Coach Wraps Up PSU Win, Looks To MSU

Jim Tressel was working the phones and the podium today... no, he wasn't holding rallies or calling people for votes. Tressel met with the media at his weekly luncheon and on the Big Ten teleconference. Here's what the coach had to say about the Penn State win and Saturday's game at Michigan State (noon, ESPN).

Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel met with the media today at his weekly luncheon. The coach recapped Saturday's 21-10 win over Penn State and looked ahead to this Saturday's game at Michigan State (noon, ESPN).

"Penn State was a physical football team that ran the ball better than we would have liked against us," Tressel said. "We had a few more missed tackles than we're used to. We were in the double digit range. You will miss a tackle or two, but you can't miss double digits if you expect to become a dominant run defense."

The coach said the Buckeyes (5-3, 2-3 Big Ten) need to be careful with their emotions after two relatively easy home wins over Indiana and Penn State.

"Any time you succeed, you feel better about yourself," he said. "If you keep that in perspective, it can turn into momentum. But if you don't have that perspective and think you have arrived, it can be trouble and the momentum will be halted.

"But I think there is such a thing as momentum."

Here were more comments from Tressel's luncheon:

* On MSU's offensive balance – the Spartans are second in the Big Ten in total offense at 453.2 yards per game (232.2 rushing, 221.0 passing) -- "Michigan State has done a good job of committing itself to being balanced. They rushed for 5 yards against us last year, but that was because they were almost a pass-only group. This year, they have committed themselves to being a balanced football team. They have run the ball extremely well."

* On how the Spartans (4-4, 3-2) have fared this year -- "Everyone saw how well they played this past weekend (at Michigan). They have progressed with each game. The thing I liked was they went on the road to open the season and lost at Rutgers, but ever since then they've gotten better."

* On how the Buckeyes turned back Penn State -- "We had over 250 return yards in the game. Mo Hall had 96 on kick returns, we had 96 n punt returns and, when you add in all the yards we had on interception returns, we had 251 or so return yards.

"We lost 94 rushing yards due to penalties and we can't do that. We also turned it over twice. The return yards made the difference. They allowed us to win the game when we made mistakes with turnovers and penalties.

* On tailback Lydell Ross' status after sitting out the last two games -- "He will be one of the four guys who will have an opportunity to carry the ball. How many times? I don't know."

* On Troy Smith's performance against MSU -- "Troy had the best grade he's had. He was in the low 80s. Joe Daniels is a tough grader. He is very meticulous in what he asks of the quarterbacks. Had Troy not had that one fumble, he probably would have graded over 85 percent and that is a winning grade."

* On Smith's lost fumble -- "That play was one of the lessons he has learned. The coach called a bad play and it wasn't open. He needed to throw it away. Instead, he took a step back. The contain rush man was able to strip him. He knows that was the difference between him grading a winning performance."

* On whether Justin Zwick (shoulder) might be available -- "I don't know that. If there was a game today, I'd probably tell you he isn't. But at this point in the season, guys have a way of seeing how little sand there is in the hourglass and getting back in there."

* On the chances of Rory Nicol, Jay Richardson and Donte Whitner being available this week -- "The guy with the least chance of playing would be Nicol. The other two guys there would be a fairly good chance."

* On Nate Salley's availability -- "He has a fairly good chance of playing."

* On whether MSU would be down after losing to Michigan in triple overtime -- "If they weren't playing Ohio State, that might be an option. But they worked out all summer long with these eight days in mind and circled that this would probably be the difference in their football season, this Saturday to Saturday with Michigan and Ohio State. Ohio State is coming into their home. I would be shocked with anything but an increased effort (from MSU)."

* On R.J. Coleman, at 295 pounds, moving from guard to a backup role at tight end -- "R.J. put his own weight on him. We didn't put it on him. I don't know if it was John Peterson or Jim Bollman but one of them said, `R.J. Coleman is doing some great things in practice with the scout team and with the first and second units. We need to get him an increased role.' We moved him to tight end with some injuries we've had there. We're glad we did. Rory played three plays and got hurt. I thought R.J. Coleman did well there in his place.

"I guess there aren't many 295-pound tight ends. I doubt we will send him deep."

* On whether there is pressure – in the big picture – to get a sixth win and qualify for postseason play -- "I would hope no one is thinking in those terms. Anyone thinking that far out would not have a single purpose. All we can worry about is today's practice. If we're thinking about anything three weeks from now, we're not going to do as well with what we have to do today. The only thing we can control is today's practice and what happens with Michigan State."

* On whether he voted today -- "I was organized enough to get an absentee ballot. I think it is very important, so much so I voted absentee."

Also Notable

* Former OSU linebacker Ryan Miller, an Allen Park, Mich., native will be the honorary captain this week. Miller covers the Buckeyes for WBNS-TV (Ch. 10).

* OSU's game at Purdue Nov. 13 will be a 3:30 p.m. start on ESPN. The Nov. 20 season finale with Michigan will be a 1 p.m. start on ABC.

* Below are comments from Tressel's appearance on today's Big Ten teleconference:

Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel opened today's Big Ten Teleconference with some thoughts on Penn State as well as the Buckeyes' next opponent, Michigan State.

"We had a tough ball game this past weekend with Penn State," Tressel said. "They're a very physical football team. Both teams played extremely hard, and we felt good about the fact that we came away with a win.

"Now, we take the next challenge, which we have not been on the road in the Big Ten and come home victorious. We're facing Michigan State, who everyone knows how they've progressed. They're an outstanding team. They play with a lot of speed and poise, and they're going to be a heck of a challenge for us at their place."

Tressel was asked about the struggles Ohio State has had on the road so far and if he could offer any particular insight as to why the team has had problems away from home.

"The thing that we've done thus far in the Big Ten on the road which we didn't do when we went on the road in the preseason against North Carolina State was we made a significant number of mistakes," Tressel said. "I don't think you can go into anyone's stadium and make as many mistakes as we have and come away with a win, especially when you're playing a team as good as Michigan State in this case."

Michigan State had injury added to insult after their stunning, three-overtime loss to Michigan when it was revealed that starting quarterback Drew Stanton would be out for at least the next few games with a separated shoulder. Tressel was asked if this week's starter, Damon Dowdell, brings anything different to the table.

"The thing that you appreciate about Michigan State is that they have a system," Tressel said. "Their people get plugged into the system. I didn't see any dramatic change in how they attacked in what they did. The one thing about them is they've made a commitment to be a very balanced team, run/pass. To me, that's the thing that has really enhanced them offensively. I wouldn't look for any significant difference, (if) Stanton's in the game or Dowdell."

One player OSU will have their eye on will be MSU running back DeAndre Cobb, who ran for over 200 yards against Michigan.

"He caught our attention last year when he ran a kickoff back 100 yards against us," Tressel said. "The thing I love about Cobb is you see him covering punts, you see him covering kickoffs, you see him running back kickoffs, you see him carrying the ball, catching the ball… you gotta love that kid."

Ohio State, of course, is having quarterback injury problems of their own. Tressel was asked about Justin Zwick's health and if it might be difficult for the two quarterbacks to deal with the situation when Zwick becomes healthy.

"I think the most important thing dealing with quarterbacks is to keep them focused on how they can become better at what the team needs them to do and not get caught up in 'Am I going to play, am I not going to play, who's the starter,' and all those things, and that's hard to do because everyone wants to talk about that," Tressel said. "I think our guys have worked hard on that. Troy, I think, is doing a good job and he'll start for us Saturday unless there's something unforeseen. Justin's health, I think, is coming along, and I would like to think he'll be able to contribute as well."

One of the players getting plenty of time in Ross' absence is true freshman Antonio Pittman. Pittman had a huge game against Indiana, but he saw less time against Penn State, carrying the ball just seven times and also losing a fumble.

Tressel was asked if anything had changed regarding the plans to use Pittman.

"We plan to use Antonio Pittman extensively," Tressel said. "Obviously, the biggest thing he has to understand is the most prized possession is the football, and we can't allow that to be handed to anyone other than the official. But no, he's going to be a good player, and he's major in our plans."

Tressel was also asked about defensive end Mike Kudla and how he has been progressing this season.

"I think Mike studies film extremely hard and is always very well-prepared, and he's so meticulous that he wants to make sure he's done his assignment," he said. "I think what he's added in these last few weeks is he's kind of let go and just played and maybe not been quite as concerned to make sure he's doing the right thing, although he has been doing the right thing even though he's let loose. I just think he's really gained his confidence, and he gets better every day in practice and better every game."

Finally, the coach was asked if the Buckeyes' struggles this year were at all anticipated before the season.

"I don't know if you can ever anticipate every moment of the season, whether it's one that you end up with all wins or one that you end up like we are right now," Tressel said. "We always go into every season anticipating it's going to be a battle. We, I think, do a good job of scheduling stiff competition in the preseason. When you get into the Big Ten, every game is extraordinary, especially when you go into other people's stadiums. We anticipated it was going to be a battle every single day, and it's certainly been that."

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