Nov. 13, 2005
COACH Charlie Weis: First of all, we’re happy to get through that game yesterday with a victory. We were definitely concerned with Navy and their ability and their aspirations to go to a Bowl, and I’m sure you’ll see that team we played yesterday in a Bowl somewhere this year.
As far as our performance, why don’t we start with the negatives. First of all, this was one of the worst performances we had by our special teams all year long. With the exception of the kicking of D.J. (Fitzpatrick) and the coverage of David Bruton, I wasn’t very pleased with just about anything we did.
We did average 12 and a half yards a punt return, which did go past the 4.2 average they had, but our kickoff average was poor, our kickoff return was poor. We almost had a punt blocked, we didn’t snap very well. We missed some opportunities in the punt return game. Twice we had a chance of taking it to the house, and we were one man away from that being the case, and I thought that of all the games we played this year, I thought that was our worst performance on special teams, and we’re obviously going to have to play a lot better against Syracuse.
On defense, there were a couple of definite positives, especially our performance in the second quarter. Our team in the second quarter, that’s where really the game was won. Even though they had over eight minutes of time possession in the second quarter, it was a quarter we won 21 0, and that’s where the game was pulled away.
Some of the defense played hard in what we call three takeaways. They had the one fumble recovery and the interception, but they also had a fourth down stop, and when you’re playing against a team like Navy and once they get on your side of the 50, you need to go for it on fourth down so you have to consider that just like a turnover.
We also had no penalties with the first group in there, and despite as I start to flip the other way and talk about some negatives, despite the fact that there weren’t very many big plays statistically, there were way too many six and seven yard gains on first and second down. When we talk about big plays, the over 10 yard runs or 15 20 yard passes, there weren’t many of those in the game but there were a lot of plays on first down that went for six or seven yards, which led to a poor conversion ratio. They were nine of 14 on third down and two of three on fourth down. A lot of that had to do with our play, which I didn’t think was very good.
Although I thought we tackled okay, I thought they were soft at times, and we were definitely too soft with the quarterback. We were fortunate, we didn’t get much of a ball disruption on the passing game. We were just fortunate they didn’t hit on some of these play action passes because we all saw there were some guys wide open, they just didn’t connect so they turned out to be long foul balls.
They had a touchdown on the first drive the first half, which I can attribute to the speed of the game, which is not a good thing, but what I didn’t like was we also gave up a touchdown the start of the second half, and we’ll be working on the starts of the games again this week even though we had emphasized that as a point for this week.
The guys that did really stand out for me on defense were really the interior guys, the combination of (Derek) Landri and (Trevor) Laws and when (Brian) Beidatsch was in there, too, those three guys inside and Cory Mays I thought really stood out.
All our problems really were on the perimeter, on the edge. They really got very little done inside because I thought that those guys were disruptive and they made a bunch of plays. Cory had a big day numbers wise in terms of tackles, but a lot of that had to do with the play of Landri and Beidatsch.
There was a lot of offensive production on the day. We ran the ball for 221 yards, for more than a 5.7 average; that’s a good thing. And our quarterback didn’t get sacked; that’s a good thing. We were in the red zone five times and got five touchdowns; that’s a good thing. We were eight for 12 on third down; that’s a good thing.
But as always, there are definitely some negatives. I didn’t think we did a very good job of finishing off blocks. We tried two fourth downs; we were one for two. We had a turnover; we hadn’t thrown an interception in a while and there was pressure on the play and an opportunity for a big conversion play on the play, and instead we end up turning the ball over.
Once again, unlike the defense that had no penalties and we had no penalties on special teams, we had three penalties on offense and three of them were majors, and that was an area of concern. That was an area that we emphasized, and I didn’t do a good job of getting that across. We’re going to have to keep on putting some pressure on them about some of these things.
The guys that stood out for me on offense, sometimes I take Brady (Quinn) for granted, but Maurice (Stovall) again had another huge day, I think (Anthony) Fasano had a big day in the passing game, and you have to give kudos to both running backs, Darius (Walker) and Travis (Thomas), and I thought they both played very well.
Q. Apparently Darrin Bragg ran the quarterback last week. What other players did you use?
COACH Charlie Weis: Well, we actually used Bragg and believe it or not Kyle McCarthy, who had been an option quarterback last year when he was playing offense. Both Darrin and Kyle were picked as our offensive scout team players of the week for their simulating the offense. I think they both helped us.
When the problem comes is when you try to put the whole ball of wax together and try to show the speed of the game. The looks were good in practice, but it’s so much slower than when you get Navy out there running them at the tempo they’re running them at. But I thought both Darrin and Kyle did a very good job for us on the show team getting us ready to go.
Q. I think you only had nine possessions and you scored six touchdowns. Is that about what you expected?
COACH Charlie Weis: We thought it would be in single digits. We thought that the game would be shortened. As a matter of fact, going into the game our goal on offense was to score points on every drive. We put that as a goal for the game because we didn’t let’s not be presumptuous and not be disrespectful who you’re going against. They’re trying to stop, you, too.
I was disappointed the way we ran the ball on third and long in plus territory and then threw a play action pass and came up short on that one, too. There was that one, then we had the penalty on Sully (John Sullivan) I think it was the one on Sully that ended up being a drive killer there. He ended up coming up with no points and of course the interception, but other than that it was just running out at the end of the game. For the most part, to get six touchdowns in that many possessions is actually a pretty good thing.
Q. You talked yesterday after the game about how you were in an ornery mood all week. How bad of a mood are you going to be in this week?
COACH Charlie Weis: Probably worse. You know, the one thing that’s going to be a little different this week than every other week, and it’ll be one of the things we get to on Tuesday, but as I talked to the players after the game, we discussed three things; we discussed Navy, we discussed Syracuse, and the last thing, which I felt was of equal importance to both Navy and Syracuse, was the last opportunity for several of our players to play at home for the last time coming up this week. That really, truly is something special, and I told the team that I expect them for the seniors to realize this is their last hurrah to play in front of their home fans, and I told all the underclassmen that one the biggest issues once we addressed Syracuse was to make sure that our seniors get an opportunity to enjoy their last game, and you really can’t enjoy it very much if you don’t play very well.
Q. After a while do the teams learn when Coach is in a bad mood, we’re in pretty good shape? Do you worry about them learning that mindset?
COACH Charlie Weis: I don’t know if they’ve figured me out yet. I think that eventually my schtick will get old, but right now they’re learning a different message each week, and when it’s a different message you really don’t know what the deal is going to be coming in on Tuesday yet; they just know what my general statements were to them in the locker room after the game. They don’t really know where this is heading yet, and I don’t have it quite down myself yet, so I have a little time to study before we get to that point.
Q. Your general idea for both you and the team is forget it, it’s over?
COACH Charlie Weis: They can enjoy it for Monday on campus. It’s one of the reasons it’s good to have Monday not being a football day, so they can have all the students tell them how great they are, get it out of their system, because come Tuesday they’re not going to be hearing that from me. I’ll let them have their brief time of enjoyment, and then on Tuesday we’ll get back to business.
The problem is with coaches by nature, the wins last a lot shorter time frame than losses do, so you enjoy the win briefly, whereas the losses you lament them a lot longer, and unfortunately that’s just the way the business is.
Q. You mentioned also yesterday about one of the reasons why you looked to the running more was the weather could be bad. Do you at this time of the week start looking ahead to the weather or just assume in November it should be bad weather?
COACH Charlie Weis: We check the long range weather every day. We look at multiple sites. They’re usually all wrong, but we check them anyway.
We’ll go to the local stations and the national stations and try to keep track of what it’s supposed to be like. We already have enough ammo, both on offense and on special teams to cover in case we got in that situation.
Earlier in my career there’s been a couple times where I felt a little bit unprepared playing Buffalo years ago when we went into this game and we were going to sling it all over the place, and the game started and by about halftime there was about eight inches of snow on the ground, the wind is blowing about 50 miles an hour and everything in the game plan you already had thrown out. You weren’t running one play that was on the game plan.
So I learned the hard way. I don’t know how many years ago that was. I remember we won the game in the fifth quarter. It went overtime. It was miserable. It went overtime, and I remember kicking a field goal with like 10 seconds to go.
It would have ended up in a tie, and I just remember that day saying I’m never again going to go into a game where we don’t have enough ammo if the weather is bad.
Q. You talk frequently about getting the team to improve as the season goes on, that that’s a big goal. Do you feel you took another step in that at home? In your career learning from the guys we learn from, what are the keys to making that happen? That’s certainly something every program would like to do.
COACH Charlie Weis: We definitely took a step as a team. Obviously when you heard me start off with special teams, I wasn’t very happy with that performance, so we probably took a step backwards on special teams. As a team one of the things as you grow up and mature as a team, you start to learn to win games when everyone is telling you how much better you are than the team you’re playing against, and you start believing what you’re reading, you’re setting yourself up for the fall, and the team is starting to learn that you can’t take anything or anyone for granted. That’s part of the maturing process of a team that’s starting to become a pretty good football team.
Q. Is it a little different for you now because you’re coming from a background in the NFL where at this point in the season it’s only half over?
COACH Charlie Weis: It’s a thing of beauty, it really is. It’s a thing of beauty. That’s one of the things my wife and I talk about all the time, saying, “Do you realize the regular season is over in two weeks?” For the last bunch of years we’d go into February. I understand we have recruiting and that’s a whole different facet. But to think that in two weeks, you won’t play a game for another month, that’s just unbelievable. People talk about the difference between the pros and college. I mean, time wise, it’s utopia.
Q. (Inaudible question about the short season).
COACH Charlie Weis: No, it’s been a long year only because one season ran into the other season. I’ll feel that way this year because it went right from the NFL right into this job, and even in the summertime it never really felt like vacation even though I took some time because you’re always worrying about the first time through. Until you go everything through the first time, right until signing day after signing day I’ll start to feel the residual positive effects of it being different. But until then, it’s been really nonstop since last December.
Q. There have been opposing coaches saying how good your offense looks this year and a lot of credit goes to Brady and your tailbacks and receivers and tight ends. Could you talk about how the offensive line has come together?
COACH Charlie Weis: He had all day to throw. As a matter of fact, when we start singling out people, I start talking to the coaching staff about people to single out, it’s really kind of tough to single out any of the offensive linemen yesterday because there were times that even Navy fell onto the wrong coverage that ended up being right for the play we had called, like a guy who was misaligned and was over on the wrong side of the field where we were actually trying to throw it, but because he had so much time to throw, he had time to go ahead and complete things. That and the fact that a lot of the runs, I thought the running backs ran well, but a lot of times at least at the point of attack there were some pretty nice holes for them to run in.
The line is a veteran line, is a mature line, and they’re a physical line. Usually when they’re not mentioning the line, it’s a good thing, because it usually means something bad didn’t happen.
Q. With the offensive line, how important is the chemistry of the guys working together instinctively knowing what the others are doing, and when did you think this line might have that kind of chemistry? Was it after a couple games where you start to think these guys can play together?
COACH Charlie Weis: The first part is I think that chemistry is critical. I’ve seen too many times where you didn’t have chemistry where it didn’t make any difference how good the players were; the communication wasn’t there, and it was a problem. Where I really noticed how good this offensive line was going to be was when we started that four man rotation after those three spots inside, and a lot of times that causes some animosity with players because they’re not playing every down.
I’ll tell you what, the way the accommodation of (John) Sullivan and (Bob) Morton and (Dan) Stevenson and (Dan) Santucci have rolled through a `four for three’ effortlessly like you never notice there’s a change in there; that shows you that you’ve got something special going with cohesion, and I think that both Ryan (Harris) and Mark (LeVoir) have done solid jobs all year long, and you don’t really notice them too often, and that’s a good thing.
Q. When you are rotating, how do you make the decision about when to take somebody out? Is it a matter of getting guys to rest or is it situational?
COACH Charlie Weis: Are you talking about in a game?
COACH Charlie Weis: You mean for a whole group or for one person?
Q. For one person, if you’re running somebody in and out, how do you make the decision when to do that?
COACH Charlie Weis: It all depends on the position. For example, if it’s an offensive line `four for three’ you’re just going by series. You take one series and then you just roll them through. Sometimes if it’s a running back, it might be by personnel group. Sometimes if it’s a tight end it might be by personnel group. Sometimes if it’s a secondary, it might be based off of going back and forth from regular to nickel to dime and such and such. There’s even teams that play linebackers with the same groupings; they’ll play one set of linebackers if it’s a run down and they’ll play a different set if it’s a pass down.
Right now we don’t have as much position flexibility as far as personnel goes, but eventually it could work that way where you’d even have more substitutions than we currently have.
Q. You talked about checking the weather and stuff for games. What about this year, you have a full length of the recruiting cycle. Do you plan recruiting week and say I’d like to get these guys in December rather than in January when the weather is really bad?
COACH Charlie Weis: Actually we’re planning more junior stuff in January to tell you the truth because there’s not going to be much action left to be honest with you. Most of our action is going to take place in the first couple weeks in December.
Q. In terms of recruiting, too, do you pay attention to how the guys that you’ve already got commitments from are doing in their high school seasons or are you focused on the guys you don’t have?
COACH Charlie Weis: As a matter of fact, in the next 24 hours I intend to talk to every guy that obviously we can’t go into any detail, but every guy who’s already coming, today and tomorrow, talk to all of them.
Q. What’s maybe you the most valuable thing you’ve learned about the college game this year?
COACH Charlie Weis: First of all, it’s been a very enjoyable, rewarding experience being at Notre Dame. You know, coming in, you really don’t know exactly how it’s going to play out. You plan how you think it’s going to be.
I just have enjoyed how I feel that everyone has kind of come on the same page, so I’d say if you asked me for one thing, I didn’t feel that way when I got here, and I feel that way now.
Even with the press, you think about it when we started, me trying to explain to you my philosophy on how you deal with the media and make sure that your players are representing your University the right way and that they need to be trained just like anyone else so we can handle ourselves professionally. In everything we’ve done, there’s been a learning experience, and I have not been error free needless to say, but I really believe everyone is kind of on the same page, and that’s a good thing.
Q. Going back to the schedule and kind of winding down, have you at all had to do anything to make sure you were able to maintain a pace or not get burned out?
COACH Charlie Weis: I don’t get burned out. This has been easier for me. Don’t take it wrong because I’m not being sarcastic, but that’s almost comical. I’ve had more time this year than I’ve had in my entire life. I’ve had more time to take it easy this year. That might sound crazy to you, but my wife and son are almost getting sick of seeing me. They’re not used to seeing me during the week before they go to bed. They actually see me.
My son said to me, “I’ve seen you more this year, Daddy, than I’ve seen you in my entire life,” and he’s 12. I have more energy this time of year. I’m usually at the halfway mark. Come February of an NFL season, you’re usually toast. You’re burned as bad as you could possibly be. You need a few days laying on the beach in Puerto Rico just to try to rejuvenate.