Sept. 17, 2000
JOHN HEISLER: Good morning. Coach Davie is here. He’ll make some opening comments and we’ll take some questions.
COACH DAVIE: I was thinking coming over here, you know, as coaches, particularly as a head coach, you get so immersed in it, you’re paid a lot of money to handle all situations that come your way. You know, but just thinking about it coming over here, you know, I don’t think we should minimize the significance of what this football team and these assistant coaches did last week.
You think back a week ago when I was walking across from the stadium, you know, we just lost to the No. 1 team in the country in overtime. I mean, just a bitter, bitter loss, when you’re that close. Just found out our starting quarterback was probably out for the season, found out Grant Irons is out for the season. I think as a head coach, you handle those things because you’re in a lot of situations where you have experience handling a lot of different things.
But when you think about it for our players who came back last Sunday at 4 o’clock in the afternoon and met to hear that news, coming off a loss like that, you think about our assistant coaches. Put yourself in Kevin Rogers’ shoes. We spent basically two years to get Arnaz Battle in a position to lead this football team, all the time you put in scheme. The other offensive coaches feel pretty good about where we’re heading. Defense, you take Greg Mattison with Grant Irons, then you talk about our football team. To lose a game like we lost to Nebraska, come back Sunday with that kind of a meeting we had to have, then you’re playing the 12th ranked team in the country in your stadium, Heisman Trophy contender, one of the leading contenders, a team that comes in averaging I think 48 points a time, giving up 5 points a game, you’ve got to give a lot of credit to these players and assistant coaches in the bigger picture.
What we all do is look at the big plays in the game and say, “Purdue made this mistake. This happened on this play.” Let’s step away from it a little bit and look at the big picture of all this. I think it’s really remarkable what these kids were able to do in one week’s time, and our assist coaches. I don’t minimize that at all. Those guys deserve all the credit.
Looking at the game, you know, the flow of the game, you know, the first half, obviously I think we went something like five of our six series on offense were really three and out. First series on offense, after the block punt, we got the ball on the four yard line, that was a three-play series.
The only time it wasn’t three and out was on the long drive that we went down. We hit Julius Jones, he had to run, we had to screen. We ended up kicking the field goal. You know, five of the six series were really three plays and out. That’s why I think on defense I was concerned in the second quarter because we were tired.
But you think back to the flow of that game, you could see why we’d be tired. Combined with the thing of running players on and off the field, matching up substitution-wise, playing a lot of man-coverage, rushing the quarterback.
So the first half of the game was really a situation where on offense we were trying to be fairly conservative, trying to let the defense play, try to win with special teams. We struggled. You know, they were blitzing us a lot. Anytime you’re with two backs in the backfield, able to bring the strong safety, bring the corner, bring the free safety, it’s hard to block them.
But a credit to our offense. We played the entire first half, we didn’t turn the football over. Only one time did we really look discombobulated, that’s the time we snapped the ball in the wrong snap count down in the north end of the stadium. I thought it was a pretty well-played first half.
Defensively I felt good. The only thing I was concerned about was the quarterback running the football on us, Vinny, because he’s a heck of a player. Matching up with him is difficult.
We go in at halftime. I think we’re up 17-14. From a defensive standpoint, it was trying to contain 14. Offensive, what the message was, I thought our supporting cast needed to raise their level of play and give Gary Godsey a chance. We were struggling protecting him – not just because of the blitzes, but they ran some twist punts, turned people loose. I don’t think we gave him an opportunity. The whole message was to the other ten guys on offense to pick it up.
Second half, first drive of the second half was big. We have the ball seven minutes. We have some good things. You know, we got it going. We come out with two tights, try and base them out, take them out of some of their blitzes, have a little success mixing and matching things. We go down, end up not getting any points, but we took seven minutes off the clock.
They come out on offense, they have a penalty, get out of rhythm a little bit. Before you know it, there’s two minutes left in the third quarter and they had the ball three plays. I think that really helped our defense, being able to control the ball on offense the way we did.
In the second half, as the thing went on, we had more and more opportunities on offense. We didn’t quite take advantage of them. We had the ball on the plus 23 yard line after their botched fake punt attempt. We ended up getting a field goal out of that. Great opportunity right there to get ahead, to really get ahead by 10 or more points. We didn’t take advantage of it.
Then they have the personal foul on the next series. We have great field position. Once again, we don’t get any points out of that. Then we do come back. I think a big play in the game, we kind of forget about, just about from a field position standpoint, we get the ball back on the four series of the second half, ball is on the minus 13 yard line, first and ten. We’re trying to catch them in a blitz. They twist. Gary comes out on the boot. The guy comes on a twist, makes a miss, he launches it up to Givens for 47 yards. Almost was an 83-yard touchdown pass if David Givens keeps his feet. Once again, we don’t get points but we’re able to change field position.
Pretty much the only thing they had the second half was that one drive. We had them third down I think twice. Then we come with the all-out blitz on second and 20 from about the 25 or 27 yard line when they hit Vinny again, kind of lay it up there, pretty good throw, great adjustment to the ball.
Then it comes down to the final series. I thought that was a heck of a job by our offensive team, a heck of a job by Gary Godsey. The first play we run the ball, they stone us. Second down and ten. He hits Getherall, make the first down. He comes back on third and ten again, hits Javin Hunter on the square end. Next play hits David Givens for ten yards. Julius makes a nice run in there on third yard again, make a first down. We set it up with two seconds left, Nick kicks a field goal. I think there’s really something significant about that.
You talk about the snapper and the holder, two walk-on players. Crowther, John Crowther, and Adam Tibble, grade snap, great hold, Nick Setta makes the thing by this much.
You know, just kind of recapping the game, we struggled on offense. I think we got a little better later in the game. Defense I thought we played pretty consistent the whole game. Had a problem matching up with No. 14. But I think a lot of people have trouble matching up with him, particularly when the quarterback is as accurate as their quarterback is.
People talk about the mistakes Purdue made. Those weren’t self-inflicted mistakes. That blocked punt was a heck of an effort, heck of a scheme to get one-on-one with that slot, Glenn did a great job. On the interception, Shane Walton made a terrific play. They ran a little cutter route. Shane Walton comes in front of them, picks it off for the touchdown.
On the faked punt, I think they were really talked into it because of what we did last year, what we did on the one where we blocked it. A lot of situations in that game. It was a pretty well-played game. A high level of X and O’s going on.
I’m proud of our team. I think we had something like five penalties on the day, which is pretty good for a young quarterback.
You look back so far in this season, the No. 1 statistic, we did not turn the ball over against A&M. We only turned it over one time against Nebraska. Yesterday we only turned the football over one time. That was at their end of the field, not on our end of the field.
Bottom line, that’s the biggest statistic with me, along with the kicking game. Kicking game, again, I think was outstanding yesterday.
I’ll go ahead and take any questions that we have.
Q. As tough as those first three games were, they were all at home. Now you go on the road. That presents a whole different challenge. How different is that going to be taking this team on the road against Michigan State?
COACH DAVIE: Well, I think you’re right. I’m sure there will be a lot of conversation this week about our lack of success on the road. But this is a different football team. This is a different football team than we’ve had. I think it’s a team that will embrace this challenge.
I think winning that football game yesterday was big. I mean, let’s face it. You get to that point again where you’ve exhausted just about every ounce of juice you have. You need to win. I think that was big.
So I think this football team will go into this week very focused. I think they realize what happened to them the last time they were in East Lansing. It’s going to be something that I think is going to be discussed. I think there will be a sense of urgency on this team’s part. A bunch of guys have been up to East Lansing before. We know what kind of football team they have.
You look at Michigan State beating Florida in that bowl game last year, all the NFL players they had on that team, the potential draft picks they have now, talented football team playing in a very hostile environment. I think our football team will understand that issue as well as the coaches do.
Q. Does it give you more concern having Gary Godsey at quarterback now only playing in his second game going on the road?
COACH DAVIE: Well, you know, sure it does. I mean, it’s not like Arnaz would have been all that experienced either going up there. It would have only been his fourth football game. So little what it is. I think Gary now with a game under his belt, not that he played great, but I think under the circumstances he played pretty well.
You know, sure, it’s a concern. But, you know, once again, we have a whole week to practice, a whole week to prepare. We know what we’re getting into.
Q. Going back to the start of this conference call, talking about the team, what you guys went through the past week, how you are proud. The so-called experts, a lot of them said you would be 0-3 at this time. What do you say to those people now?
COACH DAVIE: Oh, I’ve got — you know, looking at our schedule, I think all of us realized what a challenge it would be. We have a long, long way to go with this football team before I start making any strong statements. We’re still a work in progress. We have to get a lot better on defense, even though I think we’ve shown improvement. We have to get a lot better on offense.
You know, our coaching staff has a tremendous challenge this week trying to do some things with Gary Godsey to be successful. It’s way too early to make a bunch of strong statements.
You know, I think one thing you do. If you’re going to sit here before the season and say that you don’t pay a whole lot of attention to outside opinions, all of a sudden when you have a little bit of success, you don’t all of a sudden start paying attention to those outside opinions. I’m going to be pretty consistent and not pay a lot of attention to it.
Q. After these three games, are you surprised where you guys are at this time?
COACH DAVIE: No, not at all. I knew we would play, just like we will continue to play. I guess the Nebraska game came down to the final play of the game. Purdue game came down to the final play of the game. I anticipate the Michigan State and Stanford games will probably come down to the final play, as well as a few more.
That’s what it’s going to be. It really doesn’t surprise me. I knew we were going to be competitive, as we were competitive in every game we played last year. Think about the Stanford game last year, last play of the game, they kicked a field goal. Boston College, came down to the final series. Pittsburgh game, final series. Even Tennessee game, very close. It’s going to continue to be close.
I like the chemistry of this team. I like the confidence of this team. It’s about what I thought it would be. It makes a big difference with that field goal sneaking in there yesterday.
Q. What I saw with Godsey yesterday was that he had some open receivers early, and the pass sailed on him, which indicates the adrenaline is pumping. On that last drive, he looked poised and in control, made the big completions. When you looked at the tape, did you see him settling down and settling in as the game went on to the point where he’s now able to handle it?
COACH DAVIE: I think two things: One, he did settle down a little bit, but I think maybe more importantly than that, we gave him a chance. You know, early in the game, you know, he was getting hit. We were frustrated a little bit on offense. I think as the game went on, we settled into a little bit better plan, gave him an opportunity to make some throws. I think it’s probably a combination of those two things.
You know, I don’t know how much adrenaline he had going. You know, he’s not a guy that seems to have a whole lot of juice to him sometimes. I think he did settle down as the game went on.
Q. You know what that frenzied atmosphere will be like in the stadium. How will you prepare him for that?
COACH DAVIE: That’s difficult to prepare for. You know, we’ll try to put some crowd noise out there that’s really irritating to the coaches because it’s hard to coach with all that noise. But that’s kind of how it is in the stadium up there.
I remember the last time we went up there. It really was loud. I think we have to have a plan in place as far as our audibles and our check system, both on offense and defense. You know, we’ll try to prepare for it this week.
The best way you can prepare for it is to go up there and play your game, try to take the crowd out of your game by your performance.
Once again, preparation for this game is important. You know, the last time we were up there, I remember the first play of the game, we had the flanker wide open, overthrew the curl. We had a punt blocked in the first or second series of that game. We threw interceptions, turned the ball over. We turned it into a feeding frenzy up there.
The best way to prepare for it is to execute. That comes with preparation during the week. So we’re not going to make as much conversation about them. We’re going to worry a lot more about ourselves.
Q. What was it the past three years that Michigan State has had your number? Do you expect anything different under Coach Williams?
COACH DAVIE: I think, first of all, pretty good football players make a pretty good football team. They’ve been a talented football team as I think there is in the United States, period. When they trot out on that field, it’s as good a looking football team as I’ve played against.
So you look at the big wins they’ve had. They went to Ohio State and beat Ohio State when they were No. 1. They went to the Citrus Bowl last year and beat Florida. They’re a talented football team. That’s the biggest single thing.
I think we’ve had some opportunities. Last year I thought we had an opportunity. I think it was 13-13 with six minutes left in that game. They had the big pass to the wide receiver, 86, that is now in the NFL. Had an 80-yard touchdown pass on third down and eight when the game was 13-13, we had momentum going our way.
Two years ago, the game never had a chance to get started. The game was over in the first quarter. Three years ago, we were not a great football team. They got after us pretty good. The score wasn’t that bad.
I think we’re a better football team now. But I certainly respect them. They’re a good football team. That’s why they’ve had our number.
Q. Do you expect anything different under Coach Williams?
COACH DAVIE: I don’t know. I watched them play last night on television. Their two coordinators are in place from last year. They have a little change in their special teams as far as who is running it. I don’t expect a whole lot of change. I’m sure the reason Bobby got the job was because of continuity. Their whole staff stayed. Every assistant coach stayed. I don’t think there will be a whole bunch of changes. Just watching them last night, that seemed to be true.
Q. I think back to before the Texas A&M game when you were showing a few of us your handy work within napkins. Did you go to a different napkin for Purdue and decided with your assistant coaches that you have to figure out a way to make the guys run the ball, not throw as much, whether you maybe fooled them once, but maybe not again the next time?
COACH DAVIE: I can’t speak for Joe Tiller. It seems to me they ran the football because they wanted to run the football more so than what we were doing on defense.
Probably the way we were crowding the line of scrimmage and lining a lot of people up in the box, you know, if you look at it from just an X and O standpoint, you would think they would have thrown the ball more with the way we were lining up.
But I think, you know, they had some success running the football. That’s something they talked about the past couple years, trying to run the football better. So it really wasn’t so much what we were doing on defense that made them run the ball. They seemed to make a commitment to run the football.
Q. I was curious because it seemed like there were several times when you were rushing three guys, everybody was peeling back. Seemed like, “Come on, go ahead, run the ball, there’s nobody up here.”
COACH DAVIE: I think, really, just to correct you, there was only one time the whole football game that we rushed three. Just looked like we were rushing three. We really had pretty good pressure on them. I think we sacked him three times. I think all last year, I think we only gave up nine sacks for the season. Three in one game is pretty good. We tried to blitz them. They’re not an easy team to blitz. You know, I thought we did a pretty good job on defense.
We did take some things away. We took away some of their underneath crossing routes, we forced them to throw the football to the outside. I thought we were pretty well-prepared.
Q. I know a lot of times coaches will talk about a total team effort. Seems like a cliche. You have an offense that hasn’t really driven for a lot of points, but you seem to find a way to get the points, whether it’s the return, defensive interception. Could you speak to the fact it’s not an overused cliche, that total team effort, doing all the little things add up to winning big games?
COACH DAVIE: I think that’s a good point. I think this is going to have to continue to be. We’ve got a good football team, but we are not so talented that we’re more talented than the teams we’re playing. I can promise you that. We have to find ways to win games.
Just as I said a few minutes ago, the No. 1 statistic to me is zero turnovers, against A&M, one against Nebraska, one against Purdue, That with the field position situations in our kicking game. Anytime you can block punts, anytime you can return punts, return kick-offs for touchdowns, cover punts the way we’re covering them, you have a chance. And we haven’t given up huge plays on defense. We’ve given up some players, but they haven’t been back breakers.
That’s what it is, a team effort. That’s how it’s going to have to continue to be. That’s how close games against good teams, it comes down to that.
At some point we do have to manufacture some points because the reality is our starting quarterback is not playing. That was the emphasis all this past week, starting with my meeting last Sunday, was that the other 20 players or 21 players have to pick it up. Certainly there’s a sense of urgency of our staff to do that, to be good in all the other areas.
Q. Are you worried at all about Michigan State’s run defense? You haven’t been running the ball very well so far this year, and State has a pretty solid defense.
COACH DAVIE: They do. I think last year they gave up something like 67 yards a game or 70 yards a game. I think they were in the Top 5 in rushing defense. Last night, they’re like they always are: big, physical players.
Sure, that’s a concern, particularly if we’re kind of one dimensional like we were in the first half the game last week. So, sure, going up and playing against that defensive front seven is a concern to me.
Q. Are you going to change your game plan at all to combat that?
COACH DAVIE: Where are you from again?
Q. State News at Michigan State University.
COACH DAVIE: I haven’t been head coach real long, but long enough that I’m not going to give that you game plan right now (laughter).
No, we’re just starting out this week to formulate a game plan. Wishbone might be an option for us up there.
JOHN HEISLER: We’ll take some questions from people in the room.
Q. How important will it be to eat up the clock?
COACH DAVIE: That’s a good point. Their style of play has been to use those big offensive linemen. Now they have a 260 -, 265-pound tailback. We cannot let them control the clock, control the ball. The other thing that concerns me, their tightend is a good possession receiver. They convert a lot on third and short. They’ll throw the ball a lot on third down.
Obviously time of possession is big, particularly for us because we’re not a big, big play team. You know, someone like Purdue can have a minimal amount of time of possession, but they get huge plays.
With us, we need to control time of possession and field position. That’s a concern. They’re big, physical guys with a big back. They have a tendency to bleed you a little bit.
Q. (Question regarding injuries).
COACH DAVIE: I think right now we’re pretty good. Jabari has a sprained ankle, but he’s off crutches. He was able to stand up on his toes this morning. He’s probable for the game.
Tom Lapinski has a shoulder strain. He’s probable.
Kurt Vollers has a strained clavicle, and he is probable.
Other than that, we came out of it pretty good, you know. I think if you had to say who was the biggest concern, maybe Jabari because of just where the injury is. But they feel pretty good about it after seeing him this morning.
Q. Is there a trend with backup quarterbacks? Michigan State has had to go to one, a young guy. Looks like Stanford had to use one quite a bit last night. Is that becoming the trend?
COACH DAVIE: I don’t know. You know, I don’t know that you could classify something like that as a trend. I’ve noticed the same thing. You know, it’s one of those things you’re probably always going to try to figure out why. You can say it’s more of a blitzing style defenses now, but I doubt that you’ll ever really get a handle on that. I don’t know what significance it can be attributed to why or how. I’ve noticed the same thing . There’s some backup quarterbacks playing.
Q. You said up until the final drive, you didn’t give Gary Godsey a chance. I guess you were referring to maybe not only the (inaudible).
COACH DAVIE: Right.
Q. Is it important to I don’t want to use the words “open it up” but do more with him in the offense, particularly with time of possession?
COACH DAVIE: I don’t think it’s a secret that we have to do a little bit more. What direction we go in, obviously there will be a lot of thought put into that. You know, we have to give him a little bit more of an opportunity and give our runningbacks a little bit more of an opportunity.
He’s proven that he can handle it. I’m not second-guessing our decision at all. As the game evolved, we were able to do some more things. You know, I think it worked out pretty well for us. Hopefully we can take the next step.
Q. (Inaudible). You had Arnaz for two years, and you had one week for Gary. Was that the worst you’ve ever approached it?
COACH DAVIE: Now that you say that, maybe we should start LoVecchio out there (laughter). If we put him in for one play, does that count as an official statistic (laughter)?
COACH DAVIE: No. You know, there’s no — you know, I really have a hard time answering that.
COACH DAVIE: That was big. That was big. That’s why when I started this whole thing out, I think none of us should minimize that. That was big. That was big. I think Kevin did a great job with him. I think our players did a great job.
You know, you guys have probably heard the story about all the players going over to Gary Godsey’s room Sunday night. They embraced him. I think that’s a heck of a story. You’re talking about a guy that was a tightend, all the things he’s been through. To find out Sunday he’s going to be the starting quarterback, that was difficult. That was a difficult situation.
Q. What are the changes on defense this year?
COACH DAVIE: Well, first of all, I think we’re healthy right now. We’ve lost Grant Irons, but we’re healthy. Not to always go back to last year, but we were out of guys. Every guy that played on defense, they not only played on defense, they played on every special team.
Take Brock off the field, Tony Driver off the field. There were a lot of good football players. Then with the injuries, really with special teams, those guys were (inaudible). Clifford Jefferson played every down of football in the game last year, from special teams to defense.
I think we have a little more depth. Also I think there was a sense of urgency around here in the off-season to get that thing back to where it needs to get.
Like I said earlier, we’re still a work in progress. We’re not a dominant defense by any stretch. I’m really pleased with the intensity our kids play with and how important it is to them. I really do think we can make a lot of improvement.
You start looking at it, I think we can be good for several years to come, get Grant Irons back, they’re all back basically. They’re all listed as seniors, but they all have a fifth year of football, except for Lance Legree.
Q. Will LoVecchio be No. 2 this week?
COACH DAVIE: I think he will. We’ll start out the week that way. Probably Jared Clark is 3. We’ll go about it that way.