Tressel Meets Media On Marshall, N.C. State

We have comments from OSU coach Jim Tressel from today's press luncheon as he looked back at the Marshall game and ahead to N.C. State. Tressel discussed the team's turnover problems, the quarterback battle, the injury situation and much more. Plus, we also have his comments from today's Big Ten teleconference, where topics included instant replay, Lydell Ross, Santonio Holmes and more. Click this free link for all the details.

Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel held his weekly luncheon Tuesday to discuss his team's first road trip of the 2004 season, a visit to N.C. State Saturday (3:30 p.m., ABC regional telecast).

Tressel reflected on his team's dramatic 24-21 win over Marshall and looked ahead to the match-up with N.C. State (1-0), whom the Buckeyes defeated 44-38 in triple overtime a year ago in Columbus.

"As you know, we had quite a football game on Saturday," Tressel said. "I thought both outfits played hard and planned well."

Tressel bemoaned the fact the Buckeyes had four turnovers on Saturday, three of them coming in the fourth quarter. That makes OSU minus-7 in turnover margin on the young season.

"From our standpoint, the most glaring situation we need to confront is we can't turn the ball over," he said. "We did once (on Lydell Ross' fumble) and gave them seven points. Then, a second time, (Justin Zwick threw an interception) and we gave them the ball on the 13-yard line. You will not be a champion if that continues.

"Defensively, we need to knock it loose and get some picks. We need to get some field position on our side. We're 0-and-7 on the turnover margin, and that won't make it. We need to make sure we turn that around here in the future."

The coach discussed Zwick's two late interceptions.

"We have to be able to make great decisions when things aren't just right," Tressel said. "We have to make great decisions on when not to throw it. Most of these problems would be solved with decision making.

"I think on the first one, it was third-and-4. I think the problem might have started with the decision made on what routes he called. We give our quarterbacks a lot of freedom to work off a visiual cue. I'm not sure we made a great decision there. We didn't do a great job of running routes, perhaps, as well. That was one that needed to be thrown in the stands.

"On the next one, had the ball been thrown maybe two feet less and on the trajectory of a rope, that might have been another big play. But we didn't place the ball where it should have been."

When asked if he expects backup Troy Smith to play at all against N.C. State, Tressel replied, "We'll have to see the situations. I always like to go through the first couple games and say, `Hey, I don't care what's going on in the game, we need to get this guy in at linebacker or defensive end or tight end' or whatever it happens to be.

"As you get more data and so forth, you -- and guys get some reps, but, you know, I don't know that he will or he won't. I won't sit here and say he won't, but, you know, I don't know that I'd be as far along as I was a few weeks ago saying, `Yeah, it will be in the first quarter,' which is what we said last week."

The coach was asked if he thinks Zwick is ready for this challenge: "I would hope so. We'll find out. As you sit back and reflect on last week's game, everything was OK for a while, then it was sour for a while. Usually, it's how you end that's important. I thought he was in command of what we do and was able to give Nuge a chance to go down there and win it."

Tressel believed that freshman tailback Tony Pittman, who missed the Marshall game, and senior fullback Branden Joe, who missed the first two games with an ankle sprain, should be ready for N.C. State.

"I like to think they will both be available," Tressel said. "Based on the trainer's report I got today, I am optimistic."

After rushing for 220 yards in the first game, OSU netted just 79 yards on the ground against Marshall.

"Lydell carried the bulk of it last week," Tressel said. "We had some opportunities to get Erik Haw in the game, but it didn't seem to be the right fit. We anticipate having Branden Joe back as well as Antonio Pittman and Maurice Hall is still in the mix. I thought there were some decent things about the run game. It was not great, but there were some things we can improve."

Regarding injuries, Tressel noted cornerback Dustin Fox's absence with a broken arm.

"The good news is he'll be back somewhere in the first of the Big Ten, probably around Indiana or Penn State," the coach said.

In Fox's absence, Ashton Youboty will move into the lineup at corner. Tyler Everett and Donte Whitner will probably share time between the strong safety and nickel positions. Regarding Ted Ginn Jr.'s status, Tressel said, "I think he would only (play defense) from an emergency standpoint. There are other guys who have had more reps and are more prepared."

Defensive end Mike Kudla will also likely miss this game due to his recurring neck injury, Tressel said.

"I would say he will miss this game based on what I heard this morning," Tressel said. "It appears it wasn't quite as bad as the first one, when we knew he would be out a couple of weeks. He reaggravated it and I think they want to take some time and make sure they are studying the whole situation. That's why I say I would question whether he would be ready."

Tressel said the road trip to N.C. State, which pummeled Division I-AA Richmond 42-0 Sept. 4, is "exactly what we need at this point in time."

"We have had two ballgames to work on who we are and to find out what we want to be," he said. "N.C. State is an excellent, veteran team with eight or nine starters back on defense and a similar number back on offense. It will be in a hostile environment. This is just what we need – to test ourselves even further and see if we can handle some situations on the road."

Tressel looked ahead to the challenge N.C. State poses for the Buckeyes.

"As you get ready for NC State, the thing you better get ready for first is great speed, across the front, whether it's their offensive players, defensive players, special teams players, great speed," he said. "What they do on all three fronts is they love to apply pressure. That's why I have a lot of respect for them as a football team. You love to see teams that put the pressure on you. They're going to put the pressure on you with their return teams, their cover teams, they're going to do it with their passing game, their running game, they're going to do it with the defense up front, with the blitz, with pressed-up man coverage.

"You're going to spend three hours with someone in your face all day long down in Raleigh. I think it will be a tremendous opportunity for us to see who we are and grow each and every snap and play against one of the top teams in the country. I know our guys are looking forward to that."

The coach discussed the advantage N.C. State may have from playing a lesser team in its opener and not showing as much.

"We have to assume we have no idea what they'll do and that's kind of the case in the first three or four games anyway," he said. "Certainly when you're coming off a preseason, you don't know what someone's doing.

"You don't know if a team like Marshall withheld some of the things thinking they could get by Troy, might have happened. And certainly N.C. State was not going to have to do a whole lot in the Richmond game. So we have to assume we don't know."

Tressel did take note, though, that junior Jay Davis has stepped in for Philip Rivers at quarterback.

"From the one little bit what we've seen he was 16 of 22 and did a good job of doing what they do," Tressel said. "And he was there the last two years studying with Philip. I don't know that much about him other than he looked sharp this past week and I would think that they can attract good quarterbacks. Everyone else around them is back there and that sure helps a quarterback."

Also Notable

* Tressel said linebacker John Kerr, reinstated last week but not in uniform for Marshall, would not be on the travel squad for this game. It was unclear whether freshman punter A.J. Trapasso, also reinstated last week, would make this trip, he said.

* The coach also announced that tight end Marcel Frost should return this week. There has been no talk of moving Frost back to defense as a result of Kudla's injury, Tressel said.


Here are comments by Tressel from Tuesday's Big Ten teleconference:

Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel joined the weekly Big Ten teleconference today to talk with members of the national media. Tressel started out by revisiting Marshall and giving a salute to OSU kicker Mike Nugent.

"We had a heck of a ballgame this past weekend here at home against Marshall," Tressel said. "They played very well. At times, we played well. There's still a whole lot of lessons we need to learn, and we'll have to learn them fast, because we head down to Raleigh, North Carolina to play an outstanding N.C. State team. But you have to be excited the opportunity Mike Nugent had. He had a chance to win the game with two seconds to go from 55 yards, and he did it. It couldn't happen to a better guy and a guy that I think is one of the finest kickers in the country."

The game at North Carolina State will give OSU a tough, non-conference road game, which Tressel believes will prepare the team for conference play.

"I think it's good," Tressel said. "It's going to be a tough game. It's going to be in a hostile environment against very, very good athletes and coaches. They've had a lot of preparation time for us with an open date this week, so it's about as tough a scenario as you can possibly put us in. I think that's good, because if you're going to get ready to play in the Big Ten, you better be prepared."

Tressel also wouldn't mind if the game once again went to overtime.

"If it's a little overtime, then that means we were hanging in there, so I'm not opposed to overtimes," he said.

Last year's triple overtime game against N.C. State and the Sept. 11 game against Marshall were two of many games Tressel has coached over the past two years that have gone down to the wire. He was asked his thoughts on all the close games he has experienced and how he feels on the sidelines during those games.

"I like it when it's over," Tressel said. "While it's going on, it's working, so I don't even know that it's that wild and crazy. Football in this day and age -- I don't care if it's the NFL or college football -- teams are so well-schooled, so well-trained, they have such good athletes. Scholarship numbers are so different than they were even 15 years ago  that you better expect to play in tight ball games. Everyone who comes into Ohio Stadium enjoys playing there because it's an extraordinary atmosphere, so we're going to get everyone's best shot. You have to battle to the end, and that's what we're there for."

OSU wide receiver Santonio Holmes had a career day on Saturday against Marshall, and Tressel was asked to discuss Holmes' development since coming to Ohio State.

"Santonio's a guy that really went to work as a freshman," Tressel said. "He was being redshirted. He went down on the practice field against a very good defense in 2002 and played hard every snap, each and every day to make sure he got better and they got better. Then last year, when his opportunities came up, he really did a great job. This year, hopefully he'll keep better and better, but he's special.

"As far as who is he like, he's not similar to Mike Jenkins although he makes plays like Mike did the last three years. Some of the old timers around here may compare him to the Terry Glenn-type style, Paul Warfield-style, I don't know. But he's a good one."

The running game continues to be an issue for Ohio State, and Tressel was asked about the outlook for Lydell Ross this year and whether or not the team has benefited from not having distractions brought about by Maurice Clarett.

"Well, I don't know," Tressel said. "We haven't talked about it much. We've got a lot of issues that we have to get better at. I guess we've been so engrossed in trying to get a young football team a little better day by day that we really haven't given that that much thought. 

"We think Lydell needs to have a great year for us to have a great year. He had about 140 the first game and 90 or something the second game. Solid numbers -- I wouldn't call them breakout numbers. We have to get better up front. He has to get better at what he does. We've got to probably do a bit of a design improvement to shake him free a little bit. So we're working on all those things, and again, I'm still in hopes that he has one of those great, great years."

Tressel also weighed in with his thoughts on Big Ten instant replay to this point.

"From what I've seen so far, it's been fine," he said. "Our first game, we didn't have anything, so I have no reference point, nor do I think there were any that should have been looked at. This past game, we had one where they were wondering, 'Was our running back's progress stopped before he let loose of the ball?' As it turned out, it wasn't, and they were able to get a turnover. My feeling on those fumble-type things is if you don't hand it to the official at the end of the play, it was probably a fumble, and so I wasn't expecting it to be overturned, by any stretch of the imagination.

"I think if you're going to have a replay system, the one we have in place seems at this moment to make some sense. I'm not for a full-blown, coach throw-in-the-red-flag, sit-and-look-through-the-monitors type system, but so far, so good."

Tressel's reaction to instant replay seems to be mixed, and even though he doesn't seem to be a fan of replay, he has accepted the changes.

"I've bought into it because it's the rule," he said. "It so happens to be the way it's being done, so that's fine; let's go. Do I think it's wonderful? I don't know that I'm a huge instant replay guy because it's not comprehensive. It doesn't look at the holds or the clips on the kickoff returns or all those different things, so if you're only so if you're only going to look at some of our things, I don't know if you should do it that way. But again, we as a conference want to be leaders. We want to take a look at something and then assess, 'Will it be better for the game?' Obviously after two games, I don't know if any of us have enough data to have an informed decision."

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