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An Interview With Bob Davie

Oct. 22, 2000

An Interview With: BOB DAVIE

BOB DAVIE: Well, I think looking at the tape, you know it was really a different kind of football game. You know, we started out, really, back on our heels as a team, and it really kind of surprised me. We had a great week of preparation. We had, really, a good trip down there. We got in there early Friday and we went by the stadium, and we were a rested football team and excited to play.

But we really started out back on our heels. We received the kickoff, they deferred the toss, deferred the decision. We took the football. We went three and out in the first series — actually, went backwards.

We go out on defense, and we were off-balance from the very beginning. They did a good job. You know, it was obvious to me they had scripted their plays, which just about everybody does now. But they took advantage of No. 5. Gave us a couple different looks. Ran the reverse with him twice in the first series, and went in and scored.

So it was a 7-0 football game. We kick off to them. I think one of the best drives we’ve had around here in a long time was the drive that our offense came back with and responded. We’re down 7-0, we’re back on our heels defensively. We had been stopped three and out in the first series and our offense went out and really responded. You look at that drive, there was a couple key plays. It was third and 12, Matt Hicks, Joey Getherall on the square end. We come back, Matt LoVecchio runs the decide play, their defenseman gets caught inside. He runs for good 23 yards.

Then fourth and one we go for it. Tony Fisher bounces outside and we end up scoring on that drive, and that was key, to get it to 7-7 right there, to get us back in rhythm a little bit.

West Virginia comes back, scores again. They threw the ball — we actually had a busted coverage. We were playing man-under. One of our linebackers played zone. They threw the ball out on the flat. The tailback looked like he was real close to stepping out of bounds down the sidelines. So we still were not in rhythm defensively, they go in and score.

Then we come back offensively, have a real good drive. We run the zone option, Matt LoVecchio, for 23 yards. We have the power pass to Tommy Lopienski for ten. At third and 11, Matt LoVecchio hits O’Leary on a great sight adjustment. They came with the blitz, he hits the tight end for 11 yards and the first down.

Unfortunately we miss a field goal right there. The field goal looked like it was real close, but we missed it, about a 42-yard field goal.

So it is still 14-7. We stop them. We get the ball back on the minus-11-yard line. And so we have the first drive, was significant in the game, we’re still struggling a bit. Miss the field goal. It’s 14-7. Key, key play in the game: Terrance Howard, on second down on the 81-yard run, I believe it was 81 yards, on the decide play, just a tremendous effort, tremendous run by Terrance Howard.

So now the game is 14-14. You can feel momentum coming our way a little bit. Their quarterback is injured. They have their second quarterback in, who I think did a great job. We go up 21-14, after the — we get the ball at the plus-12-yard line. Two big plays: You know, it is 14-14. I think there is about three minutes and 40 seconds left in the first half. We force them to punt. We come with an all-out rush. The snapper is a little bit nervous, he snaps the ball high. We get the ball on the 12-yard line. Matt LoVecchio on what was really a busted play, comes out on the boot, runs it down to the four-yard line and then David Givens runs it in. We go up 21-14.

Then we make good use of a time-out. We stop them on three plays and call time-out right before the half. Once again, they are concerned about us blocking the punt. We have the return on Joey Getherall, runs it back.

Then on the first down, we hit — Matt LoVecchio hits Tony Fisher or on the wheel route, great throw, great catch. We go in 28-14 at half-time.

So it was a game that started out where we were back on our heels, particularly on defense. The offense responded by taking down. But then it is still 14-14 with three minutes left in the first half, we score 14 points in the last three minutes. Really related to special teams again. The bad snap they had on the punt, then the punt return, we hit one big pass.

So we go in at half-time. Really felt pretty good. Felt like momentum was on our side, like we had settled down on defense. Come out the second half, really an interesting second half. We are on the field, we play 50 plays on defense. West Virginia plays 23 plays on defense. Some of it had to do with us making big plays on offense, and then in the kicking game.

But we come out — we stop them the first series of the second half. We come back and go four plays and out. Then we stop them, we get the ball back, David Givens throws the reverse pass plus-50, then we throw the touchdown pass. Matt LoVecchio on the boot, hits Tony Fisher, we score. So really, we’re two plays and out right there.

Then the next series, Joey Getherall runs the punt return back for a touchdown. So basically on defense, you’re zero plays, and then back out there on the field.

And we were up 42-14. We let them get back in it a little bit. I thought they did a real good job on the drive of taking it down. We had them fourth and 12. We jump off size, but we get called for pass interference in the end zone on fourth and 12. They try to run the same play we have where they delay the tight end and run him across the field. Rocky Boiman has them covered. We get called for pass interference.

They score, make it 42-21. Then we go in a shell offensively. We are three plays and out. Really, the rest of the game other than the one third down and fourth at the end when we hit Getherall for the conversion, get the first down. We hang on at the end of the game, so we get tired a little bit.

But, I thought it was a different kind of game because we started out poorly on defense, we got in rhythm on defense, and then late in the game, we were tired. And they took advantage of some real speed at receiver.

Offensively, I thought it was probably our best performance. We’re still not quite as consistent as we’d like to be running the football. We’ve got some big play capability, we had some big plays, but we were not quite consistent enough to be able to run the football, particularly in the second half, to keep the game from becoming somewhat close at the end.

Special teams, I think once again were outstanding, other than the penalties we had on two punt returns, really silly penalties or we’d be a lot higher right now in the country on punt returns. We had two real good returns called back because of silly penalties, but we also forced a bad snap and we also returned the punt for a touchdown.

So, overall, I thought it was a good performance. Very difficult place to play against a very talented football team.

You look at the quarterback, Matt LoVecchio, I think he continues to improve. He did some excellent things. You go through the game, you look at the big throw he made to Joey Getherall in the first series on third and 12. He runs the zone option for 23 yards. He runs the decide play for 16 yards, so you see that he had some mobility. The power pass to Tommy Lopienski and the flat for ten yards was a great throw. Third and 11, he throws it to O’Leary for 15 yards on a sight adjustment. He comes out after their botched punt. We get the ball to the 12-yard line, it’s kind of a busted play, but he runs the boot down to the four-yard line. The touchdown pass to Fisher, scrambled around, showed his mobility, six-yard touchdown pass. Third and fourth at the end of the game, the pass to Getherall to convert for the first down.

The negative things, he did throw the ball into traffic a couple times, which still shows his inexperience. One time we were really fortunate, on the play before the touchdown pass, because he threw it right to their linebacker and David Givens did a great job of stripping the ball out of their linebacker’s hands, or we don’t go up 21-14 after getting the ball to the 12-yard line.

Other big things in the game, or noteworthy things, certainly, Terrance Howard’s big run. I thought Mike Gandy really played well at offensive guard. He didn’t grade out. He graded at 75 percent, but he had nine knockdowns. His most physical football gym. Shawn Mahan played 50 snaps. Jim Jones only played ten snaps in the game. Jim Jones has a turf toe, probably out this week. Vollers and Black prayed pretty well at offensive tackle. I thought O’Leary a played a good game, made a lot of effort. David Givens, continues to block — outstanding blocking downfield. He and Joey Getherall both, certainly, Givens with the great pass, he had eight carries. Really, a good football player. He almost blocked the punt with the pass receptions. Joey Getherall with three big catches.

I think we have some big-play capability on offense. We have to become more consistent run the football.

Defensively, not one of our better performances. I give West Virginia credit. For some reason, we were out of sync early, and as I mentioned, we were tired late in the game, and I can see why after watching the tape, because in the second half, we did not particularly drive the football on offense. And we gave them some big passes. We missed some tackles. If you look early in the football game, we missed some tackles. Late in the football game, they threw the out against three deep, and he missed a tackle and the kid went down the sidelines to about the ten-yard line. But I think West Virginia is really a talented team, and I think they are really quick, particularly on that artificial surface.

So, it is a big win. Health-wise, really, we have got a lot of guys nicked up, as you would expect, particularly playing on the road two weeks in a row against a wishbone team, and then against a team like this on artifical surface. We’ve got a lot of nicks. Really, I think the only guys that we would say would be out for the Air Force game would be Jay Johnson will be out another week with the hamstring. Jim Jones will be out with the turf toe.

Other than that, I think we’ll be okay. Javin Hunter only played ten snaps. He’s trying to come back from that ankle. Both Givens and Getherall are nicked up. Denman is nicked up a little bit. We’ll get Mike McNair back this week.

So really, we’re pretty healthy, even though we have a lot of guys that have some nicks.

Q. I wondered if Arnaz had gotten cast off yet, just where that situation sits right now?

BOB DAVIE: Arnaz is coming back today. We’re GOING to re-x-Ray it tomorrow, and just see how much healing has taken place. So we won’t know anything until tomorrow.

Q. Notre Dame’s defense has been the exception to this trend, but it seems that we’re getting back to some basketball scores in college football around the country. What are your thoughts on why that is happening?

BOB DAVIE: Well, you know, the game’s changed, just as I think adversity and schemes from week to week really make it difficult on defenses. Once again, we kind of take for granted going from Nebraska to Purdue that one week, going from Stanford to Navy the next week, going from West Virginia to Air Force. But that’s really difficult on college football players. Particularly, I think, with the limited time we now have, and as a result of that, you spend a lot more time adapting to different schemes each week and getting people lined up in the proper spots, more so than you do technique.

And I think the offenses probably have a bit of an advantage right now because of that.

You know, defense is so much recognition and is so much getting comfortable, playing against the same things, play after play, and I think the offense always has the advantage when you do different things.

So I kind of see it that way. I just think in college football, if you look at scoring trends over the last several years, it continues to go up each and every year.

Q. From the results you’ve achieved on defense, is the emphasis on preparation for special teams —

BOB DAVIE: Well, we almost had one yesterday. But I think we made a decision in the off-season to really just make a decision what we were going to be, and be more of an emphasis and more of a higher percentage of man-to-man coverage than we’ve been, and just made a decision to go with it.

You know, we spent a lot of time in the off-season putting plans in place. We put a lot of time in the off-season and spring preparing for the season and doing specific things against specific opponents. So I think we’ve done a pretty good job of having our players in kind of a comfort zone, knowing what to expect each week. But you’re always one game away, maybe, from some of those statistics that you’re talking about.

Q. Quick question about how much it means to the defense that early on when it was struggling, the offense kind of bought it a little bit of time, keeping the ball for five minutes, scoring. How much does it mean for the defense to be able to rely on the offense, perhaps the way it has not been early in the season?

BOB DAVIE: I think that’s a great point. I think that drive, when it was a 7-0 game by our offense was so significant. I think we all felt that we were out of whack defensively on the sidelines, and then that gave us a great opportunity right there to — first of all, rest a little bit, but maybe more than that, to have some confidence that we could score points.

So I think that was really a big drive for us. You know, offense, we have a good offensive football team. We really do. We just need to continue to improve and become more consistent running the football. But I felt that in the football game, the point that you’re making. I did feel that we could move the ball against West Virginia, and that kind of gives you a little bit more confidence on defense, where there’s a margin for error.

Q. I understand that Bowls are not something that you are going to spend a lot of time with right now, or maybe at all, but the BCS standings come out tomorrow, and I’m wondering, since your objectives are clear at Notre Dame, what you have to do to make a BCS Bowl, do you like this system where there is a tangible reward for scheduling or road victories, or do you prefer something else?

BOB DAVIE: No, I like it. I like the way that so many factors are really factored in. And you do get a reward for playing a difficult schedule. And just as you mentioned, we’re going to take it one step at a time here.

But in the back of our mind, make no mistake about it: Our goal is to be in a BCS Bowl game and all we can do is control the things that we can control and with Air Force coming in, you know, it is going to be a big football game for us.

But this has been our goal, and I think most college coaches around the country would agree, that the process has worked and we have come up with a true National Championship team each year. I like it the way it is. We do play a difficult schedule, but you do get rewarded for it.

Q. Can you talk about John Owens, the role that he has on your team and how you see that evolving and how you split up time in practice with that?
John Owens really played well yesterday on defense. He made a great play. They ran zone option over in front of our bench, he was the back side defensive end and came over and made a great tackle.

John Owens is a guy that I perceive being our starting tight end here, probably next season, but he’s added some depth to our defensive football team, a defensive end, he’s on some special teams.

We practice him the majority of the time on defense right now, but he probably gets 20 to 25 minutes on offense each practice.

Q. (Inaudible)?

BOB DAVIE: I think that is only human nature. I look at that coming into the season, some of the teams that we had beat last year, Oklahoma and Southern Cal were significantly ranked ahead of us in the preseason schedule. But I feel the same way now about the rankings as I did in the preseason. I think the past several years in college football, it’s been proven there’s been a lot of discussion about those polls and whether we’d get a No. 1 versus No. 2 match-up, but it always plays out in the end where it seems like the best teams are ranked where they should be.

So, I’ve got enough to worry about without worrying about where Purdue is rank. But certainly, I think as this season plays out, it will all end up where everybody is giving their fair shake at it.

Q. The scheme, do you put more emphasis on that this season (inaudible) —

BOB DAVIE: I don’t know that we’ve put more emphasis on it. I think the fact that we have continuity on what we’re doing from a scheme standpoint. We have some continuity that we have the same players back. And the third thing is that we have good returns. Joey Getherall is an exciting guy and so is Julius Jones and so is Tony Driver. It’s a combination of things. It’s like anything, when the players see how important it is and how much success they have with something, it starts to snowball in a positive direction, and I think all of our special teams have kind of gone that way.

Q. (Inaudible)?

BOB DAVIE: You know, I think everyone has the same problem. I think we’re on a level playing field when it comes to that, the time issue.

You know, we spend a lot of time on it. We’re into a routine now where it is the exact same amount of time each and every week, more meetings every day at 2:15, we start out with special team, every day. On the practice field, we start out first with punt protection every day.

So I think that’s why it is so important, once again, the continuity factor, in college football, period. But probably particularly in special teams, because you just don’t get as much time and you can’t be doing things or trying things out or doing schemes, you know, you can’t be experimenting.

Fortunately now we’re locked into some things we know are effective for us and our players understand what to do, so we don’t have to spend as much time on it, and it’s quality time.

I think something else plays a big role on it: The contribution of our walk-ons and the contributions of those scouts that run down and cover those kicks in practice. They do a great job. Our scout team gives us a tremendous look, and each and every week, you ask those guys to do it, and they do a great job.

Q. (Inaudible)?

BOB DAVIE: You know, that 20-hour rule has been in place now for several years. So it’s been exactly what it has been. Yes, you’d love to have more time, but we’ve got it organized so we get the same amount of time every week.

Q. Since you’ve been here, your record is October has been 13-2. Is this a quirk?

BOB DAVIE: I like October. It’s great month around here. The leaves changing colors and everything.

I think it’s probably just kind of just a quirk. We’ve always had that Remember November thing going, but we may have to throw that one away and doing something with October. We’ve got one more game in October, and that’s — you know, I think with our schedule this year, you can see where it really is three different seasons: A four-game, a four-game, and if we can get through this four-game, the three-game. So I’d like to keep that string going.

Q. (Inaudible)?

BOB DAVIE: Not really. I thought their second quarterback — we knew going into the football game he was really talented. Kevin Rogers had tried to recruit him. I think he’s from Damatha (ph). We watched him on tape and they put him in some games earlier, and you can see he’s mobile himself and has a strong arm. So I knew he was a good football player. Really, it concerned me that they might run more option or do some things we had not practiced a whole lot against.

I can’t speak for them, but I didn’t see a big drop-off, to be honest.

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