Tressel, Buckeyes not looking to make excuses

Published 10:45 am Monday, November 3, 2008

COLUMBUS (AP) — What’s brewing today with the 2008 Ohio State Buckeyes …

BUCKEYES BUZZ: Some people still do not want to face the fact that Ohio State was beaten by Penn State, apparently.

A Columbus television reporter told coach Jim Tressel on Thursday that someone had pointed out to him that the Nittany Lions had illegally batted the ball toward their goal line on QB Terrelle Pryor’s critical fourth-quarter fumble in last week’s 13-6 loss.

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The reporter asked about a ruling, and wondered aloud if maybe, just maybe, the turnover shouldn’t have counted.

To his credit, Tressel didn’t bite.

“There is a rule illegally batting the ball forward. But boy it’s hard to call that, because how do you know if it was batted or he (the defensive player) just flat missed it,” he said. “Really, the officials aren’t in position. There weren’t like four of them waiting back there for that thing to happen. It happened and the ball squirts 20 yards — I’ve never seen something like that.”

Then again, Tressel stopped far short of saying that there was no doubt about the non-call, either.

“I couldn’t bemoan the fact that that should be batting the ball, but by the letter of the law you’re not allowed to advance the ball by batting it in the direction of your goal line,” he said.

This isn’t the first time — and certainly won’t be the last — that a fan (or even a coach) looks at a defeat and falls back on a bit of revisionism. You may recall that many Ohio State fans questioned a fumble in the Illinois loss last year.

And that defeat didn’t go away, either.

POLLING PLACE: The Buckeyes moved up a spot to No. 12 in this week’s Associated Press Top 25 media poll.

Just a note to those who believe Ohio State gets no respect around the nation. Consider that the Buckeyes are the highest-ranked team in the poll with two losses and are listed ahead of several schools that might have a valid claim that they play a tougher schedule and have more quality wins than do the Buckeyes: No. 13 Missouri (7-2), 14 Georgia (7-2), 15 LSU (6-2), 16 Ball State (8-0), even 8-1 BYU at No. 17.

Here’s the million-dollar question: What are Ohio State’s quality wins?

BACK ON CAMPUS: After having the weekend off, the Buckeyes returned for a team meeting on Sunday night. They’ll follow a regular practice schedule this week.

AROUND THE HORN: Almost nobody other than commish Jim Delany makes the case that the Big Ten is in the same class with the Big 12 or the SEC this year — or in recent years.

Granted, that Texas-Texas Tech shootout in Lubbock on Saturday night was an instant classic, with Tech’s Graham Harrell tossing the game-winning TD pass with 1 second left. Incredible. No one can compete with that.

But the Big Ten had a pretty entertaining day, as well.

— Brett Swenson kicked a 44-yard field goal with 7 seconds left, lifting Michigan State to a 25-24 comeback win over visiting Wisconsin.

— Northwestern spoiled Minnesota’s homecoming with a 24-17 win, thanks to Brendan Smith’s 48-yard return with a deflected pass, the winning score coming with all of 12 seconds left on the clock.

— Illinois snuck past visiting Iowa 27-24.

— And Purdue used a hook-and-ladder play for a touchdown in the final minute to beat woeful Michigan 48-42.

The highlight, or maybe more appropriately the lowlight, of the day came in the Wisconsin game. MSU coach Mark Dantonio appeared to be completely unaware that he was out of timeouts when QB Brian Hoyer completed a short third-down pass with 30-some seconds left on the clock. That left the Spartans to hurry their field-goal unit out onto the field. They were in complete disarray as they lined up for the kick while trailing by two points.

Lucky for them Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema lent a hand. While MSU scrambled just to get in place for a frenzied try, Bielema signaled for a timeout — essentially giving the Spartans time to take a breath, relax, and make sure they had the correct personnel on the field.

When Bielema called the timeout, Swenson took off his helmet and smiled. No way he was getting “iced.”

Then he converted the field goal, touching off a wild celebration in East Lansing, Mich.