Former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel's strategy against Oregon could work again … – cleveland.com
CLEVELAND, Ohio – Did former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel write the book on how to beat Oregon?
“I wouldn’t say that,” said Tressel, although the strategy of playing keep away from the lightning-fast Oregon offense with a power running game was the key to the Buckeyes’ 26-17 win in the 2010 Rose Bowl. The strategy has been copied with occasional success since.
The upset was so unexpected that LeBron James, who was in the final season of his first iteration as a Cavalier, made some nice side money by betting on the Buckeyes with executives at the Oregon-based sports apparel giant Nike. “They don’t even think it’s going to be a contest,” snorted James. “But I believe in Ohio State.”
“I don’t think power will ever go out of fashion in football,” Tressel said in a Monday night telephone interview. “Not at the highest level. There’ll be a lot of statistics made without it, but there won’t be too many championships made without it.”
Tressel had power backs such as Maurice Clarett, Chris “Beanie” Wells and Daniel “Boom” Herron on his rosters.
Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes featured Carlos Hyde last season and Ezekiel Elliott, the Most Valuable Player of the Alabama game, this season. Elliott’s 230 yards rushing were a Sugar Bowl record against Alabama.
Although Ohio State’s explosive plays (gains of 20 or more yards) beat Alabama, Tressel thinks turnovers are the biggest factor in big games.
“You can’t turn it over against Oregon,” he said. “Florida State will tell you that. Because if you give them too many possessions, they’re just too talented. Marcus Mariota (the Ducks’ quarterback) is a special kid. He can look like — you say, ‘Oh, well, maybe he’s not good’ – and all of a sudden he has three straight scoring drives.”
Florida State committed five second-half turnovers and turned an 18-13 halftime deficit into a 59-20 landslide loss in the other national semifinal on Jan. 1.
“Terrelle Pryor had a big day running and throwing, just like Cardale Jones did against Alabama,” Tressel said of the Rose Bowl win. “If we hadn’t fouled up in the special teams, if we didn’t allow all those returns, we could have won more decisively than we did.”
Oregon freshmen Kenjon Barner (four kickoff returns for a 30.5-yard average, one 28-yard punt return) and Cliff Harris (two kickoff returns for a 24.5 average) burned Ohio State’s coverage repeatedly.
The coverage failure offset an excellent place-kicking game by Devin Barclay and Aaron Pettrey. Four OSU field goals to Oregon’s one made up the difference in the game.
“You aren’t going to win the game with field goals,” the former Ohio State coach said. “But you’ve got to make them when you can. Every point is important. These games are so tight.”
Oregon’s Morgan Flint missed a 45-yard field goal that could have made it a one-possession game midway through the fourth quarter. Oregon never got the ball back.
Tempo will be a concern for the Buckeyes, Tressel said. “Oregon is going to play fast. Alabama didn’t play as fast as I thought they would.”
He said is looking forward to the matchup.
“Don’t turn your TV set off. Both of these folks can score in a hurry. This is the matchup you were hoping for,” Tressel said.