Barry, in this day and age when college teams are so even, how incredible does that make Ohio State's 19-game winning streak?
"It's impressive. But the thing that's really impressive to me is how many close games they've won, last year and this year. What that tells you is that they expect to win. They have a number of winners and they have play makers that make those plays in opportune times. But it is impressive and I take my hat off to them. I've gotten … as you study them, you gain more and more respect as you go along."
Barry, I don't know how much you've looked at their run defense specifically yet, but statistically obviously it's impressive. Have teams that have faced them, have they really committed to the run or have they kind of gotten away from it and not challenged them?
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"As you take a look at their schedule to date, I don't think that there's a team that they've played who's committed to the run, let alone commit against them because they are so good versus the run. I'll tell you the thing that impresses you when you watch their defense, and we all know how good it was a year ago, I thought (Mike) Doss played some big, big plays in our game, saved some homeruns by Anthony (Davis). And then (Matt) Wilhelm, I really was impressed with him. I thought he was one of the better linebackers we saw going into that game. As I watch them right now I think they're better. You have the same guys up front who are very impressive. They can pressure you with four, although they come with more than four. They like to blitz. But I think they're secondary is much improved. I have to take my hat off to one of our former pupils, Melvin Tucker, for coaching that secondary so well."
Coach, what advantage do they have, if any, because they had their bye week last week?
"I wish we had. But I know they had some players with some injuries, and all of them as I understand, will play. I think that this would be about the right time with us. As banged up as we are, with all the guys coming out with ankle injuries a week ago and know that we've been nicked up. We've been a team that's down to your third tailback in a couple different games, and you'd like to have a week just to regroup and get healthy and catch up on things, and let alone all of that, to study your upcoming opponent. So I think it was probably the right timing for them although none of us have any say about when you have it, it probably was perfect for them, because I think they are in the three quarter system and they just started school a week or so ago. So it really helped them out."
Barry, you mentioned how banged up you guys are. As far as the tailbacks situation goes, do you expect to be at full strength or are you looking at a situation where (Booker) Stanley might have to step up?
"I couldn't answer that if I wanted to. Generally, ankles are very fickle. Anthony (Davis) was ready to go and he played great. You tweak it the right way, you get hit on it, you plant the wrong way and you lose strength in it. I don't think Dwayne's (Smith) was as bad as Anthony's, and it might not even have been an ankle, it might have been more like a foot. But I just don't know what to expect. The same thing with Jeff Mack. All of them were injured and in boots yesterday so I don't know where we are. I'll see them today but we're not going to do much today anyhow. We'll have a game plan and go through some introductory things today but I don't know where we'll be."
Barry, most weeks you've been asked about making sure that the team is focused on that week's opponent or not looking past them or being ready for that game. Obviously that shouldn't be an issue this week. How do you keep the reverse from the team maybe getting too up during the week and keeping that energy for Saturday?
"That's a good question. I think one thing I've learned over the years, in games like this, you're playing the defending national champ. They're undefeated, the longest winning streak in the country. You don't have to be a genius as a player to play a team like this and understand that it's a very good football team. It's going to be on national TV. It's an 8:00 p.m. game, which is special here. So probably the worst thing a coach could do is make a big deal out of it. It's a big enough deal. The players know that and people are excited. So I think the more you approach this just like any other game, that's the one thing we've always tried to do whether it be a bowl game or not … or big games. Don't make a big deal about it because it's just another football game, and you really can't do that much more anyhow, you just want your guys to play and play well. The important thing is to prepare well this week."
I'm sure you'd like to have that UNLV game back, but do back-to-back road wins to start the conference or would beating Ohio State this week offset that loss. Do you look at the schedule like that as you go about?
"Well once you lose that game, you better let it go. That game is over. We can't do anything. If we keep going back and looking at the UNLV game, that doesn't serve any purpose. You just concentrate on what you have. We said at that time, there was a lot of football left then. So to keep reinforcing that we didn't win that game or didn't play well, what good does it do? Our focus is always about the league. I feel good about the fact that we went on the road and won two road games. Penn State … homecoming at Penn State, big crowd, ugly day, that's not an easy place to play and particularly not an easy place to win. So I feel good about that and we'll just focus on the next game. That's the only thing I know how to do as a coach."
Barry, obviously they've got a little different look at tailback this year with (Maurice) Clarett not there. What's the physical difference between what they had last year with (Maurice) Clarett and what you've seen on their tailbacks this year, and also as far as (Craig) Krenzel goes, what qualities do you see in him that you really like?
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"You know, I remember playing them … it must have been the 1999 or 2000 game, that last time we played up there, and the rave was the freshman tailback and he looked pretty good back then. Now he's a junior or a senior and I think their tailbacks are pretty good. (Maurice) Clarett obviously was a special athlete. Yet I think probably not enough credit has been given to the rest of the team. They won a lot of games without him a year ago. I'm they'd like to have him. Anybody with his skills you'd like to have, yet I think the tailbacks they're playing with are excellent. As far as (Craig) Krenzel, he's a winner. And the thing that surprised me a year ago was his mobility. I had no idea he could run as well as he did. And as you watched games, he pulled the ball down, he moved the chains. He made the right throws, and he's the guy you classify as a winner. He never loses a game … well he hasn't, he hasn't lost a game for them. That's what you want from your quarterback, to use him and get the ball around to your playmakers and then when you have to, make a play and move the chains. And that's what he does. I understand that he's a very bright young man and he carries it over to the football field."
I think you said in Chicago, if you were in Ohio State's shoes you may not have wanted the game to be switched to night when traveling on the road, are you surprised at all that (Jim) Tressel agreed to that, and when you're a coach in that situation, can you really say no to that?
"You can. If I ever have a choice to play on national TV, on the road at 8:00 p.m., I'm going to say no. Now for some reason, last year I didn't have a say on the Michigan State game, it was just scheduled. That's just my feeling. Some people could care less whether you play at night or in the afternoon. But if I had my druthers, I would prefer not to play a late game on the road. And we have played some, but I would prefer not to. It shortens your week. You get home late, it shortens your Sunday, your players don't have much time off. But that's my preference and so it doesn't surprise me. They're the defending national champs and they certainly know what they're doing."
Barry, I think in training camp you talked about Matt Bernstein as a blocker and by the end of last year he was doing a good job. Has he continued progressing in that area this year?
"He has. I think he's more consistent then he was a year ago at this time. I think he understands the game more, and he's a better technician, and he should be after a year of playing and all that he's done. He may have played his best game against Penn State. He really played well."
Barry, you talked about how Ohio State's schedule is going to change because of the Saturday night game. How does your schedule change?
"What I try to do is shorten the day, shorten Saturday. We were really a poor night team, so our staff went out and we studied how the NFL and how some of the teams that play a lot of night games on how they shorten the day or what their schedule is. That's what we try to study. And we did that a few years ago, and you know the general consensus was, shorten the day. I'll let them sleep later. Sometimes I'll take them to a later movie. Normally I'll go to a 7:15 p.m. or 7:30 p.m. movie on Friday, get them to bed, and you're up four hours before the game, and the pre-game meal. In this case, we may go to a 9:30 p.m. movie and have our meetings real late, let them sleep until 10:30 a.m. or 10:45 a.m. Then we go to the stadium when they have a night game, and just throw the ball around, stretch them and just get their minds off it. Let the linemen play catch. Just basically kill some time. And then basically they'll have an hour and a half or two hours to kill in the afternoon, that's it. So we've played pretty well in those later games since we've changed the schedule."
You were asked about Ohio State's winning streak before. A lot of those games have been very close and have come down to plays at the end. For you, where is that line that you draw between a good team that is very lucky in getting the breaks and a great team that's well coached and just knows how to get it done in those situations.
"They're both the same. Both of those teams … the lucky team that wins and a team that is very well coached that wins at the end, they're the same team. Because somebody coached them to be lucky and somebody coach them to make that play. The bottom line is making plays at the end. In our league there are so many teams that are close. There will be a lot of four-quarter games and that's about when you the opportunity to make plays, to make the plays. And the teams that win, the champions, people say they're lucky, but they're coached that way. And the coach instills upon them the idea that they're going to win, and that's what this outfit has done. You look at our game a year ago, and we had opportunities. We had them down, we had them backed up. The ball was thrown up in the air and we had the chance for an interception or a break up on a third and long and they catch the ball. We have the ball in our hands inside the ten on a reception and we drop it. Then the next one, we're behind them in the end zone and we under throw it, so we had our opportunities, but we didn't make the plays."
Barry, what's it like to be a member of a national championship team and defending that?
"It's fun. It's a lot of fun. I think because you're confident and you're players are confident … although the second year I have to admit and thinking back on that Andy, I can remember going in when we won the championship in 88' at Notre Dame and we started that 89' season, I can remember Lou (Holtz) telling us that there was going to be a lot of pressure on us and this could be a miserable year, expectations could be so high and you have to win a certain way, but let's enjoy the year. And we were able to do that. We won 11 in a row and lost our last game before winning the bowl game. But it's fun to coach when you have a group of kids that believe they are going to win and do."
Barry, what makes Ohio State's defensive front four, I know they have more than four guys, but as good as it's been this year?
"I think they're very athletic, exceptionally fast for their size. They come off the ball, I mean they get pressure, they get penetration when the ball snaps coming up the field, yet they can chase you down. You don't go sideways on them without somebody chasing them down and bringing them down. So I guess it's a combination of size, athleticism, speed, explosion, the whole package. That's quite a group of defensive linemen."
Barry, do you almost prefer playing a team like Ohio State that's kind of no-nonsense, physical team that doesn't spread you out or blitz like crazy? "They do blitz like crazy. Personally, I prefer to play that type of football. I would prefer to play a game like that than a spread-out game. I always think back if I was playing, I wouldn't be playing if it was a spread-out game. Short, fat slow guys would never get on the field."
When you talk about teams that make plays at the end of games, are you starting to see that out of your team?
"You know, I think our guys have played well in the fourth quarter and have made plays in all phases in the fourth quarter, starting with the opening game. You know, we tried to use the bowl game as a springboard where we did that, our defense stepped up, our kicking game stepped up and the offense drove us the length of the field to get us into overtime and win the game. And we did it in the West Virginia game. We've played well. Look at last week's ball game … you know they had possessions, they had momentum and a call that pins us deep in our territory. They have the ball twice, they had a chance twice and our defense stepped up and our offense runs the clock out. We've played well in the fourth quarter. I think our guys have done what they have had to do thus far this season."
What part of your defense is going to be tested most against Ohio State Saturday?
"Well, I'll tell you thing that they create problems with, they give you a lot of different formations. They try to scheme you a lot with two and three tight end sets. We had a couple of problems early in the game last year with communication and if you don't communicate and get lined up properly, they'll take advantage of it and that's what happened on the first play of the game last year and the play that they scored on. Once we got settled in, than we played okay. So I would say right off the bat, the thing that we're concerned with is making sure we communicate, we get lined up. I would anticipate with two weeks preparation, we'll see some formations and some things that we haven't seen before. And so, you don't know what you're preparing for, so the guys have to be sound enough and understand your defense and things well enough that they can adjust when they see something for the first time."
Barry, a lot has been said in the last year or so that you don't have quite the home winning record that you used to have for many years. What kind of home field advantage do you expect Saturday night?
"Well, we haven't had-our home record hasn't been as good
as we would like. When you play at home, number one you want your players to
feel comfortable. They're staying where they normally stay, they are eating when
they normally eat, it's more convenient getting to the stadium, so there is a
comfort level there. You want your opponent to have to manage the crowd, manage
the noise and players normally feed off of the excitement from a crowd, the
noise from a crowd. That's something that if your team is playing well and you
get your crowd cranked up, you can feed off of that. Those are things that I
would like. You would like to have a 12th man, you would like to have a home
field advantage and hopefully, we will have that Saturday night. I think it will
be a special feeling in there."