Presser Notes: Northwestern Week

By Chris Lauderback on November 5, 2008 at 7:00a
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The Vest Wool: 20-4 at OSU in November

After a week to regroup from a painful home loss, Tressel took the podium focused solely on Northwestern in his opening comments though the reporters rightfully wouldn't let him move past Penn State but more on that later.

With the whole staff heading to Chi-town for the weekend, we share Tressel's focus on the purple team though we're equally excited to see plenty of you at Casey Moran's Friday night.

Hopefully, we'll be able to shake off the delirium tremors as we make our way to Ryan Field for the 11am CST kick. Even with Tressel's poor record following bye weeks, something tells us the Buckeyes won't be suffering from the same hangover effects as they look to improve to 8-2.

Speaking on the Wildcats, Tressel discussed how effective Northwestern is at something at Ohio State seems to struggle with, at least offensively - making halftime adjustments:

And what I've been impressed with amongst many things with Northwestern is if you watch them in the first half of a ball game, they're much better in the second half of a ball game, which means that they're glued into what's going on in the game. They understand their system. They grow to understand what you're trying to do against them. They've outscored their opponents in the second half like 111-50 or something and played excellent football. Every film you watch, you can see that someone has maybe had something that works once or twice against them and they try it again in the second half and it's snuffed. So they obviously know who they are and they learn who you are.
That stat got me curious so in case you're interested, OSU has holds a 101-60 second half scoring edge through nine games.

Even with starting QB CJ Bacher expected to return following a bad hammy, Tressel expects back up QB Mike Kafka to some PT after he did his best Cracker-Vick impersonation last week:

Their quarterback situation, you have to appreciate the fact that when the number two guy had to come in and win a big game on the road, he did it, he rushed for over 200 yards, and I would expect that we would see both guys in the course of the game. I would expect Bacher probably to return as the starter, maybe not, but I would expect that with all his experience and successes and so forth, but I would bet you that Kafka's going to come in there and certainly be a part of what they do.
Considering the fits running QB's have presented in the past, I'd have to agree with the Vest that Kafka will get an opportunity to see if the speed option will present any problems for an improving Buckeye defense.

The rest of the Northwestern talk was ultra generic except for noting Northwestern uses the "rugby punt" where dude rolls out and kicks it low reducing return opportunities. I didn't see the video transcript but word on the street is Tress sprouted a quarter chub discussing his favorite play in football. Moving on to the Q&A...

Responding to an inquiry on Beanie's health and how the bye week helped him, Tress sounded very encouraged:

I think practice always can help you. I don't think that you can negate the fact he had a very good defense he was going against, but you add all the factors together and it's part of the sum, the results. The good news is he practiced the entire open week, which he probably got more practice last week than he's had in the three weeks leading up to that and you'd like to think that that will serve us very well.
Couple that news with the fact Beanie was shut down (ie: avg less than 3.8 yard per carry) for just the second time in his career as a starter ('07 YSU: 2.9, '08 PSU: 2.5) and I think it's safe to assume Beanie is ready to blow up for 150+ though Northwestern does have the conference's fourth best rushing defense.

On the injury front, the line is still dealing with injuries with Person likely out:

Right now, Ben Person, we should find out in the next day or so, might have to have a slight surgery, so I would not expect him to be ready. J.B. Shugarts seems to be a little bit more ready. I don't know if he could go in and give you 60 snaps. I don't know if he's that far back, but I think he could be there and spell for a bit. Injury-wise up there, other than that, Mike Adams is still out.

Interesting that just a few weeks ago Shugarts was thought to be out for the year but I guess not. Tressel also indicated the line will look just like it did against PSU featuring Boone, Cordle, Brewster, Rehring and El Matador.

Oh, and I hope you weren't banking on a revelation after Tressel's comments last week about how the coaches and players were going to dissect the offense:

I don't know if we found out anything we didn't know. You get reaffirmed when you study it further that you need to be more consistent and that you have a chance if you do that, and I think that's the case. I don't know that we had any startling revelation that we're going to -- oh, we found the exact issue or whatever that we can do better and that's going to have us take off, but I think just the fact that you have a chance to watch yourself a little bit more, both coaches and players, there comes a deeper understanding of just the fine line between being as successful as you need and coming up short.
Are you encouraged by that response? Me neither, though I do expect the offense to put up at least 28 points behind a determined #28.

Sticking with offense for a second, Tressel was also asked about Saine's role after he caught a few passes against PSU:
Brandon's been evolving more into playing the fullback positions and slot positions and some slot things. We think that he can do some of the things that a fullback needs to do. And so his evolution really is finding ways to get on field. He's on some special teams and so what you hope is that he's the kind of guy that can be on the field 25 plus plays a game because he can do a lot of different things and he is a threat as a pass receiver but yet I also think it's not like you can say, well he's in at fullback and they can't run their "I" formation stuff, because I think we can.
I don't know about you guys, but I'd much prefer Brandon Smith at FB from a lead blocker perspective. As Joe and I were discussing last week, he's quietly had a very good season when you consider how he's performed against expectations. As down as I am on Saine, I'm even fine with Smith catching the rare pass to the FB out of the backfield though Saine certainly has the edge in this area.

On the defensive side, the Senator threw both Thaddeus Maximus and Heacock a bone. On T. Maximus:

Thaddeus is an active guy. He plays both the end and one of those 30 front we call a viper, so there's a lot of dropping a lot of blitzing, a lot of playing gaps and so forth. Going into the Penn State game, the question was, are you going to be able to hold up against a power-type group, and I thought he have very active and held his own from that standpoint. So the more he plays, the more he experiences and those kinds of things. I think Thaddeus is going to be a good player.
And on Heacock and his D-Line as a group:
Those guys over the course of years that I've watched Jim Heacock's fronts, they do a great job in preparation. They really grow as the season goes on, that's the mark of a good unit or a good team or whatever and they just keep banging. They're relentless in what they do and I think they're all getting a little bit older. I think they're getting some excellent leadership from Nader Abdallah, and their habit is to just keep coming and they're not going to ever stop no matter how well they're doing, what the score is, what's the situation, and they're disruptive.
In my mind, there's no doubt the front four have improved, especially in the last month. That said, the real question is why it took as long as it did. Regardless, I'm convinced Heacock will be back no matter what happens the rest of the season.

On the topic of the BCS standings, Tress either played dumb or truly has no idea who is ranked where. I personally find it hard to believe that he doesn't at least look at the results but if you believe him, he doesn't though he appeared to know PSU was #3 before beating Ohio State:

REPORTER: Did you see this week's BCS, Jim? COACH TRESSEL: I didn't. In fact I was asking Coach Bruce when he was over at the office, I said, I don't even know who's in the list. REPORTER: Did it surprise you that Penn State didn't move up at all? COACH TRESSEL: Where were they? REPORTER: They were three. COACH TRESSEL: They're still three? You know, that Texas Tech-Texas game was really -- everyone watched it. I'm not sure everyone has had a chance to watch Texas Tech as much with -- they're not on our regional telecasts and so forth and they beat the Number 1 team. So did I have Penn State higher? Yeah, but I understand.

Seriously. No way he doesn't check the freaking BCS standings, right?

His next response was also hard to believe. When asked if he expected 2008 to be a harder season than 2007 he offered:

Not at all. In fact, one of the things we talked a lot about beginning last March is that 2008 was going to be much more challenging than 2007. I mean, it wasn't even going to be close, all the way from the schedule to the expectations to the individual expectations, all of those things, it doesn't surprise me in the slightest.
With 20 returning starters, regardless of USC being on the schedule, I have no idea how he could have expected 2008 to be tougher than 2007 before the season started.

Anyhoo, I think that covers the highlights this week. If you want to read the full transcript, you can find it here.

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