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UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 17, 2007
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: Fire away.
Q. Obviously most pressing question is whether you go with Jimmy or Zibby at quarterback.
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: I was just glad. He's been on me for three years about getting a few snaps in there. And the game, it had to present itself a specific way.
You know, at 21, you know, it was already on my mind -- I'm like a lot of people, when we finally got a three-touchdown lead, I wanted to get these seniors into the game, and I would have felt a lot more comfortable if we got to four. So when it did, it gave me an opportunity to get those guys in there.
And I know for them, it means a lot though those kids who practice every day and hardly ever get in there. And for Zibby, you know, at least I could shut him up now. But I think the answer will be Clausen.
Q. This game doesn't necessarily undo all that has happened before it obviously, but is there some sense of relief? The celebrations, the smiles on their faces, is that the best you could hope for at this point is some sense of enjoyment?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: Well, you know how it is when you're in college. You're involved in a football program, when there's a win, the whole atmosphere at the whole university is different than when there's a loss. I mean, it's a whole atmosphere.
So it isn't just for the players; it's for the student body and everyone else, the whole atmosphere. It's almost like a weight is lifted. Like tonight will be -- everyone will have fun. They are going to classes here for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday; they will feel good. They will go home for Thanksgiving. It won't be that you're 2-9; it will be at least they won the game at home. So I felt happy especially for the seniors.
Q. Can you talk about the last 1:17 of the first half?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: It was quite a change, get one on the board and then get the turnover and they got into that area where I had to decide, you know, I was down, I had used time-outs during the first half during a couple critical situations to try not to get us in a bad play, which were ran a couple of times.
I used up the timeouts and got to those last couple plays where now I've got 12 seconds left, we've got one score and 12 seconds left. So, I really haven't time to run the ball to get better position to kick a field goal; so we'll take one shot to the end zone, and, you know, fortunately the ball came up a dead play and that was a big momentum changer going to the locker room.
Q. Did you feel the way the first half was going, both teams struggling, a quick strike like that --
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: I thought if we were up two scores, it was going to be a tough task for the other team to win the way things were going at that time.
Now, the second half, running game was going, Armando had a couple big runs, but the first half going into the locker room, I think those two scores right before half-time really, you know, really changed the complexion of the game.
Q. The senior group, can you talk about where they have come from that first meeting to now going out the door?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: Well, it's been quite a transition. You know, you always -- it's always tough when you're in college and you have to go -- first of all, you have to go through a coaching change. That's never an easy thing, okay. No one ever wants the coach -- the players never want the coach to leave. And the new coach comes in and the players are trying to transition and get used to the new coach, so they have had to go through that transition, which is never an easy one.
But the bottom line is these guys have gone through a couple of coaches and a lot of the ups and downs, and I think that it was really, really important for me and for our team to let these guys walk off this field today with a win. It was really important. More important than people realize because this was -- it's not just the fact that they are 0-6 at home going into this game. It's the fact that this is the last game ever in the stadium, and sometimes you don't understand the magnitude of that statement and I'm really happy for those guys.
Q. On Senior Day, you also have some freshmen step up a lot, Hughes; can you talk about that?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: Well, you've got those young running backs -- it wasn't just Robert. Armando was right there with him. He had a couple of big runs, especially that one on third and five right before Robert ran it in. But those young runners ran well. And Jimmy played another solid game, no picks, knock-on-wood, three touchdown passes. So, I mean, there's a lot of promising things out there when you watch.
Q. What was it about Robert's play today?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: Well, at half-time the field started to get really slick around half-time, so, you know, we had designed outside runs in there. And really at half-time, I kind of nixed the outside run, because I felt that it was getting a little too sloppy to try to get to the edge.
So really, you know, James rolled his ankle a little bit in the first half and we thought we were just going to go into a pound-it mentality, and he's just the guy to do it. He got a head of steam going, and once he got going, I just started feeding him. That was one of the questions somebody asked me early this week, I forget who it was, but once you get a hot hand -- well, somebody asked me a question about a senior; in this case it happened to be a freshman. So you keep on rolling and just keep on giving it to him.
Q. How are things going for him these last few weeks?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: He's starting to rally. He started to rally emotionally, which that happened a week ago Monday. He started to rally some. Instead of hoping he went to class, you know, I could say, okay, get your butt to study hall, get back to normal. His teammates have done a great job with him. And Armando is almost his caddie; drags him, "Come on, get to class, do this, do that." But I think the team is really happy for him and I was really happy for him, as well.
Q. Certainly with the pressure and performance on the seniors is that your biggest optimism about where things are going in the big picture?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: Oh, I think it's a combination of things. Probably the biggest reason for optimism in reality is the fact that these guys have had so many opportunities to throw in the towel. I think that's really the biggest reason. And I go to practice every day, and you know, this team does not practice like a team that's not winning. This team practices like a team that's trying to get better and they prepare to win.
And I look for the same things that you guys ask me. I look for those same things. I wait to see the signs of, hey, it's over. And that's why at the end of the year when a lot of teams can say that's it, I think we come out, played a nice solid game, played stout on defense, not turn the ball over on offense, throw some, run some, and that's really the biggest reason.
You know, obviously you always talk about the development of your freshmen and sophomores and your new guys coming in. But the most important, matter-of-fact thing I can say is they practice to win. They don't practice just to go through the motions, and I think that's a critical factor.
Q. The call for unsportsmanlike conduct for signaling on John Carlson --
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: I obviously didn't have a good day with the officials. (Laughing) It was not a good day. But, you know, what can I tell you.
Actually, the off-setting penalty, that off-setting penalty where they actually were calling the penalty on a guy for call holding, they decided to call an off-setting penalty because they thought Carlson was taunting him when the guy was laying on the ground holding his leg. But today is not a day I'm going to argue. We won the game, I'm not going to complain.
Q. After about ten minutes of celebrating, John Carlson was pulling people out of the tunnel to go back to the student section; how important is that relationship between the team and students?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: Well, it's probably unique by the fact that our football players feel that they are every bit as much of the student body as you are. They don't feel like they are segregated or on a pedestal. They feel like they are part of that group, and I think that our players like to share those moments with the students, because the students are the ones that have been there for us during all these trials and tribulations. I think that it was only right that they shared the time with them.
Q. A couple personnel questions. Do you have a new tight end in number 59?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: Yeah, well, he played tight end tackle and guard today. He was showing his versatility.
But because we're going with Hord early in the week, I had to put the pound-it package in there, and having a healthy Carlson and healthy Yeatman; so even though he was ready to go as the week went on, it didn't seem like now is the time to go ahead and change something you've been practicing for a few days. So that's why we had that personnel.
Q. And Eric, having an opportunity to return the ball in the wedge --
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: It was kind of funny because that play, that return was designed to go out other way. And the first play, I had the screen called for left formation because we were running the ball to the right-hand side, so he kind of messed the play call up.
But he said he's showing his lacrosse versatility from when he was in high school. He's showing his true athleticism. I think that was his comment.
Q. Can you talk about the defense; you held them to under a hundred yesterday yards rushing.
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: Well, I think the defense played well the whole game. You know and even giving up the shutout at the end of the game, you don't want to give up a shutout, but I would rather get those kids in the game than worry about the shutout.
But I think that they did a really good job even when the few times there was a play -- they played stout right off the bat, got off the field and turned the ball over a couple of times, and I thought really they were the ones, the defense in the second quarter, they are the reason why were in position to go in.
Q. When did you make the decision that you were going to feature Robert this week?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: We said that -- we follow the weather, you know. I always follow the weather. And you know, they said it was going to be mid 40s and potential drizzle and snow. And you know, really, Robert's game is ramming it down your throat.
So we knew; he repped more this week, but more importantly we knew when we went in at half-time, I tweaked what we were going and said, look we are going from this to that and we are going to try to ram it right at them, and then a couple adjustments.
So he ended up doing a nice job for us. But we anticipated this week checking the weather that it might turn into an inside run game as the game went on.
Q. With a few of those impressive runs last week you said about your quarterback, you may have found your future running back?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: Well, we may not be saying that if James wouldn't have rolled his ankle. He might still be in there carrying, so I really don't know that. We have some guys going out the door, but with James and Robert and Armando, you have to say it's pretty promising at that position right there.
Q. How did you feel Wenger played today?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: I didn't notice him too much, so I guess he must have played pretty good. That's the easiest way to identify an offensive lineman. When you don't notice them, that's usually -- when you notice them, it usually means something bad just happened. So he must have played okay.
Q. If only for this night, can you put the words, the sense of relief you feel of victory?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: I'm very happy for our seniors. I'm real consistent as you know. I'm really happy for our seniors. I don't try to look at things selfishly like relief for me. I really like to have a vision and have a purpose, and this whole purpose this week was to win a game for the seniors. So for that, okay, I feel good for that.
Q. Along those lines, the last touchdown went to Carlson, and obviously there were a couple options, were you hoping it would go his way?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: No, I was hoping we wouldn't get a delay game penalty on third and one is what we were hoping for. I was really hoping Travis Thomas with our goal line package would run the ball in the end zone. It wasn't like I was designing to go ahead and throw the ball. We got the penalty and now it's third and six, and now you have to go to a pass and I thought the ball, when I called the play, I thought the ball would probably go to him.
Q. Last week you said looking forward that you like what you had seen at practice, but you need to see evidence on game day. I take it you saw some of that today?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: Well, let's start with the defense. Basically they pitched a shutout. So any time you pitch a shutout, regardless of what you're playing against, you have to feel pretty good about that.
On offense, we threw it some and we ran it some. Still had too many dropped balls, which could have led to even a bigger day which was one of the downers, but for the most part, I'm pretty pleased.
Q. How do you think a win today relieves the pressure and criticism building over the course of the season?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: I really don't worry about the criticism and the pressure because if you get too wrapped up in that, then you're not really dealing with the matter at hand.
And really the matter at hand is you have Thanksgiving week. They just came off a nice win for the seniors, you have a little messed up week going out to California with Thanksgiving. So you want to give them some time to eat like a pig and lay on the couch like everyone else on Thanksgiving, so you have to tweak your schedule.
Go out to Stanford, it would be great to close the season with another win and then get on the road and recruit and see if we can't get some more players in here.
Q. What would you say is the most encouraging or promising thing you saw?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: Sort of along the same track, along the same track. We've had the same -- probably the most encouraging thing, and it wasn't just the seniors or freshmen, because we are talking about both ends of it right now. It was the fact that the team, who has had a lot of adverse things happen this year, has just continued to practice and practice and practice like a team that expects to win, and the fruits of their labor showed up today with a victory.
Q. Can you put into words why you've had a special affinity for Zibby well before today; what is it about him?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: He reminds me of my boys from Jersey. That's what he reminds me of. He reminds me of like all the kids that I grew up with. You know, you just -- I look at him and I smirk a lot of times because I've seen a hundred Zibbies that I grew up with. They might have had different last names, but they were him.
Q. Did you have to go find him or did he find you when it came time?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: No, I told him as soon as we scored the fourth score. I told him, because I was yanking the defense. I said, get a couple shotgun snaps, okay, because you're going in there, and he had a big smile on his face. And he knew I wasn't kidding because I told him I was actually going to do it.
So this wasn't like something that just came out and was a surprise. Although we looked like the Bad News Bears when we went out there.
Q. You didn't want to let him throw one in the air?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: I actually had two passes in there but I thought that would be disrespectful to Duke to tell you the truth. That's the last thing anyone is going to do is throw a pass.
Q. You alluded to it earlier but can you talk about Jimmy's improvement?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: I don't think it really started with he was not playing, I really think his greatest improvement might have taken place when he was out, not while he was in. Because not only was he getting better physically, but he got to really see the game from a different perspective. And I think that the game to him is happening a lot slower and any time the game slows down, you're starting to understand how to play.
Q. Jimmy seems to be able to find the ball a lot and with that core of three or four guys, starting to play together --
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: I don't know if that's by design, but any good quarterback will start looking for people to make plays for him. And I think that, you know, most of our plays are designed to go based off of coverage, not off of where our guy is. All bets being even, he's looking for the big guy.
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