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OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 1, 2011
COACH FICKELL: He mentioned this week is the military appreciation, but wouldn't want to start any other way but to thank the fans, the crowd and the students for an unbelievable atmosphere this weekend. Sometimes I had to get in the car afterwards, ask my wife to make sure I saw and felt that atmosphere as well as it was.
I wasn't sure if it was my heart that was pounding or the screams from the crowd, but it was an unbelievable atmosphere, unbelievable experience, just to be a part of something obviously a game like that. But that's what Ohio State football's all about.
And I just want to say thank you to all the fans, the students, everybody that made that such a special night.
Q. Luke, what do you think will be the prime benefit for a Braxton Miller for what happened especially in the fourth quarter there, the way he was able to deliver it, what do you think will be the prime benefit that he'll get from a game like that?
COACH FICKELL: It's a confidence factor to be able to make plays. But it's also the guys around him. You can sense they start to become a lot more comfortable with him and everything he does.
And I think that's probably as big a thing as anything, is just the guys around you. That's what Boom Herron I think really brought back on the Illinois game, just one of those guys in the huddle, you could look at no matter what the situation and just see it in his eyes, competitive nature and that and that confidence level.
And you have guys like that, but the more you've got, the better. And especially when you've got a little bit more of that from a quarterback, just to see his poise, see him handle situations like that.
Q. You've obviously come through a very rugged, emotional October. You've got Indiana coming up, which has struggled. How do you avoid a let-down, the complacency factor?
COACH FICKELL: We continue to focus on ourselves. We know -- we harped on it and continue to harp on it in about two hours -- that November is where the real games begin. And everybody -- we say it again, how you start isn't exactly what they remember, but how you finish is the key. And November's always been a focus for us. Today is November 1. It's about us getting better and we're going to make sure those guys understand that our preparation will match up with our performance.
And your preparation begins on that Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. So there will be no let-down. Got a lot better chance at being able to push, too, them when they're feeling pretty good about themselves. So I promise that will happen.
Q. Along the same lines what Bill was saying, everybody's talking now about big picture is that you're in the chase for the Big Ten Division Title and things like that. Do you think that that affects kids when everybody, when their friends and their families and fellow students are discussing this about, oh, wow, you're a player in this now?
COACH FICKELL: Since the time I came here, I've always kind of said that the toughest thing here is to be able to handle those praises, those things, those successes that you have.
Criticism, yes, they drain you emotionally and things. But really to handle criticism it just makes you tougher to me.
It's when things are going successfully and things are happening positively for you: How can you handle that? To me that's every bit as much as a distraction as the negative stuff.
So our ability to handle the positives is going to be a big part of it. So I promise as coaches we'll be all over it, and that's one of those things that since for the last nine years as a coach here I've always said that, that guys it's a lot harder here to handle success and praise than it is to handle criticism. So make sure we're aware of that.
Q. Just wanted to ask you about Braxton's demeanor. You know, sideline-wise and body language-wise, he seems very stoic, calm. Is that unusual in a kid of his age, and do you think that benefits him and makes his ability to do what he did in the last minute come to fruition?
COACH FICKELL: Everybody's different. And you know sometimes you say as a young guy: Oh man I wanted to see what kind of competitor he is and now he doesn't show any emotion and all of a sudden you get a guy that starts to get some confidence and things like that.
Everybody's a little bit different as to how they truly handle it. But to truly be able to look in someone's eyes and see the confidence level whether they're an emotional person or stoic person I think is what you begin to believe in, the guys on the team as well as coaches.
He is who he is. He does have an emotional side. He is a competitor. But, again, we talk about it. Like I said before the game, our ability to handle our emotions is key, because everybody's going to be fired up for a game like that. Night game. The crowd's unbelievable. How you handle your emotions is a big part of it. And you can drain yourself with your emotions before you even take a snap or throughout the game.
Johnny Simmons is a great example. He might not say a whole lot. But in the first four games of the year he cramped up. It's not because he's out of shape, it's just his emotions and things drain you. So our ability, especially as a quarterback for Braxton to handle his emotions, is something we've talked about.
Q. You guys have talked about the 17-hour rule. Is that what you talk about after a game, what were those 17 hours like? Was it like for you personally after the win, talking about it to family and friends, what were the emotions like for you?
COACH FICKELL: My wife reminds me to make sure I enjoy it. But sometimes as a coach you keep thinking back, I'd like to have that thing back to about four minutes and 30 seconds to go in the game and probably saved about two years off my life if we make another play or two here and something different happens.
But it is something. It's exciting. To me the most exciting time about that is the next 30 minutes in that locker room with those guys, not for myself, but to see the joy on their faces, to see all the hard work that they've been through, all the different things they've been through and to see them be able to celebrate with each other, to have that true joy, true emotion. To me, that's what the game's all about.
Q. You said that there would be no complacency, no let-down, but is it hard to keep yourself or your players from looking ahead to, say, the Penn State game, or do you have to remind them not to look past this game this week?
COACH FICKELL: We focus on one game at a time. We're in no place to look past anything. But what we're thinking is a big part of it. And we can pound things into their head and us as coaches can do the same thing but it ultimately comes down to you controlling your mind.
If you let your mind wander, just like you can ask a million different questions about different things, if as a coach you let your mind wander and worry about other things, you can become, whether it's complacency or lose energy based on something else.
Our focus is one at a time, our focus is about us getting better and hopefully that's where we are and we'll continue to pound it into their heads.
Q. For that reason, I know you're going to deflect this and discount this. But try to answer the question. Where do you think -- please. Where do you think the Fickell-ometer is right now, because after the game you sense a lot of people starting to jump on your bandwagon again.
COACH FICKELL: I don't know about any bandwagon. Like I said, I see my four kids and my wife, we see the guys over at the facility and they've always been on my bandwagon. So those are the people that ultimately you stick close to.
The bandwagon is our team. And to me the most important thing is to see the demeanor of the team, to see the excitement of the team, to see the emotion of the team. That's what you've got to continue to worry about. That's what you've got to continue to grow upon. And that's why to me the biggest thing is not looking outside, not getting, worrying about the outside things, whether it's positive or negative, but to make sure we focus on ourselves, believe in one another and know how we got to this position right here, good and bad, so we can continue to move forward and get better.
Q. Have you ever been a part of a trap game or a look-ahead game and what can you do? You've said that the team has a one-game-at-a-time mentality. What do you do, what do you actually do to engrain that in the players' minds?
COACH FICKELL: It starts in camp. It starts throughout the entire year, whether you win or you lose, it's a 17-hour thing and you move on.
I think the way we've kind of always done it here, that I can remember, wherever I've been, is when you can focus on yourselves and what you can do to get better, that doesn't mean you don't obviously prepare for Indiana, doesn't mean you don't prepare for Wisconsin, whether it's Wisconsin or Indiana, you still focus on how you can get better as a team. That's still a big part of it as opposed to saying what do we do to beat this team.
That's where we're going to continue to stay, is making sure we understand it's about us, it's about how we can get better, focusing on what we need to do and reminding them of all the adversity, things we've been through, those negative feeling as well as those great feelings. Emotions are a big part of it.
Q. What does having Herron back allowed you to do offensively with the type of numbers he's put up the last couple of weeks, he's been over 100 yards for you, has that allowed you to maybe change a little bit offensively, or are you maybe more comfortable trying to do some different things now?
COACH FICKELL: We've got confidence putting the ball in his hands. Obviously he's a secure runner. He goes north and south. Obviously some people would say he missed a couple little ones down there late in the game. But he's harder on himself than anybody else is.
But it's the confidence thing. You know that you put the ball in somebody's hands and they've got a chance to make some plays. And that's what it comes down to. There's going to be somebody at some point in time that's not going to be blocked. There's going to be somebody that breaks free.
There's going to be -- very rarely is there a huge, huge hole that me or you could run through. But if there is, then he'll do that as well.
But I think it's just the confidence level. Not just from the players but from the coaches as well.
Q. I want to ask you about the oversized defensive line, so to speak, that you guys are going with, big inside with Hankins and Goebel, but you're especially big outside with Simmons and now Bellamy and guys coming off the bench like Michael Bennett. Talk about the physical nature of the "D" line and just going big up front?
COACH FICKELL: You're going to try to play your best 11 guys. That's the thing I think we've always done well on defense, is find our way to get our best 11 on the field. So what that means, four big guys, it's four big guys.
Now you might have to do some things a little bit different defensively than if you had a Nathan Williams or Thaddeus Gibson or one of those guys that's played out there for us in the past. But you've ultimately got to be able to adjust to be able to do what your guys do, and whatever that tells to get the best 11 on the field. That's why Tyler Moeller is out there a lot more.
Q. We've heard the term over the last couple of days used a lot "signature win." How much value do you place on that term "signature win" and kind of piggybacking Clay's about the Fickell-ometer, how much does the win validate you, the coaching staff, some of your decisions along the way?
COACH FICKELL: I don't know. Every win is big. The way it was won, obviously, maybe that might mean something different. The atmosphere it was won in. But still it goes down the same on the schedule, it goes down as a win, it's one win; we move on.
That's that same idea is how much energy do you waste, how much energy do you spend thinking about things that are selfish. And if you really don't worry about those things, you continue to focus on the team and the good things there, at some point in time, some day you'll have a chance to look back and reflect but during the season that's not the time.
Q. To get back to this, it's yearly this is a goal of this program to win the Big Ten. Despite off-the-field distractions, despite having to look at one game one week at a time, is that goal still out there? And how do you as a coach balance that, that overarching goal that's always there and still attainable with having to take each game individually?
COACH FICKELL: It doesn't change. I know at times obviously something's out there that's not attainable anymore. You break it down on national championship. Well, that's not quite the breakdown anymore.
But I think as you go into a season you've got an idea. And you want to keep those things in front of those guys, but you're always pushing them not just to reach one in particular goal. Obviously you set it as high as possible. But it's still a focus on yourselves how you get better. And we've obviously got a goal here to win the Big Ten every year and to have that still in front of us is probably something that the guys on the team are more aware of than us coaches to make sure we understand that we're not looking ahead of anything. We take care of our own business. We take care of the things we can control and good things will happen.
Q. You talked about the last four minutes of the game. As a defensive guy, how unsettling was it for you for some of the things that happened defensively, and when you looked at the film, specifically what went wrong for you guys after the way you guys played defensively for the majority of the game?
COACH FICKELL: Couple big plays, and we said it after the game: One of the keys was to limit the big plays. Our first one big run they had was third and 1 on a draw play. You know? And sometimes those momentum things are tough to stop. Then they make a big play pass. So it came down to the big plays. Kind of a messed up blown coverage there at the end.
Those are the things that you've got to make sure that you get better at, the little focus things. If people are going to beat you, you gotta make them beat you doing what you do not just giving it to them.
That's what's great about the game, is ultimately you can come out, you learn from it, whether it's a win or loss. And I've said it before that they're measured in inches. The better your teams get, the better the competition, the closer those guys are together, things become measured in inches. You're just an inch away from whether it's a nice comfortable win or all of a sudden it's got to be a come-from-behind win. Those are all areas that we can get better at.
Q. Following up on the question about the defensive line. You've got a lot of young guys; it was a huge test for them against Wisconsin. Can you talk about their development, their performance in this game and where you think that unit is going?
COACH FICKELL: They did a great job. They took the challenge. And sometimes those are stats that aren't talked about. Guy taking on double teams and being squared and holding the line and letting people scrape downhill and do some things.
But that's what it comes down to. And they're unselfish guys. They've gotten better each and every week. They do what we ask them to do. And sometimes they don't get the stats and the sacks and different things like that.
But you know that's what the focus of the team is. It's about being unselfish and doing it for each other as opposed to your own glory and your own stats. But they've done an unbelievable job at it. And the ability to be able to roll those guys in still play with six or seven of them still helps them tremendously.
Q. They play a lot of freshmen. You guys have, Braxton, Devin Smith, Ryan Shazier, true freshmen in big spots. As a coach, do you have any sort of trepidation in your philosophy about playing true freshmen, or if they're good enough you figure let them get out there and do it?
COACH FICKELL: You gotta play them. The more you can get them on the field the better chance you have them of not being freshmen by the end of the year. It comes down to how you perform in November. And hopefully by November 1 they're not freshmen any more. They walk out on the field today, I'm not going to accept them making freshmen mistakes, they've been here long enough.
I think those guys, hey, if you can play, we've got to find a way to get guys on the field. Too often guys are sitting there on the sideline and halfway through the season you'd say wow, I think he could have been better if we would have just played him early. I mean, Shawn Springs was our honorary captain this past weekend and I remember he was a year behind me. He was red shirted and there he is as a red shirted guy over there doing one-on-ones and just covering guys and I'm sure the coaches by midway through the year are going what are we -- here's this guy who is going to be phenomenal, and I know he can help us somewhere, whether it was an anti-snipe or sniper, he may not be the starting corner but by the time you get halfway through the season I don't know. Then he leaves after four years anyway.
So the ability to get those guys on the field as soon as possible, as early as possible, whether it's just special teams, getting them the reps on defense or offense, during practice, I think is huge.
Q. Question about Christian Bryant. Looks like he made some good plays for you but at the same time I think there's a trade-off where maybe he's a young guy, gets caught up. He was going for an interception. Didn't get it. And at the end maybe didn't rotate over. Were there some lessons learned for him in particular out of this game that those two big plays in particular?
COACH FICKELL: Yeah, a lot of lessons. There's lessons learned in every game. But you gotta -- you can be -- obviously it's a little bit more aware when they're made in the back end and those are two big ones. He'll learn from them. He'll do a better job. He's kind of been that guy that's bounced around a little bit for us to play some different positions.
We've got to do a better job getting him into one position so he can be better at what he does. But he's a guy that's going to -- like on that first touchdown, to be honest there's a lot of plays in that game that are made on both sides of the ball.
They made some really good plays and we made really good plays and. That one right there was a really good play by their running back, if you look back at it. I was upset as he came off the sideline thinking oh my God -- just tackle the guy. When you go back and look at it, he's an aggressive guy. That ball was thrown, I could see what he was seeing, like if that guy doesn't make a heck of a play he might take that the other way for six.
And I'm not sure we always would say, hey, be safe, be sound, tackle the guy. But that's sometimes what makes people great in the long run, too.
Q. Talk about getting guys on the field. Carlos Hyde couple games ago had 100 yards and the last few games he hardly played, hardly played Saturday night. But how do you keep him fired up considering the contributions he did make, and how difficult is it to play three tailbacks?
COACH FICKELL: It's difficult. It's most difficult for making sure that you're staying with him with his psyche and him mentally, because you can talk till you're blue in the face, but it ultimately comes down to what does he believe: Does he believe in us, in his team, in sacrifice? And he's shown to do a great job of it.
His opportunities are going to be there. When they come, I couldn't tell him exactly. But you gotta be ready for your opportunities. And you can look at tailbacks and all the way back to a couple of years ago, I think Arkansas had two guys in McFadden and Felix Jones, then they had this third guy, I think his name was -- Peyton Hillis or something, might be almost an All-Pro now.
There are situations, it is tough at times. I'm not saying putting those guys in those categories by any means. But what I'm saying is your opportunities are going to come. You gotta be ready for them. And that's a part of maturity.
Q. For the last several weeks there have been numerous attempts to try to get you to talk about your future and what may happen after this and that type of thing. And it seems as though people in this room and people who are fans and that type of thing are more concerned about your future than maybe you are. It almost seems like you're the only guy not thinking about it. Can it be that simple?
COACH FICKELL: If you let it. I think it ultimately comes down to what are you thinking. And there's a lot of things going on. And I wouldn't do anything any different no matter what the situation.
So whether they told me anything different, whether they promised me anything, one way or the other, it wouldn't change how I attack every single day, wouldn't change how I talk to our guys on that team, to our coaches. So there's things that you just -- some things are out of your control. And you just continue to move forward and make sure you know what's important to you now and your actions will speak loud and ultimately you do well and good things will happen.
Q. That was going to be my next question. Do you think about it when you come in here, think about measuring your words, make sure you're saying the right things, that type of thing?
COACH FICKELL: You always make sure -- because to me the thing, whenever I'm in front of the media in the last six months, the number one thing I think about are those guys across the street here. And if they hear or if they see, because it ultimately comes down to we're a doer -- they see what we do. I could say a million different things up in front of them. But if they don't see me do it, then it doesn't mean anything. That's just me.
I'm not going to get up there and give them a ton of lectures and different things. I ask them to be unselfish and I ask them to sacrifice for each other, then we better do the same. I would sacrifice anything for them, regardless of what they told me was going to happen in the future.
Q. You want to talk about the task at hand, I'll throw one right in your wheelhouse here. Could you talk about why people should consider IU to be dangerous for you guys?
COACH FICKELL: If you really look -- they scored 40 some points, 45 points last week. They're a young group that really has just got nothing but up to go. And I think as you look at them, you know, they are going to be wide open. They're going to be playing a lot of young guys. They're going to be aggressive.
They are a -- you can put them on film. It doesn't matter whether it was 50 to 14, or 50 to 21 at one point in the last week's game, they didn't change. You didn't see guys hanging their heads. You just saw guys continue to fight and battle.
And that's who they are. When you're playing with young guys and you're starting a program and you're trying to change some different things there, that's what you're looking for. And that's probably why you flip it on, you see a lot of freshmen playing for them. You put on their special units. I think each one of them have eight freshmen starting on each special unit and it's because they're starting to build something, and those guys aren't going to be freshmen starting November 1 and they're not going to make those same freshmen mistakes.
It's a team with nowhere to go but up and you can see it on film.
Q. Just as a follow-up to revert to our 27th question about the future, LSU plays Alabama on Saturday. I realize you only want to concern yourself with the games you have, might you take a peek at that game and any thoughts, have you had any opportunity to see them; do you have a rooting interest in the game?
COACH FICKELL: No, I don't. I don't have any rooting interest. I don't watch a lot of college football sometimes when I go home. Just because I start watching it too much saying how could I stop -- what would you do this instead of actually enjoying it.
Q. I was hoping you'd take LSU just to spite him. (Laughter).
COACH FICKELL: Make it a holy war or something. (Laughter).
Q. I think everyone has seen a different team than the one that we saw in Miami and even against Michigan State. Where have you seen this team grow up and not only the team, but yourself as a head coach?
COACH FICKELL: I think it starts in your confidence level. We all know what we can do. But sometimes you gotta see some things, and you've got to see that growth. And I think that's the biggest thing is you can see everybody -- they believe in each other. They've worked at it.
You knew you were going to go through some rocky times, you just didn't know how. But when you see guys stay together and get through those kinds of things, you really start to see a growth, and I think that's probably the one thing you can ultimately point your finger at, is the belief in one another, the growth that you've seen, that's why we have a chance to be where we are right now.
Q. Just talking about the confidence word again, it seems like the word of the week in Braxton's winking as you telling don't worry, we've got this. Where do you think that came from him -- seemed like it clicked all of a sudden for him. Just talk about that?
COACH FICKELL: We talk about that every day to have that ability, remember, we are Ohio State. And you came here for a reason. And you expect to be great. And you gotta have that demeanor. You gotta have that confidence.
If you work at it and you know you've prepared and done everything you possibly can, it gives you more confidence. So to me that's the idea, is our preparation is going to match our performance. And if you prepare well enough and you believe in what you've done as you prepare, it's going to give you more confidence.
Q. Seems like games, seasons a lot can be said about momentum and how that kind of carries the team. When you're faced with the task of trying to carry your win over Wisconsin's momentum into this week, how does that help to be at home again this week?
COACH FICKELL: It's big. I mean, you know what you expect in the travel and different things, you don't have to worry about a noon game is one thing that you've got -- we haven't had a noon game in a while.
So it's something that's harped on each and every day. And it's a big part of it. You gotta get out. You've got to start fast and you've gotta do the same things you've been doing, but you've got to make sure that the preparation is where it starts.
I think that's what starts -- we did it Sunday night. We got rolling. We got a sweat going, got some of those things and we're still riding an incredible emotion, but when we get back over there today I think is when it really begins, the preparation to make sure that they understand where we want to go and what we need to do to get there.
Q. Do you think it will be a tougher task since you're on the road this week?
COACH FICKELL: I don't know. Again, on the road, at home, again, yes, you can feed off the crowd and if you have an atmosphere -- hopefully we can have an atmosphere that's somewhat close to what it was last Saturday, you can't imagine how much that helps.
So that is a huge, huge benefit. And can we have the same emotion, can the crowd have the same emotion, I'll work on the team and you work on the crowd.
Q. Who are your game captains this week, Luke?
COACH FICKELL: I don't think we've announced them yet.
Q. Are you holding off for a particular reason?
COACH FICKELL: No.
Q. It seems like you're getting personnel back. You've got some stability in terms of the players you have available. And your team is getting better, and I'm wondering which one of those is more responsible for the growth that you've seen in the team so far?
COACH FICKELL: It's their ability to work. It's their ability to get to know each other. I mean, we just talked about it this morning that our punt team is getting better. I don't want to jinx them or anything but they're getting better because they've been working next to the same guy for probably the last six weeks in a row.
So it's not about any personnel truly getting back. It's just about the guys getting used to each other, you start to know, Jim and I have talked about it during the radio shows, if you're the right guard and you know what your right tackle is doing and how he does it, you just get a better feel for each other.
You don't have to communicate sometimes. You don't have to talk. You know what each other's doing. So that whole familiarity with each other, with a little bit of consistency, but it still comes down to your Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
Q. Talk about the defense in the fourth quarter and stuff. I'm wondering, as you look back on it, was it breakdown in communications, what was going on there? And was there something similar to what happened at Nebraska, I guess?
COACH FICKELL: A little bit. You have to be able to recover. And ultimately those games come down to making plays. And we play the coverage maybe the way it's drawn up and do everything exactly the way you'd write it down on paper, and they can't throw that ball.
If they do, you got a chance to have a jump ball and it should be a pick is what you write down on paper. But ultimately it comes down to doing it. And do we lose our focus, do we lose a little bit of that, that's the thing we have to make sure we get better at, to not worry, to have confidence, if something bad happens, the most important play is always the next play. Yes, it's a win, yes, it's unbelievable, it's a great feeling, but there's every bit as many ways to grow from that as if it would have been a win.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports