COACH JIM TRESSEL
THE MODERATOR: We’ll go ahead and get started with the postgame press conference for Ohio State. We’re joined by Coach Tressel and Cameron Heyward. Terrelle Pryor is on his way right now. Coach, just a few thoughts on the game and then we’ll take questions.
COACH TRESSEL: First and foremost, this one was for our seniors. 24 guys that have given their heart and soul to Ohio State and led us. And they’ve got the most wins of anyone in a career. And they’re just a special bunch.
Also Coach Darryl Hazel, who spent seven years with us and is now moving on to be the head coach at Kent State, for those 25 people, guys like T.P. and I and so forth that are going to be around, we wanted this one for them real bad. And our kids just kept fighting.
We had a bunch of injuries. It was just heart breaking to see Chimdi have his injury and he’s going to have surgery tomorrow. He’s just a great football player and great kid. And every time you turned around there was someone different in the game.
And our kids kept fighting. And Arkansas is a special football team. We knew that when we drew them. When you get in a Bowl like the Sugar Bowl, you’re going to have a great opponent.
We’ve had about five or six opponents in a row like this. It’s just a knock down, drag out. And awfully proud of our guys. And proud of T.P. and Cam. And Cam was a beast. He was all over the place. And that defense, they were something. They had a great challenge from Arkansas. And the good news is we’re the Sugar Bowl champions.
The people here in New Orleans were unbelievable. Sugar Bowl committee and all the rest. I gained about 10 pounds.
But it was just a great experience.
THE MODERATOR: Questions?
Q. Coach and Terrelle, on that first touchdown that they were able to recover in the end zone, first, Coach, do you practice recovering fumbles like that and then for you, Terrelle, how big was that for him to come up and get that fumble?
COACH TRESSEL: Well, we do practice recovering fumbles. I don’t know if we could have orchestrated any practice just like that one. But you know, T.P. was making a big play. He was going and he kind of got knocked off kilter there.
And when you get knocked off balance, sometimes you put your arms out just to catch your balance, and he put his arm out and the ball was in it and it got whacked out. And fortunately we were hustling toward the ball, and came up with a big play on it.
But I can’t tell you how many plays we’ve had that T.P. has made something out of nothing. And that was one of them.
TERRELLE PRYOR: I’ll tell you, if there was one person that would be there to make a play like that, it would definitely be Dane Sanzenbacher. He’s made plenty. And if you watched him on film, he’s sprinting down the field whether he’s got the ball or not. Whether it’s the run, he’s the first congratulating you. I’m impressed he came up with it, because that was a great play. Like Coach was saying, I was falling over, and the first thing I was thinking, I couldn’t put out my left hand because my right hand was closest to where I was falling. I was scared to switch is it back. I was trying to put the ball down and keep balance. And Dane Sanzenbacher is definitely the person out of anybody that I think would make a play like that. He’s just a great player.
Q. What’s it mean to be the first team to be first Ohio State team to beat an SEC team in a Bowl game?
COACH TRESSEL: I think it’s a big deal because Arkansas is a great team. And every year you don’t get to play an SEC team. They have a great conference. No one would refute that. So to be able to beat a top team, I mean, they were, what, ranked 6th or 7th, something like that, in the country. To beat a team like that, it’s special.
And we had that heck, we were 0 3 since I’ve been here against SEC teams. They’re all good teams.
And so it’s special to win this particular game. The fact it happens to be an SEC team, you know, that makes maybe even a little bit prouder because you know how good that league is.
Q. Two questions concerning the kicking game. Talk about the onside kick after the touchdown and talk about how you recovered punts and kickoffs tonight.
COACH TRESSEL: The onside kick, there was a big gap in their return. We thought we could punch it in the middle, and we had kind of decided leading up to the game that if we scored, we would come back and try to come up with what we call a punch surprise. See if we could get the ball right back and maybe get some momentum.
It didn’t work. That’s what happens sometimes. They went down and scored, because you know we gave them the ball at midfield. So that wasn’t a great thing.
The punt block wasn’t a great thing. I thought we covered pretty well on kickoffs. I don’t believe they had too many out there. We were running fast because I think they had two or three holding or pushing the back calls, which meant we were running past them.
When you get pushed in the back is if you run past someone. So I thought we did a pretty good job coverage wise.
Q. Coach, following up on that other question, beating a team from the SEC this year and last year, beating Oregon in the Pac 10, does that send some kind of message or statement that you guys have separated yourselves in the Big Ten as the elite team in the Big Ten, the fact that you’ve beaten two teams from the two elite conferences when the issue of speed has always been a factor if a Big Ten team can compete with one of those teams on that speed issue?
COACH TRESSEL: I know we’re awfully proud of the fact that we beat Oregon in 2010 and no one else has in this year. And a win over Arkansas is something we’re awfully proud of.
But I don’t know that we ever get into the discussion as to who we’re separated from, because we’re going to be right next to them when we play them next year.
And so this particular year, we’ll end up probably the highest ranked Big Ten team. But I don’t think that means anything. Certainly doesn’t mean anything for 2011.
Q. Terrelle, when you found out about the suspension and everything and Coach Tressel said you needed to tell him you were coming back next year to make this trip, what was your decision making process like? Was it a hard decision or was it easy to decide to come back next year?
TERRELLE PRYOR: I think the main thing was definitely I didn’t want to let the seniors down. That’s a tight group. And I didn’t want to be so selfish to not come and play for the guys. And another thing, I don’t think I’m really ready for the NFL. I think I’ve got a lot of learning and better decision making I have to make on and off the field.
And I think even off the field, I think I need to grow up a little bit more and mature as well in that standpoint. So I just have a lot of growing up to do. And we’ll take steps. Talked to Coach Tressel and we have a plan going down and I have to follow it exactly how he put it.
Q. Terrelle, when you look at Ryan Mallett, statistically he’s one of the most prolific passers in the nation. When you’re matching up against him, do you go into the game and you say
TERRELLE PRYOR: I go into every game trying to outbeat the quarterback, especially a turnover standpoint. I don’t really worry about the yards standpoint but I want to manage the game better than the quarterback, and that’s our goal. That’s one of our goals as well, is to play better than the quarterback across the field.
And I don’t know if I can say that I did that. I know he had a lot of great throws today. He’s a great quarterback. And he’s going to have a great career whether he stays here or goes to the NFL. But I know our defense played a hell of a game.
COACH TRESSEL: I think one of the categories that Terrelle did a great job winning in the quarterback battle this particular game, he mentioned the turnovers, but the sacks. We had zero sacks, and I think they led the nation or were near the top of the nation in tackles for losses and they lived on minus yard plays.
When your quarterback remember T.P. threw a couple of them away because things weren’t open and the heat started coming, and to have no sacks against the Razorbacks, it’s huge.
Q. Jim, just so much attention was on Terrelle and the other four guys facing the suspension next year. How important were their contributions tonight and how did you think they handled the spotlight?
COACH TRESSEL: You know, their contributions have been good ever since they’ve been here. And they’re young men that they want to do, especially as T.P. mentioned, for those seniors, they wanted to be here for them and the seniors wanted them here with them.
And so their contributions were important. And they’re great kids. And I’m looking forward, as T.P. mentioned, we’ve got a plan. And if we’ll stick with our plan, we’ll be fine. And that’s what we plan to do.
Q. Cam, can you just talk about the way you came out? You seemed real active out there. What your mind set was going into your last college game and the defense hanging on there in the second half against these guys.
CAMERON HEYWARD: You know, going into the game, I could always revert back to practice. I was going to work my tail off for this game, knowing it was my last game here.
And I was going to leave it all on the table and the dressing room next. I knew as a defensive player, we needed some critical stops. We knew they were going to get some big touchdowns, and I think we just kept battling back.
We’re a team that bends but doesn’t break. And it says a lot about our seniors and all the leaders we have on this team like Terrelle. And I’m so proud of them. They kept battling back and made critical stops when we needed to and critical plays on the offensive side as well.
Q. Cam, Coach Tressel mentioned about Terrelle avoiding the sacks, but you guys got four on Mallett. When Coach Petrino was sitting there a few minutes ago, he said while the SEC is big on speed, the bull rush was something that he was very concerned with of the defensive line. Was that something that you guys focused on, and how important did you go into this game about getting the pressure on Ryan Mallett?
CAMERON HEYWARD: Mallett’s a great quarterback. Pressure really disrupts a quarterback. And we looked through film. And we saw that he had trouble with his mobility and throwing on the run. We figured if we got to him quicker, you know, he was going to have a tough time. Our corners did a great job of buying time. And everybody worked as a whole.
Q. Coach, Cameron, feel free to chime in. Can you take me through your mindset, the critical plays, your decision to go for it on fourth down late in the fourth quarter, you know, the reaction to it and how it came out, the strip and recovery from Boom and then also the punt block, what was your mindset for that? And Cameron, feel free to chime in.
COACH TRESSEL: Those were probably the two worst plays of the game. Thanks for bringing those up.
The reason we went for fourth and 1 was because our defense had been on the field a lot. We felt confident we could make fourth and 1. If we could keep that drive going along, we could go down and score and put the game out of reach.
I don’t know how many times Boom has fumbled this year. Once, twice.
CAMERON HEYWARD: Not many in his career.
COACH TRESSEL: Yeah, is that it? And so it happened.
What happened on the punt, I don’t know. Gosh, we spend so much time on the punt. And we had lost some guys that were on the punt protection team in the course of the game. And I don’t know if we didn’t do a good enough job teaching maybe some of the back ups. I don’t know.
And give Arkansas credit. They got close on the one punt, and Ben kind of had to short leg it and didn’t hit it very far, about 34 yards or something, and then that last one, you know, they I don’t know what the get off time was or whatever, but whatever it was, it wasn’t fast enough.
And those were two crucial plays. But in both cases, our defense answered. And when your defense covers your sins, you know, that’s why we believe you win with defense.
CAMERON HEYWARD: Just talking about the fourth quarter, you know, we had always talked about before that, you know, we’re the best defense in the country, and I think our guys played like it.
Going into that last stretch, where they were going to need a touchdown to win the game, we knew if they scored it was our fault. And that’s the way we played. Solly made a great play and everybody executed. I was proud of them. To see everybody just do their job and execute and make a critical stop like that to seal the game, you’re proud of your guys. And there’s a lot of piggyback off next year.