The questions came much more consistently than Tressel's offense played during the loss. Ohio State was kept below 300 yards for the fourth time this year and at 20 points or below for the third time in four games. The Buckeyes sit 95th in the nation and 10th in the Big Ten in total offense.
Facing an open week before facing Northwestern on Nov. 8 in Evanston, Tressel said that the facts about the struggling offense have not gone unnoticed in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.
"I think the consistency of the offense has not progressed," the eighth-year head coach said. "We haven't been able to really find out who we are and what we do best – ‘Hey, we're going to do this and you knew we were going to do it but we do it so well that it doesn't matter that you know we're going to do it.' We haven't gotten to that point."
Two of the scapegoats after the prime-time loss in Ohio Stadium have been the team's offensive line and quarterback Terrelle Pryor. For the former, much consternation has been attached to the fact that the Buckeyes ran for just 61 yards and had less than two yards per carry for the game.
"We haven't had the consistency of play that we hoped," Tressel said. "I think Alex Boone has consistently been solid. Bryant Browning is a newcomer and playing a difficult position there at tackle. Penn State has got outstanding ends and he had his hands full from that standpoint. I think Michael Brewster has been a pleasant surprise … and Jim Cordle I think is probably doing as well at guard as he did at center last year, which was solid.
As for Pryor, his fourth-quarter fumble set up Penn State with excellent field position, and the Nittany Lions replied by marching for what proved to be the game's only touchdown and the game-winning points. After the contest, the true freshman – who hadn't lost on the gridiron since the state title game of his junior year in high school – was despondent, taking the blame during a short postgame meeting with the media.
Tressel said that Pryor's choice to take his quarterback sneak out of the pile on the play he fumbled wasn't the best choice but added that his star pupil is beginning to deal with the loss.
"Staying focused on the fact that really what we needed at that moment was a first down obviously would have been the best decision," Tressel said. "I think he's coming along well. I think whenever you are in those competitive situations and they're hard-fought, you feel as if you could have done better. It's always very difficult, but as soon as you can move to the point of, ‘OK, what do I have to do to be better in the future?' I think you start feeling a little better."
Tressel added that he would have rather seen Pryor throw to his intermediate route, which was open, than into the end zone on what became Ohio State's final offensive play of the game when the freshman's pass was intercepted by Lydell Sargeant.
Ohio State's players were given Sunday and Monday off before resuming practice this afternoon. Tressel said that many of the team's problems have stemmed from errors in fundamentals, meaning that will be stressed during the first few days of practice before the team begins some game-planning for Northwestern on Friday.
"I think whenever you have a setback, typically you go back and examine how well you're doing in your fundamentals," he said. "That's hard sometimes in the course of the season because you go from one week to another facing a different defensive concept, and so you have to do a little bit different things against different styles of defense. You lose a little bit of that individual fundamental time. I think whenever you go back and look at your film, it's typically fundamental errors vs. anything else."
Tressel added that Ryan Pretorius, who has not taken a field goal since the Purdue game Oct. 11, and Aaron Pettrey will continue splitting the duty with the three-pointers. Pettrey has taken – and made – the team's last three field goals, banging through kicks of 40 yards against Michigan State and 41 and 36 vs. Penn State.
Previously, the head coach had said that Pretorius, who has made 13 of 17 field goals, would take kicks of less than 40 yards with Pettrey taking all that are longer. Tressel said that Pettrey took the second kick against Penn State because his lower-trajectory ball was necessary while facing the wind.
"I think he's done a good job from a consistency standpoint on his field-goal kicking," Tressel said of Pettrey.