Nov. 20, 2005
COACH Charlie Weis: We’re glad to be able to send out 34 seniors dressed for the game with a win. That was probably the most important thing that we wanted to accomplish in that game yesterday, to win the game and send those guys out the right way. I was happy the way the game unfolded and all 34 of them got an opportunity to play in the game, and that made me feel good. But more importantly, it made them feel good.
You think about the opportunity for some of those guys to actually get on the field and play, I think that’s really a good thing. You know, as the game was going on early in the game, and we’re 3 0, down at the end of the first quarter, you don’t really know if it’s going to materialize the way you’d hope it to, but fortunately it got to be that point where you got to reward the seniors who were on the field by getting them out of there and getting those other guys an opportunity to go in. I was happy about that.
There were several outstanding performances of the day that I’ll cite in all three facets, some not so good. But starting with our special teams, with the exception of our protection on field goal and extra points, I thought that we were significantly better than we’ve been the last previous few times out there on special teams. We played much more physically. Our effort was really good, especially our coverage units, our punt coverage and our kickoff coverage. Our kickoff return, we played better than we’ve been playing. One key stat was our kickoff coverage; average starting point was just about the 23 yard line and that’s very good for starting field position.
I was pleased with the punt coverage. There were some guys like Chase (Anastasio) who’s credited with two blocks. He got them all day long and the first one led to a touchdown drive when we get the ball on the 36 yard line. Chase I thought played a really, really excellent game. He’ll be our special team’s captain going into the Stanford game. I’ll tell him here this afternoon. John Carlson, Anthony Salvador, Ray Herring, Travis Thomas, I think all these guys really stood out for me on special teams.
Obviously we’re not very happy with the field goal operation and the protection. They were close a couple times and then a couple of areas, but what we can’t do is can’t give up a blocked kick or miss a field goal. We can’t have a major penalty, unsportsmanlike penalty. That wasn’t smart on our part. We have to do a better job of ball handling on special teams, as well.
Our defense played very stout on the day. They played hard and aggressive, and we blitzed a whole bunch in this game. That was the plan going in. That led to a number of positives. We scored on defense, that’s the biggest positive.
In the game we gave them the first third down conversion in that first drive and then the first guys never gave up another third down conversion the rest of the game. I think they were three of 15 on the game. But the first group only gave up one third down conversion the whole game. Getting off the field on third down is always the key to success on defense. We didn’t give up very many big plays. They had the one 18 yard touchdown pass when the second guys were in there, but when the first guys were in there the longest pass completion was 12 yards.
We had three sacks. Unfortunately we had an opportunity for four or five more that we missed on. The three big plays we really gave up in the game with the first guys, the two quarterback runs and the one run down the sideline, and once again, Ambrose Wooden has been the story all year long. Seems like every few games there’s another touchdown saving tackle by Ambrose Wooden, which goes from it being a touchdown to it being a field goal. I obviously have to cite him out for that play.
In addition to Ambrose, I thought four defensive guys really stood out for me, and they were (Derek) Landri and (Victor) Abiamiri on the front four, and (Brandon) Hoyte and (Corey) Mays, they were all over the field all day long. I thought all four of those guys really stood out for me.
We did miss some tackles in the backfield. We had three penalties, two of them, the face mask, you know, that was definitely a face mask. I didn’t see it at the time, but they were definitely right on that. We had another personal foul; just not very smart football to get those, and the pass interference. You I could deal with that one right there, but the face mask and personal foul, lack of discipline and concentration.
On offense, I thought Darius (Walker) had a heck of a game running the ball, kept feeding him, and we’re trying to set up a couple things, and I thought he ran exceptionally well. As I said yesterday in the press conference, he had 26 carries for 123 yards. I thought he ran really well. Obviously the one time the ball came out of his hands we were fortunate that the ball went out of bounds, but once again, he had no turnovers in the game offensively, no interceptions, no fumbles lost, and they turn over once for a touchdown.
Usually when you win the turnover ratio, as I’ve said week in and week out, usually you have a good chance of winning the game.
On Brady (Quinn), you look at his statistics, everyone thought he had a horrible game. It’s just that we’re getting used to him completing every pass. So he goes 21 for 37 with 270 and a couple of touchdowns and no interceptions and gets sacked once, and everybody thinks he has a bad day. He would have liked to have had a whole bunch of plays back. There were three or four dropped balls that made a difference in our day that I wasn’t very happy with those, either.
The worst stat of the day, though, offensively, sometimes you look at end of game stats and see, well, we’re six of seven on third down, two of three on fourth down, but the first half we were zero for seven on third down. You know, that tells a lot from yesterday’s game and tells a lot where a lot of the energy is going to be going for this week’s game because they go hand in hand. To go six for 10 in conversions in the second half and go zero for seven six for 10 in the second half and zero for 10 in the first half, you obviously have a problem.
Red zone wasn’t our best performance. We scored one touchdown down there, and we only had 10 big plays on offense, which is one of our lowest totals of the year. We had one penalty on offense, and that was unfortunate, on the touchdown play. It was just an unfortunate penalty because (Dan) Stevenson was cutting a guy, he wasn’t tripping him, and they called him for tripping. He was cutting a guy, and when (Mark) LeVoir’s guy got in the blitz zone and dropped, he had no one to block. So instead of blocking air, which I prefer him not do that, he came and now pushed the guy on Stevenson, and then it turns into a high low, which you end up falling into an illegal block, which is really what it ended up being, but it was certainly not a tripping penalty. As a matter of fact, in the NFL they get fined for that because they call it an illegal chop block and they’d be paying some cash, whether it was their fault or not.
I thought there were three guys offensively that stood out for me. I thought Darius had a heck of a game running the ball. Sometimes you forget about guys like this, but I thought Matt Shelton made a couple big plays in the game, especially on those crossing routes, which both times changed field position. And the other guy who has done this week in and week out is Maurice Stovall. He’s a little banged up; we all made a big deal out of us putting that protective boot on him because his foot was sore, but I’ll tell you what, he got rolled up early in the game and nothing ever stopped him. He just kept on playing and played hard and he played well, too.
Q. I wanted to ask you something slightly off topic. I’m doing a story on Joe Paterno. Have you pictured yourself coaching until you were 78 years old?
COACH Charlie Weis: I’ll be happy if I live to 78 years old.
Q. Do you marvel at what he has done?
COACH Charlie Weis: It’s truly amazing that with the hours and the rigors of coaching that somebody could have the stamina to continue doing that. I know that coaches are always passionate towards their jobs, but I hoped that I’d be laying on a beach for a lot of years by the time I get to be 78.
Q. You had mentioned Brady’s numbers, taking those for granted a little bit, yet after the game he was saying it was maybe the worst game he had played all year. What does that say about his mentality?
COACH Charlie Weis: That’s really a good thing because, good or bad, he’s starting to be more like me. There’s good and bad in that, but he has raised his expectation of his own play, which I personally believe is a good thing. So now those numbers, to a lot of other people, would be impressive but to him that’s disappointing and that makes me feel good that he thinks like that.
Q. That leads into my next question about him being a little bit of a coach on the field and taking on your personality. When did you see that start to evolve?
COACH Charlie Weis: It started in the spring, to tell you the truth. As the spring went on the kid is a sponge now. He’ll take in anything you say. The important thing is when you have a leader, leadership cannot be faked. There’s been too many times where you ask for people to be leaders that aren’t leaders. Leadership has to be something that you really have; it has to be something inherent. It can’t be something that’s fabricated. He obviously has it and he has become a lot more vocal but within his own personality, and I think he’s done a great job.
Q. Can you comment on what it takes to be a good edge guy like Chase (Anastasio) yesterday?
COACH Charlie Weis: You have to understand that you’re almost always one on one. It’s almost always one on one and you have to make the decision about whether you can get to him around the corner or whether you’re going to go up and under, give him that fake to the outside and dip and come underneath him right there, and you have to do that in a split second. A good edge guy is somebody who can make a decision very quickly because that’s the only chance you have. And physically, you have to have the speed to be able to get there.
So one is thought process in a quick manner, the other is physically being capable of getting there.
Q. When did you recognize that Chase would have those qualities?
COACH Charlie Weis: I know (special teams coach) Brian (Polian) hasn’t sat in there most of the year. He had a block in the Washington game, so that’s quite some time ago that he had his first one. So he’s been on the edge a good portion of the year.
Q. With DJ (Fitzpatrick) missing the first field goal and then having the second one blocked, how do you not let that get him down but still let him know that you’re not happy?
COACH Charlie Weis: With a kicker, you’re going to go out and put him out there again. It isn’t like all of a sudden you’re going to bench a guy who’s been your starter for the last two years. You don’t just all of a sudden yank a guy because part of those kicks are his fault, but part of the problem is protection, too. So what you don’t want to do is make a rash judgment. You don’t even know for sure whether it’s the timing of the operation or the protection is the reason that the kick is being blocked until you watch it the next day. You have a good idea, but until after you’ve actually watched it the next day, I think it was a combination of both. But you just encourage them to speed up the operation and don’t worry about it, go ahead and make the next one.
Q. Talking about DJ, the kind of kid that he is, does he get frustrated or down?
COACH Charlie Weis: No, DJ is a little bit more of an athlete. You have kickers that are kickers and then you have kickers that are athletes. DJ is one of those guys that has always prided himself on being one of the guys as an athlete. Athletes usually can take something negative and put it behind them and go on and put it behind them and go ahead and make something good happen still.
Q. Lastly, you had said before that if at the end of the game it went down to you kicking a field goal and tying it or going for the win, you would probably kick a field goal to tie it because you feel you would be able to score. Does that come from having so much trust in him as a kicker?
COACH Charlie Weis: If you didn’t think your kicker would make it, that would be a different conversation, but I trust DJ.
Q. I read somewhere where either Belichick said or somebody said about Belichick that to be a great coach you have to have a great quarterback. Would you agree with that statement?
COACH Charlie Weis: They’re synonymous. You really can’t win big games on a regular basis without a front line quarterback. Every once in a while you can have a team with a dominating defense that’s so dominating that you can have a role player at quarterback; I think the ’85 Bears showed it, the Ravens a few years ago when their defense was so dominant what was that, 2002 or 2000? When they beat the Giants in the Super Bowl, their defense was so dominant that you could get by with Dilfer just managing the game or McMahon just managing the game. But normally to win football games on a regular basis, you need a front line quarterback.
Q. You know you talk every week about you feel like every opponent you have is dangerous, can be dangerous. When you’re facing a team like Stanford, who is going to be playing for its postseason life and is coming off a very disappointing loss in what is their biggest rivalry game of the year, does that make them any more dangerous?
COACH Charlie Weis: I could just go cite experiences that we’ve had ourselves and how we reacted. The easiest way for me to get through to our team is when I have an analogy that they understand, and we’ve experienced some of this stuff ourselves this year that they can draw back on to let them know what the other team is going to be thinking, and it’ll be pretty easy to get their attention.
Q. You talked about the disappointment with the breakdown in protection and the kicking game when DJ was attempting the field goal. They have a couple guys who are kind of known for being able to do that.
COACH Charlie Weis: I don’t think they were let me not say that. I don’t want to act like I’m not giving Syracuse credit. They were excellent plays by their guys. But we would have expected our guys to have done better.
Q. Early in the year you had difficulty with the blitz zone and then you seemed to straighten it out. Was that the most pressure that Brady has faced in quite some time?
COACH Charlie Weis: He got pressured about four or five times. He got sacked once, and another time when they got the personal foul that we ended up getting, it didn’t count as a sack, but it was a sack. There was a personal foul on the play.
I thought that (the Syracuse) defense gave us a full plate yesterday. I don’t think that they were turning them free all day long, but there were several times we would have liked to have had a lot better operation as far as protection goes.
Q. You mentioned that Brady, for better or worse, was becoming more like you. At this point then do you back away a little bit or are you always kind of applying pressure and pushing him still?
COACH Charlie Weis: You say things differently, like where before you would jump on him, now when he comes over, I’ll say I’ll ask him my typical, like, “What were you thinking,” or “We’ve got to do better than that, son,” things like that. You don’t need to say as many things as you would early in the year because he already understands what you’re saying without you having to go into detail of what you’re saying. Like if we have a run pass option that we’ve been running all year long that we handed the ball off when there’s 100 guys in the box and we wanted to throw the ball, and you say, “Look, you’ve been doing this all year long. Why all of a sudden would you not do it?” A case like that. Where early in the year you’d have to explain to him, “Now, there’s seven guys in the box.” You’d have to go into the true Xs and Os version. Now you don’t have to do that because he already has a much higher level of understanding, where you can say it quickly and without being condescending or demeaning.
Q. I know you’re a points and not stats guy; you mentioned that yesterday. Your defense is now 37th in the country in scoring defense. Can you talk about that?
COACH Charlie Weis: We’ve said all year long that our defense was going to have a bunch of guys that knew what to do and they’re going to run the ball. As a matter of fact, yesterday was the least amount of mental errors they’ve had all year long. With the amount of pressure we were bringing yesterday, which is a little bit unusual for us, to have single digit mental errors which we had in the game, that’s a good thing. So the attention for detail is good, and I there are a lot of guys that stepped up and played really solid football for us all year long.
Q. Are you comfortable enough to ratchet up the pressure like you did yesterday against everybody, or does that depend on the opponent?
COACH Charlie Weis: It’s a game by game situation. Sometimes it’s down and distance oriented, sometimes it’s personnel oriented. I’d say it’s a weekly thing, studying on what you think is going to work. But yesterday was the day going in where our philosophy was we were going to put a lot of heat on them.
Q. Just following up on Chase, he seems to really embrace that role, and he’s a kid that had more playing time at wide receiver in the past, returned kickoffs, but he really seems to buy into this role that he has. How do you get a kid to do that?
COACH Charlie Weis: They all want to get on the field and they all want to make plays. There isn’t a player out there that doesn’t this is how I talked about creating a little niche for yourself. Well, this is like a little niche; this is like his deal.
The more you do it, the more success you have, the more people have to start game planning you, and that always makes a player proud when they know that they have an opportunity hey, he had a lot to do with us winning the game yesterday. He just wasn’t a guy rushing punts; he had a lot to do with us winning the game.
Q. A lot of times after the game you talk about how you address the game in relation to that game and what lies ahead. What were some of the things you talked about yesterday?
COACH Charlie Weis: First of all, don’t ever be unhappy with a win. You always should be happy with a win. Sometimes people are unhappy. I said let’s talk about all the positives. I was really happy for the seniors, so were they. It was a pretty joyous locker room yesterday because they felt good for all those guys getting an opportunity to play.
Immediately we talked about a little wrap up on Syracuse and then we talked about Stanford and then we talked about Thanksgiving week and how there’s natural distractions built in, and we talked about some of those things, but more importantly, this was a senior moment, wrapping up Syracuse and then basically getting the thoughts on Stanford, realizing that we’re both playing for something big.
I think it was very clear that they understood that if Stanford lost to Cal yesterday, they were going to need to beat us to be bowl eligible. Conversely, just the ramifications for us are pretty much now we’re at that point now where they understand what we need to do this week. We need to win just to have an opportunity to possibly go to one of the big games.
Q. Playing in Stanford, being home for as long as you are, is that kind of foreign or are you looking forward to getting back out on the road?
COACH Charlie Weis: I’ll tell you, it’s been nice once we’ve settled in. Once we’ve settled into the routine, it’s been nice. But this team has shown that they can go on the road and perform well, and that’s what we’re expecting this week.
Q. Is it a good sign when you talk about maybe not as good as a game as you’re used to, trouble converting 3rd downs in the first half and you still have 30 points? Is that a sign that offensively you played great except for those three points?
COACH Charlie Weis: That’s basically a good thing. I talked to our coaching staff about that today. You walk in and everyone looks like the voice of doom, and I said the score was 34 to 10, right? Do I have the right score on this game? It’s amazing sometimes, and I’ve done that where I’ve been guilty of that myself. I’ve cited a couple of examples with the staff and from earlier in my career where I’d call a game on offense and we were going up and down the field and scoring a bunch of touchdowns and you come in on Monday and you hear how horrible the game was because the head coach was mad at the defense so you had to take the lumps right along with them.
I thought there was some definite big positives as I cited out, and the fact that the players are starting to think like that, that the expectations are such that they expect to play good each week, that makes you feel good that their level of expectations has continued to go up.
Q. You mentioned a second ago about one of the things this week, you finally talked to the team about or is that..
COACH Charlie Weis: I mentioned in conjunction with this game this week how winning or losing could have something to say with the level of extra game they end up playing. I might have mentioned that to them.
Q. I know you were paying attention to the field. Did you happen to see the tortillas flying around?
COACH Charlie Weis: I’ll tell you what, I didn’t see too much of that during the game, but I really enjoyed the moment after the game of watching the players and the fans. It was really cool to be able to stand back and stand away from it and just enjoy the moment because I really looked at the alums to tell you the truth. That’s how I was looking at that moment. I was just standing back and saying this is really cool. The only thing is I had a better seat than most of the alums.
Q. Any further thought on the oranges or the tortillas?
COACH Charlie Weis: I hope that we go play a great game against Stanford. I hope we win, and I hope for our whole University and everyone affiliated, including the media, I hope for the alum, for the student body, but most importantly for the team and the people affiliated with the team, I hope that we go out and play our best against Stanford, I hope we win and I hope we have an opportunity to go play in one of those big games on January 2nd or January 3rd and see how we can make out.
Q. A lot of us have noticed a different Maurice (Stovall) from last year to this year. Since you got here a year ago have you noticed any changes in him?
COACH Charlie Weis: Maurice Stovall? He’s one of my favorites so I’m prejudiced. If you’re asking me to say something, you’re going to get nothing but high accolades about him. First of all, I love him as a kid. On any level he can play for me, it wouldn’t make a difference. As a coach on the next level, he can play for me there, too. He’s the type of guy you want on your team. For me to say that, you shouldn’t have to say anything more.
Q. Besides the weight loss, have you guys had to do anything with him, work with him at all?
COACH Charlie Weis: If you just talk about weight loss, he said he’s tired of hearing about this weight loss stuff. There have been a lot of things he’s done. For one thing his hands have proved to be very consistent. He has shown what I call `pluckability.’ `Pluckability’ is when that ball is up for grabs and they seem to pluck it out of the air; I call that `pluckability.’ He blocks, he gets off the line of scrimmage, he runs well. Just remember that one inside cut that he caught when he sat in the hole and then he turned upfield for another 20 or 30 yards, that’s not just your normal average big guy; that’s a heck of a play right there. He’s really had a really good year for us. He’s got a very bright future in this game.
Q. You said yesterday when he throws up those passes that Maurice, the acrobatic catches, he has the best seat in the house. What’s it like for you to watch from the sideline?
COACH Charlie Weis: When it’s up for grabs in the pass, you say that’s an incomplete pass. Now I’m just waiting to see how is he going to come up with this one. I tell Brady just keep the ball in bounds because if you keep it in bounds you’ve got a chance that the ball is going to be caught. That’s a couple weeks in a row now he’s made just great catches.
Q. In follow up to that, you mentioned hands, and it seems like most of the receivers on your team have soft hands. Is that something that can be learned or taught, or is soft hands just something that they have?
COACH Charlie Weis: You can improve hands. The biggest thing you can improve, though, is consistency of hands. Sometimes they just can’t catch anything. Ask Brandon Hoyte, he’ll tell you, he has a tough time catching anything. But for the most part you can improve consistency. But soft hands can be improved by rapid fire throws, especially at a short distance, where you start having to catch the ball with fingertips instead of just catching it with the palms of your hand all the time. Just like a body catcher can be taught to catch the ball with his hands when they start to have the confidence that they’re going to catch the ball with their hands.
Q. I know you don’t look ahead to match ups, but yesterday was rivalry Saturday. Did you get a chance to enjoy any of the games after you were done?
COACH Charlie Weis: I watched a little bit of Clemson South Carolina game because of my time in South Carolina, and it went as I thought it would do, right to the end of the game. I remember my years at South Carolina, how fierce a rivalry that was. Obviously I didn’t get to see any of the Michigan Ohio State game or any get to see any of the Auburn Alabama game. I didn’t get to see any of those games. But I really tried to get a little peek at four different games yesterday. I’m driving my wife nuts, but I wanted to watch a little bit of the Miami Georgia Tech game, which isn’t really a rivalry game, but I got to watch a little of that game and watched a little of the Stanford Cal game and USC Fresno game, and finally I called it a night about quarter to 12:00 because that alarm clock was ringing at quarter after 4:00 and I thought enough was enough by that time.