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September 3, 2011

Luke Fickell

Akron – 0
Ohio State - 42

COACH FICKELL: I think the start was we had a couple things in mind. The first thing is we wanted to be sharp and fast. I think after looking at it from ground level without studying it and all I think we did a pretty good job.
The first play of the game as far as personnel-wise defensively, something we've got to shore up. The big thing is we want to be sharp, and we want to be fast. Get the plays in offensively, defensively. Let's do what they know so we can see how they can play.
The next big thing was the rushing battle. That was the thing we talked about on both sides of the football. We ended up with 224 and they ended up with maybe 50, 54. That's what we needed. That's what we were looking for and that's what our expectations were. I think we feel pretty good and happy about where that ended up, and then the turnover margin. I think those were the three keys for us going into that first ballgame.
As you look back at it, we were only one and one. We turned it over there on the 3-yard line, we had one interception. Maybe a chance for another one, but it got called. I can't remember.
But really, one and one is something we've got to do a lot better job of obviously, offensively, securing the ball and defensively, we've got to create more turnovers than that.
Off the top of my head, those are the three things we went into the football game knowing we had to do a good job of focusing on, and we'll do a better job of evaluating when we get back. But off the top of my head, those are the things that stood out to me the most.

Q. Luke, on a personal note how did the reality of the day match how you thought it would be, and if you'd get into the quarterbacks and how you thought they played?
COACH FICKELL: The reality of the day is we were excited, the whole team. To me that's where our focus was about this whole team. I think they asked me afterwards is this finally after six months of all this stuff, is it finally -- I said no, that's not where our focus has been for six months. These guys have done a great job. Even with everything that's been outside and out and around us, they've done a really good job of focusing.
We know what our expectations are. We're not going to be satisfied. That's the biggest thing. But we are definitely excited about having a great day out there and looking forward to getting better.

Q. The quarterbacks, how did you think they responded?
COACH FICKELL: I thought they did a good job. When you talk about Joe and how he did, you've got to look at the whole offense. I think the offensive line did a great job with giving him confidence, and Coach Bollman in the offense did a great job with balance giving him the ability to settle in and have some confidence.
And the guys made some great plays. We had some great runs. You've got your Zach Borens and those guys behind you. It was really good to see Joe show that leadership and that confidence, but I think as a whole group that was most impressive.

Q. Luke, you went into this week with an "or" at the quarterback position. Do you come out of this first game with more of a Joe being the guy? Is that the way it felt today? Seems like that's the way it played out.
COACH FICKELL: That's the way it played out. But again we're going to continue. We know we need them both, and I think that's the most important thing. Those guys work great together. They're not going to be distracted by the things that are outside and all the outside influences.
We know we're going to need them both. We're just going to give them all the ability to put them in situations and see how they handle it, and still continue to let them compete. They know we have confidence in them, but they're willing to work together and we'll see how it grows.

Q. Yeah, Luke, you lost one of your number one quarterback and your number one running back two days before the game. How do you think your team responded to that? And number two, Dominic Clarke in particular was in on that big play that kind of turned things big time with the interception to Andrew Sweat. How did he play in your opinion?
COACH FICKELL: I think those guys did a good job of stepping up. We'll focus on the guys we have here, and that is the most important thing. If it changes week to week, we'll continue to have guys step up.
I think that's the thing that I might be most excited about, and I think this team might be most excited about is they didn't whine about it, they didn't bat their eyes about it. They just said next man up.
That is the amazing thing. When an opportunity arises, who is going to step up and take it? That is how competition is created, and I think that's what's going to make us better in the long run.

Q. Jake Stoneburner with a record-setting day, first tight end in Ohio State history to catch three touchdowns in a game. Just your thoughts on how you used him today, and are we going to see more of that, do you think, or did it just play out that way?
COACH FICKELL: That's because I came in. I didn't play tight end here or maybe that would have happened here before (smiling).
No, obviously Jake had a great day. All in all, we were put in situations that he had the ability and the opportunities, and I think he did a great job of taking them.
He's had a great camp. He's been an integral part of this offense all through camp. You know, so I kind of expected it, to be honest with you. I expected him to have a great day. Did I expect three touchdowns? I don't know. But it's great to see.
I know the most important thing is we've got to continue to do those kinds of things. But it's going to get harder and harder, because there will be a little bit more of a target on him, but that's a challenge to him as well.

Q. What effect did the heat have and would it have made any difference or did it make any difference at all?
COACH FICKELL: Well, the official went down in the first quarter. Well, definitely. I think that's one of the great adversities that we got to go through today. We got to have a mental challenge with the weather. I don't know what it ended up being, and I wouldn't even ask. I wouldn't even tell them. But it's there, and I think that's the thing that we wanted to make sure they understood.
We kept telling them it was hot. I'm going to tell them on the sideline it was hot. I'm going to see who was not going to worry about it, not crumble. There are things that happen with cramping up. But that's one of those great adversities and one of those mental challenges that I think will be key on this team continuing to grow.

Q. Can you talk about your thoughts on how the running back corps did today?
COACH FICKELL: It had been one of the deeper spots on our team. I think really we only had two guys that were healthy to go today and they had to share the load. I don't have the stats in front of me, but from the naked eye out there, I was impressed with how hard they ran with their demeanor, with their body language. If they got tired, the other guy was willing to go run in there.
I think that's probably the thing that I saw the most. You might not see it in the score book some of the runs from Zach Boren, but I can assure you that those guys on the other side know what is the lead of our running game. I think he did a great job too. And those guys, Adam Homan and those guys did a great job at sharing the opportunities. But I think we've got a chance to have big things out of those guys.

Q. The guys that were suspended two days ago, are they back? Was this a one-game thing or is it defined?
COACH FICKELL: We're going to continue to focus today on the guys that we have, the people and the kids and young men that were out there. We'll worry about those things here as the next week comes in.
But I'm excited. I'm proud. I'm happy for all those guys down in that locker room that battled the conditions and fought through everything. That's what I want to make sure I focus on and we focus on now.

Q. You've talked before about when you're standing up in front of the group, wanting to make sure the guys have their eyes on you and paying attention like that. What sense did you get from the guys last night, this morning? Just any kind of mood of the team had that you sense from them coming into this first game?
COACH FICKELL: They were excited, just like any year. I know that there's a lot more scrutiny and lot more eyes on it. But those guys did just like the years I've been here in the past. And I Coach Ryan came in and talked to us last night as a group, the wrestling coach from here, and did an unbelievable job of setting the moment and doing some things and did a great job for our guys.
You could see it in their eyes that they were focused. That's what we've been talking about. That's what we expect out of them. And that's what we want to continue to grow on is that ability, because we're going to need it regardless of what's going on the outside, what's going on the inside. How you handle yourself mentally with your focus, because these guys are 18 to 22 years old, and there is nothing that drains you more than things that happen outside of the facility and outside of the 20 or 25 hours, since we don't have school yet, that they're with us a week.

Q. Braxton only got one series in the first half. Kind of seemed like it blew up on him with a bad snap and a drop ball. How did you think he played overall? In the second half he got more opportunities?
COACH FICKELL: I don't think it blew up on him. I think that was kind of fitting for him. I told him on the sideline that might be the best thing that happened to you. You got to run the ball right off the bat and you got hit, so you forgot about that. You had a bad play and a senior guy that snapped the ball to you on the ground, and most important thing to me, is you didn't bat an eye at it. You didn't throw your helmet or get mad or upset. You handled everything extremely well.
I think to me that is one of the biggest tests we've got to be able to do is see how we can handle it. How we can handle different things. We've told them nothing goes unnoticed. To me, those are the things we're watching.
We want to see how guys handle it, their body language, how they come to the sideline and work together. I was impressed. I haven't watched it completely yet, but I think he did a really good job of handling himself, and he'll continue to grow in that area.

Q. Were you pleasantly surprised by the way Bauserman ran the offense? What did you tell him going in that you expected more than anything else from him?
COACH FICKELL: I expected him to have confidence. I expected him to manage just like us offensively. I expected him to manage the things we wanted him to manage.
We'll sit there and evaluate, and we'll do a good job of not being satisfied and finding ways that we can get better. But I think the best thing I saw was, again, that body language, that demeanor, that control, that confidence.
Now, again, amongst some of the adversities and different situations, it was great to see guys subbing Braxton in there and seeing those guys work together in the midst of the game. That's what we want to see.
We had faith and belief in his abilities that he could do the things we wanted him to do, and that's what we're excited about. But we're not satisfied and we're going to continue to grow.

Q. You said that you're a guy that doesn't like to have too much praise heaped on you or your team. But were the offense more efficient than what you expected coming into this game with so many new starters?
COACH FICKELL: They were sharp. They were sharp and they were fast. And that's the thing. We got down there towards the end of the game, and we had to continue to try to run our offense because we've got a lot of young guys. To tell you the truth, we only had two running backs that were available to play.
So to be able to pound the football there at the end, I think we needed to work on some things to give them guys some confidence in what we're doing.
I think as a whole, that's what we're looking at. Just how this team is going to gel together, and what is going to be the identity as we continue to move forward.

Q. When is the last time you talked to Coach Tressel about this game in preparation? And also, for yourself, so much is made up of the sweater vest that he wore. Is this the attire we're going to see as you move forward in your career?
COACH FICKELL: This is what they gave me. This is how I'll go. I kind of like to be hot. I'd rather be hot than cold. Maybe that is the wrestler mentality that I grew up with.
But, no, I have not talked with coach. That's about all we've got on that. I know he's rooting for us and for these guys. We'll focus on what we have and not what we've lost, and we'll continue to move forward.

Q. (Inaudible)?
COACH FICKELL: No, it's just the preparation of different things. From pep rallies to team walks, to just getting used to being outside in the midst of this as opposed to just being with your guys. I know that's what comes with it, and you've got to embrace it.
But it does take some getting used to. When you're a guy that just likes to get down to work and be with the guys and do those kinds of things, you've got to be able to step back and know there are other things involved with running the program and being a program like this.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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