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October 29, 2006

Charlie Weis

COACH CHARLIE WEIS: Well, several things to talk about the Navy game from yesterday. At the end of the game I was pretty -- I was content with how things went for the entire game. Start with the special teams. The biggest thing going into the game was matching the intensity of Navy, which I thought we did very well.
Obviously with the windy conditions which obviously were a factor more in the kicking game than in the passing game, I thought the players handled the conditions very well. It caused a lot of strange kickoffs, but it's tough to imagine that most of those kickoffs were called the same way. About every type of kick known to mankind came off of Ryan's foot yesterday.
But for the most part between getting some touchbacks and pinning them down on the six yard line, we had a little bit of deferring, and I thought we did a nice job on kickoff coverage.
They started on the 21.7, we started on the 31.5 on our drives, so that's a ten-yard difference, which is a 1st down difference between the two units.
The one play that bothered me the most was us not handling that kickoff return when the ball fell off onto George. Fortunately the ball bounced right to him because that could have been a problem. We got a little lucky on that one.
But for the most part, had a little seepage, we got out there on the punt returns, but I think for the most part I thought we handled the conditions fairly well. Obviously Jeff didn't punt in the game, so that wasn't a factor.
There was a couple guys on special teams -- here's a couple guys as an example who last year were hardly ever getting on the field at all and even this year weren't getting on the field much and have found a little niche for themselves on special teams. Nick Borseti had two tackles yesterday, and there's a guy I haven't mentioned much, and he's playing hard on special teams and he definitely got noticed.
Another guy I want to mention to the team today is Junior Jabbie, and here's a guy who often you ask me how the guys on show team that can work their way into getting some reps, there's a guy, all he was doing is running show team on the opposite side and did so well in what he did that we ended up putting him in there and there's the first kickoff and he ended up making a tackle. So I'm going to use those two guys as examples on special teams.
On defense, the one stat -- I think this is a critical stat that now that I've had a chance to go over with the defensive staff and we'll have a chance to do some analysis. Here's the reason why -- not the reason why, here are the facts. In the first half they had 19 snaps on 1st down. Those 19 snaps went for 144 yards, 7.6 yards per play. In the second half they had nine snaps on 1st down that went for ten yards, 1.1 per play.
So you want to know why we played better? I'm giving you what the facts here so you can see why we were in a much better situation to stop them in the second half than we were in the first half because of our production and their production on 1st down. That's why you shut them out in the second half when you're only giving up one yard per play on 1st down.
We didn't get off any big play action passes, one catch for 19 yards, and for a team that doesn't throw it very often we had four sacks in the game, which I thought that was pretty good, to have four sacks when a team throws it as infrequently as they did.
I thought the front four played well, really took (inaudible) out of the game. He had one fairly substantial run, but other than that he only averaged about three yards a carry for a guy who's averaging five and a half yards a carry. The game became an outside running game for the whole game, and in the second half they only gave up six yards of rushing.
Let's go back to the first half. We give up 271 yards rushing for a game so obviously that means we give up over 200 yards rushing in the first half. They averaged 4.8 per carry and 26 yards and they were on the goal line twice and scored both times.
I think the thing we did in the worst in the game was defend the outside. Both the option fill and then that quick toss play that they were running, as well, just as I anticipated when I spoke to you yesterday, what I felt happened on the field and what really did happen, and it wasn't that I got outmanned, it was we were late on several plays in the first half and we weren't late on them as the game went on specifically in the second half.
I thought that there was one series that was very, very poor. They have a 3rd and long, run a quarterback draw, they get us to a situation where they have a 4th and 1 and they have no intention of running a play. They're in their own territory, they're just trying to draw us offsides. They have no intention of running a play, and we jump offsides, and then after we jump offsides they then reel off plays of 17 yards, 15 yards, 22 yards, 20 yards, and then scored a touchdown. You want to talk about the technical way to not do it, that's how not to do it. That's probably one drive of the game.
But I was really happy with the little tweaks -- one of the major overhauls of playing better, we tweaked a couple things at halftime and the players played a lot better as those first half statistics will tell.
One thing both offensively and defensively as I'm leading into offense, I thought the 3rd down was not a very good down for us again. Statistically your stats and our stats are a little different because for us we felt that they converted 50 percent of the time on 3rd down because when you have a 3rd and long and then get it to 4th and short and can go for it, that's almost like they converted on 3rd and long for us because if not, they would have just been punting.
There were a couple guys that really stood out, Abiamiri was really amped up to play at home and he stood out. Derek Landri was disruptive all day long, and Maurice Crum was very solid for us all day, as well. There were three guys that kind of stood out for me on defense.
On offense I thought it was a methodical day. I thought it was our best performance to date. Scored on the first five possessions, field goal or touchdowns, 16 possessions overall. Once again, two-minute was big in the game. I thought the two big touchdowns of the game were obviously the one right before halftime that cut it from 17 to 14 and then the 3 and out by the defense to start the third quarter to come right back and score again. At that point I felt that we'd win the game, it was a question of how the game would play out at that point. But I thought they were the two critical touchdowns.
Both the offense and the defense had some mental errors, which is a big improvement from the offense from the week before. I thought Brady was excellent on the day. He threw it 25 times, called a few more obviously, scrambled a few times, he got sacked once, but he threw it 25 times to complete 72 percent of his passes, completed touchdown passes and run for a touchdown. The team ran for 4.8 average which is obviously a big improvement. We had 14 big plays, ten-yard runs or 20-yard passes. We had some 4th down conversions that helped out on the drives.
Obviously we stole it on the one yard line and then in the middle of the field when we were trying to run it out at the end of the game. 3rd downs for the day were 36 percent.
With the windy conditions, as I explained to the coaching staff today, as well, with the windy conditions, sometimes I'm planning on 3rd down to get it into a 4th and short because if you know you're going to go for it on 4th down you don't want them to necessarily give it all on 3rd down especially when we put ourselves in a couple of third and longer situations.
In the red zone we only scored three out of four. Our goal was to score touchdowns every time we get down there. And we had three holding penalties, one on Carlson and then on Samardzija and one on Duncan. On offense there were a bunch much guys that stood out, starting with the quarterback. I thought he played excellent; I thought Darius played very well; I thought Rhema and Grimes both played well; Carlson played well, Ryan Harris played well. I thought there were a bunch of guys on offense that played well. I thought that was definitely our most consistent performance so far.

Q. What did you see that you think is why they played more consistent?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: I think that the first thing we did was we put in -- as an offensive coaching staff we put in a bunch more hardball, as we call them, plays, which meant we're just going to try to run it right at you. A lot of times we're a draw outside run team, but you noticed in this game, most of the runs started inside or in this direction that bounced outside. But what I wanted to do was give the offensive linemen to just tee off the guys in front of them.
You look at the size, our size versus their size, we're bigger than they are, so rather than try to -- sometimes coaches try to trick -- everything is tricking the other guys. I felt that with the physical size we had over Navy that we should give them a chance to just tee off at them and just come right at them.

Q. Brady, seems like some of the fans and media, they expect a game like that.
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: I don't know, I thought he's somebody very special. I think he's it be that will be sorely missed around here when he's gone. I think he's a special player. I think they don't come around like him very often. I think that he'll be more appreciated once he's gone than while he's here because I think he's special.

Q. Can you talk about the play of the defense in the second half? That's been kind of what's happened the past three or four weeks.
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: It's funny you say that because I thought the same up at our staff meeting today that we're going to come back and have that conversation, the defensive staff and myself, why that is.
It's obviously a good thing that you can rally the troops at halftime and fix whatever problems there are, okay. That's a good thing. So now the next thing we have to do is see if we can't do that earlier. So that's going to be one of the areas that we're going to talk about. I think that's a great question.

Q. What was your reaction, disappointment at all to USC losing? I assume you wanted an undefeated team.
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: The thing that if you just watching the score boards, you'd like for them to win, but just like they're not rooting for Notre Dame to win, it's tough for me to sit there and say I'm rooting for them. Out of the mouths of teenagers, but Charlie said that's not all bad. It might be prophetic. Obviously when you look at the grand pictures, it would have been more advantageous to be the other way, but USC is a good football team and just by watching what they did come back to that game, they've got a tough stretch ahead of them now. They played one of the tougher schedules in this country this year. People haven't talked about that too much, but they've got Oregon and us and Cal and UCLA left. That's a tough schedule. They've had a tough schedule, tough run.

Q. We just got handed the BCS books today. Are you thinking about Bowls or anything like that or waiting to see what's out there?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: The administration talks to those people. My job is just to try to get ready to beat North Carolina and let them worry about those things. Obviously you made me a national story again last week, and I really appreciate year assistance. Our job as coaches is just to try to win the next game and let the chips fall where they may at the end.

Q. You talked about a lot of times you call 3rd downs knowing you're going to go for 4th down and you obviously go for the 4th down an incredible amount of times. Are you surprised that more teams don't approach it that way? You have four downs to use, and especially once you get in the opponent's territory, why not use all four downs?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: Yeah, I see some teams doing it, but usually I'm always looking for it in that plus-40 type of range here. If you're on your own 40 yard line, you're too long to kick a field goal. But then if you punt the ball, you might only need 15 yards.
In that area I'm always think about -- it affects your play calling when you know when you make a call on 2nd down that you know you're playing for two downs instead of one down, it gives you a much wider range of things that you could end up calling. I don't know how everyone else thinks, but I know that the wind and how long you can make a field goal from and pooch punting and all those things factor in when I'm making those calls.

Q. If you are ever the head coach when you have a dominant defense, how much further will you stretch that out? You say plus 40. Does it go plus 50?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: No, I think it's that gray area. If you're in an area where you feel you can pin them down on the ten yard line, if you can get them down to the ten yard line, I think that's always a good thing.

Q. You talked about playing hardball and I'm not sure that you've ever used that expression.
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: Hardball is my vernacular -- draws to me are like a soft ball, playing soft, like you're showing pass and then coming after, where a hardball run is just trying to hit them in the mouth.

Q. My question is do you not feel the hardball is a strength of your offensive line?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: No, I'm saying it's how you call the plays. It has nothing to do with whether it's a strength or not, it's what plays you call. When I call a draw then it's playing soft ball. It's a question of who you're playing against. For example, if you're playing against a team that tees it off and pass rushes all day, hardball is not the way to go regardless of what kind of offensive line you are. The best thing to do is let them go ahead and run up field and run draws and run right at them. It's a very practical approach to football.

Q. You talked about Brady, how he'll be missed around here. The approach that he seems to take, he seems to enjoy every step of the process of his senior year, including his press conferences on Wednesday. He seems to enjoy every step of the process. Have you seen that in him?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: I think he's handled this whole thing with a very mature, professional approach that is beyond his years. You know, I think that it's kind of fun just to watch it, to stand back and watch it happen, because I think he's handled himself very well. Remember now, forget about the hype and everything coming into the year, you talk about the early failures like in the game against Michigan, just the way he's handled himself ever since then. A lot of people that would have been so rattled even by the hype or rattled by the bad game against Michigan, they wouldn't have been able to bounce back.

Q. It was almost like he relaxed more after that game.
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: I don't think that. I think he's just driven. I think it's just the opposite. I think he's so passionate to be successful, okay, it's so important to him -- it's important to everyone to be successful in life, but he's passionate about it.

Q. I didn't mean that in a negative way, it's just seemed that he seemed to have confidence in his ability that he would rally.
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: That I agree with. I didn't want to make it sound like he lost and then said it's okay.

Q. As you get into November, what do you see in each area, offense, defense, special teams, as the biggest needs areas of improvement?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: I think we've been fairly inconsistent on the offensive side of the ball. We've been hot and cold, throwing it sometimes, run it sometimes, but what we haven't done is we haven't strung games together. We just played that one. I'd like to see us come against North Carolina and have another game like that. I think the most important thing offensively is to build some consistency, which I have felt has not been our strong point this year.
Defensively I'd like to get 60 minutes of consistency within the same game, so it's a different thing. From offense it's game to game, with defense it's half to half. It's just like Tom's question before, which I thought was a very solid question. How can you play so well in the second half so many times really shutting teams out most of the games, and recently most of them in the second half. I think that those two areas when we get the of offense playing from game to game better and if we get the defense playing better in the first half as well as the second half, I think we'll be onto something good.
I think we're starting the game with more confidence in our kickers. Carlson is making his kicks, Ryan is settled in as the kickoff guy, Jeff has had a pretty good year. He only had one game he didn't kick the ball so well.
I think it all starts with your specialists. When your specialists are performing, usually the other guys pan out.
Now, yesterday I was happy with the first kickoff return, we get the ball out there at the 36 and whatever it ended up being, that short kick where David takes it up to the left sideline, but the next one we kind of muff and George gets a lucky one-hopper or else we could have been in some trouble.
I think the return is still my biggest area of concern. And just like on offense, if you want more particular, the consistency, the consistency once again comes back to 3rd down conversions, which still has been an Achilles heel.

Q. In the return game, is that only personnel returning kicks?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: No, it's not just the return. Now, it might have been -- I really don't know on the one yesterday with George because when the ball is on the ground things kind of fall apart sometimes. But like yesterday the two punt returns they're just trying to save us a couple of yards on both of them, so neither one of those punt returns do I really consider a bad one. Zibby just didn't want the ball to roll any further, and Jeff was saving us from the ball being downed at the ten yard line trying to get us a couple more yards. So neither one of those punt returns that we actually returned yesterday was like a real punt return situation.

Q. Harping on the second half, the defense again, what do you see what they're doing that makes them successful the second half that you don't see the first half?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: As I said yesterday -- let's just talk about yesterday's game. I thought we were really late in the alley a lot in the first half. On almost all the outside -- with the exception of one run, whether it was the option or whether it was that quick pitch out side, we were just late in the alley. Sometimes late in the alley can be the safety right in the alley or it could be cracker plays.
By cracker plays, I mean if an outside guy is blocking the corner, comes to block the safety, then the corner is going to make the play. But either way going in the alley was our problem in the first half. In the second half we blew up a lot of those plays.

Q. Does the margin of your lead on the scoreboard affect how the defense plays? You noted their tempo was up.
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: Oh, I think that they say no and I say yes. They say no, he was just playing harder. But any time you see the game starting to settle in, like, okay, we've got the game under control, you can play with a little bit more reckless abandon.
But I think that really, like I said, there were a couple tweaks in what we were doing defensively. I think the bottom line was the players caught up with the speed of the game and I think they just played significantly better.

Q. Is that reckless abandon something that can be translated into the first half?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: We'll work on that. That's a rhetorical question because I couldn't give you an answer on that. That's one of the things that we talked about this morning and we will when we're done.

Q. Last week you guys won a close one --
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: Don't go there. Don't go there.

Q. I'm not trying to fool you, but there were a bunch of teams right ahead of you. What are your thoughts on where you are?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: That's enough of this. I'm not going there. We have a little fun with your question, and next thing you know I'm the nationwide whiner. We'll stay away from that. Let's see if we can stay away from it for one week.

Q. Where do you rank Notre Dame in your poll?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: I'd rank us in the top ten. I really think that -- I think that realistically if you get past the undefeated teams -- you have to look at West Virginia and Louisville as a duo because they have this big match-up coming up on Thursday because one of them is going to be sitting No. 3 this week, whoever wins that game, and the other one is going to fall way down. And until Michigan and Ohio State play, I don't see them losing. You know, they could, but I don't see them losing, so I think that's going to sit here. There's still games to be played in the eastern conference that have some good football teams this year. You can't look away from Rutgers, and they're undefeated now, too. We're not even talking about them. They play those teams, too. Who's to say they're not the team that ends up going undefeated? I mean, I don't know.
But I think that after you get past what's presumed to be the power undefeated teams, you go right down the list, group them all together. It's funny because somebody was telling me today that on TV they were talking -- they were getting talked up this week because of how they're playing as a team. There's a lot of teams that you kind of group together and say, hey, all those SEC teams, throw Texas in there, threw us in there, threw Cal in there, and there's other teams. There's other teams coming off of only one loss. You get one of those things -- you've got Boston College coming on, Wake Forest coming on. We look at all these teams so we know what all the records are. There's teams with no losses and you can't even shy away from Rutgers and Boise State the way they play. The can't shy away. The fact is they're undefeated and there's a bunch of teams with one loss. I don't think it's really about poll ticking, I think you have to objectively look at them, them, and like you said, there's a lot of football to be played yet and I think a lot of questions will be answered for everybody by that time.
Did I say anything that will go national on this one?

Q. It seems like the rest of your players play with a lot of maturity and poise. Is there a way you try to drill that into your players?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: I hesitate to take credit, but I think we've got a bunch of mature guys. They know what the expectations are of the coaching staff, of Notre Dame and of the coaching staff, and I think they carry themselves very well. The one thing I really admire about our players is that every time -- when I first got here I had one on the team went out to play and expected to win. That's what we have. Every time we talk about going out there, the team is expected to win, and that's what you want. You want a team that goes into a game prepared, mentally and physically, and expected to win. Usually, most of the time, good things happen.

Q. Would you say that Brady had that poise before he came here or did he develop?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: I think the best thing is when I got here Brady had already been playing for two years so I didn't have to bring somebody in as a player from scratch. He had been battle tested before I got here. All I did was be able to put in a system that I was familiar with that he grasped very quickly, and it allowed us to have some success very early.

Q. You mentioned how much he'll be missed when he leaves. What about Darius Walker, a guy who never really puts the ball on the ground and leads the team in receptions?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: The way I look at it, we'll be having that conversation next year. I think that he's another guy that everyone talks about. They want to talk about Samardzija and McKnight and Carlson in the passing game, and when he goes and rushes it 20 times for over 100 yards, nice day at the office, sometimes it goes unnoticed. I think that conversation -- that same conversation we're having now is the same conversation that we can have a year from now.

Q. How hard is it for you to go out and recruit a player like that, to do all the things that he does well?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: It's easier when a guy's year ever eligibility is up. It's a little harder when you have a guy that's a young guy that has embedded himself in there because the other guys comes across the country, well, that guy is good, he's going to be playing for a while. I think you're at the point now where you look at him and say, hey, he's got one more year left in him and that could be my spot.

Q. You talked about how you wanted your team to play the last four games, it's been pretty much less than five penalties, hardly any turnovers, played well on special teams. Is this what you were hoping to see?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: Well, I just feel that I haven't -- what I probably haven't done the greatest job is, once again, the level of consistency of our play. That's my job. I think that there's a lot of things -- we have penalties, the ball possession has been extremely -- we've closed out games when we had to. Those things are all positives. But still that level of consistency offensively from game to game, 3rd down production, defensively first half to second half, special teams and return game. How many times have you heard me mention those same things? When you keep on mentioning them, you have to keep on working on them to see if you can't solve the problem.

Q. Travis yesterday got himself back out a little bit and getting in the offensive game plan, how much was he in there as far as the package that he had to work with?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: Well, he probably had about -- he probably had about 15 different plays that he could have been called on to run. There was a package of plays that -- there was about 15 of them that he was responsible for. It's just that it didn't -- if I needed to use him in the first half, I would have used him in the first half. I wasn't worried about him getting tired. If I needed to use him more in the first half, we would have done it.

Q. The success that he's had at running back, a lot of that goes to his talent. How much of a change of pace is that from Darius' defense?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: They're different styles of runners, but the one play he was in was 3rd and 1 was outside and busts outside, took it to the house. It was a smart play, they had loaded up inside to try to stop the short yardage play, next thing you know he's walking into the end zone. I think Darius and Travis are different, but I at this that they're both good running backs.

Q. There have been a handful of games that year that you were able to get the reserves in on more than just the kneel down with seconds to go. How much do you pay attention to that, how much those guys get in, game speed, things like that?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: I think it's invaluable to get playing time experience for guys that you intend to play this year. There's some guys that you're probably not going to play this year, but for guys -- if a guy has been in for five plays and you get them another ten snaps here or ten snaps there, I think it's invaluable.

Q. You said before you need a lot of help in order to get to the big game this year. Are you the one on your staff that looks at it and studies it?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: Well, I could find out more about that through sports information because they're on top of all the different things that have happened. I think on top of it, even with John, Ryan and everyone over there would have is right now it's too subjective as far as where this is heading. I think that all we can do is just keep on track as a team.

Q. (Inaudible).
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: No, as a matter of fact, I'm meeting with the trainers and the doctor at 1:20. Right after we get done they'll be waiting for me upstairs.

Q. I know that a lot of times you don't get into the politicking for All-American, but I just wondered in Carlson's case he's leading the nation among tight ends and receiving yardage. Do you feel like he's having that kind of year?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: I think he's, as I've said to a couple people, I think he's on a roll. Depends on how unknown he was. For people who don't know him, he's on a meteoric rise, but he's definitely a player on the rise because he's shown -- I've talked about inconsistency on some level. He's shown a high level of consistency where he seems to get better every week. I think he's a good player that people are starting to recognize more and more.

Q. One other player I wanted to ask about. I saw Justin Brown got off a meaningful snap. Can you talk about what he's done to start to earn your trust in that situation?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: Well, we lost a player a couple weeks ago that helps his stock. Now all of a sudden he goes from a third team defensive end to now he's the second team defensive end. That means he gets more opportunities and he actually had the sack that caused the fumble yesterday. That was him. I was happy for him because I think he had 25 tickets for that game. That sack probably made a lot of people happy.

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