Oct. 2, 2001
COACH DAVIE: I think first of all, I’d like to thank Ken Dye (ph), our band director. Last night at the end of practice, he brought that entire band. I’m not sure how many members they have in that band, but that entire band came out there on that practice hill, and I appreciated that and our team really appreciated that. There’s some incredible people around Notre Dame, and, you know, the support I’ve had has just been incredible and the support for this football team has been incredible and I really appreciate that.
I think for us the goal is obviously pretty simple: It’s to win a football game. That’s the great thing about athletics, the great thing about football is that you have a chance to rebound and come back and have a chance to play again.
For us, it’s pretty simple how we have to win a game. We have to play better. That’s been my message to our players, that’s been my message to the coaches, just play better. We need to figure out a way to coach better. By that, I mean we have to have players step up and make plays. That’s been our goal the entire week.
When you look at Pittsburgh, you know, they are a little bit of a departure what from they were in ’99 when we played. I played against Walt Harris when he was at Ohio State and at Pittsburgh he had been predominately a two?back offense, a lot of I Formation, running plays, two?back, split?back passing game and they have really gone to a spread offense. A good portion of the time, the tight end will be flexed. There will be three receivers in the game. They will have a four?wide receiver look to it, a shotgun a high, high percentage of the time.
When you look at them, I think they have talented wide receivers. They have one young man a lot of people think is the best receiver in the United States. He’s been injured, No. 80. He’s only caught three passes all year, but they expect him to be back at full strength. They have two other receivers that are both big, tall guys, 84 and 86, both I think are 6’3 or 6’4.
I really like their freshman tailback. I think he’s an excellent player. He runs really hard. They are at times a no?huddle offense. They certainly do a lot of things at the line of scrimmage. I hope our crowd responds the way that the crowds in the last two places we have played in, Nebraska, and also at Texas A&M. I hope they are not able to do a whole lot at the line of scrimmage, like we have been unable to do at the last two places we have played.
Defensively, they are a blitzing team. They are an eight?man front, very similar to a Virginia Tech scheme. They have one defensive end I think is an outstanding player. Also, the middle linebacker. Their safeties are very active. Any time you play that type of defense, the safeties make a lot of tackles.
They are a good football team. They came into this season with high expectations. They probably in a lot of ways have been like us in that they are a little bit disappointed with how the season has begun, but I think now that they are back at full strength, they have an opportunity to become the team they had hoped to be and expected to be when the season started. They opened the season, they beat East Tennessee. They had a heartbreaking loss at home to South Florida and then played Miami the next week. At times, you know, moved the ball very well on Miami. They are pretty explosive.
So I think it is obviously going to be a challenge for us. I think we have the opportunity to be a good football team. I look at a lot of things we are capable of doing and I think if we just keep working and we keep our eye on the target, don’t become distracted, realize we have eight football games left, I really do think we can become an excellent football team. I don’t think we are near as far from being that as what it may appear on the outside. We’ve played in two places that are probably as difficult as there is in the United States to win football games. We played at home. We were in a 10?10 game in the fourth quarter.
I think there is still reason to be optimistic. I am certainly optimistic, but the bottom line, we have to perform better. It’s that simple. But the thing is, we have an opportunity to do that. We have our next three games at home and I think we have a chance to get better and that’s the simple goal right now. That’s the target, just to go win a football game.
Q. I know that the bottom line is to simply play better and at this point, where you’re 0?3, to go out and win a game, but specifically speaking, is there anything in particular that the team is focusing on in terms of doing better, that it needs to focus on to improve this week against Pittsburgh?
COACH DAVIE: I think that’s a good question. I think first of all,defensively, we need to make plays. It’s as simple and as broad based as that sounds, we have not had an interception. We have not had a turnover in the last two weeks of this season. It’s really hard to win, particularly with our offense right now a bit anemic, if you don’t have field position. We have not been able to generate field position on defense.
We’ve really played fairly decent on defense. We just haven’t created plays. You know, there needs to be a time when the ball goes up in the air where one of our guys goes up and catches it or bats it and one of our guys gets it off the tip. It’s hard when you are not getting that kind of productivity. And I think that’s the message this week, is how do we as coaches coach better so that our players are more productive. That’s the simple message on defense. We’ve played okay, but I think we are capable of playing a lot better.
Offensively, I think it comes down to really comes down to execution across the board. At times, we’ve done some good things running the football. You look at some positive things, but we kind of self?destruct. We self?inflict mistakes on ourselves. We have turned the ball over on offense. We had three turnovers last week. I believe we have more turnovers right now than we had the whole season last year. So I think on offense, it’s really just an overall execution and overall consistency.
And kicking game, I think specifically our punt coverage, Joey Hildbold is really hitting the ball. And any time you hit the ball a long way, obviously the premium is on punt coverage. Our punt protection, we had punt block that wasn’t so much a protection problem as a one?man breakdown, which I think we can obviously resolve.
But overall, the bottom line is we have to play better. We have no make plays. We’re doing some things we just have zero productivity to show for it. I’m not just talking about wins and losses. I’m talking about we’ve had no productivity, and that’s kind of the bottom line right now.
Q. When you went to the meeting Sunday morning, when you met with the staff, in your mind were you committed to making ?? taking over the offense, however you want to term it, or making the play calls yourself, or would you want to clarify where that stands right now in relation to how that whole thing came down?
COACH DAVIE: My intentions have never been and were never to be the offensive coordinator and call the plays. I’m not going to do that. I’ve got tremendous confidence in Kevin Rogers. I’ve got tremendous confidence in our offensive staff. Quite honestly, I think they can do a better job than I can do doing that. So my intentions were never to do that.
I just felt that I spend so much time right now in my role with the special teams and with the defense during the day in meetings, that I need to be involved with the offensive staff a little more during the day in meetings. Not that I’m not involved. I’m not in any way saying I haven’t been involved at all. But I just think with my role right now being so heavily involved right now in the defense with the special teams that maybe I haven’t been as fair to our offensive coaches as I should have been, and maybe I can provide a resource for them. Maybe they can bounce ideas off of me. Maybe I can give them right now some confidence, just by making them feel good about some of the things they are doing.
So my intentions really were to give us direction, and still is, to give us direction, not so much on the field, because I’m not going to deviate from our plan. I don’t want to right now all of a sudden not be calling the defenses and not be on the defensive end of the field the majority of my time in practice. But I just think right now with the way things are, I can do a little bit more during the day to maybe be in with the offensive coaches a little bit more.
You know, so that’s really where it is. I think I can provide direction and I think I’ve got a responsibility to do that. But in no way is it because I lack confidence in Kevin Rogers or I lack confidence in our staff.
I’ve been in the same situation at Texas A&M, there were times we struggled on defense, and I encouraged R.C. to come in there with me, and there were times here at Notre Dame when ?? I remember getting ready for some wishbone teams when I encouraged Coach Holtz to come in and bounce ideas off of him. I really enjoyed those sessions, just listen to someone’s perspective from the other side of the ball.
So I think that the bottom line is, we have to do whatever we have to do to get our players to play better. And how dramatic that’s going to be or what that’s going to accomplish, I’m not sure, but I think it’s worth ?? for our players and for our coaches, to try to do that a little bit more. But I’m not going to do it to the point that all of the sudden I’m over there and I’m the offensive coordinator and now the defense is without who has been calling the defense. I don’t think that’s in anyone’s best interests. I’m just trying to provide a little resource area for our offensive coaches.
Q. After the game, you said you would have to be a pretty optimistic person to find any positives. Today, a few days later, you sound optimistic. Was it something that the players ?? a reception or reaction, with the staff or just after thinking about it, you have to, you know, be optimistic in your job?
COACH DAVIE: I said that. You know when you lose ?? I said last week, it’s brutal when you lose. It’s brutal and it doesn’t get easier, it gets harder and it kills me.
But, what brings me back is a couple things. One, when you look at the tape and you see ?? separate perception from reality. I’ll give you a for instance. I talked to R.C. yesterday and how things happened in this game. They are up there at 17?3 in the 3rd quarter. It’s 4th down and 1 on their own 40?yard line. They are going to come up and they are going freeze penalty and try to hut?hut us and just try to get us on our off sides. They knew in that stadium we were not going to snap the ball.
Well, the quarterback got up there a little bit early and went “hut?hut” and there was still about 15 seconds, 10 seconds left on the 25?second clock. They didn’t want to take a time?out so he turned to the halfback and said to him, “Go in motion.” Just said to him, “Go in motion.” And he kind of started to recall ?? the center just up and snapped the ball and the ball rolled on the ground and they covered and it was a first down.
So things happen in football that, you know, the final score or the flow of the game, how things happen, are such a fine line. When you look at the tape and you look at the ability of our players and coaches, you see that you can get it turned around. You know, there’s eight football games left and we can win. As bad as I felt is a Saturday when I look at the reality and I look at the situation, I know that we can do better. There’s a lot of football left.
Then the second thing I think is the opportunity to win a game. What brings you back if you’re a competitor is just enjoying going in there and digging out of that hole and trying to figure out how to beat Pittsburgh and how to improve as a football coach and a football player every day.
Then I think the third thing is being around the people that I’m around, the players. I mean, I’m not going to get all philosophical right now, but for people that never played the game ?? and that’s probably not fair. But for people that have never competed in a very competitive situation, I think you’re really missing something. I think these kids learn so many values, and I think myself as a coach, you learn so much, about just character and integrity and keeping your eye on the target and not flinching. I just feel is good when I’m around people that are in that box that really know.
You know, that’s kind of it. There’s a bunch of things, but you find a way to scratch and claw back, and I’m pretty excited right now, as crazy as that might sound. I’m looking forward to Saturday and seeing if we can go win a game.
Q. You mentioned that maybe this weekend, the home crowd can help you in a way that A&M and Nebraska crowd helped them, making calls. How concerned are you with the reaction of the crowd, and will you address that all with your team?
COACH DAVIE: I’m going to ask them to do one thing: If they boo, make sure they boo when Pittsburgh is at the line of scrimmage, trying to change those plays. That’s all I ask. If they are going to boo, boo when they are trying to check at the line of scrimmage. That’s the only thing I’m going to ask.
No, I really am not concerned about that at all. First of all, I’m on the headset a good portion of the game, so I’m kind of immune to what’s going on. But I told our players: “If there’s a lot of booing this weekend, it’s at me, it’s not at you, so don’t take it personal.”
I’ve seen it a lot of times. This is a fickle profession and a fickle game. You can turn those boos into cheers in a hurry, and I think the only way to do that is go out and coach better and play better.
So I think we have great fans. If I was sitting up there, I’d probably boo, too. So bring it on. Let’s go see if we can coach better and win a game this week.
Q. I’m just curious, evaluating the play of Julius Jones, do you think he’s playing with the same burst he had last year, has something missing or what do you see there?
COACH DAVIE: I think Julius has been hurt, honestly. You know, he still wraps that quad up every day in practice. I’m still not sure he’s 100%.
I’ve seen him burst. As quick as he was as a freshman when he just seemed to explode, I don’t know ?? I don’t think he is, to be quite honest. Is he capable of getting that back? I know he can. But I think once again, it’s probably a combining of being a little bit injured. It’s a combination of us coaching better to get him to play better.
So to say he is explosive as he was as a freshman, I’ve got a hard time sitting there saying he is, but I know he can be if we get him going right and get him healthy. I know we can get him back to that.
Q. And now that Holiday is going to start again, do you have to make sure to keep him on track or stay on Matt LoVecchio to make sure he keeps in a positive frame of mind, because as the case was Saturday, he’s always one play away from being in the game?
COACH DAVIE: Yeah, I think certainly that’s part of coaching, to talk to young guys.
But also, part of the reality is they have to do it themselves. That’s when you find out about character. You know, you can say a lot of things and you can ?? talk’s cheap. It’s about character. I think Matt LoVecchio is a special person. I think he is a tough, tough guy. I think he’s ultra?competitive. I’ve got tremendous confidence in him and he’s going to handle the situation in the right way.
Is it easy? No. It’s not easy on anyone right now. I think the lessons these guys have learned and the way we have taught them to handle adversity and particularly the kind of person he is, I think he can handle it.
Q. With three players at the same position in the same class like they are at quarterback, no matter who plays, there’s going to be someone that’s disappointed. Do you think at some point whoever is the odd man out at the end of the year, the No. 3 guy, that you have to worry about transfers? Do you expect one of them to transfer? Do you expect them all to come back?
COACH DAVIE: I couldn’t tell you. I mean, how do we know how this whole thing is going to play out? All I know is right now, all of those guys are still in the mix. Jared Clark obviously got in late in the game, he got in for one play.
But it’s not like anybody’s locked into anything right now. There’s a lot of football left this year. So I think it’s all just speculation. Certainly, when there’s three young guys that were in position, that issue’s been discussed a lot. I certainly don’t want to create that issue. So that’s kind of going to be what it’s going to be.
Q. Stereotypical, a coach likes tangible stuff to fix, you see it on the film and you fix it. Just talking to Kevin and listening to the things you are saying, it seems like there are so many widespread breakdowns here and there. Is it hard to put a finger on anything or hard to feel comfortable to fix the thing, that there are so many different things going wrong in different places?
COACH DAVIE: I think what happens when you are not productive, you look at every thing, and you coach so hard and you grind so hard, you make it maybe harder than it is. You know, once again, talking to R.C., I mean, they have 300 yards offense. And was it pretty? It wasn’t real pretty. Did they make mistakes? They made a bunch of mistakes. But did they throw the ball down the field and the receiver jump up and catch it for 45 yards? Yeah. Did they run a draw and the kid bounces out of three tackles and score? Yeah.
But when you are not productive and you are not getting big plays, you dissect it so closely. And the reality is, it’s never perfect. I mean, you go back and look when you have 500 yards in the game, you make mistakes. It’s just that everything becomes so magnified when you don’t get results. I’m not saying that as a cop?out. That’s what happens and I think there’s a point where everybody just starts grinding so hard, you kind of talk about the things you can’t do or you worry about the things that are going to go wrong, instead of what you can do and what’s going to go right. You know, people care so much and they want to do it so badly, you almost handcuff yourself.
So, I mean, there’s not a whole lot more breakdowns than before were. The reality is we got some critical breakdowns. Throwing those interceptions ?? we had two drives where they threw interceptions. One of them was first down, one of them going in, it’s going to be points. Michigan State, we had the ball twice in the red zone, we don’t get points. You know, things like that. Ou know, things where all of a sudden it’s magnified because you didn’t score.
You know, so I think we’re closer than what it appears we are. I don’t think you can just say, “Well, they have had two touchdowns, one off a block punt, one off a punt return and three field goals this year.” I mean, that’s the reality of it, but there’s been some positives now. There’s been some times ?? Tony Fisher, we gashed people against Michigan State. You look A&M, we come out on the first drive, and the second drive, we move the ball down the field. But we haven’t been productive. We haven’t been productive and that’s what we are trying to do right now.
What can we do to get our players more productive? To me, I think we have to coach better because I think we have good players. It’s whatever we can do to coach them better to make them productive because I know we have good players that care and that’s the approach I’m taking.
Q. Talk about when things are not going well you start wondering about what’s going wrong, focusing too closely on those things. It seems like in football, games are close how, do you get your players to start looking at what’s going right ?? inaudible ?? seems like there’s got to be a little bit positive, as opposed to going out that last drive and thinking, “I can’t make a mistake”?
COACH DAVIE: I’m going to go back and be the coach I was last year where we won all those close games. I’m going to go back and do that again.
It’s not like ?? and I’m not teasing you. It’s not like all of a sudden we are worse coaches than we were a year ago. There’s a fine line and there’s a lot of things. There’s a lot of dynamics that affect the outcome. There’s a lot of things.
You know, I just read ?? Harris where he said they are at full strength with Antonio Bryant coming back. Well, we played how many football games without David Givens and Arnaz Battle being at full strength.
We opened up the season in Lincoln, Nebraska. They had two games ?? I think they are now, what, 88?3 in Lincoln, Nebraska. The reality is they are 88?3. We sat there and grinded that game for three weeks waiting to play them. We go in, first start of the season we fumble the ball. There’s unbelievable dynamics involved in that situation.
We come home. A lot of things happen. We don’t play the next week. We go play Michigan State, it’s 10?10 in the fourth quarter. We blitz them, kid runs a little slant route, we miss the tackle, they win the game 17?10. Last year’s game was close. Every year you go back and look at the Michigan State games, they are close. But we lost that game.
Now we load up and we go to Texas A&M. 90 degrees in College Station ?? I’m not making excuses. I’m just telling you, there’s dynamics. There’s a fine line. What was it, 90 degrees down there? I think 48 was the highest we practiced in last week. R.C. has been 13 years coaching at A&M. He’s never lost a non?conference game in Col Field. Never. We go in there, we move the ball a little bit, but we turn it over. I’m not making excuses ?? I’m giving you ?? there’s a fine line. What we’ve got to do is get over that hurdle. We’ve got to get our football team over that hump. That’s coaching. I’m not makes excuse that’s coaching.
The job gets more difficult. Certainly it does. I mean, guys are human. But I think if we just focus on how can we get guys to play better. That’s all it is, just get guys to play better, and I take that responsibility as a coach. I’ve been working 24 hours a day to try to do that. It’s such a fine line, but there’s so many dynamics involved. I think what’s really encouraging to me is I’ve got a guy like R.C. that may be my best friend, that he sees all the dynamics. He realizes when they play Mississippi State, they are a good team. They go play Wyoming, they are struggling. They play Oklahoma State at home, still struggling. But they are 3?0, they are playing in College Field. Notre Dame comes, it’s the largest crowd in the history of Texas football ?? that’s a pretty strong statement. They beat us. Now they are 4?0 playing Baylor, probably going to be 5?0. All of the sudden, they are a pretty darned good team.
There’s dynamics. There’s dynamics. What we have to do is take the hand that we have been dealt and turn that into a positive thing and use that as an opportunity to get this thing back on track and motivate our players and get them to play better.
Q. Do you worry about their mindset, maybe trying too hard?
COACH DAVIE: Sure. I know what kind of kids they are. I know how much they care. I know what ?? I know how important football is to them. I know living on this campus 24 hours a day, I know what it’s like for them to go into that stadium and hear boos. I know what they have invested in this. Certainly, I do. Certainly, I do. And those are all things we talk about.
But I also know that the only way to make it better is to not feel sorry for yourself, not make excuses, not less those demons come out. Only thing that’s going to make you feel better is to play better and win. So there’s no one to blame it on. Let’s just go do that. That’s been the approach.
Q. You’ve talked about the lack of big plays, but it seems consistently you are not dominating the line of scrimmage. Have you been disappointed with the play of the offensive line this year?
COACH DAVIE: You know what, who does? Who does dominant the line of scrimmage? As good as Nebraska is, they threw the ball to the tight end against us and made some plays. The year before, the quarterback took the ball and went ?? you know, it’s hard now to dominant the line of scrimmage. Am I saying our offensive line is playing great, no. No, they are not playing great. We’ve got way too many little busts in there. It’s hard to dominate the line of scrimmage. I mean, you need to get a big home run at some point.
So, I don’t know if it’s realistic to dominant the line of scrimmage. But can we play better? We can. And that’s what we are trying to solve right now: What can we do better to help those kids play better.
Q. The 3rd and 1, the 3rd and 2 ??
COACH DAVIE: One thing with that, we moved Kurt Vollers back to tackle which I think he is much more confident at tackle. We had an injury to Milligan there and we moved Vollers to tackle and that kind of got us a little bit off balance there. We played two games with Kurt at guard. I think he’s much more comfortable at tackle. So we had the three tackles and now Milligan is back healthy. So Milligan and Mahan are the guards, so I think that will help us a little bit.
Q. The 3rd and 1, give you more confidence to ram it down their throat ??
COACH DAVIE: When you talk about 3rd and 1, that shouldn’t happen. That shouldn’t happen. 3rd and 1, I mean you’ve got to convert 3rd and 1. So, you know, once again the linebacker jumped over the top on the quarterback. He made a great play, but it shouldn’t happen. That’s not just the offensive line’s responsibility. There’s a lot of things with that.
Q. On another note, are you going to try to match up Shane Walton and Antonio Bryant this week?
COACH DAVIE: He hasn’t played much this year, Antonio Bryant, as I mentioned. It’s kind of hard to see where he’s going to be. You always get a little by worried ?? it’s not quite as easy as saying you just go cover guy because of the multitude of formations and the coverages you are in, sometimes you get yourself screwed up. You know, we would like to match up somebody against him in certain situations, and Shane right now would probably give us the best opportunity. But it’s kind of difficult because we just haven’t seen him on tape enough to know where he’s going to be in those formations.
Q. Is Shane developing into your best one?on?one coverage guy and did you expect that?
COACH DAVIE: Shane is a competitive guy. He really is. I think that’s a big positive so far this season this year has been the play of Shane Walton. He has been very productive. He has played good man?to?man coverage. I think we are going to start ?? going to the corner this week for Clifford. I’m anxious to see him play. I’m anxious to see Beckstrom again. I still feel Beckstrom has a chance to be a play really good player for us.
But, yeah, Shane Walton has been a bright spot for us. He’s a good, solid player.
Q. Talk about the long process of getting his scholarship changed from soccer to football and how he went about that and how he approached you about it?
COACH DAVIE: That’s a long story. He came here really with the idea of playing football, but ?? he played at a small school in San Diego and came here and played soccer and he always had a dream to come out and play football. I didn’t want to use him. I didn’t want to say, “Okay, come out and play football and give up soccer.” I said, “Look, come out for football and see if you are a good enough football player. Don’t just give up soccer.” Football and soccer during the season ?? I think they are at the same time.
So we kind of went through the spring, and it was hard for me because he didn’t have a great thing that first spring. And I said, “I think you have some potential in football. Now to say you are going to be a better football player, that it’s worth giving up soccer, I can’t tell you that. I can’t make that decision for you because you haven’t just jumped out here and set the world on fire.” He only weighed 160 pounds. But to his credit, he made that sacrifice and made that decision and went down the path of football, and, I mean, I got a world of respect for him.
Q. Do you ever have to call up Mike Bertocelli (ph) say that you are stealing his best player?
COACH DAVIE: Don’t put that on me. It wasn’t my idea. (Laughter). So before we start going down that path, it wasn’t ?? no, I didn’t do that. The kid, he came to me, and the first thing I said is, “You make sure you go to Mike.” And I tell you what, the kid had an unbelievable respect with Mike. It really hurt him when Mike passed away and Mike did a terrific job and developed a terrific relationship with Shane and his family. That devastated the kid.
Q. Talk about the offensive line, specifically with Curtin working his way as a starter against Michigan State and Texas A&M and now moving into a more reserve role ?? inaudible ?? in the past against Michigan State and ?? now you’re using your best five?
COACH DAVIE: I think if you just had to look at it on paper, you may say that the best five would be ?? or the way to get the best five on the field would be to see Kurt Vollers at guard. I mean, that’s a great concept and that’s a concept we tried.
But probably after looking at the tape, you know, it’s tough even for a guy like Kurt Vollers to jump in there at guard and all of a sudden be an experienced guard. So the combination of assignments, comfort of techniques, it probably wasn’t totally fair to him to do that. Although, we really had no recourse at that time. That gave us our best shot. Now that Milligan is healthy, I think it’s best for us and best for Kurt Vollers if he goes back to tackle and we have a three?man rotation at tackle.
So you are constantly looking at ways to tweak it and ways to make it better. With the injury, we thought putting Kurt in there gave us our best opportunity, but now that Milligan healthy, we are best going back to way we had continuity with.
Q. Talk about Kurt’s development through the year.
COACH DAVIE: He came in, he was in our summer football camp and really impressed with us his work ethic, and, obviously, his size. He’s going to be really a good player. He has improved from an explosive standpoint. He’s a hard worker. He’s going to be a good player. He’s been a bright spot.
Q. The move on the offensive line, does that more to do with Kurt struggling at guard or would it be somebody not playing as well at tackle? What prompted it?
COACH DAVIE: No. If anything, it’s moving Kurt into a position that he doesn’t have a tremendous amount of experience. Milligan played pretty good when he was healthy. It has nothing to do with Brennan Curtin at all.
Q. You’ve talked a lot about the mental and emotional aspect of football today. There’s been some talk that especially with the injuries to Battle and Givens at the skills position, Notre Dame doesn’t match up well on the talent level. How would you respond to that?
COACH DAVIE: We’ve got enough talent. We’ve got enough talent. I think we have more talent than the way we are playing right now, and that’s not easy for me to say.
You know, the whole talent thing, any time you get into saying, are we this talented or are we that talented ?? as I said, there’s a reason we don’t get big plays. We are not a particularly explosive football team. I think that’s ?? I think that’s obvious to everyone. We are a pretty talented team. We’ve developed some depth. We’ve got some good, solid players. You know, is there a difference?maker guy out there, is there ?? I don’t know that that’s accurate to say that. But we’re a talented ?? we’ve got a talented group of guys and we are a better football team. We have the capability to be a better football team than we are right now.
Q. The game obviously moved so much quicker in game time than practice, and do you feel at all like, I guess, kind of going back to the interception Saturday a little bit, just the passing game in general, is maybe with just a little bit more than a half under his built, was the game still moving quick for Carlyle?
COACH DAVIE: Yeah, that’s another point. We’re 0?2, we go to A&M. We start a young guy that hasn’t played much. There’s going to be some growing pains. Just like Matt LoVecchio is a young guy, Carlyle Holiday is a young guy that has not played at all.
As difficult as that is for people to accept, there’s going to be growing pains for Carlyle, but I think everybody sees the upside. I really think he has a chance to improve and be a dynamic player. In the game, he did make some poor decisions in Nebraska. He made a poor decision throwing that interception down the field on first down.
You know, it’s a difficult situation. We’re grinding right now to win a game, but I think in Carlyle’s situation, we’re going to have to live with some of those things and there’s no other way to get the experience than to do it. What I really don’t want to do is just play in a box and just play so conservative that we ?? you know, I think it’s difficult for us to win like we did last year. I think we’ve kind of been exposed, that we are not going to get a bunch of big plays. So if you don’t give up a big plays in the kicking game and you don’t turn it over on offense, they are going have a hard time beating you.
So I think we have to continue to expand the offense and let it rip. We won a lot of games last year by throwing it six time a game, but we had great special teams and got turnovers. People are not allowing us ?? it’s hard to just do that. You’re not going out and returning a punt for a touchdown every week or block a punt or a kickoff, it’s not going to happen against good teams, grinding all week because they know they are playing you.
So we’ve got to open it up. You’ve got to let him do some things. We’ve got to let him roll the dice a little bit.
And all that said we have to keep from turning the ball over. That’s the challenge.
Q. Specifically offensively, where does Terrance Howard figure into things right now?
COACH DAVIE: It’s unfortunate because Terrance dropped the ball against Nebraska on the first play. I love Terrance. He has an unbelievable attitude. He still has opportunities to play. His biggest opportunity right now is on special team, which he’s I embraced. He’s on every special team.
Tony Fisher has done some good things with his opportunities at tailback. Julius has done some good things. So he’ll have a chance to climb back into that mix by performing the next time he gets his hand on the ball, but he is still in the middle of it. He’s a very productive player for our team.
Q. You’ve talked about the character of the team and the fine line between winning and losing, but a lot of times that comes down to one or two players that through maybe their own sheer presence on the field or will to win, a leadership role brings everybody with him? Do you see that? Is that a concern?
COACH DAVIE: We have that. I think we have tremendous leadership on this team and I mean that. I mean that. Let’s face it, it’s a lot easier when things are going well. You find out about the leaders when things are going bad. And I’ve got no doubt. You talk about being in the tank, I would really be in the tank if I thought that.
So I have no question we have great leaders on this team. We’ve had some guy that is have been a little bit injured ?? David Givens. Givens is a tremendous leader. Givens has been hurt. You know, so we have some older guys that may not have been as productive to this point as they would like, but I think when they get healthy and get going, I think when all the dust settles, you will see that they are productive.
So I really do. I feel really good about the leadership of this team and that’s why I think we have a chance to climb back out of that cave right now.
Q. Last year Purdue lost three games, lost to Notre Dame, and still went to BCS by winning the conference championship. Is this the kind of year that a conference would kind of help Notre Dame?
COACH DAVIE: I haven’t really thought about that. I think that’s always the argument when you’re in a conference, that you have something tangible like that, I guess to play for because the Top?5 teams go. But the thing I’ve done with our team is I’ve really tried to ?? and still, you guys hear me say, it’s not about any of that. You know, honestly. It’s about putting that tape on and feeling good about yourself, walking off that field and feeling good about yourself.
So, I think that’s a valid point. There’s always that argument, but I don’t think that in any way diminishes our positive things that can come with this team. You know, we’ve got a bunch of ball left and if we go to 8?3, we’ll go to a darned good Bowl game, I promise you that.
Q. It seems like that the fan base is as restless as it has ever been, since you’ve been here, at least. Has that reached you in any way and what effect has that had on you the last couple of days?
COACH DAVIE: You know, I can’t ?? I said last night: It’s not like you can just bury your head in the sand and just be oblivious to everything.
Certainly, I understand because of the way we opened this season, particularly with the way we finished last season in the Bowl game. I’ve got a pretty clear picture of where our popularity is right now, where my popularity is. You know, my birthday was Sunday, which I didn’t receive anything from you guys ?? there were some gifts over at that office that I refused to open. You talk about going through airport security being tough, you ought to see the stuff that gets into my office. (Laughter).
So I’ve got no ?? I’m not whistling in the wind thinking everybody in is in love with Bob Davie right now or everybody gives our football team a chance to really be successful. But I still believe in our team. I still believe in myself and I still believe in our coaches.
So, I’m not oblivious. I’ve got two kids that go to school and I’ve got a wife, and even though I don’t read the paper, it’s hard to just be ?? living in a cave like somebody in Afghanistan right now. I’m aware of what’s going on, but I’m not concerned about it. Honestly I just want to win a football game. If people respect that, they respect that, and if they don’t, they don’t. I am what I am.
Q. On Sunday you said one of the main things you want to do is get back in the tape room and see what you thought offensively you can do. After watching tape, what things are you confident that you hope that you can do against Pittsburgh?
COACH DAVIE: I think we are doing the right things, I really do. I’m sure people would look at us and say they are conservative and they ought to do this and spread it out more and do that. I think we are doing the right thing. I think we had a good plan with Carlyle Holiday going into the A&M game. I think we have a heck of an offensive staff that’s doing the right thing.
I think we just have to execute better, and with that said, that’s coaching. That’s part of coaching. Did we practice against the hardest things that can possibly happen and maybe take for granted against some of the things that should be easy and then don’t practice those enough. And then the things we took for granted, we don’t get done. You know, how is our meetings, what are we getting done in our meetings with our players, what about every second on the practice field, the productivity, are we practicing fast enough, do we have good enough guys on the scout squad that are giving you a good enough look, are we going against a defense enough where you go good against enough good, should we be in the shotgun, is that best for Jeff Faine, all of those things. All of those things. And that’s what coaching is, is trying to uncover anything that gives you a chance to be more successful. It’s not like we are just awful ?? I wouldn’t want to vote on it right now. I just saw something in the Tribune, Bob Davie said: “We’re not awful” ?? I know where that’s headed. But I guess I’m the only vote that counts now right now, so I don’t think we are that far off.
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