Presser Notes: Penn State Week

By Alex Gleitman on November 4, 2009 at 7:00 am
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Jim Tressel needed some tricks to give Buckeye fans some treats last weekend against the New Mexico State Aggies, but after a scoreless first quarter, The Vest and the Buckeyes were able to stomp on the Aggies 45-0.

This week against Penn State the Buckeyes will not be able to escape Happy Valley with a victory if they come out as flat against the Nittany Lions as they did against NMSU, and The Senator discussed this fact amongst other issues surrounding the team at his weekly press conference.

Tressel came out right away and spoke about the team's performance on Halloween weekend, touching briefly on the performance, as well as what the game means going forward into a tough November that includes games at Penn State, home against Iowa, and at Michigan:

A question was asked last week, often would you rather have a game or an open date. I fell on the side of thinking what we needed was a game and I think that was the case. I thought our guys did a good job preparing this past week. I thought they came out with the idea they knew what they needed to do. They prepared, they went out and the good news was a bunch of our guys got significant snaps. We probably had more people get 20 or more snaps than we've had in a game that I can remember and we'd like to think that will pay dividends down the road because as the grind gets tougher and the battles get harder, more and more people are called upon sometimes when they least expect it, so it was a good opportunity for our guys to have that opportunity.

Tressel brings up a very good point about getting multiple players reps in a game like last week's before heading into the November season. As the schedule gets tougher each and every week from here on out, people are going to get banged up and players will need to emerge to keep the depth at each position plentiful and to keep opponents off of their feet. You saw this week how quickly things could change in the situation at kicker with Aaron Pettrey going down, and don't think for a second that couldn't happen at any other position. The depth at this point of the season cannot be overlooked and it is important for each and every player to bring their "A" game in November.

Speaking of injuries, it seems that the Bucks will get a boost with the returns of a healthy Dexter Larimore and Justin Boren in the trenches, as well as the running backs (mainly Boom Herron) finally getting to 100% health-wise, and Andrew Miller returning to platoon with Jim Cordle at left tackle on a full-time basis. Speaking about the running back situation in particular, Tressel said:

Well, with getting Boom back, that helps, and with Brandon and Boom and we're very comfortable with Jordan, Jermil now has played a little bit, so absolutely. We're -- knock on wood, we're pretty healthy there and we weren't for a bit and I thought Boom was probably 90% Saturday, he didn't have quite that burst, but now he's been through it, he's been out in a game and had a couple days rest and November practices won't wear you out, they're not quite as long, hopefully you don't get someone stepping on someone's foot and rolling an ankle or whatever, but, yeah, I feel like we're as good as we could be right now.

If the Buckeyes want any shot of making the Rose Bowl and winning a fifth straight Big Ten title, their running game is going to have to step up, especially against Penn State and Iowa in back to back weeks. Getting a healthy Boom Herron back definitely helps the situation, and the fact that Tressel can trust Jordan Hall and Jermil Martin to tote the rock a bit in the next few games can only help Boom and Zoom stay sharp and fresh for the crunch time drives. You know Tressel will try to control the clock the next few weeks and he will need his ground game to be on point if that strategy is going to result in Buckeye victories the next three games.

On a down note, Mike Adams remains out with a scoped knee, leaving uncertainty on the left side of the line against a powerful group of pass rushers. On an even more down note, kicker Aaron Pettrey will miss the remainder of the regular season with a torn ligament in his knee, meaning the Buckeyes will have to go to Plan B and possibly even Plan C at placekicker. Kicker is one of the most important positions in Jim Tressel's offense and it seems that the likely option would be Devin Barclay, who was 1-3 in attempts last week in relief of Pettrey. Barclay, a former Columbus Crew player, is not a shoe-in for the job though, as red-shirt freshman kicker/punter Ben Buchanan will compete for the job in practice this week. Buchanan missed last week's game with an illness, but has a strong leg and a real chance to prove something with the reps he'll get in practice. Tressel was asked by reporters if the absence of Pettrey would effect his play calling in fourth and short situations in opponents territory and said:

Yeah, Devin or Ben, I don't think, are going to be your 57-yard kind of guys. Not that that has everything to do with it much if you're kicking a 57-yarder, that means the ball's on, what, the 40? And we don't want to give Penn State the ball on the 40, so it wouldn't be all about Devin because if Aaron was the kicker, I can't promise you you'd try 57 with the percent chance that we might give Penn State the ball back on the 40. So it might change it a little bit, just have to see how Devin and Ben are looking and the conditions, the wind, the footing, and all those different things, but, yeah, it does. I mean, we were very comfortable with Aaron from anywhere. He had a great leg. I've seen him hit 63-, 64-yard field goals in practice, not just standing there alone, I mean with a rush coming and the whole deal, so these guys aren't quite there.

If you are not a fan of Tressel punting on 4th and 1 from the opponent 37 yard line, you will not be happy in the coming weeks. If JT was conservative with his play calling when Aaron Pettrey was healthy, imagine what it will be like this week with either an inexperienced Barclay or Buchanan at the helm. Given the premise of the coming games and the fact that Tressel loves the punt, I will be surprised to see him trot out the kicker in similar situations. Of course, the other option is going for the first down, but if last year is any indication, don't expect to see a Terrelle Pryor sneak called in a tight situation.

Looking at Pryor, the sophomore did some good things against the Aggies, but came out at halftime in what appeared to be a cross of resting a banged up body and resting the youngster for the tough stretch he will endure the next three weeks. Pryor faces a challenge this week, returning to his home state to face a team that gave him his most emotional-crushing defeat as a college quarter back. There are rumors that the Penn State fan section will hold up a gigantic sign of this infamous snap shot, just one of the curve balls to be thrown at TP as he tries to lead the Bucks to victory this weekend. As previously mentioned, some throws Pryor made were spot on against New Mexico State, but there were some passes that could have been intercepted had the Aggie defenders actually tried to catch the ball. Those passes will not fly against PSU's defense and Tressel discussed those mistakes, specifically one throw Pryor lofted up in the end zone that was intended for Dane Sanzenbacher:

I thought that was the poorest decision he made. I thought some of the other long ones that we didn't hit were thrown on time and I understand why they were thrown because of what else was going on. That was probably the one that was like, that wasn't what we're looking for. He felt as if he didn't see the safety and he just saw our guy breaking free and that can happen when you're being chased around a little bit, but we need to -- we're on, I don't know, the 35 yard line or whatever, we can't afford to have mistakes like that and again, that's a good lesson. We know as we go into state college that you might not overcome a mistake like that and we have to grow from it.

More like, "You will NOT overcome a mistake like that and we HAVE to grow from it---otherwise we will lose another big game once again". It's been said before, but hopefully it will not be said again-Terrelle Pryor needs-absolutely needs-to have the biggest game of his career against Penn State for OSU to get over the hump and win the big one. With all the hoopla surrounding his situation, you would hope he will be motivated to perform, but will that translate into actual on-field performance? Before the season I thought the one game Pryor would absolutely control would be this one, solely because of the disappointment of last year's game. I hope I'm right, but with the way this season has gone, who knows what TP will come out with on Saturday.

Finally, the aforementioned Penn State defense will not be an easy task for the Buckeye offense to conquer. From Jared Odrick to Jack Crawford to Sean Lee to Navarro Bowman, and on and on and on, this defense is scary good. The Buckeyes will have a tough time moving the ball against Tom Bradley's unit, but don't underestimate the NIttany Lion offense either, as Daryll Clark and the gang have come on really strong since their loss to Iowa. Like the Bucks, they have started off slow in games, but have usually dominated the second half and will pose a tough test for the Silver Bullets as well. Tressel talked about Penn State as a team and what the Buckeyes will be facing come Saturday afternoon:

Penn State is solid Penn State. If you turned film on and didn't have a program in front of you you could guess which year it is because they've been doing the same things very well and adding new wrinkles, of course, based upon their personnel and what people do better and so forth and so on. But their general philosophy defensively is much the same, very strong up front, very difficult to run on much they don't give away easy plays in their secondary. Their linebackers are very, very disciplined and run extremely well.

Offensively they have the blessing of having a very veteran quarterback who you've seen grow as each year's gone on, I think this might be Daryll's sixth year because I think he spent a year at prep school and then redshirted and so forth. He's a good player. He's a physical player. Hasn't run as much this year. I would expect him to run a little bit more in this game because they're going to do whatever it takes to do in this battle, but he's making great decisions. He leads our conference in passing efficiency and he's very much in command and when you have a guy in command there, along with a good back like Royster and his change-up guy Stephfon Green and excellent fullbacks, their tight ends have always been very versatile in both the run and the pass game, their receivers are younger, probably the youngest part of their team along with a couple of their linemen, but they're the similar Penn State fashion, very, very good, and special teams-wise, their punter has got a huge leg. I think they've punted 35 times this year and he's dropped 15 of them down inside the 20. We've punted 37 times and dropped 16 of them down inside the 20. So neither punter has as big a net as maybe a couple other people in our league, but I'll bet you if you did a little measurement of where teams started after the ball was kicked, you'd find both our teams put people in tough field position.

There is no question this will be the Buckeyes toughest opponent on the schedule up until this point in the season. Yes, I think this is even tougher than USC, as the White-Out will be in full force come 3:30 PM on Saturday and the implications of this game are clearly defined. As Tressel mentioned, Penn State does almost everything well, meaning the Buckeyes will have to play a near flawless game in order to win. It certainly is possible, but if the offense doesn't show up and relies on solely the defense to get the job done, the Bucks will be in trouble. It is going to take a complete performance to take down the Fighting Joe Pa's and it all starts with "Little Deuce".