Oct. 1, 2013
With a game of utmost national interest coming to Ryan Field this weekend, Skip Myslenski puts it into perspective -- as only Skip Myslenski can -- with the help of comments from Pat Fitzgerald, Kain Colter, Tyler Scott, Tony Jones and Damien Proby.
FIRST THINGS FIRST: Venric Mark, who hasn't played since the 'Cats season opener at Cal with lower body issues, is listed as the starting running back on the depth chart for their Saturday night showdown with No. 4 Ohio State. "If Venric has a good week, we'll have him in some capacity this weekend. That'll be determined as the week goes along," Pat Fitzgerald said Monday at his weekly press briefing.
"That sounds conditional. So he's not full go?" said a questioner.
"Sounds optimistic," said Fitzgerald.
"Not really," countered the questioner.
"That's your feelings. My feelings are I'm optimistic," said Fitzgerald. "But we'll see how the week goes. He hasn't played yet this year. So. Feel very strongly that he's progressing in the way that we want him to. But we also have Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday in preparation time to see how everything responds. But I feel good about where he's at."
THE DIFFERENCE: Treyvon Green and Mike Trumpy have ably served the `Cats in Mark's absence. But the latter's return, noted wideout Tony Jones on Monday, adds "Another weapon to our offense. When you have Venric, who at any given moment can make a big play, that's definitely going to be helpful on Saturday."
"Whenever you've got five back there, it makes my job easier as a quarterback," said Kain Colter, referring to Mark's uniform number. "My job is to get these guys the ball and they'll make me look good. So when I can pitch the ball to Venric or get it out to him on the flat, he's going to make a guy miss, get some yards and have a chance to take it the distance. It's going to be great (having him back). It's going to help our offense."
FIRST, A FLASHBACK: Super Bowl III was not just another football game. It matched the saucy New York Jets of the brash Joe Namath and the upstart American Football League against the Baltimore Colts, the button-downed standard bearers for custom, tradition and the long-established National Football League. That was the story line as the noise mounted in the days before that affair, which ended in a Jet upset win and (ultimately) the merger of those then-warring leagues. But concurrently, even amidst the din that preceded their victory, New York punter Curley Johnson continually shared the favorite saying of his Uncle A.J. with his teammates.
"Chicken ain't nothin' but a bird and this ain't nothin' but a football game," is how that saying went.
BACK TO THE PRESENT: The Buckeyes are undefeated in their 17 games under second-year coach Urban Meyer. The Buckeyes are considered a legitimate national championship contender. The Buckeyes are a traditional Big Ten power, and not only that. ESPN's College GameDay will be on campus come Saturday, and ESPN's Mike & Mike show will air Friday morning from Deering Meadow, and other national outlets are expected at practice this week. "Obviously, an exposure opportunity for the program. A national opportunity," Fitzgerald said of it all. "Great for our fans. Great for out students. Great for our campus. Should be a lot of fun for everybody."
"This is why you come to play Big Ten football and Division I football," defensive end Tyler Scott later added. "This is where you want to be at and this is where we want our program to be at. To have this hype and this (type of) game. That's what we want."
"You dream about this when you're young, playing big-time games like this," echoed Colter, who then immediately segued into Curley-Johnson mode.
"But at the same time," he here continued, "we don't want to overhype it. We don't need to play out of this world. I feel we just need to play our game in each phase of the game to be able to win. We don't need to overhype it."
THE PICTURE: The question was asked as soon as Colter, Jones, Scott and linebacker Damien Proby sat down for their portion of the Monday press briefing. "How long have they been anticipating this game?" was the question.
All of them, each one of them, smiled.
Then, when it was his turn to speak, Colter said, "We take every game one-game-at-a-time, one-step-at-a-time. But I'm not gonna lie. This is a game I circled on my schedule just because I haven't played these guys before. I think I've player every team in the Big Ten besides them. They're a great program, a great tradition. Now we get a chance to match ourselves up and see where we're at. . . I think it's going to be a big measuring stick for us to see where we're at."
But again, minutes later and in response to another query, he once more went Curley Johnson, here saying, "For us, we don't want to say it's just-another game. But it almost is. They're not in our division. I'll leave it at that. It's a game we're hoping to win. But we don't want to overhype it and make it the Super Bowl. It's not. We want to play well and give ourselves a chance to win."
Starting defensive tackle Sean McEvilly did not play against Maine, but is listed as a starter for Saturday's game. "He's got a lower body injury. He's day-to-day," Fitzgerald said of him.
The `Cats watched last Saturday's Ohio State-Wisconsin game together in their meeting room. "It was more of a fan experience," recounted Scott. "It was nice to actually sit back and see offense and defense, special teams, all of it. Sometimes in a game, you're really focused on your side of the ball and don't see what's going on. So it was pretty cool to just sit back, relax, hang with the guys and just really enjoy the game."
Asked if there was any rooting going on that night, Colter admitted, "I was rooting for Ohio State so we could get GameDay."
Jones said this when asked the team's mindset: "I'd say we're hungry. That'd be the best way to describe it. We're ready to eat. Obviously, with a week off, a lot of guys were anticipating this upcoming Saturday. A big game."
Asked if Saturday's game was a measuring stick for his team, Fitzgerald echoed the philosophy he has often iterated. "I think every Big Ten game is a measuring stick. I really do," he said here. "Each game is kind of a one-game season. When you play a team that's ranked in the top five that's playing as well as they are, it's an incredibly difficult challenge for us. But, as always, we focus on us, we focus on what we have to do, we focus on the way we have to play and, if we do that, we'll be prepared for the opportunity. Then we have to go make it happen and make the plays winner's make. I'm not minimizing it and I'm not trying to say this isn't a big game. But every Big Ten game's a big game."
AND FINALLY, FITZGERALD, when asked how he will handle the hype surrounding the game: "(With) the Twitter-sphere? That's impossible. You have no chance. I think you embrace whatever it is that comes along with college football. That's why we have the structure within our program. Nothing changes for us this week. Our routine is our routine, we do what we do."
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