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UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME MEDIA CONFERENCE
October 4, 2009
Q. Can you kind of take us through what your plans are for the bye week as far as practices and such?
COACH WEIS: Sure. What I'm going to do tomorrow -- well, what we're going to use the next 24 hours for is treat it like the beginning of USC week, today and tomorrow. The one difference will be -- because they don't play this week and have a bye Saturday, as well, the coaching staff will go ahead and do scouting reports today just as if we were playing this Saturday.
And then we'll bring them in -- normally Monday is a player's day off, but we'll bring them in at 4:30 late in the day so we can utilize the time as a coaching staff, and we'll spend an hour going over a scouting report for USC and watching some tape on USC, and then we'll do a half-hour walk-through just to get a preliminary start.
Then on Tuesday and Wednesday, we'll practice both those days with half the day dedicated to USC and half the day dedicated to development. A lot of the front line guys, as a matter of fact, will probably go in halfway through practice after we're done with the USC stuff, and the rest of those guys will go into more of a training camp mentality where we work on offense against defense, just Notre Dame versus Notre Dame in the run game, pass game, one-on-ones, team, so this way we can be getting two things done, both a jump-start on our next opponent, who doesn't have another game before we play them, and development of the backups and down-the-line guys.
Then on Thursday morning, just to finish that up, on Thursday morning, the full team will have an early morning run and lift, and then they will be off from practice Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, so a lot of them can try to get away for a long weekend.
Some of them won't be able to get away because this is obviously not a break week, so classes are still in session. But because they knew the schedule to be the case, I gave them an opportunity to try to work out with their professors, not be able to miss too much from class if they decide to try to go home for a long weekend.
Q. After having watched the film on Manti and evaluation on him, and with that, is there an adjustment for Brian Smith at all going back to middle linebacker?
COACH WEIS: Well, I think that he made significant progress at middle linebacker because he settled in at one position. He didn't go back and forth between the two positions in the game, and I think that Brian actually -- that's the best he's played at middle linebacker this year. I think part of that reason is because he wasn't bouncing back and forth between the two positions.
Q. On Manti?
COACH WEIS: I think that Manti was very, very active in the game, involved in a whole bunch of tackles, and as we discussed last week, you're going to go through some growing pains when he's going to be out there that much. But his speed and athleticism covered for a lot of the things right there, and I thought he was very active and involved in a whole bunch of plays.
Q. Historically there's been teams that have close games like this that end up being special, Ohio State 2002 was one of them, Colorado in 1990; there's also some where the floor kind of falls out. Where do you see in this team that leads you to believe it's going to be Scenario A?
COACH WEIS: Well, if I had to pick two things in particular, I'd have to talk about their heart as a team to start off with. I mean, who can question the team's heart? This team plays with a lot of heart.
That's far from perfect now. There's plenty of flaws in our team, starting from the head coach right on down. There's plenty of flaws. But I'd have to say one thing that goes across the whole party lines, from the coaching staff through the players, I think that there's a lot of heart, and I think that that's really become very confident in the last four games.
Second thing, when you have a quarterback like that, you've got a chance to win every time you play, and that really is the bottom line. The kid is playing at a very, very high level, and everyone knows who's on deck. We don't have to underestimate that we have a top opponent on deck, but the way this quarterback is playing and the way he's acting and the way he's leading the team, the confidence the team has in him, you've got a chance to win every time you play.
Q. Kerry Neal, pretty invisible his first few games, maybe had a couple tackles against Purdue and yesterday looked like a different guy.
COACH WEIS: I thought Kerry Neal had an excellent game. He was active in the backfield, in the backfield all day, and I think that he went right along with the rest of those defensive linemen.
Ethan, that's the most production we've had out of him all year. The defensive line as a whole, I think we had them down earlier for like 24 tackles in a game from the defensive line position, which is a significant upgrade from where we've been in a lot of other games.
But I think Kerry was playing with a very high motor and was very productive in the game.
Q. Could you talk about the play of Golden Tate yesterday and his ability to make plays after the catch?
COACH WEIS: Well, first of all, we asked a lot of Golden in this game, and we'll continue to ask a lot of Golden in Michael's absence. I think that you have a front line player, and you have to try to find ways to get the ball in his hands.
That being said, he was lined up outside, strong outside, weak, in the slot, in the backfield, and made plays from about everywhere he was. But the most important thing is when he had the ball in his hands, he was really, really dangerous.
Now, we will have some fun at his expense coming up shortly in the team meeting. Getting knocked out on the two yard line, first play of the second half, run the reverse first play of the game and not scoring a touchdown, trying to do a triple axel in overtime. So there will be some fun at his expense. But who can argue the production you got out of this kid; he had a great game.
Q. How impressed are you? You talked about him stepping up in Floyd's absence, so how impressed are you at him being able to make a name for himself?
COACH WEIS: I think that Golden is putting himself in that category of -- he's clearly the go-to guy, and he knew that that was going to be the case when Michael went down. But a lot of times when you have a go-to guy, people find a way to take that go-to guy and minimize him, and he has not allowed that to happen.
Q. Yesterday you said that you weren't going to allow yourself to feel bad, so have you allowed yourself to feel bad about some of the other aspects of the game yet?
COACH WEIS: First of all, I'm not going to feel good no matter what you ask me. I'm still not going to feel bad. Okay, that's not happening, so you can't talk me into feeling bad.
But if you ask me if there's a lot of things I'll be critical of today, yeah, there's a whole bunch of them. I've mentioned to you before, and I'll talk a little bit in general, there's so many things that we can fix or we can work on on offense and defense and special teams, it's almost fortunate that you have an extra week because it allows you to spend time on fundamentals.
There's just some fundamental things we have to get better at, and it's true on all three facets of our team. There's not fundamental things that we really have to improve on, and that's going to be one of the emphases of this week.
Q. I assume one of these might be tackling. There were a lot of missed tackles yesterday.
COACH WEIS: Yeah, I have some thoughts on that. We were talking earlier today, and I have some thoughts on how we can improve that. But I'll wait. I wouldn't say we're in a scramble situations on Sundays, but just to get everything graded and watched and evaluated so that by the time the players come in, we really haven't moved to that next step of how you go about addressing several things that happened. But that will certainly be one of the ones that we spend time addressing.
Q. Any word yet, is Armando's ankle as bad as it was originally?
COACH WEIS: No, I really think that Armando could have gone back into the game, but he was starting to be stiff standing on the sideline, and to be honest with you, Robert had it rocking and rolling at the time. If Armando was ready to go back in, I certainly wasn't going to take Robert out when we had momentum with him in there. I think once he got in there and got it going, that wasn't a time to make a switch, even if Armando was as full speed and ready to go.
Q. Were there any other injuries to be concerned about?
COACH WEIS: No, I haven't met with Jim yet. There were a couple bumps and bruises and they always take some preliminary x-rays and stuff like that, but they weren't anticipating anything that I don't know of. If something comes up, I'll try to get it to you -- I'll get it to you by Tuesday.
Q. A lot of dings, so I assume this was a good time to have a bye week?
COACH WEIS: Yeah, I think that what we have to do as a staff, and we decided today, we're going to talk about this on Tuesday, is find out from the front line players which guys are banged up and which guys are injured. In other words, who's got pain and who's got injury, because the guys that are injured, you really want to rest completely.
I can see, for example, this being a big Dayne Crist week and not being a Jimmy Clausen week because I think the more rest I can give that turf toe -- or maybe on the flipside of that, maybe we should give him another turf toe. You know what I'm saying.
I think that the guys that are injured, I think you want to do as much as you can to really give them time to heal, where guys that are banged up you just want to pull off on them physically but not pull off on them mentally.
Q. Are you concerned at all, with a 4 and 1 record, it doesn't seem like Notre Dame is getting a lot of respect. The poll isn't out yet, but it doesn't look like you're going to be ranked. The only time you were 4 and 1 unranked was last season.
COACH WEIS: I think if you look at some of the other teams that are playing and look at how their games have gone, tell me where the difference is. I can go right up to the top ten and work right on down. You tell me what teams that are in there haven't had some trouble in their schedule. I mean, almost everybody has.
So you go right down the list. We've had one loss by four points on the road with 11 seconds to go in the game. So the flipside of it, we're 11 seconds away from being undefeated right now.
I think if you really study the polls, you really have to study which teams that are there and who they played and how they played and what's going on in theirs. If you compare apples to apples, I think that we deserve to be there right with everybody else.
Q. Does 4 and 1 feel any different from last year's 4 and 1? Does it feel any different going into this week at all?
COACH WEIS: I think that I didn't feel the same passion of the team -- the same heart. I'm not saying that we didn't play with heart, but maybe it's because the games have been all decided except for the first one at the end of the game. You know, I was asked in the first question about what differentiates the team, and by me saying heart, I mean this team has got a lot of heart. It's apparent.
You watch these guys and how close they are and how genuinely happy they were for each other, it wasn't just for the guy who made the play -- the first guys running out there were offensive guys. Jimmy Clausen was one of the first guys to the pile right there, and he jumps into Brian Smith's arms, and Brian Smith is on defense. It's fun to watch.
Q. Three straight weeks now Golden had leaps, one into the band, one over Purdue's head. Do you tell him to maybe stay on the ground a little more or do you just let him go?
COACH WEIS: No, he said he wants to go to the Packers (laughter). He said his ultimate goal is to play for the Packers, so he just wants to get ready. (Laughter.)
I don't know exactly how I'll address it today, but sometime here in the next couple days we'll probably talk about the danger of doing that. I think that that's important to do that because -- now, I did go back and watch the play and see how tightly he had protected the football, which was encouraging, because you don't see that happening when it happens, you just see him going airborne. He almost landed on his feet to tell you the truth. I could have just see him land on the feet and walk in. That would have really been legendary on his part. Oh, God, I'm almost glad in hindsight that that didn't happen.
Q. We were talking with the some of the players about the way the last four weeks have gone and whether or not they're shaving some of their life at the end, and Kyle McCarthy said, Well, maybe not to ourselves but maybe to our coaching staff. Your thoughts on that?
COACH WEIS: That's okay, we'll take it. I think that everyone, every Notre Dame fan, is in some agreement with the coaches and the players that we'd much prefer playing in a game where we're winning by multiple touchdowns and it doesn't come down to the end of the game like that.
But the flipside of that is, just as we talked about schedules and where we are, to be sitting at the bye, based off of how the season has gone, to be sitting at the bye 4 and 1, I think that they should feel pretty good about where they are right now.
Q. With the way the last four weeks have gone, obviously you want the break physically for your players. Is it important for them to get a mental break, as well, because of those way those games swung down to the line?
COACH WEIS: I want the physical break for me to tell you the truth. Mentally I think the most important thing is to give them a long weekend. I think that's important. Sometimes we forget that these kids are kids, and they're not able to just be college students like everyone else. Go home for a weekend and hang out with mom and dad and your friends from home.
I think not all of them are going home, but like I know one contingent is going to one city, they're going to the one kid's high school game, and I said, Yeah, that will go over really well. I said, make sure you bring your Sharpie with you. He goes, no, they said they're going to protect us. I said, yeah, right, they're going to protect you; you'll sit there with a Sharpie the whole time signing stuff. But I think they're really looking forward to just having a little break away from school.
Q. What do you plan on doing next Saturday?
COACH WEIS: I'll be recruiting.
COACH WEIS: What we did with Duval, ever since he's had that knee at this beginning of the year it's been a little sore, so we decided in this game that we were going to use him just as a blocker and wildcat only, and we didn't use wildcat but a few snaps in the game, except for the flea flicker that we had Robby in there for, we were just going to use him at blocker and wildcat and try to get him to the bye where he'd get now a whole 'nother week of rest so that we can get him for the long haul, for the seven in a row you've got dialed up next.
COACH WEIS: I think that the one thing we talked about as a staff is some of that -- I wouldn't say just confusion, but they lined up in empty, and we have standard empty checks to go to, and I think they need to do a better job of communicating on their empty checks. That will be one of the things that we put a point of emphasis on this week.
COACH WEIS: Well, see, that call, just so you understand, there is a call roughing the snapper, but I believe that that call was in error. Roughing the snapper is when you put a guy over the center, over his head -- it's trying to protect the center so the center doesn't get killed. If you line up over his head and run right through him, that is a call.
I think if you go back and watch that play, at least from the multiple times I watched it this morning, Ian got called for it, and Ian was on his left shoulder, on the center's right shoulder, but he was on the defensive left side trying to penetrate into that A gap, and it didn't look to me at all like he was trying to go through the guy's helmet.
Q. I think most people on the outside would have figured that because of the trouble that Washington had against the run that you would have used a lot of wildcat yesterday. From an Xs and Os standpoint, what prevented you from doing that?
COACH WEIS: They had a couple of alignments early in the game where they had a defensive lineman in a position where our guys -- not where they weren't blockable; our guys didn't adjust very well to where the defensive linemen were. So rather than spend much time going to that adjustment, we just went to another package.
I like to try to move forward. If something looks like it's going to take us too much time within a game to fix, I'd rather fix it for the next game and not spend any more time with it then and go on to the next thing.
It's very easily fixable, but it would have taken a considerable amount of time on the sideline to get that done.
Q. Because your guys just don't have as much experience running that as they do a lot of other things?
COACH WEIS: Well, it was because of which people they had where, and it would have been -- see, in wildcat you have to block spots, not people. Usually linemen are used to blocking linemen, and tight ends are used to blocking backers at different things. It would have caused a little bit too much time and created too many "yeah, buts" on the sideline. So when I have something that I think will take too much time to fix, I'd rather wait for another day and fix it at that time.
Q. Every coach would like to have depth, and a lot of times people look at depth as just bodies at a position. But you lose a starting quarterback for most of last week, you have a kid that comes in and is productive, you lose Armando Allen, Robert Hughes, you lose Michael Floyd, some other people, Shaquille Evans steps up --
COACH WEIS: We got six catches out of Robby and Shaq together, which really is a --
Q. You lose Fleming, Kerry Neal steps up. Are you seeing now the real fruits of your efforts to truly develop some depth?
COACH WEIS: Well, that's where we've been trying to get to. We've been trying to get to when a guy goes out, the guy you put in is not going to be a big dropoff in performance. That's where we've been trying to get to. I think we're at the stage now where we can put some guys in and not be afraid for them to play.
I think sometimes you're putting a guy in before they're really ready, but I think at the end of the day, I think that we're getting a lot closer to being able to play more guys and stay fresher, and when you get to that point, then you've really got something special going on.
Q. Because you had some new names in starring roles, did somebody different get a chance to sing the fight song after the game?
COACH WEIS: I'm glad you asked that question. I'm delighted you asked that question. As a matter of fact, I would like to have given you that question to give me. But actually Randy Hart sang the fight song. I gave Randy Hart the game ball. Trust me, I'll award a lot of players today privately, but I think any time a guy has been in a place for 21 years and put his blood, sweat and tears into a place and then leaves, okay, I thought that he'd be the perfect person. There were too many people to single out in that locker room, but I couldn't think of a person I'd rather let do it.
He actually knew the words. I was very proud of him. At least he knew how to go one-two, one-two-three-four. He knew that part, even if he fudged it the rest of the time. He was up on that stool and he had that ball in his arm, and he was like a proud papa.
Q. Robert Blanton came in here last year with so much bravado and confidence, and his body language, at least from my perspective, isn't showing that right now. Has he lost a little bit of swagger and confidence in his ability to make some plays?
COACH WEIS: He gave up a couple plays yesterday, but the one thing he was -- for most of the night, okay, he was in the right place at the right time. It's just that I think he has to do a better job of contending on plays, because there were a couple times like that long one up their sideline, that he's in the right place at the right time, just got to go contend on the play.
I have a lot of confidence in R.J. He's not the type of guy who gets completely rattled. He feels bad when something like that happens, but fortunately he's a short-term memory guy, so I think he'll bounce right back from that.
Q. I know there was a question about injuries, and you said you won't know, but Anthony McDonald, on the opening play of the game, he seemed a little bit loopy; he went to the wrong sideline.
COACH WEIS: It was worse than that. Did you watch? He gets hit and he starts running the other way. He gets up off the ground -- you know that old thing, he's going the wrong way? That was him. He was actually running the opposite way from where everyone else was going.
I'm yelling for a trainer. I'm not even watching the kickoff now because I see him dazed and confused. I'm almost wanting to go out on the field myself because I'm yelling for the trainers, because you knew this is a guy who was knocked down on his feet at the time. He starts that way, then he starts running to their bench. I'm just yelling for the trainers to get over to him because obviously he was a little loopy. I know it was a concussion, I just don't know the severity of it.
Q. Did they have a player whose assignment yesterday was --
COACH WEIS: Yeah, they had a guy that they short-set the three, but that's something that we know going in, that's one of the things they do on their kickoff. They have six guys up front, most guys have five guys up front, and usually they pick a number of a guy that they short-set. It's just unfortunate for Anthony, and then later Bobby Burger got in that same spot and they went after him, too. Unfortunately for him he was the chosen one.
Q. You talked a little bit about moving Golden around. Can you just talk about when he was in the backfield motioning out, the pressure that that puts on them?
COACH WEIS: Well, you come out in a set, whether it's a slot set or a pro set -- in other words, where there's one receiver on both sides or two on one side, and now he can motion. Where is he going to motion to? Okay, is he going to be No. 1, 2 or 3 to the right, is he going to be No. 1, 2 or 3 to the left? It really kind of -- unless you just say double 23, which in the past I've worked with some guys that say double -- wherever he goes, double him, that's pretty tough to do when you could be in any one of those positions to either side. Really that's what we're trying to do as a coaching staff is trying to find ways to try to avoid that as much as possible.
Q. The fade to Rudolph, he spins around, still locates the ball.
COACH WEIS: That's high school basketball. That was hoops. Actually he told me -- he kind of felt like he owed that one to me after falling down on the first fade route that we threw to him. He gets tangled up with the corner on the first one we threw to him, and he comes back to me looking like -- I said, don't tell me about getting tripped. I go, you're 6'7", he's 5'3". Don't tell me about that.
I think after he came off the next time, he didn't say one word to me, he just gave me that big smirk, like, there you go, big boy.
Q. What are the parallels between Washington and USC? How much when you evaluate this game do you look at it from the perspective of, well, this would work against them, this is something we absolutely have to improve against USC? How much is that in your mind?
COACH WEIS: It's significant, but unfortunately it's significant both ways. It's not just like what we could use, it's also what they could use. So if they're sitting there watching something that really exploited us, they're doing the same thing we're doing. They're taking that game, because there is -- there are very similar offensive schemes and defensive schemes there, and saying, okay, Washington did this against them, that hurt them; Washington did that against them, that hurt them. So they're doing the same thing. So both teams will be able to gain information from that game.
Q. Do you think that's kind of a neutral net overall in terms of the benefit you get out of that?
COACH WEIS: Yeah, I think it's a wash because I think both teams get to gain from that.
Q. Drawing back to your NFL experience, you've got two weeks before a big game like the heavyweight game of the year. Maybe psychologically or even just itinerary, are you drawing from Super Bowl preparation on how you handle the next two weeks?
COACH WEIS: I understand the question, but I think that I have so many things that I have to worry about -- college coach is a lot different than a pro coach in the fact that there's a lot of other factors that factor into these kids' lives. In pros you get them the whole time. There's no class to go to. There's no go home to see mom and dad. I mean, they don't have that.
In the pros you have that whole week to actually do -- as if you were playing that week. Here part of my job is to make sure that they get that mental break. Part of that job is to get some of those guys physically healed up. So there's a number of different factors that I have to deal with now that we didn't deal with then.
Will we definitely get a jump start on USC? Yes. Will we get an extra day the following week? Yes. So there are some things that you'll be able to do more getting ready, but it's going to take us that extra time. We're going against one of the best teams in the country, so we're going to need that extra time.
Q. You said about the game ball there were so many people who made so many plays. When you look back at the tape, was there a signature play for you that defined the team's heart yesterday?
COACH WEIS: I think you'd have to call the double goal-line stand -- there were two different goal-line stands, but the back-to-backers with Ian's penalty in there, how could I not pick that as the key moment of the game? They go in and score there, you're down two scores, we're in some serious trouble. But they stop them, and now it's a one-score game.
Everyone in the park felt that we were going to go down and score. Our sideline felt we were going to score. I'm sure you guys upstairs probably felt it, too.
Being a one-score game and a two-score game really goes back to that double goal-line stand.
Q. A lot more passes you got between the hash marks yesterday. What was going on that allowed you guys to do that as much?
COACH WEIS: First of all, it was a slippery field, so as you noticed Jimmy fell down two or three times, really just stepping up. The field got very slick. So usually when the field gets very slick, you try to play the game inside as much as you possibly can. That's why Robert Hughes' playing yesterday came at a good time because you wanted more north and south runs in the running game just like you want to try to attack them in the middle of the field in the passing game.
Q. Can you talk about the lateral to Armando? Was that supposed to be a backward pass?
COACH WEIS: No, that pass was a -- the quarterback has two options; throw it to the tight end or throw a swing pass to Armando. And what happened is that as Armando was getting around -- they covered the tight end. They locked on to the tight end, so he wasn't there. So when he turned to throw to Armando, he expected Armando to be outside already, but he was getting bumped or grabbed by the defensive end, who the tackle was simultaneously trying to block. He was trying to block him at the same time. So Armando was trying to get around Duncan's block to get to the spot so he could dump the ball over there. It was definitely a lateral and it was a mistake by us, and they picked it up and ran for a score, and that's one on us.
Q. The two-point conversion, after seeing it, are you surprised they didn't review that?
COACH WEIS: I've heard about the TV copy, but from the coaches' copy, you can't see that. I mean, in the coaches' copy, you see a knee go down, but you have no idea whether or not he's across the line, from the sideline or end zone, because I watched it repeated times.
It wasn't until after I saw Brian later on, or somebody said that they said something somewhere that I knew it was an issue to tell you the truth.
Hey, there's challenges. That's what challenges are for. You want them -- both teams had challenges available. You can challenge a call if you think the call is wrong.
Q. One more on Manti. Watching his reaction to big plays is almost as exciting as the big play itself. What is his personality like? He seems so much older out there, just even with his reactions.
COACH WEIS: Not to get into ethnicity, but he reminds me of Junior Seau. I told him that during the recruiting process. I got to be fairly close with Junior during his days in the NFL, stemming back from our relationship really started in the Pro Bowl in 1998, but he plays -- he reminds me, he's like a clone of Junior Seau. If you remember anything about Junior Seau and how he played, that's the same type of enthusiasm that Manti plays the game with.
End of FastScripts