Ten down, two to go. The Iowa game has been circled on the calendar for some time now, and though both the Buckeyes and the Hawkeyes have had some big time bumps in the road in getting there this season, this is still a huge game for both teams (although maybe moreso for one than the other). Before last week's debacle (can you really call it that when the other team has won five of the last six?) against Northwestern, Iowa was looking to get back into the thick of things with the Big Ten race. Now, a week later, Stanzi and company are just looking to play spoiler against an OSU team looking to claim a share of a 6th consecutive Big Ten title.
Make no mistake, though. The Hawkeyes are down, but despite a loss and a 4th quarter onset of the horrible affliction known as the Dropsies, Iowa still has some outstanding playmakers on both offense and defense. Jim Tressel knows this, and in his weekly presser he talked about a variety of topics, including last week's game and halftime speech, some of his former players that have gone to the NFL, but most importantly, how his team will stack up against the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Starting right off the bat, the Senator still seemed pretty peeved about how his team came out against the Nittany Lions:
COACH TRESSEL: Well, you were all at the game. We didn't exactly set the world on fire in the first half and we came out and played a good second half and when you get a couple key things happen in a game like a stop at nearly the end of the second quarter and defensive scores, you're going to have a chance to win and win decisively, so we felt good about that, then we felt good we could go back and study what it was we did well and what it was we need to get a lot better at because as we head to Iowa City we're playing against an outstanding football team and they're a veteran bunch, they're a confident bunch, they play extremely well at home, it's a great atmosphere, those of you who have been there, it's nice and tight and there's a lot of communication going on from the stands down to the field, so it's kind of one of those neat places, those places that as a player you never forget that you've played.
That's two sentences, by the way. Anyway, I think what Tressel wants to do here is put the last game behind both him and the team; the above is pretty much classic Tresselspeak for "if we come out like that again we are completely screwed."
Tressel was then asked by a reporter about this halftime speech, which several veteran players would say after the game was something they had never seen out of him before, and was something that really fired them up:
REPORTER: Your players talked after the game about ... the talk you gave them before they went back out for the second half and just did you feel disappointed that you had to make that speech at that point or that you needed something like that and just what were your thoughts there during that? Did you think you were at kind of a junction of the season there a little bit?
COACH TRESSEL: I was disappointed that we weren't playing like we were capable of playing. We've all been in games where you've played as well as you could and you lost and that happens, or you played as well as you could but you made those two mistakes and, therefore, you lost. I didn't think we were playing anywhere near we were capable of playing and we were playing against a team that they knew was good. We play them every year, it's not like we hadn't played them in a while, and we were playing in our stadium and all the rest, and at this time of year when you're supposed to have been improved, so, yeah, I was disappointed ...
REPORTER: But then after that, were you, I don't know, surprised, amazed, what were you about the effort past that point?
COACH TRESSEL: It was what it ought to be and that should never surprise us. If that surprises us, then we're in trouble.
I think this exchange goes right to the heart of how angry/frustrated/disappointed Tressel was with his team at halftime. A lot of times fans fault the guy for maybe being a little too nonplussed after a defeat, but the truth of the matter is that he knows exactly what his team is capable of and if he is not seeing it on the field (like last Saturday during the 1st half), he's going to let his team know it. What is encouraging to me is that Tressel would emphasize that his speech wasn't some kind of planned thing to rally the troops to play beyond their ability: he was mad about their performance, because he knew they should be handling the team they were playing. And in the 2nd half they did.
REPORTER: It seems like second half defense and your running game were just lights out, and Terrelle was saying after the game he didn't have a good game. Do you feel like you need him to get going for Iowa out there on the road?
COACH TRESSEL: Oh, we're going to need everybody and for sure Terrelle, you know, I think as we've talked before Terrelle is such a perfectionist and the expectations that everyone has for him are perfection, that when he doesn't get close to that, he is tough on himself, but he made some plays in that game that were certainly very, very important and there were some plays that he didn't make, those are the ones that he's most down about and on the road against Iowa every play we can possibly make we've got to make, which means one of them might be throwing it into the stands when it's not open, but whatever it is we need done, he's a big part of it.
The "Terrelle is a perfectionist" meme is something we've heard from a lot in the media and the coaches, and probably unlike many of you, I actually believe this. I think the problem lies in him being too much of a perfectionist, especially in big games. What concerns me about Iowa specifically is that I'm worried that he'll be in a situation where he feels he absolutely has to make something happen, and try way too hard to make the perfect throw or read and take himself out of his game because of it. TP needs to figure out when it's time to try and make a 3rd and 25 happen, and when it's time to throw a dump off to make sure you get at least some yards.
REPORTER: I think people have known about Adrian Clayborn and their defensive line all year, when you see them on film, what --
COACH TRESSEL: They're so strong and they're so technique sound. And their technique is a little different than some. They're a little bit thicker on you, a little bit stronger on you as opposed to playing an edge and so it's a little bit different technique that you're facing and they're not real tricky, although their front twists a lot and gives you a lot of problems, but they're not really tricky. They're just very, very powerful and very consistent. In games where you might have a seven-yard run, against them it's three. You know, that's just -- look at their numbers. They're very, very good.
He's right, Clayborn and company are terrific defensive linemen, but I also think Tressel has noticed the same thing that others have while watching the Northwestern game: you can tire those guys out. Trying to contain Dan Persa was a maddening endeavor for the Iowa defensive line, and by the 4th quarter they were completely exhausted. Don't be surprised if Tressel tries to counter all of that power with a little speed and uptempo pacing.
REPORTER: A lot of people thought Clayborn might be the best defensive end in the country, one of the best with Cameron, is he having that kind of a year from what you've seen of him on tape?
COACH TRESSEL: Well, whenever you turn on the tape, there's two people, there's one chipping him, there's another -- whoever the uncovered lineman is going and helping on him, whatever it is. And he's -- it's not like you make your game plan and you say, we're not worried about 94, I mean, so, he still is one of the best defensive linemen in the country, as Cam is and J. J. Watt and we've got some good ones in this league.
Both Cam and Clayborn have had somewhat disappointing years, stat wise, and though it is true that both players have seen some double teams and other kinds of gameplanning, I also think both guys have shown that they can be neutralized a bit. J.J. Watt was able to wreck havoc against the Buckeyes, but he wasn't the reason we lost that game, and I don't believe that Clayborn will have that kind of impact either. He could very well be a factor (he is definitely still an incredible player), but I also think OSU will be ready for him.
REPORTER: Ricky Stanzi obviously didn't get to play in the game last year against you guys, he's cut down in the picks, just when you see him in the crossover film, what do you see out of film?
COACH TRESSEL: He's experienced, he's a fifth-year guy, played a lot of games. He talks a lot about how he's changed the way that he studies and that he feels he's got a lot better handle on things rather than just sitting and watching film and not tying it all together, he feels like he's got a lot more, which, again, is experience ... Anticipation is the key for the interception world and that's been a big change for him.
Stanzi has been much much better statistically this year than last year, and in fact had a fairly good game against Northwestern overall. But one area where he has struggled has been in the 4th quarter of games, where his completion percentage goes down to 57% and passer rating drops over 10 points. Definitely an interesting shift from last season, when he was often dominant in the 4th quarter.
Moving on to former players in the league:
REPORTER: It was a big week for former Buckeyes in the NFL.
COACH TRESSEL: Huge.
REPORTER: I know you don't get a chance to sit around and watch a bunch of NFL games, but any reaction of Troy Smith or --
COACH TRESSEL: Well, Troy, I guess he had a heck of a game. I got a text from his quarterback coach saying, hey, he did a tremendous job and has done a great job leading. I was a little bit sad that Santonio -- but it was kind of bittersweet. But we had like four guys on the Jets, so I couldn't not be a little happy, but only a little. Someone said Kurt Coleman got a pick.
REPORTER: Interception last night, yeah. Brian Hartline big week.
COACH TRESSEL: Did he?
REPORTER: Do you talk about what needs to happen to go to the Rose Bowl or just --
COACH TRESSEL: I still don't know the tiebreaker, because it's irrelevant. We haven't earned the right to even have it -- its doesn't mean anything to us because we haven't tied for anything. So once the dust settles, we always say you get as your works deserve and whatever that is, we'll go get ready for that.
Interesting comment from him here. Reading into it a bit, I would say he still isn't sure if his team is ready to hit the Rose Bowl. Of course, with two huge games coming up a little trepidation is understandable, but I think he really wants to see more consistency out of his team. Especially against good teams.
REPORTER: Do you think Troy, if he ever got to be a starter in the NFL, would play like this? What were your thoughts about him? Obviously you know the Baltimore thing, a little bit of bad luck there when it was his shot.
COACH TRESSEL: It's tough for me to project what they need at that level because I've never coached it, obviously never played it, so I really don't know much about that level of football. When Troy had spent two years there at Baltimore, I had a chance to spend some time with Ozzie Newsome and he said to me, he said without question Troy was the finest natural leader that maybe he'd ever seen and that there was no doubt in his mind he was going to be a starter in the NFL. Of course they had just come off Flacco's rookie year and they'd done okay, that type of thing, and he kind of inferred, but the problem is, it won't be with us, we're not going to be able to keep him.
Some interesting comments from Newsome there. Also, this one is a little hard for me to wrap my brain around. I mean, I've seen Troy be a leader, and a great one at that. He says the right things, he pumps his teammates up, and he delivers every time. Almost. Given what I know, trying to figure out why the 2006 team fell apart so badly in the National Championship game makes me woooaaaaagggghhh forget it I'm getting a headache.
REPORTER: If you weren't happy obviously at halftime with the way guys had played in the first half, what can coaches, players, do this week to prevent that from happening in the first half at Iowa? Is there anything in the approach or --
COACH TRESSEL: It's all got to be done individually. I don't know if it's anything collectively you could do as a group. I've got to take the responsibility of having myself ready to do whatever it is that needs to be done as well as it needs to be done against some very, very good people and bring along with it the emotion that needs to be there, because if you don't have that, it's not going to happen. So I think you can encourage one another. I think you can make one another accountable and all those things, but ultimately I hope we have a group of individuals that collectively bring it, and that's why they tee them up every week. What was it, the Cowboys got beat by whatever and then they come back and beat the Giants who are killing people, now how do you figure that one out, in fact it makes me nervous, they fire the head coaches and then the teams win.
Totally agree with Tress here. You can make all the platitudes you want during the week, but the fact of the matter is that each individual player has to make the determination to play as hard as they can on any given Saturday. The real problem that Tressel should be nervous about is complacency, because that can spread like a virus.
The last few things that Tressel talked about was the importance of special teams (shock), and the fact that he admired that Iowa was a team that models consistency and beats you even when you know what's coming. Not particularly surprising praise coming from Jim Tressel, and we'll see if Iowa sticks to their usual M.O. this Saturday. Other notes:
- Ohio State is 45-14-4 against Iowa all time
- The injury situation is the same as last week, Evege is the only guy out for sure
- The forcast for Iowa City on Saturday is 47 degrees and partly cloudy. Nice.
"And so forth" count: 3. Better than 2, not as good as 4.