Nov. 19, 2000

November 19, 2000

An Interview With:


JOHN HEISLER: Good morning. This is John Heisler. Just a couple of quick notes on some of our NCAA rankings. We are still — again this is through games yesterday — we are still tied for first with Toledo in fewest turnovers lost with 8. We are fifth individually in least fumbles lost. In terms of the kicking game we are third in kickoff returns, seventh in punt returns, ninth in net punting. We are the only team in the Top-10 in all three of those categories.

Coach Davie is here. He will make some comments. Then he will take some questions.

COACH DAVIE: Well, I think each week there is so many different challenges and I think that is what you enjoy about this profession. But certainly yesterday was a different kind of challenge. You play in a game that it’s obvious you are supposed to win. You play against a team that really had nothing to lose and you play against a team that I don’t know if I have ever seen a team in the second half against West Virginia Rutgers get as hot. I mean, they were unbelievably hot against West Virginia.

I looked at the fourth quarter, we showed our team the fourth quarter of that game Saturday morning. They had 300 yards offense in one quarter, in the fourth quarter against West Virginia.

So you go into that game, you know, I knew offensively they were capable of moving the ball because I had seen it.

Defensively, to be honest, I didn’t really think they could stop us. But I was concerned about us making mistakes.

It was kind of a sloppy game. We started out and we have had so much success with kickoff returns, they did a good job, they pooch-kicked us – maybe the day of us getting kickoffs kicked to us may be behind us – they pooched it up in the air and did a good job. The first series, third down, we had the tight ends wide open on the boot and Matt got some pressure and threw it right into the defensive end. So we have to punt the ball.

They came out and they are hot. They made a couple of good throws. They made a couple of catches. They take it down, they kick the field goal and go up 3-0. Then we come back and you get into the deal where you kind of see the scenario what it might be. We take it 83 yards. Matt runs an option 80 yards that is called back on a holding penalty. But we, I think, a sign of a good offense is we are able to overcome that adversity and Matt throws the deep ball to Joey Getherall 44-yard touchdown. So we are up 7-3. Struggling on defense a little bit. I don’t know if struggling on defense — they are pretty good, and B.J. Scott comes up with the interception, kind of miraculous play, really bats the ball and intercepts the ball.

Offense we come back, you know, fourth and three we go for it again. I don’t know how many times this year we have gone for it on fourth down, percentages have been outstanding. But we convert. We go down, we fake the field goal. I don’t know how many — I don’t know many times you are 2 for 2 on two consecutive weeks faking field goals for touchdowns particularly when it was fourth and three and we had the thing called and we get a little cautious. We end up getting delay of game penalty because we are trying to make sure everybody gets the call and hears the call. But we keep it on fourth and 8, Nick Setta just did a tremendous job. He comes down the line and took that thing all the way down and Tommy Lopienski comes open, but Nick Setta makes a heck of a throw. So we go up 14 to 3. Then we get them stopped. We stop them. It is 14-3, we get the ball back and you have the feeling they can’t stop us. But unfortunately on first down Tony Fisher fumbles the ball. He was distraught about it. I was distraught about it. Because it is 14-3 and you know right there after the fake field goal and the whole thing, we could break that thing. I think it is going to be really difficult for Rutgers, but we fumble the ball.

So they get it on the plus 39. They execute. They go down and do a couple of different things and looked like a good offensive football team. Byrd made some runs. The quarterback is hot. It is 14-10. We get the ball on the minus 36. We have some penalties. Third and 24 Matt LoVecchio shows he can scramble, gets hit late out of bounds which is a big play.

We convert that thing into a first down. We kick a field goal. We go up 17-10. Rutgers gets it they continue to move it. They go down and miss the field goal which was big.

Then the offense comes back and third and 8 Matt hits David Givens for 17. We run the reverse again to Joey Getherall. We have had unbelievable success with the reverse. We run a screen to Tony Fisher which I thought, you know, we are diversified. We are fun to watch on offense.

Terrance Howard gains 10, Terrance Howard gains 9, Terrance Howard scores the touchdown. So we go in at the half it is 24-10 but you don’t feel great. You don’t feel great because you are really haven’t just stopped them. Offense is better than their defense but we have had some silly penalties.

You know, you just don’t feel totally in control. But you feel like you are a better football team than they are.

We go in at halftime and you know we had — Shane Walton was injured in the first half. Clifford is not playing. I am a little bit nervous about playing a lot of man-coverage which was our plan going in. Probably get a little too cautious at halftime and we made some adjustments and, you know, maybe gave them a little too much credit, but we come out in the second half on second down, I mean, it is second down, after an incompletion, we are playing base defense, 50 defense something, we hadn’t practiced a whole lot – it is my fault. They crease us, but we have some poor angles in the secondary.

It is one thing to get creased, it is another things for the kid to go 65 yards. Our free safety is a little late getting over, our corner doesn’t coral the ball. He goes 65 yards. Just an unexcusable. I mean, poor coaching, poor call, poor execution.

All of a sudden it is 24-17, we are in a ballgame. I mean, we are excited about coming out in the second half. I mean, we feel like we are going to get better. Before you know it, it is 24-17, second play of the second half. I think the biggest play of the game, without a doubt, you know, we come back on offense, we throw really Matt’s only poor throw, he throws it, the ball should have been intercepted, probably would have been a touchdown. I think the kid intercepts it on the sidelines. He drops the ball. Where they go — it is 24-24 right there.

But then from that point on, you know it is 24-17, we make them punt. They have a procedure penalty. We make them punt again. David Givens communicates to us that he thinks the slice stunt is there. Chad DeBolt picks him, David comes around just snuffs it. We have get the ball. It is 24-17. We score 31-17. Javin Hunter comes back third and 8, Javin Hunter drops a big big curl rout. The possession before, it bounced right off his chest, but he comes back and he catches it. Makes a little spin move and scores 31-17.

Then if you count the blocked punt, I think we go basically four possessions in a row where we force turnovers.

They fumble. He scrambles a little bit, steps up, Weaver hits him, the ball comes out, Ryan Roberts recovers. Ronnie Israel has the interception. Vontez Duff has the interception. So we go basically four series in a row with turnovers.

We continue to struggle a little bit on offense with stupid penalties. There is a couple of times the whistle is blown, we pop up and it is just kind of a strange game, the way the flow of the game went. But we end up putting them away. We go up 45-17, Matt LoVecchio has a big play on the quarterback. He gains 35 yards. Matt runs the option on fourth and 5, we go for it again. He takes it down. Then we score.

So you know, kind of a sloppy game offensively. Had a hard time stopping them defensively until the blocked punt which then the floodgates kind of opened. I thought Matt played well at quarterback. He made the one poor decision which should have been interception. It wasn’t.

He is a good quarterback. He is a good quarterback and he is getting better. I thought our tailbacks ran hard. I don’t know if they played great, but they ran hard.

Offensive line, you know, we should block Rutgers. We were bigger and more physical than Rutgers. And we did.

I thought our wide receivers played good. Joey Getherall is an unique guy. Obviously. Javin Hunter, it is good to see him healthy. I think he could really help this football team down the stretch. He is a talented player that we really haven’t had the opportunity to play with him this year.

David Givens continues to be outstanding. You talk about a guy who is a receiver, just licking his chops now on special teams. Blocking punts and just loves it and it is exciting. I thought our defense — I thought Ron Israel played his best game. Good to see him healthy. It was good to see so many of his family and people there. I saw a big Israel banner, we were coming out of the stadium, they were there after the game, probably 20 of them with a big Ron Israel banner. It was fun to see him have a good game.

I don’t think we played great on defense, but we played better probably than I initially thought we played. Give Rutgers some credit.

Special teams, you know, they did the best job this year of controlling our kickoff return with the pooch kick. Kind of scrambled around and came out of a cluster, but we still had the ball at the 35-yard line, just about every time because they are pooching it up in the air – hurt our statistics. We went from first to third because of that.

Punt blocks big, fake field goal for a touchdown at that point in the game, it’s a 7-3 game – that is big. Punt protection, Rutgers basically just all out rushed every time. And you know, we probably could have faked one on them which would have been a big play. It is just that — we just never got to the point of really need to go do it.

Kickoff coverage was outstanding. Kickoff itself is poor. We kicked David Miller. He shanked one out of bounds. Put Matt McNew back in, he kicked a little bit better, disappointed in our kickoffs right now.

We may have to look at Nick Setta. He is a guy that, obviously he makes plays when he is in the game. Little disappointed in us missing that field goal. It looked poor. We just scuffed it, but we did make a field goal. So you know, the thing that I — you know, this football team, you know, you face a lot of different challenges and last night was certainly a challenge and I think they persevered through some difficult situations in that game.

Playing against a team that you are not supposed to beat sometimes is a lot easier than playing against a team you are not supposed to lose to. Particularly sandwiched between a game like Boston College which was a big emotional game and a great stadium with 80,000 people there, unbelievable atmosphere in the Boston College game everybody looking forward to the S.C. Game. Got to give our kids credit, might be sloppy in peoples’ opinion, in my opinion it was a little sloppy, but you have got some special guys when they can pull through and just win games sometimes.

I am excited about our team. I think we are a pretty good team. I sat up last night with Joanne. I get home, it is just hard for me to sleep, you know, we sat up ’til about three o’clock just sitting on that couch and talking and we are a pretty good football team. We are a pretty good football team. We are getting better.

I think the future is unlimited and I think the future is this week. I am not talking about next year. It is time for us to go play a game like we have to go play out there. We have been out there three straight times when there it has been about BCS Bowl Game implications. We haven’t been able to win, I am looking forward to this one.

We are playing a good talented team. In some ways their situation is obviously different than ours, I don’t know what all that means. I don’t really care. It is just about our team going out there.

We have some injuries. Shane Walton obviously won’t play. He may be back for the Bowl Game which is good news. They did operate on it this morning. They put a plate in it. He is a tough guy. Jabari Holloway won’t play. He has an MCL. Chance he will be back for the Bowl. We need to get Julius Jones back healthy. We need to get Clifford Jefferson back healthy. But I am excited about this one. This is the kind of game you want to come and coach in. That is why you come to Notre Dame. So this will be a fun week.

Q. Obviously the start of the season nobody would hope for their starters to get hurt. It has been remarkable the way your second string players have been able to step in, not only LoVecchio but Ryan Robert, yesterday Vontez Duff. Can you talk about this team a little bit? Has that been one of the differences this year?

COACH DAVIE: Yeah, there are so many stories of guys that you don’t really talk about. When we blocked that punt, obviously Shane Walton and David Givens are our 5 and 6 guys on our punt return. That was Chad DeBolt in there that came in and ran the pick stunt. So obviously your backup guy on a punt return team may have been the most significant play in the game coming in there.

But I think that has been the biggest thing this year is we have had productivity from so many different players and I think that is why — you know, what came first. We know — was it the chemistry of the team or was it the fact that you have a lot of players that play makes the chemistry better. I don’t really know the answer to that, but it is the kind of team that you go out there and everybody practices hard. Everybody has a role to play on this team. There is no dead wood. And everybody prepares each week like they are going to play in the game and we have not had a significant drop off when guys have gone in. I think Vontez Duff is a good example of that. Jason Beckstrom played the entire game last night. So there is a lot of stories like that on this team. I think that is why it is a good football team.

Q. When somebody like a LoVecchio is having the success that he has, do you think that energizes maybe the other freshmen, some of the other second string guys look at him and say, you know what, we are good players also, we can do the same thing he is doing?

COACH DAVIE: I think so. Particularly those quarterbacks. I think what energizes guys though is that the coaches have a genuine appreciation of what players do and I certainly do. I look at the Chad DeBolt and the Matt Sarbs and Adam Tibbles and Casey Robbins been on our field goal protection team all year. Ryan Gillis yesterday played on our field goal protection team. You know, you have a genuine appreciation for what those guys do. They practice hard. And when they play, you reward them and our team appreciates it.

We make a tape every Monday of those plays that to us were impact plays that maybe nobody knew about it. The TV commentators didn’t see it and people in the press box didn’t see it, but we see them. Success breeds success. What you really highlight and make a big fuss over, you know, the players catch on. Right now, I think all of them feel that they have a role on this team.

Q. Making too much of the last three appearances out there, and kind of being loose (inaudible) —

COACH DAVIE: I am not going to say one thing about it. I am not going to worry about it. This is an entirely different team. We are going to enjoy this game and enjoy the preparation for this game. I am jacked about this one and I know our team will be.

It is fun to just play in a big time game like this. And that is what we have done every week. The challenge of playing Rutgers, it may sound funny to you guys, we embraced that challenge. That was hard getting ready for that from a scheme standpoint, from a lot of standpoints. You embrace this challenge on a different level this week. So it is not about the results. It is about enjoying the preparation, enjoying each other and we have one week of football left. And this is a team that does genuinely enjoy each other and enjoys being around each other. It is a staffs that looks forward to coming and working together.

I am not going to worry about the results of this game honestly. We are going to go out there and play our rearends off and whatever happens, happens. We are going to take our best shot. I will let everyone else worry about how much money is involved in this game, what Bowl Game is involved with this game. I am not going to have time to worry about any of that. We are going to go out there and play like we are a zero-zero team and this is our first game of the year and not our last game and let’s go, let it rip.

Q. (inaudible)…

COACH DAVIE: Our team realizes that we have to play at a high level to win. One thing about our team going into games, our guys, I think we have instilled in our guys that we take everybody’s best shot every week and they don’t make a big a fuss over who we play as maybe other people do. Because you just know that every game here, in my opinion, is unique and there are such different scenarios with each game.

I think back to Air Force coming in here, Air Force, I don’t know if anybody slowed Air Force down since we have played them. You look at them beating Colorado State, putting 45 on San Diego State yesterday. That game was a challenge. Not to get off the point, but each game itself is one of those eleven games and each one of them is so different that, you know, we came in this morning, we graded that tape and we are going to go over things with that tape tomorrow. But let us face it, that game is behind us now. It is time to move on to the next one. That is kind of how we approach it.

Q. Readdress the offensive line in terms of responding (inaudible) seems like there was —

COACH DAVIE: The officials were very positive about our guys and how they responded as that game went on. But it was a different kind of game. I certainly sympathize with Rutgers being in that situation and as the game went on, it got kind of ugly.

But for the most part it got better as the game went on and it didn’t turn into just a chaotic thing because we have been in those kind of games where it just gets chaotic at the end, that thing got better as the game went on. But there was a period there where it was a little out of control.

Q. What is your schedule this week going out there?

COACH DAVIE: We are going to practice here Thursday and then leave Thursday, probably mid-afternoon, get out there at a decent time Thursday evening so we can have Thanksgiving dinner out there. Then Friday we will probably go by the Coliseum. It is something that we haven’t done because we stayed so far down there in Newport Beach. I think it will be good for us to go by the Coliseum on Friday. I think the last couple of years we have not done that. I think it would be good to just get by there and see it.

Q. (inaudible)

COACH DAVIE: Tough decision. Really I never felt — I felt off balance in that game and even though the score was pretty substantial, I didn’t really feel like at any point, until real late that we could put someone else in. By then it was too late because we weren’t going to go in there and throw the ball and do that. It wasn’t fair to put one of those young quarterbacks in there just to take a knee or just to hand the ball off. They are not going to get anything out of doing that. I was really nervous about keeping Matt in there. As I said last night, you are paranoid about him being in there, and fortunately nothing happened.

That is a tough decision whether to put one of those young kids in there and all of a sudden they lose a whole year of football to go in there and hand the ball off. If they can go in there and throw it — if it had been early in the fourth quarter one of them could have played 8 minutes and thrown 6 passes maybe you get something out of it. But just wasn’t worth it putting them in there. I didn’t want to look back and say we wasted a year of one of those kids.

Q. Do you expect Jones and Jefferson to be back?

COACH DAVIE: I do. I think Julius will be back. Whether he is 100% or not I don’t know, but he is going to practice this week. Both of them are over there this morning. Clifford was moving around. Clifford was close to being able to play. The cold weather probably hurt him a little bit. So I expect both of them to play, but it is difficult with the positions they play. If they are not 100% it is hard to go.

Q. (inaudible)

COACH DAVIE: Without a doubt. The story of this football team, it’s a remarkable story. I don’t know if there is a story out there in college football — I am sure Oklahoma is an unbelievable story, but I think Oklahoma coming in, even though we beat them last year, Oklahoma was up there in the Top-10. I don’t know if we were up in the Top-30. It’s a pretty good story. And losing your quarterback and losing arguably your best defensive player and your captain, the way we have won games with kicking game and different things, I think we are a pretty attractive team.

So you are darn right, I think we ought to go, but once again, I am not going to really have a vote in that. So I am not going to worry about it and not talk about it this week, but if we were 9 and 2 like you just asked me that question, you are darn right I think we deserve to go. I think there would be a bunch of people that would like to have us because we are an improving team. If you look at our football team a month from now which is when those BCS Bowl games are played, we are going to be a darn good football team a month from now, with the young players we have and quarterback who now has what amounts to a spring wall, and getting all our players healthy, we will be a pretty good football team a month from now.

Q. (inaudible) short academic week for the guys.

COACH DAVIE: There is a tradeoff there. I think the fact that we played on the east coast last night and got back at 11:30, by the time the kids got back to the camp it was probably after midnight. Now you are leaving Thursday, flying clear out to the west coast, you know, but also you don’t have classes Thursday. So I think it is probably a tradeoff. It is going to be a non-issue either way. I think we will be ready to play.

Q. (inaudible)

COACH DAVIE: Jabari had an MCL, a knee, actually tore it, there will not be surgery. In fact he is going to start rehab. But he is obviously definitely out this week and hopefully he will be back for the Bowl Game. I think it is 4 to 5 weeks. A lot like Jarious’ injury last year or two years ago in the LSU game.

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