Although the Ohio State head football coach spent bowl media day talking about wanting to hit on more big plays through the passing game, the basic plan for the offense in the Rose Bowl against Oregon figures to remain as it has been all year. In other words, look for the Buckeyes to continue to pound the ball on the ground against the Ducks.
"I think we improved across the board (in the running game)," the coach said. "We didn't do much of new schemes, but we got better at what we did, and maybe we recognized better what our guys could do and maybe did a little bit more of this or that. I don't have a self-study in front of me, but I think we just improved"
They did so with a three-headed rushing attack that included quarterback Terrelle Pryor and running backs Dan Herron and Brandon Saine. Tressel said the carries between the two backs will likely be evenly split unless one gets hot, much in the same way it has gone all year.
Neither Herron nor Saine finished the year as the team's leading rusher. That honor went to quarterback Terrelle Pryor and his 707 rushing yards.
Herron started the first four games of the season but was limited to five more games the rest of the way due to injury, and he finished with 139 carries for 558 yards – an average of 4.0 yards per rush. Saine started the final eight games of the year and picked up a team-best 5.3 yards per rush after carrying the ball 131 times for 694 yards.
It was Saine who earned postseason acclaim, bringing home second-team all-Big Ten honors.
"It was surprising and at the beginning of the year I didn't know how things would turn out," he said of the award. "I have to give credit to my teammates and everything for helping me out."
Saine said he felt the running game picked up after the team's loss at Purdue, an opinion backed up by the stats. After rushing for a season-low 66 yards in that game, the Buckeyes rushed for at least 228 yards in each of their final five games of the season.
He had a hard time pinpointing exactly what changed, however.
"I just think the offensive line started to play with a chip on its shoulder and they knew they had to get the job done," he said. "They started having fun and imposing their will on people. As running backs, we were able to feed off of their energy and do well also."
With an Oregon offense that put up an average of 424.7 yards per game, Herron said it will be vital to try and control the tempo of the game via the rushing attack.
"That's definitely a big thing," the redshirt sophomore said. "They definitely have a great offense, so we have to get the running game going and try to control the game with the running game, make first downs and get big plays."
Both Saine and Herron expressed their appreciation for each other on bowl media, and neither said he would like to take carries away from the other one. As Saine put it, he is not sure if he could handle an increased workload.
Herron wouldn't mind a few more chances, however.
"Of course, you would like to get a lot of carries," Herron said, "but it's nice to always keep a fresh guy on the field and keep the running game going. And Brandon has been doing a great job and we need to continue to get better at it."
In addition, Tressel pointed out that the OSU offensive line improved from a health standpoint as the season went on as well. The final five games saw five linemen make at least four starts, helping bring come continuity to the lineup.
As senior offensive lineman Jim Cordle put it, why wouldn't the Buckeyes try to run the ball as much as they can?
"Obviously, (Coach Tressel) likes to run the ball and make sure you're not turning the ball over," he said. "We threw a tipped ball at Michigan and they intercepted it, so it was like, ‘Now we're just going to run it.' Our defense was playing good and we had that luxury. When you can do that and we have great running backs, why not?"