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UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME MEDIA CONFERENCE
September 14, 2008
Q. Charlie, I guess we'll start with your health. How are you doing?
COACH WEIS: At first, we weren't sure if it was the MCL or ACL or both of them, but it is. It's both the MCL and ACL. The first thing we do is wait about a month for the MCL to tighten up and as of right now from just talking to the doctors a little while ago, I think we might just go without having a surgery in the foreseeable future, if at all, to the ACL. MCL we just let tighten up, and then the ACL, if we need to address it down the road, we'll address it down the road. But I certainly would not do it based off of my conversations with them. I certainly would not do it any time we have a game. If I did it at all, it would be a bye week or after the season, but I certainly wouldn't do it on the week of a game.
Q. The ACL, you probably won't do surgery but the MCL you will have surgery?
COACH WEIS: Well, the MCL you just let tighten up because that's gone. You couldn't do anything on the ACL until the MCL tightened up anyway. I guess I'm learning more about this stuff. I haven't done it myself.
We're not going to be in a rush to do anything other than wear a brace, a stiffer one for the first couple weeks, then a little looser, then a little looser. We'll just move on.
Q. So the ACL might require surgery?
COACH WEIS: Yeah, but we might not do that, either. If I were an athlete they would do the same protocol. They'd have to wait to do the ACL until after the MCL tightened up because you couldn't do one without the other from what they tell me. I'm not a doctor, but as of this point, I don't see me having surgery in the foreseeable future.
Q. Are you still planning to be on the field?
COACH WEIS: Mm-hmm (Yes). I'll probably place myself a little different. I like to try to stay somewhere around the 50-yard line. Certainly on offense, I always try to stay behind the ball, which sometimes I'm ahead of the ball, sometimes I'm behind the ball. And then on defense, I'll probably try to stay behind their offensive group. You never can totally protect yourself, but I'll probably be a little bit more end-to-end conscious and try to stay there in the middle.
Q. Will you have someone defending you?
COACH WEIS: That hasn't worked in the past, but I'll probably -- I'll probably get (strength and conditioning coach) Ruben (Mendoza) or another one of Ruben's guys to look out for me.
Q. How did you deal with John Ryan? He sounded like he was really upset about it.
COACH WEIS: He must have come to me four or five times. I said, John, there's nothing you can do about it. Let's move on. Although several people have gotten some very interesting texts from former players. I know like (Derek) Landri texted Tim (McDonnell) late last night and said, have they revoked his scholarship yet. I think some of the past players are having some fun at John's expense. But he felt bad and he had no reason to feel bad. It wasn't his fault. It happened, it happened. We'll move on.
Q. And have you received any phone calls from anyone?
COACH WEIS: Yeah, it was a busy night between phone calls and texts. All the people you would expect to call, you know, from the Patriots and Andy Reed and Tommy (Brady) and all those other people, they all called. Tommy gave me some advice from first-hand experience. He said for about a week you'll be struggling. After that it gets better.
Q. Were you still able to enjoy the victory? Did it take much out of the victory for you?
COACH WEIS: Well, I think that when we got back here we had a bunch of recruits in, so I hobbled on -- after I finished with press and went and saw the doctors, I got back here to spend a couple minutes with them and got home and probably drove my wife and my son crazy because all I wanted to do was try to get to bed because I knew I had to get in here early today.
I feel fine, I really do. I mean, I'm not being a martyr. I feel fine to tell you the truth. The more I'm on it, the more it hurts. So I'll just try to stay off it as much as I can, and that's it. That's that.
Q. Any thoughts on how it will affect your coaching?
COACH WEIS: Yeah, they didn't hire me for my body, they hired me for my mind. So therefore I think that's a fairly safe one. I don't think it will have any effect at all. The only thing I can see me doing is probably having to sit a little more during practice, so instead of standing behind the defense or standing behind the offense I'll probably sit a little bit more. Most of the time during practice I'm observing and making comments as needed, and I don't see any reason for that to change. It just might be my locale for doing that.
Q. Obviously not your favorite way to send a message, but the fact that you can practice what you preach in terms of sacrifice and being tough and all that?
COACH WEIS: Well, actually when I was laying down there, they wanted me to pop up and get on a cart and go in, and I said, just hold on a second. I had to mentally regroup there for a second because I knew the knee was bad. I said, can you brace this? They said, yeah. I said, well, let's brace it and give me some crutches and let me stand.
What I didn't want to do, I didn't want to be a distraction and be part of any momentum change to the negative side. I felt that if I had gone in, not like, as I said, I'm trying to show my manhood, but more importantly I thought it could possibly hurt our momentum, and I didn't want to risk that.
Q. Yesterday after the game some of the players said specifically they had never seen you like you were before the game. Can you talk about that a little bit, what they meant by that?
COACH WEIS: I've been waiting for a long time to have that conversation before that game. And as you guys know last year after the Michigan game, as I sat there in Ann Arbor and answered all those questions, which was a long press conference, and then the next day we started going to work on trying to change things. We started then, we didn't wait six weeks from then, we didn't wait a year from then, we started then. And I remembered standing there on that sideline humiliated at how things were going, and I said, things are going to change.
I think that the message I wanted to say to them before we went out of the locker room is today is the day you've got to make a change. I'd like to sit there and take the kudos, but it wasn't me, it was the players. But if you're asking me if I was kind of wired up, yeah, I probably was a little wired up.
Q. Ethan Johnson and Darius Fleming seemed to get a lot of snaps yesterday. Can you just talk about what you see from those two guys?
COACH WEIS: They are both very athletic pass rushers, first of all. I think one of the easiest ways to get guys on the field that are young is to take a skill that they're good at and go ahead and use them. But in addition we've got some very quality reps, Darius on special teams. He was pretty good there, too. He was playing with the kickoff team and the punt team and played pretty well. As a matter of fact, as we identify different players from the game on special teams, he's one of the guys that I'm going to call out when I talk to him. I'm happy with the progress of both those guys.
Q. As you look at the first couple of games, there haven't been a lot of sacks, but I guess the teams you've played, you've also dictated how they're going to have to play against you. Is that as satisfying as getting sacks, that they have to play a certain tempo and a certain way?
COACH WEIS: Well, they did have a couple of balls down the field, but most of the balls were all the slip screen, bubble screen, quick-throw variety, so you're basically telling the team when you're bringing the heat that, okay, you're going to throw another three-step drop, that's the way it's going to go, the ball is going to have to come out quickly.
I think that they did have a couple balls down the field, but it kind of eliminates the intermediate to long passing game on a regular basis when you're bringing a bunch of heat.
Q. Do you feel as the head coach, and sometimes you've been outspoken about things like the eating cheeseburgers comment the one time, and it gets blown up into a big soundbyte, do you feel because of recruiting, because of your own players, you have to help shape perceptions about your program?
COACH WEIS: I think that I have to be the spokesperson for the football program. I think that there's -- if anyone has to come to the defense of the football program, it shouldn't be the players that have to do that. It should be me. And sometimes when you say things they don't come across as the most popular. But all you're doing is being honest when you're saying them.
I think that you never should be shunned by saying things when you're saying them in honesty.
Q. In general, given the knee, your heart, your mood, how did you feel when you woke up this morning?
COACH WEIS: I felt emotionally high and physically low. I think that that's a fair answer. The first time you put the foot on the ground, it's a little different after you've been laying in bed for a few hours when you put a foot on the ground, and it was aching a little bit. But I think that the adrenaline from the win definitely overrode the aches and pains from physical stuff, the physical side of it.
Q. Has this Charlie Weis, Tom Brady, Michigan thing finally gone far enough?
COACH WEIS: Tommy Brady is always going to be one of my favorite people for the rest of my life. I don't know what that question means, but if you ask if I'm going to be friends with Tommy for the rest of my life, the answer is yes.
Q. It was a knee reference.
COACH WEIS: Sorry, I'm a little slow on the pickup here today. It must be the extra Tylenols. No, I think that -- I mean, I felt bad for him, and obviously by his phone call, it was reciprocated. That's purely coincidental. But it's kind of ironic at the same time.
Q. Last week you said that something was going to give between your front five and their front seven, and yesterday you knocked down Wood. But what's your offensive line doing that you like?
COACH WEIS: Well, there's two things that really come to mind -- well, three things. First of all, they're playing hard. Okay, it all starts with that. The second week in a row we go without giving up a sack against a team that last year was a fire drill. So that's an awfully big statement.
And number two, going into the fourth quarter, I mean, we're averaging over four yards a carry running the ball against a team that's giving up one yard a carry. So obviously they were slugging it out toe-to-toe with them. And going against a front four like theirs, which is pretty darned good, they're showing that they can play with the big boys.
Q. Have you seen Brian Smith -- what could you have anticipated starting the season Brian Smith based on what you've seen throughout camp in the last number of weeks?
COACH WEIS: Well, when we moved him from outside to inside, it was because we wanted to get him more involved in the play to play -- every play action, but as you noticed, we're not afraid to play him outside because of the game he's playing outside as well as inside because the kid is a play-maker.
Q. When guys are playing the way you want them to, what does that allow you to do from a strategy standpoint? When you don't have to worry about doing the little things right so much in practice, what does that do to game planning?
COACH WEIS: Well, more specifically I think that when the game went the way the game went yesterday, it allows you -- an analogy that I always have learned, a baseball analogy, is "put the bats away." This was a put-the-bats-away game, and make sure that when it's pouring there in the third and fourth quarter, sometimes punting isn't the worst thing you could end up doing if you're playing field position and ball control and the like right there because now you have enough confidence that if you're punting down there your defense is going to stop it.
I think that yesterday, although it was far from perfect and we have many things to correct in all three facets, as I said postgame, I think we played a complementary game where the offense made plays, the defense made plays, special teams made plays, and when all three facets are making plays, you have a good chance of winning.
Q. Can you talk about the play you got from the wide receivers through the first games?
COACH WEIS: Well, I mean, obviously Golden (Tate) had big production again. I think that seeing us now start to stretch the field more than we've been stretching it, whether it be Golden or Michael (Floyd), or David (Grimes) wasn't obviously 100 percent yesterday, but as you've seen us start to stretch the field a little bit more, it eventually will pay positive residual effects in everything else you do, the running game and intermediate passing. Yesterday's plan was one to try to take advantage of them being aggressive and try to go by them. That was what we were trying to do.
Q. You guys scored 28 points off turnovers. How important is it to score after turnovers?
COACH WEIS: Well, I think that we've been very -- it's been well-documented about our slow first-quarter production, slow/low first-quarter production, so coming out touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, that's a good way to start. Even though the field position was great for the first two, I mean, still, you could end up settling for field goals, and then field position and turnovers would have gone for naught.
Q. I think there were ten fumbles in the game between both teams, and you guys had seven of them. Is that just practice or the way the ball bounces or what?
COACH WEIS: We laid the ball on the ground three times. We laid the ball on the ground three times. Fortunately we came up with all three of them. I think us creating six turnovers in the game, some of them is -- some of them is not them dropping the ball, but a lot of them is our play, too. I mean, those two plays in the red zone, that wasn't them dropping the ball, that was stripping a running back that was trying to get extra yardage and that was the free safety coming and making a play down there on the five yard line. There was no weather that was involved in those plays, that was just guys making good plays.
So I think that any time your defense can start ball hawking and come up with three fumbles and a couple interceptions, not even including our call hero Mike Anello making another fumble recovery on special teams, you get six turnovers, that's usually a sign that good things are going to end up happening.
Q. How encouraging is it for you to see your team go from four turnovers last week to forcing six turnovers in this week?
COACH WEIS: Well, I think that, as I said yesterday, the one thing that was on every board in that locker room as they walked in yesterday was ball possession/turnovers. I told them Friday night, I told them Saturday morning, I told them Saturday before they went out, and I felt that any time you have weather in a game like this where there's two top competitive programs, turnovers are usually something else that determine the outcome of the game. Fortunately we were on the long end of that instead of on the short end of that.
Q. Taking the opportunity to score after those turnovers, like you said earlier, it's great for this team. Do you see them continuing to do this sort of thing?
COACH WEIS: Well, probably the thing I was most encouraged about, I'm not really that much different than you guys when it comes to analyzing our team a lot of times. Sometimes we're not that much different. I'm sitting there at last week's game and saying, okay, this fourth quarter is the way we want to play. And when they come out in the first quarter the way they played in the fourth quarter of the first game, now you know that maybe you've got something going here now.
Q. The first two games really defensively have shown what David Bruton and Kyle McCarthy can do at safety. Your thoughts on how well they've been playing so far?
COACH WEIS: I think that the secondary as a whole has played very solid. I thought Raeshon (McNeil) has played solid. Everyone was really concerned with Darrin (Walls) not being here for the semester, what's going to happen now, and I think he's stepped up, too. But those safeties, it's just -- I think Bruton must have been in on 15 tackles yesterday and McCarthy must have been in on double digits again. These guys are very physical tacklers.
I think that yesterday, that's one thing on a negative vein, I think that we didn't tackle that great as a team. I think that No. 2 (Sam McGuffie) made a whole bunch of people miss yesterday. He's shifty and he's fast. But I think that we left some -- we gave up some plays there. But those safeties have played very solid football here for two weeks in a row.
Q. Your coverage on kickoffs and coverage on punts, I think last week you had a 20-yard average field position gain, this week was 15. Can you just talk about what's gone into that?
COACH WEIS: First of all, on the punt team, I think those two gunners, Anello and Bruton, have been -- they're tough to get -- they're making plays. They're getting down there and they're trying to block them, but they're getting down there and they're making plays. And those same two guys are the two leading guys on kickoff. I think David must have had four tackles and Anello must have had three. So the two guys keep on showing up.
Now, as the season goes on, somewhere along the line they're going to try to do something to take those two guys away, and I think somebody has got to be ready to pick up the slack. But they had negative yardage on punt return. Kickoff coverage was very good and field position when that hidden yardage once again was decidedly was in our favor, because I think our average drive start was maybe the 39 and theirs was like the 24. I mean, that's a big difference between turnovers and special teams.
Q. I think when people think "pound it," they think two tight ends, fullback. But based on what you have at receiver, do you feel like this team might be better off trying to pound it three wide?
COACH WEIS: Well, most of the runs we ran yesterday were two wide receivers, and a lot of them were two tight ends and some of them were with (fullback) Asaph (Schwapp), who I thought played a very exceptional game. When you go back and watch that game, with the exception of a couple plays in the second half, Asaph was a man playing amongst boys in that game yesterday. He's probably as good as I've seen him. There were helmets flying, there were guys moving.
Sometimes you think to pound it means that you're going to come out and you're going to run it 15 plays in a row. It's really what's happened at the end of the day. What did we throw it, 21 times in a game? I don't know how many times we ran it, but it was a lot more than 21. And I think that when it's all said and done, what you don't do is just play into the mentality of the team you're going against. They averaged one yard rushing defense, so let's go run it at them ten times in a row.
The whole key is to try to win the game, so when it all evens out, if you look at a culmination of the whole 60 minutes, usually you'll see a lot of straight ahead runs, and that's what pounding is, is straight ahead runs.
Q. You talked about putting the bats away. Was that yesterday what you were doing the second half, just not kind of an Armando Allen type of game plan?
COACH WEIS: He knew that going in, and Coach Haywood had told him prior to that game that if it gets into this inside run slugfest, especially as the weather gets bad, it was going to be more of Robert (Hughes) and James (Aldridge), and that's the way it was going to go. I think that as long as the players know how the game is going to go and that sometimes weather dictates what you're going to end up doing, they're fine.
Q. Their style of offense, can you ever really zero in on that defensively?
COACH WEIS: Well, I mean, I think that we made some very good halftime adjustments because in the second half they only had 43 yards rushing. They averaged, what, 3.8 for the game, but they were two and a half in the second half, 2.5 rushing in the game. Then we got off the field on 3rd down, I think they were 1 of 5 on conversions in the second half, had the ball seven times, and there was a couple three-and-outs and three punts and a couple turnovers.
So I think that our defensive staff did a nice job at halftime. Obviously they shut them out the second half, so I think that they got a better feel by halftime of what they needed to do and pitched a shutout in the second half.
Q. Speaking of 3rd down conversions, how concerned are you with where you are?
COACH WEIS: Well, obviously converting 25 percent isn't what we're looking for. But at the same time, I talked to Michael during the game, and I said that -- especially when it got to be 35 to 17, I said, even if it's 3rd and 9, we don't need to be in shotgun. We don't need to be in shotgun throwing the ball 15 yards down the field. We can throw a three-step drop. If we make it, fine; if not, we'll punt. But what you don't want to do is put something at risk and give them a cheap one at that time right there. That being said, 3rd down conversions will be an area of concentration for the offense this week.
Q. Injuries beyond your own, what can you tell us?
COACH WEIS: Actually we're in pretty good shape. Grimes is back, still tight. Chris (Stewart) got rolled up again during the game. He wanted to go, but I just felt at the time, him hobbled, versus Trevor (Robinson) fresh, I thought it was the better way to go that way. Other than that, we had a couple guys get bumps and bruises. Mo (Crum) was bumped up, Bruton was bumped up, McCarthy was bumped up, but they're all a go.
Q. Having watch (Trevor) Robinson on tape, how did he perform?
COACH WEIS: I'd say not bad for his first game out there. Playing against the big boys in your first opportunity out there, this isn't like he's in some exhibition game against third-stringers here now. He's going against good players. I haven't talked to (assistant head coach for offense/offensive line coach) John (Latina) about it, but I think only the one play that I noticed is that one time they had pressure by the nose tackle that went between the center and the right guard, I'm assuming he was supposed to help on that one. But most of the time you usually didn't notice him out there, which usually means something pretty good. When you don't notice him out there as an offensive lineman, that's usually a good thing, not a bad thing.
Q. Someone asked you last week if there could be a -- if playing Michigan could be a less pressurized environment for you. You didn't feel like that was possible for you. I feel like the guys were a little looser yesterday. Is there something you can attribute that to?
COACH WEIS: I think it was the change in music on Thursday. No, I think that these guys had a quiet confidence that they were going to play well. They're not a boisterous group, but even in practice on Thursday they were loose. A lot of times when you're eating pregame, you can tell -- when they're real quiet, they're usually too uptight. When they're real loud, they're usually too loosey-goosey. You just had a feel that there was a quiet confidence about the group.
Q. Did you know coming in that this was possible, that they were going to play like this?
COACH WEIS: Well, you don't count on six turnovers going into a game, which I think a lot attributed to the score being the way it went. I felt that we had a legitimate chance of winning the game. That's what I did think. I did think we were going to win the game. But the turnovers were really the thing that kind of skewed the outcome when it was all said and done.
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