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UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 8, 2009
Q. As far as injuries, how is Kyle doing?
COACH WEIS: Don't have anything yet because I'm meeting with him at 1:30. The only thing I did know on Rudy is they referred to they broke his collarbone as I said last night, and that came back negative. He went out and walked out of the locker room with a sling, but I don't know what the status of that is yet. Other than that, I don't know of anyone that had any form of injury worth really noting.
Q. Jimmy --
COACH WEIS: He was a little silly, knocked silly down there on the 1-yard line. But at the end of the day, after everything cleared, he just had a bruised left hand. So that was -- a couple minutes later after he took a couple snaps, we deemed that fine and ready to go. But we think he'll be a little bit of a sore puppy, but I don't think he'll be alone. I think there will be a few other people in that sore category, but I think he'll be fine.
Q. Would you talk about the red zone production? It's been a problem off and on during the season. Anything you can put a finger on?
COACH WEIS: Yeah, this wasn't a normal set of circumstances because we get down there -- first of all, we hardly ever turn the ball over. So Jimmy has got the ball 1st and goal on the 10-yard line, he scrambles to the left, and he's on the 1-yard line trying to make a play. I can understand trying to make a play, but I'm always big on taking care of him and not taking a vicious blow like he took. So not only does he take a vicious blow, but he turns the ball over at the same time.
We were going to throw a pass down to Michael, we were throwing a slant down to him on the right inside the 5-yard line where he's coming, and Jimmy throws a perfect throw, and he just missed a signal on the play and he thought it was a different play, and he was actually going to block the corner on the play. We've got pretty simple signals, so I don't -- he just missed it on that one.
But there's two of your stops. We were down there six times, two touchdowns and came up four times empty handed, and that was two of them. 4th down, we had a play that we had designed for that specific situation if it presented itself, and it did, and they went on that one. And then the other one we missed a field goal.
It all depends, when you critically analyze every opportunity down there, it wasn't the same as just coming out there calling plays and schematically being beat on plays. We just laid an egg on a couple of those opportunities.
Q. I don't know whether you saw any comments from players after the game, but one of the comments was they just out-schemed us and I think they just played harder.
COACH WEIS: Well, I didn't read anything as you would imagine, but I did hear quite contrasting answers to the same question. I think that question was presented to Ian, it was also presented to Kyle McCarthy, and from what I understand, Kyle McCarthy's answer was quite different, where he said it had nothing to do with the scheme. So there's a reason why one guy is a captain and one guy is not.
Q. You talked a little bit last night about you know you're going to be criticized for a loss like that. Did you get any feedback last night from the fans, or did you hear anything? And what do you say to those fans?
COACH WEIS: No, I didn't talk to any fans, and I didn't --
Q. I meant if you heard anything.
COACH WEIS: No, the only two fans I dealt with last night live in my house. They're the two fans, my two biggest fans. Trust me, they're a lot worse than the rest of them. But they were the only two fans I was really concerned about when I went home last night.
Q. Kind of off topic, has your team received a swine flu vaccination?
COACH WEIS: You know, I know the swine flu vaccine was coming through in October. We had flu shots. I don't know if it was the swine flu shot or not, but I do know when they were coming to campus, that was one of the things that I think was going to be campus wide, but I don't know if that matriculated. I didn't get one.
Q. It would have been something available to students?
COACH WEIS: I think it would be campus wide. Somebody commented it was going to be campus wide, but I don't know if that happened or didn't happen.
Q. If you can comment on Dayne Crist, how did his surgery go on Friday?
COACH WEIS: It went very, very well, better than we would have expected. Usually when you get an ACL there's a lot of residual damage along with that, and it was as clean as could be. There was no cartilage, no other ligaments, no bone. So it was kind of a freak pop, just a little pop of the ACL. It only took about an hour to fix, and the prognosis is very good, probably a time frame faster than we normally would have expected based off of how little damage there was. Now, there's never little damage when you have a torn ACL, but in the grand scheme of things they were very happy when they went in there.
Friday night I went over after our team meetings. I got a ride from the hotel over to the health center to visit with him, and he was in really good spirits. And I think that part of those good spirits might have been the drugs, but the other part of the good spirits might have been how positive they were about how the surgery went.
Q. I know you're in the catch-up mode almost from the beginning, and Riddick only got five touches or five carries, but what have you seen from him the last two weeks and is he on a fast track to getting more time?
COACH WEIS: It's tough to ignore what he does with the ball in his hands. It's tough to ignore it. He's not just making, shaking or baking, making people miss; he's running with power for a guy his size, and he's elusive and he's playing with toughness. I think you're going to see a lot more of him.
Q. Jimmy's toe situation, is that part of the reason why you don't want him under center all the time?
COACH WEIS: That's one of the reasons why we're running the ball in play action a lot more from shotgun is to minimize the times he ends up having to be just under center. So that's part of the answer, yes.
Q. I know you said that all losses are tough and you try to treat them all the same and move on, but considering it is a loss to Navy and the players don't expect to lose to Navy and considering the struggle that you had in November last year, do you feel like you're kind of at a crossroads here with the players and you really need to tend to them to make sure it doesn't happen again?
COACH WEIS: Well, this is different than the other two losses we had this year. The Michigan loss was a disheartening loss where all three facets of our team had a chance to ice the game at the end of the game. The offense had a team, punt team had a chance and the defense had a chance, and we gave up a touchdown with 11 seconds to go in the game.
The USC game was a game we were down 20 points in the fourth quarter and they battled back and we were shooting at the end zone, firing at the end zone there at the end of the game, so that was a disheartening loss.
This loss was a little different because I think that the whole theme this week is going to be about accountability, accountability and dependability, because in that game yesterday, there are just too many opportunities squandered offensively in the red zone, turning the ball over three times. We don't turn the ball over three times. That's not us.
In the past you might have had a game where the quarterback threw three interceptions, but he's had three interceptions this year and two of them bounced off our offensive players, so that's not him anymore.
And defensively going into the game, our two biggest concerns, our two biggest concerns were making sure we tackled the fullback and not giving up a play action shot. And unfortunately they came to fruition. The fullback runs 14 times for 158 yards, three big ones, including a touchdown and a field position changer right after Jimmy's fumble, and a play action shot where a guy runs wide open for a touchdown. And they were the two biggest issues going into the game that we were dealing with was tackling the fullback and play action shots.
Q. In light of those things, do you feel that you need to guard against a spiral effect like last November?
COACH WEIS: No, I think that there's going to be plenty of evidence today of guys understanding who was at fault for what situations. As you know, after a loss, I'm not big on giving up players, ever. That's not my way. But I think when they watch the tape, there's going to be plenty of evidence. Don't sit there and point the finger at anyone other than yourself because here's what happened on the play.
And I think that when players are accountable -- let's talk about the one positive from the game. Right until the end of the game, the players were playing hard, right until the very last play. I mean, if you think about it, the onside kick -- the second onside kick is really the last meaningful play in the game. But even before that, we get the ball back in an onside kick after a safety and still go down the field and score a touchdown. They could have just spit the bit and said the game is over, we lose by nine and that's it.
But we go down there, score a touchdown and we've got another onside kick and who knows. You get the ball back, you only need a field goal. You throw a 20-yard pass, you're in field goal range to take a shot at a long field goal, you end up making it and you win by one.
The one thing they did do, I'm not questioning their effort, which that's one of the issues you always worry about, and the question you're asking, that's the first issue I would worry about is how hard they played. So being that's a given now, that they played hard until the end of the game, now it's accountability for assignments.
Q. I haven't seen the tape. How close did you come to recovering that second onside kick?
COACH WEIS: Well, I think that their guy, their one guy kind of punched it -- Golden the first time went up to get the ball. Golden was about ready to go up and get the ball again, but a guy kind of came and punched the ball out of bounds.
Q. Just wanting to put a minor point on a couple of things, one, you just talked about accountability and dependability and you talked about all the examples of where that might have gone wrong in the game. How do you implement that with the players? How does that look? How does that manifest itself?
COACH WEIS: Well, it's going to start here at 2:00 today when we get with the players today. And unlike after the Michigan game and USC game where I didn't feel a beat-down was in order, I think that these guys are clearly -- now that I really have all the facts of what happened in the game, because sometimes when you're asking me questions after a game, I don't -- like the dive coming off the end zone after Jimmy's fumble, I'm catering to Jimmy at the time. I'm trying to find out whether it's Jimmy or Sharpley that's going to be the quarterback the next drive as he's over on the bench. So I just hear the roar of the crowd and turn around and see the guy running to the 50-yard line.
But now that I kind of know all the things that happened in the game on offense and defense and special teams, now I can authoritatively get in front of these guys and say, okay, we want to talk about what happened, let's talk about what happened, and just go through the game. Without being just totally condescending and demeaning, let them know that -- you want to know why you lose? Here's why you lose, and go right down the list.
It's always easy because I always start with me. But there's plenty of evidence in this game where these guys are going to feel sick to their stomachs, and for the guys that really care, which I think will be most of them, for the guys that really care, they're not going to feel very good about what they're going to see.
Q. You mentioned to Tom the different responses of different players to what might have gone wrong with the defense. What's your take on it then? I mean, is what Kyle McCarthy said right or was there some truth to what Ian was saying?
COACH WEIS: I think that there were people in position that should have been in position to make plays. I mean, when you're playing a one-gap defense, there's always somebody responsible for every gap. This isn't like you're playing just a read-and-react defense. When you play a one-gap defense, there's a guy responsible for every gap. Therefore, if you have the A gap on the right and the guy runs through the A gap on the right, you're responsible for it.
It's tough to see it any other way. It's different in a read-and-react defense when they make a play and then you have to react to it, and it's a two-gap defense and sometimes the back is a two-way go. This was not a two-way-go team. They're going to run through the A gap, they're going to run through the B gap, they're going to run through the C gap or they're going to run to the edge. So if they trick you on a play, like they had that fullback option where they ran away from trips and back into the boundary, which they hit us with a couple of times in the first half, which they adjusted at halftime and got that ironed out. But when you're running inside zone, when you're inside veer, and you hit one gap against a team that's playing one-gap defense, that's tough for me to grasp.
Q. From somebody looking at this program outside a fan, they're going to look at it and they're going to say, wow, we've got Jimmy Clausen, maybe one of the best if not the best quarterback that's ever going to play at Notre Dame; we've got two of the best receivers, maybe finish one-two in receptions and receiving yards; and this isn't good enough to get this team into the BCS because of defense or whatever on the other side. In your mind should there be that disparity? Should there be that equation?
COACH WEIS: I mean, is the glass half full or is the glass half empty? We lost three games by 13 points, but there were a lot of close wins that could have gone the other way for us, too.
I think that we have some dynamic players on our team, but it still comes down to situational football. I think you still have to excel in situational football, okay; you have to convert on 3rd down and get off the field on 3rd down, you've got to score in the red zone, you've got to score on the goal line. Those are -- it still comes down to football is pretty simple between the 20s. We ran the ball up and down the field on them last night and had over 500 yards in offense, but guess what, so what? That's just stats.
The bottom line is with points. That's really the stat that matters is points. And we didn't score enough.
I think that it still comes down to situational football, and I think that even the best players need to execute when it's that time, when you get into those situational plays, whether it be a 3rd down conversion or whether it be a red zone conversion or a goal line conversion, you still need to go execute and make a play.
And sometimes it's scheme, but often times it's just you beating -- Michael Floyd beating a corner one-on-one in a fade route. How many times have we seen in his career that happen? Well, there were a couple opportunities last night where that didn't come to fruition. When that ball goes up, you're thinking the same thing as me, you're thinking it's six, because it's Michael Floyd one-on-one with a corner.
Q. You mentioned that one of the positives is that the players played hard at the end of the game. Why do you think that playing hard is not apparent at the beginning of the game? Golden Tate even talked about it.
COACH WEIS: What Golden meant wasn't about playing hard, it was that we were on the bench on offense -- we fumbled on the third play of the game, so really he never got an opportunity to get into any ebb and flow of the game, because the way Navy plays, you're standing on the sideline a lot on offense. Remember, we got the opening kickoff and in the first half we only had four possessions. That's with getting the opening kickoff. So there was a lot of standing around during that first half.
Now, our defense got them off the field a bunch more in the second half, and there wasn't that same standing around element. But for Golden, if he's not going all the time, that's really what he was referring to.
Q. Do you feel like you guys matched Navy's intensity in the first half? That was your number one goal going into the game.
COACH WEIS: We fumbled the ball on the third play of the game, so are we talking offensively or as a team? The fact that they got the ball the first two times they touched it and went down and scored touchdowns, that doesn't exactly fire me up too much. But our four possessions on offense, it wasn't -- other than the fumble at the 50-yard line the first time, it was not an issue about being able to drive the ball down the field. I mean, that was not an issue. Moving the ball was not an issue. Putting the ball in the end zone, that was the issue.
Q. When you talk about accountability and holding the players accountable, how much does that come down to a guy getting benched if he fumbles on the first drive or a linebacker getting benched if he gets a personal foul before the end of the first half?
COACH WEIS: Which linebacker was that?
Q. Harrison got the personal foul toward the end of the first half.
COACH WEIS: Yeah, that was -- did you watch that one?
COACH WEIS: Did you like that call?
Q. It looked like he hit the quarterback late.
COACH WEIS: Well, I'm saying, there's different things that end up happening in that game. Could they have called it? I guess so; they did call it. But the guy is throwing it and you're hitting him.
I was more concerned with -- I'm more concerned with the ones we had last week where the play is clearly over and we do something dumb. I think that there's ramifications. Sometimes injuries to your team dictate what those ramifications are. I think that what you don't want to do is you don't want to put your team in a position to lose. Okay, at the same time it's not whether those things go unquestioned or unaddressed; they're always addressed.
Q. You talked about starting with yourself. Where do you feel like you can do better? When you look at where you are as a head coach, how can you improve?
COACH WEIS: Well, let's just talk about yesterday's game. I felt really good about our plan offensively. I felt that we could get after them and move the ball, where I have to go back and review -- I'm not going to second-guess the two turnovers inside the red zone, so I'm not going to get after that one. We have a false -- the one time we had to settle for a field goal that we ended up missing, okay, we have a false start on that one that moves us back when we're down inside the 5-yard line. Actually we didn't have a false start, we had two receivers that were off the line of scrimmage at the same time. So it's kind of tough for me to second-guess on myself on that one, either.
So the only second-guessing I could do on the red zone sequence when we have 4th and 3 when I could go ahead and kick a field goal at that time. In hindsight you can say, well, those three points would have been the difference in the game. There's a lot of plays in the game where a situation like that comes up. But we had a play that we felt really good that we were going to score a touchdown on that Robert Hughes is coming wide open on, but the Sam linebacker is hitting him as he goes to throw it.
Q. Could you talk about how you guys were still able to move the ball up and down the field? But how damaging was it to lose the threat of the run so early?
COACH WEIS: That actually bothered me more in the second half. At halftime, I had really two different things we talked about at halftime. One was depending on how the game -- getting the game to a one-score game, and the other one were if it were a two-score game.
So when we got it to 14-7, if we got the ball back at 14-7, it would have been more of a pound-it mentality at that time. But they quickly answered back with that play action pass for a touchdown, so the next time we got the ball it was still a 14-point gap. And knowing the possessions were going to be few and far between, we felt that we were going to have to stay aggressive and couldn't just play a slow, methodical game, because that was the game they were already playing.
Q. You guys have talked a lot about Nick Tausch's demeanor, kind of steady. Do you feel the need to say anything to him today?
COACH WEIS: Well, no one will be more in the tank than Nick. I don't have to state the obvious that he missed two field goals that could have been -- well, were a difference in winning or losing. But he already knows that. This isn't one where I have to call him up and say, Nick, you need to make those two field goals or at least make one of them. I mean, he knows that, especially the shorter of the two, the 30-yarder. That's the last thing you want to be doing is missing a chip shot. He feels bad enough as it is. I don't think that I'll be taking my freshman kicker who had just made 14 in a row and be hammering him because he already feels guilty enough at how things went.
Q. Small picture question. On the wildcat, why is Jimmy in the game at that moment? Is that because you don't want them to see him coming off the field?
COACH WEIS: Because when the quarterback is in the huddle, okay, it changes the defensive play call from when the quarterback is not in the huddle. That's the reason why everyone that uses wildcat has to make a decision of whether or not to have the quarterback in there or not, because when you're in the huddle and the quarterback is no longer on the field, you already know it's wildcat. When the quarterback is in the huddle, you don't know, and then you have to -- you wouldn't make a call accordingly.
For example, another analogy I can give you, when you put in five receivers for a play, well, the defensive coordinator knows you're going empty. He already knows you're going empty. So now he can make a call based off an empty where you have a five-man protection. So it's no different in wildcat. If you take the quarterback off the field, they know it's wildcat and they can make a call accordingly.
Q. As regards Navy, you've been overt in your admiration or respect for them. I don't think any coach has ever showed another team as much respect. I know you've got to worry about your team, but are there lessons in the way Navy played the game yesterday that you will demonstrate to your team?
COACH WEIS: I think our team already has respect for the way Navy plays. I think we had that before yesterday. We didn't need it yesterday. They've given us trouble two years in a row, now it's three years in a row. So this is not the first rodeo for us. More importantly I'm not so worried about -- I know our players handle themselves with class. It's tough to walk over behind those guys after losing a game. You don't give our guys enough credit for doing that, but that's tough to do. After you've just lost a game at home, which is disheartening, and then go stand behind them while they're singing their alma mater in front of the Midshipmen, it's a tough thing to do. I know I'm there, and it's tough for me, too, and then to walk down to our end and do it with our students, that's not an easy thing to do.
But I think our players already had plenty of respect for Navy. I think more importantly we're not addressing a respect-for-Navy issue; it's what we did wrong in the game.
Q. Is there a player on your defense who is analogous to Jimmy in terms of leadership?
COACH WEIS: It's definitely Kyle McCarthy. It's not close for second. Kyle McCarthy is the clear leader of the defense. He doesn't come -- he's not the flamboyant that everyone knows about guy, but when this team picked a captain, Kyle McCarthy was the runaway winner, and if you revoted today, he'd still be a runaway winner.
Q. You talked about last night the touchdown pass; there was confusion about whether he was eligible or not --
COACH WEIS: I thought he was legal.
Q. I didn't know what the confusion was.
COACH WEIS: Well, it's on the line of scrimmage versus off the line of scrimmage. I think it's when there's a question of hairs versus clear, I think it was -- I thought it was legal when it happened. I know that the defenders on the field didn't think so, but you know, I'm looking at it sometimes from an offensive perspective, Tom, and I think when you're cutting hairs, you can't count on calls when you're cutting hairs. I thought it was legal, and watching it on tape this morning, I thought it was legal again.
Q. On the accountability stuff, two things: One, how do you make it apparent that accountability isn't, hey, I'm throwing you guys under the bus, this is just you need to be accountable for this; and two, how do you work your own accountability into your presentation with the players?
COACH WEIS: Well, see, last night -- what I always do with the team after the game, I always take all the accountability, and I do that until after I've had time to watch the tape and properly evaluate it. So they know before they go to the media or they know before they go to their families and friends where I start, because I don't pass it on to anyone else on Saturday after a game.
Then what I do is on Sunday after I come in and watch it and I meet with the coaches and get all the answers to the questions, it's a little bit easier for me to kind of spread the wealth/blame in that situation, but I do it in a private setting so everyone really kind of knows, this is really what happened.
I never like addressing things without really knowing what the answers are. I think it's always important to have tape to verify it and then to have the coaching staff to verify it, too, so I make sure I'm seeing things that are right, not just what I think are right.
Q. From reading your comments throughout the year, you've expressed a lot of confidence in your defensive staff. Where is that now in terms of accountability, and have you considered either getting more involved or suggesting some changes to how they put their plan together every week?
COACH WEIS: Well, they gave up 21 points yesterday. I would like to think if they would have told me before the game, hey, you need at least 21 to win, I would have felt good about our chances. I know the defensive staff wants a shutout every week, so it isn't like they're going into the game saying, hey, we want to give up 21 points. But I would have thought in yesterday's game, 21, if they held them to 21, that should have been good enough for us to score enough points.
So I'll flip that and say that really this game wasn't a loss by the 21 points we gave up on defense but our lack of production in the red zone.
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