Jan. 1, 2006
THE MODERATOR: Coach, we’ll turn it over to you for opening comments.
COACH WEIS: Well, let’s get this coach of the year out of the way before we get talking about the game.
Obviously, I’m honored to be thought of in the light of guys like Parseghian and Coach Holtz, but anytime you get an award like this where only one person gets the award, but that would be selfish and egotistical to think that’s the reason Notre Dame had a good year.
It all started after they hired me, giving me the resources to go hire what I feel was the best group of assistant coaches. Obviously, I’m prejudiced, I’m sure everyone feels that way, but those guys, together with me, I thought, provided some pretty good guidance for a great group of kids who really stepped up and had admirable year and are looking to finish it off this month against our formidable opponents, Ohio State.
Thank you to everyone associated with this prestigious award. Coach Robinson is a legend, and sometimes the people don’t realize the man behind the award. It definitely tells you, not only was he good, but his perseverance was beyond reproach. I’ll accept the award, but on behalf of the University of Notre Dame, not on behalf of Charlie Weis.
On that note, let’s move on to this game. Obviously, both of these football programs are a fine institutions, rich with tradition, and geographically it’s a great matchup for those of us from the Midwest. I think it’s only 280 miles separating our two schools. The fact that we don’t play on a yearly basis, Notre Dame and Ohio State, it makes it great.
We have to play other schools and there’s only so many people you can squeeze into a schedule. The fact that we get a chance to go against our geographical neighbor, and an obvious competitor in battle, I think this is a really great matchup.
They’re a fine football team, top to bottom. The coaching staff, right through all three facets of the game, we’re well aware we’re going to have to bring our A game to win. I am proud how my guys responded here, especially down the stretch. There’s been a lot of trials and tribulations in the last year, but they put themselves in a position to play in a January 2nd game. I’m hoping to ring out the 2006 season with our first win and only game we get to play in 2006, and this happens to be it.
For those of you who don’t know me, I live one game at a time anyway. We’re really looking forward to this game tomorrow afternoon.
THE MODERATOR: Open it up for questions.
Q. Happy New Year, Charlie.
COACH WEIS: You, too. I’m glad to hear your voice is a little better today.
Q. I think you might be the only one who would say that. Thank you. Are you hoping your team lets ‘er rip and this is a springboard to next year and will be back in the Phoenix area?
COACH WEIS: We’re going to let it rip. What happens is something else. It won’t be because we will holding anything back. I think they’re well prepared and definitely peaking at the right time.
As far as a springboard to next year, I’m not going to get into conjecture. I’m only worried about this game on Monday. I’m worried about ending up 2005 with this game, not starting 2006.
Q. We all know you have been to the top of the mountain. This is a new experience for you. I mean, are you excited to stop talking about this game and go out there?
COACH WEIS: The only new experience is having to deal with the press on a daily basis. This is not a new experience for me. I’m used to this.
Q. I meant on the college ball experience.
COACH WEIS: Football is football. I definitely don’t separate the two. I do not draw any comparisons. I just say this is exactly the way we do it, and to be honest with you, this last two-week stretch is almost a copycat experience to the one we ran the last two years.
Q. Special teams, how much of a difference can this be? The special teams, is that maybe something that would tip the scales a little bit more than normal in this game?
COACH WEIS: There’s two things you really have to be concerned with, and I’ll talk about the kicker, first of all.
Anytime a guy has kicked off 70 times and 49 touchdowns, this kicker is definitely a weapon on two dimensions: One puts points on the board; secondly, you get those two returns, you put them both out there, they put back there on all the kicks and punts.
Every time you kick or punt the ball, they have a chance to score. Trust me, I will be watching all the kicks and punts. There’s no worse feeling in the world — I remember back in 1996, the only time I was associated with a Super Bowl team, we did lose. We cut the score to 7 against the Packers, I’m talking to my guys how great it was, next thing they go running up the sideline for a touchdown.
Q. Coach, from what you’ve seen on film, is this the biggest challenge defensively what Ohio State brings this season?
COACH WEIS: I would say probably the most complete defense. We have gone against some good defenses. It’s no big secret that the University of Tennessee’s defense was very, very good this year. Ohio State is good on all three levels. Sometimes you have a dynamic front four, or a rock solid second, but fortunately or unfortunately, they’re good on all levels.
Q. I talked to your son and he said the only advice he would give you is win, Dad. Is it nice to hear something so matter of factly.
COACH WEIS: That’s the way we approach this game and every game. It’s really about winning. Obviously, we can talk about playing with integrity and all of those things, but don’t ever tell me about a good loss. There’s no so thing. I will heed his advice. Tell him that was good advice.
Q. Do you think Ohio State has any kind of advantage having gone through this out here, this will be the third out of the last four years?
COACH WEIS: I would hope not. They do it their way, we’re doing it our way. The way our players are doing it this year, they’ve never done it this way either. I told them if you want to go out on the town, go ahead, but I can tell you what the Patriots were doing last year. This is the way professionals at the top of the game handle it. I think it gave our players a much greater awareness, both mental or physically, the way to go. This is the only way I know how to prepare, and that’s just the way I’ll do it.
COACH WEIS: I don’t know if they welcomed it or not. I gave them an opportunity to talk about themselves. I wasn’t going to listen to them anyway, but I gave them the opportunity to come back to them with a couple of my typical rhetorical questions, and they came back to me feeling like it was the way to do it. I didn’t look at this trip right here as we’re going to paint the town red. We’re trying to play a game on Monday.
Q. Charlie, Baltimore is not really known as a football hotbed. Can you talk about the two players from there on your roster?
COACH WEIS: I’m happy we have both of them. Somebody asked me at the end of the year who was the one player that was the biggest pride this year. I came up with Ambrose Wooden. We didn’t have him last spring. Now we get to the summertime, he’s been the starting corner for us. He’s played very well.
I would say Victor, he was coming off a banged-up shin last year, and I think at the end of the year in the last game of the year he had four sacks against Stanford. I thought that was his best performance in the end of the year. I think the sky is the limit.
Q. Charlie, did you do anything different for a neutral site game because you have been through those before?
COACH WEIS: First of all, I hope it is, but no, we try to treat this, I’ve lost twice at home this year where we haven’t lost on the road. This is a road game for us. Every time we left the building — we try to treat it that way. I haven’t done as well with the home game.
Q. Charlie, you mentioned the Patriots and how they handle the Super Bowl week. How familiar has it been?
COACH WEIS: I would say very likely, to be honest with you, all the things we had to do at nighttime, I went to none of those things. I would just stay back at the hotel. My wife wanted to do all those things, but I didn’t do all of those things. That’s why it’s so good to have so much confidence with your assistant coach.
Q. You guys have been labelled the underdog. Do you feel like the underdog?
COACH WEIS: Labelled by who? We’re no underdog. We got two great football teams. I don’t worry about underdog, point spread, those things are irrelevant to me. You have two teams that both have an equal chance of winning.
Q. It’s been a while since you played your last game. Trying to get the guys ready for the game and not get too high too early, do you think you can accomplish that?
COACH WEIS: I think taking the first three weeks after the Stanford game and really doing very little football was probably that approach. Of course, they had meetings with Rueben, who is our strength coach, who likes to be with these guys about 5:30, 6:00 the morning.
We only had two practices in the first three weeks. It was more important to me not to burn them out physically and mentally, and the individual benefit of that was let them close out the semester strong.
It was important for me to give them the time to be students. They did a great job closing out their semesters, and then as soon as those times are over, we got back and I took my comfort zone for a big game, which is a two-week mode, and then I fit my schedule right in for the things I have been used to.
Q. AJ Hawk spent time at the Quinn household over the holidays. Did you ever consider asking Brady to take his playbook out of the house?
COACH WEIS: He didn’t take it home. Laura has given us all sorts of information on what Ohio State has done. She’s done a great job of feeding us information.
Q. Mr. Weis, one thing you talked about going into this season is how Walker reminds you a lot of Kevin. Can you talk about the importance of this season, not only as a running back, but catching 36 passes in the backfield?
COACH WEIS: He has had a very solid year. He’s shown to be a closer, a closer in football vernacular is somebody who’s playing his best at the end of the year. And you notice the last three games he’s got more carries and he’s been more productive.
I’m a game plan-oriented coach. I’m going to do what the game plan allows me to do. It’s important for you to get the ball in his hands enough time to make some plays.
Q. Charlie, you’ve talked about using Era or Lou as a resource. Have you talked to them?
COACH WEIS: Not in the last week, but in the last month. Sometimes it’s well wishes, or how did you do that, how do you do this.
Most those two guys have been two of the best confidants I can have how to do things at Notre Dame. In my eyes, those are the two guys that have been there and walked the walk. Before I try to act like I’m on a pedestal with those two guys, I use every chance I can get.
Q. Can you talk about what Coach Minter brought to the team, the contributions to this season?
COACH WEIS: When I got hired here, obviously I’m an offensive guy by nature. That doesn’t mean you don’t understand defense, you probably understand it in a different way. It was important for me to have a staff with a lot of experience.
So you can put them all together right there. I hired three experiences guys that I didn’t have to worry about coaching the coaches. Too many times the head coach is so obsessed or so possessive that they have to be in charge of everything.
What I do is I watch all the offensive tape of the opponents, and then I’ll say to Rick or to Bill, I’ll say “Here’s what I think different, we need to do this more,” but at the same time, I basically let Rick run the show. I think you’ll notice the defense has improved as the years go on from the first day to the last day, and I think that it’s …when all is said, we’re done_ definitely — we’ve definitely moved great strides in the right direction heading it to the future.
Q. Coach, along that same line, Tom was saying — I was asking him about the fact that the Ohio State offense has been overlooked, and he said it’s been that way all year. How involved do you get as far as do you worry a little bit about maybe the defense has been — has the same potential the offense has?
COACH WEIS: What I do is I try to use conversations from my past, and a perfect example to that is two years ago when we were playing in the Super Bowl against the Panthers, the game was built up to be John Fox against Belichick, two defensive masterminds. Basically, I have been — (inaudible). I say you’re not worth a darn now that I’m at Notre Dame. Basically, I try to play to that. That’s the way I am. I think it helps me when I’m trying to work on it.
Q. You mentioned that you’re more of an offensive guy. Reading in the paper I saw that Notre Dame had the highest increase in yardage between last year and this year. What was the differences between this year and last year? Is there a reason for that?
COACH WEIS: First of all, I wasn’t there last year so I ‘d rather not comment on last year. We’ll talk about the progress of this year’s team. Anytime you have 11 returning players on any season, anytime you have all 11 players back, anytime you return 11 returning guys, you know walking in the door you should expect that group to be better.
You should just expect it to be better, because there’s nothing like experience, so it’s kind of an unfair question, because that would be, you know, a shot at the previous staff. It’s kind of an unfair question, because when you’re returning every player that was already playing for you, your expectations should be for improvement to naturally take place.
With that having been said, it comes down to I think we’ve played better in every position. A lot of that had to do with they had already been battle tested and had experience.
Q. Can you size up Troy Smith, maybe his technical ability and what may be you perceive as his leadership ability?
COACH WEIS: First of all, he worried me the most of anyone on their team. What scares me is anytime you have a quarterback, and especially a quarterback who started out with a reputation of being a runner first, and a thrower second, and now has reversed those roles, you have a problem.
The reason you have a problem is if you say — forget about running the opposite, which is a whole other story, anytime he’s back for a pass he can take it himself. It’s the multidimensional players that scare you the most. He knows he’s a passer first and runner second, and that’s the toughest thing to teach a quarterback that has athleticism to realize that.
I think he’s learned that, and you can see him evolve from the beginning of the year to the end of the year where he now understands that he’ll run when he has to, not when he wants to.
Q. Charlie, talk about the personal satisfaction this year with the team and to get where you are at right now.
COACH WEIS: I’m content with the progress the team has made. You know, I’m content and I’m happy for my staff and I’m happy for the players. I’m happy for the administration and I’m happy for the university.
To be honest with you, I’m not happy personally. We lost two games. When you’re the head coach, you better take that responsibility. If you’re waiting for me to do cartwheels, you will be waiting a long time.
Q. How would you label a 10 and 2 and a win over Ohio State season?
COACH WEIS: That’s a good question. I addressed the team with that very statement. People want to go back at this point in the season, especially with this being New Year’s, people go back and reflect over the previous year and look at the different games. I think that you’re always remembered by how the season ends.
You can beat a team like Ohio State and end up 10-2, I think people will leave the season with a good taste in their mouth. If you lose, everyone will say well, you made some nice progress but you’re not quite there yet. That’s really not how you want to go into the off-season. To me, this is a very, very clear case of black and white. There’s no subjectivity here. At this point, all you can do is win one game. That’s all that’s left. There’s no other games to play. I think this will be the one that our season will be marked on, and we’ll try to gear it in that direction.