienced as they were last year, but they are pretty good.
Q: Ohio State has always been a running team. Do you see the similarities there with their struggles in getting the running game going?
I just got done talking with an out of town writer, I think part of that is personnel. When you lose a guy like (Maurice) Clarett, it's a big loss. I think sometimes you take things for granted that there will be another guy there that can step in and do the job. You look at what Fred did for us the last two years; he had two phenomenal seasons. So just to easily replace a guy like that, it's not always the case. I think they are looking for some answers just like we are.
Q: How would you rate the play of Ohio State quarterback Justin Zwick thus far?
He has probably not been as consistent as they would like him to be or as he would like to be. Again, you look at him, he is extremely talented. I said this about Chad Henne. There is a reason that Henne was highly recruited, and Zwick is the same way. Zwick was the guy two years ago, for good reason. He is extremely talented and just hasn't found his rythym. The biggest difference from my vantage point, not that I am coaching either team, is with Michigan, they have such a good surrounding cast. I am not trying to diminish Henne's accomplishments, because he has done a great job and certainly did a great job on Saturday, but he has a veteran group around him. Whereas Justin walks into a situation where they have a lot of new faces. It makes a difference, it really does. All that being said, he is a guy that is really capable of playing football at that position, and I wish him all the luck in the world after this week. I hope that he waits a week to find his footing.
Q: Did you see anything from the Northwestern and Wisconsin games against Ohio State that you might be able to use this week?
They both have two totally different styles of play and attacks. The thing you learn is that you have to go out and play aggressively and play to win the game regardless of your style. One was at home for Northwestern, one was on the road for Wisconsin. But Wisconsin has done a good job recently against Ohio State, so I think they had that confidence. The bottom line is that you have to go out there. Both teams are well prepared and you have to execute it well. When you play a team as talented as Ohio State, no matter what you choose to do, you had better execute it and play to the best of your ability, or you are going to be in trouble. If you get yourself in trouble, you can bet they are going to capitalize on it. Ohio State does as good a job as anybody in the country as making you pay for anything you do wrong. We learned that lesson last year. We made a couple of mistakes, and boy we paid dearly. It cost us the game. Or a chance to win the game, I should say.
Q: Ohio State is the only team that you have yet to beat in the Big Ten. Can you talk about that?
You look at the series, just to qualify that a little bit, it was men against boys the first two years. It was not a fair fight. It was nobody's fault, but that was what it was. 2001, who knows what would have happened and in 2002, I think that would have been a great ball game. Then last year, unless you like offense, it was a hard fought ball game. Both teams battled and competed. We had our opportunities and they had theirs. They cashed in when they had to and we couldn't. I don't spend a lot of time dwelling on what has happened the last four or five years, but our goal right now is to put ourselves into the position to where we can play a good game this week and give ourselves a chance to win this one. With ABC coming in here and a sold out crowd, and our crowd has been fantastic all season long, it was pretty hostile down there last year, so I wouldn't mind returning the favor with a great environment. I think we will, and then it is our job to add to that. We need to give them a reason to get excited.