Nov. 14, 2000
JOHN HEISLER: Just a couple of quick notes, for those of you on hooked in via satellite we will have about four and a half minutes of highlights at the tailend of our satellite feed from the Notre Dame, Boston College last weekend. Kickoff this weekend is at 3:40 Eastern time at Rutgers. Also a reminder that our Sunday wrap-up will be at 1 o’clock in the Joyce Center. That will be the last one of the season because we will be travelling back from USC on the Sunday after that game. Coach Davie is here. He will make some opening comments and then take some questions.
COACH DAVIE: Just coming over, you think about each week how there is different issues with the game and every game takes on kind of a different personality depending on who you are playing, where you are playing, what the implications of the game are.
Certainly this week, just like every week, the scenario changes. Last week it was Boston College and some of the issues kind of on the outside were, you know, the sod, the seniors, would Tim Hasselbach play – all those kind of things going on. Certainly the implications of what would happen if we would win or lose as far as what that does for us at the end of the season.
So now you go to this week and certainly it changes a little more. We are playing at Rutgers, the first time we have ever played there in that stadium, first time I have ever been on that campus or in that stadium. It is Terry Shea’s last home football game that he is coaching in. We have players from New Jersey. We are playing a football team that this year doesn’t have a great record. We come in with a pretty good record.
So as always, every week there is all those things kind of swirling around. My message last night to our team was that — we show a tape every Monday and what I do is I go through and I pick out– never get a chance to watch the NBC copy or if we play on CBS, I never get a chance to watch any of those things but I go through on the game tape and I come in Monday morning and I just kind of think about the plays in the game that were kind of out-of-the-ordinary, or something that maybe you don’t expect to happen, or you emphasize the things that you really talk about as a football team, the things that are going to make you or help you win.
I made a tape up of, first of all, Tony Weaver intercepting the pass on the second play of the game.
As the tape went on, I took Rocky Boiman on the punt team, a starter who runs down on the punt team and keeps contain and makes the tackle on the punt returner.
Anthony Denman one time running down the field making a tackle on the punt team.
Joey Getherall, two blocks that he had in the game.
Anthony Denman on the fake punt, who is the offensive guard that rocks around and just pancakes the linebacker in the hole.
Tony Driver on a kickoff return when he wasn’t the returner, just pancakes a guy on the kickoff. I am talking about running 100 miles an hour just runs over a guy.
Tony Driver, the play when he hits the tight end.
David Givens on a kickoff return just playing with unbelievable effort, just refuse to go down.
Patrick Ryan on a kickoff return, just great football position, walls the guy, just unbelievable.
I took two plays of Jason Beckstrom who came in the week before against Air Force and had to play a lot because Clifford Jefferson was hurt and got tired, got beat a little bit at the end of the game, was hanging on the side of a cliff. They are just picking on him. So I took two plays of him against Boston College where they put the formation into the boundary. The back was offset into the boundary. We knew he was going to run a crosser. The line backer was supposed to come of and just wall him and give him help because it is impossible for the corner to chase the guy to the boundary all the way across the field. The linebacker busted both times and didn’t wall the crosser. Jason Beckstrom just chases him all the way across the field and makes two great plays, made a couple of other plays.
I took Matt Sarb on the kickoff, running down on the kickoff and just blowing the wall up. And I don’t have any of the sound or anything on us, I just take these tapes, so I put the tape together and I gave it to Tim Collins. I said, look, if you can, get it off of NBC copy because the sound in there and the kids really appreciate, they don’t get a chance to see that stuff, just make that tape of those 15 plays.
When we put the tape on, it was so exciting because during the telecast everything that I was going to say about the tape, in other words, I was going to say here is Tony Weaver who is chasing the ball, intercepts a ball, what a great effort.
Here’s Rocky Boiman who is a starter on defense on this punt team making a play.
Here is Tony Driver who comes on the free safety blitz, gets held. St. Pierre breaks contain, runs, got Tony Driver tracking him down at the other end who came on the blitz and got help.
But all those plays that I took off, it was reinforced by what Pat Haden said during the telecast about the effort that it takes to win.
Just to wrap this whole thing up, with all the different things swirling around and all the implications of if you win, if you lose, what happens two weeks from now if you win two games, if you just go one and one, honestly, none of that matters. What matters to me and this team is what that tape is. And when we look at it ourselves, it doesn’t if there is 40,000 people in that stadium, 100,000 people, whether it is practice, it’s about the effort and it is about the accountability to each other.
With all that said, that is what this game is about. This is one of our 11 games, as coaches, that we get a chance to compete, come up with a plan. It is one of the 11 games for our team that — there is only 11 of them. So rather than be someone that always looks for, well, what happens if this works or this doesn’t work, what is the implications of this. It is about the moment.
I talked about — I have been with a lot of guys in this profession, that all the way through the profession it was never about what they were doing at that time. It was well you know what, if I can just be a head coach, I am going to be happy. Or you know, if this guy gets fired, I may have a chance to get this job and I will be happy. Or if this guy gets fired, this other guy might get it, you know what, I might be the coordinator instead of the position coach.
So you never do what you are doing at the time. You are always about what is going to happen. I think that is probably what this team has been all about this year, the coaching staff, and that is why I think this team, regardless of the scenarios, will go play with the same kind of effort I saw on that tape.
So, as always, there is a bunch of things going on. To me this is just about improvement and seeing guys play with great effort and let the chips fall where they may.
So rather than make things complicated, that has been my message with this team since August, that’s always been my philosophy in coaching and that is kind of where we are.
So Rutgers is a team that I think offensively spreads the field. I know they spread the field. It is a lot of empty. It is a little bit of Purdue. They throw the ball. They have some big tall receivers which concern me. They have a quarterback that last year I believe was one of the Big East quarterbacks of the year. He is big. He is tall. He throws it well.
They have good receivers. They have a tight end that I think is really good. Defensively they play really hard. Kicking game they do some different things.
They took West Virginia to double overtime last week. Last year they beat Syracuse, I think, in their last home game.
So I am not going to really concern myself as much with all that is just our guys and how they play and how they do each week and how they are accountable to each other. So that is kind of it.
Q. Just a little more of a hypothetical question, looking at the nationally, some conferences have a championship game at the end of the season, some don’t. Do you think the ones with the Championship game are at a disadvantage or advantage going to the BCS?
COACH DAVIE: Well, I think it is — probably gets them even with us in that they play — have to play some really good teams on more than a couple of occasions a year.
But certainly when it all comes down to won/loss record at the end of the year, you look at the SEC Championship game. That is going to be two good football teams regardless of who they are. The Big-12 is going to be the same way. But in the same — for the same reason, though, I remember a couple years ago, A&M beat Kansas State and had a chance to go to the Sugar Bowl and play Ohio State so it may not have been great for Kansas State, but it was certainly great for A&M. It is probably good for college football and obviously it is good for the conferences or they wouldn’t be doing it.
So it is kind of a good news/bad news scenario depending on what situation you are in. But I would think if a team was really that good playing in the Championship game and they lost and the other team got the lock-in birth, that that team that lost would also have a chance to be in the BCS Championship as well.
I think in the end it normally works out to where the best teams end up playing in those Bowl games at the end of the year.
Q. Do you think if you were coaching in a conference, if Notre Dame ever joined a conference, would you be in favor of a Championship game at the end of the season.
COACH DAVIE: Probably depends on how we got to that Championship game. If we were undefeated, I’d probably not want to be in that Championship game. But if it gave us the best opportunity to be a part of the BCS, I would embrace it.
So I think once again, in this profession, it comes down to what situation you are in and how unique it is to where you are at that time. So it would depend on where I was coaching, what our record was,.
Overall, I think it is good for college football because it is another nationally televised game between two good teams. It is a lot better than some of the non-conference games that you see earlier in the year when there’s not a whole lot of interest.
So I think it is good for our sport, for our profession.
Q. I just wanted to ask you about the fake field goal that turned into a touchdown on Saturday. How does that make you feel when you see a walk-on like Adam Tibbl execute on a play like that and does the success that that play turned into on Saturday, does that give you confidence to possibly run that play again and at least give him the freedom to maybe call that type of play again?
COACH DAVIE: Well, we are not going to quite give him the freedom to call that. We will call it.
But certainly it gives us some confidence that Tibbl can execute in the game and Nick Setta can execute in the game. But to be honest, we would not have called it if we wouldn’t have seen ’em execute it in practice.
But certainly, any time you can see them do it in the stadium when it counts, it makes you feel a little more confident about doing something in the future. We do have some other things that we do, and in the right situation I wouldn’t hesitate on using them again.
Q. How does it make you feel to see a kid like that who is basically a walk-on have success just on that one particular play?
COACH DAVIE: It makes me feel good.
I think for Tibbl, we started off every Monday, like I said, with that tape, and then we meet for 45 minutes straight as an entire football team and all we do is special teams. And we give out awards to players that do different things well. And Adam Tibbl yesterday got an award. In fact, I even asked him what position he played in high school and he played wide receiver. So that is even more remarkable – came down and pitched that ball lefthanded.
But I think it shows that you can get productivity from a lot of places where maybe you don’t expect to get productivity, and it is reinforced, my feelings, that somebody that has one role to play, doesn’t have to be the most athletic or the fastest, kind of like Matt Sarb on those kickoffs. We were watching them yesterday and Jerry Rosburg made the remark in front of the team, he kind of, tongue and cheek, he said, Matt, it just amazes me how much faster your 40 time is than all those other guys on that kickoff return because we all know he doesn’t have the fastest 40 time but is the first one down that field.
So it reinforces that there is a role for everybody if they are really committed and serious. I think that is one of the things that this football team — why it has great chemistry because there is a role for a lot of different guys.
Q. You mentioned productivity. One of the things you guys have done this year has been in the red zone 25 times and scored 24 times out of that. Could you speak about how that has contributed to the success?
COACH DAVIE: I think that is a tremendous statistic. I think there is two things:
(1) We are diversified offensively where we do see different things. You think about how we have scored in the red zone – a reverse, we have thrown the ball, certainly we have got in short yardage situations running the ball. I think our offense can do different things, so you are not so one-dimensional when you get down there.
I think Kevin Rogers has done an excellent job as has the staff of keeping people off balance.
Our kicking game is better, although, the biggest concern I have right now probably is with kickoffs which doesn’t impact that question, but field goals, we have missed some field goals that we probably should have made.
So I think by and large it is because of the diversity of our offense and Kevin keeping people off balance. And we haven’t turned a football over. That is key. You think back to last year we squandered away with turnovers in the red zone.
Q. What is the quarterback situation in general and what is the likelihood that either Holiday or Clark will play some on Saturday?
COACH DAVIE: Bob, we are not going to force the issue. Certainly Matt LoVecchio will play the whole game if he needs to play the whole game. But we don’t have any reservations about putting Carlyle Holiday or Jared Clark in – maybe one or both of them.
It is whatever the situation dictates, whatever we have to do to win, but we are not going to force it. We are not going to do the things where we put Carlyle Holiday in the second series of — or the first series of the second quarter or something like that. Matt LoVecchio himself is still a young quarterback. There is still obviously the unknown with Carlyle Holiday or Jared Clark, but if the opportunity arises or if we have to, we certainly would not have any reservations about putting both those guys in.
Q. I wanted to talk a little bit about Tony Fisher and his ability to either be the No. 1 tailback as he ended up being on Saturday or the No. 2 or three tailback as he started the day on Saturday. What is in his talent and his makeup that allows him to go all week long as he said last week, kind of knowing that Julius was going to be the featured back and then, boom, in a moment’s notice he is up there and having a career day. Is there something inherent not only in him, but in great backs to do that?
COACH DAVIE: Well, I think first of all, there is something, I guess you would say, inherent in Tony Fisher, that is the reason Tony Fisher came to Notre Dame that is his mom, Hermetta, because he has no other choice than to be a good person and to be competitive and finish what he starts because his mom is a heck of a lady. And grew up really in Pittsburgh, kind of from the same area I did. She is really a great lady. Every Saturday morning we get off the bus outside the Basilica and Hermetta is always there first in line. She has done a great job of raising him. I am not quite sure Notre Dame was his first choice. He really liked Ohio State.
But I know we were Hermetta’s first choice and that helped us.
So first of all, his mom is really strong. He has been raised right.
Second of all, he is really competitive. And he loves to play football. He is going to take advantage of his opportunities.
Would he like the ball more? Sure, he would. We he like to be the back? Sure, he would. But it is above all that. That’s a combination of a lot of things. That is why some guys stay and face the challenges at Notre Dame, that is why some guys don’t.
There are a lot inherent things in Tony Fisher that you see come out when it gets tough. He deserves all the credit and that mom deserves all the credit.
Q. I know you don’t set up guys as roommates, but the fact that he is roommates with Terrance Howard and the fact that they do kind of share that same position where they are not necessarily “the guy,” does that help, do you think?
COACH DAVIE: You know, they are great friends. They have been great friends.
I remember the night that I got the call at home that Terrance Howard’s father was in intensive care. They didn’t know if he’d make it through the night. I right away called Terrance and Tony Fisher was in his room. Tony Fisher was able to fly back for the funeral. Immediately Tony Fisher flew to New Jersey. Actually he was going to drive. He was going to drive that moment and drive whatever it was, 12 hours or something back to New Jersey.
First and foremost they were great friends before any of the scenario happened of who was one, two, or three. So the bottom line is, they are just good friends.
Q. Will Tony start this week with Julius being out?
COACH DAVIE: I think that is fair to say, yeah, Tony Fisher would be in there.
Q. More on Carlyle Holiday, if the game conditions allow it, if you have got a nice lead, would you like to see what he can do in game conditions?
COACH DAVIE: I like that scenario you just stated. I’d love to see him in that scenario, yes, I would.
I am anxious to watch him play and certainly realize that we have a lot of football left this year and there’s a chance that he will be playing before this year is over. So yeah, under the right conditions, I would love to see him play. To be honest, I am kind of anxious. I am anxious to see Carlyle and Jared, both of them, because I think they are really talented. They are going to be fun to watch.
Q. You talked about how Rutgers spreads the field. As goods a performance as your secondary had last weekend, does that, you know, give you a little — give you more confidence going into this game because they can clearly throw the ball even though they don’t have a great record this year?
COACH DAVIE: Yeah, I feel a little bit better. I was concerned there, you know, sometimes, particularly in the secondary, you get a little bit of whatever can go wrong will go wrong.
We had some deep balls that were thrown up where guys were making amazing catches or we had deep balls go up where you think they are going to make the play and you don’t.
West Virginia we missed a tackle out there in the open field.
And you start to get back on your heels a little bit, not calling defenses as much as how guys are playing and confidence is such a big part of that position. So I was happy to see us make some plays because Boston College had really good receivers. They really did.
The second thing I was happy with, without Clifford Jefferson, I thought Jason Beckstrom stepped you and competed. Instead of going in the tank and just tanking it on us, he stepped up and he responded and he looked like he did last year as a freshman where he was really tenacious in how he played and that was important.
Also you noticed both Glenn Earl with the sprained ankle. Ron Israel with that groin problem, neither one of those guys played in the game. Ronnie came late in the game. Jerome Sapp played the whole game.
We were injured a little bit with three guys, but more than that, Jason Beckstrom stepping up and then just making some plays back there because it is so much confidence playing back there.
Q. Jared Clark said last week that Matt’s quickest sense had perhaps pushed the other two quarterbacks a little bit. (inaudible) Carlyle maybe from being the third one on the chart of three and pushed his way up to 2. Have you seen that how that competition has spurred the development of the other two quarterbacks? COACH DAVIE: Well, human nature I think made it a lot easier to move Gary Godsey, obviously, the fact that Matt LoVecchio did well. Then you know how talented those other two guys are and the fact that Matt did it in the game, certainly that confidence kind of permeates between those other freshman. It is not such a big mountain now because of what Matt did.
So, yeah, it made it easier and I think those guys are unique guys as well.
Carlyle was actually going home this past weekend with Matt over the Open Date and I thought he was leaving, I guess Thursday we finished and I thought he went home. So Monday I came up to him during stretch, I asked Carlyle if he went to New Jersey. He said no, coach, he said my dad told me be careful with those Sopranos back in that area so he didn’t go.
But they were going and they are great friends and, you know, that is a good chemistry right now. The last thing we do down in Plymouth Friday night, I am the only coach that goes down and those guys end up sitting in there together, Joey Getherall, all those young quarterbacks, David Givens, and they watch tape and they watch tape until at least past 10 o’clock, 10:30 down there, those guys, so it is goods chemistry right now and I hope it continues that way because they can bring the best out in each other, I think.
Q. (inaudible) Do you have a number in mind, ballpark figure that you are looking at? What is your overall philosophy in terms of offering a fifth year to a player?
COACH DAVIE: First of all, that is a lot. That is a lot of numbers. There is a lot of good football players in that group that are playing right now.
I think a couple of things:
I think No. 1 the chemistry of this team is really good. And that would lead me to or, lead however we phrase that, those guys to apply for a fifth year because the chemistry is good and I think there is a bunch of juice left in those guys.
Sometimes you get to the end and you have some fourth year guys that are just about out of gas. I don’t think that is the case. I don’t think that is the case at all. I think this thing is going in a positive direction and you’d like to keep that chemistry intact, not only the, you know, the continuity and the depth and all those things, but it is going in the right direction.
What you want is a fifth year player to come back where it is going to be good for him and it is going to be good for the team. That doesn’t mean they all have to be starters. Look at B.J. Scott. B.J. Scott a year ago, no one thought B.J. would be starting defensive line. He was the second team center all year, never played. It was about the chemistry. B.J. is such a great kid and a great worker that he is good for our football team and he really, really wanted to do it.
There were some other guys, that had a fifth year that it wasn’t good for them to come back. Then maybe when they didn’t come back or weren’t asked to come back they made some issues of why they didn’t come back. It always takes on a life of its own. But I sit down with each guy and we are going to do what is right for them and for this football team. That is kind of what it is.
Q. Do you have general number in mind?
COACH DAVIE: I don’t. Really don’t.
Q. Have you enjoyed — maybe I should say did you miss the play-calling part of — when you became head coach, did you miss the play-calling part of being a defensive coordinator, No. 1?
No. 2, the decision to do that this year, was that short-term or is that something that you feel you will continue to do?
COACH DAVIE: I think it is something I have to do as long as I am a head coach. You never say “Always” or you never say “Never” in this profession I realize that. But if you ask me right now, I am going to call the plays. Might be on offense. Might be defense, kicking game. That is the only way I am going to do it because it is what I enjoy doing and I miss doing it. I miss doing it.
There is something about when you are going to call them, the responsibility is there to just — 24 hours a day to be thinking about what you are going to call and the game plan and the whole thing. If you are the CEO and just overseeing it, the bottom line, at least me, you don’t do as thorough a job as you do when you are calling it. I am going to try, whether that is offense, defense or what, I am going to be calling them because I just feel better about doing it that way.
I think the players kind of get a feel of what you are all about a little bit more when you are doing it than if you are just kind of away from it. That is just not my style. Some guys can be the CEO. That is not for me.
What I like is coaching and I like the X and Os and the strategy and like being right in the middle of.
Q. So you did miss it?
COACH DAVIE: Darn right I did. It was a whole different deal for me, being honest, when you are not just doing it.
If I had the time, I mean, I would — I’d try to do it all because that is what this whole thing is all about for me.
Q. (inaudible) the fact of the matter is with the implications involved there is going to be stories written about: Can this team stay focused, can this team not look ahead past Rutgers. Whose responsibility is that? I know you like to give a lot of responsibility to your seniors and seniors captains. Is it the coaches’ responsibility this week or do you give that to the seniors to not look ahead?
COACH DAVIE: I think you kind of, with everything you do for the first time, when you are a head coach or whatever you do, you kind of see how things happen. You find out quickly, it is not what you say, it is what they hear. And it is not even what they hear, it is kind of what do they have invested in it and how important is it to them.
Saying the right things that doesn’t mean a whole lot. It is what do they really want.
And the second thing I think they go kind of how you go. If they know you are in there, and you are flying out of there at the last second to go to a press conference, and you are running back there as fast as you can, and you are out of there late at night, believe me, I am not taking anything for granted. I think they do more on what they see you do than what you say you do.
So I don’t know what else you can do. You work as hard as you can and you are sincere about what you are doing and you are serious and players see that. Then it comes down to how much they have invested. It is kind of like before the game – I tell them every week, you get up there and it is eight minutes before you go out, you get the whole team up, and you feel kind of — you know, what I say right now in these last eight minutes before we go out, I don’t think it is going to make a whole lot of difference how we play tonight. It is about this whole big picture of what we have done.
So that is kind of how I feel about it. It takes on a chemistry and on a personality, your team, to be honest, I feel really good about that. I feel really good about our guys and where we are and I think they are mature. I also think they know who they are.
We are not a team that can go out there and not play well and really just convincingly beat anybody. And that is where we are. It’s those plays that I put on that tape, those are effort plays now – of Anthony Denman on the fake punt and Driver knocking the guy down. This is what we have to have to win.
Q. I know the season is not over yet. I know you have two games left. But this week with a lot of the talk being about the BCS, whether it is the Fiesta or the Sugar Bowl, do you get any personal satisfaction that that is the talk now instead of earlier in the season it was your personal situation here at Notre Dame?
COACH DAVIE: Not really. Obviously it’s a lot better now. With positive things – I am not someone that is so strong mentally that I can block out everything that is swirling around, nobody is super human now. So, sure, it is a lot more enjoyable when things are going well and there is a positive spin put on things. It’s human nature. You feel a lot better coming in when you win and things go well and the players react a lot more positively.
But I also know how quick things change. It goes from all of a sudden well you are 7 and 2, that is a great season with the schedule you have played and the injuries to — the whole talk is well, you play so and so and their record is this and so and so, I mean, if you don’t go to the BCS, my God, how did you screw it up?
I saw that in 1998 – we are 9 and 1, two years ago, and we go play Southern Cal. It is nothing, nothing at halftime. We lose 14 to nothing I think it was. All of a sudden, it is like, man, my God it is an 8 million dollar game, how did you screw that thing up. We were 9 and 1 going into that game. We were a 9 and 2 team. So I understand how — so I am not going to get — we hadn’t finished yet and if we are fortunate enough to finish, it is going to be about going and playing that Bowl Game.
That is the nature of coaching at Notre Dame. That is the nature of coaching. That is why I get back to that thing of every week. I take my enjoyment out of Tony Driver on that kickoff return because that is things those things can control and things I can talk about we control. The rest of the stuff is all that stuff that I enjoy. I enjoy all the issues of playing Rutgers and, you know, the sod game, I love that. But that is not what this is.
Q. A couple months ago you were in this room after Arnaz Battle went down. Someone asked you the question about whether this gets you off the hook, gets this team off the hook for the year. You were adamant in your statement that, no, it doesn’t change anything for you personally, doesn’t change any of the expectations for this team. What did you see then that gave you that sort of confidence at that point?
COACH DAVIE: I know what it is. I know that maybe that first week somebody is going to say, boy, I feel bad for Notre Dame, Arnaz Battle went down, he was their starting quarterback. But I know as soon as — if we had missed that field goal against Purdue instead of making it, I realize how that whole thing would have taken on another life of its own.
So in no way it was a safety net for me. I was not going to let the expectations of this team be lowered because we do have a strong supporting cast. So that one grenade wasn’t going to take this whole thing down, nor was I going to feel sorry for myself and this team. It doesn’t work that way. It is a bottom line deal. I understand that. If you kind of start whining, then the team whines too and the coaches whine. So that is kind of why you don’t go that way.
Q. This week there has been a couple of coaches signed deals (inaudible) how much of a factor does an extension and you experienced a couple years ago mean in recruiting and how important would it be for you to have the same type of thing after this season is over going into recruiting or is that something you haven’t even considered?
COACH DAVIE: I really haven’t because once again, I remember answering all those questions a year ago and that was just one year ago when I was given a new five-year agreement here. And the way I have understood it in how Notre Dame conducts business, that is one of the things that attracted me to Notre Dame.
And, financially, sure, there is other situations where you can make more money. When this job was on the table for me here I had other opportunities, to be quite honest, where I could have made more money. It hadn’t been about the money. It had been about Notre Dame being different and how they approach things, even though we all realize how winning is important, obviously, here.
But I took that 5-year commitment last summer as something that the administration saw after a 9 and 3 season, with some of the things that happened that some maybe in my control, some maybe out of my control that they saw this program was headed in the right direction. And it really hasn’t been an issue other than this summer, with all the talk of who the next head coach was and that he was already hired, it really hadn’t been an issue with recruit. Because of that, it is not something that I have put a lot of thought into.
Q. With Kevin sort of redefining maybe the way the university does structure contracts, would that have any impact or effect on what you might look into at the end of the year?
COACH DAVIE: I think we are going to sit down and talk. In fact, we have already had some initial kind of preliminary discussions and Kevin and I both understand that this is about one week at a time and trying to finish this season.
I am not going to do anything and Kevin is not going to do anything that is going to hurt our players and our staff as far as one second of my concentration and focus being taken away from just the day-to-day coaching.
But we have talked about it during the Open Date. We visited and we decided, look, there is just too many things that are more important right now, let’s have this conversation after the season. I feel great about that. And I think Kevin does as well.
Q. One of the big factors I think all year (inaudible) special teams big-play with the fake field goal. Was there something in the offseason or preseason that maybe (inaudible) you went to other places you really restructured or reemphasized special teams, just what has been maybe the big difference this year than maybe in past years?
COACH DAVIE: I think first of all, if you look at us and that is this year, it will be next year, it will be the year after, I don’t think we are just going to be more talented than the teams we play.
I mean, you look at next year’s schedule and year’s after schedule, that is how it should be. We are going to play teams that have good players and good coaches. How do we win? How do we win? How do we win those close games? We have had so many close game. How do we win? That is the first thing. And we need to be productive in those areas. We have to outcoach people in my behind. We have to outcoach people. That is not saying that from an ego statistical standpoint. I mean, we have to do that. That is not uncommon at other places.
I really believe — you can outcoach them in a kicking game. Second thing, in the offseason we had to become more reckless in what we do. If that meant saying we are going to play more man-coverage and even though we may not have a great matchup at times, we are going to do it. We are going to do it. We are going to change the way we play, change our style of play. I don’t care what happens. That is what I am, that is what we are.
And quit being so tentative and take it to them a little bit more in all areas. That is really it: How do we win and let’s be more aggressive and let’s be the one out there causing people problems more than people causing us problems all the time.
It is like we are the big Notre Dame with everything to lose all the time. That is — that day is over. We better scratch, claw, fight, we are the underdog half the times. So let’s go I think it is just a mindset.
The third thing is we got a bunch of great kids in this program that sacrifice a lot. We are going to help the chemistry of our team by having more guys involved and spreading it around and with the coaches the same thing, of letting coaches have that punt team a little bit and have that kickoff return team and putting their signature on it. It kind of those things. But for us to win, that is what we have to do.
Q. Tom Lopienski turned down several invitations to talk to the media. If you could just talk about the progress he has made, the struggles he has had and what his season has been about?
COACH DAVIE: I didn’t know that. I am surprised a little bit.
He is a great kid. He is doing fine. He has been injured a little bit. (inaudible) He is a guy that loves football. I think he is really a good player.
I also think Jason Murray is a guy that stepped up and stayed healthy. Murray is a great football player. I love Tommy Lopienski. He is a great leader for us. He is a Rocky Boiman on defense personality. He is a great kid. I see everything being positive right now.
I am certain he wants to be a starter. I look at him as a starter. I thought he played well last Saturday. So I think he is doing fine.
Q. Has the fullback role been kind of redefined since he has gotten here? Has it changed — I mean, not the same market as a Gerome Bettis that type —
COACH DAVIE: Yeah, they don’t carry the ball as much. I think that is accurate. You look around this country there is not many places where that fullback does carry the ball. There is places where they never carry the ball. You look at the eye formation teams, West Virginia and Wisconsin puts a fullback back – first of all, there is not that many two-back teams.
So the game has changed a little bit. It is hard to run fullback bellies and traps up there in an eight-man front. So the game has changed. Because of that, our fullbacks are blockers. They do carry a little bit, but they are primarily blockers. Really important in the way we do things. But they don’t get their hands on it that much. Tommy is a good blocker. He is a good player.
Q. You talked about grenades. 1998 you got a pretty good grenade in the LSU game. Is that why — did you learn from that grenade to keep from a grenade happening this year late in the season with the same scenario?
COACH DAVIE: I learned one thing: When you are going to take a safety, okay, there is a couple of things I learned.
First of all, I got it down (inaudible) knock on wood, we have got it down to a science when it comes to how much time and how much time you take off a clock and how many timeouts they have and we have that to a science. That doesn’t mean that is an exact science, because that thing — that is not an exact science. A lot depend on how the referee starts the that 25-second clock, things like that.
I learned this: You are going to take a safety. You get that football team over there, you say, okay, we are going to take a safety right now and you ask the outside wing, he is your starting running back, you know exactly what you are doing, he is supposed to turn out and block the wide guy, he says yeah. Make sure you draw it up and show him. He doesn’t think he’s taken (inaudible) the A gap when the quarterback takes an 8 (inaudible) because we had a guy step up like it he was taken an E and the guy came off the corner free. That issue never even comes up. We block that guy, there is no issue, the game is over. What I learned is take nothing for granted. Even though you ask someone: Do you know what you are doing and they say, yeah, if there is a timeout, don’t take it for granted, draw that thing up. So I guess it would be: “Take nothing for granted, period.” And.
Q. Has that been a big part of your development as a head coach just basic things like that?
COACH DAVIE: Well, we will find out because we will probably be in that situation again, but I think we have done a pretty good job with that. We have been in a bunch of scenarios, I mean, we have been in a bunch of them.
You go back, look at all those games where clock management has been an issue, woosh, been a bunch of them in whatever games I have been a head coach right now, just about every one of those is coming down to the wire.
So it is like anything, experience, but also it comes down to guys making plays and guys being — doing what they are supposed to do. It is a lot of things.
You are lot better coach when Glenn Earl blocks that field goal, than if Glenn didn’t block that field goal.
Q. Going back to special teams, coach, is this a novel approach to doing it by committee or do most teams have a special teams coach?
COACH DAVIE: I think everybody does it a little bit different.
I do not think it is a novel approach. We all coach it. But I put one guy in charge of it because I found any time a guy is in charge, he is going to do a heck of a job. Then we put so much emphasis on it, our meeting schedules, and our awards and our different things, so, success breeds success too. You got a little momentum going with that. And kids love to sitting there watching guys make plays on the special teams.
Q. Who is in charge of it?
COACH DAVIE: We have Urban Meyer has kickoff return. Steve Addazio has the punt team. Jerry Rosburg has kickoff coverage. Dave Borbely has field goal extra point. Kirk Doll has field goal extra point block. Punt return Jerry Rosburg.
Q. Are you allowed to at least be a little surprised or a little, I don’t know, impressed with how well the special teams has done or do you just expect excellence and then when it is that way it is: “Well, that is what we planned?”
COACH DAVIE: We are proud of that. In fact, Grant (phonetic) called me Thursday. Grant is the president of the American Football Coaches Association. He is a great guy. Long time coach (inaudible) maybe one of the most respected guys in college coaching. He is the president of our association. Every year at the national convention, which this year is in Atlanta, Grant invites the staff in to talk on offense, defense and special teams. Grant watches every game, tapes games, looks at statistics, does the whole deal.
He called me on Thursday and takes one staff – he invited our staff at the national convention to talk on special teams. That is because guys make plays. That is not that we are some great coaches. It is about guys making plays. There have been some unbelievable plays on special teams and some unbelievable effort.
There have been some things and we have had some good fortune too. Joey Getherall dropped the punt and David Givens comes in there– he fumbled the punt– we have had some good things happen, yeah, there have been some things above and beyond a little bit on special teams.
Q. Correct me if I am wrong, but I think the only thing you guys haven’t done is recover an on-side kick and I don’t think you have attempted —
COACH DAVIE: We did and we should have recovered it against Air Force. That was a slam dunk.
Q. That was about the only thing you haven’t done.
COACH DAVIE: We had that thing set up. It was —
Q. Like stealing?
COACH DAVIE: Yeah, and we just — what happened we made — our guy didn’t widen out wide enough into the boundary and our kicker didn’t kick it exactly like he kicked it in practice and still we had it, just didn’t recover it. But that thing was set up.
Q. Lastly, you talk about not needing a sale out to you guys, week-to-week, game to game, not a lot of rah-rah stuff, what they have invested matters. Does Matt LoVecchio, a man going back to — a young man going back to his Jersey home, does he epitomize — does he just go and say: “Just another game?”
COACH DAVIE: We got a little juice there now. It is not like we are just guys that are kind of low-key guys who just let it go like it goes. Just because you don’t necessarily get up in front of a pep rally or get up in front of a luncheon and that maybe not be your deal, that doesn’t mean you don’t have some juice and you don’t crank it up a little bit now. So it is not like we are a bunch of guys that are just laid back guys that are just steady in the boat. Once in a while I will lose my temper a little bit.
So you know, Matt LoVecchio, though, is a unique guy. I think he is steady in the boat. He is steady in the boat.
Q. You wouldn’t need to say anything about trying to do too much or–
COACH DAVIE: With him?
I am not going to say a word. I have seen him in a bunch of different situations. I don’t think I am going to change what he is.
Q. You mentioned you haven’t talked to him at all about going back home. You mentioned tickets, playing in front of his family. When he came here obviously he probably didn’t think he would be the starter — I mean, is this kind of a situation where maybe you didn’t expect when you played Rutgers Matt LoVecchio would be the guy?
COACH DAVIE: Yeah, I mean, you’d have been nervous if someone told you a year ago when we were recruiting him, as good as we thought he was, Matt LoVecchio would be your starting quarterback when you go back to North Jersey, you’d be nervous.
But with him, I mean he played in a big-time high school program. He played in big games. His family has been to every game here. You know, he is going to handle this. If anything, I am going to tell him to enjoy this. This doesn’t come around very often. You are a freshman quarterback at Notre Dame and you are going back to North Jersey to play, this is a great opportunity, enjoy it. There is no negatives to that at all from where I see it.
Q. You talked about being — making the decision to become more aggressive, more reckless, you use that, I think. Your representation at A&M was a more aggressive defensive coordinator. What is the difference now? Is it the personnel? Why not — one, two, three year, now you are into year 4, is it maturity of the coaching staff? …
COACH DAVIE: There is a couple things.
First of all, let me think back now, Kevin Smith was a first-round draft pick at corner. I think he is still playing.
Eric Glenn was a first-round pick at corner, he is still playing.
Ray-Ray Makens (phonetic) starting New York Jets. That was our three corners for just about four years there, my last four years.
Patrick Bates (phonetic) was a free safety. He was a first-round pick.
Quent Coreyout (phonetic) was a player drafted in the draft. We had some good players. We had some good players. And we have really good players here. We haven’t had a first-round pick corner, just go out there and say, I am going to take you out of this game now.
So that is what it is. Let’s cut all the — you know — if I can cover, if I can go out there and cover, you are going to see us be aggressive. We are much more aggressive now within the framework of what we are doing because we can play man-coverage. (inaudible) let’s see how many — try to throw a top on them. So it is about how we match up and being as aggressive as we can be without letting my ego be bigger than what it takes to win games. You know, it would be easy for me to go out there and say okay, I am going to prove a point, we are going to blitz, get after them. I don’t need to prove that point. This is about what we can do to win.
So I think we are doing a good job with what we have right now and I think we are getting better. Also we played some really good teams week in, week out with diverse schemes here.
You look at Nebraska, then Purdue, Stanford, then Navy, then West Virginia, then Air Force. You look at Rutgers this week, Boston College. You are playing some good teams that attack things well.
So it is a combination of things. Bottom line, you are going to be aggressive, you better have somebody out there that can lock up and say, you are not catching one today. And you know what, the game has changed a little bit too. It is not as easy to do as it was ten years ago to do that. These schemes are a lot more sophisticated now. It is a combination of a lot of things.
COACH DAVIE: I think we had to do that. We had to do that and it is about can you play man-coverage and making a commitment to be better at something than you are the other thing. It is hard to be just 50/50 zone and man, say we want to be great at everything and have this safety net there. You better say, okay, even if we get beat, we are going to play some more man. Even the way we play the wishbone teams, we changed our whole scheme against the wishbones because we are more of a man team now. That was good until there was No. 5 standing out that was 6 foot 5, right?
Then it was — got a little hairy at the end of that game, so…
Q. On LoVecchio, when Battle went down and you and Kevin Rogers had to sit down and decide on which one of the freshman quarterbacks you would elevate, how long was that conversation? How long did it take you to settle on him?
COACH DAVIE: Once we got done crying?
Q. Right. (laughter)?
COACH DAVIE: Well first of all, it was Gary Godsey. And obviously because of the chemistry of the team Gary Godsey getting up in the right formation, it was a sudden-change situation, so I said then this is the short-term plan, I am not sure if it’s going to be the long-term, but that was short-term. It was obvious to see the long-term plan we had to get the handcuffs off as far as our scheme and we had to have a quarterback that can run because we just have too much scheme invested into a mobile quarterback. So the long-term scheme was pretty easy. All along, Kevin had said, we had had the conversations since Day 1 when the freshmen came: Is one of these guys better than Gary Godsey yet. No.
Well, who do you think is the best guy right now. Well, right now, if we had to do it, it would be Matt LoVecchio because he knows the system better.
So that conversation was ongoing from the time we got back here in August. That was the No. 1 thing was what are we going to do with at quarterback behind Arnaz. It was everyday we talked about it. Yeah, that was an on going thing from August 1st of what is the backup quarterback situation because that was the most critical thing with this team.