Sprinkling A Little Spice On Tressel’s Vanilla

Vanilla is a perfectly good flavor for ice cream. For a major college football offense, however, vanilla is not a popular flavor. Vanilla is a sports metaphor for conservative, bland and predictable, and when some teams are averaging 30, 40, even 50 points per game, vanilla seems a pretty fair assessment for a team that has failed to tally a single offensive touchdown in three entire games.

As Ohio State moves through the open week in its 2008 schedule, fans want to know how Jim Tressel is going to turn his vanilla team into something a little tastier. The coach could start with the way he conducts his meetings with the press corps. It might be a refreshing change if Tressel took his questioners head-on rather than trying to parse his words.

For example, here is the transcript from Tressel’s postgame press conference after the Penn State game.

OPENING COMMENTS: That was a hard-fought football game. Awful proud of the way our kids played. They played as hard as they could and screamed and yelled on the sidelines as hard as they could and our crowd was doing all they could.

Q: Jim, it seemed like you had a difficult time establishing any kind of a rhythm with your running game.

TRESSEL: I think there’s no question. Penn State did a nice job of moving and attacking the line of scrimmage and we did not run the ball nearly as well as we needed to, to score a lot more points than we did.

Q: Coach, could you assess Terrelle’s play tonight, just overall?

TRESSEL: I thought Terrelle did some good things. He was under a little bit of duress. They did a good job with their upfield pass pressure. I thought he hung in there and stood in there and did some good things. I’m sure as he watches the film, he’ll look at some things that he wishes he could have over as will every position that was out there playing, but I think he competed and he wants to do anything he can do for this football team and I thought he worked at it hard.

Q: After you guys take the 6-3 lead, do you sort of have the feeling the way the game is going, if you can grind out the clock a little bit, hold on to the ball, do you like your chances with the way your defense had played to that point?

TRESSEL: When you’re playing in a battle like this and your defense is playing the way it was, field position is huge. … When we were ahead 6-3, we were moving down trying to get a touchdown, we weren’t just moving down trying to change the field. You can’t score enough points, but with the way our defense was playing, we could have kept them on the long field. I had a lot of confidence in the D.

Q: Coach, you said there are games left. Is this a chance maybe when you do look at the big picture and say a 10-2 Ohio State team is still an attractive commodity out there at the end of the year?

TRESSEL: We have to become an 8-2 Ohio State team first, so we’re going to work to do that and keep working to get better and as I always say, you get what you deserve.

Now, here is what the press conference might have sounded like had Tressel channeled his inner Bob Knight.

OPENING COMMENTS: Can you believe we lost that game? We outplay the No. 3 team in the nation for most of the game and we lose on a freak play because we can’t run the ball. Ohio State can’t run the ball. Woody must be spinning in his grave.

Q: Jim, it seemed like you had a difficult time establishing any kind of a rhythm with your running game.

TRESSEL: Seemed like? Nice observation, Einstein.

Q: Coach, could you assess Terrelle’s play tonight, just overall?

TRESSEL: How many times since I’ve been here have I preached about how our quarterback must play mistake-free in order for us to be successful? How many? A hundred? A thousand? A million? Look, the kid has tremendous talent but he made a mistake. Hopefully, he learns from it.

Q: After you guys take the 6-3 lead, do you sort of have the feeling the way the game is going, if you can grind out the clock a little bit, hold on to the ball, do you like your chances with the way your defense had played to that point?

TRESSEL: Did you just ask me if I was happy about leading a game 6-3? That’s a baseball score. We held one of the most explosive offenses in college football to a field goal and we were ahead by only three points. I can think of a lot of feelings I had at that point, but satisfied wasn’t one of them.

Q: Coach, you said there are games left. Is this a chance maybe when you do look at the big picture and say a 10-2 Ohio State team is still an attractive commodity out there at the end of the year?

TRESSEL: Attractive commodity? I have no idea what that means. We started this season with 20 returning starters off a team that went to the national championship game, and you put “10-2” in the same sentence with the word “attractive”? (Shakes head in disgust.) Does anyone here have an intelligent question?

HAPPY! HAPPY!

Today’s Buckeye birthday belongs to former Ohio State running back Dick Flanagan, who played his only season of college football for the undefeated 1944 team. Born Oct. 31, 1927, in Sidney, Ohio, Richard Eugene Flanagan was a standout for Sidney High School and once scored 45 points (seven TDs and three PATs) in a single game vs. Miamisburg in 1943. He is the only player ever to have his jersey number retired at Sidney.

Flanagan joined the Buckeyes in the fall of 1944 as a freshman and wound up playing in the same backfield alongside Heisman Trophy winner Les Horvath. He also played defense and helped preserve the 18-14 win over Michigan in ’44 by intercepting a pass to end the Wolverines’ final scoring threat. After the 1944 season, Flanagan did what most other young men did and enlisted in the military to fight in World War II. He returned to Ohio State to complete his undergraduate degree, and did not resume his football career until 1948. Flanagan was the 83rd overall selection in the ’48 NFL draft by Chicago, and he wound up playing eight seasons in the NFL with the Bears, Lions and Steelers. Although he was a running back with the Buckeyes, Flanagan played offensive line and linebacker in the pros and wound up his career with eight interceptions and eight fumble recoveries.

Among others celebrating birthdays this 31st day of October: Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins is 78; TV journalist Dan Rather is 77; actor David Ogden Stiers is 66 (he played Maj. Charles Emerson Winchester III on “M*A*S*H”); comedian/actor Brian Doyle-Murray is 63 (in addition to being Bill Murray’s older brother he was caddie chief Lou Loomis in “Caddyshack” and helped co-write the movie); Olympic gold medal-winning marathoner Frank Shorter is 61; former MLB outfielder Mickey Rivers is 60; former “Today” co-anchor Jane Pauley is 58; Alabama head football coach Nick Saban is 57; former NBA head coach John Lucas is 55; Oscar-winning director Peter Jackson is 47 (he directed “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy); U2 drummer Larry Mullen Jr. is 47; former MLB slugger Fred McGriff is 45; actor and former Saturday Night Live cast member Rob Schneider is 45; country singer Darryl Worley is 44; Beastie Boys member Adam Horowitz is 42; rapper Robert Van Winkle is 41 (known better as Vanilla Ice); former Cincinnati Reds catcher Eddie Taubensee is 40; Anaheim Angels catcher Mike Napoli is 27; and actress Willow Smith is 8.

Also, today would have been Chicago Bears running back Brian Piccolo’s 65th birthday. Piccolo, subject of the 1971 tear-jerker “Brian’s Song,” died of cancer in 1970 at the age of 26.

AND FINALLY

** Funny how perception changes reality. When the 2008 season began, the prevailing thought was that any undefeated Big Ten team would be passed over for a berth in the BCS National Championship Game in favor of a one-loss team from the SEC or Big 12. Now that Joe Paterno is gunning for what may be a valedictory to his long career, the storylines have suddenly changed with the Nittany Lions now becoming a sentimental favorite to make the title game. And should JoePa’s team get to the title game and somehow win it, how in the world does Penn State get away with not giving a new contract?

** Just in case you think Paterno will ride off into the sunset even if his team wins the national championship, listen to what he had to say earlier this week about his ailing hip. “I want to find out from (doctors) what needs to be done and get it done as soon as I can after the season is over so I can get on the road to recruit.” Coaches are never eager to get on the road to recruit players for their successors. Write this down: JoePa will stop coaching: (a) when Penn State no longer renews his contract, or (b) the day he stops breathing.

** With Penn State and Ohio State still in the running for BCS bowls, and usual powers like Wisconsin and Michigan struggling, it leaves open the possibility of New Year’s Day games for the likes of Michigan State and Minnesota. The Spartans haven’t played on Jan. 1 since a 2000 Citrus Bowl win over Florida. Meanwhile, the Gophers haven’t played on New Year’s Day since the 1962 Rose Bowl, a 21-3 win over UCLA.

** When TCF Bank Stadium opens on the Minnesota campus next fall, it will be the first new on-campus Big Ten stadium to open in 49 years. Indiana’s Memorial Stadium was the last stadium built on a Big Ten campus, breaking ground in August 1958 and hosting its first game in October 1960. The oldest conference venue is Camp Randall Stadium, which opened in 1917. It was followed by Ohio Stadium (1922), Spartan Stadium and Illinois’ Memorial Stadium (1923), Ross-Ade Stadium (1924), Ryan Field (1926), Michigan Stadium (1927) and Kinnick Stadium (1929).

** Notice the above list doesn’t include Beaver Stadium at Penn State. That’s because there is some discrepancy about the year the facility was constructed. Official records show the stadium opened on its present site in 1960. However, some purists insist the facility actually had its birth in 1909 when New Beaver Field opened. It served as the school’s football stadium until 1960, when the entire 30,000-seat venue was dismantled and moved to the east end of campus, reassembled, expanded to 46,284 seats and renamed Beaver Stadium.

** When you refer to Ohio State having the weekend off, impress your friends and insist on calling it an “off week.” The Buckeyes are not playing in a tournament; therefore they cannot have a “bye week.” Yes, I know that the NFL calls it a bye. I also realize that many people now refer to Ohio Stadium as “The Shoe.” Doesn’t make either one of them right.

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3 Comments

  1. Interesting insight. Doesn’t sound like Tress though – frustration is building I can tell>!>!

    – Todd Charske

  2. I would ask him what changes are going to be made in the up coming games and for next year. I agree with him the questions asked were kind of annoying and almost rhetorical.

    – Todd Charske

  3. No comments – Great read and no more comments?

    – Todd Charske


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