Nov. 12, 2000

An Interview With: COACH BOB DAVIE

JOHN HEISLER: This is John Heisler here at the University of Notre Dame. Just one quick note we are leading the country in kickoff returns and the latest NCA states average 26.93. We just got that this morning. For those of you on the phone I apologize, our hands-free speaker phone isn’t functioning this morning so we are just going to leave the phone open and you should be able to hear Bob okay, then we will come back when he is done with his opening statements, we will get some questions that way.

Coach Davie is here. He will make some opening comments.

BOB DAVIE: Yesterday was — I am really encouraged watching the tape >from the game. The thing I saw was, I think, a lot of effort, a lot of physical play. If anything, I saw a football team that has improved. (inaudible) Maybe more complicated than it seems to be with so many things riding on these games, so much conversation about what will happen based on the outcome.

What’s really encouraging to me is to put the tape on and see the effort that we had in the football game. That is probably the thing that jumps out at me the most.

We didn’t play perfect, but we played really hard on both sides of the ball, continue to play hard in the kicking game.

I definitely think the Open Date helped us. It looked to me like we had our legs back. The field was extremely slippery for both teams – Boston College and also ourselves slipped around. We put the tarp on Wednesday and Thursday. Removed the tarp on Friday. There was no sun Friday, so it really didn’t dry out. Seemed to be kind of a little bit of a slickness to the field. (inaudible).

I thought we played hard. (inaudible) I thought we played with effort. If you look at kind of the flow of the game, in the first half we had the turnover on the first possession. Shane Walton, who I thought really played good. I thought Shane came back and really bounced back from that Air Force game which I think is a sign of a good corner. He had some problems defending No. 5 from Air Force. He bounced back. He bounced back, and I thought really played well against some good receivers. But the first series, Shane batted the ball. Tony Weaver intercepts it. First play of the game you can see Matt LoVecchio takes off running (inaudible) Matt pulls it down and runs for about 25 yards, I think. The second play of the game, certainly see the ability Julius Jones had. Break out of the pack, takes it down to the one-yard line. We scored, so we go pup 7 nothing right away. First half kind of proceeded on. I thought we really played solid defense in the first half. They really only had two plays. No. 1, the tailback William Green broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage on the counter. Breaks out of the pack and runs over Tony Driver in front of their bench for about 20 yards. He is a strong physical back.

The other play, they hit the tight end up the seam on us. The tight end made a great catch. We hit him pretty good, but he held on.

So I thought defensively we really played well in the first half. That gave our offense a lot of opportunity. I think we had eight possessions in the first half. We had good field position in the first half that we didn’t take advantage of. We missed a field goal. Terrance Howard fumbles on first and 10 on the shuffle pass which was a big gain for us. Then I thought at the end of the first half Joey Getherall had a chance to catch the stutter and go. He ran a great rout, set the kid up, had him beat, and really dropped the ball, it looked like to me. Matt made a great throw on that. So we didn’t take advantage of all of our opportunities, but then you look at the drive that we did have. We are struggling a little bit offensively. We had some procedure penalties. We were a little bit out of sync, kind of like you can could see the effect of the Open Date. But we get the ball on the two yard line and we proceed to have a 98-yard line drive, did not throw a pass. And so we didn’t take advantage of good field position but we certainly put a drive together there. I thought that was the most critical drive of the game to be able to go the 98 yards with that.

Some great runs, we got into some short yardage. Offensive formation pounded them a little bit. We got them to jump off sides a couple of times in the drive. And then they jumped into double (inaudible) and Tony Fisher takes it and bends back and goes about 35 yards for a touchdown, so that was a great drive.

Go in 14-3 at halftime, felt like we were in control of the game. Also felt they were so explosive on offense you knew they’d make some plays. So I really wasn’t comfortable at that time.

We get to second half kickoff, we move it a little bit, big third-down pass to Jabari. We come out. (inaudible) Matt throws it in there. Then we go down. Tony Fisher makes a couple of runs to get the option going. We go in and score to make it 21 to 3. So we had the 98-yard drive. Any time you can score the first drive of the second half, that is critical. They come back. They convert two third downs. It is third down and 3. They do a great job. They hadn’t run their option all night out of the solo formation which they ran so much last year, but they run the option. They run the reverse to 11 coming around, he makes a great run. Then we get them third and 11. They come out and they shift (inaudible) we have a little bust, but they make a great throw to the tight end right down the middle of the field. He takes a pretty good hit. They convert two third downs. They go in and score, make it 21-10. We move the ball again. Matt LoVecchio scrambles. Once again he makes — converts a first down, but he fumbles. They get the ball back. I thought it ways critical right there.

It is 21-10 they had scored the last possession. We turn it over. We are able to stop them on three downs. That was big. We get the ball back. Fisher makes a long run, good drive, we get it down there, we fake the field goal on fourth and about 3, I think. We go in and score, that makes it 28-10. That is critical because not only we stop them on three downs when they had some momentum, but then we responded and scored making it 28-10.

They come back. I thought their tight end 82, I think he is a heck of a player. He caught one on the backside (inaudible) for a first down. Then we get them third down again, third and 9. They throw the ball down the middle of the field, St. Pierre makes a great throw. He makes a big catch. Then they hit the post on us, the No. 11, and then they go for the two-point play and we stop it. So it is 28-16, and then we kind of run it out a little bit and Ron Israel is able to come up with the interception at the end of the game.

So I thought it was a good team effort again. Obviously we are able to run the football, establish the run. It was by far our most consistent game running the ball.

Tony Fisher and Terrance Howard both played well. I thought our offensive line played good across the board. I thought our tight ends blocked well. Didn’t throw the ball a whole lot, didn’t have to throw the ball.

Matt really made just one poor decision. He forced the ball into traffic one time. Fortunate it wasn’t intercepted (inaudible).

So offensively it was a good solid performance. Defensively I felt we played pretty hard against some good offensive football. Certainly them not having their quarterback hurt them. But I thought their backup quarterback shows he has the ability to be a good player.

Special teams continue to be good. I don’t know that it was outstanding. But we had the fake punt for a first down. We had the fake field goal for a touchdown. Our punt coverage was good. Just a great thing to watch – Rocky Boiman going down and covering the punt (inaudible) Anthony Denman goes down the field, makes a great hit on a punt. He is the starter. Certainly the effort Tony Driver gives. Nick Setta coming in and punting for the first time, I thought did a good job.

Kickoff returns were No. 1 in the country. They covered them pretty good. We were close to cracking a couple of them. We had a chance — once again we had decent field position on the kickoff return. Punt return Joey had one. Only concern I have right now, obviously we need to (inaudible) the football a little bit better. Joey dropped — they forced a fumble on the punt. We were fortunate to recover. Terrance dropped the ball one time. Tony Fisher dropped the ball one time. Protecting the football obviously something we need to concentrate on. (inaudible) But it was a good effort. I am really excited that we are improving. I think we are a better football team now than we were at the beginning of the season. I think we are a better football team now than we were last week. And that is your goal right now, just to continue to improve and we have an opportunity to be pretty good.

As far as injuries, Dwayne Francis is out, been out with a knee. Joey Hildbold will be out, ankle. (inaudible) Clifford Jefferson is probable. Julius Jones is out with a bruised thigh. Tommy Lopienski probable with a shoulder. Matt LoVecchio is okay, he bruised his side. He will be fine. Jason Murray is doubtful. So it is — Jason Murray is probably out. Julius Jones is probably out. Joey Hildbold definitely out. Dwayne Francis is out.

Q. I want to ask you about the gambles, the fake field goal, the fake punt, that is something that you probably wouldn’t have done earlier in the season. Is that something that as a result of the confidence you have in your team, particularly on the special teams?

BOB DAVIE: It is something we have had in all season (inaudible) opportunities to run. Actually what we did, we went in the offseason, I had the (inaudible) assistants call around the NFL, call around college football. We put together a tape of different fake punts and fake field goals, things like that.

Obviously we have a few more. They weren’t the most innovative the ones we did yesterday, but they were high execution plays. It is something we are always going to have. It is something that you work on all throughout the season, so it really not a risk because you rested so much. It is more just the opportunity to be able to run it again in certain plays. So I don’t think it was really a gamble.

The field position on the punt was a bit of a gamble because it was a (inaudible) but we knew the look we were going to get and we also knew the look we were going to get on the field goal.

Q. Now that it is just down the two games, I know he has been not really focusing on getting the BCS and the pole and getting a spot in there, but with two games left with them being in position, does that become more of a focus now?

BOB DAVIE: I think it is probably more conversation, probably more focus than we put on that by people covering the football team (inaudible). Certainly it is something that our players were conscious of, but we have learned by example. I think this football team has a complete understanding of where they are right now. And I really do think they realize improvement is the No. 1 goal for them, what it says at the end of the season. I think if we continue to improve, keep our eye on the target, we can simplify things.

I know Purdue, obviously still controls their own destiny as far as the Rose Bowl. They go to Michigan State yesterday and they lose. North Western coming off of 600 yards performance, scoring 60 something points against Michigan, goes to Iowa. I mean, just every week. That is what college football is about. We have intelligent guys that have invested a lot. I think they see the big picture in this. So there is going to be a lot of conversation about it, but it is not going to be in our locker room, not going to be in our meeting room (inaudible) I think we are going to handle this (inaudible).

Q. Going back to the Navy game when the opponents were behind and they had the pass and there were still problems and defensive breakdowns and all those things, when you looked at the tape, did you see a pattern of what is happening there and how to correct it?

BOB DAVIE: I think that is pretty obvious that we have. On the one hand, if you look at it, it is frustrating, but on the other hand, if we look at it, we have closed those games out, physically we would probably be pretty darn good on defense right now. It is no secret that it was a concern for us coming into this season, concern throughout this season has been pass defense. But I think our guys have done a heck of a job. When you are able to play man-coverage the percentage of time we have been able to play man-coverage, people are going to catch the ball on us (inaudible) particularly when you play good teams. That is what (inaudible) Air Force in that category is a real good team throwing the ball (inaudible) West Virginia.

So it is not something that I am overly concerned about. I think we are getting tremendous amount of effort. I thought Jason Beckstrom came in and played well yesterday. I thought Shane Walton played well. I thought Brock Williams played well, got beat on one post that hurt us a little bit with the tight end, but that is all part of it. When you get behind and people throw the football every down on you, they are going to make some plays. But I thought we got better yesterday. I was surprised Ron Israel had the opportunity to intercept that ball at the end, not give them more chances throwing the ball.

Q. I wanted to ask you, a lot of the players after the game yesterday were talking about how good it felt to be in a position where they control their own BCS destiny. Is it a different type of challenge to keep them focused now that they feel like they are in the driver’s seat than it was at a point when you were preaching that if they kept working they would get there?

BOB DAVIE: (inaudible) Talking about controlling their own destiny, you think back to summer camp that was certainly our message. A lot of people (inaudible) were doomsday predictors for this team early in the season. But I think everyone felt internally that we had an opportunity to be pretty good and all you want to do in this profession is have the opportunity to coach another game, play another game. That is how we looked at going into this season and our staff looked at it. We put a lot of work into it. We felt we controlled our own destiny and I think that message made sense to our players as well. So it really hadn’t changed. And it is nice to know that people do appreciate around this country that we are an improving football team. I think most people knew that and if we can win, maybe we will have an opportunity to do some good things in the postseason. So yeah, I mean, it is nice to look at two games and say if we win these two games good things will happen for us. It really hadn’t changed a whole lot from the first game of the year.

Q. With the injuries at the fullback spot and with the productivity of Terrance and Tony, is there thought of going with a dual tailback spot on a consistent basis the next two weeks?

BOB DAVIE: We actually did that a little bit. We put both tailbacks in the game. I just don’t really want to take Tony Fisher and teach him the whole package (inaudible) We still have Tommy Lopienski that is healthy. Mike McNair played some yesterday. He is healthy. Jason Murray can do some things, although he is probably out. He reinjured that hamstring a little more (inaudible) yesterday. So we can play both tailbacks in there, but it’s really not to our advantage with some of the isolations in the power plays we run. (inaudible) But we need to have a fullback and I think the fullback — you know, Jeremy – (inaudible) guy who has been on the scout team year, he can go in there and block a linebacker. He does it everyday on (inaudible) So I think we are still okay there at tailback.

Q. (inaudible)?

BOB DAVIE: That is what the game is all about. I think we have been consistent in how we have treated them, how we handled the situation, and I don’t think anyone ever paniced and pointed the finger. And I think our players understand that we have their best interest at heart. I’d like to think they respect it. They see how much we put into it, how hard we work at it. And they go play because of that. But I know the bottom line is that they play for themselves it all comes down to, they deserve all the credit. But I do agree, I think we have had a bunch of guys that have played hard. Even last year in those last four games, that thing takes on a whole life of its own as time goes on. Boy, I tell what, I remember last year against Boston College being down, might have been down 28-10 at one time, come back and that football game comes down to the final play of the game. (inaudible) I remember last year Stanford down 17 nothing (inaudible) come back, they kick the final field goal to win that game on the last play of the game. I remember down in Tennessee playing a team that had nine draft picks first two rounds, we go in at halftime, touchdown ballgame at halftime. So I have seen a consistent effort. I think that is why we are positive going into this season. It wasn’t just like we became an awful football time (inaudible). I think that has — something we are proud of.

Q. (inaudible)

BOB DAVIE: We were going to play Carlyle at backup quarterback. We will see how it goes this week in practice. Carlyle had a great week on the scouts squad getting ready for Air Force. Then he went down with the offense during the Open Date, really showed some leadership and picked things up and with his combination of athletic ability, not only running the ball, but explosive throwing the ball as well, he moved ahead of Jared a little bit right now. What we did going into the game yesterday, Tuesday we put together a package just for Carlyle Holiday, 15 or 18 things — he knows the whole game plan, but if he goes in the game, the 15 or 18 things he is going to do, so that he can rep those things all week in practice. So he knows the whole game plan just as Jared does but we have got a condensed game plan that they get chance to do it over and over in practice. We will approach the Rutgers game the same way. We also talked about if — the fact Carlyle Holiday went in the game early, and he struggled, that Jared Clark would then go in. We are still the dealing with a little bit of an unknown. Kind of like we had with Gary Godsey and Matt LoVecchio, but we feel good about these things. Those guys have made a lot of strides. We would had no reservation about using both of them if put — if the situation called upon it. (inaudible).

Q. (inaudible)

BOB DAVIE: If I compared it to Air Force, I felt much more in control yesterday than we ever did against Air Force. I just played against those academies too many times, played against those wishbones too many times to know never ever (inaudible) and it is always — you know you are a little bit off balance because you (inaudible) comparison I felt much more in control yesterday than I did at any time in the Air Force game even when we were up 28-10. Not to say that I wasn’t concerned yesterday, but if you ask me to make comparisons, I felt better yesterday.

Q. (inaudible)

BOB DAVIE: I thought so. Yeah. Another thing that I thought was significant when they didn’t convert the two-point play, just that 28-16 buffer compared to 28-18, I felt better about that. I thought that fake field goal took the wind out of them a little bit because I think it would have been a bit of an emotional lift (inaudible) with the field goal down there. The fact we got a touchdown, I thought was great.

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