Following Ohio State's lackluster 26-14 victory against visiting Ohio University, the Buckeyes head coach manned the podium in the postgame interview room with a decidedly different air about him than he had the previous week.
Speaking with a voice that bordered on raspy, Tressel struggled to come up with the words to describe what had gone wrong for his team against the Bobcats.
After an opening statement describing the game as important because it gave the storied program 800 overall wins, the head coach who spends his time preaching the importance of every individual game found himself somewhat admitting what the national perception would be of how the Buckeyes had played.
Namely, they were looking solely at next week's opponent in USC and not the team at hand – and the Bobcats nearly took advantage of the fact.
"It kind of looked like everyone predicted you might look like in between your opener and your big ‘national stage game,' which is disappointing because we really needed to make progress," he said.
The fact that OSU did not appear to progress as a team was evident as the Buckeyes found themselves trailing heading into the fourth quarter against an OU team that was supposed to be overmatched. Instead, it was the Bobcats who were bottling up the OSU run attack and keeping quarterback Todd Boeckman uncomfortable in the pocket.
"Sometimes I did (feel uncomfortable)," Boeckman said. "At the end of the first half I wasn't as smooth as I'd like to be, but in the second half I think I got a little more rhythm and felt a little better out there."
Offensively, the Buckeyes struggled to move the ball and finished with 272 yards of total offense – the lowest total since OSU's 41-14 defeat suffered against Florida in the 2007 national championship game. Of the total offense, 165 yards came in the second half.
Defensively, there was one point that was consistently mentioned by the Buckeyes following the game: missed tackles. OU backup quarterback Boo Jackson averaged 7.9 yards on seven carries as he helped the Bobcats convert on 9 of 17 third-down conversions.
Often, the Buckeyes would appear to have Jackson wrapped up in the backfield only to see him escape their clutches and rush for the first down. Senior defensive end Curtis Terry saw one primary reason for OU's success on third and long.
"Poor tackling," he said. "From where I was standing, we tackled very poorly. We definitely can't do that in the Big Ten. We can't do that next week. It just won't get the job done."
On a team with more than two dozen seniors, the Buckeyes are supposed to be a team that does not need reminding of the fact that each game is important. Tressel has spoken about structuring practices differently this season to help the players grow conceptually because experienced players otherwise run the risk of being bored.
Rather than point the blame at anyone, however, the head coach admitted that there was more then enough to go around.
"It's collectively," he said. "We've got lots of coaches. We've got lots of us. There's young guys, seniors, coaches, everybody. I think we have to share all of it and first we have to evaluate our own performance and be willing to begin there."
As Tressel said, there was plenty of blame to go around. Still, senior captain Malcolm Jenkins said there was no sense of overlooking the Bobcats in the hours leading up to the game.
"I think actually surprisingly everybody was really into this game," he said. "I think the enthusiasm pregame was higher than it was last week. I think everybody was ready to play. It just came down to execution.
"Everybody played hard. We just didn't play well."
That about sums it up. In this case, though, the Buckeyes still managed to pull out the victory. Next week, they might not be so lucky.