Nov. 9, 1999
JOHN HEISLER: John Heisler here. A couple of quick notes before we get started. Kickoff at Pittsburgh this weekend is at 3:40. For those of you on the satellite there will be about five minutes of highlights from the Notre Dame/Tennessee Game at the tailend of our satellite feed. And for those of you that are with us on a regular basis, we have our Sunday wrap-up at 11:30 in the Joyce Center Auditorium with Bob Davie.
At this time coach Dave is here, he will makes some opening comments and then we will take some questions.
COACH DAVIE: I think first of all, after watching George Bush Jr. get ambushed last Thursday, I guess it was — we probably ought to put some parameters on this press conference from now on. I am not going to answer any questions about who heads foreign countries.
Joe Doyle, I only go back to about 1994 as far as Notre Dame facts and trivia. So don’t be ambushing me with any questions I don’t know the answers to.
But I think obviously for both teams this is a big game this week as they all are. First of all, I think to bounce back after a loss, this football team, I think, over the last couple of years has proven to be pretty resilient. It is a little bigger challenge right now because we have got some injuries, but to be able to bounce back from a loss, that is the great thing about sports, great thing about college football, you have an opportunity each and every week to go out there and get things rectified. So to bounce back, I think the second thing is to go win a football game on the road. It is something we haven’t been able to do. You look back at these five games, obviously Tennessee who I think — I think will end up being a No. 1 team in college football this year, I can’t imagine there is a better football team out there in this country.
Before that, I guess it was Purdue, back on September 11, we went down right there to the end of the game and lost. Then Michigan, same thing end of the game and lost. Then last year you look at the Georgia Tech game, climbed back in that game, then Dennis White caught a big touchdown pass on us and we lost and the one before with Southern Cal that we went out there and it is 0-0 halftime, you know, so we have played five good teams all five tough situations, but the bottom line we have lost five straight games on the road.
You try to look as to what the reasons are for that, you can drive yourself crazy trying to do that. Nothing really jumps out at you. You think of all the close games we have played at home, but we were able to win. That is part of being a football team right now, that let’s face it – this football team has to play just about perfect to win. We are not alone on that. There is a lot teams in this country that have to play perfect to win.
If you look at Tennessee, for example, they are not a football team that has to play perfect to win. They didn’t play perfect Saturday night. They gave up a fake field goal for a first down, they gave up on side kick for a change of possession, all those things. But the reality is we are a team right now that has to play perfect to win and sometimes when you play on the road that is a little bit more of a challenge.
I think the one constant that you pull out of it just trying to pinpoint why you have lost games on the road, the one thing — this is the communication, you know, the communication in Knoxville was definitely a problem particularly on offense with our line calls and also with our checks. The communication at Purdue, you go down there to the end of the game, that is a huge play in this football season, was the communication.
You think about Michigan giving up the sack late in the game, some of those things — so the one thing is I think when you play on the road you have got really be smart about just how much you do at the line of scrimmage, make sure the communication and the checks and things are as simple as you can make it.
So I have wracked my brain trying to figure what it is, but what I see it being is we are a team that we have got to play perfect to win. That is where we are. Or perfect, I mean, you know, you got to play close to perfect to win and on the road that is not always easy and the one thing would be the communication where we have had some breakdowns.
Another reason this is a big game for both teams if you want to play in the postseason, we have got to go play well and we have got to win. But probably the biggest reason is above all that is you just want to continue, I think to show improvement.
You want to be a better football team at the end of the year than you were at the beginning of the year. It is not always easy when you have injuries. It is not easy when you have flows of the season, how things go, up and downs of the season. But I think it is something you take pride in.
And we always talked about finishing what you start and that is what we are going to do. I talked to our team yesterday and said all those same kind of things and how do we accomplish that? How do we do it?
Well, I think these seniors on this team, any time you are into November, it is the seniors. Fortunately, we have got some seniors that are playing pretty well. You look at A’Jani, Deke, Deveron Harper I thought Lamont Bryant played good against Tennessee. Obviously Jarious Jackson. I thought Brad Williams played hard. So I think the big responsibility of this is on the coaches, but maybe a bigger responsibility lies on the seniors on this football team.
To grab this the football team and take it through these last three games, it is going to be a challenge. It is the last game in Pitt Stadium. I don’t know how significant that is for our football team. I know they are going to be energized from it, their players, because you can’t help it, just like we are here, when you have — you know, when you have Ross Bronner and Luther Bradley and, you know, different players come around, that helps you a little bit. They are going to have 300 some players at that game. They are setting up a lot of festivities surrounding the game. Fortunately I am not aware of any NCAA regulation that allows them to play. Got to be nervous of Tony Dorsett lined up there at tailback – he probably has at least one good game left in him.
It is going to be a big game for them.
There will be a lot of emotion in this football game, but that is what it is every week here. There was a lot of emotion in Knoxville. Tennessee has played a lot of big games. I think that game down there was special for them.
So it will be a challenge because of that. It’s a big, big game for them. They feel like they need to win out to go to a Bowl Game, to get to 6 and 5.
For us, we do have a lot of injuries. But they do too. They do too. But we have been hit particularly hard at the runningback position. When you think back, Mike McNair injured in the first game of the year, out for the season. Jason Murray is a fullback that we are excited about from the standpoint of his blocking ability, we lose him for the season.
Terrance Howard, that is a big hit there. Terrance Howard you saw in kickoff returns. Also he was our gunner on the punt team and he was on the kickoff coverage team. He is a player that has speed. And, boy, we just can’t afford to take guys off the field that have that kind of speed. That hurts us. And then you factor in Tony Driver with that. So you are taking a hit at that runningback position. Fortunately you still have two tailbacks in Tony Fisher and Julius Jones. And you still have two fullbacks in Lopienski and Goodspeed so we are not out — it is a position where we at least have some numbers. Obviously Jordan Black is not going to play.
It’s in a position where we are young. I mean, it is Kurt Vollers and Sean Mahan. Both those players I think have some potential. I am kind of anxious to watch them play. But Jordan Black that hurts us losing him.
On defense, Ronnie Israel is out. He is going to have surgery on that hand tonight. He may be back for Boston College.
Jason Ching is out with a knee with surgery. Albert Poree, we are going to go ahead and get that cartilage fixed on him.
Grant Irons, I would say is 50/50, maybe less than 50/50, today is a big day just to see if he — right now he can’t run. He was kicked in his calf, in his shin, kind of an Achilles, you know, that whole area is inflamed right now.
Justin Smith, I — you know he is back practicing some, but I don’t think he is going to be able to help us much.
Same thing with Raki Nelson.
David Miller has a hip flexor. I don’t think he will kick this week. The kicker will be Jim Sanson. I just don’t think like right now with Nick Setta, it is not the right time to do that. Jim Sanson, if David Miller can’t go, which I don’t think David will go, Jim Sanson will be the kicker.
You got to be proud of Jim Sanson. He has done a good job on kickoffs and he has hung in there, shown a lot of, I think a lot of character. So we have lost a lot of players. And that hurts, obviously.
Challenge like always is find a way to win going in. Everybody has problems. And I think the thing is we have enough talent to go in. We have got enough talent to go in these three games. A lot of times issues come up, you know, particularly after a game like Tennessee, you know, about the talent level and those things and I really believe that we had enough talent to win that football game.
Did we have to play perfect to do that?
Yeah, we did. The thing is we didn’t play perfect.
I don’t think it is fair sometimes to compare — you know it is what you compare things to. We have got a lot of good football players on this team, and a lot of talent, enough talent to beaten Tennessee. But I don’t think it is fair right now to compare our talent to Tennessee’s.
Tennessee had six players in the top 50, I saw in the top 50 draft picks, Tennessee has six. We have got enough talented football players in this program right now. We had enough to beat them Saturday night. But I don’t think it is fair to get into those comparisons. But it is like saying, you know, Tennessee has a tremendous stadium. There is 107,000 people there that is a great atmosphere. We have a tremendous stadium. Or you say Tennessee has great fans where you get in there and you can’t even get the ball snapped. Those fans are that much of a factor. Well, so do we. It may be a little different style, maybe a little different stadium, maybe a little different players, but we have got a lot of things going for us too. And the reality is if we were to play better, we could have won that football game.
So I make that point just to say we have got some injuries. Sometimes we all talk about the negatives a lot more than we talk about the positives. We got a lot of positives right now on this football team, got a lot of good players. The challenge is to go win a football game, get this thing back on track.
You look at Pitt, they are 4 and 5, their losses have all been close. That Miami game ended up 33 to 3. That wasn’t that kind of game. Just like our game wasn’t 38-14 game, the final score it is not indicative of how that game went.
They lost to Virginia Tech. They lost to Syracuse, lost to Boston College, lost to Penn State, all of them close games, had a chance to win.
On offense, they have got two real good wide receivers. Both of them have speed. Both of them run great routs, good hands.
The quarterbacks are both pretty similar players. One of them started early. The second one started late. But they are very similar guys, both dropback style quarterbacks, accurate.
On defense they scramble around a lot. They give you a lot of looks, kind of a Virginia-Tech-scheme defense. They play extremely hard.
For us, I really thought our defense played a little bit better last week overall. When you go back and look closely at that tape, we really did play better. We gave up the big plays which is something we have got to a little bit of a pattern of right now that we have got to get solved. You think back to the S.C. game, we gave up a couple of big plays.
Offense, I didn’t think we played as well as we had played. Like I mentioned before, the communication and we turned a lot of people loose up front. The combination of us being somewhat inexperienced in there and them being very good, hurt us. We didn’t block well.
Kicking game, I think we made some improvements. The kickoff return game, I thought was really good. I think it continues to be good. Our punter did a good job under some tough circumstances down there. We got something out of the fake field goal, Joey Getherall make a heck of play and also the on-side kick with Jimmy.
We have got some positives going. But it is going to be a challenge this week and it is a big football game for us.
COACH DAVIE: It will probably be Julius Jones back there and David Givens. Could be Joey Getherall, but Joey is still beat up, but I would say David.
COACH DAVIE: I think that is a great point. That is the point that I made again yesterday with our team watching the tape. We went down there expecting to win that football game. We had enough talent and enough players to win that football game. If you look at the way the game went, you know, I would go put that tape on, that defensive tape of that game and show it to anybody and be proud of that defensive tape.
We busted one time. Our nickel didn’t come on Martin’s long run, the communication break down, the nickel didn’t come. Third and two, we lined up off sides. It is close, but they called it for off sides. Third and 10 they throw the football out in the flat on a young corner, playing too deep, Martin makes a great throw. They score at the end of the half. Second half, third and 14, third and 14 they throw a 44-yard touchdown. We got a young corner in the game. They have got a kid that they say is the fastest player in college football, runs down there, our safety kind of freezes. We give up a play and then they have the big-play on the run after the punt return where our linebacker jumped across in the wrong gap. -.
Not to go into a whole clinic on this, but I believe in my heart we had enough talent to win that game. Now, are we as talented as Tennessee? I am not going to sit here and tell you that. I mean, just wait for the NFL draft and next year’s NFL draft and the next year. There is not a team in college football that is probably as talented as Tennessee.
But we had enough talent. We control it. I take responsibility. If you don’t play well enough to win — if you are off sides on third and two, if you give up a 44-yard touchdown pass, if the linebacker jumps in the wrong gap and you give up a 40-yard run — first play we get the ball on offense in the second half, we turn the 5 technique completely loss. He charges in the backfield and blows us up on an iso. We had some penalties early in the game on offense and I know it was loud.
My point is if we would have played as well as we were capable of playing – that game was competitive as it was, we could have won that game. So we have a realistic chance to win every week. Are we good enough — you guys all watch this team, you have been around this program. We are not talented enough to go out there and just not play well and win. I don’t care if we are playing Navy or we are playing Pitt, Boston College, whoever, we are not talented enough to do that.
Did Tennessee play better than us overall? Probably not. Probably not. Who played harder, who was prepared, who was this – probably not. But enough plays that they won that game 38-14. But the point is we have got enough talent to win each and every week.
Now, we have got some liabilities because we are young at some spots. That complicates things, particularly when you are playing in an environment like that. But there is no copout saying, well, we don’t have enough players to go play Tennessee, we shouldn’t have won that game. I don’t buy that. We should have won that game if we would have played well enough to win.
Does that make sense? We have got enough players and that is the bottom line. We got some guys hurt this week. We got enough players to go beat Pitt.
COACH DAVIE: My point is we have enough but we have to play perfect. You take that tape, you say, okay, here it is after this punt return, our linebacker, we play the wrong gap and that No. 20 slices us and we miss the tackle and the kid scores.
Here is what it is. We got to get this corrected. Now is that easy? No. The better teams you play against week-to-week like we play a lot of good teams, the better talents you play against and in an environment like that, it is a harder task and with more experience, with more experience and just better execution, we will be better off. That is why I said last week, we will be better off for having played in that atmosphere Saturday night.
I am not trying to make our players feel better. I am not trying to put a spin on anything. It comes down to us playing as well as we are capable of playing. If we can do that we can beat anyone, but we have to play as well as we are capable and not every team does that every week.
Tennessee probably didn’t play as well as they are capable of, but they still won the game because there is a gap there in talent.
COACH DAVIE: You’d like to say, well, you know what, Jim Jones, John Teasdale, Jordan Black, now they are in the ninth game of the season — you know, but think back to Mike Rosenthal, Jerry Wisne, and the linemen around there, they had two, three years of playing. So to go into that environment against that kind of a defense, I am realistic in that, although I say we have to play perfect and that is the goal, sometimes you are not. So you keep a handle on where you are, and I understand it is Jason Beckstrom and it is Clifford Jefferson in there. Those guys are going to be around here a long time. But the standard is — you know, it is right now. We didn’t play particularly well.
We are young on the offensive line for the circumstances we were in Saturday. We are young in the secondary at some spots at corner. That hurt us. That doesn’t mean they didn’t play hard and it just hurt us.
COACH DAVIE: I am not sure our safety didn’t think the same thing because he kind of squated on it and the ball went over his head. When he threw it, I thought he threw it out of the stadium.
COACH DAVIE: You think back to that play, you know, just so many plays. So I guess the point is you take that tape and you look at it and sometimes you always worry about what you don’t have. But we got a lot of weapons. We got some weapons ourselves. But it is getting it — that is what coaching is, just what you say, we are in the ninth of game of the year and there are some things that shouldn’t happen. I take the responsibility for it.
COACH DAVIE: We are at the point where it is just almost impossible to do that. That is one of the things that, you know, complicates things because we have played in all these close football games week after week after week after week and the same guys have been out there snap after snap.
But where you take the hit in this is special teams. Because that is where you really get thin. You look — Tony Driver and Terrance Howard, probably your two best coverage guys speed going down that field. So we just don’t have a lot of options there on punt returns, because it is either Getherall or Julius. Kickoff returns it is either Getherall or Julius. You could put David Givens in the mix, but you are just so thin now that you don’t have many options.
COACH DAVIE: I think that is how you have to look at it. That is the thing. That old thing of someone’s misfortune always gives someone else an opportunity, and that is how it is.
What makes it hard is practicing. To be able to practice at as high a tempo as you’d like to because if you practice too hard, the trade-off of going in there with one healthy tailback, is that worth maybe some of the improvements you made all week in practice? So that is the balancing act is try to get something out of practice without going out there and getting somebody hurt.
COACH DAVIE: 5 and 4 doesn’t turn me on a whole lot. Just like it doesn’t turn anyone else on as far as Notre Dame football.
But looking at the big picture of it, I do think we have improved since the beginning of this football season. We went into Tennessee having won four straight games.
Now, did we have to fight every inch of the way to win those four games? Yeah, I realize that. So I am not going to jump off the cliff because of what happened to Tennessee. In the big picture of it, I think we will be an improved football team next year. A lot is going to hinge on the quarterback. A lot is going to hinge on that quarterback, but the surrounding cast will be stronger as we enter next season. There is no question in my mind about it.
Is next year’s schedule a challenge? Well it is Texas A&M, Nebraska, Purdue, and Michigan State the first four. You know, so it is going to continue to be find a way to win close games. And that is kind of the phase we are in right now.
We are going to be in the same phase come August of we have got to play just about perfect to win because we are not going to jump that much. But I do think we are going to be a stronger football team. I think we have got some — we have got some good young players. The idea of Clifford Jefferson, Brock Williams, Jason Beckstrom, Albert Poree, Shane Walton, those five corners, Tony Driver will probably be a safety next year. Tony Driver, Gerome Sapp, Ron Israel, Courtney Watson, all the linebackers are back basically.
We are excited about Daryl Campbell who will probably play this week. I don’t really want to play him this week, but we will probably go ahead and turn him loose. You have Weaver back. You have Grant back, Lance Legree, Andrew Wisne. I think we are stronger. Offense – you have got the whole offensive line back, John Merandi, still a a question as to whether he will be back or not. Jeff Faine, Brennan Curtin.
The running backs are all back. The receivers, we lose Bobby Brown and Raki. The kickers are all back. We have got a freshman kicker we are going with right now.
So I think we are going to be improved. But I also know that schedule. I mean, Drew Brees, he is coming back. And we played last two years it’s come down to the last series of the game against Purdue both years. I know what A&M will have. I know what Nebraska will have.
So all you can do is just keep doing as good as you can do. Keep building it. Keep improving our execution. Keep improving our execution in how we play. Eventually I think we are going to be a pretty darn football — I think we are a pretty good team now. But I think we have got a chance to be a really good team.
Are there going to be close games? You are darn right there are. That is where we are right now.
COACH DAVIE: I’d like to make it a little easier. (laughs).
But I think it is a trademark of this team. You look at the last couple of years – to win nine football games last year, probably a pretty big accomplishment. So we have had that. I think we are going to need every ounce of that this week and these next couple of weeks to finish this thing out strong.
COACH DAVIE: I have got to look at those players in the eye. Those guys that stayed all summer and those guys that worked their tail off, those guys, we were in the locker room with after that game Saturday night, we got to do what we have got to do to win right now.
I can’t look one of those players in the eye and say, well, guys, I am worried about next year now. That is just not fair. We have got too much football left this year and these kids have too much invested in it.
So it is Jarious Jackson because he gives us the best chance to win this year.
Now, I realize Arnaz Battle, you’d like to get him more playing time, but I am not going to force that issue. I am not going to force it.
COACH DAVIE: I am anxious to see because I think what happens — any time you are the backup quarterback, you kind of assume that backup quarterback role a little bit. That is one — I saw it a little bit with Jarious. I have seen it at other positions where you are kind of the backup and you are kind of — you assume that role. What you will find out is “when he is the guy.” But I think what you see from an option standpoint, he is farther along than Jarious right now. If you went in there and said, look, we are going to run option football to win this game, Arnaz can run option football. He is fast and he has a good feel for it. The passing game, he is not as far along as Jarious – not that he doesn’t have a strong enough arm. He does. He is still a little bit tentative in his decision making.
I was pleased at the end of the Tennessee game. I thought he came in there and, you know, the interception at the end, I mean, he just launched that thing. That wasn’t a fair assessment on that play. But I thought he really played pretty well and didn’t seem to be in awe of the situation. But it is a concern because he just hasn’t been in there. You haven’t seen him bounce back from negatives.
The thing about Jarious is you know there are going to be some bad things happen, but Jarious is going to come back and respond. So it is a dilemma but — or a problem right now, but he is talented enough. There is no question if you ask Kevin Rogers he will tell you that Arnaz Battle is a talent and that is exciting.
COACH DAVIE: I think both of those reasons. He hasn’t — I can honestly say right now that Nick Setta in my heart is better than Jim Sanson right now if it came down to the Pitt game and we need a feel goal to win.
(inaudible) Now he hasn’t done it. He hasn’t stepped up and just done it. Does he show the potential to? Probably. He is a great personality. He is competitive and he is strong legged. But I just — I don’t want to do it just on a hunch. I have got to see it.
Also the reason just this late in the season, being fair to Nick Setta, I think it should be in his best interest if he didn’t play right now.
COACH DAVIE: Virginia Tech plays great defense. They really do. They have got some good defensive backs but they do a great job coaching, they really do. I mean, they have got a heck of a scheme. What Lou brings is another coach to this program that you can really trust, a good person, treats players the right way, has the players’ best interest at heart. He is a good person. And he is a hard worker. So that is what he brings. He is a good football coach. There is a lot of good football coaches out there, but I think he is like the rest of our coaches in that if you had somebody — he is going to coach my son, you will take it every time and not ever worry about what happens when he takes that kid behind the closed door or how he treats that kid or how he speaks to that kid or what kind of role model he is. For that reason I think that is why he has been an asset to the staff.
COACH DAVIE: How we coach it, I think most people do is to use the term if you are in-phase. In other words, if you are close enough to the receiver, within an arm’s length of that receiver, if you are in-phase and that — and that ball is in the air, you know the ball is in the air, you can look back at the ball and make a play on the ball. Because you are close enough to the receiver where it is you and he going up for the ball, you are in-phase with him. You can turn and look back and you are both going for the same thing. But if you are out-of-phase, where that receiver has more than an arm’s length on you, if you look back, that receiver just gained another arm length on you and you cannot look back for the ball. So if you are in-phase, close enough to that receiver, you look back at the same time, he looks back and you are both on even ground right there to go for the ball. But if he is ahead of you, if he beats you, if he is deeper, you have — you cannot look back, you better close to his hip and as he catches the ball strip the ball out or tackle him because if you look back and he is out-of-phase on you, it is over. That is how we coach that.
What happens, it is hard, Jason Beckstrom on the deep ball ran stride-for-stride really with that receiver. He stumbled a little bit. He paniced a little bit and stumbled. He had no opportunity to look back and play the ball because he was just out of control. Then our safety kind of squated and the ball was thrown deeper than he thought it was thrown. He kind of squated like he was in-phase. But the ball went right over his head and that kid caught it in the corner of the end zone. But that is the toughest thing. You can — it is one of those things you can coach it until you — that sounds great what I just said, it is that guy that just goes out there and just does it. Those are the guys that are the hardest to find are those corners. That is why they make so much money in the NFL. They are at a premium right now because everybody wants to do what Virginia Tech does and what Tennessee does – all those other people out there are doing other things and let those two guys cover those two receivers. That is the toughest thing to find right now in football, the corners. I think we have got some good ones. We are farther along than we have been.
COACH DAVIE: It is big for all the reasons we talked about. If you want to play in the postseason, if you want to finish this on a positive which always helps going into recruiting just from the mindset of everybody. It is huge, huge.
COACH DAVIE: I know we are at Notre Dame. I am totally conscious of that. I understand what all those records were in the past. I don’t think you can judge things on that.
What I judge it on is did you do the best with the circumstances that you had. Did this football team play as well as it is capable of playing. You have got to look closely to be able to evaluate that. That is not easy. It is not easy. But I think that is what you judge it on. You judge it on, you know, where are we right now in this program. There is a lot of other things. When you talk about a program, if all we are talking about is the win/loss record, you know there is a whole lot of other things, there is a whole lot of other positives other than that won/loss record. So I don’t think there is a number you put on that.
COACH DAVIE: We say mental mistakes at Purdue and Michigan.
At the end of that Michigan game, they brought the free-safety blitz and — you know, that is football. I mean, you say you have to play perfect – how many times are you going to play perfect? Really. But that is always the goal. So it is not easy play perfect.
COACH DAVIE: . I think this football team is close to playing as well as we are capable of playing. I really do.
COACH DAVIE: Jarious is running the option. It was disappointing against LSU on the zone options that we didn’t get some people chopped, we didn’t get enough defenders on the grounds to be able to run it with a whole lot of productivity, but I think Jarious is much more comfortable doing it.
Jarious is not a natural option quarterback. He is a guy that likes to know he is going to keep the ball or know he is going to pitch the ball. He is not a guy that reads it extremely well. That is why he is a lot better sometimes on those quarterback runs where it is predetermined that he is running the ball.
But I think he has made improvement, but I am a little bit disappointed really in our overall production in the option because we spent so much time on it. We should be little bit more productive.
COACH DAVIE: It puts a little more pressure on the coaches because you tend to think about: Do we go for it instead of taking the automatic field goal and that kind of thing because there are no automatic field goals. But I don’t think so. You are going — we have got pressure on us to score in the red zone. That is something when we look back on this season we will see we are deficient at. I think we have had a lot of opportunities to score. You take Tennessee. We missed a 25-yard field goal and then you know we are down 31-14 and go for it on fourth and two and we don’t get points. That is twice inside the red zone you don’t score. So that is something I think when we look back on this season, that will have hurt this football team.
COACH DAVIE: Always important. You look what Julius Jones has done for this football team. That quick.
Joey Getherall is a quick little player. Terrance Howard has some suddeness and some speed to him. There is no question that that is what you have to have. That is what college football is – is speed, and that is the emphasis. That is the emphasis for us. So yeah, I mean, you got to keep recruiting because you always want to have a pool over those guys, whether they play corner, whether they run down on kicks, whether they return kicks, whatever, you want a pool of those guys. Our pool has not been very big. It is not very big right now. So that is what the priority is to find those kind of players.
COACH DAVIE: Well, the first game, you guys have heard this – but the first game I have ever coached in 1977 as a GA was against Notre Dame, first game I was ever in coaching. I could remember sitting in the locker room. For some reason, I ended up in the locker room right before that game, it was Jackie Sherrill who was coaches his first game as head coach and myself. Here I am a GA. That is when GAs, you didn’t even dress in the same locker room. I mean, GAs were like way down that totem pole. But for some reason I probably was going to get him a Diet Coke or something, that is why I was probably in there or get him a pair of socks. He and I were in that locker room together and I remember thinking this is a big deal. This is a major deal. Here I am a graduate assistant, just graduated from Youngstown State, I am a GA at Pitt and we are playing Notre Dame. It never dawned on me at that time that there was Jackie Sherrill. He is 32 years old, I think. He is a head coach at Pitt, his first game as head coach. It was a big deal for him too. We go out and play that game, we lose 19 to 9. And Matt Cavanaugh breaks his wrist. We end up fumbling likes six or eight quarterback snaps, and – but that was my first game, first time out. Then I remember in 1982 we are 7 and 0 at Pittsburgh, the No. 1 team in the country, really — I mean, a really good football team. Danny Marino is the quarterback, No. 1 team. Notre Dame comes in. I think Notre Dame is maybe 4 and 5 or something. They lost to Oregon the week before, I believe. Come in and Allen Pinkett runs that sprint draw. I can remember that play today. Looks like it was in slow motion. We must have missed eight tackles on that play. And he goes in and scores and they beat us. Notre Dame comes in and beats us.
I think the whole time I was at Pitt we lost four games at home. We only lost about 10 or 7, I think, the whole time I was there. But two of those games were to Notre Dame. But then to go in there and now be the head coach here and go in there and play the last game in that stadium, you know, that is significant to me. I put a lot of laps around the top of that stadium. There is like — a lot of places you go jog and you go around the lakes and you get out around the trees, there you jogged in the stadium because you weren’t going to go out in Oakland and jog around that city so we’d go around the top of that stadium, I put a lot of laps around the top of that stadium. Then to have 300 players coming back and, I mean, it is a big deal. Now, for our team, I don’t think it is going to be much significance for our team. But you never know.
You look back in your life at all the different paths you go down, all the things could have happened, then all of a sudden it is a pretty big deal your first game, then to coach the last game at that stadium. To go from a GA at Pitt which at that time you know, you play your college football at Youngstown State, you only had two graduate assistants in those days. So you had your — I think I think it was nine full-time coaches and two GAs, so to get that graduate assistant job at Pitt coming out of Youngstown State was significant. How I did that, Jackie Sherrill was the new head coach. I go in there — I graduate in December. I go in there in January, I said, look, I want to be a graduate assistant. And he played at Alabama, played for Bryant, the whole deal. I wasn’t ready for that. So I came back again, I said, look, I am just going to volunteer my time. I am going to come up here and I am just going — I am going to be here, I am going to volunteer my time. So I did that. Jimmy Johnson was the defensive coordinator and I started in January and I just volunteered my time. I went until about May and then finally he hired me as a graduate assistant in May. Then that first game was against Notre Dame. So I know I kind of went on there. But it is a big deal for me.
COACH DAVIE: Desmond Robinson really liked him. Tom McMahon did a good job. You know, Julius’ mom really likes to talk and Tom really likes to talk. Those two probably spent hours on that telephone. In fact we always kidded Tom about just, I mean, he just — that is Tom, he just likes to talk on the phone particularly. But Desmond really liked him. We had some other running backs that were maybe highly recruited and had received more national attention but Desmond all along liked him and I think part of it was there in Virginia is not an easy place to get to. That is a tough plays to get in and out of. Desmond did a great job of recruiting him. He was highly recruited. Then he had his brother at Virginia, his sister is at Virginia on a scholarship for volleyball. His dad had worked at the University of Tennessee and it is only a couple of hours away. Desmond Robinson knew that this guy had a chance to be something special.
COACH DAVIE: We do a little bit. We call it our pony package where Fisher and Julius are both in there. It will be more in passing situations. I think that is a legitimate point you bring up. We are going to put Fisher in there and let him run isos. So yeah, you will see less of him at fullback.
COACH DAVIE: You don’t spend a lot of time at it because it may be a moot point if you don’t play well each week. But certainly having that agreement with the Big East gives us life, so you would be looking at the Bowl in Tucson, insight.com Bowl and I guess the Bowl Game in Nashville where it is a Big East team against the SEC. I think the one in Tucson, the Big East against the Big 12. So I haven’t put a lot of thought into it. But it is nice to know you have got some opportunities out there if you can finish this thing off.
COACH DAVIE: Well, that is the reality of it. All those things went into discussions at a much higher level than the ones I take part in on whether or not to join the Big-10. So we have been through all that. That has been discussed in length. I think that is why the Big East agreement was so significant. To keep the NBC contract, and to be able to have some tie-in with a conference as far as Bowl options were two things that I think were big issues on us deciding whether or not to remain independent.
COACH DAVIE: I think November is left. We’ll put Tennessee in October. We are not going to count that one.
But I think it is the big picture. Let’s face it, every coach in the country is going to say they forget September, they might remember October, they definitely remember November. So we are not unique in that, but it is how you finish the season. It is how you finish. To be able to win with injuries, to be able to win with the ups and downs of the season. There is a lot of things left. So it is too early to say. It is too early to say how this thing is going to end up.
COACH DAVIE: I think on defense we probably did play better. On offense, I don’t think we played as well, if I had to say. I think in the kicking game we probably played better. So kicking and defense I would say we played better against Tennessee. Offense we didn’t play as well because we had too many blown assignments up front.
COACH DAVIE: They are the No. 1 team in the country to me. Particularly in that stadium, but they — just watching them through the season, watching them on tape, I said this last week, they are one of those teams when you just glimpse at them and watch them on television because they are not a high-tech kind of an offense, you maybe don’t give them as much credit as you do is when you sit down and watch the tape and you really watch what kind of players they have and what their scheme is like on defense and how they do things. They are a much better team watching them on tape than what you might see on television sometimes.
You have to really watch them to appreciate how good they are because that — what is hard, I haven’t watched Florida State. I don’t know other than watching them on television. But just having been around college football I think it is hard to find the combination of size they have, I mean, they are big. They are not just fast. They are big and they are just — they have no weaknesses at any position.
The quarterback played, made some throws that he hadn’t made at times. He made some plays, so I think they are a heck of a football team.
JOHN HEISLER: Thank you.