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OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 8, 2011
COACH FICKELL: I don't know that it's been brought up, maybe a little apology to the band. I'm not sure when we were supposed to come out there at halftime, but it was hard to keep them in the locker room. The band was still playing. They said not till three and a half minutes. We needed to get back out there, a little bit more time to loosen up.
If we kind of messed it up, I'll take the blame for that. I'm not sure anything was said as of yet, but I apologize for that.
Obviously we came out the second half, played better, a little more physical. Got the job done up front offensive line-wise that gave us the spark to finish that game out. Defensively finally made a big play. If the team is going to have 80 some snaps, you're going to have to get a few turnovers. Otherwise, those turnovers, you'll continue to get five, six, seven, eight yards. If they can convert on third down, it makes it difficult for you defensively.
Moving forward, I guess we'll open it up for any questions.
Q. How is Boom Herron's ankle feeling? Do you expect Jordan Hall will be available?
COACH FICKELL: Boom was sore Sunday. Able to move around. Felt better than the week before. I would believe he'll be all right today to move around some.
Jordan we're still kind of curious on. Hopefully he'll be able to go. He'll be a little bit hesitant. We'll hold him out a little bit today. But we're hoping. We obviously have to wait till later in the week to find out for sure.
Q. What about J.B. Shugarts?
COACH FICKELL: Don't know just yesterday. J.B. had a little bit of a knee. We'll have to evaluate as the week goes along. I don't think he'll be available today to do a lot of different things. J.B. is a tough guy, he's pretty strong and a competitor. If there's any chance of him being out there, he'll be out there.
Q. Any reaction at all to what's come down over at State College the last several days concerning that football program?
COACH FICKELL: No, I don't pass judgment on anything. I haven't followed it. I really don't have any comment on it.
Q. Assuming that Jordan Hall is available this weekend, how do you split the carries between him and Carlos Hyde?
COACH FICKELL: Not sure just yet. It's only Tuesday. We need to see how those guys practice. A lot of that stuff depends on how you practice.
If Jordan is fine, we'll get him back into the situation. I am sure he will get some touches whether it is kickoff or punt. We'll find a way to move that thing around, put him in positions that they can have opportunities to touch the football.
Q. From the very start you mentioned turnovers as one of the main things you want to focus on with this program. I think you're plus four so far this year. Are you pretty happy with the way you're taking the ball away from other guys or where do you think you could improve?
COACH FICKELL: You can always improve on both sides. I don't know that I've looked at the true numbers. My opinion would be that we probably haven't got as many defensively and we've done a decent job offensively at not turning the football over.
But these offenses that are going to get 80, 85 snaps a game, you can see some of those games Saturday night, not the ones Tim was watching, some of those other ones the scores are 55-48, 54-35. There's going to be turnovers with having 80, 85 plays. That's kind of the offense we played. To only get one is not where we want to be.
Q. Nine games into the season, do you feel you have a pretty good grasp on your team's identity?
COACH FICKELL: I think we understand. I think our guys have realized the things that we put in front of them, that it's about the effort, the turnovers, the toughness side of things. We'll continue to grow and develop. Still doesn't change.
We're not out there saying we're trying to set a new identity. This is Ohio State football. We've had an identity for over a hundred years. We have a great base for what we are and what we believe in. It's just a continued growth of that. Might be a little bit more of a focus on some specific things because of who we are and who we have right now.
Q. Your last game on the road you played well, worked out well. Do you have to kind of reinforce to everybody about the challenges out there inherent with road games, how dangerous Purdue can be?
COACH FICKELL: We have to make sure our guys can understand the challenges every week whether we're home or away. Hopefully that's one thing we can take out of last week. It doesn't matter. It's a new week every week. This is a great league. There's guys on every team that are going to have opportunities to make plays. Whether you're on the road, whether you're at home, it's about you. We can't blame, Hey, we didn't have quite the emotion. We haven't had the emotion from the crowd either. Whose fault is that? It's on us to put the emotion on the crowd. If we're away, it's on us to take the emotion away from the home team.
It's part of what we do. We can't get too carried up with are we home, are we away. There are some travel things that you have to make sure you understand that it's a business trip and stay focused.
Q. What do you remember from the '09 game?
COACH FICKELL: I remember we had five turnovers, dropped a punt down inside the 20 yard line. They hit a screen there to makes it 26-7 or 23-7. Do you want me to go through the whole game? I can remember every bad play that happened.
I don't know. I'm not sure to say, hey, we didn't come out and didn't play. They played a very good football game. We just got to make sure we understand, we have to learn from those past things, make sure we see what happened, know what to expect when you walk into something.
Q. What kind of lessons can be learned from that? Will you bring that up this week?
COACH FICKELL: We've played over there four times in the last 10 years. We've been pretty successful here in the last 10 years, as much as any program in the country. We're 2-2 over there in the last 10 years. If that's not enough to open your eyes and make sure you understand. It will be pounded home in '02 we went over there we're 14-0, win a national championship, win on the last play of the game.
It's going to be a battle.
Q. Hard to be too critical offensively when you have three guys go over a hundred yards rushing. Do you have any concerns with your pass game? 50 some yards in the first quarter, little after that. What have you seen in the passing game? Are there challenges there? Does it have to get better as the season goes along?
COACH FICKELL: It needs to get better. There's a lot of areas that need to get better. Sometimes, like you said, you had 50 in the first quarter. The way the game dictated, all of a sudden you start running the football as well as you do, you probably don't go back to the pass a ton. That's a little bit of the game can dictate that.
We know we have to get better at it. We know if there's any chance for us to be where we want to be in the end we got to do a better job obviously of throwing the football, we got to do a better job of getting off the field on third down on defense. That's why we'll be out there again today, every day, knowing we know to make sure we harp on the things we need to get better at.
As long as we're all on the same page, it comes down to what are you thinking. As long as those guys understand we know we need to get better, we got a chance.
Q. When you watch Christian Bryant on tape, do you see a guy who is on the verge of emerging as a force? What is your take on him at this point?
COACH FICKELL: Christian is one of those guys that is usually in the right place. He's just a young guy that is going to have some opportunities to continue to make football plays.
We talked about it a little bit earlier. Why haven't you been as good in the first quarter? Not that we want to use that excuse of youth because they're not young anymore. This is the ninth, tenth game of the season. Sometimes when you have to come off the side, the first series or two is when you're seeing things whether it's offensively or defensively, you have to draw things up for guys. Okay, now I see. Maybe, hey, that's new, we didn't do that in practice.
Christian is one of those guys that naturally sees things, is a natural football player. He'll give us a chance. He has an opportunity to make some of those picks or some of those plays that we just got to continue to make them.
Q. During the last two games, Drew Basil has had kickoffs going out of bounds. Is there something he's doing mechanically wrong?
COACH FICKELL: I've worked with those kickers an awful lot. As you know, I used to coach Mike Nugent. His plant foot... Someone asked me if he's getting tired.
It's a concentration thing. He knows what he needs to do. It's a technique thing. He's done a great job of kicking field goals, then all of a sudden we had a little lapse in the kickoff. We have confidence. He'll figure it out. Might have twisted his ankle on the first one, stepped wrong. Those are the things we just can't have happen. They can't happen at any time whether it's the opening kickoff or in the Wisconsin game the final kickoff. Those are things we're going to be on all the time.
It's more of a concentration, relaxation, doing your job.
Q. Braxton took a pretty good shot at the game. How much do you cringe when you see that? How is he doing now that he's had a little bit of a chance to heal up a little bit?
COACH FICKELL: You're going to have those as quarterbacks. He didn't flinch. Threw the ball, delivered the thing perfect, on target. You're going to take some shots. Obviously a guy who runs the ball as much as he does, as much as he did in high school, is going to take some shots. It's part of being a quarterback. Like the other team, ran the ball 20 some times. You have to cringe every time they run it. You have to roll with some punches and kicks. He's got that knack.
He's going to take some shots, just like everybody on the field. We want to try to limit them, but I think he's feeling all right.
Q. You mentioned a bit ago the first quarter issues. Do you have any explanation? You trailed in five of the nine games, being outscored in the first quarter. Any explanation as a staff? Anything else you can do?
COACH FICKELL: We lay awake longer at night, chase ghosts to think of every play you could possibly show them, every front, every different thing they might look at.
It's a mental thing. Sometimes those are the things you're seeing now with offenses and defenses. You're going to get something different every week. Being able to react and adjust to it, hopefully before you get to the sideline, so that a coach has to draw it up, is to me one of the biggest things.
It's about having confidence in what you do. It's about having a system. Even though you're getting something different, you got to be able to play within the system that you can handle some plays that you might not have repped 10 times that week.
Q. You were talking the 52-45 kind of games, that style of football, offense, risk a couple turnovers. Do you like that kind of football or when you see games like that is that sort of like, No?
COACH FICKELL: I like sitting in my armchair watching it, thinking about Coach Young.
Hey, I like good football. Everybody is a little bit different. You got to do what you do. Some people are built for that. Some people, that's what their system is, they got to be able to adapt to it.
I'm not saying that's something I love to see. I didn't say I didn't love to see that other game Saturday night that was 9-6. Heck of a football game. Hard-hitting. You pay it later.
I think it's all part of football. Do I like it? I love great defense. Yeah, I love to see points scored. But I think some of those situations you do put your defense in a tough situation if you're throwing the ball 65 times and you're going to turn it over three or four.
Q. Why was turnovers such a big part? Is it being a defensive guy? What was it that made that such an important part of your football philosophy?
COACH FICKELL: It's something that brings both the offense and the defense and the special teams together. Everybody has a part in the turnover margin, whether you're an offensive guy or defensive guy. It's not just on one side of the ball.
Then really when you go down to it, in college especially, you're going to get guys, you're going to move the football, they're going to have situations.
To me the two biggest things on defensive, you got to be good, create turnovers, you got to be good in the red zone. I think those are the things, whether you're a great defense statistically, you can look back to '06, we ended up being a very good defense, scoring defense, but it came down to I think we were number two or three in the nation in turnover margin. We weren't a great, so to speak, defense. We had a lot of young guys with James, Malcolm, (indiscernible), but we got a lot of turnovers at opportune times that give you a lot of chances as a team.
Q. At wide receiver, you have injuries, suspensions, youth. How would you assess the progress of that group?
COACH FICKELL: It's a work in progress is exactly how to say it. I thought they did a great job all through camp. I stood up here and said it. It's one of the best, hardest-working groups. There's guys that keep having things come up, injuries. The next guy just has to continue to step up.
It's a difficult situation because of obviously how you're running the football, your youth as quarterback as well. All those things kind of add up. If you had a fifth-year senior at quarterback that was throwing the ball 45 times a game, they might get a little bit more work and get some of that game experience spread in the field where there's a lot of different options.
For what we ask our wideouts to do, you see go to the NFL a lot of times because they're probably in the long run going to be a little NFL ready because it has to come down to how they run their routes, read their coverage, do the thing at the next level, as opposed to being out there four and five wide, finding the open spot. Does that take a little bit longer to learn? Probably a little more difficult thing for the quarterback as well.
Q. You talk about the perils of going to Purdue, 2-2. What do you think about this team that just got ripped at Wisconsin? How would you describe them right now from what they're all about offensively and defensively?
COACH FICKELL: I'd say you got to look at them as how they've done at home because they're a different team at home. They're 4-1 at home. They were up 28-0 on Minnesota at home. They were up 21-0 on Illinois at home. They play a lot better at home.
We have to make sure our guys understand that's what you're going to see. Don't watch that game from last week. Maybe watch the first 20 plays because it's 7-7 till all of a sudden some of these offenses, you get down by 21 points, boy, it puts the defense in a pretty good situation that you can have some patience, relax, take some chances. That's kind of what has happened to them maybe a little bit more on the road.
Q. The New York Times is reporting that Joe Paterno is going to be out imminently as the head coach, maybe not in a week, but sooner or later. Ohio State as their primary Big Ten rival, your reaction, not the circumstances that led to it, but what it would mean for him to walk away?
COACH FICKELL: I don't know. I'm not going to comment a lot on the Penn State stuff. Obviously, he has an unbelievable career. I haven't read about it. It's probably speculation. It would be nothing more than a speculation if I said anything.
Great program, great man, and I'll just leave it at that.
Q. Do you know what the Leaders Division standings are?
COACH FICKELL: You know what, I don't really look at them.
Q. You're in the Leaders Division.
COACH FICKELL: I know that (laughter). My son can tell you all the divisions. They're on the wall.
I don't stare at them every day. Jerry puts all that stuff on my desk. I know if we control what we can control, we have a chance. That's where our focus is.
Q. Is that the primary goal you have right now?
COACH FICKELL: Yes.
Q. Coach, this weekend when Carlos Hyde scored his touchdown, I saw Boom congratulate him. In practice, what have you seen out of those guys as far as how tight in it that group is?
COACH FICKELL: That's how we want the whole team to be. That's what playing on a team is all about, is being able to sacrifice for one another, being just as excited for someone else scoring as if it was yourself, just being as excited for someone else making a sack, an interception, being part of something bigger than yourself. That's what we've been. That's what we continue to stress, whether it's a coach. Same way with coaches. We can't expect those guys to do that if we aren't doing the same thing. If we're coaches and we win, we better make sure we're grateful. We can go back and look at how we can be better, whether it's an offense or defense, but we have to be grateful for each other.
It's hard in this world at times. Who is going to be on ESPN, who is going to be on this. Hey, if you truly believe in the team, you're part of something bigger than yourself, you'll be excited for everybody.
Q. They've had three games this year where they've been over 200 yards a game rushing. Is that where they're hanging their hats, a run-first team?
COACH FICKELL: I think they've got a pretty good balance. They mix it up sometimes with their quarterbacks. They'll keep you very honest in what they do. If you want to add in some of their bubbles, some of their jailbreaks as runs, then I would say they are a run first team.
For me, a lot of those things are just as good as a run. That's probably the best thing I can say about Purdue that I see from them that I haven't seen as much in the past. Even going into last year, they had a quarterback down, they a new quarterback maybe in his second or third start against us. He was a true running guy. They were a true run offense. Where in the past sometimes Purdue had been a Drew Brees, Curtis Painter, they ran it, but they were a true throwing offense.
I think that's what they do. They give you a bit more of a true balance, which is to me why they've been able to be pretty successful at least offensively.
Q. You talked about starting slow. How about finishing slow? Couple of these teams have come back at you in the second half. It's usually worked out. As a defensive coach, what do you see happening in the third and fourth quarters that's allowing some of these teams to come back?
COACH FICKELL: Last week we played pretty well in the fourth quarter. Obviously we got a turnover which ultimately probably was the name of the game and sealed the game. We gave up some things obviously against Wisconsin. Other than that, there's a few things here and there.
We got to finish. We know defensively we talk about it. It's not about how you start, it's about how you finish. It's about us first playing four quarters. I don't know that you can pinpoint any one specific thing that we could say is anything different. To me it really comes down the thing against Wisconsin is being able to overcome giving up one of those things, giving up one of those big plays that you can just go to the next play and not still dwell upon those things of the past and move forward. I think that's probably, from the start of the season to right now, where we've got to get a lot better defensively.
We've had those expectations. We don't want anybody to ever score. All of a sudden something happens. It's like there's a letdown. We want to keep those same expectations, but we have to know the most important play is the next play, move on, correct those things within a game.
Q. You obviously came out with a win. In talking to you and other coaches after the game, you seemed to think there was room for improvement in the coaching staff. I'm wondering what you learned from that game that can help you going forward.
COACH FICKELL: If you know us, we're going to be guys that aren't going to be satisfied with pretty much anything. There's always going to be room for improvement. We're going to be hardest on ourselves. There's ways we can get better in everything, to how we start, to how we finish, to how we come out of the locker room. We look at every possible little thing. You can't sit there and pinpoint one specific thing.
We know in general, in everything we do, we're never going to be satisfied where what it is. We'll save that till the end of the year to really try and look back and figure out, Hey, we are happy about this. Not that we're not grateful for the win, but we're not going to be satisfied.
Q. Coach, I wanted to ask you about the play of Bradley Roby. Seems like he's always around the ball.
COACH FICKELL: Bradley has done a good job. Obviously had a big hit last week in the game. Sometimes as a corner, a lot of things we do, your name's not mentioned a whole lot. We kept saying that earlier in the week. We thought they were going to be a lot more of a running team. They're not going to call your name until it's something that's going to be big. So you got to make sure you play with some patience, keep yourself under control, don't lose sight of what you really have to do and get frustrated because you haven't been in on a play, haven't had a tackle here or there. Even more so as a young guy, you can get lulled to sleep on.
Bradley has done a good job. He's continued to prepare. He has a bright future.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports