Oct. 17, 2005
COACH WEIS: I thought on special teams first of all we had exceptional coverage both on punt and kickoffs. Matter of fact, our net punt was over 37 yards, it was 37.2, and when you have a dynamic returner like Reggie (Bush) back there, that’s a good thing. Also, their drive starts on kickoffs was inside the 20 yard line. It averaged at the 19.5 yard line and making them play on a long field was part of our approach. Obviously we had the big play by Zibby (Tom Zbikowski) on the punt return for a touchdown, which is a game changing type of play.
We did have three things that really stuck out on the negative side. I thought our kickoff return unit wasn’t very good as a whole. We missed a field goal from 35 yards, which is a critical play in the game. And we had two major penalties, for 50 yards of field position, a fair catch, hitting the guy on a fair catch and then a block in the back. They both were critical mistakes.
The defense, I thought we played hard. We had two interceptions, which against that guy is pretty good. We hit him a bunch of times, but we got two interceptions. When you come right down to it, we really had a tough time with that No. 5. He had a big day. They had 12 big plays in this game for a total of 333 yards, which is 27 yard average. We had four defensive penalties, the big one they called to Derek (Landri), which I don’t know if it was hands to face or grabbing a face mask down there close. And the bottom line, when it’s all said and done, is at the end of the game in the last seven minutes, we gave up two touchdowns.
On offense, we controlled the tempo of the game. Time of possession, we had the ball for 38 minutes and 40 seconds to their 21:20. Part of that is we were pretty good on third down. One time we went for it on fourth down on our own end of the field, but there were some things that stuck out. We didn’t do a good job of protecting the quarterback. He got sacked three times and he got pressured another six times. We did turn the ball over twice, the one interception when Brady (Quinn) got hit on a flicker and then Anthony (Fasano) running down the field. Any time you don’t win the turnover ratio against a team like USC, because it was 2 2, any time you play even in the turnover ratio you’re gaining no advantage. I think that any plus turnover ratio would give us a better chance to give the time.
Twice in the red zone we didn’t score a touchdown. Once we threw the fade ball to Jeff (Samardzija) and he’s a little out of bounds and the other one we missed. We missed on the throw over to Asaph (Schwapp) in the red zone. That play was followed up by the missed field goal, so that really hurt.
I think that has been true to form, once again, we played very well in the second quarter after we got settled down some. We won the second quarter 14 0, but the bottom line is we lost the second half 20 10. When it’s all said and done, that’s how it turned out. The one statistic that slaps you in the face a little bit is that they rushed for 5.6 per run and us for 2.9. Although some of that was by design, but that pretty well sums up the statistical aspect of this game.
Q. I heard that you went into the USC locker room after the game. Is that something that you do on a regular basis when you felt strongly about addressing your team?
COACH WEIS: I did go there. I took Charlie with me. I said, “Come on, Charlie, we’re walking over to the locker room,” and he thought I was hallucinating when I said that.
I just felt that the magnitude of the game and the quality of the game and just how everything had turned out, I thought that it’s easy to be gracious when you’ve won a game. It’s easy to do that. It’s tough to be gracious when you’ve lost a game, especially a game that was as heart breaking as that. I just wanted to let them know that I had respect for their team and the way they played and I thought that they showed a lot of character to go back and win that game. I just wanted to tell them that it was a hard fought battle but I wanted to wish them well the rest of the year.
I went back, to be honest with you, and sat down with Charlie and explained to him the difference between how it’s easy to be nice when you’ve won versus how tough it is to be nice when you’ve lost. I thought it was a good lesson for my son.
Q. You mentioned after the game Parcells saying don’t be the one – now that you have some time, what does that refer to?
COACH WEIS: “Don’t be the one” is referring to the one who doesn’t do the preparation that puts you in position to make a play. I think he always felt that everyone has to be accountable. So don’t be the one that could have a negative or positive connotation to it depending on your perspective. But basically, don’t be the one to be sitting in the tape room today being the reason why you could have done something better that makes a difference.
It’s easy to cite a whole number of examples of things that could have been game changing type of plays, but I take it as a very strong, positive message that helps people in their preparation leading up to the game.
Q. Do you know what Rashon Powers-Neal’s status is?
COACH WEIS: He has a matter that he has to clear up. If and when he clears that up, he’ll be playing. He perfectly understands that, the family understands it. I don’t do anything without having everyone on board, but he understands that so when he gets it cleared up, he’ll be back. But until that point takes place, he won’t be back.
Q. Is there any chance that Rhema (McKnight) will be back next year, looking at the possibility?
COACH WEIS: I’m going to address that. Rhema and I have addressed that subject already. And to be honest with you, we’re going to talk about that, talk to the trainers and talk to him a little bit more this week and see exactly where we are on that one. When I know, I’ll say he’s about ready to go, or he’s not, based off of what that conversation will be. I’ll let you guys know.
Q. Going over to the locker room, how does that whole thing work, do you address the whole team?
COACH WEIS: What I did, first of all I walked over and I asked for Pete (Carroll) because I think that it’s not your locker room. I walked over there, both (Matt) Leinart and Reggie (Bush) were standing outside. I had a private moment with both of those guys who are exceptional players. Then I just stood at the door to kind of wait for permission, which then I was granted.
I was only in there for about 30 seconds. It wasn’t like I wanted to be there. I just felt it was the right thing to do.
Q. And going into this week, you pushed a lot of buttons last week…
COACH WEIS: We’ve got a whole another set of buttons ready to push. We just met as a staff here at 11:00 this morning and the staff knows what my approach to the team is going to be to the team at 3:00 this afternoon. We already have a theme ready to go, as you would expect that to be the case.
Q. A lot of people looking on the outside as a possible trap game. Are you worried about that?
COACH WEIS: Not with the approach that we’re taking. It would have been a bigger trap game when you won because when you win you’re on such an emotional high it’s tough to bring people down. Now obviously we have to build everyone back up, but I think that we have a good plan, as far as the psychological approach to get that done.
Trust me, it isn’t just the players, I’ve got to get the coaches on board, too, because they are human, too. They were as disappointed as the players were, but I think that we have a very good plan on what our approach is going to be.
Q. Does it make it a little bit easier, that they beat Notre Dame last year… the intangible?
COACH WEIS: It’s more along the line of breaking the season in half. We’ve played six games and I’m assuming we’ve got six left to go. And I’m looking at it as we’re 4 2 at the halfway mark, so what are we going to be at the second half. If you look at it as Game 7, it’s different than if you look at it as the first game of the second half. It’s the same number of games; it’s just the approach that you take with the game based off of that rationale.
Q. You mentioned the kickoff return, you didn’t have (Justin) Hoskins or (Brandon) Harris rest on Saturday, you started with (David) Grimes and he got banged up, just what is your situation on kickoff return?
COACH WEIS: You mean with the injury situation? I don’t talk about injury situations.
Q. Who will you be using in the kickoff return this week, do you know yet?
COACH WEIS: Depends on who is healthy. Right now, it would be Grimes. He got knocked in the head and got knocked a little silly, but I think he’ll be back and ready to go.
Q. From that standpoint, in regards to the physicality of the game, how would you rank that in terms of what was going on out there?
COACH WEIS: It was a tough game physically but we’ve played a lot of tough games physically this year. It was right up there. But I wouldn’t say that we were hitting any harder or they were hitting any harder. It was a tough physical game. It was a battle out there. Both teams were battling and it was a very competitive game with two teams that wanted it very, very badly.
Q. After the punt ball went out of bounds, would you describe what you saw and heard and what kind of explanation was offered?
COACH WEIS: Well, first, I think they got it close to right. I think it was pretty close to being right. The first problem comes with the fact that there’s no replay, and that’s not a backhanded slap at Pete (Carroll). It’s just that when there is no replay, of which I’m a proponent of, you really have a tough time getting a call like that right.
I know the clock ran out and not for one second did I really believe that the clock was really going to run out. So I figured there was still time left on the clock. What bothered me, the referee came over to me and said he fumbled it forward, and then he came over to me and said no, he fumbled it backwards. I said, “Who changed the call?” Well, the same guy changed the call. So the same guy that said he fumbled it forward, he told me the same guy then changed his mind and said he fumbled it backwards.
I said, “Well, how far backwards?” That’s the next issue. I mean, I can’t really tell. I watched the tape 100 times and I can’t really tell. He’s so close to the sideline, I don’t know if the fumble went back two more yards on the three instead of the one, I don’t really know that. So if I say that, it’s sour grapes. I just wish that if you had replay, then they might have had the call exactly right. They might have. But we all know that, because we didn’t have replay, so without replay, you don’t know for sure. But I’m not going to take away from what happened in the game. Still, it was a gutsy decision at the end of the game to do what they did and they got it in there.
And the next thing everyone wants to ask me about is about Bush pushing him in the end zone. Is that illegal? Yes, it’s illegal. Would I do the same thing? Absolutely. So I don’t want to be a hypocrite and say, well, they were cheating, because is it illegal? Yes, it’s illegal, okay, but I’d do the same thing.
I was a little bit more disappointed by the fact that they had a coach out of the box down on the five yard line calling time out when they had no timeouts left. If you want a gripe, that’s a gripe. They are out of the coach’s box and they are calling timeouts with no timeouts left. Now that’s a penalty and that alone puts them out of touchdown scoring range and to field goal range.
But once again, I could cite a whole bunch of things. I basically think that they got it pretty close to right. I’m just not sure where the spot really was, but there was time left on the clock and they would have had at worst they would have had time to spike the ball and kick the field goal. That’s at worst. So if that were the case at least you’d be playing for overtime with a chance to win.
But I’m not going to take away from what happened in the game. They won the game, they made a play and you could say Reggie pushed him, which he did, but that’s a heads up by Reggie and hopefully any running back I had would be pushing right along with them.
Q. To follow up on what you said there, you said there wasn’t one time where you thought the clock was off. I thought I saw you at one point holding your arms up?
COACH WEIS: I’m holding my arms up because what do you want me to do? I’m going to go fight for my guys and I’m always going to fight for my guys. That’s my job. I’m supposed to be fighting for my guys. If your players don’t see you fighting for them, then what are they going to think of you? That’s why I walked all the way across the field. What am I going to do, get a personal foul and give it to him on the half inch line? What difference does it make at that point? I had three time outs left and I didn’t want to call a time out and give them a chance to get organized. As it is, they took a very big risk. When you think about with a team that’s undefeated, that’s the difference between winning the National Championship and losing it, that play right there. That’s a little bit of a stretch, and it ended up working out for them. Good for them.
But I’m going over there and saying I said to the official, “Well, let me ask you a question. I mean, who are you going to review whether or not there’s any type time left on the clock? There’s no replay here. It says there’s no time left on the clock so there’s no time left.”
They said, “No, Coach, there’s seven seconds.” So you were looking at the clock and saw it was seven seconds. So they probably picked a number; seven is a lucky number, so that’s what they ended up picking.
Q. Would it be more like nine seconds?
COACH WEIS: Like I said, I don’t know what it was. There was time left on the clock. All I said to them was: “Who are you going to go check to see whether there’s time left on the clock? So I thought that was a logical question when there’s no replay.
Q. A lot more people called it one of the greatest games they have ever been to.
COACH WEIS: It might be great if you’ve won. It’s not the greatest game if you’ve lost. You can say whatever you want. It’s not going to be one of my greatest games because we lost. It will never be one of my greatest games. I’ll take any of those games we won over that greatest game that we lost, 100 out of 100 times.
Q. How much attention do you pay to the polls?
COACH WEIS: I’m aware of them because I vote. I vote for the coach’s poll. So I’m aware of the fluctuation there because I try to be I try to put some time into doing that. One of my guys does research for me so that we know who played, what the scores were, because I don’t want to be one of those guys just picking a team just to pick them. I try to put some time into actually doing that. So we sit down early Sunday morning and say who played, what happened and then we try to put we don’t try to jockey what’s in the best position for Notre Dame. We try to put us where we feel we deserve.
This week we had a little bit ahead of where they put us in that poll. We also put us behind where the Associated Press had us in the poll. I think we try to be very objective when we do the poll.
Q. I also wondered, I know you can’t talk about individuals, but overall how the recruiting went for you it was a big recruiting weekend for you?
COACH WEIS: Fortunately I’m mature enough to have my game face on Saturday as well as Sunday after a tough loss. The experience was great for all those guys. The only thing is trying to be one of our hosts that has to take a kid out Saturday night after losing that game. I give a lot of credit to our own guys who had to then go put on a coat and tie and come over and have dinner with these guys, and really, you want to see nobody, as you know, when that ends up happening.
So I give a lot of credit to our staff and families and our players for Saturday night and then on Sunday. Basically it was a long day, between admissions and director of admissions and professors and everyone else involved and all of the idiosyncracies that go with the visit; and then really shafting the coach and have him going from 7:00 in the morning until 6:30 at night, which is what they had me going yesterday. They didn’t take it easy on me, I promise you. They nailed me pretty good.
Q. Do you use the BCS game as a possibility as motivation?
COACH WEIS: I think if you’re starting your season and you’re playing your home opener against BYU, that should be enough emphasis. You’ve got to be worrying about BYU. And to be honest with you, you have to be worrying about BYU, and you don’t and you start worrying about the BCS and what Bowl you’re playing in, then BYU comes in and ends up beating you, which they are capable of doing which we’ll talk about tomorrow, then you’ve made a bad miscalculation.
Q. You’ve probably said this already, but do you prefer a playoff or the way the system is set up now?
COACH WEIS: I could care less. Really, I could care less. I mean, whatever it is. Just tell me where we’re going and I’ll be there.
Q. Are you all right with the way they calculate it in the computer …
COACH WEIS: I don’t know nor do I care.
Q. If you had a vote for the Heisman, would you vote for Reggie Bush?
COACH WEIS: After the game we just played, would anyone not vote for Reggie? If you’re going by the game that was just played it would be tough not to vote for Reggie.
But I tell you what, there’s a lot of great players out there. Let’s face it, that quarterback is pretty good. The quarterback from Texas, he’s pretty good. There are candidates out there. Go look at the stats Texas played against Colorado other day, they are pretty impressive from what I understand. I’m cognizant of those things. But USC has some fine, fine, great players and I have a lot of respect for them.
Q. You talked about the `Tampa-Two’ defense on Saturday. Can you provide some details about that?
COACH WEIS: The corner carries him over to the sideline like he did, that ball goes just underneath Ambrose (Wooden’s) arm. You want to talk about a matter of inches, and no one was more distraught than Ambrose after that game.
I actually talked to him more than any player I’ve talked to this year after a game. I talked to him because he took it personal like he let the team down. And I sat down next to him and I cited 10 different things to happen in the fourth quarter that could have changed the outcome of that game. So for him to feel bad about that one play is fine, but I wanted to make sure that he understood that we win as a team and we lose as a team and that was just one play in the game.
Q. You said on Saturday that Rick Minter called the perfect defense in that scenario?
COACH WEIS: You saw how close the coverage was. This wasn’t like a guy running wide open up the sideline now. This is an adjusted defense where there actually was some pressure on the play, but the ball was thrown quickly and the guy threw it right on the money. He couldn’t have thrown it any better. It was a great throw and a great catch and it was good coverage, too.
But, you know, sometimes when everyone does their jobs, which happened on this one, somebody has got to win and somebody’s got to lose. I would love to have seen that ball get knocked down to the ground just like everyone else but it didn’t. That wasn’t the last play of the game though, either. You know, it would be one thing if that were last play of the game but it wasn’t. There were still more good plays that you had to go.
Q. Can you talk about going into the locker room after the game and seeing the faces, you talked about your team playing 60 minutes. They could not have played any harder than they did, but it just wasn’t enough…
COACH WEIS: First thing I said was get your heads up because everyone is feeling bad. And they got their heads up and I very matter of factly said that I was proud of their effort in the game. Because how could you not be proud of their effort? I thought the preparation was good. It wasn’t like we didn’t have errors throughout the game; we had plenty, okay. But I thought that they played a game that put themselves in the position to win and they expected to win.
I was actually pleased that they were that disappointed, because if they weren’t disappointed, then you really have a problem. But I wanted them to know that you know my party line, that it’s not okay to lose, ever, especially when you have that many opportunities to ice the game.
But at the same time I wanted to let them know that I was proud of their effort and I also wanted to make sure they understood that BYU represents the first opportunity for the second half of the year. And it isn’t like you just played a game for the National Championship and your season’s over. You hit the halfway mark, so it’s time for us to regroup and that’s what we’ll be doing today.
Q. You said before the game this would be a good measuring stick to see how far you guys have to go to be an elite team, what do you take from that?
COACH WEIS: I told you when I got here that every time we go on the field we’re going to expect to win. Every team we play, we’re going to expect to win. Now whether we do or not is another thing. So if that means going against the elite teams and playing the elite teams, I find no solace that we lost in a close game. But our team every time they go out there is going to expect to win, so it doesn’t going to make any difference whether they are ranked one or unranked; that’s what we are going to expect to do.
Q. During the week leading up to the game, so many things had happened on campus, pep rallies, so many of the fans coming, the noise levels, things like that, being a Notre Dame grad, I got a feeling you expected that could happen, but were you proud of the effort of everyone on the Notre Dame staff and what they did?
COACH WEIS: No doubt. They did their job. I think that was very important for them to play a part of this whole thing. I told you I learned something from the Michigan State game about looking at it as a distraction and I ask for their help again this week because we could use a psychological boost again just like the one they provided.
Q. I was wondering, you touched on this a little bit there, when I look at the NFL, it seems like everything is business and while you were have a businesslike approach in college as well, how sensitive do you have to be to those subtleties, the pep rallies and that type of thing that make college special and different from the NFL?
COACH WEIS: I didn’t do as good a job the first home game as I did the second home game on that very subject. You have to make sure that you understand, especially at a school like Notre Dame, where those things are so much involved in the weekend. You have to definitely kind of plan it in your itinerary. You have to do a better job of planning that in there and I had not done as well in the first game and I’m learning week by week.
Q. So in some respects you feel like you might embrace those types of things a little more as we go here?
COACH WEIS: That’s what we definitely went out of our way to do here this past week. That’s what we try to do.
Q. What do you think the implications would be if you said to the student body, fellas, girls, we are going to get more from having Fridays to ourselves before home games, we’re going to move the pep rally to Thursday night and make it voluntary for the players to attend.
COACH WEIS: First of all, I’d never make it voluntary for the players, because they don’t get a vote. I’m not running a democracy. But having a pep rally on Thursday night, that wouldn’t be too bad for me.
But the problem is there are so many people that come from out of town, that wouldn’t be so good for them. It would be great for the student body and for the team, but there’s a lot of people that come into South Bend every home game and all of a sudden there’s 80,000 people in for the game and you have to take them into account as well.
Q. If you were designing your perfect template for a home game weekend, would you rather have that Friday to yourself and the team?
COACH WEIS: Would I personally rather have that to ourselves and the team? The answer to that is yes. The only problem is that I probably would find something else to tie up all the time, anyway. So I’m probably not going to leave the free time, so I’ll just deal with it. We’ll just keep it the way it is.
Q. No. 2, very quickly, on the final Southern Cal touchdown when Bush pushed, had there been review…
COACH WEIS: That’s a good one, Bush pushed, huh?
Q. Could be. Had it been reviewable, was there a remedy available and would it have been reviewable?
COACH WEIS: No. First of all, that would have had to have been a penalty called when that happened. They are not going to call a penalty after the fact so that would not have been reviewable. They would have had to call that when it took place.
Being perfectly honest with you, I would hope that my running back, with the game on the line, would take that risk too. Because what’s the worst thing that happens, there’s a penalty and you get to kick the field goal? I would hope that my running back would have enough sense that Reggie had to realize the quarterback was stopped – and he was. He was stopped. The game is going to be over and he ends up knocking them in the end zone. So, is it illegal, yes, but is it a heads up play, yes.
Q. Inaudible question about Brady Quinn?
COACH WEIS: Well, you’re broken up a little bit. But I think you’re talking about Brady’s drive with five minutes to go in the game to come back with that touchdown drive.
Is that correct, first of all?
COACH WEIS: Well, I said to him right before the drive, and this would have been prophetic had we won the game, but I came over to him and I said, “Hey, Buddy, this is the type of drive that legends are made.” That’s what I said to him. And he looked at me and he knew exactly what I was saying to him. I said, “Here is what we’re going to do, I’m going to call a bunch of three step drops, we’re going to throw a bunch of slants, we’re going to get them reeling, we’re going to get some yards and runs after catch, I’m going to mix in a couple draws and we’re going to go down there and score.” I go: “Be patient, we have plenty of time.” He executed as well as could possibly be imagined.
Q. Who is responsible for the design of the jerseys?
COACH WEIS: I’m not taking credit for that. Henry, Henry (Scroope) designed them. All I know is we talked about it. I like the color of them, though. When Henry and I talked about it last summer, we talked about getting them, I never knew when for sure we were going to use them. As I said, not so much the design of them, but the use of them was basically based off of a payback to the players for what I felt the preparation they had put in to get ready for that game.
Q. Was the grass left a little long in the stadium?
COACH WEIS: No. It was a little long, but that’s the way it is around here. It was long at the Michigan State game, too. I don’t cut the grass. (Laughter).