Sept. 10, 2006
JOHN HEISLER: Coach Weis is here. He’ll make some opening comments, then we’ll take some questions.
COACH WEIS: Well, thank you. Good afternoon. First of all, before we get going, just one logistical matter to get out of the way. Looking at the long range forecast for the Michigan game this week, it looks the weather looks to be favorable towards the weekend. To not disappoint people that showed up for the pep rally this week that are coming the new set coming for this week against Michigan, we’ll again try to hold the pep rally outside in the stadium, weather permitting. We’ll worry about future games. We’ll try, once again, to go outside for the Michigan game.
Well, let’s talk about the three facets of our game. We’ll start with the special teams. There were definitely some highs and lows in the special teams’ performance in hindsight now that we’ve had a chance to review it. I thought our coverage units were both exceptional, both the kickoff coverage and punt coverage. I thought one player stood out in particular, that was Mitchell Thomas, four tackles, three inside the 20. He was out standing.
I thought our kickoff coverage was excellent. Our punt coverage, I think Terrail Lambert made a great play on that long punt by Geoff Price because usually when you hit a ball that far, you out contact your coverage. Trust me, the posse wasn’t anywhere close. You had Lambert, then there was a big distance till the next group of guys. That was a big play. Not only was it a great punt by Geoff, but it changed field position with the tackle by Lambert.
We did play with a lot of energy. We were physical. But the flipside of that is I thought our return units were very, very poor. I thought our punt return was poor. I thought our kickoff return was poor. What we can’t do, last year the strength of our team was our punt return unit. We haven’t gotten that going in two weeks so we’re going to put a concerted effort on that this week. Our kickoff return, although we had a good performance in the opener, we definitely took a step back in this one. We’re going to have to get that straightened out as well.
We did have some big plays. We had the fake punt that led to a touchdown. That was a big play. The muffed field goal attempt by Penn State, Trevor came through. He might have blocked it anyway the way he split through there. I mean, you go back and watch it like I did on tape, he had a chance of blocking that if the ball did get put down.
Carl was two for two on field goals. Made all his extra points. That was a nice comeback after the opener. We had no penalties. That’s a positive, as well, on special teams. Zibby did fumble the punt return. We’ll have to work on that. We also have to work on execution of our plus 50 punting so that when we’re punting from somewhere around midfield, we’re not giving the ball at the 20 or around the 20. We want to get them to the 10 or inside the 10.
Defense, the first noticeable stat is, we had three take aways, two fumbles, an interception. The first fumble prevented points, and the second fumble led to points. Zibby picks it up and runs for a touchdown, that’s a defensive touchdown. In addition to Ndukwe’s interception. Give away, take away, we were plus three for the game. We turned it over three times by our defense. Our offense, we didn’t turn it over, although we did have the ball out of our hands on the one punt return fumbled by Zibby.
We had a couple of fourth down stops. The two times they did convert on fourth down were both in the red zone touchdowns. The two fourth down conversions were both scores.
We shut them out in the first half. As a matter of fact, we held them to three for three quarters. That’s pretty good. Three sacks. Two or three sacks, I had it down as three. I thought we played average against the run. We could play better than we played.
Some big plays. I think Rick had it like nine plays for 198 yards as far as big plays go, which we always try to track.
We were good on third down again. Five-for-13 on third down. We’ve shown a good chance of getting off the field. Unlike last week where we were penalty free, now we have three penalties, two pass interference calls, roughing the passer, all major penalties. That’s one thing we can’t have.
The guy who really stood out for me in this game, defensively, after watching the tape, just like Mitchell Thomas on special teams, I thought Mo Crum was the one who really stood out for me on defense.
Going over to offense, we didn’t turn the ball over, just a flipside of Penn State. I thought we had good execution in both the no huddle and the two minute operation before half. I thought our third down was lacking. We ended up five-of-14 on third down, but we were four of four on fourth down. If you add them up, you’re 9 of 18, which is 50%. Still unsatisfactory.
We scored in the red zone, but we were held to field goals the first couple times. That’s unsatisfactory. We had four drops. We gave up three sacks. Once again, we had three penalties. We cut them in half for the first game, but we had two major penalties, two holdings and a false start. The obvious point that goes sometimes unnoticed is two penalties that occurred in the red zone, one of the holds and the false start ended up leading to field goals instead of touchdowns. That’s usually what ends up happening. Penalties are drive killers. Two of the three penalties were directly drive killers.
I thought when we tried to pound them inside there, like the second drive, I thought we weren’t getting a lot of movement, which forced us to go to a little different tact. I also thought in the second half we really didn’t come out very sharp after Zibby returns the one for a touchdown, so it’s now 27. First drive we get the ball, six plays, punting. Second time we go three and out. It doesn’t go as a three and out because we faked a punt, run it down there, scoring. We’re into converting making first downs, moving the chains, and ultimately going down and scoring. There were some big performances, but I thought the guy that stood out the most for me by far was Carlson. He had a big game. He blocked well. He had big production in the pass game. Really opened up some avenues for us, made some big plays for us in the game.
JOHN HEISLER: We’ll take some questions from people here.
Q. (No microphone.) COACH WEIS: The thing is, it’s what kind of big plays you’re giving up, too. That’s a really good point. When the big plays are 40 and 50 yard bombs away touchdowns, they’re already scores. Here if you give up a 20 yard run, you still have a chance to go ahead and stop ’em or hold ’em. When you play for through three quarters, and you’ve given up three points, the odds of you winning usually are pretty good.
I would not call it a bend but don’t break mentality. With the exception of the last couple drives they had the ball, I thought the defense held them pretty much in check. I know they had some rushing yards in the first half, hit us with them. As the question was asked yesterday, this is not an excuse, but a practical answer, I mean, we were really concerned about the speed of their wide receivers and felt that we had to give them some extra attention. Fortunately/unfortunately that led to some ‘advantage Penn State’ in the running game.
Q. Do you mind having bend but don’t break? Is that acceptable? COACH WEIS: No. Whatever is going to work we’re a week by week type of mentality. I think that any defensive coach would like to just go three and out every series. But I think that you also have to identify, and I think the coaching staff is doing a very good job of identifying, the strengths and weaknesses through two games of who we’re going against and trying to limit not completely take away but limit, you know, what the other teams do the best.
Q. After the game yesterday, Penn State had the feeling they were going to at any time break through but just couldn’t. Were you worried at all? Early on it seemed like they had some momentum going. Defense bent but didn’t break.
COACH WEIS: Was I worried? Well, basically when they fumbled in that first drive, I thought that was big. When they fumbled the chance of getting some points. I mean, they mishandled the snap. Things are starting to go your way. Even after having to settle for a couple field goals early, once we got that touchdown to Geoff, I thought that was big. We went on that two minute drive, scored right before halftime. I thought that might have been one of the biggest plays in the game. Then the fumble, Travis tackles him, Crum knocks the ball loose, Zibby picks it up, all three guys involved, the touchdown. Now it’s 27. I just thought the fake punt kind of put the icing on the cake.
I think when you have a chance of really going to put them away, I think you got to put them away. I thought that was just a play that put them away.
Q. Talking to some of the guys on offense from week one to week two, there seemed to be more a sense of it was just a matter of time before the offense put it all together. They weren’t pressing about it. Did you get that sense?
COACH WEIS: I don’t quite look at it like that. I had high expectations in the opener as well as the second game. Did I think we made progress from the first game to the second game? Yes. The number of mental errors went down. The number of penalties went down. I mean, we still had mental errors. We still had three penalties. There were still some times in there that things could have gone better than they did. We still had two of our penalties in the red zone. Now all of a sudden instead of having a chance of being 14 0, it’s 6 0. Now that it is 6 0, one touchdown and you’re down.
I try not to look at it that way because then I’m opening up myself FOR making excuses. I would have liked to have thought we would have played better in the opener, but i thought still it was a nice bounce back.
Q. In some ways are you encouraged what you saw in terms of the problems being fixed?
COACH WEIS: Here is probably the thing that encouraged me the most. I think since I’ve been here, okay, since I’ve been here, that was probably the first time that I could say it was a team win. I thought that all three facets of the game stepped up. It wasn’t perfect. You heard me give you a litany of things that I thought went wrong. But I thought that the team it was a team win. It wasn’t won by the defense. It wasn’t won by the offense. It wasn’t won by the special teams. It was won by all three facets. To me, that’s the most uplifting thing of everything. When it’s an across the board team win, that makes you feel pretty good.
Q. You were asked yesterday about kind of making a living on turnovers, you can’t bank on being plus three every game. Can you talk about your ability not to turn the ball over offensively the last two games.
COACH WEIS: Well, there’s two aspects that you really have to deal with. One is the quarterback making good decisions. Very seldom does he throw a ball that’s up for grabs. Very seldom. In most cases an interception occurs when a quarterback forces a ball into coverage or he’s rolling to his right and tries to throw it across his body. He very seldom does that. Every once in a while there might be one that bounces off of some guy, might just be a crummy throw. But very seldom puts you in a disadvantage situation.
Secondly I think the coaches and the players spent a lot of time working on what we call a gauntlet. A gauntlet is a drill where we try intentionally to pry the ball away from skilled guys carrying the ball. You have to do it with runningbacks, you have to do it with wide receivers, you have to do it with tight ends. In addition, Coach Vaas works on knocking the ball out of quarterbacks, too, because the easiest guy to get a fumble on in reality is the quarterback. A lot of times they don’t know when they’re going to get hit. A lot of times they don’t see it coming.
Q. You touched on Mo Crum. Here is a guy that didn’t do a lot in spring practice from a physical standpoint, wasn’t exactly sure where he was going to line up in the fall. Can you talk about him a little bit more. Also is middle linebacker the best position of those three?
COACH WEIS: Well, there’s two that’s two parts for me. The first part is that one thing he did do the whole spring, even though he wasn’t physically repping, it gave him an opportunity to mentally rep all three positions. Normally you only can mentally rep one position. That’s the one you’re playing. But when you’re not playing, and you have the time to sit there and watch it, it gave him an opportunity to really study. He really studied all three positions. He was going to be ready to put in wherever we needed to.
Now, the second part of your question is, I think your middle linebacker has got to be the guy that runs your defense. That’s the guy who runs your defense. Every defense, the middle linebacker is the guy who runs it.
I think putting him in the position, could he be suited well at Will or Sam? Absolutely. But we like the fact that our best player is running the defense. So, therefore, for us at this time, that’s the best place for him.
Q. You mentioned before the season one of the things that gave you confidence about this team was the veterans on offensive and defensive lines. Have you felt like those two places have stepped up like you’d like to see?
COACH WEIS: I’m content. I think both our offensive lines and defensive lines every week will set the bar. Here is the one good thing about having experienced guys: they’re never satisfied. That’s the way it should be. They’re never satisfied. Hey, are they happy they won that game yesterday the way they did? Ubetcha. I think they always want more. When they set their goals higher, it’s good for me because then I set my goals higher in what my expectations are at the same time.
Young guys don’t do that. Normally things are going wrong, okay. But older guys don’t look at it that way. They want to just play better.
Q. You had mentioned Geoff Price working with Hunter Smith in the off season. Was that really the thing that tipped him over?
COACH WEIS: See, the working was mentally because he couldn’t work out with him physically. Hunter couldn’t be there and punt with him. That’s illegal. You can get sketchy with the NCAA sometimes, but we try to do everything by the board.
His biggest problem was not physical. His biggest problem was more mental. You know, obviously you see his leg. I mean, it isn’t like he didn’t have the leg to do this. But being able to have somebody go ahead and mentally say, Here is the things you got to do every time. When you’re dropping the ball, keep it higher, don’t drop it inconsistently. Things I wouldn’t be able to tell him the same way someone like a Hunter Smith can watch a tape and talk to him on the phone. There’s things you can and cannot do. But you can’t sit there and get clinicked by a guy like that because you end up opening yourself up to violations.
Q. Walls didn’t play as much yesterday. Lambert more solid. Wooden healthy.
COACH WEIS: I think what happened in that game is they were in a flow and they weren’t out there long. Remember, the time of possession in the first half was 19 to 11. The defense was only on the field in the first half for 11 minutes. I don’t think there was too many guys out there that were too tired at that time.
Q. You mentioned Trevor on the special teams unit. Can you evaluate his team and the play of Derek Landri on the defensive line. Seemed a couple screens they were able to get Hunt deep down field.
COACH WEIS: Trevor was part of that tackle. I forget which DB it was. I know it was to the defensive right to the offensive left. It was early this morning when I watched this. I don’t remember exactly who it was. I remember watching him run him down because I went back to watch the play a couple times because I wanted to see who it was. I saw it happen during the game, but I didn’t exactly remember who it was.
They’re very good. I know when we try to throw screens in practice, they’re a pain in the butt because they’re always blowing up the play. We can get the ends to rush upfield, but those two inside guys, they have a nose for the ball and I think they do a very good job on them.
Q. Overall the defense going against the screens, seemed like it was one of Penn State’s strengths.
COACH WEIS: It was a different type of screen they were running yesterday which I thought was pretty effective on their part. Really like throwing a screen into pressure. There’s a nuance to that, but they hit us with a couple plays there. They had a couple good calls on us.
Sometimes it’s how you match up against the defensive call at the time. A couple of them hit at the right time.
Q. You said you weren’t surprised yesterday by the way the defense played. Could you see this coming through training camp? Was it tougher for the offense to move the ball against the defense in practice?
COACH WEIS: It wasn’t so much the offense against the defense. It was that I had a lot more confidence in the defense than everyone else did. I know that some of you thought I was holding something back, which I wasn’t. I just said, I guess we’ll just have to see. They played two games so far. We’ve made some progress. But we have a long way to go. I mean, this team rolling in this week, I mean, you know, we’re going to get tested pretty good this week now. So far, so good. We got two in the bank.
Q. How much has the improved depth and the quality depth at defensive back helped you? Seemed like you played a lot of nickel yesterday.
COACH WEIS: It helped a lot because you saw a lot, for example, yet out there you all of a sudden, besides Lambert, both the freshmen out there, you saw Raeshon out there, you saw Terrell out there, you saw Kyle McCarthy, you saw Ray Herring out there. They were all out there. Now we have enough guys we can put out there where you’re not afraid to play four or five in a game.
Q. You said yesterday following the game you were in a pretty good mood, that that’s unusual right after a game.
COACH WEIS: That’s changed.
Q. You’re no longer in a good mood?
COACH WEIS: Now I’ve watched the tape. It’s never as good as you think it is when things went well and it’s never as bad as you think it is when things went poorly either. Now I’m in the right frame of mind for our 2:00 meeting.
Q. Is it better or worse than other games in the past?
COACH WEIS: It was nice, solid game. Like I said before, when all three aspects of the team play at a high level, that’s a very good sign. I mean, if you can have all three levels play solid every game, you’d have a chance to win every game.
Michigan last year, we won the game on defense. There’s different games that different facets end up being the main reason why you win. I think yesterday there wasn’t a main reason. I think all three facets of the game helped us win.
But as a coach, we’re cynical by nature, okay? I have to think there’s plenty of opportunity for us to improve based off of watching this tape.
Q. Tommy gets into the end zone for the sixth time in his career. Doesn’t happen that many times by accident. What does he do or what is it about him that this happens for him?
COACH WEIS: Some people can say it’s opportunistic. Some people can say it’s lucky. All I know is I hope it keeps happening. He has a nose for the ball. The ball comes to him. It’s kind of funny, I’ve watched guys in my career, just amazing how it happens. I mean, sometimes guys are great players, sometimes they’re not. I remember we had an old DB we picked up from the Cowboys with the Giants years ago by the name of Everson Walls. Every time it turned around, somebody was throwing the ball to him. He was a corner. He ran a 4.8. The ball was going to Everson Walls. Seems like every time you turn around, somebody was throwing an interception to him.
Zibby is one of those guys where the ball comes to him. Part of it is his instinct. Part of it is being in the right place at the right time.
Q. Once you get the ball in a turnover, are there things you can practice in terms of taking it back?
COACH WEIS: Well, first of all, being a punt returner that he is, he’s very good with the ball in his hands. You give him the ball in the open field with an interception, a punt return where he’s got some room to run, in this case a fumble, the odds of him scoring usually are pretty good.
Q. You converted very well yesterday on fourth down. Do you usually know on third downs if you’re going to go for it on fourth?
COACH WEIS: Well, like sometimes I’ll make a third down call knowing that like we had the one call, it was like third and three, okay, where I ran a play to the left. We got two yards. I already knew that I was going to go for it. Fourth down, when I threw the play action pass on the goal line, okay, when we’re on the one and a half on third town, we threw the play action pass, I was willing to throw the play action pass to center and pound it again because I knew if it was incomplete, I was going to go for it on fourth down. It wasn’t like I was thinking about it. I already know, when I make one call, I’ve already decided what the next one’s going to be.
The only time I have not made that decision, let’s say is like third and 14, okay, and you’re in plus territory, and then should you punt or shouldn’t you punt? We run the ball, like the one time where we ran the wall with Kevin on the fourth not Kevin. When we ran the ball with Darius on the fourth and three on the draw, okay, when we gave the ball to Darius, on that play right there, that was one of the ones where I did not know before we got to fourth down that I was going to go for it.
But based on the yardage that we picked up on third down, and where we were on the field, it was an instantaneous I knew what play I was going to call. I mean, you have to know what play you’re going to call so you’re not there looking at the sheet saying, Okay, what am I going to call now? That is one you have to react to a change of field position.
The situation changed. The situation now became it was a viable option to go ahead and run a play to try to pick up the first down.
Q. Yesterday Travis Thomas said he was given instructions based on what team comes on the field, make the call for the fourth down. Similar thing for Brady last week. How often do you put that decision in the player’s hands?
COACH WEIS: With veterans, as many times as you can. The reason for that is, you have the best chance of a successful play. Just as long as you have people that are dependable, okay, that aren’t going to go against your wishes. As long as you trust your players, why not do that? You have the best chance of having a successful play.
Q. I know Zbikowski has a lot on his plate. In the past you said he’s lobbied you for some offensive play. How seriously have you ever considered putting him on the offensive side of the ball?
COACH WEIS: Let him catch those punts first.
Q. You did warn us the left footed punter
COACH WEIS: Go watch the tape. It died hard to the other side. He wasn’t ready for it. Even though we used the left handed jugs in practice, which we did, we used the left handed jugs, got the reverse rotation, you could see it die hard the other way. Sure enough, came to fruition.
Q. When he came forward and dove to make the catch?
COACH WEIS: Just fair catch the ball. Do what he did. That gave us an opportunity. That was one right before halftime, right where we went down and scored. Saved us yardage. For me, I’m all for what he did there because the spiral was not really the point right there. It was a low line drive. Just the fact that he gets the ball, gets us an opportunity where we can get to the line of scrimmage and go, I thought that was a good job by him on that one.
Q. You were talking about what a good job Brady does not forcing some throws. With a veteran like that, with all the tools and the confidence that he has, I would think a lot of times with a quarterback in that situation, you’d have to fight that, where he would feel like he could squeeze something in any time.
COACH WEIS: I think we dealt with that when I first got here like that. I think that was one of our first mental blocks we have to get through that we don’t have to throw every ball down the field into traffic. It’s okay to check the ball down. It’s okay to dump the ball to Darius six or seven times, however many times we did it to Darius in the game. As a matter of fact, there was another time we could have dumped it to him. There was another time we sent four vertical in the fringe where he could have dumped the ball to Darius, could have been a big play. Once a quarterback understands how to use flare control, usually they’re starting to become a pretty good quarterback.
Q. Can you talk more about the rushing game, Darius’ game, the adjustments that will be made.
COACH WEIS: I think one thing they did, especially the second half now, because in the first half I thought the running game was okay. But the second half, it was almost all pressure. Now it takes away some of the inside runs. You can run right at them, okay? You can run right at them. You got a chance of getting blown up. We did make a couple adjustments to get a couple outside runs called.
Really, we didn’t have the ball much in the second half, if you really look at it. I know we had time of possession in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, he was out of the game by that point. In the third quarter, I think what we did is we went to a few more outside runs, away from the inside runs.
I think you have to be able to adjust on the fly based on what they’re doing.
Q. Penn State snapped the ball to Derrick Williams a few times. Had you seen that?
COACH WEIS: I think that was an off season. One thing they’ve done is they’ve lined him up everywhere. They’ve lined him up in the I, in the backfield. They put him in a lot of different positions. It was something we actually did practice.
Not that you anticipated him to have it half a dozen times. You knew he could be anywhere, because the fact that they’ll motion him into the backfield or they’ll line him in the backfield. Last week I believe he was offset to their left and ran a wheel rout for a touchdown. I’m pretty sure that was his touchdown last week. You have to be aware of him. Wherever they put him, they’re trying to get him the ball. They’re not doing that to not get him the ball.
Q. You talked about being impressed with Carlson. What has he done throughout the off season during practice to get where he was last night?
COACH WEIS: He always had great stamina, strength. He’s a very good athlete. The thing is, you have to learn how to be the starter. Sometimes people are presumptuous and think that’s an easy thing to do. But, you know, Anthony was the starter. John didn’t have the responsibility of being the go to guy when teams were worried about your wide receivers. We have a couple of frontline wide receivers that are going to get a lot of attention. Well, if they’re getting a lot of attention, the two guys the easiest two guys to get the ball to are the tight end and the back.
In the whole off season, he’s worked hard with Brady, caught a zillion balls. I think that’s starting to pay off.
Q. When we interview him, he seems really quiet, opposite of Fasano personality. Is he like that in practice?
COACH WEIS: He’s very quiet. He’s one of the smartest guys we have on the team. But he also, I’d like you to know, does have a temper. Despite the image he’d like for you to see. It might be one word, but when he drops a ball or misses a block or makes a mistake, his blood pressure does rise. He’s not as calm and even tempered as you may think.
Q. Talk about the no huddle, what you guys are trying to accomplish there. Is it more getting into your rhythm, trying to keep their players from changing plays?
COACH WEIS: It’s a combination of both those things. What I didn’t want to do is come out and not control the tempo of this game in this game. I thought the offense needed a pick me up. I didn’t want to come out and not control the tempo of the game. This isn’t something you need to do every game. I just felt after the first game it was a thing to do.
The second thing is not knowing what Penn State was going to do on defense, you know, figuring they haven’t played their hand against Akron, they haven’t showed everything they’re doing, they’ve had the whole off season to put in all the wrinkles they wanted to.
The one thing the no huddle does is simplify what teams are doing. You don’t have time to dial ’em all up. I mean, that’s one big difference. When you’re huddling, people have a chance to make their calls, make their adjustments to what they want to do. When you run a no huddle, it really limits what people do.
Q. You said you practiced the two minute drill in practice. Seemed those guys were comfortable when they ran that, very patient.
COACH WEIS: I think it reminded me of a practice, just when I was watching it happen. It reminded me of practice. Just get the ball. Even in that one, we were talking about Brady forcing the ball down the field before. You notice he threw the one ball to John, picked up a bunch of yards, runs out of bounds, throws another one to Darius, runs out of bounds, hit one down the field, hit the incut to Rhema. A nice, methodical drive down the field. It was just like going through practice.
I think the other thing is the offensive line gave them plenty of time because I think by that time in the first half, their defense was a little bit tired because they had been on the field so much in that first half.
Q. With all the pressures that you have before the game, during the game, after the game, was it nice to be able to just take a breath, listen to the song with your son, be part of the Notre Dame family?
COACH WEIS: That was probably the best part of the whole day. I don’t really think about it like everyone else does because I coach for 60 minutes. I don’t coach, Okay, it’s 27 0, the game is over. I’m always going through the thought process of how to finish the game. I’m always thinking that way until the game is over.
When you meet with the director of the band and your captains and you decide to go sing the alma mater with your student body, it wouldn’t be so pleasant if the first time you did that was after a loss. The fact they had a chance to do that for the first time after a big win. I tell you what, a lot of you are standing on the field. What all the fans don’t see, they don’t get to look up at them when you’re down on the field. That’s probably the coolest thing of everything. When you’re standing there in front of the student body watching them sing the fight song, watching them sing the alma mater, being an alum of the school, it’s something pretty special. Being able to share it with Charlie, that’s pretty special to me, too.
Q. I’m not sure if you faced this yet in college. A couple times yesterday some coaches decided playing for overtime wasn’t the way to go, and late in the games they went for wins. What goes into a coach’s thinking when it comes down to should I go to overtime or should I try to make the one play and win this game?
COACH WEIS: Well, I would think almost every time a coach goes for the win, it’s because they really don’t think they’re going to stop the opponent in overtime. I think that’s the logical reason for somebody to go for two.
I watched a little of the highlights of I guess it was it is Air Force Tennessee game.
Q. The Akron game, too.
COACH WEIS: I just think the coach’s thought process must be that they have a better chance of winning it here and now than going into overtime and seeing if they can play that way.
Very few times have I thought like that. To be honest with you, because I always think our offense is going to be good enough to win the game, to be honest with you, that thought went through my mind in the Fiesta Bowl when it was 27 20, there’s five and a half minutes to go in the game. That thought was going through my mind. We scored the touchdown, whether or not to go for two because they were moving the ball so well in that game.
That goes against my rule. My rule is kick the extra point, go into overtime, win it in overtime. I can tell you what went through my mind, therefore I would imagine that’s what’s going through their mind.
Q. Is that different from maybe what you faced in the pros because of the format for college?
COACH WEIS: Yeah, the problem you have first of all, you hardly ever go for two in the pros unless the situation dictates it. But the problem you have in the pros is sometimes the flip of the coin determines who wins the game. The reason why I feel you can play for the tie and go into overtime, you don’t have to worry about the flip of the coin being the reason why you won or lost the game. You’re going to get your shot. Regardless of what they do, you’re going to get your shot. You don’t have to worry about if they win the toss and take the ball and go down and score. The game’s over. You don’t have to worry about that in college ’cause you’re going to get your chance, too.
Q. You mentioned the reason to go to the no huddle is to keep their defense off balance, get into your flow. When you prepare for an opponent, does your defense always practice for a no huddle even if it’s a team that doesn’t normally do it? Do you assume an opponent could do it at any time?
COACH WEIS: They usually practice it like the second day of the week, like on Wednesday into Thursday. Every week we practice against no huddle. So there’s not a week that goes by they don’t practice no huddle. They usually just won’t do it on the first day of the week.
On offense, we usually practice no huddle on the second day of the week as well. This week was a little different because we practiced it on the first day because we knew we were going to open up the game that way. It was a bigger part of the game plan than just normal.
Q. Victor mentioned after the game yesterday what the defense really wanted to work on this year was consistency. He mentioned like last year, for instance, you gave up 10 points to Michigan, then 44 the next week to Michigan State. What is the key to practice consistency?
COACH WEIS: I think they’ve been more mentally alert in practice. I’m not saying they weren’t mentally alert last year. You remember last year was the first year in the system. I think a lot of guys were trying to figure out what to do rather than to go out there and do it.
Now I feel that I’ve seen, even as recently as Thursday’s practice, a much more greater awareness of what they’re supposed to do, which allows them to play without having to think about it the whole time. They’ve been less inhibited. I think that’s paid great dividends.
Q. When did you start to see evidence that this defense could react?
COACH WEIS: I’d say towards the end of spring, but definitely early in fall camp I saw it. Sometimes you don’t know if the advances in the spring are going to fall back again when you start in camp. Early in training camp, I could see there was some positive signs that things might go okay.
Q. With the last drive of the first half, is that pretty much as good as you’ve seen Brady and the offense move in that short period of time?
COACH WEIS: I think there’s been a couple of opportunities to run two minute drives, but none that just stayed spread out like that the whole time. You have to go back as recently as Stanford. It wasn’t that long ago we were in one of those drives where they went right down the field and scored.
I think the time management by Brady and the offense was excellent in that drive. Remember now, Mike, there’s that new rule now. You start a possession, the clock is going to start. You have to be right out there at the line of scrimmage when the referee puts the ball in play. If not, if you’re in the huddle, it’s going to cost you 20 seconds. That 20 seconds, the last play that was snapped with 12 seconds to go, I mean, that could be the difference between scoring the touchdown and not scoring the touchdown.
In addition to the execution, I thought the time management was outstanding.
Q. The defense was talking about how they want to keep that chip on their shoulder. Is that something that comes from you or them?
COACH WEIS: I think they’re a prideful group. Like anyone else that has been hammered down so much, they still have that bad taste in their mouth following the Bowl game. I can’t did tell you how many times they heard about it.
I wouldn’t say it’s been perfect so far. But I think they know they have a chance to be good on defense. I think, just like Victor said to whoever brought that one up, I think they really don’t want to be a hot and cold defense. I think they want to be perceived as consistent, a defense that can play good week by week.
I’m all for them setting their goals like that because they marry mine.
Q. You mentioned you were checking out the highlights, talking about the overtime game. Was there anything that surprised you in college football yesterday? Do you have any thoughts on Ohio State/Texas?
COACH WEIS: No, like I said, I’m probably the worst person in the world to watch a football game with because I’m always so critical when I’m watching it. To be honest with you, I was just laying on the couch, talking to my wife and son, just trying not to be disrespectful to them because I really wanted to go to sleep (laughter). I’ll be perfectly honest with you.
Q. Is it safe to say your poll
COACH WEIS: We’re not going there. You got me one week. We’re not going the week by week analysis of Charlie Weis’ poll. We’re not going there. I gave you an honest answer, as was probably verified by the USA Today, whoever checked on me. When I gave you the answer, I gave you an honest answer. Let’s just leave it at that. I think there’s a bunch of good teams out there. I’d like to hope that we’re one of them.
Q. After the game, looking at some of the players, a lot of them had scowls on their faces. Is that something you teach them, not to get too hyped up after a victory?
COACH WEIS: A lot of them had what?
Q. Scowls on their faces. They weren’t smiling, laughing, slapping hands.
COACH WEIS: I thought they were a pretty happy bunch, to tell you the truth. The ones I saw had big smiles on their face. Maybe I was looking at different ones than you. I saw a lot of happy campers down there.
Q. Do you try to teach them, hey, you know what, we still got a long season ahead of us?
COACH WEIS: We definitely do that. But I think because it was our first time doing it, I think it was kind of like a feeling out process. How do we do it so we don’t mess this one up? I can tell you it was a very they were happy in that corner. They were even happier in the locker room. I think they want to present themselves well. Usually they do so in a very, very proper manner.
Q. How did this Penn State team compare to the Big 10 teams you faced last year?
COACH WEIS: I mean, you go back and forth. I think it just happens to be it all depends on when you’re playing the teams. I think they’re going through a transition period, transition from the quarterback, going from a move the pocket quarterback that can beat you on any play with his feet to a drop back quarterback. You have a changeover, you have four different offensive linemen than you had last year. You have different defensive linemen, different DBs than you had last year.
I think every game, every year, is its own separate entity. I don’t think you establish a personality of the whole conference. I think it’s the personality of your team. I think your personality has to change as your personnel changes.
Q. Is it too early, two weeks into the season, to really start looking at national picture, what the implications of this weekend could mean?
COACH WEIS: It’s too early when you got Michigan coming up this week. Yes, it’s very easy to keep the players on an even keel when you got Michigan coming in. It’s very easy because we know that Michigan’s good. This is no big secret. We know it’s a big opponent. It’s a tough opponent. We know they’re 2 0. We know they want us. We’ve gotten the best of them the last couple years. We know all those things.
It’s really not that tough, in my mentality, the one game at a time. It’s really not that tough to do when it’s Michigan rolling into town. Actually, it’s pretty easy.
JOHN HEISLER: Thanks very much. We’ll see you next week at 12:30.