Sept. 18, 2005
COACH WEIS: Obviously we’re very disappointed in yesterday’s game. I told you a long time ago when I first got here that I promised you the first thing you would hear, if and when we ever lost a game, was the blame is starting at the top, so let’s start with things that I think definitely fall into the category of me.
While the team had a really good week of preparation physically and mentally, the one thing that happened in this game that I didn’t do a very good job was keeping the focus of the distractions that come with playing at home. Obviously in the first half, we had a whole bunch of mental errors and mistakes in the first half that I that I can’t press my finger on exactly other than the fact that I didn’t have the team focused enough to play with attention to detail. And ultimately, the blame falls under the jurisdiction, under my job.
In addition, I thought that the time management at the end of both halves could have been handled better. Not that the plays were the worst plays you could call. After going back and looking at them this morning, I like the plays that were called, starting with the first half, we had a high power offense that we were having trouble stopping at the time, to get the ball back is never a good thing and ended up leading a touchdown right before half time. I was trying to be in an aggressive mode and could have run the ball and just run the clock out, but I felt with that much time on the clock would prefer to try to be scoring myself.
And at the end of the game, we had three play calls that were bread and butter plays for us that in regulation I thought we would be able to move the ball down into the scoring zone, which we didn’t. After having moved the ball considerably in the second half, I was disappointed in that. But one thing, the difference between the end of the first half and the end of the game was the end of the game, I wanted to make sure that no matter what, they didn’t have their ball in the hand with the position to go ahead and win it in regulation. And as hard as our guys had fought to come back and then to tie, the last thing I was going to do was do something risky and lose the game in regulation.
Q. Are you concerned about the distraction last week and this week could bring more distractions…
COACH WEIS: If we continue to play like that, if we don’t play better fundamentally and we don’t play better with better techniques, then you could lose to everybody.
Right now our point of emphasis is this week, besides getting ready for an opponent, our point of emphasis is going to be after watching that game that we all watched yesterday, is going to be fixing ourselves. That’s the first place we have to start. You can’t worry about your opponent if you can’t handle your own problems. That’s where it’s all going to start.
Q. But you know that the players we asked about this week
COACH WEIS: They won’t be talking about it and neither will I.
Q. I think at the beginning of the year, you said you wanted to see this team get better every week; that that was one of your goals. Do you feel like it did overall, and where did you see progress?
COACH WEIS: I’m obviously not happy with a lot of things that happened in the game. But let’s start with – when you have a team that gets into close games, now at one time in this game, it wasn’t a close game. You know, we were down three scores.
But when you have a team that gets into close games, you have to teach them how to play to win the game, not to not lose it. And I think that that falls, once again under my jurisdiction. I mean, that’s something that I’m going to have to do a better job of getting done because getting it to tie, that’s great, okay, but the bottom line is they don’t count it at the end of regulation. They count it when the game is over. So that’s where I have to do a better job of teaching this team what it takes to win when you get into that close game like that.
Q. You also had some concern I think about playing in what you call playing in space with the defense. Talk a little bit about that, and what you do to improve those situations.
COACH WEIS: Let me answer the second part first, because that’s my whole stress point, after the question before, this whole week is going to be about fundamentals and techniques. Because when you play football, if you don’t play sound fundamentally and play with proper techniques, it doesn’t make a difference what anyone else is doing. You’re going to give up plays on both sides of the ball. It really starts there. And I think that that’s where I felt that we were sloppy.
You know, that goes back to my original comment about we didn’t play with focus, which then goes back to me once again.
Now, what was the first question one more time? Because I answered the second question first.
Q. It was about playing in space.
COACH WEIS: It all relates, that’s why I started with the fundamentals and techniques. It all relates to playing sound fundamentally. The bottom line is whether they bunch you up or spread you out, if you do proper things fundamentally and with proper techniques, X’s and O’s and schemes only do so much. Eventually it’s going to come down to blocking and tackling and throwing and catching and running. It’s going to come down to the things that we all know and we just didn’t do those well enough.
Q. Last thing I have is Rashon Powers Neal, was he not a good fit in that game or was he not able to play?
COACH WEIS: No, we had him dialed up to play more halfback than fullback in that game. So in that game, he didn’t get as many reps as we thought was going to play out, because when we spread out to try to come back, we didn’t get into the same mentality that we intended to going into the game.
See, going into that game, he was going to be our second halfback not our starting fullback because we figured the halfback would be getting a lot of balls. But when they bunched it up like they did and started overloading up front and we spread them out to start throwing the ball, well, that means Darius (Walker) is on the field because you didn’t get off to Darius, or you hit a little trap, a little draw inside and you get yourself a bunch of yards. It was not by design that Asaph (Schwapp) would be ahead of Powers Neal; it was the fact that we intended to use him more at halfback in that game.
Q. You talked about teaching the team how to win, besides emphasizing fundamentals, what are the components of teaching the team how to win?
COACH WEIS: That’s a good question, because sometimes they get too much confidence that their coaches will put them in position to make plays and win the game. Let’s face it, any play is going to work if they make it work. Any defense will work if somebody makes a play, but I think that they have to understand, and I’ve been trying to tell them all along, this really is about the players and you can’t say it to them just in those terms, because then it looks like you’re taking the blame off your own shoulders and placing it clearly on theirs.
But they have to understand, we work together on this because the only way you can keep guys on an even keel, and we talked about emotional highs and lows, like I’m going to talk to them today, I’m going to talk about being disappointed, not depressed. There’s a big difference, because that game is gone. I think that they have to understand, it still comes down to making plays, it really comes down to you tackling or you blocking or whatever you end up doing. And I think that they need to understand that that’s not just hot air you’re saying to them; that that’s really the way the game is played.
Q. After losing a game as a head coach compared to losing a game as an offensive coordinator, what are the differences in the emotions you feel in the aftermath of that?
COACH WEIS: To be honest with you, I was disappointed, disappointed for our team, because when you rally like that and you’re having such a comeback like that, you’d say well, `what ifs.’
But, you know we didn’t deserve to win. If we would have deserved win, I’d feel worse. Hey, I could go whine about calls in the game and they could have called this and not get called that. But when you get called for 15 penalties in game, 12 were accepted, but when you get called for 15 penalties in the game, that is a lack of focus. I could argue, I could nitpick a half dozen of those calls could go either way. But I’m not an excuse maker; that’s not the way I am. Really when it’s all said and done it just comes down to everyone being sound, and I don’t think that’s the way it was.
Q. Is it always a lack of focus with that many penalties, or is it trying too hard or trying to be overly aggressive?
COACH WEIS: It depends on the penalty. We took a delay in the game when it was fourth and five and everyone thought I was nuts when I was going for it when I was never going for it anyway. All I was trying to do was shift and draw them off sides and potentially get a first down. I’m not as dumb as everyone might have thought I was at that time, but I was willing to take a delay because it wouldn’t make a difference. We were going to punt from midfield anyway.
But other than that, you could see an occasional defensive penalty at home when it’s really loud. You could see an occasional when you’re not concentrating, but really you’re supposed to be looking at the ball. If you’re looking at the ball and not his listening to quarterback snap count, you don’t have a problem there. Hitting a guy out of bounds late, the offensive pass interference on Mo (Maurice Stovall), I could see because Mo is behind him, I could see him calling it. They could have not called it just as well and I could talk about two or three, well, they could have called it on them, but what good does that do you? It really doesn’t do you any good.
I just know that when you get called for 15 penalties in the game, and even though 12 of them are accepted and one of them you’re taking on your own, unfortunately, that’s just sloppy football and you need it get back to playing more sound than that.
Q. The last thing on punt returns, you’ve had a few punts bounce, do you ever employ two punt returners?
COACH WEIS: Yeah, we have that. Usually you do that more on a bad weather site or when you have a crummy kicker.
Their punter is supposed to be one of the best in the country and he just had a bad day. This is a guy who can punt the ball 50, 60 yards, and so when you’re lining up at 47 yards after watching warmups and every other ball is going off his foot, you really don’t plan on having to put two guys back there when a guy normally out kicks his coverage.
So him having a bad day leads to you not getting enough opportunities, because a lot of those balls were not fielded. We very often, due to either weather conditions or the ability of the punter, put two guys back there.
Q. Two separate questions. One is about tackling and one is about Darius Walker. You mentioned fundamentals and tackling as one of them, do you think the tackling intensity fell off a little bit after the first two games? And also, could you tell us what you think of Walker in terms of play action passes and how that’s working?
COACH WEIS: Well, let’s start with the first question. I think that tackling, I’m going to include special teams in here when I’m talking about the tackling, too. I think tackling, effort is one thing; technique is something else.
I mean, flying around there, sometimes flying around there can get you out of position to make a tackle. Sometimes you can just I call and you can actually flag somebody, just not touch them at all by being overly aggressive. So I think that that’s why my whole point of emphasis this week as far as defense and special teams is going to be on the fundamentals and techniques because I didn’t think that we did a very good job of that.
And that comes back, there’s things you can do coaching wise and one of the things you could do is allocate the time to go ahead and spend more time practicing on it.
Q. Walker and play action seems to be coming together.
COACH WEIS: Yeah, I think that because Darius is rushing over 100 yards every game. I was even shocked to see the stats after the game because I wouldn’t even have known. I would have thought he rushed for about 60 yards the way it felt out there. Although, the one touchdown that they called the penalty on Mo (Maurice Stovall) was one of my least favorite calls in the game. I’m not bickering but I didn’t like that one too much.
When a guy is rushing for over 100 yards every game and people are coming in, they did exactly what I told them what they were going to do, exactly what the game plan was. It’s funny because I talked to a bunch of recruits yesterday, I said `Here is what they are going to do fellas.’ I told the recruits they are going to come in here and blitz zone us until we show that we can pick it up, and that’s what they did all day long. I told them that if we don’t hit #5 (Drew Stanton) enough, we’re in for a long, hard day. And guess what, unfortunately I was prophetic.
Q. Michigan State seemed to get you in a lot of second and longs, I think the average was about second and nine, what did they do to win that phase of the game and how does that limit you or affect you as a play caller?
COACH WEIS: That all depends on what you’re calling on first down. I called a lot of passes on first down because I was playing to their aggressive nature that they were playing and that’s the same mentality that got us back in the game, by the way so.
You have to understand, there’s risk/reward as a play caller. Sometimes you’re calling a play to try to make a play. Sometimes you’re calling a play to set up another play. Now in that case when you call a play on first down, the easiest down to throw the ball is first down. Because out of all the down and distances that you have, the one that is the least predictable run pass is first down, because they have to play the run as much as they play the pass.
Now if it’s second and 15, you know, people are going to play draw screen and drop back pass. But firsts and 10, they are going to have to try to defense both of them. So I think that that’s the way you prepare for the game.
Q. After the game a lot of players talked about how they felt like they were just one play away, one more positive play away from winning that game. Do you have to teach them more to eliminate the four, five, six negative plays earlier in the game that put them in that situation?
COACH WEIS: Absolutely. Your statement is right on. I think that they have to understand that going back to the question about the progress of the team before, you need to understand that the game isn’t just a rally in the third and fourth quarters. The game starts on opening kickoff and the only way you’re ever going to get really good is if you play with as much importance on the first play as you do with the last play. It can’t just be when the pressure is on the line that all of a sudden you make a play. You’re going to be looking to make a play on there because you never know which play is going to be the critical play in the game. You have to treat every play the same.
Q. You joked about being nuts going for it on fourth down in the fourth quarter, we didn’t talk about the fourth down you were on the 37?
COACH WEIS: When Brady (Quinn) rolled out to the right?
Q. The line of thinking there in that situation?
COACH WEIS: The line of thinking is I’m not going to punt it and get a 15 yard gain by punting the ball into the end zone for a touch back. So more often than not, you can second guess that every time because I’m going to do the same thing, so just bank it. So you can ask me that same question next time we’re on the 35.
Now other one, the fourth and one later on when you say where we could have kicked a field goal, I had a play set up that I obviously did not get to communicate it well enough, because it had potential to be a walk in touchdown. It just didn’t work out that way and that’s my fault.
Q. The atmosphere you talked about that going in, I have to think you’re pretty pleased with how the place was yesterday.
COACH WEIS: I’m really pleased with the fans. I’m just disappointed for them that we didn’t win the game for them.
Q. We did talk a lot last week about the distractions and you talked about the impact the distractions had on focus, as you teach your players more this week how to deal with those distractions, is it good that you’re going back on the road this week, does that help this process?
COACH WEIS: I think that for that attention for detail, yes. Now, we all know what the distraction is going to be, but I can promise you, they won’t be talking about that distraction.
So I think that our point every week I try to have a point of emphasis and this week the point of emphasis is going to be fundamentals and techniques. It won’t be about the focus and distraction because we’ll be away from home when they are with us the whole time, especially because we are leaving Thursday night. We’re not leaving Friday; we’re leaving late Thursday night.
Q. I hope I’m paraphrasing it right from what you said yesterday, I think you mentioned that what Michigan State was doing defensively kind of dictated the change in your game plan. Do you get to the point in the season where you can trump that, where you can do something offensively to trump what their doing?
COACH WEIS: We threw for 500 yards. What do you want me to do? They are blitzing. We’re completing them for big plays. Any coach that knows that you’ve got them we had them on the ropes now. We just let them off. f they want to blitz zone and give up a bunch of big plays on the passing game, then I’m going to keep on throwing. If you’re looking for me to run the ball into eight man fronts all the day, you’re going to be it’s going to be a long, hard day. That’s not the way I play football.
Q. And then I also had a follow up on the distraction question. Do you address the team at all about going against their former coach, or do you just not mention that at all?
COACH WEIS: We already walked about it. I talked about it yesterday in the locker room and I’m not going to make a big deal out of it. We’ll just talk about how we’re going to handle it and that will be it. It’s not going to be a long conversation. It will be a very short conversation as a matter of fact. It will be just the opposite. It will be a very short conversation.
Q. Are they going to say `No comment?’
COACH WEIS: They can say whatever they want. I’m just telling you it will be a very short conversation. They are big boys. They can talk for themselves. I have a feeling what they are going to say.
Q. There were a couple early in the game procedure penalties that you looked like you were talking to the refs…
COACH WEIS: Yeah, I was hot. This is the second week in a row that I’ve had the same problem. When I talk to the officials before the game, I tell them that if we have anything special that I want them to look for.
Last week in the Michigan game, I said, `Look, Michigan, they like to do a lot of quick counts, and then they like to do a lot of shifts and snap the ball right away and they are never set when they do it.’ So sure enough, it was the first or second play of the game in the Michigan game, the one thing I talked to them about, they shifted to a four man side, two guys were still moving, the ball is snapped and they don’t call a false start. I said, `Look, there’s one thing I asked you to look at, the one thing.’
So yesterday before the game, I walk over and say `Let me explain something to you. We have two personnel groups where we’re going to shift from a normal formation to a four open set, and when they shift, if they move into the neutral zone we are going to react and then you’re going to call the defensive penalty; correct?’ And they said `Correct.’
We did it twice early in the game. You’ll see it. We shift twice. They move into the neutral zone, we react and both penalties were called on us. And I said, `For gosh sakes, the one thing I ask you to look at, I tell you, you were going to do it, I explain to you what we’re going to do and you still call it on us.’ So I said I’m not going to talk to them anymore. I did it twice, it didn’t work; so I’m done talking to them.
Q. There’s been a couple of real warm weather games and a couple of games that have come in the fourth quarter; what have the guys said about conditioning and what are your thoughts about how they held up late in the game?
COACH WEIS: Look at those offensive guys. They were really on the field for 108 snaps. There’s some penalties in there where the players got called, but there were 108 plays where they were on the field with a play called, and a lot of those guys were on there for most of them. I had two receivers on there for 100 of them. So they obviously had pretty good stamina because they were still playing well at the end of the game.
I think it’s going to be important. As a matter of fact, we run today. We run today between 4:30 and 6:00 and we are going to have two different tiers of running, guys who played less than 20 plays or not at all are going to run a lot harder than the guys who played more than that, because there’s some guys that played a lot of plays out there yesterday.
Q. The fumble on the goal line, was that a case of maybe them, the referees, letting that play go on too much in the hopes they could fix it on the replay?
COACH WEIS: That was my big gripe. I’m not griping about them not about the replay official, I’m not griping about him. People say, well, the ball might have crossed the plane. My gripe is the play I thought, and this is what I said to him at the time, I thought the play had clearly had been stopped for multiple seconds, not just a flash of a second. I thought for about two seconds, the play is already stopped. And then to allow that situation, and the answer they are giving me on the field is, well, they can overrule it and stop it for a forward progress. And I started laughing, I said, `Are you kidding me, do you think they are going to overrule a play on the field for forward progress?’ That’s a joke. I might have used a few more adjectives when I’m saying that.
Q. It’s early in the week, but how far along are in your analysis of Washington and what you’ve got to do, X’s and O’s next Saturday?
COACH WEIS: I’ve been able to watch their first couple of games at this time. I haven’t been able to watch their Idaho game from yesterday. So I’ll wait and reserve judgment until after I watch the Idaho game, because they obviously won 100 0 yesterday, so I think I’d want to see that first before I made any judgments of when I thought of them.
Q. Can you talk about the overall progression of your quarterback since you took over there?
COACH WEIS: I’d have to say that yesterday, although he was far from picture perfect, and there were some things that I wasn’t pleased with, this kid is obviously tough as nails. He made a lot of big plays. I mean, he got sacked four times and was pressured another ten times in the game yesterday and this kid took he kept on ticking.
He’s got some special abilities about him and he’s all day tough. I’ve said it before, and yesterday was just another example, but this kid can make some plays. Hey, did he have a couple passes he’d like to have back? Absolutely. We throw the interception for a touchdown, under-throws a couple balls. Yeah, there’s some plays he would like to have back. But when you throw it 60 times in a game because you’re down by three scores, and to lead the team back to tie, there are not very many quarterbacks that are capable of even doing what he did yesterday.
Q. One more thing on the replay, would you rather not use it, if that’s going to be the thinking that they are kind of using that as a crutch?
COACH WEIS: No. I am definitely a proponent of replay. I’m just used to a different form of replay, that’s all.
But I’m content to have any replay at all, even though I just think that it’s a bit of a security blanket the way it currently stands. Because the way it is utilized, they can err on the side of they can err the side of being safe because they know that they have to the backup. But I’ll definitely take it over no replay. When you’re playing a Big 10 opponent or when we’re on the road and we get to pick what we want, usually we’re falling under the Big 10 procedures. There’s other little variations of replay, but I’d take any replay over no replay. It wouldn’t make a difference because it could be the difference between winning and losing a game. You know, you’re not going to get every call, anyway, but I’d rather a glaring mistake or a glaring, obvious call that should be overturned, it benefits everyone by the call being right, win or lose.