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An Interview With Bob Davie

Oct. 14, 2001

BOB DAVIE: Anytime you have three backs and basically run for 100 yards, then your offensive line has to be successful. I thought our quarterback did some good things. Carlyle ran with the ball. He ran the option. He made some throws, a little more composed in the pocket. You know, he didn’t just ?? kind of the air?out?of?the?balloon mentality of just getting shaken as soon as something broke down, he hung in there. There’s a couple things that he can do mechanically better on his drops and things fundamentally, but I think he’s showing improvement.

I thought our tight ends played a little bit better. I particularly thought John Owens blocked better. He had been a little bit tentative the first several weeks. He seemed to be much more aggressive coming off the line of scrimmage.

If you look at it offensively like always, it’s a field position game. When we start out, West Virginia gets the ball and they are three plays and out, I don’t even think a minute had gone off the clock. And we have the football at the minus 46, two plays later we score. You get a chance to get some big plays. Carlyle comes out on the first option, gets it checked, does a good job. Then Julius Jones bounces outside and two plays, we have a touchdown. We are up 7?0.

We come back, we get the big kickoff return. The ball is at the plus 37?yard line, we end up settling for a field goal. Third series after the onside kick, we have it mid?field. So the first three possessions, we’ve got great field position and we get called for holding ?? we have a chance to complete the deep ball to David Givens. I mean, it’s a great throw. It would have been a great catch. Certainly the ball was catchable, but we end up fumbling.

We come back on the next series, the minus 30, we move the ball we are once again in the red zone, we throw the interception. But it was a field position game. We took advantage of the field position on the first two series. We turned the ball over on the next two in the red zone, but you can see we are able to sustain some things. It wasn’t hit or miss kind of a thing offensively. There was an execution to it, there was a plan unfolding to it, and you are pretty excited when you watch the tape.

So we come out in the second half. Offensively, the first two series of the second half are a concern. We struggled. We went three plays and out. Obviously, it produced poor field position.

But then we come back again. Carlyle gets the big run on the option. I mean, he’s just an inch out of bounds or he’s going to take that thing to the house like he did against Pittsburgh. Now the next play, Tony Fisher breaks it. We get the field goal on the towel incident, and then after Justin Smith’s interception, Tony Fisher takes the long run for a touchdown.

From an offensive standpoint, we converted four 4th and 1s. You know, to be honest we probably should not have been in 4th and 1. You first think that that’s a huge positive after the game that you are able to do that, but we made some mistakes to be in those situations. But we did get pretty good productivity out of our three?back hand?bone offense.

I thought the last call of the game, the little roll pass to convert it, although it wasn’t much in the outcome of the game, just to be able to throw that and complete that to Julius was a confidence boost for us.

So offensively some good things. I thought the backs ran hard. I thought our fullbacks, I thought Tommy Lopienski and Jason Murray ?? Jason Murray played the most he played this year. He did some good things. So I think it was pretty positive, other than the two turnovers. We also had the holding penalty on the big quarterback draw in the first quarter, but it was pretty good.

Defensively, we struggled. I don’t want to take anything away from West Virginia. I thought their running back did an excellent job. The first run he had in the game, actually, may have gone for a touchdown. The first one, he ran for about 18 yards. Ryan Roberts made a great effort, great effort. And that was a well?designed play. They ran the rap on us. They blocked us squirted out of there. On the second run, the one that he went 60 yards for the touchdown, we were misaligned. No excuse for that. We missed a tackle ten yards down the field and he showed his explosiveness and he scored. I don’t know that I have been in a game where a guy had 100 yards in the first quarter rushing. He’s a good football player.

We got settled down a little on defense, but we ended up playing an awful lot of man coverage because we were trying to stop that run. I thought they executed well at times. We continue to make some mistakes. We didn’t tackle particularly well. To be quite honest, I don’t think we would have won the football game if the offense did not play as good as they played yesterday. They did not have a whole lot of yards, 270 yards, but I don’t think it was one of our better defensive efforts.

Kicking game, I thought we were solid. The kickoff return led the points. The onside kick didn’t lead the points, but it certainly, I think, kept our defense off the field. Kept them from having the football. We didn’t have great confidence early in the game , I think it was because of the long run. Nick Setta with the field goals, our operation on field goals has been outstanding. The punt protection was really good. They came after us in some difficult situations.

The punt return is still not as good as it should be. We should be better on punt returns. Kickoff coverage was good.

Their return game is really good, Nick did kick one out of bounds. I think we ?? I think we improved. I think we’ve improved and that’s, you know, particularly on offense. I don’t think we improved on defense, but I think the things that happened were correctable. I think we have a lot of injuries right now. As that game played out yesterday on defense, you know, Ronnie Israel went out in the first half with the hamstring and didn’t come back. Gerome Sapp did not play in the game. Glenn Earl got dinged in the game, so we had three safeties that were out. Justin Smith came in and did some good things. Abe Elam came in and did some okay things. Abe struggled a little bit. He’s a young guy that is still learning.

So we were nicked up a little bit. Darrell Campbell did come in and play, and it was good to see him in the game. We started Budinscak inside. And offensively, coming out of the game Tony Fisher, probably the same situation as last week, hamstring problem. He’ll probably be ready to play by the end of the week. I would say Ron Israel is doubtful for this game. Gerome Sapp, we hope to have back. Other than that, just a bunch of bumps and bruises. Julius Jones, I think, I want to say maybe sprained his arch. It could be a few days. Just various things like that.

But other than Ron Israel, we hope to have some guys back. Rashon Powers?Nea, a young guy that’s doing a great job for us on a scout team as a running back. There’s a chance that he may have surgery on his shoulder. He just has a loose shoulder. We may go ahead and get that done so he’ll be ready for spring football. Mark LeVoir is doing much better. We’re take it slow with him. Jeff Thompson, a freshman, had his finger operated on. He broke his finger earlier and it didn’t heal quite right. He had his finger operated on and he’ll be about three to four weeks.

So other than that, just try to keep betting better.

Q. You were talking about Carlyle yesterday and about how he’s progressing quickly. It seemed to me on a lot of the passing plays in the first half, if the receiver was not open immediately, he bailed out on a pass and ran. But it seemed in the second half, particularly on that try for the go?ahead field goal, I think that was the drive when you had the two third down conversions and the pass play, he seemed to hang in there longer and wait for the receivers to come open. Did you see that progression that he made through the game?

BOB DAVIE: I think that’s accurate. I didn’t get to finish the whole tape this morning with the offense, three quarters of the way through. But I think in the first half, he did come out of there looking to run, which is not all bad because he is explosive, as you know, with the ball. Plus, a couple of those were quarterback draws, predesigned quarterback draws that he made some big plays on. So he did do that.

He’s not near as panicky as he was against Texas A&M though. I thought he protected the ball better. So what you saw was some quarterback draws. Now, he did bail out of there one time when we had a square end open right before we kicked a field goal, I believe, early in the game. But he is making improvement at that. In the second half, there’s no question he did hang in there and throw some square ends, and also hit the tight end one time, hit John Owens.

Q. Was that what you were most surprised with his game? Obviously you know about his ability to run, but obviously, to get to the next level, he has to make improvements to the passing game. Was that the most encouraging thing yesterday, those third down conversions in the passing game?

BOB DAVIE: I think his whole third down demeanor. He checked one time by the alignment of their safety. They brought the corner fire off the boundary and he checked into the right protection. In fact, they called holding on Javin Hunter the one time. They brought the corner and the free safety had a man?to?man and he checked into him out and up with maximum protection and it ended up being a pass interference.

He’s making good decisions. He’s a sharp guy. He understands the protections pretty good. So, yeah, I mean even the deep throw to David Givens, you know, that was a great throw down the field. I think he’s improving. I think he’s going to be a heck of a quarterback. He’s got a chance to be a great one.

Q. A question about the secondary. You are going into a game against a team whose record might be a little deceiving, but obviously they pass effectively. You talked about the decisions that Carlyle makes, what did you see out of your secondary yesterday? Did you find any reason for optimism and what did you see that you need to work on this week?

BOB DAVIE: I thought our corners really did an outstanding job. We hung them out there much more than I would ever want to hang them out there. We were trying to stop the run. We put them in straight?man coverage with the four?man rush way too many times.

What I was most concerned about in that game was that West Virginia would throw the ball down the field on us once they established that running game. And I thought our corners did an excellent job with it.

We’ve got far too many pass interference calls, which is a concern. We missed tackles ?? primarily, our safeties, we missed tackles but we missed tackles against a good back and we missed tackles on a very slippery field. You look at the tape, I mean, we were slipping, sliding. They played on the same field, though. We did slip around a lot.

I think from a coverage standpoint, we locked up and played good man?to?man coverage on some really good receivers. They have an outstanding receiver for West Virginia, and so does SC, no question. SC, we all know they have outstanding receivers.

I thought we were making improvement. I was pleased to see us go up and make a play on the ball. The one in front of our bench late in the game, Jason Beckstrom was able to go up and basically in a jump ball situation and knock that ball out of there. So, I think we are improving coverage. I was a little disappointed in our tackling, but I thought our guys hung in there and played pretty good.

Q. If Israel is not playing, would you expect Elam to get the majority of the snaps?

BOB DAVIE: Well, it will be Gerome Sapp, if he’s back, and Elam and then, if the mix ?? and, so Glenn Earl is back healthy. Glenn had a great spring, worked his tail off this summer and he came back and he pulled that hamstring and then he’s had some little different things. So it’s time for him to get healthy and become productive. So, fortunately we do have some depth at that position.

Q. USC has a quarterback who can throw it on a couple of good running backs, so you most likely can’t overload against one or the other, how do you handle that against SC?

BOB DAVIE: Well, I haven’t watched them much, but we’ve broken down all their tapes and I talked to Dennis Moynahan (ph) our graduate assistant who does it. They are a good offensive team. They probably should have beat Oregon in Eugene the week before. They let it slip away from them. Yesterday they scored 48 points on Arizona State. The quarterback seems like he’s been there forever. Certainly, he was a young man that we recruited. He’s a young man that wanted to come to Notre Dame. It seems like he’s played a lot of football, been there a long time. He’s a talent. We had him in our summer camp. We know how well he runs. We know how well he throws.

They have an outstanding receiver that’s a great speed receiver, beat us last year several times in the game. I believe his name is Kelly. He’s an explosive player.

They have a tailback that’s a track athlete, No. 1, and they are a challenging offensive football team. USC is never going to be short on talent, particularly when they have a quarterback coming back who is experienced. They have been balanced, they have been kind of a two?back offense, but from what I understand, they are giving you some empty, spreading it around, a lot of formations. So it will be a test. I think we can be a good defensive football team. I’m a little disappointed in yesterday. Certainly, we have to play better, but I know we are capable of playing better.

Q. The defense has been playing fairly consistently for you until yesterday, and the offense has been struggling. What do you see as the potential of your team when they both get on the same page?

BOB DAVIE: I think we can be pretty good. You know, I don’t know that we’re a team that’s going to go out there and just blow anybody out of that stadium, but I don’t know if we’ve been that kind of team for a long time around here. We’re a team that’s going to have to work for everything that we can get. We’re certainly capable to break out and make big plays on offense. We are certainly capable of doing things in the kicking game. We have to hit on all cylinders to win, but I think we are capable of doing that. I think we are getting better.

I think the offense is starting to become what it probably was in preseason camp. You know, I think some of the things that happened early in the year are behind us. We just have to be as good as we can be and we have to play our best game of the year this week to win. You know we have a stretch coming up now of USC at home, at Boston College on a Saturday night game up there ?? we all know what that atmosphere will be like. Then we come home to Tennessee. So it’s a pretty good three?game stretch right there, certainly, when you consider the three?game stretch we had to open the season.

So nothing is going to come easy, but I like our team right now, and I think we are getting back to where we thought we could be early in the year.

Q. (Inaudible)?

BOB DAVIE: I talked to him right away. You know, all of these ?? even when you don’t see sometimes, you’re going to guess in your favor. So I said that somebody threw a towel up, somebody hit that ball. I wasn’t sure if somebody threw it up, but I’ve got tell you, I’m pretty sure somebody threw it up when I talked to them. They said they didn’t see it, which was kinds of surprising to me, I mean, I saw it. But how it got there, I’m still not sure. When you look at the tape, I think it’s really difficult to say.

I’m sure the young man from West Virginia is going to say he didn’t throw it, and that’s going to be his story and he is going to stick to and I don’t blame him. You really can’t tell. It’s just that I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anything like that. Other than the Big Unit (Randy Johnson) hitting that pigeon or whatever it was when he was pitching for Arizona, I don’t know that I have ever seen anything like that.

I’m really thankful that towel did not knock that ball down. But that was an amazing thing. If he could throw that towel up there and hit it, he’s got some unique skills now. It’s just kind of one of those freakish things and I’m glad that ball went through the upright.

Q. (Inaudible)?

BOB DAVIE: I think what you’re saying is we have too many negative plays where we don’t get any productivity. That is a concern, but I think if you look at ?? you could almost flip that around and look at West Virginia statistics. They have 270 yards, they have 60 of us on a one?run. They have 28 or 20?some on another run. They are down to 55 plays for ?? if you take those big plays out. I mean, certainly, athletes making plays is a big part of this game, my concern is, and it continues to be our offensive concern. We have negative plays sometimes in running plays that we shouldn’t have negative plays.

And not making excuses, we have get a lot of ?? because we don’t throw it on first down. Those statistics I know you’re a sharp guy, other people know those that statistics, too. We are now, what, if you add up last week and this week on first down? That’s pretty strong. So you’re getting a lot of run?throughs and different fronts and twists and all kind of stuff ?? well, I don’t know if they will make some plays because we are going block every front and football.

So we have looked closely at that, and I say this from an execution standpoint, we are much farther along. It’s not just breakdowns now where it was in the Nebraska game, where we just couldn’t function. You’ve got to give the defense credit, too. I mean, they make some plays. So I feel better about it ?? when somebody makes a play, it’s a good play.

So, we’re not just self?destructing, we are executing better. But there are a few too many of those. But I think by being a little more balanced, we can alleviate some of those scheme things that are happening to us and we can help our players a little bit. You know, it’s kind of like the statement I made of ?? we hung our defense out there. I’ll be the first one to tell you. I’m calling man?to?man coverage on every potential running down, because I’m so concerned about that tailback and I want to outnumber him in the box. Well, I know I’m hanging those three corners out there, and it’s just a matter of time until they max protect that ball and throw it down the field.

So I feel bad there that. So I’ve got to play more zone. The reason is, I’m afraid they are going to run the ball. There’s a good reason. But on offense, we’re a little bit: Let’s run it on first down because we are still not sure we can complete it on first down. We diversified. We are well intentioned and we’re making our kids execute against every defensive football.

So we have to become more balanced on how we call things. That’s easy to sit there and say, but you’ve got to give your kids a chance to succeed and we can do that right now by running it, but we have to throw it to make it just a little easier on ourselves. That’s kind of where we’re headed.

But I think you can see with Carlyle, whether it’s with option, whether it’s with throwing, I think we can be pretty good. I think we can get pretty good. We just have to get confident.

Q. (Inaudible)?

BOB DAVIE: Well, yeah, it’s like 22 for them. When he hit it ?? if you made a mistake, you’re going to pay for it, because he’s explosive enough and strong enough. He’s going to make somebody miss and he can take to the house on you.

Same thing with Carlyle. He comes out of there on that option. Both of those two big plays were on options that he ran, and they had somebody to come tackle him, but they bounced off him.

So he’s a playmaker. I mean, that’s why we made the move. I mean, I still love Matt LoVecchio. Matt LoVecchio did some great things for us and will do some great things for us, but for us to be conductive, I think everybody sees that we need explosions on offense and the quarterback provides us with the chance to do this.

Q. (Inaudible)?

BOB DAVIE: Sure, I mean any time you have success. Any time you have success. It’s hard to play when you think you have to be perfect all the time. Sometimes you know, and the same with us. When you’ve got a guy that can make plays like that, that you are going to give him more opportunities to make it with you, you kind of become less conservative.

Q. (Inaudible)?

BOB DAVIE: Well, they are throwing slants. We’ve played teams that throw the slants, spread the field. You’re going to get two guys going for the ball, it’s going to be close.

I think it’s kind of like momentum. I think if we just keep playing hard, I think calls will start to come our way on those things. You know, over the course of the season, I think if you handle situations the right way and make your point the right way, with how you handle some questionable things, I think eventually people will appreciate that and it will all work out for you in the end. So we are not going to change anything.

We had some guys break in on the ball. There was some close calls. I was disappointed on the late hit with Courtney Watson after the pass interference. I mean, it’s close, but I would call that ?? that was an unnecessary thing and an unnecessary mistake on our part right there.

So it will even out in the end.

Q. (Inaudible)?

BOB DAVIE: Well, I think it’s one week at a time. That’s all you want is improvement, and if you improve as a team, it shows that the attitude of your team is good. It shows that the chemistry of your team is good. That’s all you can judge things on when you are a coach. You have to be the one that knows more than other people knows and have tremendous confidence, and I feel like we’re getting better. I feel like we’re getting better. And I think this football team has a lot of life left in it, this coaching staff has a lot of life left in it, and I just want to see how good we can be. We’ve got a bunch of challenges, as we know, as we knew going into this season.

But we’ve kind of made it through, I think, the falling off the cliff part of it and we can start building and start getting better. We are a 2?3 team. The two teams we beat don’t have particularly great won/loss records, but I know those two teams we beat have some good athletes. I look at West Virginia, they beat Old Miss 54 to something in the Bowl game last year. They have a bunch of players back.

So I don’t really care which direction it was or where they are or what conference they are in. I’m looking at what we’re doing and I can see some improvement.

Q. (Inaudible)?

BOB DAVIE: Well, you know in the kicking game, we work pretty hard to find something that people are vulnerable too. Yesterday the onside kick worked. I look back to the fake field goal against Michigan State. To be quite honest, that fake field goal, we probably researched that more and knew more than we knew that it would work on the onside kick yesterday.

But as long as you research them and feel good that the odds are in your favor, you execute them and let it rip. Same things on the 4th and 1. That wasn’t just a, “Well, let’s see what happens.” I mean, you felt pretty good that you could make the first down.

Q. (Inaudible)?

BOB DAVIE: I mentioned yesterday after the game, I mean, you need to be ahead. You need to be even. It’s hard now when you’re ?? you know, we opened and it’s 14?0 before I put those new coaching fan on that says Bobby on it, we’ve been behind now. Michigan State, it’s 7?0 before you blink. A&M, it’s 7?0 before you blink. But it’s difficult digging out of those holes. I just want to be even. We’re not all that conservative.

Q. (Inaudible)?

BOB DAVIE: I think so. I think we’re more efficient to where we’re not having procedure penalties. We didn’t fumble the snaps from center yesterday, which to some people might be a little thing but to us it’s a big thing. That’s probably true. But once against, we are still a work in progress. I don’t think Kevin Rogers and the offensive coaches are ready to hand out any National Championship rings just yet or No. 1 offense in the country rings. So we are going to keep working and trying to get better.

Q. (Inaudible)?

BOB DAVIE: I think he’s stronger than what people would expect. You know, he makes people bounce off of him, but, athletically, he’s capable of a lot of things. We knew that when we recruited him and that’s why he was so hard to recruit because so many people wanted him. He’s a dynamic athlete.

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