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UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 2, 2008
THE MODERATOR: We'll get started with questions here for Coach Weis.
Q. Charlie, I know it's their day off, but how does it look injury-wise with some of the offensive line?
COACH WEIS: Chris (Stewart) doesn't look very good. His knee locked out on the way out to the field. I forget who asked me the question. His knee just locked on the way to the field. So he's got to get tested. If he does get tested, he'll get scoped. If he did get scoped, it will probably be four weeks.
Trevor (Robinson) is fine. As a matter of fact, I think that's the only offensive lineman that they thought missed time. But he could be a while if it turns out he needs to be scoped.
Q. (Eric) Olsen is okay?
COACH WEIS: Yeah, Olsen is fine. Well, his ankle, but he's fine to go for tomorrow, so...
Q. Brian emailed us a little bit and said our viewing time is going to be different; there might be a difference in practice schedule. What do you do different this week?
COACH WEIS: After any game, I never sleep very well at night. But after a game like that, I certainly didn't sleep very well. It was about one or two o'clock, I was rolling around. After you've already revisited every play in the game for a while, now you have to think, 'Okay, what can I do to shock their system, not be in that rut of just doing the same thing you do every day?'
So I came up with a schedule for this week, which really more than anything else more affects Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday it starts to settle back in again. But we're doing things different for the next couple days because I think that if I just let them go into their normal routine, I could set it up for them taking a little bit longer to get out of the tank.
As I told you yesterday, my biggest concern was working on the psyche. So tomorrow morning what we'll do is I'll meet with them early at 6:00. The first thing they're going to do is go in and lift and run. Usually that's the area where the camaraderie comes out the best, when they're all pumping iron and running. It kind of gets things out of their system and gets them moving forward.
To do that, to compensate for that, then I had to pull back in the afternoon, because you only get four hours in the day. So we use an hour and a half in the morning. I had to pull back in the afternoon physically and make the afternoon more mentally.
What we haven't done is spend a lot of time on first and second down of our opponent on Mondays. It's been just scouting report and special teams. But tomorrow we will do first and second down. We will do all the meetings for first and second down for Boston College tomorrow afternoon. Therefore, I don't need as much meeting time on Tuesday when they come in at 2:30. I need some time for them to get ready for the special teams, but other than that it allows us on Tuesday to get out there earlier and get on the field earlier and get going earlier.
So what I'm really trying to do more than anything else is shock their system, you know, get them out of a rut. I had to come up with a plan to make sure that it wasn't just business as usual.
Q. What is still out there for this team? As a head coach, what could their ceiling be as far as what they can accomplish this season?
COACH WEIS: Well, let's start with beating Boston College on the road. That would be a good place to start. There's a lot of similarities. They just lost a tough game at home against Clemson. They're sitting with the same record. We're basically in the same boat right now as far as where we are stat-wise as far as the end of the year.
I think you can't even worry about Navy and Syracuse and USC. You can't even worry about those guys until after you've worried about Boston College.
My biggest job is really the next 48 hours more than it is the next four weeks because the mode for this week is going to be set on Monday and Tuesday. I can't be worrying about the whole rest of the year right now.
Q. I'm sure a lot of people are concerned about Brandon's (Walker) psyche. But what about Jimmy (Clausen)? He's a guy that would seem like he's really hard on himself, a perfectionist. How do you deal with him?
COACH WEIS: Well, I have a good cop/bad cop situation set up for tomorrow. I happen to be the bad cop. So tomorrow at 1:00, Jimmy will come in and visit with me. I'll go through every play in the game that I have something critical to say about. Now, some of those plays end up being good plays, but that doesn't mean I don't have something critical to say about them. I'll truly be the bad cop.
Then shortly thereafter, when they start going into offensive meeting, Ron (Powlus) gets him. Then Ron gets to be the good cop and show him all the good things that happened in the game.
I think it's important to point out both of them. It's always better to end with the good stuff rather than start with the good stuff so that you have a good taste in your mouth.
Q. Obviously you've given a lot of attention to the whole psyche thing. Obviously they were disappointed after the game last night. I mean, did you sense from them that that was something that you had to immediately address? Is that because it's a relatively young football team and you're concerned about which way it can go?
COACH WEIS: I think the answer to both of those are yes and yes. I think that I felt that I immediately had to address it because this is the second time in a month's time frame where you're dealing with a similar situation. And this one was even worse, you're talking about a four-overtime game.
There's 50 plays in a game (where) you could say, 'If he would have done this, if he would have done this, if we would have done that, it's the difference between winning and losing, one play.' So I felt it was important to do that.
I think that changing the schedule, to just piggyback on that, is important, too. I didn't allow them just to come in and be in a rut. I think that was important.
Secondly, with the high volume of relatively young players, especially first- and second-year guys, I think you can't let them sit there and take the blame. You have to make them accountable now, okay? They're essential going to be held accountable. At the same time you don't want any one person feeling that they're solely responsible for the outcome of the game because it's a collective effort.
Q. The inability to close games out, it's happened twice. I know you're not calling plays, but you and Mike, do you have to become more aggressive and keep the foot on the pedal a little bit more to make sure you do close it out?
COACH WEIS: We evaluated that today. I went and had a long conversation with the offensive staff. I think the most important thing, first of all, is see what exactly happened. Like we start off the first play of the second half with a very, very advantageous front to the play we had called. The play didn't work out. It was a play that it looked like it should go for a bunch of yards. Then on the very next play, we have a guy miss a sight adjust. You'll see one guy running down the field and the quarterback throwing the sight adjust.
So when you start off the first two plays with an advantageous look, the guy missing a sight adjust, that's just not good football. That's not play calling. Hey, we made plenty of play calls that you'd like to have back in the game - just not those. There's one play that they got us on, which was the next drive, the first play after the turnover in plus territory where we're running a stretch play to the left-hand side, and they blitz the Sam linebacker. Because we had the outside guy in motion, couldn't move the inside guy in motion to go ahead and pick that up. Other than that, what ended up happening is the first two drives the second half, you start with a negative run on the first play, which puts it in a disadvantageous situation.
You have to remember now, the game gets to 17-17 after a couple drives. They proceeded to go on a 75-yard drive, going right down the field to go ahead and take the lead with five minutes and change in the game. So I think that they regained their composure and got back on top.
Probably the most disappointing thing after that wasn't the very end of the game; it was not scoring a touchdown in overtime. That's the most disappointing.
Q. How do you teach killer instinct? For example, how did the Patriots learn a killer instinct?
COACH WEIS: By starting to win a couple of close games. Because once you start winning close games, every time you go out there you're expecting something good to happen at the end of the game instead of something bad to happen at the end of the game.
I do not believe our guys are expecting something bad to happen because these guys are fighting till the end of the game now. You saw both teams going after it right to the very end of the game. They ended up being happy and we ended up not being happy.
I think the first thing that's going to happen, especially for a relatively young team, something good has to happen, you have to win a couple of these close games, and I think your momentum grows from there.
Q. In your three losses in the second half, you've been outscored 54-21 in the third and fourth quarter. Are you losing the line of scrimmage or are you getting out-schemed in the second half in those instances?
COACH WEIS: We're making a few mistakes. Every once in a while the defense wins. We're making a few mistakes that we shouldn't be making. They aren't new things. It would be one thing if they're new things. But we're making some mistakes.
One of the things we already talked about is not necessarily cutting back on what we do but going to things that we do the best and just doing them more and seeing if we can't settle into some things so that mentally we don't make a mistake that costs us on the field.
Q. Two or three players yesterday said they think the team was thinking they had the game won going into halftime. How do you prevent them from thinking that or having that mindset?
COACH WEIS: Well, I didn't hear who said that. I don't know who said that.
Q. Golden was one of them.
COACH WEIS: Well, that doesn't surprise me. That's why you ask for him every week.
Let's just say that I'll have a talk with Golden and he won't be saying that any more. He seems to be the team spokesman for two weeks in a row now, just like Michael Floyd was trying to lateral the ball in the North Carolina game. By the way, I checked with Mike on that. It wasn't the case.
But I think that maybe because he was one of the guys making a mental mistake. Maybe that's where that answer came from. I don't say names but if we go back and review the bidding on the second play, when we're throwing the sight adjust to a guy who's running a go, we're throwing a ball out there, there's just nobody there. So maybe the next question you should ask him when you talk to him is, 'Did you see that weak corner coming, the guy who was lined up right over your face?' Maybe that would be a better question (laughter).
Q. But he wasn't the only one. A couple other players said they thought the team may have thought they had it won.
COACH WEIS: I'd like to know if they were some of the guys making the other mental mistakes. That's all I'm saying.
I didn't feel that way. I listened to Tim's question. I understand the same thing you're saying. What's happening in the third quarter? But we didn't ask this question last week when we scored two touchdowns and a field goal.
In the first three drives of the second half last week they came out and executed very well. Sometimes it comes down to play calling. Sometimes it comes down to execution.
Q. I know you talked about trying to get the team out of the tank. That's obviously a big job this week. Without trying to scapegoat, do you ever think about from a personnel standpoint elevating somebody so they can have a spark? Not the quarterback, but the equivalent of a goalie, maybe Barry Gallup?
COACH WEIS: I think there will be some players, frontline players, that will definitely be being challenged this week. Not getting into particulars. They'll know who they are tomorrow. If they don't know right now, which they should, they will certainly know tomorrow.
Q. Is there any status update on John Ryan?
COACH WEIS: He's able to go. Just, you know, since he's come back, the guys in front of him have been playing better than him.
Q. You talked about the fourth and one at the end of regulation yesterday.
COACH WEIS: We had a big conversation on that. Called a play-action pass. Actually, we were trying to score. Normally in that situation they bring everybody up close to the line of scrimmage to try to stop you. In that case, when we sent Duval over in motion, the corner didn't run over with him. It kind of looked on tape like maybe he thought he was supposed to run over with him, but he stopped, which now left us -- when he stopped, it kind of left us one man too much on defense right there. So Jimmy just tried to run for the first down. There was no sense throwing the ball at that time.
Q. Jimmy said he saw that, too. You were out of timeouts. Is that a situation where he doesn't have the ability to audible?
COACH WEIS: It was too late to audible at that time, when you already sent the guy across the field. The guy, I believe he was probably supposed to run across the field, but he didn't. Once he didn't, I have a couple choice words because you're sitting there watching it. Sort of like, 'Oh, no.' I might have said, 'Oh, no,' but just a little different way, okay?
Q. How about the timeout, burning two timeouts?
COACH WEIS: He (Jimmy Clausen) didn't feel comfortable when we were coming out of it that we had the play exactly the right way. I explained to him that we have another timeout. If there's any problem right here, just go ahead and burn it.
We were already prepared if there was anything that was a problem. Another problem occurred after that problem. Now you didn't have any left.
Q. R.J. (Robert Blanton) played pretty much the whole overtime. Any reason you saw to put him in there instead of (Terrail) Lambert?
COACH WEIS: He did a fairly decent job in covering most of the day. A couple tackles he would have liked to have done better. But he's not afraid to be out there. He's one of the guys we were talking about where you could see Blanton playing more. I could definitely see Blanton playing more.
Q. How about Brian Smith, he didn't start the game, but came in early.
COACH WEIS: (David) Grimes didn't start the game either. A couple of those guys missed some time earlier in the week. They knew we weren't going to start them in the game; we would get them in there as quickly as we could.
Q. Does becoming Bowl eligible affect them at all? Is it something they've been talking about?
COACH WEIS: I don't talk about it. I'm sure they think about it. They're smart kids. It's not a subject that I spend time addressing very often. But they know the numbers. They know where they are right now.
Without us spending much time talking about it, because it's sort of like Eric's question before, where could you end up being at the end of the year? Obviously what they want to do is they want to win the rest. They want to be sitting at 9-3. That's where they want to be.
Q. So as a coach, how do you take the pressure off them, keep those types of things out of their mind, keep them focused on the next task at hand?
COACH WEIS: I think we started yesterday. Before I even got off the field, I already started, because I started with Brandon (Walker). The kid is taking personal responsibility. Now, would I want him to make the 38-yard field goal? Yes, I would. But the kid had already made four, which was one of the reasons we were still in that position. I wanted him to know that I could give him a whole list of things that could have been the difference between us winning and losing, and that just happened to be one play.
When we got into the locker room, it was more of that type of thought methodology where everyone, coaches and players, have to own up to things that they could have done better, which might have made a difference.
Q. Is the way the game played out, do you think they took this loss as the toughest of the season?
COACH WEIS: I think it was a toss-up with North Carolina. I think it was very similar. You went on the road, thought you had them, then you didn't have them. You had a chance at the end, then you didn't. But the fact that the game went four overtimes, you could win or lose -- any of those could have ended it right there. Remember, we were already into the two-point discussion, too. By the time you get to the third overtime, even though neither team scored a touchdown, now you're going for two now on the third overtime. That's a discussion we had both on offense and defense, if that situation presented itself.
Q. How much different is the process of getting over this loss as opposed to UNC, where now you have to turn it around quick and get focused on Boston College?
COACH WEIS: That's why I'm doing what I'm doing. I'll reiterate it. Not one of my themes with the players, but internally I'm trying to shock the system. I think if you just go status quo, do the same things you do every day in a normal week, it might be Wednesday before you get them back. Tuesday, once they get out on the field, start running around pretty good, usually they get it out of their system. I can't afford to waste Tuesday. That's why Monday we're going to put in the first down scouting report so that Tuesday, you know, it's going to be an important day. It's not going to be the second time around. I mean, it's not going to be the first time around like a normal week, it's going to be the second time around already.
Q. Was there a shocking of the system after UNC?
COACH WEIS: Yes, but there was time. We spent three days working on fundamentals and techniques. We had Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday without a game coming that week. Then we had a day where we worked on special teams. We had plenty of time to go through this transition.
This time we don't have that time. We don't have time to psychologically rebound. That's why you're forced to do some things a little different so you just don't fall into that rut.
Q. The inability to close out games, did you attribute it to this team being young?
COACH WEIS: I'm not making any excuses. You can attribute it to a lot of things. There's a whole bunch of things that happened in the third and fourth quarters of the game pro and con. I could give you a whole litany of things that happened.
I think "young" is not the word. I think the more experience you have, the easier it comes to be prepared for those situations.
Q. I think most people would look at a team that struggles to close out games, that being an inability to run the ball as well as you would like. How much correlation do you think there is there? Would that potentially be a solution?
COACH WEIS: Actually I thought in the overtimes we had a bunch of good runs. As a matter of fact, we had Armando having those three or four in a row that got us down to the four yard line. That's probably one of the only times I whined the whole game because I thought there was a facemask at the end of that, which would have gotten you first and goal instead of second and four. That changes the whole complexion of that situation right there. Now you're at the four yard line. If they call that a facemask, you're on the two yard line, it's first and goal, you have James (Aldridge) in there hammering away trying to run the ball into the end zone.
But it was three or four stretch plays in a row where Armando went from the 25 down to the four yard line. We were sitting there in pretty decent shape. There were a few nice runs in there, too.
Q. You mentioned in some ways you see a lot of the same things. As a coach, is it more frustrating when the same mistakes keep popping up or is it more frustrating when it's a different thing every week?
COACH WEIS: I think error repeaters bother you. By "error repeaters" I mean there's errors addressed both during the week and after a game when it happens. You go through and walk through mistakes from a game. You make sure you present those things during the week. Even if the other team doesn't do those things, you still present them to make sure you got them solved. When they present themselves again in the game, that is frustrating.
Q. We spend a lot of time asking you about the offense, Jimmy, the receivers. Defensively how do you evaluate the way the guys played throughout the course of yesterday?
COACH WEIS: First of all, in the first half, I think they gave up about, what, 70 yards. They got three turnovers in the game. Third down they gave up less than 30% conversions. They handled the blocked punt situation, which we call sudden change. You couldn't have handled it much better when they went out there because they didn't give them a sniff and held them to a field goal. The safeties had a whole bunch of tackles. Raeshon (McNeil) had a couple picks. Ian (Williams) was pretty active.
I can give you a whole list. I know I'm going not in sequence right there, but there's a whole bunch of things you're talking about right there that are good things that happened.
The bottom line is, we gave up too many rushing yards in the second half and probably didn't tackle the best. We had five penalties on offense, we only had one penalty on defense, and it was a relatively critical one.
That's basically the synopsis.
THE MODERATOR: That's all the time we have today. Thank you.
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