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UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME MEDIA CONFERENCE
September 3, 2006
COACH WEIS: I think our kickoff return, which was one of our points emphasis in the off-season, which had not been very good last year, obviously we had two big ones last night, averaged 39 and a half yard a return. That was very good for field position, not that we capitalized. I think the fact that we had two big returns out of two different players bodes well for all the time we spent in the off-season.
On the negative vein, I thought our punt protection left a little bit to be desired. We have some work to do there. Jeff got the ball off quick, which kind of made up for some of that. I think Zibby could have made a couple better decisions on those punt returns. I talked to him about that yesterday, catching the ball on the five yard line. One time we got pinned back there on the five yard line. We got to be smarter about that.
Carl obviously missed the two field goals. That goes without saying. We had two penalties, one on the first drive. The fourth-down play, when Thomas was false started. That ended up being the third penalty in the first possession, throw in the two offensive penalties, add the special teams penalty, about how we went on the penalty mode.
The only other penalty, they called Sergio on the one pushing the back.
Sometimes people forget about the hidden yardage in a game. Well, there's hidden yardage that was significantly lost on that play because not only do you get the penalty on him, but then the return yardage. That was our best return of the night. You end up losing that yardage on top of it. That ended up being a 30-yard penalty instead of a 10-yard line penalty.
The one cover guy who stood out the most to me was Casey Cullen. He was in on a couple tackles. I thought he played well on all our teams.
Then we go to defense. There's a lot of positives here. The first thing out of all the positives after going over it with the defensive staff is from the players, the entire night we had two mental errors. That's just unbelievable. Going through an off-season where one of our main objectives was to cut down on mental errors, let the players know what to do, to have only two in the game is just unbelievable.
We can throw a third one in there on the coaching staff, the one time we get a call in there late. Fortunately, they didn't take advantage of it when we weren't lined up. Threw the ball out to the left, we weren't lined up yet, we're uncovered.
First game jitters as far as that stuff goes with communication, but for the most part, I thought the communication for the game, both from the players and coaches, was outstanding.
In the second half, a couple significant points of note, they were 0 for 4 on third down in the second half. They were 2 for 10 for the night for 20%, but they were 0 for 4 in the second half.
While you're on the second half, in addition to that, No. 21 guy, who had had pretty good first half, he had two catches for 16 yard in the second half. He basically was shut down, and on top of it, we gave up no points in the second half.
They made a couple runs, quarterback runs, which we're going to continue having to work on because last year was an area of concern. Ball made a few plays for them last night. We were a little late on a couple of our pressures, which led to a couple productive plays from them. But really the two big passes they get in the game both led to their two scores. I mean, Calvin takes the one ball, the little swing pass, takes it 25 yards or whatever it was. That leads to one score. The other one, when we laid up on Darren, jump-ball situation, that led to their other score.
On defensive, we had no penalties, okay? You have two mental errors and no penalties in play with that type of emotion, get off the field on third down, that's usually going to bode well for your defense.
On offense, let's talk about the positives before we get into the negatives. We didn't turn a ball over, which was one of the critical factors going into the game. They didn't turn it over either. But no turnovers keeps you from giving away the game. The significant part of the game besides the end of the game where we got the ball pinned back on our own five yard line, we went in there and calmly ran off 29 on the clock, went on an 11-play drive to ice the game. Really the critical factor is where we went on a 14-play drive right before halftime to score. Then we get the ball, the first drive of the second half, we go on another 14-play drive.
What then happened, any of the of defensive guys who were tired at all really hadn't been playing for over a half hour of real-time. You had the whole 14-minute drive, then halftime, then another 14-minute drive. We had a lot of gas in our tank towards the end of the third quarter and into the fourth quarter. A lot of it had to do with those couple of drives.
Now, on the negative side, we had nine penalties called on us in offense. We had 11 in the game, but nine in offense. Six majors and three line-of-scrimmage penalties. None of those line-of-scrimmage penalties had anything to do with the noise. All of them had to do with guys getting antsy and not being patient and just holding in there.
In hindsight, after looking at all those penalties, I think they were all penalties. Some of them were the penalties, but watching them on tape this morning, looking to argue with the officials, which I always like doing, I think looking at all of them, I could see every one of them that they called.
But six majors and three minors will be unacceptable and will not be tolerated. It will be addressed here shortly this afternoon.
(Indiscernible) was under a little duress. He didn't play great. He was pressured about 10 times between that and a sack -- I guess they gave him a sack with intentional grounding, too, which turns into two sacks.
Third town we weren't great. We were 7-16. Really looking at the analysis of that, you're 50% on the real yardages, but when it comes to third and 10-plus, which I talked about after the game last night, we were one of five, that was a quarterback scramble. That's not how you want to play the game at third and 10-plus.
We had way too many mental errors, where we had two on offense, we had double-digits -- I mean, two on defense. We had double-digits on offense. You had a couple mental errors, about 10 pressures, throw on top of that nine penalties -- you want to know why you score 14 points, I could sit there and tell you we had almost 400 yards of offense, 21 first downs. You can go right down the line. The bottom line is when you do things like that, you're not going to score a lot of points. It's fortunate in this game that the defense came through and that Jeff did such a good job getting us out of trouble when we had to get out of trouble.
Last but not least on a note before I open it up for questions, two things, one specific to the game, one more general to this week, I thought that our team was in very good condition. I thought it showed in the second half. I thought that watching at the end of the third quarter going into the fourth quarter, even though no more points were scored in the game, I thought our conditioning was exceptional. I think that's one of the things I'm going to address with the team today.
On a side note, not related to last night's game, but weather permitting, this week, due to obviously this is the first time I'll ever be able to say anything about Penn State now that Georgia Tech is done, but weather permitting, we're going to try to have this pep rally in the stadium on Friday night so we don't turn anyone away. Just like the game last year, the USC game, where so many people wanted to go, weather permitting we'll try to do that. As long as the weather holds out, no one will get turned away.
John and I talked about it. We figured, let's get that out there now so people know what our intent is now as long as the weather holds up.
THE MODERATOR: Questions from people here in person.
Q. (No microphone)
COACH WEIS: What happens is, we talked about two major issues going into the game. One was doubling 21. The other one was loading up on the run. You got to pick your poison because you really can't do both of them at the same time. If you're going to put two guys on 21, then you're going to have to play even-steven with everyone else. You leave yourself a little bit more vulnerable.
I think for the most part when you give up under a hundred yards in the second half, which they did, averaging about three yards a play, which they did, I mean, I think they obviously made good decisions on when to do which because it's tough to do both.
When you have a guy, a front-line receiver like that, you have to give him special attention. You have to find that happy medium, when to pay attention to the receiver, when to pay the attention to the running game.
But that leaves you open for more with one-on-one potential failures, like you're talking about, where there's some openings in, especially the inside. Whether you call it freeze option or the wide-open shotgun version of the inside zone play.
Q. (No microphone.)
COACH WEIS: I would like to think the two major things coming in, you know, human nature, we can say these kid don't hear everything that the media says, but they do. It's human nature. For half a year to be told how crummy you are, I mean, these guys have a lot of pride. I think we addressed it in the off-season. The first thing we wanted to make sure, we wanted to make sure the players knew what to do, so this way they could do it full speed. I think that showed up last night. I think that's going to be the continued philosophy, that we have to see if we can grow from this.
Q. (No microphone.)
COACH WEIS: I think most of their game was played in what we call 11 people, which is one back, one tightend, three wide receivers. That was most of the game. Now, they did play some, what we call, regular people or 21 where they had two backs in the game, a tightend and two wide receivers. A lot of the game was played that way.
Last year, you're right, we played a lot of that which definitely leaves you exposed, specifically in the passing game. I think we had more DBs on there than five last night, too. There were times that we went all the way to six DBs. We might have even gone to seven one time, but -- I know we had a seven DB package in.
I think we have more guys that we're not afraid to put on the field.
Q. (No microphone.)
COACH WEIS: I definitely would say that we have -- if the problem were all coming from that right tackle, that freshman right tackle, then you can say it came from the freshman right tackle. But he actually played pretty good, okay? The problem for me was that's not where all the problems were coming from. That's where there was more disappointment. It was coming more from my veteran guys than from my rookie. I thought he actually held up fairly well, to tell you the truth.
Would you say that was disappointing? Yes, I'd agree with that, that that was -- that I was disappointed with the overall play.
I think not that, you know, I had guys laying it down. I just thought we were very inconsistent along the front, which was about how we played on offense.
You know, the logical thing to say, what a lot of people would say is, Well, it's the first game. That's a bunch of crap. I mean, the first game, you should expect to play a lot better than that. To tell you I wasn't disappointed, to say I wasn't disappointed, would be a lie.
Q. You touched a little bit on Brady's play. Can you talk more in detail about his game last night.
COACH WEIS: Well, I mean, first of all, the guy made some plays to help us win the game, some critical plays. And he got hit multiple times in the game. I mean, he's a tough guy, made some plays. There's a lot of plays you'd like to have back. To be honest with you, I am glad he's got that game behind him. Ended up being a win. He was able to engineer the two touchdown drives, make a big third-and-nine in that last drive of the game, hit that completion to Rhema on an end-cut to help buy us the game.
There were a lot of positive plays in the game. No one is a bigger critic of Brady than Brady. He'll come in today, he'll be so far in the tank, I'll have to spend a whole day getting him out of the tank. I'll be dragging him out of there because his expectations for his play are so high.
Are there a lot of plays that he'd like to have back? Yes.
Once again, I can go be a stat guy. He's 23 for 38, we drop about six balls. We catch those balls, he's 29 for 38, no one is saying anything any more. But the facts are, that's not the way it was. There's a lot of plays in that game last night he'd like to have back.
Q. You talked about your conditioning. Did it seem to you maybe all the blitzing Georgia Tech did early maybe took something out of them for later in the game?
COACH WEIS: I think they play with a very high level of intensity. I think when we tweaked -- in the middle of the second quarter when I kind of went off the game plan, I kind of said, okay, we're going to have to call somebody just to get these things run the right way. So from the middle of the second quarter through the third quarter, we got into some things where we felt that we could not get us in those third-and-long situations that we were getting ourselves in for a quarter and a half, which I thought was killing us. Every time you turned around, it was third and 12. I thought that was killing us.
I just said at halftime, we're not going to be playing the game at third and 12. We may not convert, but we're not going to be third and 12.
Q. You talked last week about perfect plays, games. How far were you from that last night (indiscernible)?
COACH WEIS: No, as a matter of fact they played very well on defense, but they did what we thought they would do. We also had done a lot of study of our Ohio State game, realizing that's the latest piece of information they could have going back to the Fiesta Bowl, watching. Some of those things showed up in the game, too.
I think we were fairly well-prepared. I just thought that our execution was just a little sloppy there.
The first part of question again?
Q. Were you able to carry that out?
COACH WEIS: Until you get to third and 12. Really, I mean, the script was going as play one, play two, play three. I mean, I got down to about play eight of 15. I picked it up the next drive.
You know, now you're getting a first down after a few plays, then all of a sudden you get another penalty. Those penalties are usually drive killers usually. You can overcome some of them, okay? But when you have nine penalties in the game, you usually have some serious damage control to do to overcome them.
Q. (No microphone.)
COACH WEIS: Well, it was a run-pass check with me, okay? It was a run-pass check with me. When you go to the line of scrimmage, if it was bring the house, which I thought there would be a good chance they would be bringing the house, we would have been throwing the ball. But he goes to the line of scrimmage. You can very clearly see that they were in a zone coverage where they were going to double receivers. There was going to be two high safeties and no one in the middle. The only guys that could end up possibly making a tackle on him were the mike linebacker on the tight end, and the will linebacker over on the X. There was a big cavity in there.
We had talked about it right before the play. If in doubt, throw the ball, then we'll kick a field goal if we don't make it. But he got the look that we thought we would get. That's why we called it a run.
Any time we call a run-pass, we like to run it first, okay? He got the look and scored.
It really wasn't that risky based on what the look was.
On the third-and-long, that was him doing it on his own. What ends up happening, when they start doubling on the wide receivers, you break your team, there's no one out there. I just want to make sure when it comes time for contact get the first down and go ahead and get down. I'm not looking at him being a hero. I'm not looking for Randall Cunningham to be a hero. First down, go ahead and get down.
Q. (Indiscernible) your defense was playing so well from the half.
COACH WEIS: Agreed, okay? But the last time we had a plus-50 punt, we kicked it into the end zone for a touchback. We just hit a plus-50 punt not too long ago, kicked it about five yards deep in the end zone.
So here is my thought, okay? Our defense has played great, played great the whole second half, okay? We're only up four because we missed a couple field goals. So if I punt the ball into the end zone, they get the ball on the 20 yard line with a minute to go in the game. Let's just say they hit 21 at a crossing rout, he takes it to the house. Here the spirit of the defense who has played so good the whole game, okay, is broken because I didn't have the guts to go for it on fourth and a half a yard. That's why I went for it.
Q. How much did you have to really think about it?
COACH WEIS: I never thought about it. As a matter of fact, I'll give you a funny story. My wife was at the game. She's upstairs there with a group of people. She goes, He's going to go for it. They say, He's punting it. She goes, Oh, no, he's not (laughter).
That is a true story.
Q. Giving the way the game went, getting behind early from miss-kicks, sloppy plays, is there a scenario down the road where you're having this (indiscernible)?
COACH WEIS: No one is happier than me that I have this type of information to use today. Would I have liked to win by a whole bunch of points and have an easy victory in? Absolutely. Let me not be a hypocrite. With that being said, these games all count as one. Everyone counts as one. No one is going to care two weeks if now what the score of the Georgia Tech game was. They're going to care for the next 48 hours. They're going to care for the stories on Monday, the stories on Tuesday, then it's going to be all about Penn State.
From my standpoint, look at all the positives that I can take out of that and look at all the negatives that I could work with with the players today. As I said to everyone last night, it's a heck of a lot easier when the guys are feeling good about a win to tell them all the things they did wrong because they're in a psychological frame of mind where they're more open to constructive criticism than when if they had lost 17 of 14, and now all of a sudden you're doing the same criticizing, but now everyone's in the tank.
I think this will be a very good teaching take for us.
Q. You talked about being pretty confident your team had the right mentality, they were disciplined. Are you at all concerned about the way your line played, given the penalties?
COACH WEIS: Was I concerned? I'm disappointed. I know that we'll play better. I would be more concerned if the things that I saw on tape were not correctable. That would be a concern. If I say, Hey, we didn't know what we were doing. Hey, why did we do that? There are several things in there that I -- there's several things I think you'll see a drastic level improvement in one week's time.
Q. (Indiscernible) after you watched the tapes, did you learn something more about how Travis Thomas played?
COACH WEIS: He actually played pretty well. I was not surprised because I don't study the game as the game's going on on defense because I'm multi-tasking when we're on defense. I'm talking to the defense. I'm flipping over to the offense. I'm getting a rundown of the previous series. I'm thinking about openers for the next series. Staying in touch, knowing what the defensive calls are.
Obviously, I'm following along with the down and distance and the calls, but I'm not really seeing on the first play of the game the tackle by Travis Thomas. I'm not seeing on that sideline run over by their sideline, he runs from one side to the other side, knocks the guy out of bounds with a physical play. I'm not seeing -- I'm not sure for a fact that on that sack, where he's on block now, then they can call it a tackle for a loss and say it was an option all they want, but it's a sack to me. Any time you tackle a guy for a five- or 10-yard loss, it's a big play for me. He definitely showed us somebody is running around very well. At the end of the game, when Darius needed the blow, I thought Darius played outstanding, that was the guy on offense in the second half you knew you could count on, give the ball to 3, because that really was the difference maker as far as offense goes, but when he needed blow, throwing him in there when it came to a pound-it mentality, I thought he helped us win the game there, too.
Q. He said he was even surprised how much stamina he felt he had at that point. Did he surprise you with that?
COACH WEIS: He surprised our whole staff because the guy who I had monitoring him was Brian, because he's playing on special teams, he's playing a linebacker, then I'm throwing him in the game. Every time he came off the field, he was checking on Travis. Remember, that's the first time in a while Travis has played this many plays. He's been backup to Darius now. He hasn't played this type of volume of plays.
I'd say that his play -- I mean, he's still in a learning curve because it's new to be out there and playing at this level right there, but I think you'd have to say he held up pretty well for his first rattle out of the box.
Q. (No microphone.)
COACH WEIS: We know that Darrin Walls has cover skills. We knew that before we got him. The one thing he's going to learn, now he's playing with big boys, not playing with a bunch of high school kids more. That kid he was going against when he was out there, everyone sees the one play, but that wasn't the only play that was lined up against him. Everyone sees the one play for 40 yard. He didn't see the rest of the plays when they were there with him, too. He's out there for a while, especially in the second quarter. He played a whole bunch.
I think you start learning, now all of a sudden you can't get by with just athletic ability alone any more. Now you have to really be sound fundamentally and technically or else these guys will go ahead and make a play on you.
Q. (No microphone.)
COACH WEIS: Well, I know that he was a little bit -- you know, during this whole thing, he was a little bit uncomfortable just with the unknown, not with being able to call the game from there, but just the unknown after not having been there for two decades being upstairs.
Being on that phone and listening to the communication, listening to how everything went, then just listening in the third quarter where we started to get a bead on what they were doing, I think it was a have he good start.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take some questions from the phone.
Q. Did you feel the defense, part of it was they were picking up halftime adjustments better than last year?
COACH WEIS: This is the first time out. I think the things that we did -- the things we started to do in the second half were things that we had in the plan the first half, we just didn't do them as often. I think the coaching staff and the players did an excellent job of that in the second half.
Q. Is this now a matter of having to rebuild Carl's confidence a little bit?
COACH WEIS: Well, we started to work on that. I started working on it in the locker room last night. I think the most important thing is when you can sit there, kick an extra point, kick field goals in practice, you know you can kick them in the game. You just got to be able to kick them under duress. That's just the way it is.
We'll keep working on it. I'm not throwing in the towel on anyone. I mean, it's the first game. You got jitters. That's not making excuses. The team's still counting on him making them and he knows the team's counting on him.
Q. Talking about how challenging the scheme was with Georgia Tech. Why tonight more teams do that? Do they not have the personnel to be able to do that?
COACH WEIS: If I heard you correctly, they talked about their scheme and why don't more teams try to get into scheme and blitz zones, is that right? Is that what your question was?
Q. That's the question.
COACH WEIS: It was broken up, that's all.
I think there's multiple teams that we play against that have a heavy dose of blitz zones, multiple teams. It's one of the things that's en vogue in defense right now. It's en vogue in the NFL, it's en vogue in college. It's just one thing you have to get ready for on a weekly basis.
The big difference with Coach Tenuta and a lot of other coaches is that that is like a base defense for him. It's not change-up defense for him, that's like what he does as his base. Let's bring it and bring it and bring it. That's part of his mentality.
I think any play-caller, whether it be on offense or defense, it starts with your own personality. His is to keep on bringing pressure. Not everyone thinks like that. A lot of people think fire zones are things you use as a change of pace, not as a mainstay.
Q. Can you talk about Ndu's play why yesterday. He got beat a couple times, and he seemed to recover then he was right back in there.
COACH WEIS: I think there was only a couple plays that I saw him mess up. They were the ones like when he was filling in the alley, at 21 made a miss. I know one time he went up the sideline. He made a bunch of plays out there last night. I know he had at least, oh, five or six tackles. He had that pass broken up where he knocked them really good, knocked the ball loose. That would have been a big gainer.
I think he was running around as good as I've seen him run around. I'm not saying he was perfect, but I think the dropped weight really paid off for him last night.
His stamina was good. He wasn't sucking wind. I thought he made some plays out there.
Q. Can you talk about at what point where you said, this defense is really getting it now, these guys have shown some improvement from last year?
COACH WEIS: I think right off the bat I'd have to say the first drive of the second half, when it's 10-7, we're kicking off, they get the ball, now all of a sudden they kickoff, the defense stops them right off the bat, we get the ball back, go down and score. Now all of a sudden the complexion of the game has now changed.
I felt the rest of the game that, even though there were a few plays being made by their offense, I felt the defense started to control the game where I never felt like I had to go into a more aggressive mode offensively. A lot of people have started to, well, what are we going to do now? I think because of how our defense was playing early in the third quarter, right on through the second half, allowed me to just keep on doing what we're doing and nickel-and-diming them.
Q. Can you talk about maybe the adjustments you have to make for Penn State, what kind of offensive challenge -- what they have offensively? I know you've done the homework on all the teams.
COACH WEIS: We watched all their games from last year. We watched some of their games from last year. As a matter of fact, the coaches as I'm talking to you right now, they're watching their game from yesterday, breaking that game down.
I'm going to wait till Tuesday to talk about Penn State.
Q. I wanted to ask about the game last night. You were talking about the key, the third-and-nine pass, the commentators were talking about the guts that you had to make that call. Do you consider that a gutsy call? Is that one that, hey, it's in our offense, that's the best way to get a first down, let's go with it?
COACH WEIS: I choose the latter, not the former. I'm with you. I think I had the ball, I had a protection that gave the quarterback time to throw the ball. He knows knew what his reads were on the play. The only question mark which somebody raised last night, I don't remember who, if you throw an incomplete pass, you're not using as much time at the time.
But I was trying to win the game, not play to not lose it. I usually coach the game to try to win the game, not to not lose it. Fortunately or unfortunately, I'm going to have to live and die with that mentality because that's the one I have.
THE MODERATOR: Back to here in the room.
Q. (No microphone.)
COACH WEIS: Well, (indiscernible) was on the field for 20 plays last night. The ball didn't come his way. We don't plan plays to get to a specific receiver. Like a lot of offenses, they say, how many ways can we get the ball to so-and-so. We call plays based off of whether it's a progression or coverage read on the play.
I mean, he's in there 18 plays. There's 10 passes thrown. It's possible that he gets 10 balls thrown his way. It's just based on the coverages. Last night the balls weren't coming his way.
And then George, he's right there in the mix right below that tier, playing time on offense. Right now, I think those guys playing up there ahead of him are pretty good. They're going have to wait their time and earn their stripes.
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