Hopping To Victory

There he was, jumping up and down the Ohio State sideline on Saturday. What had gotten into Buckeye head coach Jim Tressel, and how did his players respond to the outburst? Read on to find out.

Word spread quickly along the Ohio State sideline.

Trailing the host Washington Huskies early in the third quarter, the Buckeye defense held firm and forced a 46-yard field goal attempt from kicker Ryan Perkins. But rather than fall behind by a full touchdown, two Buckeyes got around the right end and blocked the field goal, giving OSU the ball on its own 29-yard line.

Fans at home were treated to an immediate camera shot of Buckeyes head coach Jim Tressel jumping up and down on the sidelines. For nearly any other college coach, the reaction would not have raised many eyebrows.

For the normally stoic Jim Tressel, clad in his customary sweater vest, it was another story.

"You love to see that as a player, knowing that your coach is getting excited," sophomore defensive tackle Todd Denlinger said. "That kind of builds an enthusiasm for your team. I think after that the momentum kind of changed and you saw everybody just start getting excited."

That much proved to be true. Two plays later, the Buckeyes had a 10-3 lead following a 68-yard touchdown pass from Todd Boeckman to Brian Robiskie and all the momentum necessary to carry themselves through the rest of the game.

But Tressel's reaction still had people buzzing a few days later. Some players – like defensive end Vernon Gholston – actually saw Tressel jumping up and down on the sideline. Others, like senior captain Dionte Johnson, did not actually get to see it until they watched film upon returning to Columbus.

The reaction was the same, however: surprise.

"We get energy from him throughout all the game just because he's so calm," Johnson said. "When he jumps up and down, it makes you that much more excited because you're not used to seeing it. It definitely was, for the guys that did see it I heard them saying, ‘Yeah, Tress is excited, let's go.' "

In all, Tressel leapt into the air four separate times, both fists clenched with a piece of paper in his left hand. In doing so, he nearly nailed senior linebacker Larry Grant as he ran off the field following the blocked field goal.

Gholston described it as Tressel "hopping around."

It marked just the second really visible sign of sideline emotion from Tressel since arriving at OSU in 2001. The first came as the Buckeyes scored a touchdown in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl, when Tressel pumped his fists on the sidelines.

Displays of emotion are not things he pre-plans, however.

"I think you're supposed to stay back off the field and keep your mind on the game," he said. "There are certain things I think you're supposed to do, but I've never gone out and said, okay, this week I think I'm going to do cartwheels down the sideline so that someone notices me. You know, we've got a job to do."

Although that viewpoint and attitude are understood and respected by his players, they make it all the more inspiring when the coach breaks from his usual mold.

"Usually Coach Tressel's a very well-mannered person and he usually doesn't show a lot of emotion because he's always busy coaching, but when you make a big play and you see your coach getting excited I think that really allows your team to get momentum," Denlinger said.

That attitude carries over into practice as well. Gholston said he had never seen Tressel react like that before – although the junior said Tressel does yell in the locker room before games.

It is a positive yell, however. When he really focuses his attention on a player, it is never in a negative manner, Gholston said.

"Coach Tressel is definitely a guy of class and character, but the thing about respect from that is just his whole demeanor," he said. "If he has something to say to you, you know you've done wrong as opposed to guys who always yell at you and you're like, ‘Here it comes.' With Coach Tressel, if he says something to you you're like, ‘I must've really done something wrong.'

"It's just all about releasing it at the right time and putting it so much into your game plan. That's what I think he does."


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