Buckeyes Admit To Overlooking Purdue

Anyone who watched Ohio State's road loss to unranked Purdue knows there are plenty of plays within the game on which the loss can be pinned. However, the Buckeyes talked this week about how they realize they simply did not give the Boilermakers enough credit.

In at least one crucial way, Ohio State was already beaten when it stepped onto the field Saturday at Purdue's Ross-Ade Stadium.

The Boilermakers entered the game 1-5 overall and winless in two previous conference games, and the Buckeyes saw in their opponent what the rest of the nation saw in them as well: a team that it should easily beat.

Now leading a team licking its wounds after its first loss to an unranked team since the 2007 season, head coach Jim Tressel told reporters Tuesday that he felt the team was not mentally prepared to face Purdue – and for that, he faulted himself.

"I didn't think I did a very good job of getting them to really understand the challenge we had, it's hard for people to understand the depth of a challenge," Tressel said at his weekly press luncheon. "That's our job, is to make sure that we can get across the difficulty of the challenge and that things don't just happen, you make things happen."

Or, as junior wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher put it, the Buckeyes – who entered the game ranked No. 7 in the nation – overlooked the Boilermakers.

"I think we prepared going into the game, but when it came to game time our focus just might not have been there," he said. "I think as a whole, we may have overlooked them a little bit.

"I don't think it was any specific thing. I just think we came out and didn't execute and they played very well on both sides of the ball. When you mix those two together, they did enough to get the job done."

As Sanzenbacher pointed out, the Buckeyes had spent their usual time studying film of their opponent in preparation for the game. Although Tressel said the Purdue film showed him a good team that had simply been done in by too many costly turnovers, that message did not completely filter down to his players.

"Even though we watched all the games and knew they were a great team, their record didn't show at all what they were actually capable of," Sanzenbacher said.

Senior defensive tackle Todd Denlinger said he felt things were different early in the week leading up to the game and grew from there.

"It started probably last Tuesday and it built from there," he said. "It's something that we have to learn from and try to get better."

The lineman said the feeling was even missing at halftime, when the Buckeyes went into the locker room trailing on the scoreboard for the first time all season. Following the game, sophomore quarterback Terrelle Pryor said the team was lacking a level of intensity.

"I just think that we were maybe not really belittling them but thinking we were going to walk over them," he said after the game outside the team's locker room. "That's the kind of attitude – every week you have to fear the underdog. The underdog, they took care of us today. There's nothing else I can really say."

When a player arrives at Ohio State, Tressel said the coaching staff likes to talk to him about how hard it is to accomplish the goals Buckeye fans expect of the team. With three appearances in the national title game in the last eight years and five Big Ten titles along the way, those expectations are nothing short of high.

Getting to that point is not easy, however, and is the message Tressel said he fell short of getting across in this instance.

"That's in our mission is to be the national champions and the Big Ten champions," Tressel said. "That's the way it is. We've got to make sure we understand when you set (those goals) … we've got to make sure we do a good job of helping them understand, here's what it takes to do that."

That challenge is renewed this week as the Buckeyes prepare to host an unranked Minnesota team that enters the game 2-2 in Big Ten play, 4-3 overall and losers of 21 out of 24 contests at Ohio Stadium. The last Golden Gophers' victory in Columbus came Oct. 14, 2000 during then-head coach John Cooper's final season, a 29-17 win.

Denlinger said he will personally take it upon himself to get the team in the right frame of mind for the game.

"That's where us seniors really need to step up and put our foot down," he said. "We have to get this team back on track. This is a big week for us to take a step forward.

"You watch film on them and you see that they're a good offense. You can't look at the stats. If you look, they'll make plays. They have all season. They've beaten good teams. It's a matter of not looking at the paper and the stats, it's a matter of looking at what's real, and that's the film. They're a good offense."

Maybe those words of warning will sink in deeper this week.

BuckeyeSports.com staff writer Jeff Svoboda contributed to this report.

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