Nov. 4, 2007
COACH WEIS: Obviously it was a very disappointing loss yesterday. My biggest concern right now is 2:00 or so when the team comes in to get over that loss.
Yesterday was probably as disappointed as I’ve seen our team when I went back in the locker room. After I was done with media, there were a lot of guys that still hadn’t gotten out of their uniforms that were still sitting there. You could see how much it meant to them. That’s a positive, not a negative.
So today that will be my biggest concern, just working on getting them back up and getting them ready to go. We’ve had a string of, this year, a string of things that have gotten them down, and they have shown perseverance and been able to rally each time. I’m counting on that being able to happen again. With that I’ll turn it over to you.
Q. I think we all forgot to ask about (Pat) Kuntz yesterday. What is his situation?
COACH WEIS: They went in and did an X ray that was inconclusive at the time. I think they have to wait until it settled down and take another one today. He got a knee in the back is what happened, so I don’t know. That’s what happened on the play, he got a knee in the back. So I don’t know what the overall report is yet, because he’s going to meet with the doctors usually about 20 after 1:00. So I’ll have a better idea what’s going on there. I don’t know if they’re taking an MRI or what they’re doing today. But I just know that they told me he was going to come out in street clothes in the second half, and I saw him out there in street clothes. That is about as far as I knew. And I was going to wait until today to have a better idea what’s going on with Pat.
Q. Having watched the tape of the game, your assessment of (Evan) Sharpley’s second start?
COACH WEIS: Oh, I think it was okay. You know, I think there were some passes he’d like to have back. We had four drops in the game so, that didn’t help matters. But there were some passes he’d like to have back.
Probably the thing, the biggest play, you know, we had a runaway rusher on the screen pass. They had the strip-sack-fumble. So I can’t blame him for the runaway rusher. But I can blame him and tell the quarterback they’re still responsible for taking care of the football. So I would not put that sack on his responsibility. But giving the ball up, I think that’s something that’s never acceptable.
Q. Is (Jimmy) Clausen healthy enough to be a full time player now?
COACH WEIS: He could have gone in the game this week. I think he’d be fully ready to go this week.
Q. I asked you yesterday, and you thought Evan would probably still get most of the reps. Do you kind of wait through the week and look at it?
COACH WEIS: Yeah, I think that we would definitely wait. Now that I’ve seen both, they both go together though. Having watched the game and seeing where Jimmy is, I think a combination of those two things puts it a lot more even than I would have thought yesterday at that time.
Q. You were asked after the game about the field goal. You mentioned into the wind, and you had seen Brandon (Walker) in practice not be able to make that.
COACH WEIS: We’re trying to get to the 20-yard line. So what I did is we also wanted, he felt that the best kick was from the right to right middle. So that’s why on the play before that I ran stretch to the right, figuring we’re on the 24-yard line. If I can get to four yards on the play, I won’t get the first down, but I was — instead of centering it, you know, he really wanted it right right middle.
So running the stretch play to the right was designed if I didn’t get the first down, to go ahead and get us four yards and get us to the 20 on the right right middle to come out and kick the field goal. But we had no gain or lost yardage on the play.
Q. He’s a freshman and would figure to get stronger and more accurate as he gets older. Do you feel this is a kid that in time would be able to make a 41-yarder into the wind?
COACH WEIS: Well, do I think they’ll be able to do that? Yes. I think they’ll be able to do that. But from the 24 and a half, it’s actually, you know, it’s a 42-yarder where you want your guys in warm ups. I think it’s important to know where you can feel that is the boundary of the range with the wind and without the wind. And we felt that in that case, you know, anything over the 20-yard line in this case was going to be a bit of a stretch.
Q. You have often said sacks are a product of a lot of different things. In terms of yesterday, how would you evaluate the offensive line in that facet?
COACH WEIS: Well, the one sack is a naked bootleg where we just hold on to the ball. That doesn’t belong to the line. Other one down at the end of the game, the guy launches over Armando (Allen’s) head. The linebacker, 34, I forget his name off the top of my head, launches over Armando’s head. As a matter of fact, not that I was whining for it, but it could have been a blow to the head because that’s where he ends up going to on the play. It’s not that I was counting on that being the case.
We turned the runaway rusher on the strip-sack-fumble and we got beaten one of the times. So really with the offensive line there were two times that were sacks attributed to them. One, you know, a mental error, and the other one getting beaten physically.
Q. When you look back over your career, is there any parallel season to this that gives you hope that, okay, this is going to happen? I know what it looks like when we’re pulling out of this? Like maybe the (Drew) Bledsoe year?
COACH WEIS: Actually, I can tell you exactly the year because I was thinking about it early this morning. You’re trying to pull back from your frame of reference to where did something like this change?
And it would have been the first year where New England and Drew was a rookie. We started off the year 1 11. Then the one game we won was against the Phoenix Cardinals on a lefty tip pass. I remember we tipped the pass, and our fullback, Kevin Turner, who the ball wasn’t thrown to, ended up catching the ball and taking it 80 yards for a touchdown. That was our one win out of the first 12.
Then we got into the month of December and we got a close win, a close win. And the next game we won again, and the next game we won again. We ended up the year going 5 11. And the following year we went 10 6 and went to the playoffs. So if you’re asking me for something I’m trying to relate it to from my past, that would be the one.
Q. Other than the victory, what did you see that changed in the last few games because the next year the things turned?
COACH WEIS: Well, the first thing you need to learn how to win. That is the first thing that has to happen. That’s easier said than done.
Someone asked how do you teach them how to win? Well, really, you need a game like yesterday go your way. It doesn’t have to be a one-point win, it might be a seven-point win, might be a 10-point win. But you need something good to happen. Because every football player, regardless of what level they’re on their psyche and emotion gains momentum when good things happen.
Right now what this team needs is something good to happen. And yesterday, there are good things that happened in the game, but you know, obviously, not enough good things for us to win it.
Q. Do you feel like this team’s confidence is starting to be shaken now? You say you need to learn how to win.
COACH WEIS: I don’t think their confidence is shaken. I think they were pretty depressed and they should have been. But my question is would you rather they weren’t depressed after a loss like that? You would hope that they felt bad. You would hope that it was that important that they felt bad. Because when you’ve lost the team is when they don’t feel bad. That is when you’ve lost the team. You know, it’s never okay to lose. But the key sign isn’t when they feel bad. The key sign is when they don’t feel bad.
Q. How about you? I know you’re not happy. But how do you feel about this loss compared to the others?
COACH WEIS: I felt bad for a whole bunch of things. I feel bad for Notre Dame. I feel bad for our football team. I feel bad for Robert Hughes.
I feel bad for, you know, for my wife and kids. You know, who they take the loss harder than I take the loss. I feel bad for all those people.
But to be perfectly honest with you, I don’t think selfishly you can leave time to feel bad personally. Because I think my responsibility is to worry about the other people, not to be worrying about me.
Q. You said that given the yardage going into the wind, that you felt (the field goal) was a long shot. Given the way the game ended up, do you wish you had taken it anyway?
COACH WEIS: What, and missed the field goal? I thought we had a good play to get the first down. We complete the pass for the first down and you’re inside the 15-yard line. Now you kick a field goal and you do win the game.
And based off of what we had said we were going to do, we did what we said we were going to do. That’s why the previous play, you run the play to put it in position to get where we wanted to be to run the field goal. We didn’t get any yards on the play.
That stretch play of the day was a very, very productive play for us. We were getting a lot of yards off that play, just didn’t pan out on that play.
Q. In a game that ends up as close as this one does, when you look at the tape do you find yourself second-guessing things at all throughout the game?
COACH WEIS: There are always questions that you have on both sides of the ball. In the third quarter we only had one possession. We get the ball down in plus territory, and we throw that go and you think you have a touchdown and it’s not a touchdown. Then you come out and try the field goal. So you go from having the touchdown pass to having missed the field goal and you end up with no points in the first quarter after scoring 3 out of 4 possessions in the first half.
So now you get the ball in the fourth quarter, and they had just started loading up on the run because you’re loading the ball so much. So you come out, loosen them up and call double team on the first play where we had guys open, just couldn’t get it to them. We try to dump it off to the back who was also wide open, but we couldn’t get it to him.
And the next play was to play the runaway rusher. And you don’t predict a runaway rusher, where guys are just blocked running right at the quarterback. You don’t predict that happening. You know, you’re calling a safe play. You go back and watch the play, you’ll see it’s a reach. You’re throwing the ball to Armando, he’s out there with (John Sullivan) out in front of him, and no one out there. So you see it’s probably a 10-yard gain with no one for Sully to block.
But the guy’s in Evan’s face right now and there is nothing you can do about it but take care of the football.
Q. What are you going to tell the team when you talk to them today?
COACH WEIS: I’m not going to talk too long today. This is not a day to hammer them down. I think it’s important for them to understand that no win is never okay. But I’m going to talk to them about I appreciate it hurting so bad because when it didn’t, that’s when we know we have a problem.
Q. After the game yesterday, you said you weren’t at the streak you were right now. Right now, eight losses is the most in history. Are you worried about this team going down as one of the worst, if not the worst team in Notre Dame history?
COACH WEIS: To be honest with you I think the most important thing for me to be worried about is trying to get the team ready to beat Air Force. I think that’s how I have to look at it.
I know you guys have to look at stats and I think that’s part of what you do. I think what I have to do in my job is try to put the team in position to beat Air Force. That’s what my job is. And that’s what I’m going to do.
I’m not going to hark back on history. You try to beat Air Force, because as a coach, you live your life week by week. Day by day, but week by week, because you go game to game. I don’t think that history really plays into anything you do as a coach.
Q. I know usually you don’t watch much or pay much attention, but these guys have to be viewing some of these stats, just through friends?
COACH WEIS: I think the ones that want to hear them are hearing them. I think there are plenty of guys who are buffered, you know. There are guys, believe it or not, who don’t watch Sportscenter and don’t read the papers. There are guys that don’t. There are plenty of them that do, though.
So if you’re asking me if they’re not hearing them, I’m sure there are plenty of guys that can tell you everything. My kid’s one of them. He can tell me, before you’ve gotten to me, he’s gotten to me.
So usually my son lets me know. Between him and (director of football media relations) Brian (Hardin), I usually know what’s going on. But in reality, I think the people who want to be buffered from them, just stay away from them.
Q. Your overall record’s getting pretty close to your post-production overall record. How comfortable does that make you?
COACH WEIS: I don’t know. I’ll be judged by what happens when I leave, so let’s see where I am when I walk out the door.
Q. You mentioned a lot of things going through the facts. The fact is Navy had five sacks all season and four yesterday. How does a team that hasn’t won two all season get four against a team with opposite lines 40 pounds heavier than anyone on their team or any of their linemen?
COACH WEIS: Well, as you’ll go and watch the game, which I know you will all four sacks were different circumstances. One is a naked bootleg where the quarterback didn’t feel comfortable with anyone being open. And in that that case, he should have thrown the ball away because he’s out of the pocket. He doesn’t have to throw it to anybody.
With the runaway rusher we really talked about. The launch over the halfback’s head we talked about, and we got beat physically inside. There are four different circumstances. As far as me giving you analogy of that versus every other sack that they have this year, I can’t really do that.
Q. Finally David (Bruton) didn’t play as much as he normally does. Was he injured?
COACH WEIS: Remember, he had tweaked his hammy on that punt coverage in the USC game. So he had nursed that this week. And he practiced more each day. Didn’t practice, you know, wasn’t really close to full speed until the end of the week. So he went into the game figuring Kyle (McCarthy) would end up being the starter there and we’d end up playing David some.
But we always believe in starting the people that are practicing and practicing and playing. Rather than the guys who are just trying to get ready for the game that aren’t getting the majority of the reps.
Q. I know you said as a coach you can’t worry about the historical significance and all that, but you’re also an alum. Are you able to look at it in a different way in that regard?
COACH WEIS: I don’t want to be sarcastic and give the same answer I just gave. But I’m going to give you the same answer. All I’m worried about is trying to get the team ready to beat Air Force. I’m not being sarcastic. That’s how coaches live. You live week to week, game to game, day to day. And right now, that is my main emphasis this week is to get them ready to play Air Force. I don’t worry about the past. I don’t worry about it one bit.
Q. How about the alums that maybe are thinking about it? Do you, at least as an alum, know what they might be feeling? Not necessarily worry about it, but knowing what they’re feeling?
COACH WEIS: I’m worried about the 100 guys that are in this classroom. That is who I’m worried about. That is who I’m responsible for, let the rest take care of itself.
Q. You mentioned the fact that the guys feel bad is a positive as opposed to a negative. Is it a legitimate concern that they might be running out of emotion? That they’ve felt so bad for so long?
COACH WEIS: Not as of yesterday. That is always a concern as when good things don’t happen. I’m no different than the rest of you. You say how many times can something bad happen? But I would definitely have been much, much more concerned if I walked into the locker room and I didn’t see them feeling the way they did. They’re supposed to feel that way. When they don’t feel that way, that is when you know you’ve got a problem.
Q. Are you concerned eventually you might walk into that locker room…
COACH WEIS: I’ll be concerned when it happens. But I see no sign of it happening at this point. Which, you know, when that happens, then your red flag will definitely go up.
Q. You talked earlier about learning how to win and wanting something good to happen and just figuring out a way to win a game like yesterday. Do you get to the point where guys are waiting for something good to happen as opposed to going out there and making it happen?
COACH WEIS: I just think that yesterday, the one thing that probably bugged me the most, and this isn’t directly answering your question, but sort of on the same line — I think yesterday was one of those games you knew going into the game there were going to be fewer possessions. You knew statistically that was the way it was going to be. Forget about the overtime. Let’s just talk about in regulation.
I think that one of the things you need to do offensively in that game because you knew that this was a team that has shown some firepower, though they only scored three touchdowns in regulation, which was one of the fewest amounts they’ve scored this year. And averaged less than four yards a carry, which was a yard and a half less than they normally do. Even with those things being said, offensively it was one of those days where you felt going out there and scoring 3 of 4 in the first half wasn’t good enough. You needed to score 4 out of 4 in the first half in that game yesterday.
Each game is its own separate deal. But going into that game yesterday, that wasn’t good enough. Getting the ball in the third quarter one time, and coming up and not getting a touchdown pass and then missing the field goal and coming up with no points, that wasn’t good enough.
Last but not least, you really want to have the ball — well, you had a ball with two minutes to go in the game. But before that possession, you had two in the fourth quarter, and one of them, you gave them six. And you bounce back with a 14-play drive to tie it. But you knew in that game, in every possession, you needed to come up with points and that wasn’t the way it worked out.
Q. You certainly built a reputation on developing quarterbacks mentally, physically. Where do you feel like Evan is in his development right now?
COACH WEIS: He’s better than where he was. I think that we have a long way to go with both these guys. We have a long way to go with both these guys. They’re both way ahead of the game mentally from where they are. But we still have a long way to go.
Q. And when you made the switch, I think your rationality was that a healthy Sharpley was better than a banged-up Clausen. If Clausen is healthier or closer to 100%, does that make the decision for you?
COACH WEIS: I think that it will make the decision tougher. I think if Jimmy’s ready to go, which I’m saying he is, it’s not just a slam dunk who is doing what. But I’m going to give myself about 48 hours to regroup here. This isn’t like I’m picking somebody. We have a lot of stuff to do here yet. But I’m still in the gathering information mode.
Q. Through the struggles, the inbox gets stuffed, and things are more critical. Why should these folks believe you can get this program turned around?
COACH WEIS: Well, let’s take a few positives from the game. We’ll talk about special teams, and then we’ll talk about offense and defense.
So in the game yesterday one of the things we haven’t felt very good about this year so far on special teams is our return game. Our kickoff return in this game was really good. Our average drive start was 37.5 yards. We averaged over 26 yards in the kickoff return. We had a 32 yard punt return. We punted the ball a couple times for a 32-yard punt return. While we’re at it, we went into the game trying to take (number) 7 out of the game. Saying we didn’t want him to ruin us in punt return and kickoff return, and really, it was a nonfactor.
So there are reasons, you take something out of the game and get the return game going, and all of those things happened.
We went into the game figuring we were going to run the ball a whole bunch of times with efficiency. And for a good part of the day, that’s the way the game went. We ran the ball over 60 times, but I think every one of the running backs ran hard. James (Aldridge) ran hard. Armando ran hard. Robert ran hard. Travis (Thomas) ran hard. They all ran hard and we got a lot of production out of the run game. All right, so there is something to go off of.
Now you rush for 230 or so. You could say it doesn’t make a difference who it is. I mean, you ask for a positive, there is a positive.
Then in defense, everyone looks at how they got to the edge on the triple option and the toss, and they did. They made some yards there. But at the end of the day without us giving up a touchdown on offense, the defense gives up three scores in regulation. And you have to say three scores in regulation against Navy, you know, you should expect a win.
Q. So is that where you start with the guys? You start with the positives then, and we’re going to go from here, that sort of thing?
COACH WEIS: You have to accent the positives and make them aware of the negatives. I don’t think you can give them a free pass on the things that went wrong. But you have to show them the things that went right.
Q. Just going back to the field goal thing for a second, in the first half when you ran the fake, you were on the 20, And I know you had said that you were four yards away in the fourth quarter where you wanted to be. So in that first quarter field goal, was it just a matter of a completely different scenario where you wouldn’t have kicked it at that point?
COACH WEIS: Yeah, what we had said was the first time we got the ball on the left hash mark. From what we had studied all year long when you’re on the left hash mark, they’ve rushed every time the entire year.
Unfortunately for us, we set up the fake based off of them doing what they’ve done on every snap from the left hash this year. And the key player on this play didn’t rush on that play. So we guessed wrong. You know, if they had given us the exact same look for every single game they played through eight games of field goals on the left hash, and we got the situation we wanted. One of the critical guys on this who you’re counting on rushing up field didn’t rush on the play.
Q. This may be picking at it or something, I don’t know. But how close were you to saying 41 seconds left, regardless how long a shot this is, we should just try this and try to make some sort of moment and roll the dice?
COACH WEIS: My intent was to kick the field goal on fourth down. That’s why I ran the stretch play to the right on third down. But when we got tackled for a loss, I had made up my mind if we got the ball anywhere close to the 20, we were going to try the field goal. But when you’re now still at the 24, 24 and a half, it wasn’t a consideration anymore.
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