Oct. 23, 2001
JOHN HEISLER: Just a couple of quick notes before we get started. Kick-off this week is at 7:45 eastern time. That’s 6:45 here in South Bend.
For those of you with us on a regular basis, we have our Sunday wrap-up at one o’clock in the Joyce Center auditorium with Coach Davie.
For those of you hooked up via satellite, we’ll have about six minutes of highlights from the Notre Dame -USC game at the end of our feed today.
Also a reminder that most everybody moves their clocks this weekend, with the exception of most of us in Indiana. So beginning on Sunday South Bend is on the equivalent of eastern time. So just keep that in mind.
Kick-off for next week, the Tennessee game, is at 2:30, and that’s eastern time.
Coach Davie is here. He’ll make some opening comments and then take some questions.
COACH BOB DAVIE: Well, last week, a lot of people talked about the rivalry of USC-Notre Dame. That is a great rivalry. That’s a tradition-rich rivalry and one that people, I think, appreciate across this country.
The same thing could be said about this week. Nationally, it may not be talked about as much. You may not see some ESPN special, an hour-long special, devoted to this series, but I think it’s a unique rivalry: The only two Catholic universities in the country playing I-A football. Certainly during my time here at Notre Dame, the Boston College-Notre Dame game is as big a game as we play.
The year before I came here was the year that ’93 Boston College defeated Notre Dame here in the stadium. Kicked a field goal at the end of the game. So this is a tradition-rich series as well. Certainly going up to Boston and playing on a Saturday night, that’s a challenge. For us right now, having won three straight at home, it’s probably time for us to go play on the road to be quite honest.
I think this is a tremendous test for us. I’ve said it many times: In sports, normally, you always have another opportunity to go do something. We have a chance to go play on the road, play on a Saturday night, play with a nationally televised audience in a hostile environment. I’m anxious to see if we’re better, if we’re able to go handle that type of situation. I’d like to think we are. But to sit here on Tuesday and speculate, all of us will know a lot more Saturday night.
But I think we’re positive right now. Last week I sat here and said whoever won the Notre Dame-USC game, I think, would have some momentum. I think we do.
So it’s encouraging. We’re a little bit healthier than we’ve been. Certainly Arnaz Battle coming out yesterday and practicing full speed was a welcome sight. Our tailbacks are healthier. Terrance Howard has a little bit of a flu today and is in the infirmary. Tony Fisher not playing last week, I think he’ll be further along than he was a week ago. Julius ran harder than he’s run. I think he’s healthier than he’s been.
I think we’re an improving team. I think this will be a good test for us. I look at Boston College, they’re a good football team. Offensively, they’re well-balanced. They run the ball extremely well. I think they have one of the best tailbacks in the country. I think William Green is a big physical player. When he sees a crack, I mean, he heads downhill. There’s not a whole lot of east and west, trying to make people miss. He’ll flat run you over. He hits it up in there.
I think the receivers have been playing for a long time. No. 11, No. 84, No. 14, all of them are guys that catch the ball and make plays. I’ve been impressed with their receivers over the years.
Their quarterback started against us last year. He’s a big, tall guy that throws the ball well. He runs very well.
Then their offensive line is a well-drilled offensive line. You don’t see them get sacked very much. They’ve given up 11 sacks all year in 7 games. So they’re gonna make you stop the run. You’re going to have to defend the pass. Because they’re equally balanced. They are really a good offensive football team – 500 yards on West Virginia, 500 yards on Pittsburgh. The tailback rushed for 200 yards in each of those games.
When you look closely at it, the only game he didn’t have a lot of yards in was Virginia Tech. He had 75 yards, but they got behind early in the game.
So they are going to challenge our defense. They are a well-coached offensive football team that’s very well balanced. Defensively, I think they’ve made improvement over the last several years. They, last year, played a lot of young players against us on the defensive line. We were able to run the ball against them.
They’re a little older. It’s the same guys. Plus, they have one player back that didn’t play against us that was injured in the first game of the year last year. They’re a zone blitz team. They try to make a lot of things happen. They move around a lot. They’re a good hard-nosed defense. This is a good team we’re playing. They’re 5-2. They lost on the road at Stanford. They lost on the road at Virginia Tech. Two teams that are basically, I think, in the Top 15 in the BCS poll.
So this is two good teams, I think. It’s going to be a physical-style game. Both teams are going to line up and try to run the football. Certainly, they’re probably a little more capable of throwing the ball right now than we are, but I think we’re improving.
So we’re all anxious to go play. I think this will be a good test for us as we try to climb back out of that hole.
JOHN HEISLER: Let’s take some questions from people on the telephone.
Q. Bob, I just wanted to get you to talk a little bit about your quarterback, Carlyle Holiday, and his, I guess, progression and his improvement through the course of this season and the last three games specifically. What has made him a better quarterback in your mind?
COACH BOB DAVIE: Well, the first thing is that any time you’re excited to watch someone play, that’s a good thing. He’s one of those guys that every time he touches the ball, you’re anxious to see what’s going to happen. I think that’s why he’s become our quarterback. (Inaudible) the potential that he has. Talking to Kevin Rogers, being around some young quarterbacks, being around some great quarterbacks in his past, certainly Carlyle has all the tools.
So the first thing is he’s a guy that possesses tremendous ability. I think having a year under his belt after not playing probably helped him. He’s got a pretty strong foundation under him. He’s a play-maker. I think Kevin’s done a good job with him. The only downside right now is I wouldn’t say that he’s reckless with the football, but he’s turned the ball over, made some mistakes.
But the pluses far out-number the minuses. I think people are going to be anxious to see him play. He’s got a heckuva future.
Q. Do you think that when you have a team go down 0-3, as you struggled through that first part of your season, to put it on a young quarterback, you run the risk of maybe shattering his confidence if he’s not able to succeed?
COACH BOB DAVIE: Well, a lot of things went in to the decision to open the season with Matt LoVecchio at quarterback. Certainly we won a lot of games last year with Matt. The biggest thing, we had ball security and didn’t turn the ball over. We were not real flashy last year offensively, but we were solid.
We started out this season – you hate to change the plan of how you won a lot of close games last year , particularly when you’re faced with playing in Lincoln, Nebraska, on a Saturday night. So I think it was a smart decision to go with Matt LoVecchio early in the season.
We came back home against Michigan State and we considered starting Carlyle in that football game. But the way we played against Nebraska, it was hard to say that it was just the quarterback’s fault that we didn’t play well. I really didn’t think it was fair to our football team or Matt LoVecchio to make the change then.
Just going to College Station, we were a 0-2 team, we needed a spark offensively. We were pretty anemic. That was the time to do it. It may not have been the best scenario, but it was certainly well thought out. And I think in the end it’s going to kind of be what it’s going to be.
He’s a young quarterback. Everyone was thrown into a difficult situation on this football team early in the season. I think he’s responded well, and I think the football team around him has responded well. I think we’ve got a pretty bright future right now.
Q. The other thing I just wanted to ask you is about your success running the ball last year. Julius Jones got hurt early in the game. You had big contributions from Terrance Howard and Tony Fisher as well. Do you think that was a by-product of them just being anxious and chomping at the bit to get in there maybe in combination with the fact that Boston College had injuries up front?
COACH BOB DAVIE: Yeah, I think being fair to Boston College, they did have some injuries last year. They were extremely young last year on the defensive line.
And being fair to our tailbacks, we’ve got three pretty good tailbacks. We’re not a whole lot different this year. Julius Jones has come on and is getting stronger as the season goes on. Terrance Howard, I thought, came in and ran the ball really hard against USC. I think Terrance is a guy that can jump up and really be productive for this team for the rest of the season. He’s a little bit under the weather today, so hopefully he’s going to feel better by the end of this week. Tony Fisher’s had some injuries this year, but he is certainly a proven football player.
So it’s kind of a combination of BC being young this year, us gaining some momentum late in the season, and having three pretty good backs. For us to win – we may not have the type of success we had running the football last year – but we’re certainly going to have to be productive in the running game.
Q. One last thing if I may. I wanted to get you to comment about an emerging offensive genius you have on your staff there, some guy named DeFilippo (ph)?
COACH BOB DAVIE: Yeah, John has done an excellent job for us. He’s certainly taken a lot of heat from his peers on the coaching staff because he was interviewed early in the season and somehow it came out where his true goal was to be in the NFL, it was only a matter of time until he was an NFL head coach. He’s taken some ribbing for that.
He’s in a role for us offensively that last year, the fella we had was probably 30 years old and had an extensive background in college coaching. The offensive graduate system, it’s amazing all they do. So I think this has been a great situation for John to come in and learn the game. I think it’s been a great situation for us because he’s an around-the-clock kind of worker. So I’ve been really impressed with him. He certainly has a bright future.
Q. Given his intimacy with the BC program, have you tapped into him at all this week or have you left him alone?
COACH BOB DAVIE: I really — you know, we’ve played them the last several years. They do some good things on offense, and they are really an execution-style offense. They’re going to try to line up and out-execute you. They do a terrific job. I really have not spoken to him one moment this week about anything really related to Boston or Boston College, so that’s not going to be an issue.
Q. You talked a little bit about Julius looking stronger. I just wondered, from the last two games to maybe the first three, is the difference a little bit about the offense and the other threats developing around him making him stronger, or is he just healthier now?
COACH BOB DAVIE: I think it is both those things. I think that’s a very good point.
With the threat of the option, with the diversity that gives us, I think there’s some opportunities for the tailbacks a little more. Nebraska’s been so difficult to defend because they can run the ball north and south, but they also were able to go east and west and run the football, run the option football extremely well. I think it provides diversity.
Also, all three of those tailbacks were injured during training camp to the point that they never really practiced in training camp.
So I think it’s a combination of both things. But I’m just glad that we’re getting better, and certainly their health helps us get better.
Q. At this point, is he looking like when he’s at his best – through his big games last season or as a freshman? Is he at that point yet?
COACH BOB DAVIE: I think he is. I watched him on the kick-off returns certainly against USC. He showed great explosion on the long return. Then a lot of people may not have noticed on the return that Vontez Duff came out of the end zone. Julius laid one of the best blocks we’ve seen. He totally collapsed the guy on the block.
Late in the football game I thought he continued to run extremely hard and I thought maybe wore USC down.
So I don’t know if he’s getting back to where he was as a freshman. He’s probably, in my opinion, probably a better football player now than he was then. You can see him having the more productive- or explosive-type runs he had as a freshman.
Q. Julius Jones has quietly kind of put his name up there in the returns with the Rocket – not so quietly at times – but with the Rocket and Tim Brown. I guess as he gets stronger and healthier, obviously he can help you in that regard.
COACH BOB DAVIE: I think so. If you look closely at the tapes, I think people would appreciate that we are a pretty good kick-off return team, both from a scheme standpoint and fundamentally. He’s taken advantage of that. There’s ten other guys on that kick-off return that really do an outstanding job.
I look at the tape as well. We look at the tape and grade that really hard and show our team. Just across the board, Mike Goolsby did some great things, Garron Bible, Derek Curry had a great block, Terrance Howard had a great block. So we’re getting a lot of effort out of those guys. Mike McNair’s one of the guards on our kick-off return team.
We spent a lot of time on special teams. If Julius can stay healthy, I think he probably at some point will break that record.
Q. You mentioned that Arnaz Battle would be ready for action this week. Can you touch on his health and how much you plan to use him, especially in light of how Hunter and Givens have been performing real well?
COACH BOB DAVIE: Well, I think we’re going to take it as the week goes. Arnaz is a smart guy. He really worked hard in the spring and in the summer to become a receiver through training camp. We’re excited about him coming back. From a standpoint of knowing what to do, that’s not a problem.
How much three wide receivers we use in the game probably depends on how he does through this week. To step up and go 50, 60 plays in this football game I don’t think is really feasible. It allows us, though, to maybe get David Givens back on some special teams, to get Arnaz – maybe not this week but next week – back on special teams. I think that’s where the biggest benefit lies for us, is just the depth in special teams.
David Givens last year was a excellent special teams player for us, whether it was punt returns, punt blocks, different things. And to be able to use him again in some of those capacities because of the depth at receiver is one of those hidden blessings of this.
Q. Notre Dame has not fared very well at night over the last couple of years. What particular problems does playing under the lights present, or is it more a fact that you just played good teams at night?
COACH BOB DAVIE: Sure seems like we played some good teams at night. I don’t know. I mean, it really doesn’t seem to make much difference when you play. It’s who you play and where you play seems to be the bigger overriding issue.
One thing you know, any time you play at night, that crowd’s going to be a little more heated up. They’re going to certainly have a lot longer pregame warm-up during the afternoon. You know, we don’t play at home at night. So at night it’s going to be on the road, and we certainly don’t get the benefits of having a home crowd on the road. If you look at the places we’ve played, there’s not many that go to those places at night and win. I don’t know if Nebraska’s ever lost at home at night. They’re 90-1 I think in their last 91 games. I don’t know if that one game was at night. You probably go back a long way to find out.
Oregon State last year, at the end of the season, I don’t think there’s a college coach in the country who really wanted Oregon State that night in that game.
But that’s no excuse. We just have another opportunity to go play. This is a neat atmosphere. I enjoy this game up in Boston. I think that’s really a atmosphere where those fans are right on top of you and there’s certainly going to be a lot of emotion in the stadium.
Q. Without disclosing any defensive game plan obviously, would you think in general terms of loading up the box to stop William Green, I guess it is, the star runner? Or would you give him some inevitable yards like the West Virginia game in the hopes of letting them beat you in the air? Or maybe the better play in the secondary against Southern Cal, would that change your whole thinking?
COACH BOB DAVIE: Well, I think you have to stop the run. I think he will rush for 200 yards on you if you don’t. I mean, you have to line up and stop the run first.
Obviously, they’re going to try to throw the football. It’s a matchup game you get in. It’s a cat-and-mouse game. Last year, they were in two back personnel I think 13 times, and threw the ball 10 times out of the 13 obviously thinking that we were going to try to stop the run when they were in two backs.
It’s a game. It’s a cat-and-mouse game back and forth. They are balanced. I mean, they are about 50-50 in what they do. But you are going to have to stop the run first. Because No. 1 is really a dominant football player.
JOHN HEISLER: Okay. We’ll take some questions from people here in person.
Q. Talking about John DeFilippo, what are the responsibilities of an offensive graduate assistant? What does that position entail?
COACH BOB DAVIE: I tell you, first of all, they have to be really advanced in computer skills. They do all of the computer breakdowns. They’re in charge of all the scouting reports, getting together the scripts for practice, of organizing the scripts, coaching the scout squad on the field. Just a lot of organizational skills and a lot of football knowledge.
You take a guy like John DeFilippo, he started out from day one breaking down Nebraska tape with all Nebraska’s defenses and learning what we call different defenses and what we call different stunts. Then grouping them together in tendencies and percentages that they do things.
So the biggest thing is to really, you know, learn to diagnose football, learn the terminology of everything. It’s a huge job, it really is.
The graduate system, as far as just overall organization with those five coaches on offense, a lot of it gets shoved on him. It is a job that literally, you know — I know our coaches, we come in at about 6:30 in the morning and go home probably at ten o’clock at night. Graduate assistants are there until one or two o’clock at night.
For instance, they’ll start tomorrow night and they will have all Tennessee’s games broken down. They will already be on not only what we’re doing day-to-day, but they’ll be one week ahead so we can get all those things in the computer. So it’s just a lot of things.
Q. But you guys don’t start looking at Tennessee, he just has that ready?
COACH BOB DAVIE: Right, so that we can start Sunday morning. It will already be done. It will already be organized: Tendencies, computers, groupings, tapes. So those guys do a phenomenal job.
Dennis Moynahan (ph), what he does for us on defense, is unbelievable. It really is. What a great learning experience. You only have two graduate assistants.
It wasn’t long ago, I can remember when I was at Texas A and M, probably in about 1985, at one time we had 16 graduate assistants. We literally had one graduate assistant that was in charge — we had our meeting rooms in a building, and then we met at the stadium with the players every day. So we’d have to go back and forth. We had two different setups. We had one graduate assistant that was in charge of taking tapes from building to building. That was his job (laughter).
We had different things like that. We had 16 of them. The NCAA has it down to where there’s two graduate assistants. It’s an unbelievable job. If you can get one, it’s a tremendous boost to your career because you learn a bunch of football.
Q. Gerome Sapp, coming out of high school, very highly touted. He probably hasn’t gotten as much playing time maybe in proportion to the publicity he got coming out of high school. What has he meant to your program? Obviously he made a huge play Saturday that was one of the keys of the victory for you.
COACH BOB DAVIE: He’s a great kid. He’s had some setbacks. He’s had a shoulder that was surgically tightened, I guess is the right way to say it. He’s missed some time because of that.
We’ve had some good safeties. There’s some depth there at safety. There’s some combination with AB (ph) and Ron Israel. He’s a great kid, and I think he’s a heck of a football player. He’s everything we thought he would be.
If you had a chance at the luncheon, he got up Friday and spoke at the luncheon in the Joyce center. He started off with a quote by Billy Graham, and just very eloquent. He’s a heck of a kid. His grandfather was a professor at the University of Houston when we recruited him. There was certainly a lot of ties to staying at home or going to the University of Texas. His mom is a sharp lady. He’s really a great kid. I’m pulling for him to have some good health, and I think he’ll be really productive.
Q. Earlier you mentioned on special teams about Goolsby. I got an E-mail from somebody saying they hadn’t seen Goolsby in the last three weeks. Has he been playing regularly on special teams?
COACH BOB DAVIE: Started on the punt team for us. Starts on the kick-off return team for us and plays on punt return team and the kick-off coverage team. So he probably gets 22 plays a game for us, 25 plays a game. He’s done a good job.
Q. At one time there was a battle between he and Courtney. It was – at least appeared – to be close, a spring ago. What has Courtney done since then that Mike hasn’t done? What steps does he still need to take?
COACH BOB DAVIE: You know what happens is sometimes the gap between Mike and Courtney is probably not that dramatic. It’s just that one guy starts playing and gains some confidence, and the coaches gain some confidence in him and it kind of takes on a little different personality, becomes kind of a mature guy.
So I don’t think the gap’s that big. It’s just that Courtney has done some good things. Courtney’s really smart. Not that Mike isn’t smart, but Courtney is a guy that really just latches on to things quickly. He calls the huddle for us.
You just don’t experiment much, you know, when you get a guy that’s going and going solid and he’s performing.
So Mike has done some good things. I think Justin Thomas also has done some good things. It’s just that there’s been no real need to make a change there. That’s one of the difficult things.
Q. In the day-to-day grind of your job, is it still fun? Do you still appreciate the job you have?
COACH BOB DAVIE: Yeah. Truthfully, more. I really do. I appreciate it more now and enjoy it more than I ever have. I was talking to Joanne about that just the other night. I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve seen so many things, that I understand that some things are just going to happen and there’s no reason to get frustrated about it, and you’re kind of above all of it.
I don’t mean to sound arrogant or to sound like some kind of a martyr, but it’s all about what the reality is to me. It’s about taking great pride in handling situations, being around players and being around coaches and trying to make it a positive and getting better. I enjoy it. I mean, I don’t really concern myself at all with what other people really think, to be quite honest. I’ve got great confidence in my ability, and I’ve got great confidence that we’re doing the right things. I feel good about it, I really do.
I enjoy day-to-day more now than I ever have. That’s the truth. I mean, I’m not trying to sound like someone (laughing)…
That’s just what it is to me. I enjoy it.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about Vontez Duff. He seems to have that mentality you need to be a successful cornerback – to come back, not let plays affect him. After he missed the interception, he came back and really made some big plays after that.
COACH BOB DAVIE: Tell you what, he came back after that interception and I was waiting for him. It’s hard to just jump a guy when he makes a play on the ball and he undercuts the ball and the ball goes over his head.
But I was waiting. We’re going to sac the quarterback or we’re going to intercept the ball. He comes up to me and pats me on the butt. So it was hard. He kind of diffused the situation. “Coach, everything’s okay.” I was ready to go after him.
Then he jumps in that huddle on the kick-off, I mean, his eyes were this big. He was coming out of the end zone with that kick-off. He could have gone literally into the tuba, he’d have brought it out. He is a little bull dog. I mean, I love the kid. He has a great personality. Every day he’s happy. Every day he’s competitive and he’s getting better. He’s a baby Brock Williams in some ways. He’s a guy that comes out there, and I think he’s made our corners better just because he’s a competitor. He’s added some spark to our team.
Q. Since Carlyle’s been starting for you the last four games, the averaging run, 100 yards rushing, and right around 20 carries I think. Is that in line with the way you sort of are comfortable with offenses being structured? And with the options, is this as comfortable as you’ve been with that sort of approach? Is there a danger in him running the ball too much ever?
COACH BOB DAVIE: Yeah, I think to answer the first question, I’ve always been an option guy, you know, a little more than drop back and throwing it. And I do think that’s what Notre Dame football is. I don’t think you’re going to see Notre Dame football be really successful spreading the field and doing what some of the other teams in this country are doing.
I think the tradition of this school is to run the ball. I think the type of players we get is more suited to running the football.
To run the football now, you have to be able to run option. Or, you spread it out and throw it. That’s where you make up your productivity. So I’m most comfortable in this.
With Jarius (ph), we had some great statistics in ’99 with his style of quarterbacking. But Jarius really wasn’t an option quarterback. He was a guy that was athletic, but he wasn’t an option quarterback. We never pitched a ball much. When we did pitch it, you held your breath. He was a quarterback that ran the option. He really wasn’t just a natural, inherent guy as far as running option.
I’m most comfortable in this offense. I feel like this gives us the best chance as we progress.
Now, can you run it too much? I don’t know. Nebraska, right now, has a chance to be the No. 1 team in the country. Have been as successful on offense as anyone over the years. And, I mean, they run it a lot with the quarterback. That’s the thing that they win games with. He’s their most productive player, he’s their most competitive player, he’s their most dynamic player. They’ve ridden on his shoulders.
Carlyle’s a guy, I mean, how do you not run it with him? He’s 222 pounds. He’s probably a legitimate 6-4. It’s hard not to. As a Carlyle Holiday gets older, sometimes a Donovan McNabb and those guys don’t run it as much. But as a young guy, he’s going to beat you with his legs.
I think we’re doing the right things with him. I think his future is best doing these things.
That’s why, to be quite honest, it’s remarkable how things are going. I think Bob Stukes (phonetic) tried to hire Kevin Rogers at Oklahoma. That’s where Bob was headed. Kevin Rogers didn’t go to Oklahoma. Bob goes with Mike Leach (ph) of Kentucky. So he goes from that to that.
When the offensive coordinator job opened here, I first went with Jim Coletto (ph) because Jim had an option background and a run-the-football background and also threw it. When Jim left, I went with Kevin Rogers. I mean, that was what I wanted to do. I wanted to beat Nebraska, I wanted to beat Syracuse. That’s how I think we can win.
The National Championship in 1998, it was Tony Rice and really a Nebraska-style offense. That’s what we are. I think – I don’t mean to just go off on this – but you look at the evolution of what we’ve had – I think four or five quarterbacks since last year. We went from Jarius Jackson in ’99, we had unbelievable offensive statistics. I think we were 20th in the country in ’99. We turned it over a lot because Jarius wasn’t an option guy. Mistakes were made.
Last year it goes from Arnaz to Gary Godsey, Matt LoVecchio, now it’s Carlyle Holiday. It’s been an evolution. There’s been some negatives to it.
Right now, as far as feeling it’s the strongest it’s been and the strongest foundation, I do feel that. Now we have to go play better and continue to get better. But I do feel that we’re stronger right now in a lot of ways than we ever were last year.
Q. Probably one of the things that concerns you most is losing a team that starts out 0-3, faces the schedule you face. How have you prevented that from happening? To what extent were you aware or are you aware that even as much as you block yourself out from what’s going on around the program, that within your program the players have said publicly that their cause is to take some of the heat off of you?
COACH BOB DAVIE: You know, I don’t really buy that. I don’t think that they’re playing because of that. I think they play because we’ve been very consistent in how we’ve coached them. We’ve never dealt with any issues, whether they were positive or negative, other than what’s on that tape. When we came back from A and M, the only statement I made, and the only thing that I was concerned about, was “Where were we offensively?” Because of some of the things I just talked about.
Where were we? We were transitioning from Matt LoVecchio to Carlyle Holiday, and we were kind of trying to do whatever the quarterback could do and tweak it. We are what we are. And I said, “What’s our bank of fundamentals? And where are we? What can we do?” Not: “Depending on who’s the quarterback in there what can we do?”
We made a decision at that time to be what we are and go forward.
I was never worried about losing this team. I’m still not ever worried about that. I think the kind of kids we recruit, the way we treat them, the way we coach them, I know what’s pulling at them. I know there’s a lot of things pulling at them on the outside. Human nature make-up kind of goes apart when things happen. But all I was concerned about was X- and O-wise, where are we, what can we do? That’s my only concern at that time.
I think we’ve gotten better since that point from that standpoint as well.
Q. In the preseason you talked a little bit about Nick Setta and your concern about the kick-offs not being deep enough. What has he done to put those fears to rest, as he must have at this point?
COACH BOB DAVIE: He really has. That’s something, I look at well-coached teams and I say, “Okay, let’s cut all the hype out there. Who are the well-coached teams and how can you tell?”
How you can tell is by kicking game. Kicking game and by X and Os. When I look at our kicking game, we’re a well-coached football team.
But also, the thing we have now is we’ve got some dynamic kickers. I look at Joey Hildbold, we started with him as a freshman. He’s now turned into a weapon for us. The same can be said with Nick Setta. Nick Setta’s sitting here with two more years of football after this. He’s become — not only scheme-wise, we’re pretty good kicking the ball now. He’s exceeded my expectations on kick-offs. I knew he would be a good field goal guy. He’s cocky and he’s confident and he’s going to be good when it comes to that.
Leg strength and kick-offs. What really impressed me Saturday, kicking into the south end in the second half, he kicked that ball deep in the end zone. That’s something that, man, we have worked hard to get that. That’s helped us.
Look at our kick-off coverage. I think their average field position was 22 yard line or something like that, USC. They’ve got some good athletes back there returning them. West Virginia had a kick-off guy that had 400 yard touchdowns over the last year.
So Nick Setta has really improved. He’s a lot stronger and he’s confident and it’s exciting.
Q. With the field goals and extra points, have you ever had to catch yourself almost taking him for granted at this point because he’s been so consistent?
COACH BOB DAVIE: Never. Protection and field goal, we have a walk-on snapper, a walk-on holder that do an incredible job. We work at field goal protection harder than any school in this country – harder. We grind them in field goal protection. It’s paying off. Our technique on field goal protection is pretty good.
Q. In terms of his athletic ability outside of football, how much more confidence does that give you in running fakes? You had one on BC last year.
COACH BOB DAVIE: It’s hard to keep getting those fakes. We did have one on BC last year. So we have one every week. I mean, we work hard to have one. It’s hard to get it called.
But I don’t concern myself with Nick Setta, I concern myself with the mechanics of the field goal team, the protection, snap and hold. If we get all those things done, I’m confident Nick Setta can make it from anywhere right now.
Q. Doesn’t make a difference that he had a track background?
COACH BOB DAVIE: Sure. It’s exciting, it’s intriguing. We faked two last year for touchdowns: One against Michigan State. And if I had been betting, I would have said it’s a touchdown. That’s why we do it, Nick’s an athlete.
You don’t want to take away points. You do it if it’s there. But, yeah, there’s no question with Nick back there and Tibble’s a pretty good athlete. So we try to take advantage of that.
Q. You said Sunday you thought your corners took it pretty personally, all the talk about SC receivers. You talk a lot about 6 Vontez did you have and Shane Walton’s personality. Can you comment on how those kids have taken on the roles of leaders, and both mentally and physically how they’ve done the job this season.
COACH BOB DAVIE: You know, I’m not going to embarrass them by saying this. I’ve coached corners that were maybe more gifted. Vontez and Shane both have a lot of potential, a lot of future. But there’s been other guys that have had ability. The thing about those two guys, they’re tenacious guys.
Shane Walton, just an example. On that fake punt, Shane Walton is an incredible kid. Personality-wise, I mean, he is an unbelievable kid.
The same with Vontez. So their personality is what makes them the kind of guys they are at that position. And I think the other players back there have responded. I mean, we hang them out there a lot. They’re out there on their own a lot of times just in a four-man rush. Those guys are worth their weight in gold.
For us to keep going, I mean, we have all those DBs back. Ron Israel and Clifford are the only two that don’t have eligibility after this year. For us to become a defense that can get in the Top 10 at the end of the season in total defense, we have to have those corners.
The reason we have played fairly good right now is because those corners have made some plays for us. I mean, you look at Saturday, there’s some plays that just like last year against USC, it’s right there. It’s either them making a play or us making a play. They’ve been able to step up and do it. I appreciate those guys now.
Q. You mentioned the urgency of handling the hostile atmosphere on the road. Holiday didn’t seem to handle it any better than anybody else at Nebraska. Are you revisiting the Nebraska breakdowns this week and figuring out ways to prevent that from happening again?
COACH BOB DAVIE: Well, I think that was kind of my point to David a little bit ago. I’d like to think we’re better. At Nebraska and at Texas A and M, we were doing a little bit of everything – trying to, number one at Nebraska, because of how they play, spread them out and check a lot at the line and throw some fades and try to beat them one-on-one coverage and try to throw the football and really spread the field. All good intentions.
Against and A and M, we go in there with a quarterback starting for the first time. We’re just now getting into what we really are – the options modes and three backs and some things. Once again, we’re in a well-oiled machine.
This is going to be a big challenge for us. I’d like to see if we’re coached better and that we’re playing better. I’m anxious to see myself.
So, yeah, we re-lived all those things prior to going to Boston College. That’s what we’ve done, trying to coach better, and I’d like to think we are.
So the crowd noise is going to be there. We can practice all we want out here in the back. It’s going to come down to being up there and doing it when the lights come on. I’d like to think we’re better. I won’t be disappointed if we’re not, so…
Q. Pretty much what he was asking but a little different. How big is it to avoid the avalanche early on?
COACH BOB DAVIE: It’s huge. Let’s call it what it is. We need to go up there and win this football game. We need to go up there and play like a football team that’s well-coached and play like guys that have a lot of character and all those things. We can’t sit here and just talk about it and say, “We’re better” and we’re this and we’re that. The bottom line: It’s huge.
It’s not a question of “Should we,” “Could we,” we have to. It’s the bottom line. We have to go play.
We have no excuses. We’re healthy. We’ve had the same quarterback now. We’ve been in the scheme now. We got to go do it. It’s no different than what it’s been.
Q. I’m saying early, you know, the first –?
COACH BOB DAVIE: Sure, sure.
Q. Just to get the ball rolling and avoid something like that?
COACH BOB DAVIE: I don’t think you can sit here and say, “Well, we have to avoid this happening.” Momentum, if you’re a well-coached team and a disciplined team, momentum will eventually come your way. I mean, if it looks bad, you’re gonna get it back at some point.
Now, did we look like a well-coached team at Nebraska? No way. And a little bit better at A and M. But bottom line, that’s not what I want to be known as as a coach. We have another opportunity to go do it. It’s easy to sit here and say, “Look, we have to get off to a great start.” Well you know what? They’re going to try to get off to a great start, too.
It’s how you respond when things happen. It’s how you respond. I’d like to think that we have our players in a better position to respond better.
Then I’d like to think our players have learned a lesson. So I think we’re more solid now. But to sit here and say, “We can’t let this happen,” you know what? It might happen. We got another chance. They’re going to snap that ball again, we’re gonna get another series on offense and another series on defense. If we turn the ball over, we go out there on defense, we get to stop them. We don’t have to let the momentum just go on us.
So that’s how I approach it. Bad things are going to happen no matter how hard we try to keep it from happening.
Q. Notre Dame obviously has one of those traditions in college football. Everybody you play is kind of gunning for you. Having been part of the Boston College series for a number of years now, is this a series, the rivalry, was it kind of built more at their end? Do you feel like it’s something where it’s always been such a big game for them that now they’ve kind of pulled Notre Dame into it?
COACH BOB DAVIE: You know, I came here in ’94, and we went up to Boston. I mean, they put a whipping on us as bad as any since I’ve been here. They may not have scored as many points as an Oregon State did against us or something, but they put a whipping on us now.
Every year, it’s been a competitive game. Every year it’s been a big game. Prior to ’94 or the ’93 game, I don’t really know. But based on my perspective of this, I mean, this is a big, big game and a big, big rivalry. So I don’t think that the advantage of being the little kid versus the big kid, or we’re at Boston College and they didn’t recruit you, they didn’t want you, that isn’t true in the year 2001 now. You may go back to some point prior to this ten years ago. That hasn’t been true.
I mean, I don’t see it – the haves and have-nots. They have a bunch of good players that both of us tried to recruit. They’re a successful football program.
So I see it two teams, one 5-2, one 3-3, trying to win a game.
JOHN HEISLER: Great. Thanks, everybody.
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