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An Interview With Coach Davie

Sept. 24, 2000

BOB DAVIE: I think every week, when you stay in this profession, you always come back to the realization between what a fine line there is between winning and losing, what a huge difference there is between winning and losing. And how all these games, when you play good teams, come down to just a couple plays in the game. Once again, it proved it to be true last night.

You know, just looking at the game, I think we’re in a situation, as a lot of teams when they play good teams, that you’ve got to take advantage of your good opportunities, particularly when your starting quarterback is not playing. You know, you have to take advantage of opportunities.

The last couple weeks, you know, our special teams have provided us with productivity, with the punt block, the punt return, the kickoff return, the touchdown. Also, we scored on defense last week against Purdue.

We knew going into the game that that’s not something that you can count on each and every week against good teams. But certainly the plan was to go up there and try to play real solid defense, as you always do, try to be excellent in special teams and try to generate a little more offense without doing too many things to take ourselves out of the game.

You know, looking back, we maybe should have tried to create more big plays offensively. You know, do some things maybe on first down to try to loosen them up. We all know this is really a bit of a problem because we’re not really in an option mode without Gary Godsey, and that’s where some of our production comes on first down.

But looking at the first half, they had 40 plays, we had 24 plays, but we certainly had our opportunities. The first three times we had the football, we had the ball on the minus 45, great field position, and we had it on the minus 40, we had it on the plus 49. So we started out basically at midfield the first three times we had the football. And I think playing on the road, that’s a tremendous opportunity to take their crowd out of the game.

We did, to a degree. You know, the first series, we stop them on defense and we get the ball at minus 45. We move it a little bit. You know, we end up ?? we have a penalty on 1st and 10. Our tight end moves and we eventually miss a 45?yard field goal right in the middle of the field. That hurt us, obviously. Points are something with our football time right now that’s sacred. We have to get points. We missed that 44?yard field goal.

We stop them again. Come back the second series, Julius has a 56-yard run, we end up with Murray coming in, Moshin, we throw the ball for the touchdown. So we’re up 7-0.

Third series, we get the ball back at the plus 49. Now we’re in their field position. I think this was a big, big — a negative for us. We had it at the 49. We ended up kind of wasting that series and we go three bay plays and out.

We come back the fourth series. We had the linemen downfield. We’re 3rd and 15, we have no chance to convert.

Fifth series, Julius has the 20-yard run. Julius has a 7-yard run. We have a penalty on 2nd and 3, procedure call. We end up getting sacked.

And then the sixth series of the first half was three plays and was the end of the half. I was a little surprised they didn’t call time-out there and make us punt it.

But the point I’m trying to make, we had our opportunities with field position in the first half. We didn’t play perfect because we had the penalty on 1st and 10th which hurt us, we had the penalty on 2nd and 3 that hurt us. We had too many third-and-longs. With out football team right now, third and long is not a good situation. So we had opportunities. We missed the field goal in the first half.

So it was 10-7 at half. We probably realistically probably could have had 17 points in the first half, but we didn’t.

Defensively in the first half, I thought we played pretty good, really. The quarterback scrambled once or twice on us. I think he did a good job. They had the option on us, that was something a little bit different, but it really didn’t hurt us, but it got us off-balance a little bit. He hit two passes in the first half.

But really, I felt like we were in pretty good control defensively. They wore us down a little bit in the first half because we were on the field a lot.

Special teams, pretty even. We didn’t create much with our kickoff return opportunity. Punt return, we had a little bit but didn’t have a whole lot of opportunities but we missed the field goal.

So we good in at half-time. We come out the second half, hurt us — we went three-and-out on the first possession. We stopped them.

We come back on offense. We go two plays. We throw the interception on the second play, so get the on ball on our side of the field to plus 44. We’re able to hold them to a field goal. Kid kicks a long field goal.

We come back the third series. We go three-and-out, but we have the holding penalty. We run the option. Our fullback gets called for holding the ball, goes back to the 14-yard line. We actually lose field position. So we punt the ball. They get to the ball at the 44-yard line. So it’s almost like a flip of the first half: They start with great field position every series of the 3rd quarter, they go down and score.

So their two scorers come off a turnover, they kick a long field goal, they get the ball at the 44-yard line. One time our free safety turns the tight end loose into the boundary, the pass where the tight end caught it and went up the sideline, then give us a little different formation, we turned the fullback loose.

So between turning the football over, the holding penalty and then two misalignments on defense, all of the sudden the game is 20-7. So we’re on the road, we’re not playing as well as we’re capable of playing. That’s why it’s 20-7.

Then, as a credit to our team, they hang in there, we keep fighting. We get the turnover. Brock Williams ironically hits the same blitz that we come with on the 4th and 10. Basically the same route on the 4th and 10. Brock comes in and we force the fumble, scramble around, get it on the 11-yard line. Another huge turning point in the game.

We get the ball at the 11-yard line. First play, we get stoned. Second play, we run the option. Third play, we run the reverse. We go for it on 4th and 1, they have ten guys on the field. Our left offensive tackle goes the wrong way. We run the option. We get stopped short.

So we go from having this 20-7 — excuse me, it’s 20-13 at that point. It’s 20-13. We go for it on a 4th and 1, we don’t make it.

Fortunately, the next series we come back, Tony Weaver intercepts the ball on the screen pass, we score. We go ahead 21-20. But we’re not taking advantage of all of our opportunities. We could have more points at this point.

We stop them. They punt the ball. We have the ball, six minutes left in the game. We make one first down. We end up going for it on 3rd and 5. We run the power. It’s about that close, ball is at midfield. Obviously, we have to punt the ball right there on fourth down. We punt it down. There’s about three minutes left in the game.

First down is incompletion. Second down, we sack them. It’s 3rd down and 20. We play zone coverage. They throw the ball to Duckett. We’re playing kind of soft, he misses a tackle.

And now it’s 4th and 10. We call time out. You know, just probably had too much time to think about it.

We come back with — bringing Brock Williams from the inside receiver off the slot. We veer the tackle down inside. Tony Driver, Denman comes clean, he’s in the quarterback’s face, boom, he hits the slant on us. Driver is dropping down. They are going to make the first down. Israel is a free safety he’s jockeying back, he slips, that big S on the field, he slips on that thing, which doesn’t mean that’s why he slipped, but he slipped. Kid goes 68 yards for a touchdown and we lose the football game.

Another big thing, they kick off to us. The kickoff is going to go out of bounds. Julius Jones is nicked up. David Givens is in there. David makes a bad decision. He tries to catch the ball on the 1-yard line. The ball is going to go out of bounds. We’re going to have it on the 35 with three time-outs left or two time-outs left.

We’ve got the ball backed up on the 1-yard line. We throw it four straight times, can’t get anything. They get the ball back. Credit to our players. They didn’t cave in. They tried to score on us two plays in a row. We stop them. Run the toss down there on the 1-yard line. The only way they can lose the game is to fumble the ball. But our players rose to the occasion and stopped them.

So I don’t think we played as well as we are capable of playing. I think we played extremely hard. You look at the missed field goal, you look at the two penalties we had on offense, you look at the first half on 3rd and 10 before they kick a 50-yard field goal, we sack them. Rocky Boiman tries to hold up, but we get the late hit on the quarterback. They get a field goal out of that. They would have punted the ball right there. So instead of being 7-7 at half, it’s 10-7 because of the penalty right there.

So bottom line, I don’t think we’re playing as well as we’re capable of playing. Let’s face it, when you play the teams we’re playing with your second quarterback in there, you have to play pretty close to perfect. We didn’t get the productivity out of the special teams that we had had, and we didn’t win the football game.

Where we are right now, we’re 2-2. I think the open date comes at a great time for us. Not only to get some players healthy, but I think to regroup psychologically, to address some problems we have on offense right now.

And the way I look at it, it’s been a four-game season, we’re 2-2 now we go play this next four-game season. We have Stanford, Navy, West Virginia and Air Force and then we have another open date.

So I think we have a chance to develop into a really good football team. I think we’re a pretty good football team right now, but I think we need to address some issues we have, particularly on offense right now. We need to make some steps to become a little more productive on that side of the ball.

As far as injuries, nothing significant. We’ve got some players that won’t be able to practice this week. Really, not because of anything that happened in the game. Pretty much what’s happened over the first three or four weeks. You look at Brock Williams, he’s been licked up, Tommy Lopienski, Rocky Boiman, Joey Getherall, Jabari Holloway played with that ankle. We’ve got about five or six guys that really need some time off.

We’re going to go ahead, we’re going to meet tomorrow, show the tape, have a good meeting, practice Tuesday, Wednesdays are Thursday, probably give them Friday, Saturday, Sunday off come back and start the second part of the season.

Q. You talked a little bit about needing to get more offensive productivity, but whichever quarterback you go with, you know, against Stanford, he’s still going to be a young quarterback. How do you go about getting him that game experience- Do you just keep throwing even if it’s not productive early in the game to get him more comfortable out there or how does that work?

BOB DAVIE: Well, I think we’re two weeks older. The open date and then the week of practice gives you two more weeks. All of the sudden, it’s been really four weeks then since Arnaz. So we’ve had time to get some players a few more reps that didn’t have many reps. We’ve had more time as a staff to be able to evaluate what we can and can’t do.

You know, we have to be what we are on offense. You know, we tried the last two weeks to really play it in a box to a degree, not to make mistakes on offense. I think it was the right plan. We were almost sitting here today 3-1 and it would have worked. But for us to move forward, I think we have to open it up a little bit more in a way that our staff is comfortable opening it up a little bit more.

But we have to evaluate. I don’t know that we have to necessarily throw it a lot more, but we have to do different things. I think just the threat of the option — when Matt LoVecchio came in, you saw Matt almost broke one calling option. But we just have to become more productive, doing it in the framework of our style of coaches and our style of offense.

We really have to evaluate the quarterback situation. That’s no secret because it’s putting the handcuffs on us a little bit right now with the big guy back there, that doesn’t create many things running the ball. I don’t know if the trade-off right now, if he throw it is that much better, then maybe that’s a trade-off, but I’m not sure we can do that right now so we have to go back and just look at everything. And we’re kind of playing left-handed right now on offense and I don’t think we can win that way. So that’s why this open date comes as a good time.

Q. Matt LoVecchio going into the game was the quarterback and backup behind Gary Godsey — (inaudible) also both came in very highly regarded. What has LoVecchio done- According to his high school stats, he is perhaps not a great a runner as the other two. What has LoVecchio done, and the fact that he attended camp at Notre Dame, did that help him get in tune with the offense more quickly than the other two?

BOB DAVIE: In high school, he didn’t have the opportunity to run it as much. He was in a little different style offense than Carlyle and Jarrod. Second quarterback is right now because he has grasped the offense. I don’t think the fact that he was in our summer camp — Clark was also in our summer football camp (inaudible) and he’s a good solid guy for us.

Q. I wanted to step away from yesterday’s game, in particular, and get your perspective on the first month of the college football season in general. We’ve had — seems like every week, a couple of Top-10 teams get bumped off, Alabama, Penn State struggling. I wonder what your take is on that?

BOB DAVIE: You know, I’m probably not a good guy to ask right now. You know, we’ve been so in the middle of what we’re trying do here, but obviously, you could probably get this from everyone. I think obviously the parity in college football, it is extremely competitive, and each week, if good teams are playing good teams, which isn’t always the case, it is extremely competitive. And it comes back to what I said at the beginning of this press conference, that one play impacts the course of that game can also impact your season.

But, you know, when good teams play good teams — right now, the talent level is spread out across this country. It is pretty bad. Also, schemes, you know from week to week, there are so many different schemes that you play. You know, schedule has so much to do with it. You know, when you play a real competitive schedule, there just is no margin for error week after week, and I think you can see that in the teams that play the competitive schedules.

Q. After reviewing the tape, even though he’s so experienced, were you pleased with the poise Matt LoVecchio showed entering the game in that situation?

BOB DAVIE: Yeah, I thought in talking to Kevin this morning and also looking at the tape with the staff, we felt that was a real positive, that Matt came in and handled himself. He was pretty calm. Didn’t make all the right checks, but did pretty well. You know his first college pass was the pass to Javin Hunter, and even though it was slightly underthrown, it was a big completion for us.

But you see the reasons you made the decision for him to be the backup. He comes from a real good high school program. He’s been coached real well. He’s played in some big games in high school, State Championship games, he won a State Championship. I think we were always pleased his performance, as far as his personality and how he took control of things.

Q. You mentioned the pass to Javin Hunter. That was I think the first play of the fourth quarter, and before that, you had run the ball 15 straight times on first down. You mentioned too many third-and-longs. Did you guys put Godsey in a tough situation by maybe becoming a little predictable- I understand you wanting to play it close to the vest on the road, but the 15 straight runs on first down?

BOB DAVIE: I think you’re right on it. Not only did we not throw it on first down, we didn’t have great productivity on first down, which led to those third-and-longs. I don’t have the statistics right here, but we just — plain being non-productive on first down and then some penalties. We got in way too many third-and-long situations, and that’s difficult. And how are whole offense is based on keeping people off-balance, keep people from pinning their ears back and coming after the quarterback.

So he was put in some difficult situations. There’s no question about that. We did try to do a couple things on first down, but not nearly as much, and it’s a bit of a problem right now for us because our package was limited a little because a chunk of it has been taken away without a running quarterback. But he was put in a difficult situation, there’s no question about that.

Q. This question pertains to altered or changed expectations. Guys for a few weeks talk about trying to win the National Championship and running the table, and I guess now that big goal must seem a little bit of a long shot. Could you talk or address how the goals maybe change as the season goes along when you take a couple of tough setbacks?

BOB DAVIE: I think that’s a very appropriate question. In fact, you know, we had a conversation with Danny O’Leary right after the game.

Obviously, guys are distraught over losing, because if you take the scenario that we are 3-1 today, which we’re not, and have two weeks to get ready for the rest of our schedule, you know, you feel like you have an opportunity to be in the hunt, even with a fairly young football team and without your starting quarterback. You know, you feel that we have some real positive things going on this team.

So whether or not the National Championship is realistic, you know, I don’t know. But certainly the way I’m going to address that with our players is really how I addressed it really before our game up at Michigan State. You know, I think with this football team, I really like this team. And I enjoy watching every phase of this team, whether it’s punt return, punt protection, kickoff return, kickoff coverage, field goal, field goal block, offense or defense. What I enjoy is putting that tape on Saturday night and watching our team perform because they play extremely hard and they are making improvements and they are a better football team than they were a year ago. And to me, that’s enough. And I think our players understand the improvement they are making.

So on a week-to-week basis, you know, you play this game for a lot of reasons and you coach this game for a lot of reasons. But the biggest reason I coach is just the pride and being able to develop a football team and seeing players develop. And I can see that happening right here in front of us.

So National Championship, I don’t know if that’s realistic or not. But it is realistic for us to expect improvement, and I think continued improvement. And I think what’s that you get your motivation out of, and in the end that’s all that matters, anyhow. You play as well as you can and play as well as you can possibly play and you keep fighting and you keep making improvement. I think this football team will buy into that because they have bought into it so far. If we would have listened to a lot of outside people and a lot of outside expectations, we might not even have come back for fall camp this year the way it was all written out.

So I think we’ll continue on this course of only concerning ourselves with our own opinions, and because of that I think this football team will not only be motivated, but I think it will be more motivated, and I think this can actually make us stronger because I think we all see the potential that we have with this football team.

Q. You brought up Arnaz Battle yesterday, and obviously everybody and their brother is going to be asking about him for probably the next two weeks. You said he was ahead of schedule. Maybe that’s a long shot, as well, hoping he can come back in two weeks, but do you entertain that possibility at all?

BOB DAVIE: Well, I think the official thing is he’s out indefinitely. You know, he is making some progress. I’m not the hand surgeon. I’m not the hand specialist. We’re going to have the hand specialist and the hand surgeon evaluate him throughout the week, or I should say during this week.

So, I don’t know. I don’t know what’s going to happen with that. He’s still out indefinitely. He may be out for the rest of the season, or maybe we can’t expect him back at some point — and I’m not trying to be evasive. I don’t really know. But I know he is making some progress.

And the reason I brought that up after the game I think is, you know, not to say that we expect him back here, not in the immediate future, but if you look at him being out in the rest of the season, with our offensive scheme, the way it’s headed, the way it is in place right now, I think it does impact some of the things we do this next couple of weeks. I’d just like to kind of get the feel if he’s going to be out or not for the rest of season. Not that I’m expecting him back for Stanford.

Q. (Inaudible)?

BOB DAVIE: I think the first thing is that if Arnaz is out the rest of the season, then we probably do have to get two freshmen quarterbacks ready. Matt LoVecchio has already played. Who the next one would be, I’m not really sure. It depends on what we have to do scheme-wise, who might best fit. Because obviously if Arnaz, there’s a chance he can come back, then you’re not going to get the second freshman quarterback ready and you’re going to give that one quarterback who has played, Matt LoVecchio, all the reps in practice. So that’s why it is kind of a delicate situation right now, because I would hate to — if Arnaz can come back, use another freshman quarterback obviously in a game because he loses a year of football, but more importantly — in fact over the next two weeks, why give two quarterbacks reps. If we think Arnaz may be back at some point, we’re better off to give every rep to that one freshman.

So it’s a situation that hopefully we’ll have the answer for sometime over the next week. Where Gary Godsey fits into this — he still fits into it. But I think it’s obvious that for us to be productive on offense, we need a quarterback that can move around and scramble and create plays and we’re going to have to determine that over this next open date.

Q. (Inaudible)?

BOB DAVIE: What happens, I think you get in the game and I think you felt like early in that football game that we could play solid defense against them. You really felt from the beginning of the game that we were going to play pretty good defense.

We probably became a little more conservative than we had planned going into the game because we had planned on taking the handcuffs off a little bit more, but he also struggled making some throws. He threw the little bubble screen out there to Joey and mis-threw on that. So he was struggling a bit throwing it, as well. So I think the two combinations of feeling like you could play pretty good defense, and then he was struggling throwing the football, we went back and probably called plays in the mentality of not to make a mistake, rather than make a big play, and that’s really not our nature and you if look at Kevin Rogers, that has not been his nature.

You think back to last year, we were creative on offense. We’re still creative on offense. And I don’t think it’s fair to Kevin for us to say we’re going to win or think we can win games just playing defense on special teams. We’re not that kind of team. We are not that dominant of a defense that we can go do that, let’s not kid ourselves. And against good athletic teams, you’re not going to return punts and kickoffs every week for touchdowns.

So we try to get through these two games. We’re almost 3-1, we’re not. Even if we were 3-1, I think now we have a decision to make. If we would have stopped then on 4th and 10 and won the game, we would still be having this conversation of where we go offensively. I don’t think we can continue to go down the path offensively that we’ve gone down. That’s not second-guessing it. We went into it and that’s what we said we’re going to do, and now we have to switch gears, in my opinion.

How that plays out over the next couple weeks with our quarterbacks — but I don’t think it’s fair to our offense to continue to have our offensive coordinator call plays that’s really not his style, to do things offensively that’s really not our style.

So, that’s where we are, and I don’t think we are going to continue to do that. In fact, we won’t continue to that. And now we have an open date to did it. The last two weeks, I think we had to do it, and we almost won two football games against two ranked teams.

So now it’s time to go take the handcuffs off with our offense and we’ve got to go. And the quarterback is going to play into that situation and that evaluation.

Q. Inaudible?

BOB DAVIE: You know, if it was the ninth or tenth game of the year I would say no, sitting here right now. I don’t think it would be fair to him, particularly because his freshman year, he was thrown in there before I think he was ready to be thrown in there. So I would not do that.

I would say this: We will evaluate this situation. You never say never. But sitting here today, I would say no.

Q. You talked about how you looked forward to watching the tape on Saturday night. How hard will it be to watch this one on Saturday night?

BOB DAVIE: It wasn’t hard to watch the tape. What’s hard is, you know, you replay that 4th and 10 just over and over and over. And you just wish you could do it again and you wish you could call something again, you know, give those players maybe a better opportunity to make a play and, you know, make that freshman quarterback throw it again and again to try to go down.

In the back of my mind, it was more the 50-yard field goal they had kicked, coming down to a field goal, and it went back to the Nebraska game of 3rd and 9.

But that’s what you do in coaching. You play those decisions over and over, but that’s behind us now. By the time I got back to South Bend, that was behind me. And to be honest, I enjoyed looking at the tape because I thought we played extremely hard. I mean, I saw some great efforts and I saw some kids flying around.

And I just felt bad for our players. Any time you make a call and it doesn’t work, you take the responsibility for it, and I wish I could have helped them, because I know how hard they were playing, and I know if we had to do it over again and made a different call there, maybe it would have worked.

By the time I got back, though, I was anxious to watch it, and I did watch it and I was proud of the way we played. And I’m proud of this team, but it just didn’t work out on that last play.

Q. Is LoVecchio the likely starter now?

BOB DAVIE: I think it would be even between probably two guys, Matt LoVecchio and Gary Godsey, and we’re going to get a third one in the mix.

I think the way Matt LoVecchio finished the game, not so much that he performed as such a high level, but just with our offense, you feel like you could get back in the flow a little bit. He may have a bit of an advantage heading into this week.

Q. (Inaudible)?

BOB DAVIE: I don’t think — I think Gary Godsey, just because he may be a little more experienced, gave us the best chance. We never even really considered that.

Q. (Inaudible)?

BOB DAVIE: You know, I thought that maybe that was a hot sight adjustment. It wasn’t. It was the same play — they’d probably run that five times, that little slant. It wasn’t a sight adjustment or a hot adjustment in my opinion because it happened, in fact, on the one Brock sacked him.

But to answer I didn’t question, no, I don’t like that match up with Tony Driver on that slot. I do like the pressure coming from the field in that situation. I do like the fact that we had the strong safety free. Tony drops down as the free. He’s man outside technique and strong safety is back on the other side. Really you’re bracketing that guy inside-out is what it amounts to, you’ve got two on him.

But no, I don’t like that situation. Really, I don’t like Tony Driver on Haygood right there, and if I had to do it over again, I wouldn’t do it.

Q. Your defense has done more than anybody anticipated it would do. What’s the defensive outlook for the rest of the season?

BOB DAVIE: I think to get better. We had a chance in this game, we had six sacks we legitimately could have had ten if we had kept the quarterback in the box and contained him. The two passes we gave to the tight end and the fullback we misaligned.

You know, I think we can get better. We are still relatively healthy even though Grant Irons is out. We have not lost any others.

I think we can build on this. They had 270 yards going into the last play and we were on the field a lot. That’s 73 plays compared to 53 that we had on offense.

I think we can get better. In fact, I know we can get better. So I think build on it.