Sept. 16, 2008
COACH WEIS: Good afternoon. On to Michigan State. Michigan State’s beaten us eight out of the last 11 times we’ve played them.
We’re playing for the megaphone trophy. Coach Dantonio, second year there. Obviously been a head coach at Cincinnati, been a defensive coordinator at Ohio State and DB coach at Michigan State where his ties originally came.
His offensive coordinator is Don Treadwell, who also coaches the wide receivers. Averaging 30 points a game. The thing that gets you, very striking thing, when you start working the statistics, is the balance between the rushing and their passing. They’re averaging 193 yards rushing in a game, 196 yards passing in a game.
They’ve done a nice job in time of possession controlling the clock. They’ve only allowed one sack this year.
Last week they rushed for 259 yards and four and a half yards a carry. But the one thing, we’ll obviously talk about Javon Ringer here in a second. But Brian Hoyer has really done a nice job since taking over for (Drew) Stanton. Now he’s got a year under his belt, and he looks like a much, much more competent quarterback than when he first took over. I think he’s done a really nice job.
Now, it helps when you’ve got Ringer to hand the ball off to. He’s one of the best backs in the country. Even though he missed most of the spring with a shoulder, he’s truly a workhorse. And the last couple of games he’s carried it 34 times and 43 times. Last week he carried it 43 times for 282 yards and a couple touchdowns.
As a matter of fact, he scored nine touchdowns already this year in three games. He’s got 104 rushes for about 500 yards, just under five yards a carry.
They have three fullbacks that block for them. And all three of them are converted linebackers. (Andrew) Hawken and (Jeff) McPherson and (Josh) Rouse. They’re all guys that moved from linebacker to fullback. Rouse uses a little move tight end. (Garrett) Celek is their second tight end who they use a lot of times. (Charlie) Gantt is definitely their starting tight end there.
Wide receiver, Mark Dell, he injured his ankle a little bit in the third quarter last week. But looked like, watching on tape, he returned a few series later. He’s a team leading receiver this year with 13 catches for 320 yards. Averaging over 24 yards a catch, though, which is a little bit scary.
(B.J.) Cunningham is their Z. He also got injured last week. He injured a knee. They’re saying they expect him to play. They’re calling it a bruised knee. He’s their second leading receiver, averaging 17.4 per catch.
The other two guys that I think we’ll see are Blair White. And Deon Curry, haven’t seen as much of him yet; but he played in 22 games over his career, and going in I thought he was going to be their top wide receiver. So I’m expecting him to pop up sooner or later.
The offensive line returned three guys, three starters. The right side of the line, Jesse Miller, third year as a starter, right tackle. The right guard, (Roland) Martin, his third season as starter at right guard. And (Joel) Nitchman at center. On the left side, (Joel) Foreman plays left guard. And (Rocco) Cironi, who was the back up on the right side to (Jesse) Miller last year, has moved over as starting left tackle.
The other guy you’ll see a lot in the game is (Mike) Bacon, because he’s the interior sub at both guard and center, and he’s been playing in the game.
On defense, Coach Narduzzi, he’s been with Coach Dantonio in Cincinnati, and giving up only 16 points a game. One of the stats that they’re very good at is third down, they’ve been, teams have only been converting at 29 percent. And we’ve had some trouble on third down. So it’s going to be a challenge for us to fix this problem this week, because it’s one of the main points of emphasis for our offense.
In addition to that, people have tried fourth down four times and they haven’t got a conversion. And on top of that, in the red zone, people are only scoring touchdowns 40 percent of the time in the red zone. They’ve played very good situational football.
Now the defensive line, two ends, (Brandon) Long and (Trevor) Anderson, they both had different injuries at different times already this year. So you’ve seen (Colin) Neely play a lot as a third defensive end. I think we’ll see all three of them in the game.
The three technique is – (Justin) Kershaw is a three technique. He’s a returning starter. And Oren Wilson, he’ll be in there at nose. When you get the linebacker, two guys, all three of them stand out, but the one that stands out the most is Greg Jones. In his career, he’s played inside and out. He’s definitely one of the best players on their defense.
He sees time inside and out and odd sometimes. Put him as an outside rusher. Last week they also used him as a mike linebacker at odd. They’ve lined him in a lot of different places and you’ve got to keep your eye on him. As a matter of fact, his back up was listed as 34, (Brandon) Denson. But Denson, you’ll see him show up, too, because when they go to their odd package, he’s the guy who comes in the game.
Now (Adam) Decker, he plays their middle linebacker. And Eric Gordon, returning starter at will, who leads the team in tackles. He’s a very athletic, fast linebacker, that allows them the versatility to not the have to go in and out of nickel all the time because he can play that position.
In the secondary, obviously (Otis) Wiley anchors their secondary. A skilled safety. A play maker. I’ll also talk about him shortly in punt return.
But he’ll be paired back there at safety. (Danny) Fortener has been starting, because Kendall Davis Clark has been hurt. If he’s back, I expect to see Clark in there. But I’m not sure whether he’ll be back or not.
(Ross) Weaver and (Chris) Rucker will handle the corners. And when they do go to nickel, 28 (Mike) Bell shows up in a game as their nickel back.
Their specialists are all experienced. I mean, their returning kick off guy, (Todd) Boleski, he’s a leftie. Kick off specialist. (Brett) Swenson, third year as their place kicker. (Aaron) Bates was also their holder. He’s a returner. He punted last year. And (Alex) Shackleton, he’s in the second season as long snapper. So all those guys, none of those guys are new. And they put experienced guys back there in the returning game, because Ringer is their main kick off returner, along with (A.J.) Jimmerson, and Wiley is their main punt returner. They’re not afraid to put their good guys back there in the return game. And that’s where they are.
Q. Charlie, you mentioned Michigan State has only allowed one sack. Your offense hasn’t allowed any sacks. What do you think is the major contributing factor for that this year?
COACH WEIS: We’ve spent a lot of time right from the spring through the summertime of making a conscientious effort with the players and coaches of identifying a bunch of problems we had.
And I think everyone’s much more in tune with the knowledge of the game and playing at a better level, both physically and mentally. The offensive line gets a lot of that credit. They’ve done a very good job.
But in addition to that, the running backs and blitz pickup, tight ends and the quarterback getting rid of the ball they all come into play. I’ve been very pleased, obviously, after the first two games where we are as far as protection goes.
Q. One of your linemen, I forget which one, also credited the fact that they see so many blitz packages in your own practices, from what Jon (Tenuta) and Corwin (Brown) are doing. How much do you think that’s been an effect?
COACH WEIS: In the past one of the things I was always leery with is just letting it be a blitz a thon every day in practice. But because we’re practicing blitzing so much, the volume of blitzes they get on a day in, day out basis when it’s one against ones have been increased so much. It gets them much more ready for a lot of things that could be dialed up. I think it definitely has a big carry over effect.
Q. Charlie, this could end up being kind of a slug ’em out game up front. How do you feel about how your defensive line will hold up in a game like that?
COACH WEIS: Obviously, this will be a little bit different game than played in the first two games, because the first two games were multiple wide receiver games most of the time. I think Michigan State’s MO is more of 12 and 21 people, which are two wide receivers on the field in both those packages.
Whether it’s two tight ends with a back or two backs and one tight end, I think it puts you more into regular defense. So all the things we’ve been practicing.
You know, now there’s some guys that haven’t been heavily involved in the mix. For example, a guy like Ian Williams has been playing behind Pat Kuntz in nickel defense, now goes back to your starting nose.
So there’s guys that have just been waiting for this game because they know, this gives them an opportunity to be on the field a whole bunch more.
Q. (Mike) Turkovich was a guy who started for you at guard last year. I know he played tackle early in his career. What makes him a better fit at left tackle? Was it just the position switch? Was it maturity, something he did in the off season that made him suddenly the guy there?
COACH WEIS: I think if you asked him, knowing Michael, who is such an intense guy, his confidence. I think he had the ability to play inside or outside. But a lot of times when you’re out there at left tackle you’re on an island.
I think you need to have confidence that you can stand there by yourself and do it. And I think this year, in training camp, he just showed us a different level of confidence than we had seen with him at any time in his career here.
Q. (Chris) Stewart, (David) Grimes, any update on those guys?
COACH WEIS: I think Chris is going to go today. David was going to go get another test on his back today because he’s stiff again. We’re going to see where we are with that one.
That one I don’t know the answer to yet with David. Chris, I know, was going to go today. I held him yesterday from the running. That really upset him. But he’ll be practicing today.
Q. I said I’d ask you this this week. You’re now between games two and three, what can you expect?
COACH WEIS: That’s a Tom (Coyne) question there. (Laughter).
Well, I think this is a different set of encyclopedias now. I think that what’s happened now, I think now the confidence level of the team has gone up. After this last game, it’s gone up a whole bunch. But now they’re going on the road for the first time against a team that, a smash mouth team that likes to play physical football.
And it will be interesting to see now how we respond now that we’ve got some renewed confidence and some growing confidence, how we’re going to respond playing on the road.
Q. The guys from NBC assumed that Trevor Robinson was starting this past week. Did Stewart come to you guys and say, hey, I can go, I want to go?
COACH WEIS: No, as a matter of fact I met with them (NBC crew) on Friday and I said Stewart will go as long as he will go and don’t be surprised to see Robinson in the game. That’s exactly what I told them.
Q. You moved (Kevin) Brooks to the long snapper. Have you had to — you talked —
COACH WEIS: To the short snapper.
Q. Yes, in addition to the being the long snapper, do you make some adjustments to compensate?
COACH WEIS: Yes, the guys next to him have to play a little bit closer, because he’s not as wide a body. I think that that — the operation was excellent considering the weather. I mean as far as the short snapping went, the operation was excellent.
But it was those two guards you have to make sure they cover him some so he doesn’t just get run right over.
Q. I guess because you’re facing a different style of offense, this may change Ethan Johnson’s responsibility. But he was mainly playing a defensive tackle in a 4 man front, or a three technique in a 4 man front. I know he came in, or he was at east listed as a defensive end when he came in. Can he play out there?
COACH WEIS: He can play five technique or three technique. He can play either one right there. So what he’s going to do he’s going to get on the field as soon as we can get him on the field, because you’ll see him on the field again this week. I just don’t know whether it will be a five technique or three technique, but he’ll be out there.
Q. You talk a lot about in the past how you took every game the same. You thought that was the right message. Put a lot into it. What do you do this week as far as the game, what’s the message for the team this week?
COACH WEIS: I have a theme each week. I haven’t given it to them yet. But I think generally the statement is, okay, now you beat somebody, beat somebody that, a program that everyone respects. And now you’re going on the road. Okay. Playing against a nice solid football team. Are you going to spend a week watching TV and reading the newspapers and having everyone tell you that you’re halfway decent now, or are you going to go try to grow from this?
I think the most important thing now is for our team to make sure they grow from the experience that they just had and not have any form of a setback, because we’re not good enough to just show up and think you’re going to win.
We’re going to have to play with that same type of passion and with that same type of preparation that we did this past week that put us in the position to win. And I think this is the next step on the curve where you can sit there and say, okay, now what are you going to do? You’ve had some moderate success, what are you going to do with that success?
Q. You talked after the game the other day about how you reassessed the team after the Michigan game last year. Where are you now as far as one versus one at practice, how often are you doing that? Is that the status for the rest of the season?
COACH WEIS: Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. We went yesterday and we do it Tuesday and then we do it on Wednesday. We just don’t do it on Thursday. And actually we end practice with it. So instead of it being just placed early in practice, we end practice with it and then we kick some field goals so that they’re tired.
I like to do it towards the end of the practice when they’re tired. That’s when that period’s in there. And we will go full speed today and full speed tomorrow. It’s a 15 play period. But it’s full speed.
Q. During your talk about Michigan State you talked about Ringer, tell us about Ringer.
COACH WEIS: When we get to a team top 10, one thing you have to realize when you have a guy that has shown to be one of the best backs in the country, that they’re going to keep on feeding it. You want to know what? You might stop him a couple times but that’s not going to stop him from giving him the ball. They’re going to keep on giving him the ball and you’re going to have to keep on stopping him, because they’re going to keep on giving it to him.
You don’t have to worry about whether or not they’re going to take him out of the game plan, because that is not going to be the case. So you better bring your lunch pail with you because they’re going to get behind those big linemen and hand him the ball and you’ll have to stop him.
Q. Is that going to be a deterrent, considering last week you had some missed tackles against (Sam) McGuffie?
COACH WEIS: I think that will be a point of emphasis.
Q. Last thing for me. You talked a lot about Mike Anello. You gave him number 45 for the Michigan game last year. You didn’t give it to him this year. Give us a little background.
COACH WEIS: He asked to not have it this year. Actually, he had — he might have had 37 last year. But one of our kickers or somebody was wearing the same number he was wearing. So when we were going to Michigan, there was a possibility that he and the other person, whatever number he was wearing, you can’t have two guys with the same number on the field at the same time.
So that was probably Henry’s (Scroope, equipment manager) foresight to go ahead and give him 45. But I don’t mess with the numbers. I’d like to sit there and take the credit for that one. But that wasn’t mine.
Q. Charlie, both games you’ve played so far you’ve had the ball at the end of the game, sitting on a lead, deep in the opponent’s territory and you go for it. You either get the first down and keep the clock moving. Last week you threw into the end zone. Just wondering what your philosophy is in the last couple of minutes when you’re sitting on a lead like that?
COACH WEIS: You want to make sure that they have to go the length of the field. What you don’t want to do is go get a kick block and give them an opportunity to get anything. We got on with the offensive and defensive staff. And sometimes I will give them the opportunity you want to go ahead and kick a field goal here? Just sometimes the further you keep them down in their zone, to have them to go the length of the field the better.
Q. Is that a situation where Jimmy can audible fourth down?
COACH WEIS: No. No. That is not one of those situations where he can do that.
Q. You hear upside as something that’s referred to players a lot, especially when it comes — either guys coming in young or guys going into the NFL draft. Does the team have a lot of upside? You’ve won two games and you still have a lot of areas where you can improve.
COACH WEIS: I think the interesting thing is in every position on an offense/defense and special teams, there’s enough encouraging things to have the arrow pointing up. But there’s enough — there’s so many things that we could work on that as we continue to get better in these things, you would like to think in the development of our team that the team will just, as the year goes on, just keep on getting better and better and better.
To be honest with you, that’s what it’s always supposed to be like. So that was the goal with this team this year, to just take the team and grow and grow and grow. And hopefully be playing as best we can by the end of the year. Be a lot better then than we are right now.
Q. Charlie, is there a little bit of a sort of remedial refresher course on how to handle success with these guys this week?
COACH WEIS: That’s probably the first thing I’m going to talk to them about when I get them in here today. I’m going to talk to them about how you handle — let’s go the other side first and work to this one. You go through a whole year where you come in every Monday you walk into class and everyone said what’s up with that? What’s up with that? Now all of a sudden you go to class on Monday and everyone, hey, great job. Great job. Great job.
Now, do you feel better? Absolutely. But Tuesday is a big workday. Monday’s a workday, but it’s an orientation day for the game plan. Tuesday is a big workday. So today they can’t have a bad day today.
They need to have a good day today, because it will show that the team has enough maturity to put that wind behind them, just like you would put a loss behind you and go ahead and move forward.
And I’m really interested to see how they respond to that one today. But that was the message of our staff meeting this morning with the coaching staff, was exactly this subject, was pushing the team to make sure they need to understand that we need to play a lot better each week. You can’t just worry about the game that was played.
Q. Is that a tough thing to learn, number one? And number two, who do you lean on? I assume you decide to be a little more ornery a little more nitpicky?
COACH WEIS: I’m leaning on the assistant coaches because if I don’t see what we’re talking about, them staying on to push them to go forward, because I’ve already broached the subject, I can in my tomorrow morning’s staff meeting I can say didn’t we have this meeting? There’s a trickle-down effect. But I’m not looking to be ornery. I’m just looking to them to follow the lead and let’s go ahead and see if we can’t push them to the next level right here.
Q. Another thing, I think you mentioned, I think you joked that Golden is sort of becoming a legend in his own mind. He seems like pretty level-headed. But how can you describe a little about him that we don’t see?
COACH WEIS: He’s a great kid. He catches that touchdown and he looks at me and he says: I cannot be stopped. (Laughter) he’s saying it in jest. But I’m looking at him, only Golden would sit there and say come to the head coach and say: I cannot be stopped. Even though he’s saying it early in the game, it was just a funny thing for him to be saying.
But his confidence level is so much more than it was at any time last year. Even last year when he would make one of those few plays he made, it wouldn’t be just so much that he could run by them but because he had great ball skills and pluck it away from someone else.
Now he actually knows how to run by them. Like the route he ran the other day. I mean that route — he’s going in there making it look like he’s throwing a block to safety and then turning it up field. The safety thought exactly that. He thought he was going in to block the safety.
Last year this time he would have taken one step towards the safety and just ran up the field and then the skies would have been gone for naught and the safety would have turn and ran with him. Now, I don’t know if he could have run with him. But that’s the difference of nuance route between last year and this year him having an understanding of what exactly he’s trying to do.
Q. We talked about it a million times, the progress from last year to this year, but is it surprising that it’s gotten to the point where it’s at or maybe is that just an easier position for a guy to learn?
COACH WEIS: In his case, because he has such God given ability, you know which he does. I mean he has great wheels. He has hands. He has all those other things. I think because it’s the second go around, second time through.
Last year was his first year even being indoctrinated to playing the wide receiver position. You would have expected him to make a huge leap. You just didn’t know how big a leap. But I think his best football is a long way away from where he is now.
Q. Charlie, emotion. We’ve seen a lot of it in the first two games. Can you talk about how much of a role it’s played in the 2 0 start?
COACH WEIS: It’s probably one of the biggest themes that I’ve told you in the off season. I mean, we’ve been addressing this since December and January and February and March.
And I felt that the team didn’t have fun. We’d go out for a game and you wouldn’t — all those other teams would be out there loose and ready to go. And I’m not talking about being goofballs now, I’m talking about going out and looking like they were going to enjoy themselves. And that wasn’t our team.
As I told you before, it’s one of the things, as I evaluated me and us and our program and where we are, I thought had to change. And I think it’s changing. I think you saw those guys really enjoying themselves the other day. To be honest with you, if you would have watched them in the fourth quarter against San Diego State, they were really enjoying themselves then, too. Hopefully that’s the signs of many more enjoying moments as they get at it this year.
Q. Is that something that you are still having to instill in them or are there some guys on the team or are they all —
COACH WEIS: I think they’ve taken it and run with it by this point right now. I think it’s already instilled now. I think it took us some time for them to — like me allowing a distraction from my music on Thursday the other day. For me to intertwine a little music in the midst of my Jersey guys.
That really took a lot for me. It pained me to do that. But that’s part of letting them enjoy themselves. And I think little things like that with the team would go a long way.
Q. Does it ever come to a point where you have to kind of tone it down? Have you seen that yet? Do you worry about having to cap it?
COACH WEIS: Not yet. If that time comes, you know, if that time comes — I address that, too. But what you can’t do, you want to push them to the edge. You don’t want to push them over the edge, but you want to stay as close to living on the edge as you can right there, because that’s when I feel you’re getting the most out of them.
Q. Your defense, Bruton and McCarthy have a ton of tackles. Is that just a byproduct of blitzing more and when they do get passed off there or is that something else?
COACH WEIS: What happens when you’re bringing all those linebackers up front and you put a hat on them, you’re now rotating a safety down behind those linebackers that they’re picking up. So when they pick those guys up, there’s no one left for the safety, because they’ve already used up their blockers to pick up the blitz the at linebackers. And now you end up running to an unblocked safety.
Q. Is that just getting used to a little bit for safeties to play like that?
COACH WEIS: Not in this scheme it’s not getting used to it. That’s what this scheme is. This scheme is you bring a lot of linebackers. You occasionally bring the safeties or corners but you bring a lot of linebackers and rotate and compensate for where the holes are. Think about it, if you’re bringing two guys off a side then you have to rotate somebody into that hole right there so that you don’t void that hole in case that’s where the ball goes. And that’s where the safeties are. When the ball goes there, those safeties are sitting right there to compensate for that.
Q. You mentioned third down conversions earlier. What do you do in practice, I guess, pick that up?
COACH WEIS: There’s certain things that we do all the time that we’re really good at. So one of my messages for the offensive staff earlier today was let’s get to those — we have to establish a mentality on third down similar to first down or to two minute or all those other areas, where we’re in a comfort zone. Where, when we get third and 5, we’re going to call this play and we know it’s going to work.
Right now we don’t have that same type of confidence. So I said let’s get that handful of plays and start practicing over and over again so that the fellas have that same type of confidence on third down that they would in first down or two minute.
Q. With this rivalry, seems like the road team ends up winning for a while?
COACH WEIS: That’s a good thing, then, right?
Q. Is there something to that, though? Because that can kind of weigh on a home team a little bit considering it’s now been I think six, seven, eight years since a home team has won.
COACH WEIS: I don’t think so. I think that they beat us pretty good last year and the year before we were very fortunate to win and the year before that they got up big on us early and we came back and tied it up and they beat us in overtime.
Each game has had its own personality. So I don’t think so. But I do know the last time we played against them at our place they beat us pretty soundly.
Q. Charlie, I guess aside from talking to your coaches tomorrow morning and today doesn’t go as well as you like, what’s the contingency for the players there? What would tomorrow be like if you don’t see what you want today?
COACH WEIS: I will. They’ll show up today. The players will show up. I have confidence that they’ll show up. The answer would be to hit them more. And that’s what I would do. I would hit them more. Because I’ve made deals with the team. And I said there’s got to be a give and take. I’m willing to do this if you do that.
And they’re smart enough to understand that I’ll make them pay up if they don’t own up to their end of the deal. So I really — I’d be surprised if that were the case, to be honest with you.
Q. A couple games into the season where your opponent had some tape on what you like to do, what you go to, tendencies. Are we getting to the point where you do some more self scouting where you anticipate how they’re going to defend Golden or even on special teams how they’re going to deal with Anello and Bruton?
COACH WEIS: We’ve broken down the self scout. I think the self scout can carry you so far until you have about four or five games, four or five games of evidence. But let’s face it, if something’s working for you after two games that blatantly is obvious, well, you have to assume that they’re going to do all they can to negate that. You just have to assume.
Now, what you don’t do is you don’t all of a sudden say, okay, Mike Anello has made a bunch of plays so let’s take him off of special teams. You give them an opportunity to show that they’ve fixed it. But when they’re doing that, then if they end up putting more guys on Mike Anello, that means somebody else is going to be singled with an opportunity to make a big play.
So that’s going to be the correlation that ends up happening if they try to take somebody out of the game.
Q. What is it about Jersey alums from the’70s and devastating leg injuries?
COACH WEIS: That’s a loaded question. Obviously this was just a fluke. It was just a fluke.
Q. You haven’t heard from (Joe) Theismann or anything?
COACH WEIS: As a matter of fact he called but I have not called him back yet. I remember watching that play. I remember watching that play, because I was obviously a diehard Giants fan. I remember watching that play. I’m trying to as little as possible to talk about Charlie Weis and talk more about Notre Dame. But I have appreciated the volume of people that have called and emailed and texted. But we’re trying to beat Michigan State.
Q. On to that, for the 10 defensive players that started both teams safeties have 50 percent of the tackles. As well as they’ve been playing is that a point of concern especially since Ringer is on the docket?
COACH WEIS: Remember, the two first games have been almost all multiple wide receiver games. So that kind of puts you in a position that’s the guys who are in the position to make the tackles in multiple wide receiver games. Now this game I don’t think it will be a multiple wide receiver game as their main personnel group.
Like I said, I think you normally have two wide receivers on the field, which gets you into normal defenses, and I think that’s when the linebackers become more integral and to the volume of tackles you see in the game.
Q. As much as everyone talks about Golden’s speed, seems to me his hands are underrated. He makes a lot of great plays?
COACH WEIS: See, he had the good hands. I said it last year. Talked about pluckability. He has it. He has good hands and he has good speed. But he’s always had good hands. Those two issues were never the issue. Either one of them.
The issue was route running and dependability and those things. And that’s where he’s made his greatest strides.
Q. Coach, their game on Saturday was played in brutal conditions. How difficult is that to evaluate that phase?
COACH WEIS: Remember, you go — first of all, we have our game from last year. The same coordinators. So we have a lot of volume from that last year. And then they’ve played three games, not just one. So that Cal game was a heck of a game to watch.
You watch that game. But you learn something from each one of those games. From each one of the first three games. And our game from last year. And you go back to their game against Boston College and the Bowl game. You have plenty of volume of stuff that they’ve done.
But you don’t have to look at just last week’s game and a driving rainstorm. You have three games of evidence from this year’s team right there to be able to do some analysis off of. Because they’ve already played a third.
Q. And I don’t know how much NFL you watch, but what would be the situation where you would consider going for two point conversion and a win in this kind of a game?
COACH WEIS: I was shocked. I wasn’t surprised. I was shocked. I was shocked. Hey, it worked. So good for him. But I was shocked. I don’t know if I’d ever — you know, I don’t know if I ever would have done that in the NFL, I just don’t know. I was shocked. That’s the best way I could say it. Fortunately for him, he was right.
Q. Following up on that, you’re two yards away. Are you going to get a better situation of being two yards away from winning the game?
COACH WEIS: Yeah, but see you get to call whether or not you want a short point versus a maybe two points. I mean, there’s a big difference now.
How many times you miss an extra point in the NFL? I mean I don’t know what that stat is, but it’s got to be — what’s the stat, Tom, have you got it? (Laughter).
But it can’t be many, would you say? So I think that look at your team. Look at your team. You’re the head coach of a bunch of professionals. You get the two point conversion so you win everyone loves you. But you don’t get the two point conversion, I can guarantee you about 43 of them are saying why didn’t we just kick it.
Q. My question actually was going to be about emotion and is it more difficult at Notre Dame to get that emotion. This play is so serious, the kids you recruit so much different that getting that emotion is more difficult?
COACH WEIS: No, I just think that I’ve had to let loose of the strings a little bit. And I think that every kid that comes here has plenty of emotion. I think that just on the football field you need to let them be them.
Like people say to me, you guys have long hair. I say, yeah, so does my young kid. They have personalities. You let them have the personalities. As long as they’re good kids and do the right thing, if they want to sing in the locker room, what do I care?
Q. Did you control those emotions a little bit too much?
COACH WEIS: No, I never controlled them. But now I encourage them. There’s a difference. I never told them not to do anything. But they probably felt inhibited like they couldn’t. But you know now I kind of encourage them instead of discouraging them.
Q. This has been brought up that, well, this is the NFL coach, no emotion. Is there some legitimacy to that claim?
COACH WEIS: Repeat the question.
Q. Well, coming from the NFL game where you always talk about you’ve got to treat each team the same and move on to the next, college football being a little more emotional —
COACH WEIS: That element hasn’t changed. Treating each game as a separate entity, that hasn’t changed. But I think not treating it as much as a business I think that has definitely changed.
And maybe that’s part of the growing experience. But I mean it’s definitely changed because the NFL it’s a job. That’s a livelihood. So from that element, yes, I’d say there’s a difference.
Q. Have you evolved, then, would you say, has that been an area of evolution for you as a coach?
COACH WEIS: I think you have to — there’s a growing experience that you go through that you find better ways of doing it than you were doing it. So I think if you’re intelligent, you have to realize that you don’t always have the answer and there’s better ways of doing it.
And you have to keep on searching for those better ways of doing it. And I’ll continue to do that. I’ll continue to look for better ways of doing it. And as long as it’s a program moving forward and doesn’t put our players at risk, on or off the field, then I’m willing to try just about anything.
Q. Two things. You talked about third downs, and I know Coach Haywood puts a lot of emphasis on situational football and staying on schedule. I wonder, A, if it surprises you given that emphasis that you haven’t been better on third down. And I guess B is how much has your guys’ ability to make big plays and the struggle in that area maybe the characteristic of a younger team?
COACH WEIS: Well, I think that to answer the first part I think that we’re disappointed where we are in third down conversions at this point because I think it definitely inhibits your offense and stifles some potential drives that could lead to points.
I think that what we need to do, like we were talking about earlier, is I think we have to get to some staples on third down that the team goes in there and says I’m glad they called that play because we know we’re going to get five yards. I know we’re going to get seven yards, whatever it ends up being.
Because we haven’t been in all third and longs. Like if our conversion ratio were at 25 percent because every snap were third and 10, that would be another thing. But that has not been the case. So that is one thing that we were addressing early this morning to try to start fixing that.
Q. Secondly, I’m wondering, last year you talked about waiting for this offensive identity to emerge. Then you talk about you learned you kind of needed to pound it in identity into them. I’m wondering if what we’re seeing now is a little of both, that you emphasized some things you want the offense to be able to do or is the identity emerging a little bit different from what you thought it might be, too?
COACH WEIS: Are you talking about on offense?
Q. Yes, sir.
COACH WEIS: I think that, first of all, I think the one thing you’re seeing is the offensive line’s confidence is growing. And I think that’s blatantly obvious to everybody. Both in protection and going toe to toe with good players at the line of scrimmage, what you saw this week.
So you did not see a mismatch like we’ve seen in the past. You saw our guys going toe to toe with them. As that happens, it really opens a lot of doors and puts you in a position where you can do a lot of things.
But that being said, one thing you always have to keep in mind is you also don’t play into a team’s strength. You just don’t say, okay, here’s what you do the best so we’re just going to give you a lay up. That’s why we coach. You have to go into each game saying how are we going to win this game. And that’s what you’ve got to do.
Because of the offensive line’s improved play and increased confidence, it allows you to feel you can go to the line of scrimmage and run the ball or throw play action or drop back and know you have a good chance for success.
Q. You mentioned the different kinds of games Michigan State’s been in, the Cal game in particular. What is your evaluation of what they have been able to do through the air specifically?
COACH WEIS: It’s interesting, because that second half of that Cal game, you know because things weren’t going that well in the passing game in the first half. But they looked like a very explosive team in the second half of that game.
And I thought Hoyer really stepped to the plate and showed he’s capable of making all the throws. And it’s part of the maturation process. But I’m sure that their coaching staff is fairly confident that this guy, if anyone ever took Ringer out of the game, which that remains to be seen because you haven’t seen that happen.
But if anyone could kind of stifle him at all, I’d still think they’d feel confident enough that Hoyer can make enough plays to win for them.
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