Oct. 3, 2005
COACH WEIS: I thought that that was a pretty good effort by our team on Saturday night. All across the board, all three phases special teams, defense and offense, I thought that the effort and the focus was probably the best we’ve had so far.
As it relates to the special teams, first of all, we had three tackles on the kickoff team inside the 20 yard line, which lifted my spirits, obviously that one kickoff return where they (made a big return) — we kind of wanted an angular kick and it just didn’t work out that way. They got a lot of field position out of it, but for the most part, there were three kickoffs, tackles inside the 20. David Bruton, for a freshman, stepped up and made some outstanding plays. He was involved in all those tackles.
Trevor Laws blocked that field goal. I thought that was another critical play in the game. And Marcus Freeman I thought was another guy who really stood out, blocking and being involved in tackles. Some guys you don’t hear about all the time on special teams and our special teams captain, even though he doesn’t know this yet, so I’d appreciate you letting me tell him, but (the USC game) will be Trevor Laws for that blocked field goal that he had. He will be our third captain for our game next week.
On defense, one of critical factors in the game — we’ll talk about the turnovers here in a second, but I think the first thing we did was we controlled their inside running game and when you are playing against a team that now can run the ball inside, run the option outside or throw the ball, it took away one dimension of how they like to play and we were better for it. We made some critical plays in the game, obviously starting with Ambrose (Wooden) running them down on the one yard line, knocking them out, and once again defense coming up and making a play. Their confidence is to the point where people get down there they just don’t assume it is going to be an automatic touchdown. They assume they are going to stop them and turn the ball over because they have done it more than once and are starting to have some confidence doing it.
Obviously that was a critical play. I thought another critical play was Mike (Richardson’s) interception right after our interception. Any time you have a sudden change, where now they are in a scoring zone and you follow that up with an interception of your own on the very next play, that was obviously a big play by us. And two times that they went for it on fourth down we stopped them as well. As a matter of fact, I thought both the corners, both Ambrose and Mike really stepped up in this game and had big games.
We did have a couple of negative plays; not as many as we have been having, but we did have the option that got down there and we did lose contain on the one quarterback scramble. And when you really go back and research the game, when the first guys were in there, there’s still too many big plays given up. We gave up 10 plays that netted just over 300 yards for the games, so that ends up being 30 yards a pop. But I think that we didn’t have (many penalties) — we had one offside penalty and they did call three `PI’ (pass interference)/holding calls on our corners. They weren’t all accepted, but they did call them all so that’s one thing that we’re going to have to continue working on; not getting those plays that would be automatic first downs if there was not a completion.
If you look at how the first half was played that’s really how we’d like to play some football. Take it to them, make some big plays of your own, take away their inside running game. Overall, that first half, when you walk out pitching a shutout, that was a good thing. Now the coaching staff obviously would have liked to continue that effort through the second half, but overall I am generally pleased with a lot of positive signs that came out of that game.
Offensively I thought that the biggest statement of the game was made on that 99 yard touchdown drive after we turned the ball over. We can talk about a lot of positives in the game which I will mention some of, but any time you get the ball in your own one yard line, you take it right down the field and score a touchdown, you didn’t just change field position, you went on a 99 yard drive and it wasn’t just one play. For the most part we handled the blitz zones very well and it wasn’t just blitz zones, it was all out blitzes too. They didn’t have any sacks in the game and obviously had been on the offensive linemen pretty hard last week after last year’s game. I think Brady (Quinn) only got touched a couple of sometimes. I thought the pad protection was a lot better than the run blocking. Got in the red zone five times; came up with five touchdowns so that’s always a good thing. Converted just under two out of three on third downs for the game. That’s a pretty good thing. We had 21 big plays of them ourselves, 21 plays either runs runs for over 10 yards or passes for over 20 yards. I think we had a number of big plays ourselves.
We did have the one holding call on Maurice (Stovall) but I liked his aggressiveness even though I didn’t like to get that call on that big run. In addition, Mo (Stovall) saved a touchdown on the interception and made a bunch of plays. He and Jeff (Samardzija) obviously all night long were making plays. You can throw Matt (Shelton) in the ring too because he had big conversions on third down. The receivers really stepped up and played a good game. We got a lot of outstanding performances. I can single out a lot of people. I can talk about the tight ends being solid. I can talk about Dan Stevenson and Ryan Harris who really stepped up on the offensive line.
I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the performance of the quarterback because he was outstanding, and I don’t say that very often. I don’t use that word very often. I hope I am using it more often but I thought he was just exceptional, the way he managed the game and I thought he played very well.
Q. Can you talk about Travis Thomas coming in there late and running hard?
COACH WEIS: Every time he plays he runs hard. That’s the way he plays. He’s a hammer type of guy. He’s a very physical, stout player and he plays that way as a runner and he plays that way on special teams. I have lot of confidence in Travis. I’d use him at any time. Our running back situation which coming into the season everyone says, oh, what are you going to do if Darius (Walker) isn’t there, throw Rashon (Powers-Neal) in there and Travis in there, we have a very good situation head to head at that position.
Q. You were able to get a lot of guys in the game late. Talk about that and also did anybody jump out at you?
COACH WEIS: First of all, Travis was in there with those guys to start off with the fourth quarter. Jeff (Jenkins) took over for him. Justin (Hoskins) got a couple of snaps there at the end. The happiest thing rather than talk about any individual — I was just happy that that group scored. They got in there and obviously David (Wolke) threw that ball up to Rob Woods, got it down there and then Travis hit that inside run taking it to the house. I was just happy when your second guys get in there; especially because there’s still a lot of time left in this game, it was most of the fourth quarter and I was just happy that they got an opportunity to get some action. And then also on the other side of the ball we had those defensive guys have been playing a lot of plays and being able to get a whole second group in there and getting some reps. I’d prefer not to single out anyone other than the fact I was just happy that we got guys on both sides of the ball some useful playing time.
Q. You mentioned the big plays by your defense this year, the red zone turnovers also they had a pretty good third down percentage defense. Where do you see this defense getting better, what would you like to see get better?
COACH WEIS: As you start to understand, I think it comes down to just not the players, it comes down with coaches and the players you start to understand what your guys can do and can do well. Now our coaching staff and our players are more and more every week getting to know each other better and getting on the same page where now you can narrow it down to `Here’s what we do well,’ and just do that. Schematically things are starting to fall into place where we’re at the point now where we’re expecting to see progress each week. This is no longer an evolving defense. The coaches have done a good job putting (the players) in position and now, because they are not thinking as much — see, sometimes when you think too much it is not a good thing. Sometimes when you can’t just go out there and play because you are spending too much time thinking, it inhibits you some. We’re finally starting to turn that corner and I am hoping that that leads to continued improvement.
Q. There was a quote apparently attributed to you by Purdue about the days of losing to the Pittsburghs and Purdues are over. Do you know where that came from?
COACH WEIS: Didn’t come from me. I would never disrespect an opponent of ours in anyway. So that would never come out of my mouth; that, I can promise you.
Q. Comment on TV also was made that everybody has played zone against you except Purdue. How accurate is that and what do you what kind of coverages are people predominantly playing against your offense?
COACH WEIS: There’s two different types of blitz zones, for example. All depends on whether or not you are dropping defensive linemen or not. When you do, usually it’s a true zone that people play. When you don’t drop defensive linemen and it’s actually called a blitz zone matchup; where now they play more of a man technique in what they are doing. For the most part, most coaches I have seen, when they are bringing multiple blitzers, really are playing more zone than they play man. But there’s been plenty of opportunities for us to have to go against bump press guys. I think that depends on the personality of their defense coordinator.
Q. You outscored your opponents 75 to 19 in the second quarter. How do you account for that?
COACH WEIS: I think once we get a feel for the game, we have always talked about openers and being able to react to what they are doing and not wait until halftime and that’s really where that comes into play where now you can kinds of see where this game is heading and then you go ahead and adjust accordingly.
Q. When you look at Brady (Quinn’s) performance and you grade how he did, it seems every time they blitzed he made the correct read, and are you surprised how quickly he’s picked up the offense and been able to make those quick reads?
COACH WEIS: I am pleased more than surprised. I am pleased that that’s come along that way. Brady is a very smart, intuitive player. So surprise would really indicate that you really didn’t believe that he could do it. I am just pleased that he’s come along this fast.
Q. Travis Thomas, he’s performing pretty well last couple of games. Will he be getting more playing time with his performance this week?
COACH WEIS: I don’t believe in running back by committee. You have a main stay at running back and then you supplement and that’s the plan. Darius (Walker) is our starting running back and between Rashon (Powers-Neal) and Travis, they’ll pick up the rest of the snaps.
Q. First third of the season behind you, what are a couple more pleasing things that you have had a chance to reflect on?
COACH WEIS: My whole party line walking in the door was a mentality that I wanted the team to take and I’d say more than anything else the team has taken that mentality. That pleases me more than anything. That pleases me as much as wins and losses; that your team is going out there, playing hard, expecting to win every time you go on the field. They are playing smart, you don’t make very many mental mistakes. That doesn’t mean we’re perfect. When teams are playing hard for the whole game and they are tough, then you always have a chance.
Q. Unrelated question. What do you say to the your receiving core is playing pretty darn well. Why not say, hey, Rhema McKnight, get better, see you next year, save your eligibility and graduate..
COACH WEIS: I think that every matter with every player is more of a private matter. I can’t worry about agendas. I can’t worry about personal agendas. All I am worried about is getting the team ready to play each week. If Rhema can get back and help us win, that’s what we want to do. We will worry about next year, next year.
Q. What approach do you take this week in the bye week? Is it a bunch of different things?
COACH WEIS: We have got three things going on so I will give you them to you.
First of all, from the guys who play most of the snaps, I want this to be more of a week to heal their bumps and bruises. That means that you put pressure on them mentally but you don’t put any pressure on them physically. You put as little physical pressure on them as you can. That’s the way the practices will be when we practice this week on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
For the guys that are the second team guys that, that are waiting in the wings to play, we’re going to give them a whole heck of a lot of snaps because this gives us an opportunity to give them a bunch of reps at what we do all the time to get them ready to go.
From the coaching staff perspective we have two things going on. We’re going to spend a great, great deal of time on USC, we’re working on them today, tomorrow, and the next day. Then Wednesday night seven of them are hopping on a plane and flying out there because two of the six days we are using for recruiting are going to be Thursday and Friday of this week. So seven of our staff members will be on the road recruiting on Thursday and Friday. So we’ll have a skeleton screw in here for Thursday’s practice.
Q. Did you expect this much improvement from the offense, from last year to this year; is that a surprise?
COACH WEIS: I wasn’t here last year so I am just worrying about us getting better and sometimes you get favorable matchups with teams you go against, things just work out. We got a bunch of formidable opponents on the schedule yet and you can live too much on your press clippings. You have got to worry about each week one week at a time. Once again, I will go back to counter the surprise, but I am pleased with how it’s going so far.
Q. Do you put any emphasis on reaching specific statistical goals in each game?
COACH WEIS: Only thing I worry about are points. I am not talking about 49 points. I am talking about enough points to win. That’s the way I look at it. You will never see me with a run up a score mentality. That’s not in me. As a matter of fact I am looking to get other guys involved in the game because I’d rather start getting guys reps that eventually are going to have to play, so you will never have to worry about us getting in one of those games where the scores are outlandish. I am more into scoring enough points to win. That’s the No. 1 thing I worry about.
Q. Early on someone asked you about your tag, the offensive guru, and you laughed at that. Do you not think you are pretty darn good at it?
COACH WEIS: I think I am pretty good, but I think there are plenty of people that are good. I do have one advantage over a lot of people – the fact that from where I have come I have seen a lot of things and you build up a reservoir of how to handle the things you are going to go against. So as you’re sitting here watching things you say, I remember we did this in 1994, we did this in ’96. That reminds me of the game in ’98. So when you have a reservoir it isn’t all original notes but to everyone you are going against it is original because they have never seen it. One thing I do have is that I have a very good memory. And I am talking about when it comes to what happened in different games and how — what we have done to, both pro and con, so that’s the one advantage I have is that reservoir of experience of things that happened over my 15 years in the NFL.
Q. Your experience of being a teacher, how does that make you a better coach?
COACH WEIS: Too many people too many times look at sports and almost say that dumb jock stereotype that when we all were growing up. I think it’s become so much more of an intellectual game now that much of the approach in the preparation to these games is intellectual. It’s not just physical. It’s not just “let’s go pound them.” You know, there’s a big mental approach. That can be a definite weapon to be able to use your brain could be a definite weapon. That’s where teaching comes into play.
Q. Giving up big plays, 10 plays from 300 yards. What is a number you can live with there in terms of big plays given up?
COACH WEIS: You are trying to get none. You are trying to get no runs for 10 yards; trying to get no passes for 20 yards. It’s not what you can live with, it’s what you are shooting for. I think that’s what everyone is shooting for. I don’t know how realistic that is. But that’s what you are shooting for. To give them a four yard gain is different than you give them an 11 yard gain because an 11 yard gain is a first down. So what you are shooting for and what is realistic are two different things.
Q. After the game a lot of the offensive players talked about how they felt, like if they just did their job nights like Saturday should be common place. Does that border on overconfident; do you like that attitude?
COACH WEIS: As a matter of fact I learned that one from Bill Belichick because his number one phrase all the time was `just do your job.’ What happens is when you start trying to do somebody else’s job, and not just do your job, there’s chances for individual breakdowns. Once you get everyone doing their job in sync you have a chance for success.
Q. The run off for the next couple of weeks… Do you want the players to enjoy this moment or do you kind of go back to just treat this like any other game?
COACH WEIS: When I have them in here today, this is like Sunday to them. We’ll talk specifically about Purdue today and then a little victory dinner later on and then we will get back to work. But this week’s work is basically going to be fundamentals and techniques to try to get better at that.
We’re spending extra time getting ready for our next opponent.
Q. Talk about what Peter Vaas has contributed to Brady (Quinn’s) development?
COACH WEIS: First of all, it’s really helped me personally because it’s allowed me to be able to watch different things in practice that I used to not have a chance to watch. It’s totally different when you have to worry about coaching a quarterback and either being a head coach or being a play caller because there’s so many other places your eyes have to be. I have total confidence that Brady is being coached by an upper level person and that — it frees me up from having to worry about what is he going to do if I am not there.
Q. Defensive line had no sacks. How much of that is attributable to the three step drop; how much is it having to contain the option and then how much is disappointment that you had no sacks?
COACH WEIS: I wouldn’t be disappointed because second half that’s all they did was three step drops. You are not counting on sacks on three step drops. That was their whole mentality; which is a little different from what they have done. If you’ve watched Purdue so far this year you noticed in the second half they went to a personnel group of four wide which they’d only used nine snaps the entire year of four wide with one back in there because by blitzing we scared them out of empty. They got out of that. But then they went into a four wide, two by two, formation, three step drops, and they had some success doing it. It was really something they really hadn’t done all year, but they hadn’t been in a situation where they are down four scores all year either. So they are going to make some plays when that ends up happening but the three step drop, they had no sacks either, as you recall, so this was a sackless game then. Didn’t bother me too much.
Q. You talk about the ability to see the team improve week after week. You seem to mention things picking up blitz zones, they get better and better.
COACH WEIS: A couple of you talked about earlier, as your system starts to come into play and people get more comfortable with your system and have a better understanding of what the system is, usually the mental errors decrease exponentially. When you are first going in, you are calling plays and everyone kind of knows what to do but until you have got out there and experienced them it is a little different.
Q. People seem to be making a big deal about you having an extra week to prepare for USC. How much more prepared can you get a team in…
COACH WEIS: Exponentially. By the way, no one’s made a big deal of me calling timeout for that first incomplete pass. Let’s throw me a bone here now. I have been waiting for one of you guys to bring it up. I am waiting for one bone from one of you guys. I was feeling pretty good about that I have to tell you. I looked over at my kid, he kind of gave me a little high five. I said `That will shut them up, Charlie.’ (Laughs).
Q. Seen some video of the Patriots’ game yesterday. One Brady’s gain is another Brady’s loss?
COACH WEIS: I watched it. It was 17 to 17 at halftime. So fortunately I didn’t get to watch the whole second half because I was making some recruiting calls at the time. But I mean 17 to 17 in the half, kind of snowballed and it went bad, that usually means they will play extra better this week, it’s usually their MO.
Q. You said exponentially this open week helps you. I take it you like the open weeks in college now?
COACH WEIS: There are pros and cons. As far as game planning I like it because by this time I have already watched a bunch of Southern Cal tape and this is two weeks before we played them. I am going to have to watch a whole bunch of more, but the good thing is before we get through the middle of this week I will have watched everything I have needed to watch. Now the question is whether or not you can come up with enough good stuff to finding what they do isn’t as big a problem as finding what you are going to do against them. That’s the bigger problem.
Q. We haven’t heard a lot of critiquing from your son. Has he kind of laid off that?
COACH WEIS: I will tell you what, the one good thing, he’s on me pretty good still, but at about the 11 minute mark in the game he said, `Let’s run the ball and get out of here, Daddy.’ (Laughs). I said to him `Charlie, I am trying. I am trying.’
How long did that game go? I mean, in real time, how long was this game? I don’t know but it seemed like an eternity.
Q. What is it like having Charlie there at a high stress time? Having a kid at work at a high stress time could be difficult, what is it like having him there?
COACH WEIS: It’s easy when you are winning. Remember now, he sat there and watched us lose to Michigan State and watched them stick that flag in the middle of the 50 yard line. It’s easy when you are a coach’s son when you win, you are going to school and you don’t have to worry about it. But when you lose, maybe it is a lot harder on them than it is on us. You don’t even realize it. Because everyone is `Hey, what happened?’ at school. Like he had something to do with us winning or losing. So I think that when we win, he enjoys it more than I do when we win and when we lose, he probably hates it more than I do.
Q. What is it like having him there? When something is going wrong, he might try to talk to you at the wrong time…
COACH WEIS: I talk to him like everyone else. (laughter) If I would like for him to get out of the way, in my normal vernacular, I will tell him to get out of the way (laughter).
Q. Reason why you end up on offense is because of that job opportunity years and years ago. Defensively, could you be equally successful on the opposite side of the ball?
COACH WEIS: I’d like to think so mainly because when you are coming in under (Bill) Parcells, (Bill) Belichik, (Romeo) Crennel and (Al) Groh, those guys right there who I think are all are front line defensive coaches, you’d like to think that that’s where I would have gone, but because of those guys now you flip over to the other side, because of what you learned from them about defense, that gives you a little bit better understanding when you are calling offense plays to know what the defensive guys are thinking.
Q. Do you feel like there’s been significant progress in the last two, three weeks maybe some individuals who really like gotten it?
COACH WEIS: I think that what’s happened rather than just isolate specific individuals, the coaching has sunk in to now that they are starting to establish a personality and you will see a lot of the mistakes that were made earlier in the year you don’t see showing up again. That’s a good thing because it means, I saw it, that happened, and now they don’t happen as much. We’re getting some solid performances out of a number of people. I will give you one example: Derek Landri is a guy you don’t even notice out there, he’s all over the field. He’s spent at the end of the game now because he’s all over the field. I am just using as an example of a guy like that where you will see (Tom) Zbikowski or (Brandon) Hoyte, you will see those guys because they are involved in all the running sideline to sideline type of plays, but you won’t see those sluggers in there that all of a sudden there’s no inside run. It’s not by coincidence. Somebody is making those plays and somebody is wreaking some havoc in there or else they would be able to run the ball inside and it’s not just the middle linebacker making every play, it means those inside interior defensive linemen have to be making some plays too. It all kind of fits together.
Q. Another point I want to make was about the conditioning of this team?
COACH WEIS: First of all, obviously Ruben (Mendoza) did a great job of getting these guys ready to go starting all the way back in February when he got hired right through the summertime. Ruben and his entire staff deserve some kudos for that. But in addition, this game we got to yank these guys in the fourth quarter, which we talk about all those extra plays in the fourth quarter, most of them weren’t playing in there. Sign me up every week if we can get into that situation.
Q. How much film do you watch on USC, do you go back to last season even though they have played four games this year?
COACH WEIS: As long as the system is the same, you definitely watch all of last year’s games. So even though their offensive coordinator left, the system is still the same. And Pete (Carroll’s) the defense coordinator so that didn’t change. So when you are watching both sides of the ball, as long as the system stay the same there’s a lot of value in watching the previous year and then you always watch your own team play against them for personnel matchups to see how those went based on who was there. Then when you get to the new stuff in the new year you try to see what they are tweaking from to what they were doing the previous years to now because obviously they thought that there were areas of concern that they changed so you try to adapt to what they are doing, but there’s definitely in this case both offensively and defensively, a lot of carryover from the previous year.
Q. Are you always in the back of your head thinking about last year’s games for some plays that maybe they have not taken out of the box?
COACH WEIS: There’s no doubt that you do that because there’s a lot of things that people will say they might not have done it for 10 games and all of a sudden it shows up. You want to try to be as surprised as little as you possibly can.
Q. Matt Shelton, he had a big impact on Saturday night. Is he finally starting to get back to full strength after being injured?
COACH WEIS: When you are coming off a knee (injury) like he was coming off of sometimes there’s two things that come into play. One is getting healthy and other one is having confidence that your healthy. I think that both those things have come into play for Matt.
Q. Characterize the job that Rick Minter has done this year so far?
COACH WEIS: Rick is obviously an experienced defensive coach that allows me to spend more time with offense without having to worry about whether the defensive guys are being well coached or not. Having an experienced guy that’s an ex-head coach that knows how to run a team really takes a heavy burden off my shoulders and I have total confidence that the guys always know what to do when they are being well coached.
Q. How important was his experience when you decided to hire him? COACH WEIS: A lot of times when head coaches hire staff — they want to be the man and I think in my case, I want to surround myself with as many guys as I could that have lived the experience of running the show so that I’d have resources to turn to for anything that I wanted to ask.
Q. General summary question. Five games in, how would you assess your own performance?
COACH WEIS: I’d say I have been improving as well. I kind of go along with the team. As you start settling into the things that you have to do as a head coach, some of them I have done well and some of them I haven’t done so well. Some of the basic principles of what we’re trying to get done we are doing. The team is acting properly and they try hard. They know what to do. Now my job and my coaching staff’s job is to get them to do it better. Right now, I’d grade myself an incomplete.
Q. If you had one play or one sequence to get back this season, which would it be?
COACH WEIS: Oh, obviously we lost the Michigan State game so I could think of three things that come to mind right off the bat. Obviously we throw the interception for a touchdown. We fumble the ball on the one yard line and we get the ball turned over to us at the end of the Michigan State game with an opportunity to win it in regulation. I’d take any of those situations again right now if you want to give them to me.
Q. Late in the first half versus Michigan State you got the ball back, the game was still tied. I think there was a pass to (Anthony) Fasano for 24 yards. Do you remember that sequence before halftime?
COACH WEIS: We threw the ball at Fasano on the first play down the middle of the field, but wasn’t that where we got the penalty on the play? I just remember that we could have done a better job of clock management with as high powered an offense as Michigan State was to not give them the ball back. The only problem with that is if you play scared against a team that you think that you can move the ball on pretty well, if you play scared, then you are missing an opportunity to try to score yourself.