Oct. 16, 2001
JOHN HEISLER: A couple of quick notes. Kickoff this week is 1:39 here in South Bend. That’s 11:39 in the morning out on the west coast.
For those of you hooked by satellite, we’ll have West Virginia highlights at the end of the satellite feed.
A reminder that our Sunday wrapup with Bob Davie is at 1:00 in the Joyce Center auditorium after each of our home games.
Also a note on next week, the kickoff for the Boston College game a week from now will be announced next Saturday night. It’s one of two options: It’s either 7:45 or 6:00. Both of those are eastern time. We’ll presumably know that at some point after the end of our game this weekend.
If you’re looking for quotes from the USC end, they’ll be posting some quotes from their Tuesday press conference on their website, USCTrojans.com, later this afternoon.
Coach Davie is here. He’ll make some opening comments and then take some questions.
COACH BOB DAVIE: Well, this is obviously a big week for us. You know, all of our coaching staff has been involved in a lot of rivalries. This, to me, is the best game and the biggest game that I’ve been involved with in my coaching career. I think the Notre Dame USC game is something that everyone looks forward to the challenge of being in.
I was thinking coming over here what a contrast, you know. We’re in South Bend, Indiana out there on that field. I mean, it’s been raining for a couple days in South Bend. Compare that ’99 game, the atmosphere in our stadium, to last year’s atmosphere in the Los Angeles Coliseum bright sunshine and 80 something degrees, playing them in late November out there when we were playing in Los Angeles, playing in October here.
I told our players yesterday, “It’s going to take every game you’ve been in in the USC rivalry.” I can think of just the exact moments in each one of the eight games that I’ve been in. I really enjoy this. I think this is a big?time, big?time, big?time game.
I think it is a game where to the fan out there, to the someone that evaluates things from an easy perspective ? which is easy to do ? I think you can look at the records and say, “Boy, these are two teams playing that maybe aren’t that good or two teams playing that maybe don’t have that much riding on this game.” But if you look closely at it, as I think coaches and players look at it ? as I know they do ? I think this is two football teams that have a chance to be pretty good teams ? real good teams. There’s a lot of good players in this game.
I look at USC, and I see a team that’s played really good football teams this year. They’ve lost four games by a total of 13 points, I believe, if you add all those up. They’ve played Kansas State, they’ve played in Eugene against Oregon. They’ve played in Seattle against Washington. They were in positions to win in every one of those games. It’s amazing to lose four games by a total of 13 points.
But they play a good schedule. They have a lot of good players. I think they have a chance to really be a good team. They’re extremely explosive on offense.
I’m proud of the way our team, right now, is showing confidence and working to get better. You really are, in this profession ? what we do for a living ? you really appreciate strong people, and you really appreciate character, and you really appreciate people that know what competition is really all about. I just enjoy our players and coaches so much. I’m really proud of the way they’ve handled themselves.
I think because of that, we have a chance to get better. That’s what we’re doing. It’s taking that tape every week and showing that tape and seeing what our strengths are, what our weaknesses are.
But I’m excited that we’re improving as a team. We met yesterday, took our special teams tapes, as we always do, and showed them as a team from Saturday’s game. There’s a lot of really good things, offense and defense. Offensively, there’s a lot of good things happening right now.
So we’re an improving team. I really appreciate the sincerity of our guys and the character of our guys. That’s something you really enjoy. But you kind of weed out the pretenders when times get tough. It’s something that I enjoy about this profession.
I think this week, for us to get better, it’s a challenge. Right now, this is the week before our fall break at Notre Dame. As all of you know that have been around here, academics mount up on these kids. This is a very demanding week for our players academically.
Also, we have some injuries. Julius Jones and Tony Fisher were unable to practice yesterday. That’s difficult.
I think Ron Israel’s out for this game. Sean Milligan was unable to practice yesterday. We’ve got some bumps and bruises. I’m sure USC has the same situation. They’ve played all good teams and they’ve had their starters on the field every game they’ve played in.
I like where we are. I like the people we have in place. I like what our guys have done. Now we have to see how good we can get.
I think this game at home against USC is a huge game for us. But it’s exciting. I’m really looking forward to this game and just matching up. You look at their team. Their two wide receivers, No. 2 and No. 83, boy, they’re really, I think, spectacular players.
I remember No. 2 when he was a freshman back here in ’99. He was just a true freshman wearing a different number then. He went down the field on us and made an unbelievable catch in three deep. Last year, playing out there, just such an explosive player.
No. 83 we recruited. He’s a good player.
They’ve got a tight end that really looks like a wide receiver the way he runs. Then the quarterback, it seems like he’s been playing forever. It seems like an eternity ago he was in our summer camp. The thing about Carson Palmer, he runs so well.
Obviously, I talked to Mike Sherman last night who’s one of my best friends, he’s at the Packers, he said, “People really like him in the NFL because he’s so mobile. He has such a strong arm.” So they’re a talented team.
Defensively, I think their secondary is really good. Their corners are good man?to?man guys. They’ve got some experience there. Their one safety will knock the heck out of you. They’ve got some young defensive linemen. One player, Shaun Cody, starting as a freshman. We recruited him right down to the wire a year ago.
They’re a good football team. I think you see them position themselves to really be a good team and improving as the season goes on.
Special teams they come after the punter. They do a good job blocking field goals. They blocked one and ran it back for a touchdown. Any time you have good athletes, you’re going to have good special teams.
So I think this game, if you look closely at it which sometimes people don’t always take the time to do or have the ability to do I think you look closely at this game and you see that there’s a lot riding on this game. They’re two teams that I think play extremely hard. I think there’s two talented teams that have a chance coming out of this game to be pretty good down the stretch. It’s a exciting game. I’m looking forward to this football game.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll take some questions from people on the telephone.
Q. Bob, a couple part question. Number one, have you ever seen a play where a towel comes up and hits the field goal attempt? Secondly, did you ???
COACH BOB DAVIE: Never. To answer your first part: Never. Didn’t mean to cut you off. I’m sorry.
Q. Did you plan on an outside kick, the way that developed with Nick recovering the kick? Talk a little bit about Nick Setta’s performance this year for you guys.
COACH BOB DAVIE: Well, first of all, I have never seen a play where that towel went up and hit the football like that. When you look at the close copy from the coaches’ tapes, it’s still really difficult to figure out how the towel got up there. I’ve got a hard time seeing if he took it and threw it up there and tried to hit it, or just how it happened. It’s difficult. But I’ve never seen anything like that. It was amazing.
And it really, you know, I said Saturday after the game, the only thing I can think of like that was Randy Johnson hitting that bird out there in Arizona with one of those 100 mile?an?hour fastballs that even comes close to that.
The second part of that is, yeah, the outside kick is something that ?? we did that a couple years ago against Tennessee. We spent a lot of time, as we always do, on their special teams. We noticed that No. 42, their center on their kick?off return team, really flipped his hips just as the kicker was approaching the ball. We made sure that he, in fact, did that the first time we kicked off. Then we felt like we could execute it, it was something that was obviously a slam dunk as far as being successful if we could just execute. So it was planned.
The third thing, I think Nick Setta has had an outstanding year. Nick Setta came here highly recruited, very confident. He’s mentally very tough. I mean, he’s got a great personality which I think bodes well particularly here at Notre Dame for a kicker because it’s not an easy place to be a kicker. I think he can handle the weather. I think he can handle kicking on a field like he kicked on Saturday. I think he can handle some of the things that happen when things don’t go well for you.
I’m really excited about him. He’s got a great future. He has two years of football left after this year. I think he’ll be as good as there is in this country by the time he’s done.
Q. You mentioned that a lot is riding on this game. What are your thoughts about the Bowl implications, especially for Notre Dame?
COACH BOB DAVIE: Well, it’s not even in the realm of possibility just yet. We’re a football team that got in a hole early in the year. We’re still in that hole. We’re scratching and clawing to get up out of it. It’s too early. It’s too early to even talk about that. I think that’s the thing I’ve been impressed with this team ? is just the maturity that it has and the sincerity it has to keep working to get better.
So it’s way too early to even talk about that.
Q. If you guys keep improving and playing, is it your feeling that’s not out of the question?
COACH BOB DAVIE: No, certainly it’s not out of the question. We’ve had other years here where we’ve had games that we’ve lost early in the season. We would have been able to rally and go on and put some games together. This year the schedule is as challenging, if not more challenging, than it’s ever been if you look at what’s coming on the horizon. We knew that going into the season. That hasn’t changed.
So, yeah, it’s totally possible. There’s certainly a lot of football left. As I said, Notre Dame and USC both, before this year’s over, is gonna have a chance to be good football teams.
Q. Coach, can you talk about the pressure on the coaches of both these programs to win year in and year out? Do you think with alumni and fans there’s any added pressure for this particular game?
COACH BOB DAVIE: I think there’s a lot that rides on this game. This is a game that I think certainly gets the attention of everybody. And the Notre Dame?USC game, the ramifications of this game are huge. It always is.
So this is a big game. This is one you enjoy playing in and you enjoy the challenge of. I don’t think that ?? I know I can speak for myself. I don’t really worry so much about the ramifications of something, more so just take advantage of the opportunity to go do it and be as prepared as you can be.
But, yeah, I mean, we all realize there’s a lot riding on this football game.
Q. Coach, I understand that one of the reasons for your improvement is that you changed the person who leads you in your fight song Friday night. Could you talk about Casey Robin’s contribution to the team that way and beyond?
COACH BOB DAVIE: Well, yeah, I mean I wish it was that easy. I would have done that a long time ago if I thought that was the answer.
But, yeah, we’ve had success with Casey. In fact, we even, you know, at the end of our ?? we got a thing we call “Captain Video” that we show every Friday night at a home game down in Plymouth on the road at our hotel. It’s kind of a highlight, motivation?type tape that our players enjoy every week and our coaches enjoy. We have a shot of us singing the victory march. As you know, we had to wait a while to get it done this year, so our tape has been a copy of last year’s. And we finally got that thing changed Saturday after the West Virginia game, so we’re excited about that.
Yeah, but Casey, more than that, I mean, I joke when it comes to that. ^ Casey Robin is a heck of a guy. His role on this football team is not just our song leader. He’s a guy that’s done an incredible job on field goal extra point protection. He’s started some games here at Notre Dame for us. His role has been out of a backup lineman.
But he came back for a fifth year, a lot like Jeff Smith, because he just wanted to see this thing through and wanted to be a part of something that he thought could end on a positive note.
Q. What does it say for somebody to come back for a fifth year when they’re not assured of having so much playing time?
COACH BOB DAVIE: We have several of them. You look at our football team. Certainly ^ John Teasdale, Jason Murray, Casey Robin, J.W. Jordan, we had several ? four or five ? fifth?year players that came back because they were excited about the momentum that we had.
I do think that speaks very highly of those guys, and I think that’s going to help us and has helped us through the difficult time. We’ve got some people that came back for the right reasons and play football and compete for the right reasons.
Q. I was wondering if you could talk about ^ Carlyle and the different look that he gives you guys and the things that you’re able to do now with him in there?
COACH BOB DAVIE: Right. I think it’s pretty evident that ^ Carlyle has an amazing future. I’m sure ? in fact I saw when Carson Palmer was a young player, you saw that kind of potential that a player has even when they’re a freshman or sophomore. Certainly, ^ Carlyle’s sitting here with four years of football. You know, with some good fortune, he can be one heck of a football player.
And he obviously has a lot of skills. He can run, he’s strong, he can throw, and I think he’s got a tremendous personality. His dad was an Air Force man. His mom’s a great lady. His brother’s come to just about every game from San Antonio. He’s a sharp, sharp guy that I think handled the situation of being a backup incredibly well. He had an opportunity to probably make some statements about maybe “I should be playing” kind of statements, but he didn’t fall into that trap. I think he’s handled every situation remarkably well. Because of that, I think he has a tremendous future here.
So it’s more than just the skills he has. He still has a ways to go fundamentally obviously. You know, there’s still going to be some bumps in the road with him, as there is any young quarterback. But, I mean, the up side is just unbelievable with him. A lot of it has to do with the kind of person he is.
Q. Can you talk about his running ability. How much of that is instinctive in him?
COACH BOB DAVIE: Well, it’s big. It’s really big this week in this game because USC is a team that they do a very good job with their safeties in run support. They’re going to drop those safeties up in there a lot of times in a nine?man front. It’s really hard to survive just on lining up and running isos and running powers out of two back backfield. The quarterback has to make some plays, has to make some plays with his legs.
So I think it gives us a diversity that we need offensively because we are a two back team. We’re not a team like USC. USC’s a two back team but they throw the ball incredibly well. They have great speed at wide receiver, and they’ve got a quarterback that’s played a lot of football so they’re diversified by the passing game. We’re a little bit more diversified by the option game and some of the things the quarterback can do. It fits really well into what we’re doing offensively.
Q. Just to sort of continue on that, how much have you seen ^ Carlisle change from the second or third week?
COACH BOB DAVIE: As far as personality?
Q. Maybe a little bit of both. Maybe on the field and off.
COACH BOB DAVIE: Not at all. I mean, he’s a ?? people are going to love him when they get to know him even better. He’s humble. He’s a great young man. As a player, certainly I always kind of associate it with like when you see the air come out of a balloon. You know, sometimes young players and young quarterbacks, even young tailbacks kind of fly around when something happens that wasn’t planned. He’s become less of that. Against A and M, you saw him just kind of panic and fly around when things broke down. Then you saw the evolution with Pittsburgh and West Virginia where he was just a lot more patient. I think he also protects the football better. He’s becoming more polished, a little more gamesmanship at the position.
We’re doing a lot of things with him. We’re not we’re doing, you know, everything we can do as far as the package. He does a good job with it. I’ve seen a lot of evolution. I think sitting there last year probably helped him in a lot of ways. He had a chance to be out of the fire, look at the thing develop a little bit with Matt LoVecchio and kind of the offense develop. So I think he’s had a lot of development both on and off the field.
Q. You talked about some of the USC players that you recruited but didn’t get. Some people are always under the impression that Notre Dame can come out to California and get anybody they wanted. How difficult is it now to come out and get these players
COACH BOB DAVIE: Tough. I mean, it’s a battle. You know, obviously for us certainly academics limits the pool. Then when there are players with high academics, there’s some others ?? there’s a lot of schools when you get on an airplane between southern California or northern California and south Indiana. You’re gonna fly over a bunch of places that have good academics as well.
Certainly we’ve been in some battles out there. I’ve seen some players that have loved Notre Dame, families that have loved Notre Dame, that at the end it’s just too difficult to do it. But I’ve seen other players that have been in that situation and been able to make that move.
But it’s not easy. Any time you’re dealing with distance, any time you’re dealing with other schools in a region that offer a lot of things, you’re going to have to find that certain guy that really fits with the culture here at Notre Dame. So it’s a recruiting battle not only for us in California, but everywhere, because there’s distance involved and there’s a lot of things involved.
It’s been a it’s a battle. I think we’re doing a much better job in California. We’re working about as hard as we can. But we have to really be careful who we get in on so we don’t come down to the end and we’ve invested a bunch of time, a bunch of resources and it’s almost impossible to get him in the end. So we’ve tried to really do a good job of evaluating who in the end we can get. That’s a difficult evaluation.
Q. Bob, Tony Fisher has been one of your more productive players in the last couple years especially. He’s been a part of the offense every year he’s been at Notre Dame. What, if anything, has prevented him from being “the” guy? Is it because you have so much depth at that position? As productive as he is, he doesn’t carry 20, 25 times a game.
COACH BOB DAVIE: I think what you said is exactly what it is. It’s two things. One, Tony’s sophomore year, he really played the whole year with a shoulder that should have been operated on. And I’ll never forget at the end of his sophomore year in ’99, we were so thin as a football team. I remember he was the only running back at that time that could keep on practicing and keep on going. He was just so beaten down.
You know, certainly last year there’s been some injuries. But he is a tough guy. He’s fought through injuries that I really believe a lot of players could not play with. He is a tremendous guy.
So there have been some injuries. And let’s face it, there’s been ?? Julius Jones, you know, we all saw as a freshman that Julius Jones could take a kick?off and run it 100 yards for a touchdown. The spark that he gives you of taking a play and taking it to the house.
But also Tony Fisher’s done that. He may not have looked as explosive doing it. Saturday, I don’t know that he looked particularly explosive, but he went 60 yards or 50 yards for a touchdown with no hole there. It’s been a little bit of having a Julius Jones here. Julius is a good player, too.
I think in a lot of ways it’s probably worked that Tony Fisher is at an advantage. Because the times he’s had to play or gotten an opportunity to get the ball, he’s been probably as productive as he could be. If he played every snap with the injuries he had, would he have been as productive? Would he have been able to play as much if he had to play every snap because he has been banged up?
So I think it’s a combination of some good players at that position. I think it’s a combination of some injuries. I think in the end it’s probably worked out well for him.
Q. One of the other things about how your secondary has played the ball, you’ve talked about that all season, with USC coming up, you think back to last year’s game, 6 Brock Williams had such a great game at USC. Might have been one of the games that convinced people he was good enough to go to the next level. How badly have you missed him? Is that something people have overlooked, what you’re playing without this year?
COACH BOB DAVIE: Brock Williams is, I would have to say, our best coverage corner at the end of last season. I thought he was probably our most productive player as far as he was our nickel, which encompasses a lot of different roles. He was a blitzer, he was a coverage guy. Then he brought so many things off the field. Just a tremendously competitive player.
So ^ Brock Williams not coming back, that took a chunk away from us right there in a lot of areas.
But I will say that I’ve been pleased with Vontez Duff. I think Shane Walton has really ?? I mean, ^ Shane Walton is an unbelievable kid. I mean, he is unbelievable how he competes. We put him out there Saturday on No. 5, the little sprinter from West Virginia, he competed his tail off. ^ Jason Beckstrom is playing well.
Losing ^ Brock Williams, that hurt. You lost a he might not have been captain of this team, but he would have been an unofficial captain of this team because he’s a tremendous character and tremendous football guy. So that hurt. But I think also those young guys have stepped up and played pretty well.
Q. What is Milligan’s injury?
COACH BOB DAVIE: He has an ankle and did not practice last night. ^ Mahan has ?? got banged in the head right before the field goal, kind of wandered off the field on us. He’s back. He’s going to be able to play. But they’re going easy with contact. No contact next couple days.
Q. What’s Plan B with Milligan’s condition?
COACH BOB DAVIE: J.W. Jordan. He played 16 plays in the West Virginia game. He played about 15 plays in the West Virginia game. In the West Virginia game, about 15 plays in the Pitt game. Talk about a guy that’s improved as a football player ? it is remarkable. It’s remarkable. I mean, he is ?? you know, he does some good things for us.
So he would be the next guard. I think Milligan and Mahan will be able to play and start the game.
Q. What happened with ^ Teasdale?
COACH BOB DAVIE: ^ Teasdale has a shoulder injury that he had operated on in the off?season, and he is out about three or four weeks with that thing, trying to ?? he’s been advised to ?? it’s actually turned into a what you kind of refer to as a “stinger,” a neck problem. He’s been advised to just let that thing cool down. So he’s been out for ?? he’s really been out for about four weeks.
Q. You were able to run on Southern Cal last year, had some success. How do you do that this year?
COACH BOB DAVIE: It will be a little more difficult. I think a year ago, you know, we wore them down a little bit. I think they play a little more safeties involved in the run support than they did a year ago. They truly, truly get nine guys up there.
But let’s face it, we’re going to have to try to do it. For us to win, we’re going to have to do it. We have to be able to run the football on them. They’re a team that I think are a lot like Nebraska in that they can lock up on your receivers pretty good. They’ve got some really talented secondary guys.
For us to win now, we have to run it. That’s going to be the tale of the game I think.
Q. Seemed like West Virginia was throwing a lot of slants against you. Are you guys vulnerable to the slants? Do you do anything to take that vulnerability away?
COACH BOB DAVIE: I think we rushed for 350 yards, so we did something to take it away. But Pittsburgh was the one that really ?? Pittsburgh was really slanting and angling on us more than West Virginia. What West Virginia did they did to a degree with the two tackles moving them.
Q. I was meaning on offense. When you’re on defense, they’re throwing a quick slant.
COACH BOB DAVIE: Yeah, all the teams that spread the field, if USC ?? I can’t say Southern Cal, it’s USC ?? they throw slants. USC’s done that for years. West Virginia did that. I mean, that’s tough. It’s tough. A slant with a good receiver and then a slant and go, I mean, those are good combinations.
Yeah, I mean, that’s always going to happen with the slants.
It comes down to a lot of times that corner playing through the ball. A lot of times it’s either a great play or that flag goes up in the air. I think back to last year, just a couple plays Brock Williams made in that game, they were close to being a pass interference, was it pass breakup? Was it a completion? When you have the kind of quarterbacks that can fire it in there on those slants, that’s a weapon.
Q. Every year when you guys play USC, we always seek out the guys from California on the team to get their thoughts on the game. Of course one of them is ^ Mike McNair. The mystery still kind of surrounds him. There was so much hype when he came out of high school, the things he was going to do for Notre Dame. He hasn’t carried the ball. Can you talk about why he hasn’t been able to get on the field and do what people thought he was going to do coming out of high school?
COACH BOB DAVIE: Mike’s a starter for us on our kick?off return team. He’s a starter on our punt team. It’s been a difficult situation of ? and this is nothing that Mike won’t tell you or I haven’t told Mike, that we’ve had a lot of conversations about because he’s someone I have tremendous respect for ? what position does Mike play? Is he going to be a 6 tailback and be ahead of Julius Jones and Tony Fisher and ^ Terrence Howard and Ryan Grant? I don’t think so.
Is he going to be a fullback in a team that runs isos and, you know, is more of a blocking fullback? He’s improved at that. But to be quite honest, he’s not ahead of ^ Tommy Lopienski or Jason Murray in that phase of the game.
He has a great attitude. He’s worked extremely hard. I’ve had a lot of conversations with him. He is a heck of a kid. It’s a difficult situation. It’s just difficult for Mike McNair. It’s difficult for his family.
Whether you come to a place like Notre Dame or you go to a place like USC, there’s going to be other players there. I think he’s done a tremendous job of working, sincere, not going in the tank, trying to become a better player every day. He still has another year of football left after this year. There’s certainly some things left out there for him. But right now he’s behind those players. That’s the reality of it.
Q. Was there maybe too much hype for him? Was the bar set too high, he couldn’t live up to expectations?
COACH BOB DAVIE: I don’t know. There’s hype in recruiting ? always, in recruiting. One of the silliest things to me in this profession is all that recruiting hype. I mean, that’s just silliness. People evaluating them and services’ saying that, then coaches playing the PR game with the services so they recruit their guys higher or rank their guys higher. That whole thing to me is something that ends up a lot of times hurting players, potentially hurting coaches. That’s all silly to me. I don’t have any personal thing against anybody that does that or makes a living doing that. I just think we spend so much time as coaches ? 24 hours a day, and I have 25 years invested ? it’s just so difficult to judge a player and how he’s going to evolve and how he’s going to fit and what the other players are bringing in, how he’s going to match. That’s difficult.
So for people to get bent out of shape on what the evaluation was or what the list said or what All?American team this guy made, that’s silliness to me. The way we’ve been able to keep players in the program, we’ve been very confident in recruiting players that we think fit our system and fit our place which, in itself, is different. So to say someone’s overhyped, that’s not fair to say. I mean, it’s all overhype to me. It’s all silly.
Q. Speaking of recruiting hype, back when ^ Carlisle signed, from what I remember you didn’t find out that he was going to sign with Notre Dame until the morning of the signing day. Can you just talk about what that whole process was like and how it came down to the last minute there.
COACH BOB DAVIE: It was wild. We worked as hard on ^ Carlisle Holiday as you can ever work recruiting a player. I mean, it was unbelievable. I mean ^ Kirk Doll, Kevin Rogers, myself, everyone on this staff was in San Antonio, Texas. He’s a great, great young man, and he had some great choices.
At the end of recruiting, we felt great, Nebraska felt great, A and M felt great, because he’s such a great kid. Basically at the end he just shut off communication for the last week. I mean, there was no way ?? you think bin Laden’s tough to get in touch with. I mean, ^ Carlisle, forget it, man. I mean, forget it. You’re not getting him on that phone. You can forget about it.
So we went for a week, there was no contact. It wasn’t like I wanted to call Nebraska and ask them if they had had contact or call A and M as well as I know R.C. and say, “Did you have contact?” ‘Cause I didn’t want him to know we didn’t have contact.
It was that whole thing going on. So we didn’t know. It was that whole thing going on. So we didn’t know.
And then, you know, the Wednesday morning of the signing date, we were sitting in the office, still didn’t know. So we called the coach and he was actually in the press conference and the press conference was going on. I think we got somebody that works in the school or some hall monitor to go in and kind of find out what he said. We found out he announced A and M ?? excuse me, announced Notre Dame.
And we went out on that one, where a couple years ago we were waiting on that same thing and we found out a guy had went a different place. But he had never actually told us he was coming, ^ Carlisle. So the first we had heard was that morning in that press conference. So it was different.
Q. How about the development of ^ Tyreo Harris son since you recruited him? Did you see him as a starting linebacker?
COACH BOB DAVIE: You talk about recruiting stories, ^ Tyreois from Sulphur Springs, Texas, a little town, I mean, out in the middle of nowhere. And A and M came in at the end. It was us and Vanderbilt with academics.
I always teased R.C. ^ Tyreo’s dad had never been up in this part of the country. So R.C., as he always does, tells that story to Tyreo’s dad about how it’s a frozen tundra up there, it’s 20 below, it’s snowing, what are you going to do for clothes? Have you ever been in that country?
I’ll never forget, we were in the house. This was about in late January, Greg Mattison and I, his dad was home. I kind of knew ? I left the day before to fly down there ? the weather was pretty good. I said, “You know what, you can’t believe everything he tells you.” I said, “Do you have a television?”
He said, “Yeah. It’s in the bedroom.”
I said, “Let’s go in there. Put the weather channel on.” We put the weather channel on. You know how they have that different colors of like if it’s ?? we’re sometimes in that deep purple. Well, thank God we were in that light green and it was about 45 degrees. It was like a heat wave came through there.
I said, “Come up here.” I said, “This is where South Bend is.” I said, “You tell me right now, in late January, this is as bad as it ever gets. This is the worst time of the year. What’s the temperature in South Bend right now?”
He said, “It’s 46 degrees.”
I said, “See. All that stuff they’re telling you about South Bend and that whole deal…” That’s how it kind of went with ^ Tyreo But he has developed as a player. He’s a leader. He’s tough. He came here, he’s going to be in engineering, he’s going to get his degree. He is a sharp, sharp young guy. He’s a leader on this team and he has become a man. He has grown up and he is a tough guy.
Q. Seemed like you struggled a little bit against Nebraska looking at the stat sheet and at the film. Has he improved since then?
COACH BOB DAVIE: I thought he played okay against Nebraska. He’s getting better though. This is his second year playing. He’s turned into a good, solid football player for us.
Q. ^ Pete Carroll said that looking at film, Notre Dame’s secondary is amongst the toughest he’s seen this season given they’re a team that passes almost three times as much as they throw ? or three times as productive passing as throwing. Is this the toughest test your secondary is facing, and especially you’ve got somebody as young as ^ Vontez in there?
COACH BOB DAVIE: I think it’s our toughest test, because they, you know, productivity, they’re high in passing but they’re pretty balanced. They’re about 50?50 run and pass. I think the combination of who the quarterback is and how he throws and the receivers, I think this is our toughest test without a doubt. I think you’re seeing two receivers and a quarterback that you’re going to see playing in the NFL down the road. In fact, I know you will.
And also, you have a quarterback that can run and get out of trouble, so now you got to cover them when the pocket breaks down and the quarterback’s scrambling. We played some good quarterbacks. ^ Eric Crouch is unbelievable. We’ve played some good receivers. But I think the combination of both, this is our toughest test.
Q. Can you talk more about, you talked about the rushing game. How important is the passing game going to come into play? 70 yards last week. How important, we saw a pass to the tight end. How important is it going to be to establish more of a passing game against Southern Cal?
COACH BOB DAVIE: Yeah, obviously we have to keep developing the passing game not only against USC, but as we go down the stretch of this season. It’s difficult, as you know, to rush for 300 yards in a game against teams like USC. So we have to be able to throw it.
It really was encouraging, though, Saturday. I think you guys would agree. The deep throw that ^ Carlisle made to David was an unbelievable throw. He stood in the pocket on some of the third downs on the square and hit ^ jade twice. He did throw it to the tight end. You know, he can throw it. He can throw it. We’re going to have to throw it better. We’re going to have to run options. We’re going to have to be a little more diversified, but I think we can do that and be successful.
Q. Do you think it’s going to be situational, where if you’re playing behind you don’t want to do that?
COACH BOB DAVIE: No, I think we have to stay ahead of rhythm. I think whatever that statistic is, 56 or 57 first down running the ball, that’s hard. We’re going to have to break through that and we’re going to have to throw the ball on first downs. I think we’re confident, even though they have good corners, that we have to do that. We have to take the next step and I think we can do it.
Q. This is a rhetorical question, but you’re obviously getting more confidence because ^ Carlyle is getting more confidence. It lies a lot in him, doesn’t it?
COACH BOB DAVIE: Yeah. And I think scheme?wise, we’re totally into what we are now and we’re kind of adding little pieces of it from the passing game. The run game and the option game I think gets totally locked in. Yeah, I mean, you have more confidence because that quarterback is the guy that you can see can handle it.
And the other thing, ^ David Givens is back and healthy. It was a long time there with Arnaz and David down, too. So we got no excuses. We got some guys back that can catch it and we have a quarterback that has a little experience now, so we need to throw a little more.
Q. This week being sort of academically rigorous more than usual here, is there anything you do to accommodate the players in that fashion ?
COACH BOB DAVIE: Greg Mattison is coaching those guys in calculus (laughing). Something we did, we got the freshman grades back, their first calculus test. We got 23 freshmen in calculus. Our lowest grade was 78 in calculus. We had three or four guys up over 90?something in the freshman calculus class. I think guess that’s a small victory, but that’s something. It really is.
No, I think it’s something that you understand that that’s part of it. What I’ve tried to do is keep their eye on the target of “Next week there’s no school” so they get a chance to take a deep breath. It’s the accumulation of things. It’s the accumulation of a lot of things. Right now we’re a little bit beat up. We got academics pounding us right now, which is part of it. We got a great football team, in my opinion, potentially a great football team coming in here in a huge game. So it’s kind of what Notre Dame football is.
Try to be smart about how we practice. Try to be smart about how we practice. The exciting thing is I really think we’ve had an emotional boost. We’ve won two games, and I think we’re playing better. And I think our players have a little more confidence and a little more emotional boost right now. So I think we’re going to be fine.
Q. Obviously in no way, shape or form would you assume or take for granted a win against a team like USC. But to have the record back to 3?3, mentally and emotionally, how much of a boost would that be for the players?
COACH BOB DAVIE: That’s the whole point ? to climb yourself up out of that hole and get your feet back on the ground again, and that’s what it is. That’s what it is.
But, you know, I’ve learned a long time ago if you just play as good as you can play and coach as good as you can coach and not worry about that, just take it one thing at a time, you usually end up doing fine.
So I think we got a pretty mature football team, just worrying about what we can control and that’s practicing better today and playing better.
Q. Can you talk about ^ Darrell Campbell’s progression from the Nebraska game, one of his first starts going against an All?American type.
COACH BOB DAVIE: Yeah, I think ^ Darrell l, once again you’re talking about a young man that’s in engineering. Incredible academic schedule. He’s worked as hard as you can possibly work with academics. He started this year for the first time in Lincoln, Nebraska. Had a setback. Didn’t play probably as productive as he’d like to play.
This past week he’s sitting in class and he gets a neck spasm, which adds a little bit of an injury. Basically, they carry him out of class on a stretcher. Then didn’t play much against West Virginia. You know, so he’s a young guy, a lot of things mounting up on him right now. But a great attitude. I think he can be an outstanding player. I think he’s on schedule. I think he’s on schedule. He’s playing much better. I thought the Pitt game was his best game since he’s been here by far. You’re starting to feel him on the field. With a couple years of football left, he’ll have a chance to be a big?time player.
Q. One of the coaches mentioned the toughest thing for him right now is finding a balance between holding the gap and trying to fall off the block and make a play. Is that the toughest thing for a guy, through technique, who’s especially young like he is to do?
COACH BOB DAVIE: Yeah, he was a linebacker in high school. The biggest thing is sometimes you get a guy that’s a playmaker and he wants to jump up off that block and not hold the block long enough. That sounds funny. Sometimes he’ll dance around and jump around in there, you get a little bit mushy. You need somebody to come off and beat blockers.
He has really improved. Greg’s done a good job with him. He’s becoming really a good technique football player. I really think the best is ahead of ^ Darrell Campbell.
Q. Is that sort of lack of balance what hindered him against Nebraska, not really getting a feel?
COACH BOB DAVIE: You know what, I mean, I think Nebraska had 270 yards. I mean, he played ?? we played okay, honestly. And, you know, a young guy playing the first time in Lincoln, Nebraska, bunch of them playing against Nebraska, a lot of things happened. So I wouldn’t judge too much ^ Tyreo and Darrell on that game. I thought they really played pretty good.
Q. Coach, you and the players have been saying what a big game this is. Sports Illustrated had a thing in the middle of the summer. They called this the most overrated rivalry because it’s been so long since both teams were in the top playing each other. What makes this a big game? They’re probably not the best team you play every year.
COACH BOB DAVIE: I think it’s the combination of Notre Dame and USC. It’s Notre Dame and USC. And the traditions, the Midwest and the west, South Bend and Los Angeles, the players that have played in the game, the coaches that have played in the game. Just, to me, there’s just some pageantry to it that you don’t have. It’s the ?? it’s not a regional rivalry where, you know, the regional rivalries, you know, a lot of people are taking buses to get there. This one, they took a train a long time ago. Now it’s a cross?country trip. Just the contrast of the two places.
I can remember growing up in Pittsburgh and, you know, you just remember on those foggy, cold, dreary November days sitting there watching the Notre Dame?USC game. The ones you remember from the Coliseum, just that contrast of that bright sunshine back there on those dreary east coast or Midwest days. I think it’s the contrast of the two things. Where normally in a regional rivalry you’re kind of the same lifestyle or the same thing a little bit.
This is an amazing contrast. You’ll see it again. SC is very highly skilled, you know, they play in the Coliseum where that grass is about that high. It’s a fast track and, you know, they’re coming in here. You saw that stadium Saturday. It was a little bit sloppy out there. So it’s just a contrast in a lot of things.
I mean, you sit on that freeway last year, going back to Pasadena after we won that game to win nine games, you know, I’m sitting on that bus with Clay and looking at that city and, you know, you think of the contrast of getting in your car and going out to Granger to go home after a game.
It’s a huge difference. I think that makes it a neat rivalry.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
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