Sept. 3, 2000
JOHN HEISLER: Good morning. Just a couple of quick notes. We are going to have a teleconference tomorrow at 11 o’clock with Arnaz Battle. We don’t the specifics in terms of a telephone number, but if you want to check back with us, we will try to let everybody know just as quickly as we have the details there. But that will be at 6 o’clock on Monday. We have several other players available probably between 12:45 and 1:30 just prior to Bob Davie’s teleconference on Tuesday.
Coach Davie is here. He will have some opening comments, and then he will take some questions.
COACH DAVIE: I think after watching the tape it was pretty much what I thought it was immediately after the game yesterday.
First of all, I think the encouraging thing was how hard our football team played. I think they are extremely well-conditioned under the circumstances. I think yesterday was 93 degrees, the hottest day of the year. I thought we played hard throughout the entire game.
I think from the standpoint of having our legs, having some bounce to us, it is probably the best we have been in the last several years. So I think the plan of summer camp went extremely well.
If you look back, I think staying in Keough Hall, South Dining Hall, saving those kids legs from so much walking, I think getting those kids off the field at 6 o’clock at night, a lot of things. I think the depth of our football team helped. And then probably most of all what helped was able to control the momentum of the game. It is a lot easier to bounce around and have energy when things are coming your way.
But I think from the standpoint of playing hard, playing with some enthusiasm, some emotion, I thought we did a pretty good job.
If you look — it is like any time, I mean, it is a lot more fun to win, obviously.
The second thing, it is always such a fine line between winning and losing. Every football game we play will probably be close. All you have to do is look at who we play and they are going to be close games and you see what a fine line there is.
There was a fine line in that game yesterday. A&M is a talented football team, a veteran football team. Standing there on that sidelines looking out at them, that was a good looking team, very athletic.
But it is a fine line. You think back to the big plays in that game, certainly the touchdown pass to Javin Hunter was huge because we were struggling at that time offensively. We really could not get on track and that play kind of got us on track and got us going.
You look at the third and 19 that we hit David Givens up the seam. That ball maybe shouldn’t have been thrown. If you look at the coverage you are saying, I am not sure he should try to throw that in there, but we did and he caught it and it was a first down.
Certainly going for it on fourth and one, the way we executed that play, I thought the offensive line blocked that extremely well.
Then we come back on the touchdown, Julius Jones makes a fine run. Joey Getherall makes a nice block downfield. The big plays on defense, stopping them on third and 1 when they ran the quarterback’s sneak. Lance Legree and Tyreo Harrison and B.J. Scott closed down from the weak side to be able to stop them right there on a third and one situation.
Certainly Tony Driver’s interception at a time when we were a little bit gassed, they had momentum going. We were heading the football team, but it was coming down to probably an on-side kick situation as they go in and score there.
You look from the other side that there is some big plays, A&M dropped some balls. There were some things that were extremely close. They had one on our sideline there that would have been a big play late in the game. They had a corner out in the end zone that, you know, could have been caught. So there were some dropped balls. They dropped a square-in against us.
So there is a fine line.
In the kicking game, I thought the big plays – Nick Setta, the field goal that he kicked, the snap was high and he had to kind of stutter-step, but that was a great change by him to be able to just get that ball off and make that field goal.
I think Tony Driver keeping the punt from going into the end zone. Clifford goes down, the ball is on about the 4-yard line, Clifford dives on the ball and the ball kind of squirts, basically looks like it is going the end zone and Tony Driver comes down and taps that ball back.
Just so many big plays. But you see just what a fine line there is – a fine line between winning and losing.
Those were two evenly matched football teams yesterday.
If you look at offensively, I thought we played well. I thought the offensive line is much improved. I thought the two guards Jim Jones and Mike Gandy played well. Jeff Faine for his first football game playing, I thought, the fact that there were no turnovers in that football game was outstanding when you consider snapping that ball as many times as Jeff Faine snapped it.
I think J.W. Jordan coming in, and first play he is in the game, it is a shotgun situation being able to get the ball snapped.
So I thought inside our center and our two guards played well.
I thought our tackles played consistent football, Vollers and Jordan Black. I thought our tight ends — I thought Jabari played a good football game.
Tommy Lopienski, our fullback, I thought played his best game. You could see that he is probably more comfortable now. He played really fast. He played aggressive.
Mike McNair came in and played well. He played about 19 plays and blocked well. All three tailbacks did some good things. It was pretty balanced in how many carries they had.
I was impressed with Terrance Howard at the end of the game, how hard he ran the football.
Obviously Julius made some outstanding runs. Tony Fisher played well.
Receivers didn’t make a lot of catches, but they made some big catches. They block hard. They really block and play physical downfield.
Defensively I thought we played maybe a little better than I thought we did when I came out of the stadium yesterday. I thought, once again, we played really, really hard and swarmed around on defense. It is still: Can we cover. But I certainly think we can get better and some of it was technique situations. Some of it was playing against some good receivers.
I thought A&M had four receivers that were really good and I know they think they are really good and they are.
I didn’t think A&M could run the ball on us real successfully, real consistently. I thought we were pretty styled up front.
Looking at how we played on defense, who played well, I thought Tony Driver really played well. I thought Brock Williams for his first game back played pretty consistent. They didn’t throw a lot at Brock. It was pretty obvious that they were throwing to the other side.
I felt the linebackers played pretty good solid football. I thought Rocky Boiman played better than he played last year. Both Anthony and Tyreo played, Courtney Watson came in, didn’t have a chance to do a whole lot, but he did okay.
Lance Legree up front I thought he played the best. I thought he really completed up there. He is a good solid football player for us.
Anthony Weaver played well at times. Got a little bit tired. Grant did some good things. We all know he cramped up.
Picked on our corners a little bit, both Shane Walton and Clifford, but I thought they competed.
Kicking game: I think we are better. We will have a big challenge this week with Nebraska, but I think we are better overall in the kicking game.
I thought our place kicker on kickoffs McNew did a good thing with the hang time, but our coverage was pretty good which is impacted by that hang time.
Punt team I thought did an excellent job. They tried to come after us several times, but the snaps were good. I think Hildbold for the most part was pretty good.
Coverage was pretty good.
Kickoff return, I think we can be better. We dropped the first. We fumbled around the first kickoff return. We had a chance on that one.
We blew an assignment on a middle return. I think we could be better in kickoff return. I think we can be better in punt return.
Field goal and extra point were both a little bit better.
So it was a good solid performance. I think we are all encouraged. It is a lot more fun to go play the No. 1 ranked team in the country 1 and 0 rather than 0 and 1, I can promise you that.
But I am proud of our team. I thought they handled themselves well. It was extremely hot. I.
Think we were playing a good football team yesterday. And I am encouraged by it. I think we are a better football team right now than we were a year ago. I think this has a chance to be a really good football team if we can build on performance.
JOHN HEISLER: We will take some questions, at this point.
Q. You were talking about the fine line between winning and losing and how you and A&M are two evenly matched teams and it’s probably going to that be way all season with the schedule that you play. Can you just talk about what a difference winning and having confidence makes when you are playing those type of games week in and week out?
COACH DAVIE: Well, I think the first game is so big. I said this last week going into the first game – I didn’t wait to see if we were going to win it before I said it. It is a tremendous boost in confidence, a tremendous boost in momentum when you can win the first game.
I mean, let us face it, all of us can feel good about thinking we are better than we were, but you just never know. You think how long it has been since we have gone out and played. It has been since November for this football team and you can feel good about the offseason weight program, you can feel good about the running, just like everybody in the country feels about theirs, but until you go out and play and win, you don’t know for sure.
So for that reason, you get confidence. I think the second thing is these kids want to be reward for all their hard work. You kind — everybody says they outwork everybody else. And sometimes if you can’t win that first game, the kids may have the temptation to sit back and say: Why did we work so hard, if we worked harder than they worked, but they won the game, was it really worth it.
So I think it makes everyone realize that all the hard work was worthwhile and I said this going in, we were a confident football team all summer. I think our football team feels like it is better than it has been because of the things they have done. But until you win the first game you don’t know for sure.
So yeah, I mean, it is a tremendous boost in confidence but we are also realistic. We also see who is coming up next and we also know that we look at that tape and see there is a lot of things that we have to do better to even have a chance.
Q. You almost evenly distributed the chores of the tailback spot among the three guys yesterday. Was that because of the heat or because of the hamstring injuries or is that going to become common place as the season goes along?
COACH DAVIE: I think just as we have said, that is going to be our plan. We have three talented tailbacks, all three of them, I feel comfortable within the football team and that was evidenced by the fact that Terrance Howard was in there late in the football game when you are obviously concerned about protecting the football. So I hope we can keep all three of them happy — not happy, healthy, so that we can continue to do that. And with Julius going back and having opportunities on kick returns and punt returns, I think it is all going to pretty much even out. But that is our plan. It really didn’t have anything to do with the heat. I think you will continue to see us do that.
Q. Did their hamstrings come to you okay and do we have any other significant injuries, Bob?
COACH DAVIE: No, the hamstrings were fine, both Terrance and Julius really were at 100%. We had two ankles, not real severe. Arnaz sprained his ankle as well as Clifford Jefferson. That is the only two injuries we have. Both of them are doubtful to questionable probably for tomorrow and hopefully will practice Tuesday.
Q. Have you seen enough yet — if we can look ahead a little bit of their quarterback on tape to comment on what you think of him and what you guys are going to have to do to try to combat all the things he brings to their offense?
COACH DAVIE: I have watched him a lot. It is no secret that offensively we are similar in a lot of ways to Nebraska. We have watched them for the last couple of years here and certainly I have watched a lot of Nebraska tape in the offseason.
The thing I see-I don’t know their personnel all that well-but I would doubt, you know, it is tough enough to coach one team, so I always hold my opinions, but I doubt that they have a more competitive football player on that team than their quarterback. That is a great starting point for an offensive football team or a football team to have that kind of competitive athlete at the quarterback position.
The second thing is he is extremely fast. I mean, he is legitimately fast. And he plays so hard.
I really enjoy watching him play. Now I don’t know that I am going to enjoy it playing against him, but it he fun to watch. And he is a true weapon with his hands on the football. He is one of the fastest, most aggressive quarterbacks that I have seen in college football. And you know we have played — you know, we have played some of those wishbone teams over the years, and Morgan from Air Force and some different players, Kordell Stewart when he was at Colorado so he is a heck of a football player and he is impressive because he just plays so hard and he is so competitive. Because of that I imagine he is a tremendous leader for them.
Q. Which ankle was it that Arnaz sprained, how severe is it and how did it happen?
COACH DAVIE: I tell you what, Bob, you got me again. I can’t tell you if it was the left one or the right one. I really don’t know. I will probably know by tomorrow. I will call you back. He sprained it in the second quarter. He didn’t sprain it — you know, we were very fortunate – Arnaz was very fortunate early in the football game when he came off of our sideline and went over our bench and ran into the wall over there. He took a heck of a spill. Looking at it on the tape it is really frightening, but he didn’t sprain his ankle on that play. He actually sprained it at some point in the second quarter, continued to play the whole football game with it, and then it swelled up a little bit last night. So the encouraging thing is he played the rest of the game with it, but as you know, those things are always a lot worse overnight. So he hurt it in the second quarter. I am not sure exactly which play.
Q. What other options do you have at corner? How healthy is Jason Beckstrom and he is under consideration?
COACH DAVIE: Yeah, Tim. Jason Beckstrom played a lot of football for us last year, started basically the second half of the season in all of our nickel stuff. He has been a little bit banged up.
Shoulder earlier in camp then he had the muscle pull in the abdomen. Yeah, he is going to have the opportunity to play a little bit more. So I am — obviously this week is a little different kind of game. Nebraska will throw the ball and will throw the ball down the field.
But obviously they are going to run the football. The two tailbacks yesterday, they rushed for over — one of them over 100 and one of them over 200 but all those guys are in the mix to play.
Shane Walton did some good things yesterday. He is a physical guy. Clifford did some good things. He just didn’t play the ball particularly well when he had some guys covered. So I am not discouraged by it, but I also realize that we need to get better just as our players realize we need to get better and everybody is going to have an opportunity. So Beckstrom will have a chance.
We have got two young corners that I think at some point in this season are going to have an opportunity to play. I am just glad we have them all healthy and that we can keep working to try to get better.
COACH DAVIE: Tremendous respect for them. It is obvious they have been in that system. They have been in that scheme for years. It is probably 20 to 25 years that they have been in that system and the continuity is definitely, definitely in their favor because of it. They have added to it. They are progressive.
Anyone that looks at Nebraska and says they are one-dimensional or old-fashioned does not understand college football. I think they have a tremendous offense. They give you a lot of formations. There is always the threat of option which they can take to the house on you at any minute. They do a good job with the screens. Good job with miss-direction plays. They have got a tight end that is outstanding – great speed, great hands. They are the type of team that they throw it when they want to throw it. They don’t throw it when they have to throw it. There is a big difference. When you can throw it when you want to throw, there is always a chance of big plays.
So they are a tremendous offensive football team and there is not a college football coach in this country who would say they are one-dimensional or who would be real excited playing them.
Let us face it, with us playing Nebraska and Purdue the next two weeks, it is a pretty big challenge for every one of us in this program defensively.
Q. (regarding BJ Scott)
COACH DAVIE: First of all, I love what he brings to our football team. He is a guy that we moved to center last year to be a backup center who had played the year before on defense and he willingly did that. Over the summer what he did, he really changed his body a little bit. He went from probably 290 or something because we asked him to get up to 290 to be a center, down to, I would guess, 270. And he worked extremely hard and he is moving around better than he has moved around. I think he is quicker. And he can make some plays. There is a chance B.J. Scott may start this week. I think he played well. I think he deserves the opportunity.
We are going to see how it plays out in practice between he and Andy Wisne. Daryl Campbell, we should have played a little more. So B.J. Scott has a chance to start for this football team. I just like everything he brings and I think he is a good football player.
Q. Controversy at center now with the play that J.W. Jordan made?
COACH DAVIE: I will tell you what, another guy that has worked extremely hard is J.W. Jordan. I mean, he has turned himself into a solid football player. He right now is the backup center. He went in that game yesterday and what he did in that game, yesterday, I don’t take for granted. To go in there under those conditions and snap that ball the first time in a shotgun, shows you how far he has come and he has the respect of everybody on this football team and he has turned himself into a good solid football player. He is a guy that has come a long way and worked extremely hard, so you know, I am proud of him.
Q. Mentioned yesterday lacked a little confidence before the game. (inaudible) —
COACH DAVIE: I thought as the game went on — you know, it is not that we went into the game not being confident. It is just the fact we hadn’t had a whole lot of success and when things start going poorly, you are never sure how you are going to react.
I thought they fought through it pretty good though. I thought as the game went on, just like our entire team, they did gain some confidence. I thought they got a little bit stronger as the game went on.
Certainly that goal line stand was a big play. That is something I didn’t mention before, you know, there were some big plays on that. I thought Anthony Denman made a great play on that. Also Grant Irons made a pretty good play on that if I remember exactly right.
Yeah, any time you can stop them in that situation and in that third and one when we stopped them, that helps your confidence.
Q. Bob (inaudible) on Monday (inaudible) —
COACH DAVIE: Probably.
Q. Do you know who will take No. 2?
COACH DAVIE: I am not sure right now. We will have to look at it. We took Matt LoVecchio down to Plymouth with us. We will just have to evaluate where we are with that.
Q. The sprain that you told us (inaudible) if you could recall why did you that and what it represented (inaudible) —
COACH DAVIE: I actually did that, I kind of forgot about that, but we did that last year. I think that was probably in January when the players first came back from Christmas. Because I think we pattern ourselves a little bit after Nebraska and the style of offense we are in. We are doing some things defensively that Nebraska does, but more than that, I think they have done a great job of continuity on their coaching staff. I think they do a great job developing players. I think they do a tremendous job recruiting, but they also do a great job developing their players once they are there. The strength and weight programs is excellent. I think they do a great job with nutrition. I just think they do a good job developing their football team. And for that reason, after watching them play against Tennessee, because of all the respect we had for Tennessee, you could see that Nebraska is a heck of a football team and a heck of a football program and I am not embarrassed to say that in any way. It is a compliment to them.
I think we are a heck of a football team and a heck of a football program too. But looking at that schedule, if you want to raise the bars as a football team, you raise that bar comparing yourself to Nebraska. I felt that strongly after watching them in that Bowl Game. I think that would be unanimous across this country with college football coaches and that is why they were ranked preseason No. 1. I wasn’t the only one that said: Look, let us set our sights high and if we want to set our sights high, that is a good place to start right there looking at Nebraska.
Q. When your players measured themselves against Tennessee last year taking a little bit of hit (inaudible) does that enter into your thinking at all this week?
COACH DAVIE: Not at all. Anyone that knows anything about football and anyone that knows anything about Notre Dame football, by the time we got to Tennessee last year — sometimes when I say that 21 players couldn’t play at the end of the season, I don’t think people really listened to that. I mean, by that point in that season, with the football team that we put on that field with Tennessee compared to that team that was out their with those nine draft picks, it wasn’t close. Let’s call it what it is. We went on and played hard those last three games, but we didn’t have a whole lot of weapons left.
This is a whole different year with a whole different football team. We are a much better football team right now than the team we took to Tennessee. So that doesn’t enter into it at all from my standpoint. But I will say that what Nebraska did to Tennessee, with Tennessee’s football team intact was really impressive to me in that Fiesta Bowl because I know what kind of athleticism Tennessee has.
COACH DAVIE: You had to do that. That is something we went into fall camp with that plan because Nebraska and Purdue, in their own ways, are so different than anyone else. And we knew coming up here early in the season we had both these two on the schedule so we did that not only in fall camp to devote some time to them, but also in the offseason with coaches and time management as far as film study and getting the plan because you have to have a plan against Nebraska. They are not the kind of team you can go in there and just do what you have always done and beat. So you have to have a plan.
COACH DAVIE: I wouldn’t say there was ever a day we went out there and spent it totally on Nebraska. But everyday we did some things and, you know, from a defensive standpoint, our offense is — does some things like Nebraska does so it wasn’t like we had to totally shift gears. It gave our offense the opportunity to work on some things as well as our defense to work against Nebraska. So just about in every practice we would do something that Nebraska did. I am not sure we did it quite as well as Nebraska but we tried to do some things.
Q. Feasible to create a program at Notre Dame (inaudible) talk about continuity 25 years at Nebraska do they have some built-in advantages that can’t be matched at Notre Dame, in the long run (inaudible) —
COACH DAVIE: Well I hope to. I hope to. We can certainly go recruit good football players, keeping football players in the program. We have a heck of a strength and weight coach now. I think that now that we are two, three years into that program, has helped us immensely. I think from a scheme-standpoint we have locked into some things that we know we can do and we feel comfortable with our personnel that you see how we have recruited, we have really recruited with that with the freshmen quarterbacks we recruited. So, yeah, I do. Now every place is different. Every place is different. Nebraska, with their facilities, from what I understand is outstanding. So we don’t have to do everything exactly like Nebraska to be successful. But certainly they have raised the bar for people around this country and keeping coaches in the program, that entails a lot of things. Keeping players in the program that entails a lot of things. Being productive on the field entails a lot of things. We now have it where we have summer camp right here at Keough and kids don’t have to walk everyday 15, 20 minutes. We now get them off the field at 6 o’clock at night, that is huge. We are doing some things with nutrition where we are able to do some things with kids. We have a meal program now where I get a printout back every week Mick Mariotti and I have every meal that our kids ate so we keep tabs on how they eat. Nebraska’s training table and their situation may be different, but we are doing the best we can right though now with the ways ours is set.
So we have done a lot of good things in a lot of areas to develop our players and that is my No. 1 priority is to develop our players. I think we have made a lot of strides in that. I think people will see the fruits of all that labor over the next couple of years in this program. We have got some good football players and we are working like heck to develop them. But it is a lot of people working together to do that. And I think Nebraska does an outstanding job. Okay?
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