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UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME MEDIA CONFERENCE
September 7, 2008
Q. After watching the tape, could you talk about what you saw from Jimmy yesterday?
COACH WEIS: I thought that he was playing his best ball as the game went on to tell you the truth. The fourth quarter he went that string where he actually went 8 for 9 there in the fourth quarter. I think that was -- very pleased with that.
One interception he threw down in the red zone, which I would have liked for him to throw the ball to the other side away from rotation to try to make a play. I talked to him afterwards and said sometimes you've just got to take the profit. But I think that with a game under duress or with him being under duress, for him to calmly march us down the field in six plays for 80 yards for a touchdown and then come and follow right back with a 14-play drive for another touchdown I think showed a lot about the ability of the kid to lead the team when things aren't looking so good.
Q. I believe midway through the second quarter you got the offense together and talked a little bit. Can you talk about the message you were trying to send at that point?
COACH WEIS: Michael asked me to kind of grab everyone together, and it was basically saying you can't sit there and harp on getting into a little bit of a rut so early in a game. What you have to do is you have to start picking yourself up. I think that there were -- some of them in that second quarter that were starting to get frustrated because they expected things to be going a lot smoother, a lot better than they were, and it was just kind of getting them refocused.
In the past Mike would be doing that, but with him upstairs we kind of have it where either -- depending on what the situation is, either I'll do it or Latina will do it based off of what needs to be said.
Q. Going back and looking at the stats, you talked about 3rd down yesterday. I think on most of the 3rd down plays yesterday, you passed on every one of them except for one or two. A lot of them were because obviously they were long yardage. Early on you had a short yardage one --
COACH WEIS: Actually we were in five 3rd and 2 to 5s and three 3rd and 1. So there was a whole bunch of plays. Obviously the 3rd and 1s were all runs, so let's take those out and turn those into short yardage plays. On the 2 to 5 plays when the staff does their research, I tell them to give them the best stuff, whatever the best stuff is, and if the best stuff is a run, they call a run, and if the best stuff is a pass, they call a pass. I was letting them go with what they thought was best.
Q. And just after watching the tape, anything that you felt better about after watching it than maybe you did after the game yesterday?
COACH WEIS: Well, I mean, I broke the game down this morning. Last night it's a whole bunch of things that I'm trying to put together. You know, I had to go do the numbers. I felt last night coming off the field, because I've been so involved in special teams, I was really interested to see if the stats backed up what I felt.
You know, I went and looked at it and they averaged 39 yards net punt with them only getting 1.6 yards a return. I was really happy with that with two balls inside the 20 obviously Mike Anello had two tackles in the game but two inside the 20 there.
On the kickoff, the average drive start for them was inside the 20 yard line. I think it was just under -- 19.75 drive start, but they only averaged 12 and a half yards a return on kickoff return, so obviously with the two -- both the kickoff -- excuse me, both the punt and kickoff, I was pleased with the coverage units.
I was really concerned -- not concerned, but I was really interested to see what kind of numbers the punt return and kickoff return showed. On the punt return, we had 13.7 average, but that number is skewed a little bit negatively because Armando really averaged 17 and a half yards a return because the one return was after Scott Smith picked up the blocked punt by Sergio, so that gets factored in as the other punt return.
So as far as the coverage and return units in the game, I felt good about them coming out of the game, and after watching them on tape, that was substantiated. Obviously my biggest area of concern on special teams was our field goal/PAT operation, and I'd say that I was with just cause, because I thought the operation wasn't very good on tape when I watched it today.
We did have two penalties on special teams. One I think that me and Brian will take a little bit of the blame on the 4th and 3 on Sergio's penalty because they were on the verge of trying to draw us offsides and/or run a fake in that situation. I mean, although we cover that, we could have put us in a safer return situation. There's still no reason to jump offsides, but that ended up giving them a 1st down and they ended up scoring a touchdown on that drive.
The only other penalty on special teams was on Fleming on the one kickoff return, and that negated a 28-yard return. In reality all three of our returns on kickoff would have been 28, 28 and 29 if it weren't for that penalty on Darius on that one. Although I must say, I was pleased with Darius' play on special teams with the exception of that play.
Offensively, you know, the first thing that sticks to mind to me was situational football, and situational football only came into play after the starts of both halves where we went three-and-out in both drives of the first and second half. But I didn't think we played very good situational football.
3rd down, we didn't play very good on 3rd down.
The red zone, we were near -- I know the stats say five times but it's really four times because the last one is at the end of the game when you just ran out the clock, which that should be a red zone win, not a red zone loss. But you get in there three other times and you fumble inside the 5, you throw an interception after an interception, you throw an interception on the first play and then you botch a field goal attempt. So who knows how many points you left on the field in those three opportunities right there.
I was happy with Golden Tate's upside. Jimmy finished that 8 of 9 stretch for about 100 yards, a couple touchdowns in the fourth quarter, and he completed over 60 percent of his passes.
I was pleased with the drive start for the day field-position-wise, that hidden yardage deal, because our average drive start was at the 43 and their average drive start was at the 23. But any time you turn the ball over four times, okay, on offense and throw a botched field goal into play right there for a fifth turnover, the odds of winning is usually very, very small.
Defensively obviously we only allowed 13 points. In the first half I thought we were excellent on 3rd down. I think that they were 2 of 10 on 3rd down in the first half as far as getting off the field. I thought we tackled well. We had several pass breakups. I think it was like eight. Several three-and-outs; I know the stats only have it at four, but the way we counted it was actually at seven.
I mean, they set up a score, they turned the ball over in the red zone, and the two turnovers actually Kerry Neal's interception and Kyle McCarthy/David Bruton, that play on the goal line, I'd like to think later on this year we're going to reflect back on that play saying that was the play that set Notre Dame up for success because that play was the game-changing play in the game. I mean, it's a one-score game, about ready to be a two-score game. Even if they settle for three, you know, at that point it's a two-score game, and that turnover changed the whole complexion of the game.
Kyle McCarthy was all over the field, David Bruton was all over the field, and the quarterback completed less than 50 percent of his passes because he was throwing the ball quick because we were bringing some heat. We only got one sack, but conversely, for a change, we didn't give up any sacks.
You're going back and forth between the two things; there are positives and negatives that I saw there. But we had some penalties in the game that I didn't feel too happy about. Sometimes a penalty is a smart penalty and sometimes a penalty is a dumb penalty, and I'll give you one example. Like Mo Crum got called for two penalties. The roughing the passer penalty wasn't very smart. The holding penalty was very smart because the guy is running an angle route and if he doesn't grab him, who knows where this guy is going to. It might be for a long, long way. So sometimes a penalty can be a smart thing because the guy is out of position.
Obviously they had a penalty on defense on the first play of the game. That's not what you're looking for. A couple holdings on offense. So all in all, you add these penalties together with the turnovers, together with situational football, I thought defense situational football played much better than offense situational football, and they'll be the areas of emphasis for the week.
Q. What will you do when you address these turnovers? How do you coach not turning the football over?
COACH WEIS: Well, turnovers, the four turnovers, were four different situations. One, a guy is trying to get extra yardage when he's down on the goal line, and whether he's down or not is really a moot point. They called him where he wasn't down. So that's not to argue that point, but here is a perfect example when you're being stood up and you're trying to reach for extra yardage how you have to secure the football.
The other one, Armando got his clock cleaned. I think most people in that situation probably would have fumbled the football, because he just got crushed. I mean, you have to hold onto it, but when I went out to him, I was happy to hear -- the first thing I said, "Are you talking?" I was happy to hear that the answer was yes.
As far as the interceptions, one hits Duval in the chest, goes to Jimmy, but it hits the wide receiver in the chest, and the other one, I think that Jimmy -- I would have liked him to throw to the other side, but also, the wide receiver has to protect the throw, too.
They're four separate and distinct situations on all four of them.
Q. Not to make an excuse, but are those the types of things that you chalk up to being a first game, those types of mistakes, at least some of them, the latter two?
COACH WEIS: I think the reads you always can chalk up to being something that's real easy to fix. As far as you've got to catch the ball, you've got to hold onto the ball when you're squirming for extra yardage, those are things that are just more physical; just hold on to it or catch it with your hands. Those are things that you hope that you sit there on tape and you say, well, that's not going to happen again.
Q. In your experience are you a guy that believes that the team makes a pretty big jump from week one to week two?
COACH WEIS: Well, in coach-speak it's always the case that after you get the first game out of the way, usually -- and that's true for the coaches, too, now. Usually the whole operation and the players now have gone through it at a high tempo and now can progress to the next game. That should, in fact, be a true statement.
Q. Given that, what would you like to see improved the most over the next week?
COACH WEIS: Oh, I'm fairly meticulous, so it depends on where you're talking about. I mean, on special teams, probably the thing I want to do is keep on growing on the coverage and return units but fix the field goal team. I mean, that's the obvious one for me.
On defense we gave up four big plays in the pass game. Now, that's not ten big plays, but four big plays, the two shovel passes and the two substantial long passes. One was a situational play. They had gotten the ball in plus territory on the 40 some yardage, 1st and 10, it's a known take-a-shot situation, and they took a shot.
So that is situational football where we can coach off of -- everyone in the free world of football knows that somebody gets the ball in plus territory, there's a good chance on the first play that there's going to be a shot coming out. So there's a lot of things that we can gain there.
And then offensively, you can't count on a two-minute operation in the fourth quarter to bail you out on a weekly basis. You know, you have to do all you can not to be in that situation.
Q. One of your answers to Tom's questions about best stuff in those 3rd and short situations, your best stuff, is that dictated on what the defense is giving you, or is that best stuff on what you're executing well, you think you're executing well?
COACH WEIS: That's a good question because it's a combination of the two. Like when you set up things going into the game, it's best -- it's the best things that you have with your guys versus their guys, both personnel and schematics. Now, that changes based off of what teams are doing within a game. Like if you're anticipating they're going to be doing one thing the whole game and then they're doing something else, sometimes those things change within a game. But it's dictated by both your personnel and what works the best, A; and B, schematically what gives you the best chance of just moving the chains.
Q. You talked a lot about Jimmy's freedom and understanding at the line. Are there a couple examples of a play he made that last year there's no way --
COACH WEIS: Go watch Floyd's touchdown. He audibles and sends him -- instead of sending around a comeback, he tells him to run a go and throws a fade ball for the touchdown. It doesn't get any better example than that. He turns to him, tells him to run a go; next thing you know, it's six. I don't think that that ever happened -- that's one more than last year, just from that example (laughing).
Q. The question about a play in the third, it was 3rd and 1 at the 39, they kind of ran a run blitz on you --
COACH WEIS: Yeah, that was a missed call. It wasn't a run blitz, it was -- well, it was a middle linebacker that was unblocked that had a party in the backfield is what that was, because the play call is set for a fullback to be there to block that guy, but there wasn't a fullback.
Now, there was a fullback on the field, but the formation was different than the play; therefore -- I mean, Robert Hughes came over to me saying, "Sorry, Coach, sorry, Coach." I said, "Robert, you had an unblocked guy hit you in the face, relax." He felt bad like he had let us down because we tell him on 3rd and 1 we're counting on you to be able to get the yard. But I don't know anyone who would have gotten that yard in that situation right there.
Q. I get lastly, how did you assess the way Duval played yesterday and kind of where is he right now?
COACH WEIS: Well, obviously he had a couple balls that he definitely would like to have back. And I think that the first -- he had one in traffic right off the bat early in the game, and he ended up having a couple of them. What we'll do is we'll get him early in the week, we'll get him tomorrow, and we'll just get out there and start catching balls from the quarterbacks and catching balls from the jugs and emphasize catching the ball with his hands because I think what ended up happening there a little bit in the game is then you start trying to body catch them, and that's what ends up leading to a few problems.
Q. Yesterday after the game you called it an ugly win. After getting a chance to watch the tape this morning, do you still feel the same about it, or do you have any other sort of different opinions about the game?
COACH WEIS: Well, I think that now when I get in front of the team I'll have a whole list of pros and a whole list of cons. So the cons represent the ugly part. But to be honest with you, this is the pros page, and this is the con page, and I actually have a lot more things on the pro page than the con page, but there's plenty of both.
And I think that that's the way the game went. I think that I'll separate the two. I'll start with the pros and then I'll work to the cons.
Q. Do you feel like after the first game that you have seen this team evolve over the summer, that you can see their progress that they've made after this first game?
COACH WEIS: I think that there was one critical play in the game that kept the team in the game the entire game and kept them from doubting whether they could win or not, and it was made by the two safeties. I think that anyone watching the game, whether you're in the stadium, whether you're the head coach or watching on TV, would say that that play was the game-changing play. And I think that our team at the end of the game was playing as much motion as they were playing at any stage of the game. I thank that play for it being that way.
Q. Generally can you talk about the flow with the defensive line rotation? It looked like you played a lot of people in there. And also, were there people maybe in the secondary that you'd like to work in eventually like Blanton and Gary Gray?
COACH WEIS: Yeah, our intent was to play both those guys a good portion of the game. The way the game went, first of all, I think that Raeshon, for his first legitimate start, I thought had a nice solid game, and I thought Lambert was good, too. As a matter of fact, I thought the secondary as a whole really played well. I thought those safeties, they were all over the place. I was very pleased with how they played.
I think what happened is you want to get guys into the mix, but when you're involved with a bunch of three-and-outs at certain stages, the only time that they were really tired was in the first quarter because that was the only true time of possession quarter where they were out -- I don't remember exactly, but I think they were on the field more than nine minutes in the first quarter, whereas I think we were on the field for more than ten minutes in the fourth quarter. So I think it all depends when those longer possessions take place, but I would have loved to get Gary and R.J. into the mix for sure.
Q. After the game, just reading what we all wrote and getting emails from fans and so forth, there's a lot of disappointment, negativity after an ugly win. How do you as a coach manage that around your team?
COACH WEIS: Well, first of all, I didn't read the paper, so that's a good way of starting. That's an honest answer. I didn't.
Q. The players might have.
COACH WEIS: Maybe they did. I think when they come in tomorrow morning, what we will do is we will break the game into two parts. We will break the game into the pros and we will break the game into cons. Fortunately it's a lot easier to really emphasize the cons after a win than after a loss. In the mentality of a player, after you've sat there and said here's all the good things, here's the things that we didn't do so well, it shows them visual evidence where if they would have done these things better, we wouldn't be having this same conversation.
Q. There was a question to Coach Long, and I'm only prefacing here. He was asked if Cal Poly or Notre Dame was better, and he kind of couldn't answer. He said that was a real tough question. I know that that's not your concern, but how do you keep your players from trying to play all 11 games that are left in a row together and just try to get better? What evidence do you see that this is a team that's going to be a pretty good team?
COACH WEIS: Well, I think that the best thing is after a game like that, the next team on your docket is Michigan. I think that helps, it really does. It helps, because you have a fierce opponent that you have a lot of respect for that you know is going through a little transition themselves, and you know as you step up to the plate right here, we've gotten game 1 under the belt and gotten out of there with that so-called ugly win.
But I watched a couple other ugly wins yesterday with a couple of those other regional teams, and I think that there's a lot for them to learn, like hey, get out of there, let's go and let's take care of the next one. And fortunately the next one is Michigan, which as we know will be a tough opponent.
Q. You obviously put a much more aggressive defense on the field, attacking and dictating the tempo. How do you feel about that after one game in terms of dictating the tempo to the opponent?
COACH WEIS: Well, I think that it made the team -- made them get into a throwing game and a three-step throwing game for most of the game. Like I said, they did make four plays in the pass game, and two of them were shovel passes. But I think for a good portion of the game, when a guy throws the ball 55, 60 times and completes less than half of them, usually something good is going to happen.
Granted, we only got the one sack by Mo, but there were a lot of pressures, a lot of balls tipped. There was a lot of duress right there, and a lot of those pass breakups were caused by pressure on the quarterback. I think it's going to be more of the same.
We'll get better each week at them. We obviously intend to keep bringing them. The one thing that we'll have to continue working on is them going into that three-step mentality and just trying to chop it down and get rid of the ball quick.
Q. You had five freshmen play yesterday, two mainly on special teams. You talked about Michael Floyd. The other two, Kyle Rudolph and Ethan Johnson, your assessment of how they played?
COACH WEIS: Actually I think Darius played like 12 plays on defense, too, I think. I think that was the number when I looked at the stuff from the coaches today.
But I think Kyle held up fairly well for his first game out. He only had one catch, and I guess he had the other ball that was thrown behind him when Jimmy scrambled to the left over there on a 3rd down call. But I think they were the only two balls that went in his direction.
Michael made the big play for the touchdown.
Ethan got into the mix and got his feet wet right there.
And I think Darius did, not only on special teams, but I think he did on defense, too.
Q. How about Harrison Smith and his first performance?
COACH WEIS: I think the linebackers in this game were not put in a position -- with all the passes that were being thrown, they didn't get as many tackles; like Crum and Smith and Harrison weren't nearly as active as total tackles by the end of the game as those secondary guys because there were so many passes being thrown.
But I like the athleticism that Harrison brings to us. I'm very pleased with the athleticism of that group, and I think it's promising.
Q. Mike Anello continues to be just an amazing performer. What sets him apart? What makes him so good?
COACH WEIS: Well, people look at him and don't realize how fast he really runs, and he does it every game. They look at -- especially on punt, they look at Bruton on one side and they look at Anello on the other side, and they say, well, we're going to give attention to one; let's go over to that 27 side, let's not worry about that guy on the other side, both on kickoff and punt. I mean, if he isn't making a play, he's getting held. I mean, he's pesky.
Q. Can you talk about your assessment of the offensive line in both the run game and the pass game?
COACH WEIS: Well, I mean, let's start with the fact that they didn't give you any sacks. I think that that's -- after the high volume that we were dealing with a year ago, I think that's a good place to start.
I think in the run game there was a lot of action up there. Not to make excuses, but you get -- run game stats can be skewed a little bit, as well, because you get the 3rd and 1 runs and you get the end-of-the-game runs, then you get a negative run by a botched field goal snap that goes on the run totals, and at the end of the day if you kind of -- I take all those things out of there and say when it's a regular -- in the field of play game, how did it go, and when you're averaging over four yards a carry in that situation, usually it turns out to be winning football.
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