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UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME MEDIA CONFERENCE
September 9, 2007
COACH WEIS: Go ahead, fire away.
Q. After watching the team last week, you said you found some positives, you're reaching for positives. Anything you can reach for this week?
COACH WEIS: There were some definite things that I'm not reaching as much for. I think that starting with the defense, I thought our rush defense was much better this week than last week. You know, as a matter of fact, with their 164 rushing yards, over 100 of them came in the fourth quarter, most of them midway through the fourth quarter. When our first defense was out there, they only gave up three yards of rush, and I thought that was good.
As a matter of fact, the longest run they gave up for the day was 12 yards, and most of those yards that Scott gained, he had nine fourth quarter runs where he gained 53 of his yards there. I mean, Morelli was held pretty much in check except for that one crossing route or post route that he ran for 51 yards.
Derrick Williams, they pretty well shut him down as their receiver, only two catches. There was that one 51-yarder, but then they only had four other passes for more than ten. Usually our big plays for passes are 20 yards, and there was only one for 20 yards, and that was the one 51-yarder. Obviously Darrin, great play on the interception for the touchdown.
We forced two fumbles, that's three turnovers. I credit Zibby for one and Bruton for the other after watching it this morning. During the game I thought they were both Zibby, but Bruton's hand knocked the one out from what I watched this morning. And I thought there were some guys on defense that really played pretty well.
I thought the secondary played pretty well, and then I thought the two inside linebackers, Brockington and Crum, played pretty well, and I thought Laws and Kuntz really sucked it up and played pretty stout for most of the day.
Offensively I think the most encouraging thing I have to talk about is the plays at quarterback. I think that was a difficult place for him to start. We all knew he had obvious talent, but I think he never got rattled. I thought he showed great poise for a first-year guy.
He starts off 12 for 16, be it mostly short stuff, but I think in the beginning of the game and the end of the game it bodes well because I thought he showed very good composure for the first time, the first rattle out of the box.
We had a punt return for big yardage. Our net punting wasn't very well. Our gross punting was pretty good. Our net punting wasn't so hot.
I thought our special teams were hot and cold. I thought our offense, we spit the bid on 1st and 3rd down. When you look at the statistics on 3rd down being crummy, which they were, but I think 1st down was just as bad, we had too many no yards or negative plays on 1st down. That usually doesn't bode well for 3rd down.
Probably my biggest -- you talk about not running the ball and you talk about pressure on the quarterback, I think one of the things -- one of my biggest disappointments in the game was being flagged for 14 penalties, two of them delay-of-game penalties, which I never will put on a quarterback, I'll always put them on coaching.
Q. You talked a little bit last night about Travis Thomas. You've had two plays now by players that really were game momentum changing. How do you go about fixing that?
COACH WEIS: Well, we're going to address that one today. Now that I've got more information -- you see, at the time I really didn't know everything that had happened, but that was not a very smart play. It has nothing to do with the outcome of the play, and it's something that at the time I didn't know exactly what had happened. I addressed it at the time when he came off the field, okay, but now that I know what happened, we'll further be addressing that today.
Q. What could you hope that -- last week you put emphasis on the offensive line. I think that the past two games were the worst two rushing games for Notre Dame in 42 years, not combined, but each one individually.
COACH WEIS: Well, what's the question?
Q. What do you see that gives you hope that you can improve there?
COACH WEIS: Well, first of all, not that this skews it too bad, but remember, sack yardage goes against your rushing yardage. That doesn't mean I'm doing cartwheels over the running game. I mean, I'm with you. If you're asking me to state the obvious, okay, the obvious is that our running game is inadequate at this time. It's a subject that is going to continue to be broached.
The problem is it was broached last week, and we got back to some fundamental runs, we got back to some fundamental runs that we didn't handle very well at the point of attack. Too many times whether you're running it inside or running it outside, if you don't handle it at the point of attack, it doesn't bode well for the success, and it's something that we're going to have to not only address, but we're going to have to get significantly better at or else people will just be teeing off on you all year on the same thing.
Q. I think for most of the game you were trying to play short passes. Do you think that to be successful you're going to have to have Jimmy throw vertical more?
COACH WEIS: I think throwing the ball downfield is definitely one of the things that is going to be critical to open up defenses. Yeah, the Catch 22, though, is you want to make sure you've got enough time to go ahead and throw the ball down the field.
I think that that's a very valid statement. That's the way you have to open, the way you open up, open up offenses and threaten defenses in the second and third level more. And I think that last night, first rattle out of the box, keeping those passes to a minimum, for him, was always -- any time you're starting a guy for the first time, it's always a good way to start. Not that that means anything at the end.
Q. With the exception of early and late in the game, why was it so difficult for you guys to move the ball?
COACH WEIS: Well, I think that 1st down production led to poor execution, bad situations on 3rd down. I mean, we had five plays we were 10 plus, then we had another seven plays that you're 6 to 9. You really like to play the game in 5 or less, 3rd and 3 or less, and what happens is you have a negative play or a no-gainer on 3rd down, and I think we charted out 26 plays on 1st down, I think 14 of them were for like one-yard gain or less, or negative yardage. So you're playing almost a whole game -- more than half the game in 2nd and 9 plus. That is definitely not the way you want to be playing.
It doesn't bode well for moving the chains and drives, then you're relying the whole game on just having to make a play on 3rd down, and that's kind of the position we put ourselves in.
Q. So going forward do you have a new philosophy on 1st down, or was it just poor execution?
COACH WEIS: No, I wouldn't say my philosophy is new. I'd say our production led to -- our production on 1st down led to difficult -- more difficult situations on 3rd down; therefore a string of three-and-outs that lead to inefficiency on offense.
Q. Much like last week, do you think that the defense just sort of got worn down by the tail end of the game?
COACH WEIS: The answer to that is two parts. The answer -- the first part of that is obviously yes. The second part of that, there's no rule that says that we can't go three-and-out, too. So would you sit there and say, hey, the defense is worn out; well, there's no rule that says your defense can't be on the field for three plays, as well. I mean, that works both ways. There's no rule that says when you go three-and-out, they can't go three-and-out, then you're only on the field for three plays. That's the way I look at it; it's maybe not the way you look at it.
Q. As a game that had a big momentum swing, you guys grabbed it early and then they took it back and it kind of felt like you had a chance to grab it again after Tom's punt return but couldn't get in the end zone? Is there a way to coach momentum or to control that at all?
COACH WEIS: The problem on that play, we had a bust on -- we had a mental error on the first play that when we got down there on the 7 yard line, and the mental error led to us having to throw the ball away. I think that that's one thing you can't have done when you put yourself in an opportunity to get a gimme touchdown because Tommy's punt return, you've got to walk away from there with seven.
Obviously we haven't been scoring, okay, and he put us in a prime opportunity to go ahead and get an easy one, and you've got to capitalize on those situations. You have to capitalize on the early fumble, as well, when they give it to you in plus territory.
But I think that the defense creating one touchdown via the interception and giving you the ball a couple times on fumbles put us in a position along with the punt return where we should have expected more production on the scoreboard.
Q. Given those things you just mentioned, how frustrated are you as the play caller that you guys just haven't scored?
COACH WEIS: I'm frustrated as the head coach as well as the play caller. I wear a lot of hats. Am I frustrated as the play caller that you don't score touchdowns? You betcha. The answer to that would be exponentially, very, a lot.
Q. Last thing from me, you did address penalties a little bit, but you talked about mental errors. A lot of the penalties were also mental errors. What does that come down to?
COACH WEIS: Well, they're different penalties. Citing the penalties that Tom was talking about before, that's just not smart football. Sometimes errors are lack of concentration, okay, and sometimes errors are not very smart. The lack of concentration ones are ones you can go ahead and emphasize and work on. The smart ones, it really comes down to either the player fixes them or the player doesn't play. That's really your two choices when it comes to that one.
Q. With Jimmy in the short passing game, obviously a lot of -- you want to get him comfortable and just in a rhythm, but how much of that is just an uncertainty about whether he's going to be protected, and also since this is his first time out there, him looking down the field, he may not know exactly what he's seeing?
COACH WEIS: Unbelievably, the second is not true. I think he's poised beyond his years as far as seeing. I'd say the entire night the volume of passes that were called, there were only a couple times the whole night that he was looking in the wrong direction. So I don't think it had anything to do with being concerned with him being able to look to the right direction.
Even the ball that he threw that should have been picked off, you know, even that one where he threw it to the left, right to I guess it was the linebacker that was dropping right there, on that play right there he was throwing it to the right side. That was just one that you'd like to not be throwing because they blitzed off of the other side. If you go back, you'll see their bring their outside linebacker from our right, their left, so he's going away from rotation, and it was just a dangerous throw that we were fortunate not to get picked off for a touchdown on that one.
But there were very few passes on the evening where he wasn't throwing it to the right side or to the right guy.
That being said, I think that it's important to get a quarterback in some rhythm early in the game, and I thought that he got in some rhythm early in the game, it's just that it didn't carry over consistently throughout the game because of our inadequacies on 1st down.
Q. I think the first part of that question, just a general question about the offensive line. I think coming out of Georgia Tech they felt like mentally and physically they got beat. Last night was it more one or the other?
COACH WEIS: I'd say we cut our mental errors in half from the first game to the second game, so that was -- that's a good start. You know, was it good enough? Obviously it wasn't good enough. But from the first game to the second game there were only half as many mental errors last night as we had in the first game. So I think at least as far as the mental concentration part, at least that part of the game, I think we made some strides.
Q. And this kind of goes back to that defensive fatigue angle. Talking to Zbikowski after the game, he felt like a lot of the guys on defense that were also on special teams kind of got gassed covering punts, and that really showed up. The way the offense is going, does that make you reevaluate how many defensive starters you put on some of these units if they're going to be out there for many more snaps than you would like?
COACH WEIS: Partially that's true, okay? I think that they still have to be on special teams units, I just don't think if you're going to punt the ball ten times, which is ten full sprints right there, you don't go into a game anticipating punting it ten times. So I think there's several guys that we need to get some blows on on special teams so you don't get into that situation. Will they get pulled off special teams, no. But do I want them running down ten full sprints on the punt coverage, no, I don't want that, either.
Q. And then I guess -- I'm sure you heard about this, the guarantee that Michigan will win this weekend. Does that resonate with you?
COACH WEIS: Well, he probably watched the game -- he watched our game the last two weeks. If I would have watched our games the last two weeks, I might have made the guarantee myself. I can't be worrying about Hart. I've got to be worried about the guys that are going to be in this room. I'm sure he said it for the right reason, not the wrong reason. I'm sure he said it to try to build confidence in his players.
Will I say it to my players? Come on, of course I'll say it to the players. I mean, I'm not going to say -- anyone wants to give you a layup, you're going to use the layup. But I think that he probably said it for the right reason, not the wrong reason.
Q. Just one last thing on the penalties. Obviously a personal foul is big no matter who gets it. When it's a two-time captain, does that resonate with you more? Is that more disappointing?
COACH WEIS: Well, I was disappointed last night, but I didn't have all the information because last night at the press conference I said it was kind of a he-said, she-said, so I didn't have all the information at that time. I have more now. I'm more disappointed now than I was disappointed at the time. Because what I'm doing, we're backed up on a punt, I'm watching the punt go down the field, I'm not watching 50 yards from where the ball is. I'm watching downfield, and I have no idea what's going on down on the 5-yard line because I'm following the ball.
So I'm a little bit more annoyed even -- not that I didn't address it at that time, but at that time I was trying to get it -- well, what could possibly have happened 50 yards away from where the ball was to warrant getting a personal foul. I obviously have more information on that now than I did at that time.
Q. A couple times last night it seemed like Jimmy had some time and wasn't able to find anyone open. I don't know if guys were covered or maybe he's having trouble pulling the trigger. Could you shed some light on that and talk about how your receiving corps is performing so far last night and also in the first game?
COACH WEIS: Well, that's a fair question, because what happened the couple times you're talking about, we kept it and we were keeping in extra guys involved in protection to try to give him more time so he could throw the ball down the field. The problem when you do that is when you lose flair control -- and flair control are the easy dump-off people for when the guys vertically down the field aren't open. Well, when you lose flair control because you involved them in protection, you really don't give him that safety valve of someone to dump the ball off to. That did happen a couple times in the game where the flair control would come open too late really for him to be able to utilize it.
Q. Would you talk about the receivers overall as a unit and how you think they've graded out?
COACH WEIS: I don't think the receivers -- obviously when you get a play where everyone is covered, you can sit there and say the receivers aren't getting open. But with what we've done when we have thrown the ball down the field, they've actually made a play -- Grimes had five catches last night; Parris had one catch but it was a big one; George, when the ball is thrown to him, he catches it.
I don't think the receivers as a group are really the majority of the problem. I think our biggest problem really starts up front, and I think that that's going to start from the front, not from the back.
Q. You mentioned that you really cut down on the mental errors up front. How do you coach point of attack problems, given it's a physical game and you can't probably bang all week as much as you'd like? How do you from a coaching standpoint try to address that?
COACH WEIS: Well, I think that you have no choice, but to solve that issue, you have no choice but to bang. I think that's what you have to do because that's something you can't simulate without pads on. You have to be doing that full speed and you have to be doing it with contact and you have to be doing it with movement.
There were a couple times yesterday where we were right at the point of attack where we just flagged guys, just turned them completely free. I always say to those guys, we're going to put you back at running back, see how you like it when you're running the ball. It's not just offensive line when we're involved in that, it's fullbacks, it's tight ends. There's a lot of guys that are involved in those blocks.
Q. Way back even in last winter when you were getting ready for the Sugar Bowl, you felt pretty good about the young guys on your offensive line. What do you see in them that still makes you feel good about the direction that they're going?
COACH WEIS: Well, right now I'll refrain judgment on that because I'd say that for the first two weeks I haven't -- I'm not really doing cartwheels about how we're playing. So I think that that's going to be a combination of coaching and playing.
You know, we've got to put them in a position to produce, and they've got to go out there and do it. At this point I'd just like to hold off on that because I'd say after two games it would be tough for me to sit there and throw out a bunch of kudos for how great we're playing.
Q. Did you overestimate how good you guys might be out of the gate? Did you overestimate --
COACH WEIS: Did I overestimate? I wouldn't say that that's ever a problem with me, overestimating how good we're going to be. I always, in my eyes, err on the side of caution, especially with the team.
Q. In the times that you've been around Belichick and Parcells where they've gone through tough stretches, what are the things as a head coach you cling to and what are the things you stay away from doing?
COACH WEIS: Well, I think that last week is a little different from this week. I think that last week you come in and you hammer them hard on the things that really have to be addressed.
Now, as you go to week two, because it's two weeks in a row now that we're dealing with a similar set of circumstances or a similar situation, I think what you have to do is make sure the most important thing is that everyone is on the same page about being accountable.
I think the question that was asked before about three-and-outs on offense, well, what the really good football teams do, at least the defensive people do at that time, is realize that everyone can be three-and-out, it doesn't have to be just one side being three-and-out and not the other. I think as long as the coaching staff takes accountability and the players take accountability and there's no finger pointing, you have a very good chance of fixing the problems.
Q. Can you maybe talk about how much of the playbook Jimmy has a handle on and whether or not that affected the play calling last night?
COACH WEIS: I think Jimmy is pretty well versed on the playbook. He's been with us since January. The things he couldn't do physically, what he certainly could always do was pick it up mentally. I think he's very sharp for where he is at this point.
I think that what we do in the games is sometimes dictated by the experience of the quarterback, but more often than not it's dictated by our entire offense, strengths and weaknesses, things that we have versus the opponent that we're going against. I don't think that Jimmy was really a main factor in that either way.
Q. Were you looking at all down the line in his development in the call for the short passes a lot in the first half?
COACH WEIS: I did that twice in the game. I did that how we started the game, and I certainly did that how we ended the game. As I said last night, a thought went through my mind, should I even get into that two-minute operation to see how we do because at the time things weren't going too well, and in hindsight I'm very glad that I did it because it gave him an opportunity to leave the field, although a bit discouraged that we ended up doing it without scoring a touchdown. We got down in the red zone, at least he felt better about being able to get the ball out and getting it downfield a little bit.
Q. And then I guess what's the attitude of the team now, specifically Jimmy, after the loss? And what do you want to see out of them in terms of attitude this week?
COACH WEIS: Well, I haven't seen him yet. I would expect that the players right now are a bit mad and a bit humiliated, and I think they'll be very driven because that's the type of players we have. One thing I'd be surprised at with our guys or any guys that came in here throwing in the towel, that's not the type of players we have.
Q. Can you just talk about your expectations going into the game for Jimmy? Did he meet those expectations considering what else was going on around him? Did he exceed your expectations? How did that process work?
COACH WEIS: Well, our expectations were to win the game, so we didn't win the game, so the obvious answer to that is no. Now, if you're asking me after review, after I got to sit there and watch the game, first of all, during the game I thought he had very -- a very calm demeanor on the sidelines, even when things hadn't gone so well.
And we have this phrase in football called a deer in headlights. A deer in headlights look, if you've ever seen a deer in headlights how they freeze, well, he never had that look in his eyes. So he always was getting ready for the next series and never was letting something that happened previously affect him.
That in combination with watching how the tape went, I have to tell you what, I'm very encouraged.
End of FastScripts