Nov. 21, 2000
JOHN HEISLER: Kickoff is at 12:35 Pacific time that is 3:35 335 in South Bend. For those of you hooked in via satellite six minutes of highlights from the Notre Dame/Rutgers game at the end of the satellite feed. Coach Davie is here. He will make some opening statements, then he will take some questions.
COACH DAVIE: I think looking outside today at about 12 inches of snow, you can’t help but wonder why we always play this game in California in late November, but when USC comes to South Bend it is always in October. I think it would be a definite home-field advantage for us right now if we were playing them at home this weekend.
But I am sure for all you guys, you are glad this game is out in Los Angeles. I am kind of surprised you guys are still here. I thought you might get out there early and just do some extra stories or something.
But, you know, there is not a whole lot of conversation probably that needs to be said about this game. Obviously this is a huge football game. But I think the way I look at it, when we were 2 and 2, and we had an Open Date before Stanford, coming after that Michigan State game, and you get up there on Monday, you talk to our team about because you couldn’t help but notice after the Michigan State game, guys like Danny O’Leary, Mike Gandy, some of those older guys, particularly the fifth year guys, when you have lost your second game of the year, all of a sudden, it is — you can lose one. You lose one to Nebraska, you know, you are — you still have a bunch of juice. But after you lose that second one, you always worry how that impacts those older guys.
So after the Michigan State game on that Monday I get up and talked about us being a 2-2 team, talked a little bit about the landscape of college football how much it has changed over the last couple of years, talked about really good teams in this country and how they, early in the season, didn’t play the kind of — same kind of schedule we played. And that eventually those good teams would have to play other good teams.
So we wouldn’t be very smart to be sitting there as 2 and 2 team that had lost to Nebraska in overtime, had lost on the last play of the game basically to Michigan State, given up a fourth and 12 for a 65-yard touchdown pass. You know, it was too early to start worrying about the big picture at that time. That there was a lot of football left to be played.
You honestly felt that we had a chance to be really a good team because you like the team and you like the enthusiasm of the team and the way they played. You talk at that time about being 2 and 2 and if you can go win the next seven football games and be 9 and 2, who knows, there is a chance you might get a chance to play Nebraska again or play a team like Nebraska again. And if you can just keep playing the way you are playing and improve, we may get that opportunity.
With all that said, this is a big football game. But let’s think about it, the last six have been big. Every one of them, since we were 2 and 2, have big huge football games. So just to have the opportunity to be 8 and 2, to go play this game for all that is riding on this game, sure, the results are very important. No one understands that more than I do. No one wants to win this football game, I promise you in this country, more than I want to win this football game.
But also I appreciate what these players have done to make this such a big football game.
And if they can just prepare like they have prepared these last six games, if they can just put forth the same kind of effort they have put forth, if we can get as many contributions maybe from people that we didn’t expect to get contributions, get plays from different areas, that maybe we didn’t expect to going into the game, we are going to be okay. The results are going to take care of themselves.
This is a huge game, but it is no bigger than these last 6 have been because we wouldn’t even be in this situation if these guys wouldn’t have put forth the effort they put forth the last six.
I think this team — you know, you talk about football, and how it really teaches you life’s lessons. It is the same in all sports. But if you think back to this football team, of all the different life lessons they have learned, the different scenarios how each week is a different challenge, you know at the beginning of the year, you have people that say: You have no chance to win. I mean, just no chance. You are going to be 1 and 4, 0 and 5, all of a sudden you win some games and you are 4 and 2 or something, everybody is saying, boy, if you don’t go to the BCS, you screwed up, it is a lock. So you have gone through that thing of having no expectations, that were unrealistic to having unbelievable expectations that were unrealistic, so you had that thing.
You played Nebraska in the second game where most people, including Notre Dame people, fans, maybe, thought Notre Dame had no chance. You go through that situation. You play Rutgers, where most people say Rutgers has no chance to beat you, but you know what, it probably is a lot closer. We had a great chance to beat Nebraska. Rutgers had a chance to beat us. So you go through that life’s lesson.
You played a game like Michigan State, where you think you have won the game. I will be honest, I mean, I know it is never over ’til it’s over, but when I am standing there at fourth and 12 or third and 23, and they haven’t completed a ball in probably two quarters, basically, you think you are going to win the game. I mean, you are going to win and you envision how good that bus ride home is going to be.
Then you play Air Force and in all honesty, you think you have lost that game. You are standing there on that sidelines and you know you have a chance to block the field goal, but you know what, you can’t help think back to 1996] When Air Force comes running out on that field >from that same spot, so you have been through that scenario.
So what I am trying to say is this game is going to take care of itself. All I am concerned about is the preparation we have going up to this game. Our football has been through the whole gamut of emotions. Our staff has been through the gamut as well. What you learn, you control what happens. You control it. We have got a bunch of unselfish guys. We have a football team that gets productivity from different areas, and probably the best thing you can say about our team is it is a team. It’s a team.
There is teams that probably have better individual stars than us. We may be playing one this week, but we are a pretty good team. And we are going to enjoy every second of this, and let’s go let this thing rip.
I will be able to say that Friday when our preparation is done. I am not quite ready to say that yet, but I am looking forward to this. I think it is going to be a great game.
I look at USC – I see a football team that is talented as any team in this country – maybe the fastest football team in the country. And I mean that. When you look at — their tailback is a national sprint champion. Their wide receiver, No. 2, is a sprint champion. They are covered up with guys that are track athletes that can fly. You see that when they play. They are very explosive. Most of their defense is back from last year. They beat UCLA, you know, they are a heck of a football team.
They have had some problems with turnovers, but they solved that problem. So they are No. 1 in the Pac-10 in offense, they are No. 23 in the nation in offense. They are No. 3 in the Pac-10 in defense. They have great statistics other than the turnovers.
They are a darn good football team. They have got a quarterback that is definitely going to be an NFL player. They have a tailback and wide receiver that will be definite NFL players. So it is going to be a great game. It is going to be a great challenge for our team.
I have to say the word “Team” because that is what it is going to take, is a team effort.
Q. You talk about USC’s turnovers, but is that the only thing that you see when you are watching the film because their talent is unquestioned and everyone around the country talks about how much talent they have, so is it really just the turnovers that you think has hurt them this year?
COACH DAVIE: As always it’s a combination of things. They have played good teams. I think the Pac-10 this year is strong. They have played close games week in and week out. They have played in close football games. They have turned the ball over at times. They have had some punt blocks at times. They have also blocked some punts.
But it is a combination of things. They had some injuries early in the year. The receivers were injured. It looked like in the Stanford game that they really played one of their running backs at wide receiver some. I think that was the first game that Kelly was back. It is a combination of things. There is such a fine line between winning and losing. And you also know a football team like that is totally capable. And they beat UCLA last week. And you see what it is. It is a talented team that is real close. I can understand, you know, how frustrated, I am sure, Paul Hackett is. At the same time, I think the win against UCLA energizes everyone and shows everyone of what they are capable of, internally. I think it is going to be a great game.
Q. Obviously this is going to be a tough game as you have mentioned several times. But is it also fun for the guys to prepare for a game that is such a rivalry and such a continuous rivalry?
COACH DAVIE: Yeah, I think this is the best. I think this is the best one.
I have coached in a bunch of them, just like these guys here have been in a bunch of them. Notre Dame/Michigan is great. Notre Dame/Tennessee was great. Notre Dame/Nebraska. Notre Dame/Texas. Notre Dame/Ohio State game was unique. Notre Dame/LSU. All those games, but this one, I think is — this one, to me, is the best one, the one I enjoy the most. Maybe because it is at the end of the year and you are playing in Los Angeles, playing in the Coliseum, all the coaches, all the players that have played, the graduation rates of the teams is something that I think is outstanding on both teams.
You look at what players when they are done playing from these schools do. You think of guys like Pat Haden, and how he conducts himself, and you know, Ross Browner is going to be at this luncheon on Friday out there. You just go on about the people. It is quality people and it is class and I really enjoy this game.
Q. Is it fun to be out there and see just the number of Notre Dame fans that also show up, to know that you can draw that kind of crowd so far away from home?
COACH DAVIE: If we win. That is not always such a positive if — (inaudible) the numbers Notre Dame if things don’t go well. (laughs).
No, certainly you enjoy that, whether you are at Rutgers last week when it is pretty like a home game, or you are out at in Los Angeles. That is something I will never take for granted.
That is something when you watch all these tapes — you know, you watch teams from all over the country and you see how none of us should take that for granted, playing in front of filled stadiums. That is something I thoroughly enjoy coaching at Notre Dame and I enjoyed that at Texas A&M as well.
It’s amazing what some of these people do in the these stadiums to give the illusion that there’s people in the stadium, with different banners and things.
It is a little concerning for college football, but I feel fortunate to be in a place where every week there is people in those states.
Last week, those couple empty seats at Rutgers, you noticed that because you just don’t see that very often.
Q. The last two trips up to Los Angeles have not treated you guys kind and they have had major ramifications as far as the losses. Do you and your staff talk about that? Do you kind of shake your head and look back at those couple of games and do you talk to the players about it?
COACH DAVIE: No, I haven’t talked about it at all. I think our players that were out there the last couple of times or at least the last time understand.
But once again, I mean, I don’t think you have to sit — kind of like last week, I said after the game, you know, you can go buy of bunch mouse traps and put it in front of their lockers and say, boy, we are stepping into a trap here at Rutgers – the sandwitch game between Boston College and SC, boy, they have the advantage. Pretty soon you give them the advantage by talk about it so much.
So the past games really don’t have any bearing on anything. I just — I am just glad to play in these kind of games and coach in these kinds of games and I will be real glad to win one of these games.
Q. Julius and Clifford, are they practicing?
COACH DAVIE: Yeah, I think Clifford probably did a little better last night than we thought. He looks to me to be just about 100%, barring any setbacks, this week. I think he will be ready to go. He needs to be ready to go.
Julius practiced last night. I think Julius is going to be okay by game time.
Gerome Sapp is hurting. He had sprained his ankle a little bit in the Rutgers game and I has an ongoing shoulder problem.
Other than that, we have got some guys nicked up, but everybody is going to play.
Q. Just trying to get your opinion on what has happened to you guys on the road, what has changed about your demeanor and your focus and the way you have gone about some of these road trips after the last year or so?
COACH DAVIE: Well, I wish I had something clever to say or something that was intriguing to say. We are just playing a little bit better. You can block a punt, it doesn’t matter if you block a punt at home, block a punt on the road. Joey Getherall ran a punt back at West Virginia, probably didn’t matter to him if it was at Notre Dame stadium or West Virginia stadium.
We are just playing better. We are a better team and a healthier team, and we will win a few more games. We are an 8-2 team right now and we are pretty good team.
Q. Is there a certain amount of maturity that goes into that, that may be a factor?
COACH DAVIE: I think the maturity factor probably goes into having players healthy, having players that — had not lost any players due to maybe some behavior situation or academic situation. I said that before the season, the thing I was real excited about was the maturity of this team and how it impacted how many guys we would have left at the end of the season.
So we are older, probably stronger, didn’t have quite the injuries we had last year because of that. Probably able to stay out of all the outside issues better than we did a year ago because of the maturity. In other words, we didn’t get on that rollercoaster after the Michigan State game that can take you down. So, sure, maturity has a lot to do with it. But mostly it has a lot to do with having enough players to go play on the road with.
Q. Curious about the Shane Walton situation – with him out and you talked about all the speed that USC has, will one guy take the majority of the snaps over there or will you rotate?
COACH DAVIE: Hopefully Clifford will be 100%. I am anxious to watch Clifford Jefferson play. When he was injured in the Air Force game I thought he really played well early in the game. I think when you talk about maturity, he is the guy that, you know, I couldn’t help but notice with your Packers that Allen Rossum returned that kickoff 100 yards to win that game basically against the Colts. You think back to Allen Rossum what he went through as a freshman, sophomore trying play coverage, kind of reminds me of Clifford Jefferson.
I am anxious to watch Clifford Jefferson. Certainly Jason Beckstrom has played enough now, along with Brock. Vontez Duff, we are fortunate we have got him in the game, so it won’t be his first time playing. Preston Jackson is a guy that has been with us all year. We haven’t put him on the scout squad. If he has to go in, he will be ready. I don’t know. Obviously depends how it goes.
I think Clifford, Brock, and Jason Beckstrom will be the primary the guys that will play at corner.
Q. Considering you are a coach and you kind of know maybe what Paul Hackett goes through a little bit when the rumors fly a little bit. Do you think — the players obviously hear that. Do you think they are going to give maybe a little extra effort just for the guy to coach there?
COACH DAVIE: You know, Bill, I don’t know if it is possible to give a whole lot more effort than the S.C./Notre Dame game that you would normally have in a game like this.
I know the kind of pride all these players have and I know the pride our players have. I can’t speak for USC and I can’t speak for Paul. I expect them to play their best game of the year this year. I also expect us to play our best game.
Knowing Paul as well as I do, he is a grinder. He is a guy that loves the X and Os of football. He loves the strategy of football. I doubt that he is spending any attention at all worrying about that and I know what kind of work ethic he has and how he coaches.
So I don’t really think that it is going to be a factor one way or the other.
Q. You talked a little bit about addressing the team the week after the Michigan State game. I am curious, what exactly did you say to help keep the spirits up at that point in the season?
COACH DAVIE: I don’t know if these guys want to hear that again. They probably heard that a couple of times.
I didn’t really try to create any illusion. I just wanted to talk about what I felt in my heart and what I saw and what I saw was a football team that was pretty good and a football team that had the potential to be real good. I saw a team this had overcome some nightmare situation early in the year that were still together.
We needed to improve over the Open Date. We needed to make our change at quarterback which I think obviously has helped us.
So what I talked to them about was all the positives that were there because of how they had handled situations and all the positives about the future based on what I had seen. So didn’t try to — you are not going to trick them. You are not going to present some picture that is not accurate. I just talked about the things that I saw, and I think it made sense to our team, and I think they done a great job just getting us in this situation to go to Los Angeles 8 and 2.
Q. All the things that have a happened this year losing the quarterback and one of your defensive leaders, what would you pinpoint as a couple the keys that having such a successful season under the circumstances?
COACH DAVIE: I think the pride element of last year, everyone’s pride being hurt. I think also the sense of urgency of knowing what was coming this year with the schedule. Probably when this whole football team and staff came back in January after Christmas break, I think everybody realized the bottom line of what we had to do. And I think it probably drew everyone closer, and because of, that I think there is a tremendous chemistry on this team.
But I also think we are healthier than we have been. And we are getting productivity in a lot of different ways. So it is combination of a lot of things, but first and foremost it is because of the attitude of these players. Really since last January.
Q. Follow-up about Paul Hackett’s situation. When the national media was writing about your situation, how did you steal yourself from not being insulted by what everybody was speculating on or not take it personally? How do you closet all that off and can you identify with what Paul is going through here?
COACH DAVIE: Well, I think it is probably a lot easier to do than what someone who has not been in that situation thinks it would be. At least it was for me. It really — you know, I saw how silly it really all was and how things just take on a life of their own.
It was obvious that wasn’t — I wasn’t going to be able to control that. I think it comes with what you take your enjoyment in. If you are going to try to take your enjoyment out of what other people say about you and what other people write about you, you are going to have a difficult time functioning with any profession you are in.
So it comes back to being happy with what you are and what you do. And not having somebody else validate what you are and what you do. So I am no psychologist, but I mean, if you like what you do and you like the people that you are around and you are doing as well as you think you can do, then you feel pretty good about yourself. If you don’t, and you are not real confident, then you will probably wait for other people to make you feel good and probably wait for other people to make you feel bad. At some point you better be able to make up your own mind whether you think you are a good coach or not whether or not you are doing the right thing.
The second thing, you are not out there by yourself. There is a group of coaches that you are with everyday. There is a whole group of players that you are with everyday. It is not just your team. It is all of us and the thing that I, you know, from Day 1 what I have enjoyed about this profession is being around the coaches and the players. And as long as I am around them, I feel pretty good. So that is kind of how I did it. I am sure Paul is doing it the same way.
Q. I know coaches are kind — they like things, good rhythm, and routine, and things like that. Does preparing a team around the things — given Holiday with the student body gone, are there any differences, something like that?
COACH DAVIE: Well, I think that is a good point because we are so routine conscious. It is amazing — just like all of us do you sink into those routines. I was talking this morning how that gate over that stadium opens at about 6:30, coaches come walking in, about 9:30 or 9:45 at night that gate swings open and those coaches come back out and you do that basically Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. So this Thursday is a little bit different.
But we are so far into the season now that I don’t think it is of much significance. So, yeah, our schedule is a little bit different. But I tell you what, it is a lot easier to change your schedule when you are 8 and 2, than if you were 2 and 8 right now. I don’t think it is going to matter a whole lot.
Q. I assume you are practicing obviously inside this week because of the snow. Is that tough from practicing on turf all week and going back and playing on natural grass?
COACH DAVIE: Not as tough as practicing on that snow and then going and playing on natural grass, I promise you that.
We don’t have much choice. I don’t think it is an issue. I have backed off from this week because I don’t want to go in there and pound them on that turf. We are just going to wear shoulder pads and helmets today. We are not doing anything offense against defense at all this week.
So this is about playing fast in this game. We have to play fast and we cannot have a football team that is beaten down. We travel a day. We went from the east coast last week to the west coast this week. I am keeping all that in mind because I want to take our best shot. So we are going to back off just a little bit — not so much time-wise, but we are not going to hit much this week at all. We are going to be really careful practicing on that turf.
And we are going to go by the Coliseum Friday which is something we have not done in the past couple of years which I think you talk about rhythm, I always enjoy going by that stadium on Friday, anywhere we play, just so those players get a chance to get a feel what it is like. So we will be ready to go.
Q. In your recent games there has been a kind of a scenario at the end where you have had a lead and the other team has crept up on you. Last week you managed to put up the defensive stand that you have been looking for. Is that a result of their experience or different schemes or just maturing as a defense?
COACH DAVIE: I wish I knew, Bob. If you look at our statistics defensively, we can’t. But if you could take out some of those late game yards and points, we’d probably be pretty good statistically.
You think back to Air Force, West Virginia, even Boston College, Stanford – I looked to — Stanford had 400 yards on us and I bet they didn’t have 200 at the end of the third quarter and that is with that 75-yard run they had. We gave up some points and yards late in football games. Fortunately, the last six weeks, that hasn’t come back to just kill us, but it has hurt us.
So obviously finishing. We talk about finishing all the time, whether it is finishing a play, finishing a game and in our position this week, finishing a season. That is important.
But once again, I think it goes back to people throwing the football so much on us, particularly at the end of games we have had leads and you know what, that is still our — you know, if you have to say one thing that you concern yourself about, it is about people throwing the football on you. I don’t think that is a secret. So it is kind of how we match up too in some of those situations.
Q. Even for someone that has seen every Notre Dame game this year, it is still surprising you look at the statistics and you see how few times Joey Getherall has touched a ball. It seems like every time he touches the ball he makes a big-play so you think he has a lot of touches throughout the season. Have you ever had any other player that has done more with less like him?
COACH DAVIE: I think that is a great point.
He has some magic to him. I talked to his father this morning as a matter of fact.
But that is a good point when he touches it — what is that phrase, lightning in a bottle. He is a guy that — he is an explosive guy and when he touches it — he is a guy that I see having a different gear, you know, he almost has like a different gear he can take it to at times. I remember two years ago out in Los Angeles we let him go back there and return kickoffs. You could almost feel how some guys will not be denied. He has some of that to him. I am really anxious to watch him play Saturday. It is his last game of the regular season game and playing in Los Angeles. that is a great story there with Joey Getherall. I am anxious watch him play. You are right, he is unbelievably productive when he gets his hands on the football.
Q. I know you have a lot of starters that play on special teams. But it seems like the effort level, the tone of the effort level was set by a lot of the walk-ons that play on some of those teams. Is that something you do by design?
COACH DAVIE: Yeah, really you do. I think and I have said this before, but it has been proven to me by these guys that if you have someone who is really serious about his role and that is his role, you know, it kind of goes back to the Matt Sarb/Jerry Rosburg story of Jerry Rosburg kind of tongue and cheek saying: Matt, it continues to amaze me how much faster your 40-yard dash time is than those other guys on that kickoff team. Well, all of us know his 40-yard time, he isn’t faster than those other guys.
I think when you have Matt Sarb, Chad DeBolt, Adam Tibble, players like that, Anthony Brannan who was a walk-on does a great job on our kickoff return. Crowther on deep snaps. Sure, those guys have a role, and you know just their story, just their story and how much passion they bring to it. There is certainly a place for those guys in special teams.
I didn’t always — you know, ten years ago or something — when I was an assistant coach I might not have believed that. I might have believed that you had to have the most talented guy out there. But I certainly don’t believe that now.
Any I think that is why you talk about our team playing against maybe some people that have more talented individuals. I do think we are a good team. Those guys have helped us become a team. It really doesn’t matter what your story is of how you got here. Whether you were a scholarship player or not, whether or not you play in games or not, you are a part of the team. I think they have done a good job of helping us with that concept.
Q. After this week, I know there is a lot of people, a lot of fans at least will kind of take a big breather for the next month or so before the Bowl. I know it’s a realistic time for the coaching staff especially in terms of your recruiting. How important is it to kind of carry the success you have had this season over to the next month in terms of recruiting?
COACH DAVIE: I think we will. I think the personalities of our coaches is outstanding and the chemistry of our team right now is outstanding. That is how you recruit. Plus we have had some success and it is not like all of a sudden you just start recruiting when the season is over. We took time in the Open Date. We take time every week to recruit. We make phone calls every night. So it is an ongoing process.
But the next couple of weeks are critical, particularly here at Notre Dame because you only have a couple of visit weekends. We have the banquet weekend which I hope that weather holds off, and then we have the second weekend and our players are involved in finals the second weekend so that is not a great weekend. Then we don’t bring anyone in until the middle of January – maybe January, whatever that date is, 18th.
So the first couple of weeks are critical to us. Then you compound that with playing in a Bowl Game preparation-wise with the coaches, you have to get a lot of things done early in December in recruiting. Football weekend has been really productive for us really because we bring so many players in because it’s the only opportunity we have to get them in.
Q. Kurt Voller’s talked about taken a lot of grief from some of his high school teachers when he committed to Notre Dame. Can you speak to how difficult it is to go into California and get some quality players to help your team?
COACH DAVIE: It is hard. We have worked hard on some guys out there, particularly earlier when I first became head coach and then it comes down to the very end. Sometimes it’s really hard to get those guys – where we have had a little more success going south because, let’s face it, coming from Georgia or Florida is a lot closer than coming >from California than coming from the west coast. For whatever reason, it has just been our experience that it is hard to get them at the end. How much money do you put into it, how much time do you put into it, how much effort do you put into it?
Certainly we have had some great players from out there. I don’t mean to take away from that at all. It is just in the overall evaluation of it, we are continuing to go to the west coast, but we are going to try to really be selective on do we have a chance to get this guy. We have had kids come in here and have great visits, unbelievable visits, and we have recruited the heck out of them and it comes down to the end and it is just, well, coach, I just can’t leave California. That is a tough situation. Some obstacles you jsut can’t overcome.
But certainly for a kid that is interested we are going to embrace him and we are going to get all over him. But we try to be really cautious about it.
Q. BCS, I don’t even know the best way to put this to you because there’s so much hypothetical involved right now. Can you admit or can you see that Notre Dame would probably be selected over several teams, say, Oregon, Oregon State, Virginia Tech, that will probably have to happen?
COACH DAVIE: In my mind, if we win — that doesn’t mean — there is other things in my mind that may not be totally accurate, but in my mind if we win and we are 9 and 2, I’d be — I think we would go to a BCS game. Now, that maybe not what the computer thinks, that may not be what any one else thinks. I have kind of looked at it like if we are 9 and 2 and won 7 straight games and we’ve only lost to Nebraska in overtime and Michigan State on the last play of the game, I think we are going to the BCS.
Now, obviously, that is pretty strong statement. But that is how I feel. And I think our team probably feels the same way.
Q. Lastly, I know the telephone callers hit on this a little bit. But when you have the chance to maybe sit back and relax and watch ESPN, you see the ticker lines and this guy gets fired and that guy gets fired and there is a report about Hacket. I venture to guess that you, as a coach, are in the minority of people to understand what that is like. Do you feel some connection or do you feel something when you see some of your colleagues go down as far as the hazardous nature of your profession, if you will?
COACH DAVIE: Oh, sure. But also that is the reality of this profession. There is tradeoffs with everything. The bottom line, when I turn ESPN on and I see that, it is still the greatest profession in the world to me. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’d certainly understand — I could be part of that ticker tape one day just like someone else is. I don’t look when I see someone’s name and say, boy, that guy did a lousy job or, boy, how did that guy screw it up or boy, if I had been the head coach there I wouldn’t have got fired. I never did that as an assistant.
I think some guys in this profession probably do do that. But I understand there is a bunch of quality coaches out here and I understand there’s a fine line between winning and losing and I understand how that is all part of it.
I think the thing that you look at is, particularly for the assistant coaches, the uncertainty of the situation. The uncertainty of going into the holidays, of you know, probably knowing you are going to end up coaching somewhere, but you really can’t tell your family and your children where that is going to be. There is a period there of just uncertainty. That is the most difficult thing. And you know, but those guys just like that I saw those names, Rip Scherer at Memphis, I played high school for Rip Scherer dad. Bruce Snyder is a guy that three years ago or four years ago was the national coach of the year. Carl Torbush, I have known Carl for a long time. He came down to A&M and visited us he when I was coaching defense. He was head coach at Louisiana Tech one time we played them.
So you know all these guys and you know what kind of coaches they are, and sometimes you just understand that situations are all different. There’s a lot of things that impact winning and losing. Sometimes you don’t have all the control over those things, but in the end it is still the best job there is.
Q. You mentioned a little while ago about changing the changing of college football landscape. One of the things that has changed the difference between the Bowls now. In 96 when Notre Dame missed it was the 7 million dollar difference. Two years ago it was like 11 million. Now it is almost like 12 million. Do you think it is worrisome that student athletes are put in a position where they are playing in a game with so much money at stake?
COACH DAVIE: Truthfully, I don’t think those student athletes think about that. I don’t think they are sitting there — you know, there is always going to be conversation certainly where you are saying, look, I mean, this game is worth $8 million and, boy, I am eating the same food I ate before we won this game. Or you know what, I am still taking the same charter that we took. I am not flying in first class now. We just won an 8-million dollar situation. There is always going to be that kind of conversation between players and there is probably coaches the same way that say, damn, we are going to an 8 million dollar Bowl, I will be making more money in this — that is human nature.
But, honestly, I don’t think players put a whole lot of thought into any of that. In other words, if we don’t win, there is not going to be $8 million or whatever the total is, or if we do win, there is going to be $8 million. I don’t think anyone really thinks about it. I don’t think about it. Maybe I should think about it. It is not all about it. It is about playing and coaching. That is of no factor.
Q. One of the reasons I ask, I know this is four years ago when Jim Sanson missed that kick, he got death threats….
COACH DAVIE: That is obviously unfortunate. But you know what, with every step you take, the stakes go up. The stakes go up. If you don’t choose to coach at Notre Dame, if you don’t choose to kick field goals at Notre Dame, you didn’t have to do it. You could have been kicking in the ^ Edenborough Slippery Rock game if that is what you chose to do. I am not talk being Jim, I am just using it as an example, when Jim made that field goal at Texas, when there were 85,000 people in that atmosphere. He didn’t even need to fly home on that plane. That atmosphere was tremendous.
When you miss one, there is going to be something of a tradeoff because you just had the best of the best. And that is what this is. That is what this is. It is unfortunate and it is unfortunate that coaches lose their jobs, but with every stake you go up the ladder, the stakes go up. So do the rewards.
You don’t have to do it if you don’t want to do it. No one is making you do it. For me, I still enjoy it. And it is something that I think is the best thing going. Not that I every day am happy, but if I wasn’t happy, I wouldn’t be doing it in the big picture.
Q. Talk about the fullback and you look at Jason Murray with nine yards, Tom Lopienski with 17. Notre Dame has had some great fullbacks in the past. Is it a tribute to the tailbacks how good they are or the offensive system?
COACH DAVIE: I think it is the offensive system, and I mean that in a positive way. I think that if you look at college football now, Southern Cal is a team that is eye-formation team. Their fullback doesn’t carry the ball. Show me a team in this country who is an eye-formation team that their fullback carries the ball. I do not know of any. We played a bunch of eye teams this year, and I don’t remember many times that fullback carrying the ball other than the wishbone.
So I think it is has what’s become the trend in college football. Against the 8-man fronts, you know, for instance, South Carolina now I don’t even think they play with a fullback, so certainly they have gone through the changing of the scheme.
So the game has changed. And I don’t think it is anything against Tommy Lopienski, Jason Murray Mike McNair, but it has changed. It is just impossible to establish the fullback the way you used to in college football. You just can’t do it.
We ran the fullback against Rutgers, I think it was second and 25, we ran that fullback up in there. And to be honest why we did? We signalled the wristband off the wristband and we got the wrong wristband signal. It wasn’t that play that was supposed to be run. If anyone is wondering why those people kind of booed and I heard some shuffling up in that stadium on that second and 25 — seriously, the schemes have changed. These fullbacks are very productive for us. They block, they do a lot of things, but it is not a glamour position. In fact, we have to have fake field goals to get our fullbacks hands on the hands for his touchdown.
Q. (inaudible) you guys I know you are all going to be together and probably travelling, what is Thanksgiving to Notre Dame football?
COACH DAVIE: I think that is a great point to make because we are going to have our family together, but it is going to be about 145 people flying across that country and then enjoying the Thanksgiving dinner together in a different time zone. It will be about 9:30 at night, South-Bend-time by the time we get there and get our Thanksgiving dinner going. So there is different kinds of families. I know there is a tradeoff with that. We have players from all over the country that will be a long way away from their family, their biological families. But we are going to be a football team that is with their family from August ’til January and that is this Notre Dame football team.
So I think it is a time to enjoy each other, a time to be thankful for what we have. That is how we are going to approach this. Fortunately Joanne and Clay are going to be able to go with me. Audra is cheering in the State Championship game down in Indianapolis. So I am going to miss her.
But I understand what these players are going through, but I also understand this is a special time and they have a special group of friends on this football team.
Q. You talk about the team running the gamut of emotions. The coaches are running those same probably times 10. How do you guys survive?
COACH DAVIE: It is what you do. We have done this-you know what, sometimes obviously the head coach gets more attention than the assistants but those are the guys that go through the emotion. They grind it now. They grind it every step of the way. Those guys do an unbelievable job. You look at our assistants coaches, we played a game Saturday a lot of, those guys are leaving Saturday night to go out recruiting right off the bat. There will not be one minute downtime but you know what, it all makes it worthwhile when you are around good people and you enjoy what you are doing. I mean that. It makes it better even when you win. But we got a group of guys that you just enjoy being around. I have never had a season that has gone by this fast. Never had a season that I can honestly say that I am disappointed that Monday we won’t be back together getting ready for another game. This season has flown by. So that is probably why we are a good team. Because that permeates, I think, so, yeah, you have run the gamut of emotions, but isn’t that what this profession is? You could be in a profession where maybe people don’t take such an interest in what you do or there is not so much riding on the results of what you do, but I don’t know if it would be as rewarding or gratifying if you did that.
So I think it gets back to that Jim Sanson story, you could have been kicking in that ^ Slippery Rock Edinborough game. Sure, there is a bunch of emotion — other thing I was thinking when Jimmy Johnson — I remember Jimmy, as you know, I was a graduate assistant for him at Pittsburgh. He loves it. He loves football, the emotion of football and he is an energetic guy. When he lost a game, I don’t know that I have ever been around anyone that took losing more than Jimmy Johnson. I read something where he said the reason he went back at Miami was because it wasn’t so much that he missed the wins and he certainly did, but he missed the losses. Just coming in and just being as low as you can and then grinding yourself back out of that during the week. I think part of it, you know, if you won all the time, and everything went smooth all the time, this probably applies to being a head coach as well, just in the whole evolution of it, it wouldn’t — it would be too easy. Isn’t there a price to pay for everything and in the end you are stronger because of what you have gone through. That is what this profession is. That is why football is life. It is life, and teaching guys what the right thing is and how to keep your eye on the target and so it is a gamut of emotions, but that is what makes it great.
Now, Bobbie Bowden had his share of emotions, hasn’t had those down emotions as much. I don’t know maybe he doesn’t appreciate winning as much because of that, I don’t know but losing makes you appreciate winning. That is part of it.
Q. I noticed that Gary Godsey had moved up to No. 2 at tight end. Can you talk about how he has looked at tight end and do you anticipate using him Saturday there?
COACH DAVIE: Jabari and Dan O’Leary which I always love to ask the players, guys like that that are older guys, what do you think of Gary Godsey. I like to ask those guys that about any guys. But they said that they think Gary Godsey is going to be a great tight end. That is really encouraging to me. He played in the Rutgers game. He did some good things blocking. He is a guy that is pretty natural form position-wise blocking. He is not going to be a guy that runs deep down that field, but he can catch the ball. He can block. I think he has a bright future. That is going to be a big-time battle between John Owens, Gary Godsey, and Billy Palmer for that tight end position next year. I think we have enough talent there to be pretty good.
Q. Just following that up, I know all coaches say we take it one at a time. But do you ever look at a practice and say, I really think Vontez Duff is going to be good next year – we have a chance to be really good, do you ever look ahead?
COACH DAVIE: I do that everyday. And interesting, last night, a pro scout was there from Jacksonville. Some of our younger guys — he has been around here and watched our program and Daryl Campbell went by and Cedric Hilliard. Greg Polly is a great looking guy. Gerome Collins. Vontez Duff, you know, he can be a great tailback but you need a guy like that at defensive back that has those ball skills to just go up and make that play. So I do.
I think next year we could be really talented as a team. We are going to be talented. That front four on defense will look like they used to look around here – across the board and the linebackers are going to look good and the secondary is all back except for Tony Driver. So yeah, I mean, we are going to be really talented, I think. And if we can get that schedule tweaked a little bit, I mean, have you looked at that schedule?
COACH DAVIE: But we are going to be a talented football team. You are right, I do see that. I see that we we are going to be a talented team next year.
Q. Senior class first recruiting class (inaudible) can you comment generally about what this class has meant, this first recruiting class?
COACH DAVIE: It’s a class that there weren’t a whole lot of numbers. But there were some guys that made some big contributions Jabari Holloway was in that class, Joey Getherall, John Teasdale is going to be — he is a good player for us. Kurt Vollers is in that class. Jason Murray, this guy has become a productive football player. Justin Smith who came in at the end of the game, I was happy to see him have that hit late in the Rutgers game. It’s a good class. Not our strongest class by any stretch of the means. We have had stronger classes here the last couple of years because we have had more time to research and evaluate and to just implement things from a recruiting standpoint. But it is a class that I think has held together. And Tony Driver is in that class. Brock Williams is in that class, guys that we — Brock, we got on late and we were able to get Brock. So we scrambled around and I think it’s a pretty solid class.