Oct. 8, 2000
NOTRE DAME TELECONFERENCE
An Interview With:
COACH BOB DAVIE
JOHN HEISLER: Just a couple of quick statistical notes, through games of yesterday, right now, out of the 114 Division 1-A teams, Notre Dame is the only team in the country that has not yet lost a fumble. So if that is not the kiss of death….. And in total turnovers, Notre Dame also ranks first in the country with just three. Toledo and Air Force are second with four. Those are current. Those are through games of yesterday.
Coach Davie is here. He will make some opening comments, then take some questions.
COACH DAVIE: Well, I think — I am kind of excited about where we are and certainly more excited about the opportunity of where we can hit.
But the thing about this game and about this profession is always an ever-changing challenge. Certainly we have got a lot of challenge ahead. But the thing that I really continue to like about this team is just how important it is to them, how much they compete, and I think we find a way to probably get the most out of what we have and I think if we can continue to do that, we can have a chance to have a successful season.
You look at yesterday’s game – just kind of going through it – I felt in the first half from a defensive standpoint that we pretty much had things in control. I really felt that way the whole game.
Unfortunately they had two drives where they generated probably 170 yards offense in two drives, one of them 80 yards in two plays. I thought at the end of the game they did a good job executing their drive. We also made some mistakes.
But for the most part, the entire day defensively, I felt pretty good about it and felt like we were in control.
Offensively, kind of within the flow of the game how it went, I think the first drive was really a tremendous drive. We did have the benefit that we all realize of doing some different things on them, some things in some ways it would have been difficult for them to prepare for.
We did have the advantage of the Open Date. We were able to script that first drive, give them a lot of looks. But the quarterback really executed well for us. Our offense executed well and to go 91 yards and score a touchdown really is remarkable.
As the game then unfolded, like all good teams they made some adjustments like we knew they would. Our offense, at times, did some good things, but was a bit inconsistent.
The thing you look at is just the great field position we had through the day. We took the ball on the second drive at the plus 42 after they punted. We ended up, after two sacks, punting from the 40. So we actually went backwards.
On the next drive we got it at the minus 44, we ended up punting from the minus 49.
Next drive we get it at the minus 44, we punt from the plus 47. Then we get it at the minus 16, have a drive kind of like we had on the first drive, we go down the field and we miss a field goal.
Then we come back after the blocked punt, get the ball at the plus 10, on second and 8 we throw the corner rout for a touchdown. So if you look at the first half, we had plus 42 no points, minus 44 no points, minus 44 no points, then the plus 10 and got a touchdown. So we had 13 points in the first half. Realistically, that could have been 24 or 27 points. So we didn’t take advantage of the field position.
Then in the second half, the same thing continued a little bit. We returned that second half kickoff back to the plus 42-yard line. We ended up punting the ball after the sack on second down. No points.
We get the ball on the minus 20. We punt from the minus 16, the minus 20 we punt from the minus 30.
We get the ball on the plus 35 after Brock’s interception. We go down and score a touchdown.
Then we get it on the minus 20, punt from the minus 30. Minus 30 — 25 punt from the minus 39 and at the end of the game we get it back with 408 because of the penalty on first and 10, we end up punting the ball again.
So it is really a case on offense of getting great field position, not really cashing in on that great field position, but we did have some great drives, two great drives that shows the potential of the offense.
I think when you look at it offensively, obviously there is some things we have to get better at as a team. But first of all, on offense, definitely we need to take advantage of that field position.
I think it is unrealistic to think that you are going to continue to get the kind of field position we have gotten early in this season. You think back to the Michigan State game, the great field position that we had.
The second thing, you know, we continue to kind of have self-inflicted problems that lead to us getting in third in real long situations. We had 13 possessions in the game. We were third in more than 10 in 8 of those possessions. On 5 of those 8 possessions that we were third and more than 10, we were more than 10 yards. In other words, we were third and 12, third and 14. So if you look at that, that is 13 possessions, eight times we were third in more than 10. That is impossible to convert in those kind of situations.
You can see what we need to improve in.
No. 1: We need to improve in the protection of the quarterback. It is not necessarily just our offensive line. It was really only one time in that game that it was a four-man rush and 97 beat us on really what was a great move. He beat our tackle one-on-one.
But the other times, it was a case of maybe not getting the hot — the site adjustment. We had a tight end delay one time and they came with an eight-man blitz and should have been a site adjustment to the X. There was a couple of cases of us not getting in the right protection but the bottom line, we are in third and long because of some protection breakdowns in early downs.
The second thing you see that we have a problem with, we have way too many times that people are able to run through on us in the running game. They will bring the strong safety or they will bring a linebacker and we get hit in the backfield on a running downs.
The third thing is we had some penalties again. We had the penalty — really a big penalty in the game that there wasn’t too much conversation about was on the two-point play, which just shouldn’t have happened. The decision was made before we even scored it that we were going for two and we get out there and we have some confusion that we shouldn’t have had and we ended up kicking that extra point. That was a big play.
Then on the first and 10 at the end of the game with 408 left we are up 20 to 7. Our fullback goes in motion. It is first and 15 instead of first and 10. We gain six yards on the second play so instead of it being second and 4, it is second down and 9, which is a big, big difference in that football game.
They may not get the ball back at the end of the game, so we shot ourselves in the foot.
But certainly there is some positive things on offense.
I thought the quarterback Matt LoVecchio played well at times. He shows that he has some athleticism. He shows that he is capable of throwing the football. At times he stepped up and wanted to run with it a little bit when there were some deep routs, probably going to come open on third down. I think it is a situation we saw that with Jarious a little bit, until Jarious got a little bit more mature, of trying to run with the football on long yardage downs rather than sit there and step up and throw the ball.
I think Matt did have some opportunities.
I thought our centers struggled again. Boy, he is athletic and does some good things, but he struggled at time.
Both guards played good on offense.
Our tackles overall played pretty good.
Tight ends played good. They weren’t as much of a factor as we’d like them to be. I thought Jason Murray did some good things at fullback. I thought all three of our tailbacks did some good things.
Julius was not 100%. Hamstring was really pretty good. But I believe he had a bit of a maybe a hip flexor pull or something. But he is going to be probable this week.
Defensively, as I said, I thought it was really — I thought it was really a pretty solid performance. I thought throughout the day that I felt defensively we were in control. It is unfortunate that we gave them the big run to start the second half. That was a case of the backside linebacker running across into the A gap, wasn’t patient enough, they creased us, the free safety missed a tackle about 10 yards down the field. I thought Brock Williams did a great job of tracking No. 34 down and at least giving us the opportunity to snap the ball again on defense. But that run shouldn’t of happened. That was unfortunate.
Then at the end of the game, I give them credit. They executed that drive well. But we made a couple of mistakes. They came out and ran a wheel rout on us out of trips. We were in three-deep coverage and the corner bit down, the one they through over in front of their bench. That shouldn’t have happened. That is something that we have practiced so many times this week, that that should not have happened in that situation.
Then late in the game we came with a zone blitz and they hit the ball on the square in over the middle, our strong safety chased a crossing rout – the middle of the field came wide open. Then on the first down on the blitz we didn’t do a very good job of blitzing.
So it was a combination at the end of them executing well. We got a little bit tired on that drive and we caved in a little bit, and got it down to where that on-side kick was a big play in the game, which incidentally I thought Jabari did a great job of handling that thing because it was coming in there hot.
Special teams, once again, overall it was really a good performance. The blocked punt was really big in this football game. The kickoff return to start the second half – could have put the nail in the coffin for them, unfortunately, it didn’t.
Punt protection was really good. Punt coverage was good. Kickoff coverage was good.
We did have one high snap on a punt late in the game that I thought Joey Hildbold did a good job of getting the punt off.
Punt return was adequate, not great. The only disappointment, they blocked an extra point. Our left guard got blown up by 77 who I think is really a good football player for them. And he blocked it. It was just a breakdown by us, but it was really more of a great effort by them.
Then we missed the field goal which shouldn’t happen. It was a 38-yard field goal in the middle of the field.
But overall, we continue to play solid defense. We continue to be, I think, really good on special teams.
I think offensively right now I think we did some good things on offense, but I think we all share the same concern that some of the things that happened for us positively early in the game were a result of us doing some different things. We are not going to be an offense that every week is out there and tries to jap people.
Now, certainly, keeping people off balance is something we will do. But we have to get more consistent in some areas when all the tricks are beyond us. I have got some concern in that area right now. There is a point where we do have to line up and execute, without shooting ourselves in the foot so many times.
But I really like the position we are in. We have got a chance to really have a successful season, primarily because our players right now are really on the boat and I think there is an enthusiasm that is really contagious right now.
So I am excited about where we are. Each week there is a different challenge. Certainly this becomes kind of a wishbone test here in two of the next three weeks.
We have got to keep making progress on offense. But it is encouraging right now where we are headed.
Q. You touched on this a little bit about the tailback situation. Was it — did you guys try to get the three involved yesterday because the trio seemed, as a group, to do the best it has done since the A&M game. Did you guys want to do that or did it just happen because of the offense clicking more at the helm?
COACH DAVIE: I think the fact that we can stay on rhythm a little bit offensively, and had a couple of drives there where we had a chance to do that. It is hard to do it when you are not making first downs. Just as it’s been all year.
I think that is a great plan. If we can keep everyone healthy, and stay on rhythm offensively, so we have enough snaps – certainly each one of those tailbacks does something a little bit different.
You look at Tony Fisher, he is a guy that we had a third-and-two second half that made a big run out of our handbone formation for us. He is a good, solid steady guy. And sometimes he gets overlooked, but he made a couple runs for us in short yardage situations that were really key yesterday.
Q. You also touched last week on the fact that a lot of good teams already had one loss, a lot of really good teams already had two losses. Now we add this week into the mix – you have been in this game a very long time – have you had a season that is as topsy-turvy like this — COACH DAVIE: I think it is only going to become more that way. You just look across this country right now, when good teams play good teams, it comes down to the very end of the game. You look at Purdue beating Michigan, just on and on, the games right now, Southern Cal has lost their last two football games after starting out, I believe, 3 and 0.
So there is a lot of football left and that is what is encouraging. And, you know, if we can keep this team together and take care of our business, if we can continue to improve, there is a lot for us to play for.
Q. You probably don’t want me to bring this up for fear of jinxing it, but the fumble statistic with — being the only Divison I-A not to have lost a fumble. I know turnovers were an emphasis during the preseason camp and the offseason, but how much of that is preparation and how much of that is just luck?
COACH DAVIE: Well, John, I have already blamed John Heisler for jinxing us with that so you are off the hook. He had to mention that.
Really, what it is, it is those new nylon covers that we put on the football out there and as you know, I have got an endorsement going with those nylon covers, I want to mention that. I am just kidding about that – about the endorsement part of it.
But no, it is the combination of a lot of things again. Everyone always looks for one secret or one magical thing. If you look last year, those were all young tailbacks. You think about Tony Fisher fumbling the ball up at Michigan. Julius Jones was a true freshman. Terrance Howard hadn’t played much football. Tony Driver putting the ball on the ground early in the season. Those were young, young players last year turning that ball over.
Our offensive line was leaky at best. There were some linebackers running through – think about the Southern Cal game late in the game when the linebacker just flat runs through clean and knocks the ball out of Tony Fisher’s hands.
Certainly the emphasis all offseason – we could not win having 30 turnovers. You look at my first year as head coach, we were about second in the country in fewest numbers of turnovers, I think with 8 or 9, seconds lowest in the history of this school.
My second year, we had 12 turnovers, which was about third or fourth in the history of this school, lowest number of turnovers.
Last year we turned the ball over a lot. It was a tradeoff to all the yardage we had and the points we had, it was the turnovers. We knew we could not win turning the football over.
So I think it is a combination of a lot of things: Maturity of players, players learning by example that you can’t win turning the ball over, and then a good job by out offensive staff of not trying to do too many things in putting ourselves in a bad situation.
You know, you think back to — everyone wants to throw the ball on first and 10. A lot of things can happen when you throw it on first and 10 and I think we have done a good job of putting ourselves in a position to win each week with some young quarterbacks.
Q. For just about since the end of last season all the emphasis has been on the front part of the schedule. The first five games, facing those five really good teams that went to Bowl games last year. Do you have to guard against somewhat relaxation creeping in right now with Navy coming up and with West Virginia and Air Force, you know, teams that have had some success, but teams that aren’t highly regarded as some of the other programs you played?
COACH DAVIE: I know you have a great memory, John, and I know you listen to everything I say, right?
Remember that first press conference we had up in the press box, the day of the Media Day, the first thing out of my mouth was everyone around this country in every publication you read about, about Notre Dame football, talks about the first five games of the season. Everybody was talking about those first five and the impending doom.
All this football team talked about was the last six games because we learned last year, you know, people forget, we were a pretty good football team, evolved into a good football team with a bunch of young players. And after that Navy game, I think we had won 4 straight, John, and we were 5 and 3 – and we collapsed at the end of the season for a lot of reasons.
So going into this season, the whole thing, starting in January was about finishing in this season. I really knew that the first five games would take care of themselves for a lot of reasons. It was the last six games that we focused on since the start of really coming back last year in January because we learned last year it is not how you start, it is how you finish. Those games all count the same.
So I really don’t think that is going to be a problem with this football team from a psychological standpoint. Everything is impacted by injuries. Everything is impacted by how many players do you have left that you can go win games with. And that is the biggest issue – keeping this football team healthy and keeping it together.
Q. A little bit off the subject of your team for a moment. Just your overall impressions of Stanford, maybe your specific impressions of Lewis the quarterback?
COACH DAVIE: I thought Stanford was a very good football team and a very well-coached football team. A sign of that is any time you can take the first drive 91 yards doing some different formations multiple sets, and then teams come back and make adjustments to it, it shows that they are a well-coached football team and I thought they made some adjustments during the game.
Offensively, I think the quarterback is a star of the future. We knew that in recruiting. I was impressed with him. We went back and counted it up. I think he got knocked down 16 or 17 times during the game. He got hit. I thought he hung in there and at the end of the game really put their team in a position to win by taking that drive 90 yards.
It wasn’t all just poor performance on our part on that 90-yard drive. He made some throws. He kept his composure, so I know that — I am not an expert on Chris Lewis. We have only played him one game and I have only watched him on tape two game. Their coaches could give you a much more accurate assessment, but I think he has a bright, bright future at Stanford and I know he is a guy that we are going to be playing against for a lot of years to come.
Q. It worked so well that scripted first series for LoVecchio. How much more freedom can you plan on giving him as he begins to mature?
COACH DAVIE: Well, Bob, we lost the second script. What happened — the first script went great, then Kevin misplaced that second script and we got off rhythm.
No, I think we have to be careful to really look closely at the tape >from yesterday’s game which we have done and to realize what we can and what we cannot do. I think we have to be even more careful of where we head with this whole thing.
Like I said to start this, we are not going to be the kind of offense that just continually every week does something different to try to make plays by confusing people. We are going to be an offense that has a lot of confidence in what we can do, whether people know it is coming or not.
And I think that is where we have to be really careful and just utilize our personnel, become more consistent. And that doesn’t mean we have to do more. Sometimes you have to do less to be better. But we do have the capabilities of being pretty diverse on offense right now.
Q. One other thing, aside from Lopienski, what is your injury situation now?
COACH DAVIE: Actually, Bob, I have it somewhere here.
As of 11 o’clock this morning Jordan Black sprained ankle, he is probably doubtful. The ankle is not that severe, but he is a 305 pound guy. It takes a little more time. He played the second half with it, but this morning it is pretty sore.
David Givens has an ankle. He will play.
Javin Hunter has an ankle. He hurt it on that first reverse we ran with them. He would probably be doubtful.
Julius Jones has a quad contusion is what that was. It wasn’t a hip flexor. His hamstring held up pretty with. He is probable.
Tom Lopienski will be back. Probably won’t have contact until Wednesday, but barring any unforeseen setbacks, he will play.
Clifford Jefferson got kicked in the calf. He will play.
Patrick Ryan has a hip flexor. He is doubtful. He hurt it running down on the kickoff.
Right now Jordan Black doubtful. Javin Hunter doubtful. Patrick Ryan doubtful. Obviously Arnaz Battle out, obviously, as well as Grant Irons.
Q. Since doing that injury list there is a lot of ankles in there. It seems in the NFL there is a heck of a lot of ankle injuries also. Why is that?
COACH DAVIE: I don’t know. We obviously tape our ankles every practice and every game. I don’t know. Just always seems like things go in cycles.
Q. LoVecchio making that much progress in two weeks and now looking back on it, do you think he might have been able to (inaudible) —
COACH DAVIE: Yeah, I think, you know, once again, hindsight is 20/20. But you always have to make judgments based on where you are at that time. And like with all the judgments we have made, whether it is not blitzing on third and 9 against Nebraska, blitzing on fourth and 10 against Michigan State, playing Gary Godsey against Purdue and Michigan State, all those things were thought out and discussed to the point of exhaustion.
Looking back on it, probably does give us a chance to be more efficient in what we do offensively just because he can move around and he can scramble.
So yeah, that is probably accurate, and you know, you go into the fall camp with Gary Godsey who had won the confidence, not only of the players but of the coaches. The problem you run into is when you put those freshmen quarterbacks in in fall camp, we had two — our problems were twofold – not to wear this out – but Arnaz was a young quarterback himself and still is a young quarterback so he needed so many reps. It is not like he was a proven entity. So he had to have a lot of snaps. So the reps were so small for whoever that guy was.
So how do you do all three freshmen quarterbacks to see which one is ahead so you say, okay, let us just get Gary Godsey, players have confidence in him, we have confidence in him. It is almost impossible to get enough reps to see which one of those freshmen are ahead and they are so close.
So you go into it and on the short-term it is Gary Godsey, but that was — that is what it was. It wasn’t — I think that was the right decision.
Looking back, we probably would have been better off saying that Gary didn’t fit exactly what we did. I am not trying to hurt Gary’s feelings or saying that there is no opportunity for him down the road because there still is. He is still the backup, but that is fair to say looking back now.
But looking back is always a lot more accurate than where you are at the time.
But you know what, that is like saying right now, boy, you wish you wouldn’t have recruited three freshmen quarterbacks because maybe if you’d just recruited one, you’d given every rep to that one freshman quarterback. Well, you know what, we learned a year before you better recruit more than one quarterback.
So I think that is the great thing about all of this – there is always a lot of conversation, there is a lot of issues and a lot of things to keep the internet going and keep you guys in business. That is what is kind of fun about it. But doing it over again, probably do all the same things. But looking back on it, you’d probably make some changes.
Q. How far has the running game (inaudible) —
COACH DAVIE: I don’t think it is where we need to be or where we should be right now.
I think that is really the point of emphasis this week and that was probably my point, without saying it as directly as you just asked it, about where are we headed right now. Because we have to run the football.
Now how do you do that in this day and age in college football? You know, it is not as easy as it was a few years ago, lining up two backs and doing it. But what can we do consistently to keep those linebackers from running through, keep them from bringing the strong safety and hitting us in the backfield.
We are a little bit right now out of sync as far as where we are. And we have got to take this week and really evolve offensively to become more consistent because we are still a little bit of real good, or real bad. And you see that in all those third downs.
You can’t have 13 possessions in a game and have 8 of those possessions that are third and more than 10. That shows you that you are just inconsistent.
So that is where we are right now. We have to become more consistent in the running game. That is a huge point of discussion this week for us, and we have got to get that thing solved.
COACH DAVIE: Kevin and I visited before the game and, you know, I went through the script with Kevin a little bit. Not that he came in and asked me the script or I had to get his signature on that script, we just talked football. And, you know, the script was going to be what the script was going to be.
I felt like and Kevin felt like going into this game, regardless of where the ball was field position-wise, it was better for us to let that freshman quarterback know, and have done that in practice during the week, but the tradeoff was, you are right, you are back there on the nine-yard line and snapping that ball and you are throwing the ball, and then you come out on second down and it is four out wides and you run the side play and at third down it is empty and you run the reverse to Javin Hunter. So, yeah, I mean, it took some — it took some confidence on our part.
So I think that is a good point. That ball was backed up in the nine — and one other thing that I failed to mention that impacted those third downs, besides the penalties that we had, and the protection problems we had at times, was the shotgun snap that we snapped over the center’s head.
And on that topic, at that point in the game, it was really fragile. They had gone down and scored to make it 13 to 7. We get the ball back on the second play, after getting the ball back, they kick it beyond the line, we snap it over the quarterback’s head. We now punt the ball. They hold. We punt the ball again. They move the ball and our defense was able to stop them right there. But at that point in the game, momentum had definitely shifted to their side. And we were able to get that momentum back on track.
That, right there in the game, I mean, that was a big turning point in that football game. But snapping that ball over the quarterback’s head is something else that is not excusable.
Q. Does it concern you that in two of the three victories now (inaudible) had to play such a big role, I know you want them, but the fact (inaudible) —
COACH DAVIE: Yeah, once again, that is the point of there is no one jumping up and down right now of where we are offensively.
We feel a little bit better about it, as I think everyone that watches us would agree with. But it is not realistic to say you are going to get the kind of field position you get, that we have gotten. It is not realistic to say you are going to block a punt on the 10-yard line and get points out of it. We saw that at Michigan State a little bit, all of a sudden that special teams scoring wasn’t there.
So we all see the same thing. We have to become more consistent which will allow us to be more productive on offense. So definitely that is a concern. I mean, the bottom line, we scored 20 points yesterday, and with that kind of field position and the kind of opportunities we had, you know, Kevin would be the first one to tell you, that could have been a 37- or 38-point game yesterday easily.
COACH DAVIE: We went into the game last week, we made, once again, a short-term decision that Gary was the backup. Jared Clark is going to continue to get reps. That decision will be made by Jared Clark. If he is far enough along, then he will be the backup because he is a lot more like Arnaz Battle as is Matt LoVecchio so we have become more consistent scheme-wise.
COACH DAVIE: I will address that when I get to that. But that is something that I have talked to Gary about that if in fact it is imminent that he is going to be a tight end, I will tell him that when it is time to do that and he does not need to concern himself with that. He doesn’t need to worry about what he reads in the newspaper or what his parents read in the newspaper. I mean, everything is totally aboveboard and we communicate every step of the way. When it is time, I will tell him it is time and I will tell you it is time. I am not going to keep him there just to keep him there. Thinking back, we recruited him as a tight end when it would have been easy for us to say, hey, come on in as a quarterback and do that. So we have been totally honest and I think he appreciates that, his family appreciates it, and that is how we do things.
Q. How do you have your special teams organized in terms of assistant coach responsibilities and is there one assistant coach overall responsible for special teams and how much time in practice do you spend …
COACH DAVIE: That is a great point. Those guys deserve a bunch of credit. I mean, I would, you know, from a scheme standpoint, I would put our special teams against anyone in the country. I think those guys have done a phenomenal job.
Once again it was a point of emphasis in the offseason, the continuity factor, don’t every underestimate continuity. When you have the same coaches back and the same guys coaching things, it is really remarkable and once again it is a risk of jinxing anyone. But it is a remarkable with Steve Addazio has done with our punt team. Just to have the confidence to be able to punt that ball again yesterday after they had the holding penalty against and all-out-rush team, to be able to do that, shows you the confidence we have in that. So that punt team has really been solid and the protection has been good, the coverage has been good.
Joey Hildbold has been a true freshman punting last year, so we have come along way with that.
Punt return team, Jerry Rosburg. I mean, that is X and Os coaching going on, to get them in protections and to be able to block punts. Then the return punts like we did against Nebraska, so Jerry Rosburg has that.
Urban Meyer has the kickoff return team, but Steve Addazio put that scheme in last year, and then I wanted to get Steve off it just from a time-management standpoint because he is coaching the offensive line and he has punting, it was just too much. So Urban Meyer has taken the kickoff return but Urban had it three years ago of us for us so there is all kinds of continuity there. That is a weapon for us. We are really good at kickoff returns.
Field goal extra point, Dave Borbely has that. We have been solid in that, the mechanics of having that walk-on snapper and a walk-on holder that spent every second during practice doing that.
Kickoff coverage, what a thorn in our side last year. I mean, Oklahoma ran two kickoffs back for touchdowns or the Oklahoma game, we blow them out last year. Jerry Rosburg has that.
Each coach has a phase, but every one on the staff is broken down to coach. In other words, each guy is the coordinator and he takes the coaches he wants to coach it, so everyone is involved in it.
Then we spend a lot of time — we start practice with it everyday, in the middle of practice we do it, but we spend a lot of time in meetings. The great thing about it, it is like anything when your players start believing – if you look at our defense right now, there is starting to be some swagger and — (inaudible) the kids believe and there is confidence.
The same thing in special teams, they see it. All that work has paid off so it — just success breeds success. And we are at the point where we can really be good at that, and if we stay healthy, you know, because once again, last year when you lose all those players, man, it just kills those special teams. So if we can stay healthy we have chance to really be good. We can strike some fear in people with that.
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