Back To The Valley

Buckeye fans remember the last time Ohio State traveled east and played the Nittany Lions. The sting of that loss -- the last one suffered by the Buckeyes within the Big Ten Conference -- was a primary topic discussed at Jim Tressel's weekly press luncheon.

Ever since Oct. 8, 2005, Ohio State football has enjoyed a run of almost unrivaled prosperity. The Buckeyes have lost just one game since then, and while that loss was a 41-14 drubbing in the national championship game, their overall record of 27-1 since that date is a testament to how well they have played since then.

But the events leading up to and including OSU's 17-10 loss to Penn State in 2005 continue to stick with this season's team. Not surprisingly, the team's last conference loss was a primary topic being addressed at head coach Jim Tressel's weekly press luncheon.

The Buckeyes' loss back then knocked them out of the national title hunt and was suffered in front of an intimidating crowd comprised largely of students clad entirely in white. This time, OSU knows what to expect.

"We want to take some of that energy and use it for our benefit," Tressel said. "But yet on the other hand, you know, you've got to be calm and you've got to be poised and you've got to keep your focus on the task at hand, because the only thing tougher than that environment are the guys you're trying to block."

With another "White Out" scheduled for the game, Tressel said the impact of the students wearing white will be less forceful than the one made by the Nittany Lions themselves.

When asked why the "White Out" can be so effective, Tressel said, "It's probably the guys in the white pants. They've got good players and they've got a good staff. They know who they are. You know, they execute their systems, and I'm sure that they draw on the energy of 110,000 people and all the excitement around campus and on gameday."

Last weekend, the Buckeyes defeated Michigan State at home and in doing so established a school record for most consecutive conference victories with 18. A victory this weekend would tie them for the longest winning streak in the history of the Big Ten, a mark held by the 1990-92 Michigan squads.

Tressel said he had not addressed the team on that topic, and junior cornerback Malcolm Jenkins said he was unaware of the fact until he was asked about it at the luncheon.

As he does each week, Tressel announced the team's players of the week for the days leading up to the game against the Spartans. This time, there was a big of an anomaly with the announcement: freshman tailback Dan Herron was named both the offensive and the special teams player of the week on the scout team.

"Dan Herron is going to be a tremendous football player and he gives great effort," Tressel said. "He's tough. He's willing to do anything that the team needs, just like he's within willing to red-shirt, certainly could be willing to contribute both on special teams and offense. What the team needs right now is what he's doing and he's more than willing to do that."

On offense, senior right tackle Kirk Barton was named the team's Jim Parker offensive lineman of the week after grading out at 95 percent while sophomore tailback Chris Wells earned offensive player of the week honors

Wells, whose 221 rushing yards against the Spartans was good enough for ninth all-time in the OSU record book, has been battling an ankle injury throughout the entire season. Tressel said that the increased workload actually appeared to make Wells feel better following the game.

"He didn't play much the week before, and I think that helped him physically to be a little bit more ready and a little bit less banged than he had been," Tressel said. "I think carrying 31 times, sometimes that is great medicine, too, because he said he felt better this Sunday than any other Sunday of the year."

Junior defensive end Vernon Gholston was the team's Attack Force player of the week, Jenkins was the defensive player of the week and junior Shaun Lane – whose father, Garcia, was the silver anniversary captain at the annual captain's breakfast before this year's homecoming game against MSU – was the team's special teams player of the week.

The winner of the Jack Tatum hit of the week award will be decided Tuesday afternoon between hits delivered by Gholston and freshman defensive end Cameron Heyward.

Additionally, junior defensive lineman Chris Rietschlin earned scout team defensive player of the week honors. The native of Crestline (Ohio) Buckeye Central is in his first season with the team.

Now, with a perfect 8-0 record in the books and four games standing between them and another berth in the national championship game, Tressel said the Buckeyes know what is ahead.

Furthermore, they are looking forward to the challenge.

"Across the board, it's not a shock that Penn State is good," he said. "They're always good. They're even better when you go in there to Happy Valley when they get that energy from that tremendous crowd and that excitement around campus all week long. They'll be people camping out getting ready to come to the game. Those are the things that we love being at Ohio State."

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