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October 20, 2007

Charlie Weis

COACH WEIS: Before we get to the serious stuff, did you see how quick I popped up? You guys didn't see me get run over on the special teams play? You're going to have some fun with this one, this is brutal. I got run over on a special teams play, the next thing I know my head was hitting against the ground. So go back and have some fun at my expense tomorrow. Now that I've got the comedy out of the way, let's get down to business.

Q. It was a light week of practice. You said you had reached the point of diminishing returns. Do you second-guess that now?
COACH WEIS: No, because for the first quarter of the game, the game was going the way I wanted the game to be going. Well, I can't say that. Not trying to score, but I thought this was going to be a ball control game.
Hey, look, you guys have been talking for three years; would you ever defer -- I defer because I thought this game was going to be a defensive game, and I thought our defense was going to be able to play fairly stout against them. I know that defense is the strength of their team and they're darned good, and I just thought that was the way the game was going to go.
Really the game starts to swing a little bit on a crummy punt. A crummy punt, the ball hits up in the air, they recover the ball at the 10-yard line and the floodgates open from there.

Q. Do you take anything positive out of this, or are you at the stage of the season when the last two and a half quarters go like that can you take anything --
COACH WEIS: No. As a matter of fact, there weren't a lot of positives that came out of there, which was basically what I said. Probably the best thing for this team is they don't play this week. That's probably the best thing for this team because they'll practice through Wednesday and they'll get a weekend away from here, and we'll get an extra day of practice the week of the Navy game. Of course we'll start on them on Monday. But they'll get an extra day of practice the week of the Navy game, and it gives the coaching staff and the players time to regroup after that.
I mean, before you sit there, and I'll gladly take the hits for our program, but USC is a good football team, they're well-coached, they have good players that played well today, and my hats off to them because you see where they are and you see where we are, and we're at different ends of the spectrum at this point right there. They are where we want to be, and that's what we're going to shoot for and that's what we're going to drive for until we get to that point. And I will work till the ends of the earth until that ends up happening.

Q. After the game you had your arm around Jimmy Clausen. Could you share that conversation?
COACH WEIS: Yeah, I explained to him how much easier it is to sit there and see how much the game slows down when you're not in the center, and he said that he couldn't believe the difference because he's been playing every snap his whole life. Since he was a little kid he's got every snap, and this is the first time he's got to be able to sit back and watch the offensive formation come out of the huddle because he already knows the play, instead of having to look at everything offensively, being able to look at the defense and watch them stem into a diamond or watch them rotate the coverage from two to blitz zone three. There's a lot of things when you're standing on the sideline and you're not in the center the game slows down tremendously.
And what I said to him is if you ever want to be a good quarterback, how much it slows down when you're on the sideline, that's how slow it's got to be when you're playing because that's what the great quarterbacks do. They see everything happening before it happens, and the game plays -- for them it's a nice slow pace rather than a fast pace.

Q. Could you talk about Evan's play today? It looked like it was a pretty quick pace for him.
COACH WEIS: Yeah, we tried to throw some shots down the field. He could only play about half his passes. He was under duress, sometimes we were gap protecting, which should have given us a better shot. There was a couple times we just got beat one on one and it wasn't man protection because we were gapping everything. So I was a little disappointed with that. I was disappointed early on one play because we had Carlson running wide open down the middle of the field but the kid never had an opportunity on the play.
I think when he had an opportunity to step and throw, the kid made some decent throws.

Q. Is there any single theme to the problems that you guys have had this season that you can narrow it down to?
COACH WEIS: I'd say that not being able to stay on the field on offense, specifically on 3rd down, not being able to convert on 3rd down in the first half I think we were like -- I don't know the first half stats, but in my mind I think we were like 1 of 8 on 3rd downs in the first half. I think that's what it was.
Now, USC I think was like I'd say 2 of 9 in the first half, so they weren't converting on 3rd down, either. The big difference was they were getting production on 1st down, okay, 1st and 2nd down, which put them in where they didn't have as many problems as we had as it got into the second quarter. I mean, until about the 3:00 mark of the first quarter, though, it was a slow-paced game, going about the way I anticipated it going, and then they started converting and we stopped.

Q. After the Michigan game you said that you wanted to keep running to see who had their heads up and who had their heads down. What did you see today at the end of that last drive when you were moving the ball?
COACH WEIS: Well, I basically told them that we're not worrying about what the score is, and I made some substitutions of some of the younger guys that haven't been playing too much were in there, as well, and I said we're just going to run the ball down the field and we'll take a couple shots. If we get down into the scoring zone, okay, because scoring a touchdown was important, but actually letting them get an opportunity to try to get some kind of momentum to end the game was just as important. It was no longer obviously a question of whether you were going to win or not, but I think that we had some young guys in there, and they need to feel some moderate success, which they got some on that last drive.

Q. What's going to be your process in terms of the quarterbacks as you move forward here determining who's going to start?
COACH WEIS: It's too early to tell. Like right now I'm not trashing Evan now after one game. I would imagine Evan would be the guy going into the next game because just like -- I don't think when I go back and watch the tape, I don't think I'm going to find enough evidence that he's the sole responsibility for us splitting the bid on offense, and I've never been big on sacrificial lambs.
I'll have to wait and see. It'll take me a little time. Tomorrow I'll be scrambling a little bit, but by the time I see you guys, media at lunchtime on Monday, I think I'll be -- I'll have gathered my thoughts on that.

Q. As you move forward from this game, what do you need to see from your team as it gets toward the end of the season?
COACH WEIS: Well, you're coming to a different stretch of the season. Although it wasn't like 2005 where we kind of split the season in half, and if that was the plan going in, I really think that you're in a mode now, you're sitting at 1 and 7, you're going into the bye, you've got four games coming up, three in a row at home, and now you're looking at these four games as if you can't do anything, you're already out of Bowl contention, that's not an issue. So that's not like, oh, you're going to go to the toiletbowl.com. You're sitting right here 1 and 7, you've got four games left, and I think that the players and the coaching staff have an ethical responsibility to go ahead and do everything they can to try to win those four games, and I think that that's exactly what we're going to try to do.

Q. At this point in the season with four games to go, does it become a consideration to maybe start playing a lot of the young guys like major league baseball teams with a 40-man roster in September?
COACH WEIS: I think that is a consideration. I think it's a consideration. But I think that there's also -- there's probably some of those older guys, especially those fifth year guys, who probably played pretty well, and if they played pretty well, do you sit there and say, okay, thanks for your eight games and now you're done? I just don't think it's the right way of treating people.
Now, conversely, I think you have to start getting more guys into the mix that are going to be playing, and I think what you're not going to do is go through four games and not have worked on developing guys to get ready for next year. I think that that's a very important point.

Q. (No microphone.)
COACH WEIS: It was hard to take mainly because when we went into the game we thought -- first of all, we have a lot of respect for USC, and we always will, okay, but we thought coming into the game that we could play -- try to play a low-scoring game. Now, Mark ended up having a good day. They made a big deal about the quarterback deal, but Mark looked pretty good to me.
We talked about Booty and Mark and how that was going to go, but I think that he stood up there and had a pretty nice day. But we thought the best chance for us to win this game was going to be a game 17 to 14, somewhere in that range right there, a ball control type of game because I wasn't going to sit there and throw the ball up and down the field against them the whole game. That just wasn't the type of game you wanted to try to play.

Q. You said that USC is where you want to be. Do you feel like they are 38 points better than you? How would you assess that?
COACH WEIS: I would say today they were definitely 38 points better because let's not whine about their last touchdown. It was Joe McKnight, a handoff that goes 50 yards or whatever. It wasn't like that was a run-up-the-score-type of play with ten minutes left to go in the game, or 10:57 left to go in the game. Could we have maybe mustered up a touchdown at the end of the game? Yeah, maybe. But today they were the far superior team, and give them credit.
The problem you have sometimes with USC is I think that people take them for granted. This team has been good for a long time, okay, and they don't get their just due. They lose to Stanford by a point, they have a tough one with Arizona, all of a sudden everyone is ready to throw in the towel on USC. Those players and coaches have a lot of pride and you ought to give them credit.

Q. You come in here and say a lot of the same things. Do the players get either desensitized or callous about what's been going on this season?
COACH WEIS: I think that they understand the next four games are going to determine a lot of their futures. I think that's what they understand. Whether it's a fifth year guy that wants to go to the NFL or whether it's any other guy that's in the program that wants to set the tone to go into next year, either way they always have a motivational tool. You think about if you're a fifth year guy and you're trying to make a name for yourself, well, cashing in for the last four games, that's not going to do you any good. And for anyone else that's going to be part of the reason why Notre Dame fixed the problems, that gives someone a great opportunity to step up and show something about it.

Q. You had to feel that since the second half with Purdue that you guys were on the upswing a little bit. Regardless of how good USC might be, how much of a step backwards was this?
COACH WEIS: Well, it was a butt-kicking today. You could say, well, the game was pretty competitive for the first half, but I didn't feel the game was very competitive in the second half. Like I said, I'm not a big whiner. I'm the person responsible for all this stuff. I didn't think we came out flat. I think that that was a concern of mine when I took pads off them this week, so how the game started really didn't indicate that. But I certainly didn't like the way it ended, at least for the last two quarters and change.

Q. What was your general reaction, maybe not X's and O's but just your general reaction to Hazelton's touchdown where he seemed to beat a bunch of guys a couple times?
COACH WEIS: It would be nice if we tackled a little bit better. My general reaction probably would be the same reaction you probably had when you were watching it. It's not like they're not trying to tackle him. Hazelton is a fast kid and he's elusive, but he just looked a little too elusive to me on that play.

Q. You're 1 and 7 now, you haven't lost at home by this much in like 50 years. Does this feel like a bottom to you? Do you ever see Notre Dame being at this point again while you're here?
COACH WEIS: I'm going to answer that very cautiously, okay, because I don't want to be called sarcastic using New Jersey rhetoric. So let me just say people better enjoy it now, have their fun now.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about the offensive line play, particularly some of the substitutions that happened in the game?
COACH WEIS: Well, we went into the game wanting to get Wanger back involved in the mix, and we also came into the game wanting to get Stewart some time at tackle to get another guy in the mix because really we've been playing the whole year with only two tackles. Danny really lost his job because he got hurt, so we wanted to get him back involved in the mix to have another interior guy, and we got Bemenderfer in there, too, got him some snaps, too, because we felt that we had really been -- although we had some guys that we played in the game, we hadn't played them very much. We thought this was an opportunity to try to get them more involved in the mix.

Q. Offensively the first half obviously was tough. Were you disappointed that you couldn't get anything going after halftime? There was the big turnover and then no real positive yards.
COACH WEIS: Well, I think the big thing is on 1st down we were getting negative yards more than 3rd down. You run a toss, you lose three; you run an inside run, you lose two; you run a screen pass, you lose eight. I mean, when you're doing that, I mean, tell me which one you want to run? Do you want the inside run or the outside run or the pass when you have negative yardage on those plays. What you really have to do is avoid having negative yards on 1st down, and if you're going to have success on 3rd down you need to have success on 1st down. There's a direct correlation.

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