Nov. 6, 2005
COACH Charlie Weis: Recap, starting with special teams. Obviously you had those two big punt returns, one for a touchdown, the other one deep into territory was critical for us to win this game. It was a 39 yard return.
On the negative side, we made a couple of negative decisions in the kicking game, and that called for a couple penalties, although we never saw the one on video got called on the extra point that we ended up kicking anyway and we only had one tackle inside the 20 and got called for a five yard penalty. I thought they played very hard on special teams and those returns were definitely significant, the returns and the fumble were definitely significant factors in winning the football game.
The defense I thought we played very hard. Obviously the score on defense, they threw an interception for a touchdown. We really controlled the run game most of the day. They only had two big ones all day. They had one for just under 70 yards, but the rest of the day I thought we controlled the run game very well. We had three sacks, a couple interceptions, and despite things not working or looking so good early in the game, I think that we got some points in the fourth quarter. That was critical and it just shows how the mentality of this team has changed. When things got tight there in the third quarter, against this team we did very well in the third quarter. The defense stepped it up and played very good ball there in the fourth quarter and we only gave up seven big plays, which is our lowest total for the year. That’s a good thing.
This one more of a team thing, but we had three major penalties on defense and we had another two on offense, so that’s five major penalties in the game, whereas we did cut down on any line of scrimmage penalties, which was one of the goals for the game, but now the focus is going to be on these major penalties because you can say they’re questionable all you want, but when they call them, it’s a big deal and it ends up hurting us.
I thought a couple people stood out. I thought we played a very solid game, and an unusual thing for me to say, but I think the discussion between Tommy (Zbikowski) and Mike Richardson on defense they both played very, very solid.
A couple things on offense. We only ended up six of 17 on third down, but we had three touchdowns on third down, one on 3rd and 15 and one on 3rd and goal. They lined up in a defense that we call diamond more than we’ve ever seen them, which caused us some mental confusion a few times. We’re going to have to do a better job preparing for that in the future.
In the first half, we had six possessions and two times we were three and out, and that’s never a good thing to be going three and out. We always want to be getting at least a first down, a couple first downs in a drive. That’s never a good thing. They had the red zone three times for two touchdowns and a field goal. Our goal is to score a touchdown every time we get in the red zone.
We talked about the critical fumble on the swing pass, gave Tennessee the ball and gave them a touchdown. We only had one scrimmage penalty in the game, which was called an extra point, which I still can’t see. We had no line of scrimmage penalties on the defense. So for that I want to commend them.
The last person I want to mention, a lot of times we look at stats and sit there and say, Jeff (Samardzija) had a big day statistically, which he did. That’s all the skill guys. But the guy I was pleased with the most was actually Maurice Stovall. He only had a couple catches on the game and one for a touchdown, but he made several critical blocks in this game and ended up leading us to having production. Sometimes we single out stat guys rather than things that happen in a game that help us win, and I think that those guys on offense, as I mentioned, Dan Stevenson, Ryan Harris and Maurice Stovall, had a lot to do with us winning the game.
Q. Following up on what you were talking about on the offensive line, a couple questions. A lot of the guys, including the offensive line, said this was a street fight, and I think you might have said that, too. How do you feel in terms of physicalness your offensive line came out in a street fight?
COACH Charlie Weis: I would say we went toe to toe with them, and when you’re going against a team that’s physical like Tennessee, I mean, we have a lot of respect for Tennessee. Sometimes we say it and people think we’re blowing hot air, but we have a lot of respect for them. I’m proud of the fact that our guys are willing to go toe to toe with tough competitors like Tennessee, and I was genuinely pleased with that. We were not being the passive ones on this. It was a slugfest out there.
Q. And the kids and you have also talked about it being a process in acquiring that defensive mentality. Is it here?
COACH Charlie Weis: They’ve come a long way. It’s tough not to look at this team in all three facets. We’re far from perfect, we know that. I don’t coach them to be perfect. Our coaching staff, we’re not error free, but I will tell you, the one thing I can say about this team is they’re playing hard all the time and they’re playing hard all game long. That makes you as happy as just about anything else, that they’re going to be out there playing hard for 60 minutes.
Q. Just based on your past comments, you did a lot of prep work for different teams in the summer. But from a player standpoint, how difficult is it when you make severe style shifts in either offense or defense week to week, like you will this week?
COACH Charlie Weis: Well, we got a little touch of it earlier in the year. The defensive staff is right on top of this, and it’ll be easy to get the players’ attention, too, because it’s just a contrasting style. We’ve seen it in the past. It’s just like a team that’s a run and shoot team. Any time you come across a style of offense like you had this week, like (Navy) rushing for over 400 yards, we’ll worry about maybe it’ll come Tuesday, but I think philosophically from what you’re saying that the players have to be able to adapt both within our own scheme and with what the opponents are doing week in and week out.
Q. Did you catch any interesting things on film specifically?
COACH Charlie Weis: Yeah, I saw Trevor Laws and Justin Brown with a bucket behind me. I’ve done my research, and we will address that later this afternoon. Justin Brown 94, Trevor Laws, 98 (laughing).
Q. There are quite a few players after the game that talked about the importance of a game like this psychologically where you have a lead. I’m curious what you learned about watching the game and what you spotted.
COACH Charlie Weis: I’ve actually liked this two games in a row now. The same thing happened in our opener of our second half against BYU when they cut it to five or when all of a sudden that game is getting close, too. It must have been two games in a row now where they got close in the second half and they were able to pull away. You don’t pull away because one side of the ball does well, it’s because all three phases start clicking. They’re starting to believe that that’s what’s going to end up happening.
I said a long time ago that they’ve got to figure it out. Well, the only way you figure is out is when it actually happens. So now they’re starting to get some confidence when it gets close. There’s no panicking on the sideline. They kept their composure and then they pulled away, and that’s what good teams are capable of doing. You’d like for it to be like that when it happens.
Q. Tommy mentioned this after the game in terms of the secondary’s improvement, and they said they felt like the defensive backs have a better understanding of where one another are going to be. Do you see that, as well?
COACH Charlie Weis: As a matter of fact, I thought the secondary now, remember, I watched it earlier this morning, so it’s been a long time since I watched it. When I watched the secondary, I watched it at about 6:00 o’clock this morning and told Bill Lewis how pleased I was.
When you watch the game, sometimes you don’t study the game. It isn’t until after you can watch it again on tape, and once again, it wasn’t error free. We have plenty of things that we can correct, but now it’s less big plays, fewer guys open, and usually when we go up and make the tackle, I thought they were much more solid in their play.
Q. Just lastly, I think you opened with the backfield of Travis (Thomas) and Darius (Walker) at the same time and didn’t use it a whole lot but I’m sure there’s something you liked about that.
COACH Charlie Weis: Oh, it sets up a lot of other things you can do. When you have two halfbacks in the game rather than a halfback and a fullback, it’s just an origin of what can come from. How much I use it, I don’t really know, but it’s a good way to just get it started.
Q. I know you take them one at a time, but at this point every story, every newscast yesterday – when do you start talking at any tournaments about bowls for the team?
COACH Charlie Weis: Both the coaching staff and the players are not ignorant about the ramifications of each game, but the only way you build up your stock as a team is by winning week by week, and as long as you look at it that way, each week is a means to an end. Let’s face it, that’s the way this game goes. You could have egg on your face real quickly if you underestimate or don’t respect any opponent you go against. Everyone understands what’s out there. Everyone understands, but it’s not something that we need to even talk about because we know that each week helps get you to where you end up. As long as the players and the coaching staff really follow that practice, then you will never look past anyone you are playing against.
Q. Do you just see the BCS and know where you need to be in that, to be there?
COACH Charlie Weis: They know that they need to just keep winning. That’s what they need to do, just keep winning. It’s November. Usually what happens in November, how you finish up is really what it’s all about. I said that a long time ago, too. I said I’d like to think that at the end of the year our team is going to be playing better than they were at the beginning of the year, and I hope that stands true to form.
Q. You mentioned the fact that you liked the way that when the game is close, they turn it on. Is the next step to make sure that the other team doesn’t get close?
COACH Charlie Weis: I’d like to think so, but those guys are trying, too, you know. You can’t be ignorant to the fact that the teams that you’re playing against are all trying to do the exact same thing that you’re trying to do. They’re out there with the same goal in mind.
So it all comes with respecting who you’re going against. You have to understand in a game, not every game is going to be perfect. You’re not going to pitch a perfect game every time you go out there. You’re going to give up some hits and some runs, so to speak, if you want to draw it out. The whole key is to have more points at the end of the game than they do, and I don’t want to be too similar in my approach there, but that’s really the important thing.
Q. On the fumble, was that supposed to be a backward lateral or…
COACH Charlie Weis: No, it was a run with a pass audible, a pass check like I told you we have, and there was pressure, so he went to throw a little swing out there to Jeff (Samardzija) and he had a little pressure coming off the left side, so instead of being able to throw it going forward, because there was a little pressure on the play, he threw it backwards, and Jeff didn’t know it was backwards, and Matt (Shelton) was blocking because he saw the swing coming that way. So Matt didn’t even know what had happened, and Jeff just figured it was an incomplete pass.
It was the right call. It was a fumble. It was a backwards throw.
Q. Was Jeff aware of the rule or just didn’t realize…
COACH Charlie Weis: He just thought it was an incomplete pass. He didn’t realize the ball was thrown backwards. When he’s running that swing, he’s not looking back at the quarterback initially. Now the ball is incomplete. He doesn’t know that the quarterback is throwing it backwards, but now that that’s happened, it’ll be one more thing for us to practice that will not be taken for granted because you’ve already had one go against you on a correct call. It would be one thing if this was an incorrect call, but it was a correct call.
This happened a few years in 2002 playing against the Green Bay Packers, and almost this same situation happened to me in a game. Tommy (Brady) threw a ball to Kevin Falk, who was on the 20 yard line, threw a ball that was a lateral. It was a pass, but it was a lateral, and the ball landed on the ground for about five seconds and one of the guys from the Packers picked it up and ran it in for a touchdown. For the next three years we never had that problem. I’m hoping that something good can come from something bad that happened.
Q. The second series of the game right before Stovall’s touchdown Samardzija looked like he was going to throw …
COACH Charlie Weis: Yeah, he was throwing it. He was throwing it but he got hit in the face pretty good on that one. He had a little bandage on his chin on that one. Anthony (Fasano) had to take the block that was most dangerous, and the problem is there were two most dangerous instead of one. That’s what happens. The most dangerous one didn’t turn out to be the most dangerous.
Q. How do you draw the line between determining whether your team is being complacent or a team like Tennessee obviously nobody is disputing their ability, but what are the kind of things you’re looking for? What are the things you’re trying to sense from your team when you’re in that situation and you do lose a big game?
COACH Charlie Weis: You have to break it down. When you’re studying your opponent you have to break it down to science of the ball. Tennessee’s defense never has lost their confidence in how they play, and they’ve almost prided themselves to create almost a separate entity, like we’re just going to do our job as best we can and hopefully that will be good enough, and I think they’ve been playing at a very high level.
That’s why I started off the game with so many screen passes. I assumed they’d be bringing it and bringing it hard, which they were, which got us out of some bad field positions. I don’t know how many, the first four or five calls I must have called four or five screen passes. It was just to try to slow it down right off the bat.
You have to look at their offense different than their defense because it all depends on where the problems lie and who you’re going against, and that’s an important factor, that you have to study those even though we’re talking about team all the time when you’re looking at an opponent, you have to look at all the faces separately, not as a group.
Q. What has been your experience with teams where one side of the ball is performing better than the other side of the ball? Have you been involved where you reach a point where the side that’s doing better gets disgruntled?
COACH Charlie Weis: I’ve seen that happen where usually then it falls on the head coach to make sure that it doesn’t become a problem because I’ve seen it happen from way back. I saw it happen to a team that won a Super Bowl in 1990. Back then the Giants were dominated by defense with Lawrence (Taylor) and those guys, and Lawrence would come over to the sideline and say something to (Phil) Simms and Simms would tell him to shut up, and it was kind of I was a rookie so I wasn’t saying anything to anyone, trust me, but it was kind of fun to watch when that would happen. But it would still come down to the head coach making sure that that didn’t become a problem. When one side of the ball is playing significantly better than the other side, it’s set up for players to whine.
Q. You were talking about the defense, and you said that the fact that they didn’t give up any points in the fourth quarter shows that the mentality of the team is changing. Can you talk about that a little bit more?
COACH Charlie Weis: Well, when all of a sudden you go from 21 to 3 and now it’s 21 to 21, to give up a touchdown right before halftime to make it 21 to 10, then 21 to 13, then 21 to 19, now they’ve got the two point conversion, now it’s 21 21. All of a sudden you say things aren’t looking too good. As a matter of fact, we just happened to hit the right play versus the right call on that 3rd and 10. But it wasn’t like the start of the next drive went too well, either. The first play is no good, second play is no good. Fortunately third play was the right call and a block, and next thing you know it’s 73 yards down the side line. The first two plays we actually lost yardage, 3rd and 4 or 3rd and 5, and we end up scoring.
But the point is from there on, when the game went on, once you got the lead, not to let it tie again. When teams are so called desperate, when teams want to prove they’re better than their record are, the longer the game stays close, the longer you believe you’re going to win the game, the tougher your chances.
Q. You talked about telling Bill (Lewis) how much you respected what the secondary did yesterday. What do you like about how far they’ve come this year?
COACH Charlie Weis: The first thing that needed to be done when we got here was to build the confidence of the secondary up. These kids are impressionable like anybody else, and when you feel like you’re maligned, you don’t have a lot of confidence, and Rick (Minter) and Bill (Lewis) have done a great job of not only just putting in the scheme but getting the players to believe in what they’re doing, and as the year has gone on, you don’t notice them as much. You notice when a team is making plays. That’s always what secondary wants, they really want to not be noticed because that means that they’re not giving up plays. Their confidence has grown.
Q. You’ve answered a couple of questions today about the mental makeup of this team and the progress they’re making in terms of when the game gets close, later in the game (Inaudible).
COACH Charlie Weis: I don’t think play calling really is as much of a factor sometimes as composure. It’s all a question of how you handle the situation when it becomes an adverse situation. Both the coaching staff and the players now have confidence that even if something bad happens, we’ll get it rectified. Now, you don’t win every game, but the players never believe that it’s going to continue to go bad and that they can get it straightened out and that we’ll be able to get it right and fix it and get it going in the right direction, and I really think that’s the major part of the battle.
Too many times when things go from good to bad, teams can’t handle that sudden change of emotions and how things are going, and good teams are ones that can just, as I said a long time ago, kind of stop the bleeding and get it rolling back in the other direction. It all comes, once again, on our comment on confidence a moment ago.
Q. A confidence factor. Is it something you say to them, okay, guys, when we’re in this situation you keep your composure and do X, Y and Z, or is it the fact that you’ve done it over and over again?
COACH Charlie Weis: You don’t practice confidence; that’s something that’s developed and learned. That’s what happens when you’re in close games. The only way teams start winning close games is by something good happening in the game and you end up winning one, then all of a sudden you win another one and then you win another one, and then you start expecting to win the close games. When you start expecting to win the close games, that’s when you think you’ve got something going.
Q. You talked about Maurice and you had mentioned about how big the blocks were that he had. How do you instill that in a guy to say, hey, you’re not getting the catch but we still need you to make blocks?
COACH Charlie Weis: One of the things we do in practice is practice blocking with the wide receivers. I’ve been lucky enough to walk into a situation where not only do we have big receivers but we have tough receivers, too, and they find a lot of they feel a lot of pride in making a good block almost as much as making a big catch. It definitely goes noticed with our team. He’ll be one of the first people I call out today, and usually things like that not that he’s looking for accolades, but he knows he had significant parts in a lot of big plays, and I’m going to cite three of them, and not the one he caught. You can talk about the Fasano touchdown; who gets him in the end zone? For that matter you can talk about Samardzija’s 73 yard catch and who makes a block and isn’t afraid to go up the sideline. So those three big plays in addition to his touchdown catch, that’s a pretty good day.