Tressel and the Buckeyes Speak to the Press

In a Monday press conference, Ohio State Head Coach Jim Tressel and several Buckeye players discussed their preparation for Michigan.

Head Coach Jim Tressel

On the close games during the past two weeks:

"I do not know the about the exact point difference in our games at home and our games on the road. I know our guys have been playing hard and we have had a lot of battles. We have gone on the road and come out on top. I am proud of how our guys have been playing."

On playing to the team's strengths:

"We think that the most important thing that we can do is evaluate who we are and what we are doing on the field. Our staff has been with this team for two years now and we know what our strengths and weaknesses are and what we are capable of doing on the field and focus on that."

On current level of team's play:

"I think we are playing well at times. I do not know that we are playing consistently enough in any phase. I think our defense has been the most consistent. We need to pick it up offensively and on special teams. We are trying to get better every week."

On downplaying the magnitude of the Ohio State-Michigan game:

"You cannot help but get excited for this game when you are at Ohio State and when you are at Michigan. It is the rivalry game of the year and the last game of the year. You would like to think that you are going play your best football in that game. We do not downplay the game. It is a huge game and we are excited about playing in it."

On Michigan:

"The thing about Michigan is that they are so sound in all facets of the game. Their offense has performed well. Their defense is good. Their special teams are always good. Michigan is a team that does not make mistakes. They are a good football team that has won nine football games. It will not be a chess match in as much as it will be a slugging match. I do know that it is going to be a lot of fun."

On Ohio State freshman running back Maurice Clarett:

"Maurice Clarett did not play on Saturday. We thought the best thing to do was play Lydell Ross and Maurice Hall. We did not think that the healing was far enough along to have Maurice go."

On the possibility of Clarett facing offseason surgery:

"I do not think so. From what I gather, a stinger is a nerve thing and the best thing that you can do is rest."

On controlling the crowd at the game this Saturday:

"I know that our people at Ohio State will make sure that it is a safe place for both teams to play. It is a place under control. Since September 11th, one can see the tighter security around all our stadiums. People do a great job in our league making sure things are taken care of properly."

On Ohio State freshman contributors:

"You never know how many young guys are going to be in there contributing. Those players that are able to learn the system and can handle the magnitude of Big Ten play are usually the guys who are able to step up. I do not think that any of the guys have had the time to think about at what pace things have come along. This will be our 12th straight weekend of games and we just keep preparing and battling for each week."

On the atmosphere of playing in Columbus:

"The exposure here in Columbus is extraordinary. That is one of the reasons why some of the players chose to come to Ohio State because everyone likes to be recognized for their excellence. I am sure that there is some danger there with all of us listening to the discussion, but that is something that we must guard against individually and collectively."

On his memories of this game growing up and as a coach:

"When you grow up in Ohio and in a football family like mine, with your dad being a coach who was a big Woody Hayes fan, you know that this was always a special weekend. I had a chance to apart of this game as an assistant coach and you know that there is no game like this one."

On the difference of the team's play at home versus on the road:

"I think our guys play hard anywhere they are. They have the ability to focus on the task at hand. Of course, they enjoy playing at home and making sure that they do a good job in front of their home fans. I cannot put a finger on why the games have been closer on the road as opposed to our games at home."

On Ohio State senior linebacker Matt Wilhelm's statement that there is something special about this team:

"I thought there was something special as soon as the overtime ended in Champaign. Coaches go second-by-second and moment-by-moment. We are just trying to work hard to get better every step. We really do not think in those terms."

On the team's biggest improvement since the beginning of the season:

"We have matured. A lot of guys have learned from experience. Some of the experiences have been positive ones and some have been negative, which turn into learning experiences. We have grown closer together through ups and downs and battles though out the year. I would like to think that we will be more mature on November 23rd than we were on August 24th."

On the improved play of Craig Krenzel:

"Experience. You cannot trade the value of experience, especially at the quarterback position. We thought he played well against Michigan a year ago and he got some playing time in the bowl game. I think we have seen him grow. He has a command of what we are trying to do and about how defenses try to stop you. We are very pleased with the way he has come along."

On Ohio State sophomore wide receiver/defensive back/punt returner Chris Gamble's workload:

"We go into every game trying to keep him down to 80-90 snaps. I think he had 130 or something last weekend. We have not had any games where we have been able to let him take a break. He is an incredible kid who loves to play football and he is never tired... at least when you ask him."

On if he thought that he would be in this position ten years ago:

"Coaches are paranoid. Ten years ago, I was wondering if I would keep my job where I was at the time. You just try to get better. My first athletics director said to keep your mind and your rear end in the same place. I think that was good advice."

On the similarities of the Division I-AA playoffs at Youngstown State and this season:

"The whole season has felt like a playoff. The thing about Division I college football is that you have to win every game and the playoffs begin the first day you step on the field. Whether it is Division I or I-AA you have to keep winning and just try to advance."

On Michigan quarterback John Navarre:

"I have not watched him that much. I have been focusing on Michigan's defense. It looks like he is doing a great job of taking care of the football. Navarre makes good decisions and plays with a tremendous amount of maturity. Plus, he has a cannon for an arm."

On the recent history of the rivalry:

"I think your team has to study what makes the differences in big games. I think that is something that you cannot really put a finger on. Fundamentals in big games are the key to succeeding."

On keeping the team fresh over such a long season:

"We have been a part of a long season before. We had six 15-game seasons at Youngstown State. In those seasons we decided to conduct only one good, hard contact day during the week. After game six or seven we kind of eased it back contact-wise.

"In the Big Ten every game is a physical one and we need to save our guys for Saturdays." On the contributions of Maurice Clarett this season:

"Maurice has done a good job. It is tough for a young kid who has been in the spotlight all season. It is tough for every freshman, especially when you carry the football. He has learned from both his successes and failures and you always hope that your freshman learn from their experiences."

OL Shane Olivea

On the game:

"I would be lying if I said this was just another game. This is Michigan. This is the biggest rivalry in sports. There will be millions of people watching. Playing in this game is a great honor. Everyone is just trying to absorb everything right now and then play the game. We have to play our best game of the season."

"Some teams may seem to lose their focus at the end of the season. Coach (Jim) Tressel is going to reinstate the importance that we keep our focus and remind us how big of a game it is for our season."

On the importance of getting out to a good start:

"We're going to have a really big home-field advantage and I think we need to keep the crowd in the game. The best way to do that is put points on the board. It's going to be really important to come out early, establish our offense and put points on the board."

On the comments made by Earle Bruce:

"He's intense. Every time he speaks he's intense. He just let us know the importance and that this is not just another game. It's everything it's hyped up to be and even more so because of the situation we're in this year."

DT Kenny Peterson

On all the hype of Michigan week:

"Everywhere you go, people are going to talk to you about the importance of the game and the rivalry. Just use it in the right way. You can't let it make you lose your focus."

On going out winners on senior day:

"It would be like putting a cherry on top. I've been here for five years and won the game twice, but I would like nothing more that to beat them twice in a row and win my last game at Ohio Stadium. This is my last time in 'the Shoe.' It's going to be something to remember."

On playing the 13th game of the season:

"It's a long season and we've got some guys that are bruised up. But everyone knows how important this game is. I think everyone will put their injuries behind them and sacrifice for the team."

On Michigan's offense:

"They are a physical bunch of guys. They are big and dominant up front. John Navarre and the whole backfield are on the rise. B.J. Askew is a downhill runner, big, fast guy. (Chris) Perry is a great player as well and they have a great tailback tandem."

On playing well in Ohio Stadium:

"Coach (Jim) Tressel says great teams play well in Ohio Stadium and we want to be part of that elite group."

On what needs to be done for preparation:

"The media and the fans need to take care of what they need to take care of. The only thing we have to do is control what we can control."

CB Dustin Fox

"I remember growing up always wanting to play in this game. You can't ask for anything more than the opportunity to play in this game.

"We have to win to reach the national championship game and that is motivation enough."

On being 12-0:

"You really have to wait until after Saturday to think about it. We have just been taking it one game at a time, sometimes you don't even notice how many wins you have. It is exciting the closer we get to our goals."

On Michigan's offense:

"We're expecting a lot of similar things we saw from them last year. They like to run the football. They have great running backs in (B.J.) Askew and (Chris) Perry. (John) Navarre is playing well right now and they have incredible receivers."

On what the defensive backs must do to prepare for Michigan:

"We just need to do what we have been doing. That is working on fundamentals. Some weeks, guys are going to make catches on you, but you need to stick with the basics and play sound, fundamental defense."

LB Cie Grant

"I've always wanted to play in a big game like this. This is why I came here. Games against Penn State and Wisconsin are big games, but this is 'big.' I'm excited. I can't wait to see the turnout on Saturday and I'm taking it all in because this is going to be something that I cherish when football is all over with."

On ignoring the hype:

The key is being around each other and don't listen to the outside hype. We know this is a big game. We would be lying if we said this wasn't a big game. There is a lot at stake for both teams. Throw in the fact that it is a great rivalry and it is one of the biggest games in the history of Ohio State. I'm just glad to be a part of it."

On Michigan's offense:

"The key to stopping them is stopping the run and defending well against the pass."

PK Mike Nugent

On the game:

"It is really big. This is only my second game and we won last year so we want to try and keep it going.

"I think it is one of those things where it is the perfect situation for the team and especially the seniors. We are 12-0 and we couldn't be more confident going into this game."

On his kicking streak:

"It was probably more anxiety for the people around me than it was for me. People would talk about it a lot, being so close to the NCAA record. I was excited to be where I was. I missed two field goals, but I also made three."

DT Tim Anderson

On last season's win over Michigan:

"Last year's victory obviously was very important because we played up there (in Ann Arbor). It was the first time we won up there in quite awhile (since 1987). It was definitely a big win. We know this week we have to prepare hard, stay focused and be ready to go."

On the Michigan offense:

"They have a powerful offense. They can both run and throw the ball and it presents an interesting challenge. John Navarre is a very talented quarterback and he is a great leader for that team. Every team you play has a different angle or twist to how they run their offense, and that makes each team unique. Michigan has its own style of doing things and we are looking forward to getting in there and playing."

On the game plan:

"I'm going into the game like the last 12 games we have played in. The coaches will do a great job coming up with a game plan. We have to do our part, execute and play hard."

"One of our biggest goals every year is to win every game in the Horseshoe. This game is at home and it is a big game for us. You can talk all you want about the polls and bowl games, but that doesn't affect how we play. We have to go out there Saturday at noon and play ball."

On the media exposure of Ohio State vs. Michigan:

"I think Coach Tressel does a great job of handling the media. We have interviews today (Monday) and won't have to deal with it the rest of the week. We have the rest of the week to focus and practice for the ballgame.

"I ignore (the media). It is something I have done all season leading up to a game. If I hear someone on campus talking about (he game), I'll get a kick out of it and I'll laugh a little bit but I don't pay much attention to it."

FS Donnie Nickey

On the feel of the game:

"This is my last Michigan game. The senior class has been through a lot of ups and downs over the past four years. We came out and won our first 12 games and now we have it all on the line. It is an electric feeling. Everybody is excited and ready to go."

On pressure:

"We are feeding off the pressure. Everything is on the line: if we win, we go (to the Fiesta Bowl and play for the national championship) and if we don't win, we don't go. We are feeding off that... We get our practice done and study film. We know what we have to do.

On being a captain and teaching the younger guys:

"To me, this is the game. It means so much to so many people it means our whole season. The younger guys just have to live in the moment, eat it up, play loose, go make plays and have fun."

On the hype of the game:

"I think there is a danger if we get caught up in it. If think about how great we are, then we take for granted how hard we have worked this season and what we have done. I don't think that is going to happen. We have been taught well enough and the seniors have been on both sides of winning and losing this game. We are passing along the knowledge and the collective attitude on this team is such that we have been focused all season and we are not going to get caught up in that hype."

DE Will Smith

On the game:

"This is a special game. (Former Ohio State coach) Earle Bruce spoke to us on Sunday. He told us this was the game that makes the season. He had everybody fired up and everybody is going to be ready to go."

On the Michigan offense:

"They are going to run the ball and pass, just like they have been doing all year. We don't expect them to come out and do anything fancy. We want to attack them and keep pressure on them. We want to hit the quarterback, hit the running back and just play Buckeye football."

On motivation:

"We just have to go out there and follow your heart. It would take us 13 games to get to the national championship and we have one more game left. We just have to go out there and play our best. It is going to be our last game of the regular season."

QB Craig Krenzel

On the Pressure of this week:

"This game is a huge game for us. They are going to be hungry and will come into our house looking to get a win. We are equally as hungry because we want to finish the season 13-0, which was our goal at the beginning of the year."

On the pressure of being an undefeated team each week:

"We know that we have played a lot of good football teams this year. We have seen everybody's best game and it is going to be no exception on Saturday. We know that Michigan is going to want to finish their season on a high note."

On the significance of the Ohio State win in the 2001 game and the recent history of the series:

"What happened last season is completely irrelevant to this game. We know it does not matter. What happened 10 years ago does not matter. The past has no relevance on this game. Everyone is going to talk about what happened 10 years ago, but... we know that it really has no relevance to the game Saturday."

On being a Michigan native and winding up in Columbus:

"I just thought that it was the best place for me. I was deciding between Ohio State and Michigan and Ohio State was the better fit. I wanted to go away to school and get away from home. I did not want to go to school 45 minutes down the road. Columbus was just the better fit."

On the intimidation factor of Ohio Stadium:

"The stadium was not intimidating to me, it is an exciting and awesome place to play a college football game. It is pretty hard to find a better atmosphere to play and there is going to be no exception this Saturday. The atmosphere is going to be electric."

On Ohio State's recent play:

"We are playing tough and physical football. We have been in a number close games and our character seems to show through. Defensively we are playing well and holding teams to minimal points. We know that we must improve on offense. There have been a number of times where we have not been able to convert on third down and third-and-short and we know we have to get better in that aspect if we want to win on Saturday."

On not hitting on all cylinders the past two weeks:

"Any team can go and win in a blow out when everything is going perfectly. We have been able to overcome times when things are not going our way and make the plays that are needed to win the game. I think that is a testament to the type of team we are."

On the play of Chris Gamble:

"He is an outstanding player. He has made game-clinching and game-winning interceptions. He plays defense. He returns punts and kicks. He does everything for us. He is deserving of one of the best, if not the best player in college football. He is in such great shape. You never see him breathing heavily in the huddle. He never loses that fifth gear and continues to just makes plays for us."

On the possibility of the season being a truly special one:

"We just have taken things one game at a time. We always have the confidence that we are a good football team and keep our focus on that and let the rest take care of it self. We need to just put all of our focus on this game and come out an get a win."

On the thought of starting the season 12-0:

"We knew that we had a team with a tremendous amount of talent and a chance to win every game. No one talked about the national championship. We just knew that we had to win every week. Going undefeated was a goal of ours, but we only talked about the game in that given week."

LB Matt Wilhelm

On the Michigan running game:

"Their running game is very impressive. I think their biggest threat is when (B.J.) Askew and (Chris) Perry are in the backfield together. Askew is an effective blocker for Perry and is also a threat with screen passes."

On memories of Ohio State-Michigan games:

"For me, the biggest game was 1998. We beat them here and I was in attendance as a recruit who was choosing between Michigan and OSU. The excitement of the game combined with the fans rushing the field was a great experience."

On the atmosphere of the Ohio State-Michigan game:

"Everybody is going to be talking about it. We, as players, try to get ourselves caught up in film and preparatory work and try to stay away from all of the fan hype."

On the contributions of the younger players on the team:

"A lot of the younger guys might be a bit surprised that they are contributing as much as they are. For me, it is expected that I have my best year as a senior. Those early games were tough to expect the young guys to play like seasoned veterans. The early games were good tests and to see them step up to challenge was great."

On the play of Chris Gamble:

"The only time I have ever heard the word tired come out of his mouth is when the game is over. The threat he brings on both offense and defense has been tremendous."

On the feeling of the entire season acting as a playoff atmosphere:

"Mike Doss talked about it when we started in November that this is like high school playoff time. You have to win and keep winning to stay in the hunt for a state championship. We are very close and just need to stay on top of our preparation and get the job done."

On the play of Ohio State quarterback Craig Krenzel:

"He plays with confidence and maturity, both of which have developed as he has gone through the season. He is undefeated as a starter (in the regular season) and he has total confidence in the offensive line and his receivers to go up and make the big play. He makes the big plays when the team needs him to make them. He has done that week-in and week-out."

On the tradition involved in the series:

"Coach Bruce was in yesterday and spoke about the type of situation we are in and how are on the verge something great. He talked about how special it is for our community and the state of Ohio. We have won a lot of football games here. The reason you come to a school like this is to win big games like these."

WR Michael Jenkins

On the excitement of Michigan week:

"I'm feeling a little bit of everything right now. I'm really excited. It's the biggest college game around. For me, I have to just focus on what I need to do: running good routes, catching the ball, blocking down field for the running backs, little things like that.

"(Butterflies) will be there a little bit. But you are so excited and ready to play, after the first play and the first hit you are ready to get after it.

"Our seniors have been through a lot during their careers and it would be great to send them out winners."

On the gold pants:

"We're trying to get two in a row. We won it last year. It was a great victory for us and we want to do the same thing this year at home."

On Michigan's defense:

"They are going to mix it up a little bit. They are going to try and stop our run and then we will have to get the passing game going."

On possibly going to the Fiesta Bowl instead of the Rose Bowl:

"It's a little different feeling because we are normally gunning for the Rose Bowl. But this is the national championship. One more win and we are in. It is different, but that is what we want."

On what Earle Bruce said:

"He said that it is not another game. The big factor in winning against Michigan is not having any turnovers. Whichever team turns the ball over the most is going to lose. You have to hit them hard because they are going to come ready to play. They are going to try to hit us, so we have to come with the same intensity and be ready to play."

On the play of Chris Gamble:

"He is a tremendous athlete, playing 100-some-odd plays, participating in kick-off returns and punt-returns. Those are the kinds of things you see at the high school level and he is doing it at the collegiate level and that is not an easy task. He is a tremendous player and I like watching him on defense as well as on offense. He just seems to make big plays."

On Craig Krenzel's best attributes as a quarterback:

"Being able to go through all progressions and using his legs to get first downs, especially on long third downs when everyone is covered, make him a great quarterback. He is able to get out of the pocket and get down field. There have been some big plays that he has been able to do that."

On the mobility of Krenzel:

"It has not been a surprise to me. He is going to go for that first down. If he can get past the line of scrimmage then he is going to go for the first down. He has done some great things with those legs."

On Maurice Clarett's impact this season:

"He is an important factor in our offense when he is in there and healthy. He is going to run hard. He is a 100-yard guy and he helps open up things for our passing game. He helps us really get things going."

On finding a way to win:

"We are always getting behind each other and we never point the finger at anybody. We just play even harder. That is one thing that I like about our team, we play the full 60 minutes and not give in, especially our defensive team."

On his first impressions of Tressel:

"He is a character. He clowns and jokes with all the guys on the team. He knows everyone's background and where they are from. He is involved and cares about all his players. He is a very focused individual. He is real meticulous and wants everything done right and that carries down to his players."

On the Michigan secondary:

"They are a talented group and Marlin Jackson is a great cornerback. Cato June is a great free safety. Martin's reaction and recovery time make him a great corner. He is quick and always around the ball."

SS Mike Doss

On relying on the defense:

"There are 11 guys out there playing hard and together and not wanting to make that mistake. We have to lay it out on the line for each other. I think that is what has made the difference as far as our defense."

On embracing the pressure:

"The rivalry is always going to be large regardless of who is coaching. Both teams want to win this game. I think the community embraces that challenge and they put the pressure on the coaches more than the players. The players are going to go out there and pay their best Saturday. The Michigan game is going to be the Michigan game regardless of the records. The game is won out there on the field. The Michigan game is always going to be the game and the rivalry."

On the play of Chris Gamble:

"I think Chris has great instincts. He is very athletic and there is not a play that he can't make. He is that type of athlete and brings that great character to our team. He has had the opportunity to play on both sides of the ball and he has the feel for the way he has to play."

On following the rivalry as a child:

"I remember watching the great players step up in the great games, from David Boston, Charles Woodson, Desmond Howard and Eddie George. In this game, you watch great players make the big plays in the big game. I was lucky I had the opportunity to watch.

"I was going to attend Michigan first; that was my first choice. They did not want me at the time and I got lucky I was able to come to Ohio State and play."

On the choice of where to attend:

"It was close. I was between Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State. It came down to the week of the decision and I realized that I was from Ohio and my family was from Ohio. It was a hard decision to make at 18. The family definitely helped influenced me. Ohio State was somewhere I was accustomed to and I made the best decision. Strategically, I made the best decision choosing Ohio State."

On Columbus and the atmosphere:

"I think it is a positive with the community backing, the fans are for you and cheering you on week in and week out. But, if you lose they are definitely going to come down on you. We have that backing and it is a great aspect to the community. They just want Ohio State to win, no matter if it is a good win, a bad win or an ugly win."

On the history of the games:

"You can not really think about the BCS and bowls. All those things are going to take care of themselves. We were not in the Top 5 and now we have the chance, we were 6-6 my freshman year and the hype for the Michigan was just the same as this season. It is going to be a lot of fun Saturday and you definitely want to play in this game."

On stopping Michigan's offense:

"The key to any football game is who makes the less mistakes. Big games are all about the turnover margin. They have a wide-open offense. John Navarre is the key and only has three interceptions in Big Ten play. You just cannot pinpoint one person and say we need to stop this guy. It is going to be a collective whole 11 players battling the other 11 players on the field."

On the playoff month of November:

"We realize that they only remember November, as we say here in Columbus. Each week is a playoff and if you lose in November you lose it all. We played Washington State in the third week of the season. It is like in high school when November comes with the playoffs you want to be where you want to be."

OL Alex Stepanovich

On this weeks preparation:

"Just because it is a big week, you don't deviate from doing your regular things. You still go to class, you still focus in practice. Just because of the rivalry, things don't change; you still have to practice, you still have to prepare and you still have to do the little things right that got you to this point."

On putting too much emphasis on the Michigan game:

"You try not to. When your goal is to win a national championship and a Big Ten championship, every week is big and every week keeps getting bigger. We have to stay focused and get ready to play the game."

On the Michigan football team:

"They are very well coached and they have a great staff. Their program speaks for itself. They never give up and they just want to win."

On Michigan's defense:

"(They are) aggressive. They have the one of the best run-defenses in the country. That helps with the pass [defense] and it forces teams to pass and creates mistakes."

WR/CB Chris Gamble

On this weeks preparation:

"I'm just going to get ready this week in practice. I'm going to keep going against Michael Jenkins and Chris Vance one-on-one this week to get ready for (Michigan). They have some great, talented receives."

On The Game:

"This is a big time rivalry match-up and I just want to get fired up and go out there and make big plays. We just want to play our 'A-Game.' We are in The Shoe and we are going to play 100 percent on both sides of the ball."

RB Lydell Ross

On what it takes to win against Michigan:

"We just need to execute our assignments and we will be successful. There are minor mistakes that we need to correct. No missed assignments, no mistakes."

On his awareness of the rivalry:

"Before coming here, no, I was not really aware of it. But as last year progressed to the Michigan game, I learned a lot about it. It means a lot. Last year I felt the history. Tradition is there. Right now I am focused on Michigan. It is the big one, it is the last one and it's the one that determines what we do with the rest of our season."

RB Maurice Hall

On the Michigan game:

"We have been looking at this game since last year. It does not get any bigger than this. We are exactly were we want to be at the end of the season. We defiantly cannot look ahead. When it comes to Michigan, its going to be a big game if we have a good record or not."

On his role on the team:

"I want to do what ever I can to help the team win. I continue to prepare so I will be ready to do what I can. We [Clarett and I] try to help each other out as much as we can because we are trying to win the national championship and you can only do that as a team."

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