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UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME MEDIA CONFERENCE
September 9, 2006
COACH WEIS: Okay, fire away.
Q. Could you describe the last drive of the first half when Brady took them down for the last score, how well they executed on that drive.
COACH WEIS: Well, that was big because we've been practicing that situation. I'm a big situational coach. We've been practicing that situation for quite some time.
Even to start the drive, you have to remember now, with the clock starting after a change of possession, you have to be at the line of scrimmage. We called a timeout after we stopped them on third down to preserve time there. Even though it burned a timeout, you now have one timeout left, time to get down there. We're at the line of scrimmage. The players, just like you practice, they're at the line of scrimmage, they're ready to go, the ball is in play, no wasted time. It was a very efficient operation.
The only question mark I had is when there was 12 seconds left to go, about whether to run a play. I was thinking about running a draw, then calling time out if Darius didn't split it. They were playing a lot of cover, too, at the time.
I figured we were better off taking a shot for the end zone. If we didn't get it, at least settling for the three. I called timeout so I could get us into more of a max protection type of situation to make sure we didn't get sacked in that situation and lose opportunities to score points.
Q. Can you talk about the play of John Carlson today, especially the first half?
COACH WEIS: John made some big plays, especially that one seam ball that went for about 30 yards that changed field position. Those 30-yard receptions sometimes don't go noticed. Everybody remembers the 50 and 60 yarders. The 30 yarders change field position, put you in scoring zone.
He's had back-to-back pretty good performances for us.
Q. Is this what you expected out of your defense today? Did they surprise you a little bit?
COACH WEIS: No, that's what I expected out of our defense today. I thought -- remember now, you're playing against a team with one experienced offensive lineman, four relatively new guys. You're playing with a quarterback that's relatively new.
What you have to do is you have to get some heat on them. Each week it's something different. I think this was a game we had to try to get some heat on them. Even if you give up a couple of plays, it wasn't because you weren't getting some heat on them. They did a pretty good job of getting some pressure on him.
Q. You mentioned a couple of times this week that you weren't pleased with yourself and the mental preparation a year ago for the home opener. Can you talk about the difference.
COACH WEIS: What I really liked is the first half was meticulous. We had it about 19 minutes out of the 30 minutes. Now, that isn't just offense, that's offense and defense playing well.
I didn't like having to settle for three the first couple scoring opportunities. You want to put the ball in the end zone. But what I wanted to do is I wanted to get our points on the board. I wanted to build Carl's confidence up. I just thought that we had some nice change-of-paces in the first half. We went back and forth between the tempo of the game between methodical, try to just slug it out with them, and they were pretty good at that, and spread it out and try to up-tempo the game some as well.
Q. Can you talk about Quinn's day today and also his week, what he was like this week.
COACH WEIS: He's the same. The good thing about Brady, he's the same every week. This guy has a passion to be great. He practices that way. He practices to win. He's not one of the guys who goes through the motions. There's not one day of practice where this kid isn't practicing to win.
He had a good practice on Tuesday. He had a good practice on Wednesday. He had a good practice, for most of the practice, on Thursday. I wouldn't say it was picture perfect. We had an opportunity to straighten out a couple of those things on Friday.
I think the only throw, the one throw that I would have liked to have back was the one naked, when we had Carlson in the end zone. I actually asked him on his plant foot, I wondered why the ball sailed to the right because I thought we had six. Actually, when he planted, the grass gave way a little bit, which led to the ball sailing a little bit. I know that one is the one he would really like to have back.
Q. I know you're happy with Tommy getting that return and everything. At the same time, are you going to talk to him about the punt return?
COACH WEIS: Well, we'll worry about that tomorrow. You know, I think the good thing about tape is any time you're watching it, there's enough negative things on there. I mean, I want the kids to feel good about that win. We just beat a good football team soundly. I want them to feel good, enjoy it tonight. We'll worry about those things tomorrow.
Q. How good were you feeling after?
COACH WEIS: My whole -- as a play-caller, my mentality changes when it goes to 27-0. So, you know, we had -- we only had a handful of first downs. Now you're playing not to just lay the wood on them, you're playing to grind the clock. At that time I felt there was no way they were going to score four touchdowns. I just didn't feel there was any chance.
It's different when it's 20-0 because three touchdowns, you still lose. When it's 27, your mentality as a play caller changes. As you know, I'm never one to try to score a hundred. That's not my deal anyway. My deal is to win the football game and win it the right way.
Q. Can you put in perspective what a big game this early in the season can do for a team and conversely how it might break a team on the opposite end?
COACH WEIS: You have to group the two games together. You can't just take this game. You got to take last week's game and this week's game because there are a lot of things that went wrong last week, at least on one side of the ball, that we were able to fix this week.
Each week, you should expect to see some improvement. Now, it's not going to be perfect every week, but I think it's important to grow from things happening in each previous week because you're starting to establish an identity where after you played three or four games, everyone is going to say, This is the staple, this is what they do well, and this is what they don't do well.
Conversely, on the other side, when things don't go too well, there's a positive that can be drawn from that, too, because you can create a sense of urgency that sometimes you can't create until you're put into that situation.
Q. I think some of us were surprised to see Travis Thomas' comments.
COACH WEIS: He's a Pennsylvania guy. You have to remember now, it's a little different when this is your home state, big school in your state. This is a big game for Travis. This wasn't just another game. I mean, this was playing against a lot of his friends, playing against all the people from the state he grew up in.
Q. Was it part of the game plan to attack Posluszny in the pass game? Did you sense he was a step slow from last year?
COACH WEIS: I don't know if he was a step slow or not. I just know one thing, when we tried to run the ball inside early in the game, they were pounding us pretty good. If you saw late that second drive, we were trying to go inside. I thought at that time, the thing they were doing the best is controlling the line of scrimmage on the inside run. So I just stopped doing that. I mean, I'm not brain-dead. I mean, if they're doing it, just stop doing it. I mean, so I figured that the best thing to do is to run outside and play action over the top of them.
Q. We didn't see much of David Grimes today. Is that because he didn't fit in schematically?
COACH WEIS: No, that wasn't it. He was a little banged up this week, and I didn't use him because I didn't think I had to. He was ready to play as our third wide receiver. We were flip-flopping him and Chase in practice this week because he was a little banged up. When it got to the point where I could have used him more, I didn't think at that point it would be smart for me to do that. I figured at that point it would be better off just to hold on him.
Q. (No microphone.)
COACH WEIS: The same thing happened to him in practice the other day. Just locked up on him. It locked up on him again. When he came to the sideline, after he was ready to go, I wasn't putting him back in the game. I think you have to be smart when you're a coach, you're in that situation, you don't put a guy back in the game there. You have Michigan next week. Let's worry about having him ready for Michigan.
Q. Does Carlson compare to any other tight ends you've had in the past?
COACH WEIS: Well, he's different than Anthony because he's a vertical -- he's a faster, bigger vertical threat. He's not as polished as Anthony at this point right now because Anthony could do everything pretty well. But he's a big target now. He's a big muchacho running down that field.
That's the type of guys that quarterbacks like looking for because they're easy to see. Those little midget wide receivers running down the seam sometimes are tough to see. That's not him.
Q. Your three heroes had a nice home debut. Your thoughts on that? All of them did their thing today?
COACH WEIS: It was good for them. They all had an opportunity. You know what, on game day, here I'm in the press, there's a whole bunch of people, that's great. But really game days are for the players. The players made plays today. It's easy as the play caller to sit there and take credit. But in reality, the players made plays. That's why you win.
Let 'em bask in it today. Tomorrow is a day where I get to have the fun. Let them have the fun today. I'm usually miserable after games anyway, so it doesn't make any difference (laughter).
Q. In the big picture, what do you know about this team after two weeks? Where do you think this team is?
COACH WEIS: Well, when I use coaching phrases, everyone thinks I'm being a smart guy. But we're 2-0, that's what I think. We got Michigan next week. That's all that I know. Michigan, you know, is 2-0. They're coming in here on a mission 'cause we've got the best of them the last few years. They want to beat us and we want to beat them. That's all I know.
I do know that the team learned from the first game to the last game, but I would expect that because we have a bunch of intelligent guys. We're just going to have to continue to play better. I thought that we were respectable in all three facets tonight. I thought we were respectable on offense, I thought we were respectable on defense, and I thought we were respectable on special teams.
Q. Did you feel like you wanted to make a statement after a close opener last week?
COACH WEIS: Well, I mean, I thought the only risky call I made in the whole game might have been -- the only risky call was probably the fake punt. Other than that, you know, that was even a call that we weren't going to run if they kept their defense on the field. When I made the call, I made the call based on if they keep the defense on the field, we're punting it. If they put the punt team field on the field, we're going to do it. They put their punt return team on the field.
I'm not a guy interested in making statements. I'm a guy interested in making my team better and trying to win each time we went out there. That's all we try to do, try to get better and try to win each time we go out there.
Q. Can you talk about the play of the coverage teams on special teams, what you saw out of them.
COACH WEIS: It seemed like there were a couple really big plays in the game that sometimes go unnoticed. Like Price's 62-yard punt. Not that they had a bunch of momentum at the time, but all of a sudden you kick a 62-yard punt, they barely get any yardage on the play. As a return, usually 62 yards means you out-kicked your coverage. I thought our guys were flying down there, making tackles. All of a sudden once again, like that play we were talking about with Carlson for 30 yards, that changed the field position is huge, a huge change of momentum.
Q. Can you talk about the two early fumbles that slowed the Penn State drives. Can you count on it being that opportunistic over the course of a season?
COACH WEIS: Let me answer the second question first. Now, you can't count on it being that opportunistic. It seems like last year a lot of times when we'd be in games, the one thing that would always happen with our defense is they'd end up getting turnovers in the red zone. I don't know why that happens. I don't know if it's just by chance. But it seems like we've had a number of turnovers down close.
Both those situations, we were heading towards points against us right there. They definitely were game-changing plays. You can have game-changing plays in the first half, too. They don't have to be in the second half. I thought they were game-changing plays.
Q. Earlier you said, We beat a good team soundly. Coaches often say you're never as good as you seem to be when you win. Is Notre Dame as good as it looked today or did this game just unravel for Penn State?
COACH WEIS: No, today we were good. I don't know how good we are. Today we were good. Last week we were pretty good on defense. We weren't so hot on offense. Next week is a different story. I mean, what we're just trying to do is we're just trying to take every game as its own separate season. Today I thought was a pretty well-rounded, across-the-board performance by the team.
I'm not unhappy with any one facet. Normally I'm unhappy with one facet or two facets or myself. But, you know, the only one I'm unhappy with is me as usual. On offense and defense and special teams, I'm happy for those guys in that locker room right now because I thought across the board they played a pretty solid performance.
Q. Can you talk about Carl bouncing back today with the field goal.
COACH WEIS: I was really happy for that situation to occur, especially early in the game. I said, Okay, Carl, let's go, you're in there. I think the sooner -- the sooner you can get a player out of that rut, the sooner you can break through, usually you can move past that.
It's like a good quarterback, a good quarterback that throws an interception. It's always good after a quarterback throws an interception to come back and throw the ball again and get a completion. It's always good after your starting runningback fumbles the ball, knock on wood, because that's not what I'm rooting for, but it's always important after he does that to give him a touch right off the bat and get that by him. That's why with Carl it was good to see him get out there and get that first one and get the second one and all of a sudden his confidence gets going again.
Q. Penn State didn't have a whole lot of success running the ball last week. They seemed to do a pretty good job today. Did they do something different than what you saw on film?
COACH WEIS: The answer really is, we were trying to shut town the wide receivers. As I've said before, you can't shut down everything. If you're rolling up into those wide receivers, I was concerned with the speed of their wide receivers. I think they got top line speed. I don't think this is just an average group of wide receivers that we're going against. I think when you're going against a group like that, if you're going to shut down the wide receivers or try to hold them in check at least, then you're going to open up some opportunities for the running game, and that's what happened in the game.
Q. Is it special to you to beat a coaching legend like Joe Paterno?
COACH WEIS: I mean, it's always great to go against a coach like Coach Paterno. But I didn't play Coach Paterno, we played Penn State. That's who we played.
I was happy we beat Penn State. We didn't play Coach Paterno. I didn't play and he didn't play, okay? The only ones who played are those players out there. We were happy to beat a team as good as Penn State the way we did today.
Q. No turnovers in the first two games. Talk about how happy you are about that.
COACH WEIS: (Knocking on wood.) Say that one more time. That was distracting.
Q. I think you answered my question.
COACH WEIS: Ball possession is probably one of the biggest things. Like last week we went 14-10. Neither team turns the ball over. If there's one turnover in the game, it could have decided the game either way. Today we got, what, three, I don't know what the final number was, we get three turnovers, they get none. The score is the way it is, those turnovers have a lot to do with it.
It was pointed out in the back before, they are game-changing plays those turnovers. They're drive-stoppers. They take points off the board for you. I think we scored 17 points off the three turnovers. I don't remember exactly, but I think we go back and look, we'll go back to find we had two touchdowns and a field goal following up on those three turnovers.
Q. Can you talk about the offensive line, the difference in protection from last game?
COACH WEIS: Well, it was a different scheme from last game. Coming out in the second half, they started dialing up a lot more blitz zones and pressures because of the scores of the game and how that changed. In the first half, there was more one-linebacker blitzes. It isn't like as many exotics as we faced in the beginning of last week's game.
Second half now, all of a sudden the blitz zones and the all-out blitzes start coming. But what are you going to do when the score gets like that? If you don't do that, it continues the way it's going, it's just going to get worse.
I think the offensive line definitely played better this week than it did last week.
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