Sept. 24, 2006
COACH WEIS: We go through the review of Michigan State, obviously we’re really excited about how this game played out at the end. We have a number of issues that we’re going to have to address, especially playing 60 minutes of football, because this game was really a tale of two halves.
First half, it was clearly dominated by Michigan State. The second half, you know, when it was all said and done was a big win by our players. The point of emphasis we’re going to have to make with our team this week is playing for 60 minutes.
Special teams, we thought going into the game we had an opportunity to get a decided edge on special teams. That did not manifest itself. I thought Geoff Price had an excellent night in bad conditions punting the ball. I mean, our net punting I think was a 42?yard average. He averaged over 43, but the net was 42. Under the conditions, you’d have to say that was pretty darn good.
Our kickoff return didn’t look great. Out of the ones we did return, we averaged 27 and a half yards a return. So we got some production there.
I thought our kicking, both our kickoffs and the missed extra point, they were both bad. The thought our kickoff coverage, that wasn’t so hot either. I thought our punt return and our punt returner did a poor job. I thought Zibby had a bad night. Two mishandled punts. The fumble ended up leading to points.
We have to work on decision making and taking care of the football because he’s too much of a weapon back there to have two weeks in a row where we have a ball out of our hands.
We had two critical penalties on special teams. They were both critical. Ray Herring got called for offsides on the kickoff which ended up costing us 28 yards of yardage because we tackled them on the 14 yard line, and now they start on the 42 yard line when we have to rekick. It cost us 28 yards, which was huge. Then we had the hold by Lambert on Zibby’s return for a touchdown. Although there were only two penalties on special teams, they both hurt us.
On defense, I thought we got off to a slow start. That’s going to be no different when I talk about offense. I think our team kind of plays off of each other. I think we got off to a poor start with three?and?out and a touchdown. They had nine big plays in the game for 187 yards, which averages a little over 20 yards a pop and four touchdowns.
They ran the ball at us obviously. The big guy did some damage on us. Our tackling could have been a lot better, especially in the run game.
We had two penalties in the game. The one on the sideline by Ndu, which instigated the little altercation on the sideline. That was not a late hit, but it was unnecessary roughness, which based on watching that I agree it was unnecessary roughness, but it definitely was not a late hit. I agree with the fact that it was unnecessary roughness with how we had him out of bounds. Then they called a facemask on Victor. I mean, maybe the TV copy will show it. From our copy, you can’t see it. It’s really ironic, the guy who calls it is standing about 30 yards away. I’d like to see that one. We’re going to send that one in. Maybe puts his hand on his facemask, I don’t know. But that was a play that could have ended the game there, too, because Zibby intercepts the ball on that play.
Obviously on the good side, the second half of the game, especially the fourth quarter, our defense played great. I mean, the last three times we were on the field, we had three take aways. Doesn’t get any better than that. You lead to the score, you score, you ice the game. Three take aways in the last three possessions. That’s a sign of good defensive play.
They hit that No. 5 guy a lot. That was one of the (indiscernible) going into the game we were going to hit him a lot. They sacked him four times. There was another five times where they either tackled him for no gain or a loss. That’s nine plays already which are on the negative variety.
I think they kept Stanton in check for most of the evening. That’s pretty tough to do because he’s pretty good.
They were great on third down again. Three of 14 as far as Michigan State’s conversions. The four sacks. They also caused two fumbles. The one by Ndu was really big where he strips the ball out and recovers it. A couple interceptions.
I mean, there’s a lot of positives. I tell you what, they played hard. Even when things weren’t going well, they were playing hard. They played hard right till the end of the game. There were a lot of spent people in that locker room. Especially those guys up front, I can talk about Terrail’s two interceptions which definitely is worth noting. Mike Richardson has a bunch of big plays in the game. Ndu strips the fumble. Those front four guys, that nickel defense, those four guys played most of the night, which were Victor, Trevor, Derek and Chris Frome, those four guys are the men who got most of the reps in the night, this he played tough all night long, despite the fact they ran the ball pretty well against us.
Offensively, let’s start with the poor. One of my points of emphasis going into the week was getting off to a fast start. Well, that didn’t turn out too well. I was disappointed with our start. A lot of times you ask me, When do you go off the plan? It didn’t take much to see when I went off the plan because after the first quarter when we had hardly moved the ball, got one first down, two (indiscernible) pass in there, whatever we were, it was time to change the tempo of the game. I just couldn’t stick with it. I wasn’t going to wait till halftime to make an adjustment to get something going on offense.
We were bad again on third down. One out of 11. We did convert two out of three on fourth downs, which a lot of times are related. But we have put in a lot of effort on starting off the game fast, third down conversions. The work did not show up. We’re going to have to work harder and better both as coaches and as players to see if we can’t get this rectified.
We had two quarterback center exchange problems when the weather got bad. We got to do better at that. We gave up two sacks. We have three?and?out six times in the game. The two?point play, which could have been a critical play in the game, I thought we didn’t execute that very well. We threw the interception for the touchdown, not seeing the zone dropper on the blitz zone. That shouldn’t happen. Five penalties on offense, three holding calls, we had a false start, an ineligible lineman down field.
What we did do is cut way down on both sides of the ball on mental errors, both defensively and offensively. Both in the single digits. With all the stuff going on there, that was a drastic improvement from the week before.
On offense, I think just like on defense, where I talked about the front four, mentioned those three DBs, you know, starting with Terrail’s two interceptions, Ndu’s strip, Mike Richardson playing solid, I thought our skill players, in addition to Ryan Harris, who had another solid game, you know, back?to?back solid games for him, I think our skill players had to make plays for us to come back in this game. Whether you talk about Brady or Samardzija or McKnight or Carlson, you know, all those guys, obviously Darius became less effective in this game because of how the nature of the game went, which is not the way we want to play the game. But all those guys, you know, Brady and McKnight and Samardzija and Carlson all stepped up pretty big in the game.
JOHN HEISLER: Take questions from people here in person.
Q. What is the next step with the running game? Do you go into this week planning on having Aldridge ready to go as you indicated a couple weeks ago?
COACH WEIS: He’s going to start practicing for real this week. He’s been practicing now. We just have not repped him with the first group up there. When I say “the first group,” I’m talking 1s and 1As, guys that could conceivably be in the game when a game is in question. He’ll be in the mix.
I definitely do not find Darius as being a problem, okay? I think Darius is running hard. I think this problem is more of an offensive problem. It’s a problem that we’re going to have to work to rectify. One of the ways you could rectify it is by converting on some third downs and don’t put yourself in those situations where you’re down three scores so early in the game and all of a sudden you have to change the mentality of the game before it’s four scores or five scores. Even down three scores in the game, you can stick to the running game if the other team doesn’t have a lot of offensive firepower, but they do, okay, which chased me away from it a lot quicker than I would have liked to.
So I don’t find Darius being the problem. I think we just have to make sure, when I say ‘play for 60 minutes,’ we don’t put ourselves in the position that we’ve done two weeks in a row.
Q. I realize Darrin Walls wasn’t matched up against Trannon all night. The end result, Trannon only had two catches. How responsible was he for that?
COACH WEIS: They were both late in the game, I believe, a couple slants late in the game.
Trannon is a heck of a player. He’s a heck of a player. But I said this in our staff meeting a little while ago, the fact that you only notice Darrin come into play on a negative vein one time the whole game, I’m not saying he only had one minus, the one swing pass they scored a touchdown over there to the left when he’s out there in the corner, Ndu is over there, too, that’s the only time in the whole game you really noticed anything bad happening.
I think from a DB standpoint, I think when you don’t notice him, that’s usually a good thing ’cause usually when you notice him ? usually ? it’s when something bad’s happening, not when something good’s happening.
Q. Can you talk about having four difficult games in a row, and now you have another big game with Purdue coming up, the physical and mental drain that takes? Are you worried about that with this group of players?
COACH WEIS: Well, I have a genuine concern about that. I think that’s a fair question because, you know, when you’re on this emotional rollercoaster that I talked about last evening, last week was probably the hardest week we had of work because of the psyche after the loss to Michigan, going through that. Now you got this emotional high, okay, that you have to get back to earth as quickly as you can. Purdue is 4?0.
One thing that I’m concerned about the most, more than anything, which I’ll get their attention with here at 3:00, is we’ve been outscored in the first quarter 44?10. Now, we’ve won the second quarter, we’ve won the third quarter, we’ve won the fourth quarter. The fact we’ve been outscored 44?10 is a team negative vein which will help me get their attention saying, You know, Purdue, they’re sitting here at 4?0, we got off to another slow start, they might walk out of here 5?0. I think that’s exactly the point that I’m going to be making them when I get them in here today.
Q. You look at Ohio State, how they struggled after their big game against Cincinnati, same thing with Michigan, is it hard to get a team focused and ready to go for so many big games in a row?
COACH WEIS: There’s only so many psychological ploys that you can use. I think my approach has always to be totally practical. I’m as practical as I can possibly be with the team. I’m just very straightforward with them. This will be another one here today.
I think you’re right, this is true in any sport, to get the guys up every week is as a challenge. But that’s what our jobs are. That’s what our jobs as coaches are. That’s what their jobs as players are. I think we just have to keep on trying. As long as you don’t use gimmicks to get them up, you’re not a gimmick coach as far as getting guys ready to play, usually you can some level of consistency.
Q. You mentioned last night and just now about the emotional rollercoaster, not wanting to get on one. The way the first four games have played, do you feel this team is on one already and you need to figure how to get them off it?
COACH WEIS: I think sooner or later we’re going to fall into a level of consistent play. I’m hoping that’s sooner. We’ve had a tough stretch of four games. There’s been highs and there’s been lows. We would love to finish these first four games 4?0, but we’re 3?1. It is what it is. Once again, you get another team coming in here undefeated, again. You get another undefeated team. It seems like every week we play an undefeated team. As a matter of fact, we have, have we not? Every team we’ve played has been undefeated. Here’s another one.
I think it’s a fair question. Because your opponents give you enough evidence that they can beat you, sooner or later you’re going to have to get to a level of consistency or else you’re going to be in this type of mode the entire season, which is not good for the ticker.
Q. This is the second straight week where you’ve been forced to kind of go one?dimensional offensively. How do you evaluate the way the offensive line played last night as opposed to last week in terms of keeping Brady up right? They only had two sacks.
COACH WEIS: I think they played much more physical. They were really slugging it out. I thought they slugged it out. Like you say, we had a couple holding calls, but when you get into that mode, it’s a lot easier to pass?rush. It’s really not the mode I like being in. I like running play?action, that’s what I like doing. I also am not ignorant to the fact that if things aren’t working, despite the fact I might have created the plays and I really like them, along with the rest of the offensive staff, if they’re not working, why keep calling them? You got to go find something that works and you got to be willing to do that. You got to be willing to go off the plan, to find something that’s going to give you a chance of winning the game, because if not you lose a game like last night. You got to do whatever you got to do.
I’d like to run the ball 40 times every game. If I had my druthers, I’d like to run it 40 times. It just doesn’t play out like that.
Q. The first quarter, Brady’s stats have been pretty poor in the first quarter. I imagine that’s team wide. Do you have any inclination why this is happening?
COACH WEIS: I saw what happened. I mean, I saw what happened in person, then I was reaffirmed when I watched it today. I mean, I know what the problems are. Now, the bigger is: Can I fix ’em? That was yet to be determined. You know, I can identify what the issues are. Sometimes it’s not a great throw or not a great read. Sometimes there was something there in a run, but a guy gets overpowered. I mean, it’s a whole combination of things. You can’t just put it on the quarterback or receiver or tight end or back or line. It’s a combination of things.
I think when you simplify your game into a two?minute type of game, there’s a lot of positives that come with that. But the negatives coming with that usually means the reason why you’re doing it is because things have not gone too well.
Q. Can you talk about the play you’ve been getting from Landri and Laws?
COACH WEIS: I thought, like I said, the front four, I’m going to include Victor and Chris in that one for last night, because I thought they played hard. But they created a lot of havoc. There’s plays that you don’t notice just when you’re watching the game in person out there. Like there’s one play in the game where Derek just bull rushes the guard into the quarterback. There’s guys wide open on the play. But the ball comes and falls to the ground five yards before it gets to the receiver. That’s ’cause Derek took the guard and walked him right back into the quarterback. I thought they created a lot of havoc last night.
Q. You mentioned you know the problems; you haven’t fixed them yet. Seems like a lot of things you mentioned last week you were worried about were problems again: the third?down conversions, running game, penalties hurting you. Is that frustrating, the fact that you’re identifying the problems and not making progress?
COACH WEIS: There are a few things that are saving us to counter that. For example, a lot of times ?? you know, it’s strange the difference in statistics in college versus the pros. See, in the pros, when you get in the red zone, the only stat that counts is whether you score a touchdown or not. Here any time you score, they consider it a success. Well, the one thing that’s been saving us for the year, we’re 10?13 in the red zone ? touchdowns now, I’m not talking about scores. I think we’re 12 out of 13. We’re 10 out of 13. We were two for two again last night.
All these stats go together, see, okay? When you get in the red zone, if you’re going to end up scoring touchdowns, that’s a very positive way of winning football games. Converting on third down, you want to know why you have three?and?outs, because you couldn’t convert on third down.
Is it an issue that’s a concern of mine? Yes. Have we addressed it? Yes. We obviously haven’t addressed it well enough. We’re going to have to keep on working on it.
Q. How important was it for the team to win that from a confidence standpoint? They feel so much better about themselves than they would have if you hadn’t.
COACH WEIS: I thought it was very significant for this reason: last week at Michigan, you know, I felt when I talked to the players at halftime we were going to get a very positive response, and it didn’t work out that way. Either I didn’t do a good job or they didn’t do a good job or we both didn’t do a good job.
This week at halftime when I talked to them, I kind of put it in their lap. The fact they battled back, ended up winning the game, they deserve the credit. It’s easy for the head coach when people sit there and say, What a great comeback, you’re the head coach. I didn’t intercept those two balls. I didn’t throw those touchdown passes. I didn’t get after the quarterback and sack him. I didn’t do any of those things. All’s I did was call plays. You have to give the players a lot of credit.
It was very easy to be in that situation for the second week in a row for guys to throw in the towel. It was a ?? that was definitely a time. You’ve reached a crossroads right there. You’re at the point now, you’re down 31?14, you just got your butt kicked the week before, it would have been very easy for a bunch of those guys to throw in the towels and say ‘no mas’. But they didn’t.
Q. Late in the fourth quarter, you were with the defense, you were more animated than I ever saw you. What did you say to them at that point? COACH WEIS: You haven’t seen me very often (laughter).
Here is what I said to them. I said, Look, it’s fourth and one. You have an opportunity to end the game, but listen to me. If they get the first down, they have no timeouts left, there’s only 35 seconds left to go in the game. The general feeling when you don’t stop somebody on fourth down is to have a letdown.
I wanted to make sure if they got it, okay, they still have to score. They’re the ones at a disadvantage. I just want them to be ready to pop back up and be ready to play the next play. I think that was the point of emphasis. I want to let them know that it would be great if they would go out and end the game on fourth down. But if they didn’t, okay, something happened where they got the first down, just go play the next play.
Q. Were you surprised with Michigan State, they got conservative in the second half? Till you have three touchdowns, you keep trying to score, you always say. Seems like they were trying to sit on it.
COACH WEIS: I think the weather might have had something to do with that, and their effectiveness in the running game. It was pretty nasty there in the third quarter. I think their tact third quarter was probably a very good strategical tact.
What happened is when it got to the fourth quarter now, you’ve been running it for so long, you haven’t thrown it in a while, all of a sudden now you start to get a little bit rusty. You’re just not in that groove, that flow, because you’ve been running it if a while. To just flip the switch and go from passing a lot to running a lot to passing a lot, it doesn’t always work as easily as everyone thinks it would be.
Q. Did you get the megaphone?
COACH WEIS: When I walked into the locker room, the megaphone was sitting in the middle of the locker room. The megaphone was there. I don’t know where it is now. I just know when I got there, it was sitting in the locker room. Not that I was looking for it, but it was there (laughter).
Q. You talked about how easy it would be for your guys to have thrown in the towel after last week, after the first half of last night. After a good fourth quarter comeback, but before you had taken the lead, how important is it to actually get out of there with a win? There’s a lot of good things you could have taken from a comeback and not win the game. How important is it to actually win?
COACH WEIS: To be honest with you, when we got to 37?33, we all felt we were going to win the game. I hadn’t used my timeouts yet. I had three timeouts banked there. As a matter of fact, if they wouldn’t ?? on that third?down play that we intercept for the touchdown, I think that was third down, if they had gotten a completion and got stopped short, I would have used a timeout right there so that I didn’t let them use another 40 or 50 seconds of time before we got the ball back. But I think the defense felt confident they were going to stop them and the offense felt confident they were going to score.
I didn’t feel like that at any time in the last couple weeks, did I feel that we were going to stop ’em on defense and we were going to score if we got it back. To be honest with you, we weren’t really in a panic mode at that time. I was really in no rush to utilize the timeouts that early because I really felt that we were going to stop ’em.
Q. It’s interesting you say that’s the first feeling. During the week, you talked about the offense still needing to find their identity. There were struggles in the first half. Is there a point you noticed in the second half where the guys kind of stopped thinking and stopped trying and just started playing?
COACH WEIS: Well, I think it started in the second quarter. Despite the interception that Brady throws for the touchdown, when we change modes, they could see we could move the ball, because to that point we hadn’t even moved the ball. When they could see we could move the ball, we ended up getting a couple scores. Then when we stopped in the start of the third quarter, went down and scored, I this think that was one point in the game when the players believed this he could win game. I don’t know if they believed it till that point. But at that point, early in that third quarter, 11 minutes to go in that third quarter, now it’s 31?21, I think that was a time where players really started believing, Hey, we can win this game.
Q. What’s the feeling like after a game like that in the locker room, on the bus?
COACH WEIS: It doesn’t get any better than that. It really doesn’t get any better. I mean, I really ?? there’s few things that I enjoy as a coach. But I enjoyed watching our players sing the alma mater, fight song with our students, the band over there. I enjoyed going into the locker room after the game, after the team prayer, I say a few words, singing the fight song, watching the players be like that.
Now, on the way home, I can tell you there was a lot of sleeping going on. It wasn’t like there was a raucous bus. I think there was a lot of tired puppies. I think everyone left it on the field yesterday.
Q. Is this kind of a turning point for you guys from a confidence standpoint and hopefully from an execution standpoint?
COACH WEIS: We’re hoping that’s the case. Once again, you can’t just use ploys. It’s got to be reality. I think we know we’re going to have to make a concerted effort. Like I said, 60 minutes is what this whole week is going to be about. We talk about themes. It’s going to be about 60 minutes. That’s not what we’ve gotten to this point.
Q. Your defense was on the field I think over 11 minutes in the fourth quarter. Beyond the turnovers, they were playing pretty solid. What happened to them? What changed? Early in the game, they looked sometimes confused.
COACH WEIS: Well, I think it goes back to the modes of the offense you’re going against. Early in the game, I mean, let’s go through the first few plays. They have the run, cutback run, they get a bunch of yards. The quarterback scramble, bunch of yards. Then they hit the post, crossing rout, for a touchdown. That was a quick one.
For most of the game, they were mixing and matching and putting us in a position where they really had us on our heels. I don’t think that’s the way it was in the second half. They were in one mode or the other. They were in a run mode or they weren’t. I think when the players could tee off on one mode, I think it gave them an opportunity to just go ahead and turn it loose. I really believe they did that at a very high level.
Q. Terrail mentioned when you first got in here his first spring, he felt like he was kind of in hot water with you, struggling on and off the field with you. Can you talk about how far he’s come, where you’d like to see him go from this point?
COACH WEIS: Well, we also said at the end of the spring, end of training camp, he was one of the guys we were high on coming out.
Sometimes the switch turns on for those guys. It’s a new system. He’s a relatively young guy, new system. Just learned the last system, now you got a new system. Sometimes it’s a bit overwhelming. I think he knows what to do. Even last week against Michigan, where on surface everyone was blaming him for two touchdowns, which was really only one that was credited to him from a coaching staff standpoint, you could see he’s ?? he’s got a lot of athleticism. But when you know what to do, it gives you a chance to use that athleticism. He certainly made a couple really big plays for us last night.
Q. How about Travis Thomas? Do you continue to see progress with Travis?
COACH WEIS: Yeah, I think one thing he does, he brings speed to the defense. With teams that are spreading you out like we’re getting, thank God we have him. He’s the one guy out there besides Mo that really can run with that type of tempo. You get those two guys that run around pretty well, are they the 250?pound sluggers? No, but they run around really well. With as many teams that have tried to play us in space, you need guys that can run like that.
Q. Schwapp and Wooden, do you expect to have those guys back?
COACH WEIS: You know, Asaph was a lot better this week than he was last week. I don’t believe in playing people that don’t practice. It’s just not my policy to let people not practice all week long, then say, Okay, but now you can play in the game. It’s one thing if they practice a little bit. He really hadn’t practiced much.
We left him behind so that you could get treatment on Friday, Saturday and Sunday with the hopes that on Tuesday he’ll be significantly better. Once again, I’ll probably get a better idea telling you when I talk to you Tuesday/Wednesday than I do right now because I haven’t seen him since we left.
Ambrose, we worked him out before the game, could have used him in the game. We kind of decided after the workout we would use him more in an emergency role. If something happened to Darrin, it would have forced us to play our hand. But because we never felt that we had to, we didn’t.
Q. I know you’re not a big stat guy. Evaluating Brady, not using stats so much, but where do you feel he is right now?
COACH WEIS: Here’s what I know. The game was on the line, he throws five touchdown passes. That stat I do know. He threw six touchdown passes, but one was for them (laughter).
The game was on the line, he threw five touchdown passes. What more can you say? That’s what good quarterbacks do. What was he, 20 for 36, something like that for over 300. The 20 for 36, completion percentage, okay, the yards, is irrelevant. It’s all about scores, it’s about getting the team in the end zone. That he was able to do.
Q. You talked before about Ndu’s unnecessary roughness penalty. Last night, you got slapped in the scrum.
COACH WEIS: Might have been one of my guys that slapped me for all I know. You don’t see that whole pile in there, all the stuff that’s going on. My biggest concern afterwards ?? I had two concerns afterwards. One, there was offsetting penalties, which is what we got, which is what I thought was deserved. Two, to make sure that my kid was nowhere around that fight. When the fight takes off, I don’t know where he is. Thankfully he’s got more common sense than his old man. He was out of the way.
Immediately my biggest concern was to make sure that 6 got a personal foul, too, so we got offsetting so we didn’t lose another 15 on top of it. I was pleased with the way that turned out because it really turned out to be no harm, for foul when it was all said and done.
Q. Can you evaluate the play of the receivers in the first half. Seem like they were a step slow.
COACH WEIS: I think our passing game was not clicking. I don’t think the receivers were slow. I think we weren’t in sync between the quarterback and receivers. It isn’t just the receivers being slow. Sometimes they’re wide open; we don’t get them the ball. Sometimes when they’re wide open, they might have ran a rout two steps shorter or deeper than they were supposed to. You look at the pass of the quarterback, the guy was wide open, what kind of throw was that? It might have been a rout that the guy is supposed to be 12 yards and he’s at 14 yards. He throws it at 12. It looks like a bad throw.
I’m not blaming the receivers or the quarterback. I’m just saying we weren’t in sync. That improved as the game went on.
Q. When you talk about scouting other teams, you say usually by the fourth game you have a good idea what their identity is. Can you say what your identity is after four games?
COACH WEIS: We’re like the weather right now. Seriously, I mean, it would be tough to evaluate us right now because I really don’t think we’ve established a personality at this point. I think anyone who is scouting our defense would say the fallback plan is when all always doesn’t work, they’re going to go no?huddle. Doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure that out. We’ve done that three weeks in a row.
I think when it’s all said and done, this will all settle down. I think that’s what we’d like to do. We’d like to make sure we stay one step ahead of our opponents by not falling into a predictable rut.
Q. You’re not concerned you don’t have a personality yet?
COACH WEIS: Oh, I’m concerned. As I said before, I would like to be a running play?action team and run it 40 times, okay? If I had my way, that’s what we’d do. It just doesn’t work out that way.
It isn’t the yards that you get per attempt that’s important in the running game, okay? When you’ve run it a whole bunch of times, it usually means you’re winning the game. Usually they go together. There aren’t too many teams that run it a whole bunch of times that end up losing, with the exception of those few option teams that run it on every down. If you had your druthers, you’d run it 40 times because it usually means you’ve won.
Q. May be off the wall. Does Derek Landri have the ability or skill set to play some defensive end? Have you ever considered that as an alternative?
COACH WEIS: He probably could play some defensive end because of that fast twitch. He’s so explosive inside, one thing that people usually don’t have is people that are disruptive inside. I think he’s explosive inside, which gives you more opportunity to create a problem than just coming off an edge.
Q. Were you aware that Michigan State was guarding the center of the field after the game?
COACH WEIS: No. As a matter of fact, somebody showed me a picture of that this morning. One of those guys, I went over and said, Hey, nice game, good luck to you the rest of the way. I had no idea what he was doing there. It was Ringer. 23, his last name Ringer? Nice game, you’re a heck of a back, kid. He said, Thanks, coach. I had no idea what he was doing there.
To be honest with you, I was just trying to get to that corner. I had to do my deal for TV. I was trying to get back into the corner, the end zone, with our players, our fans, our band. I had no clue. I do find it to be humorous, though (laughter). Leave it at that. No follow?up.
Q. To be at that stage five games in, from the outside it seems surprising because of the experience on this team. What has it been like for you and how have you had to adjust your approach with how the team has played?
COACH WEIS: If I would have asked you that question at halftime last night, you’d say you’d be pretty happy sitting 3?1 right now. I’d say that was what my answer would be. I can’t do anything about the Michigan game. Michigan game has come and gone. We lost that game. I can’t do anything about the Michigan State game. I only can do something about the Purdue game now.
I think sitting where we were at halftime last night, to be sitting 3?1 right now, I’d have to say we should feel fortunate.
Q. Like the Steelers game you remembered last week, anything like this in your past that shows you how a team might respond, how you might need to deal with the team afterwards?
COACH WEIS: I’m not using the same phrase as last week, but this is a meaningful comment. When you’re playing a team that’s 4?0, undefeated, it’s easy to get players’ attention. It’s easy to get their attention. If you were playing a team that was 1?3 right now, that question would have a lot more validity because it would be a lot tougher to do.
Playing a team that’s 4?0, that’s an in?state rival, has given us our hands full several times over the last several years, I think we’ll have their attention.
Q. After the Michigan game, you talked about being surprised the way the team played. Any indication in the preparation for Michigan State they may come out in that first quarter and not be ready or be a little flat?
COACH WEIS: No, I wouldn’t say there was any physical evidence. But there’s emotional evidence. The biggest part of my job last week wasn’t really X’s and O’s, it was really the psyche of the team. That was the bigger of the two jobs. When you come off of such a demoralizing loss, that’s true for the coaches, too. As a head coach, you have to work on the psyche of your assistant coaches, too, to make sure they’re not in the tank.
There wasn’t any room left in that tank last week, I promise you. That’s what you’re doing a good portion of the week, you were doing that. It wasn’t till later in the week when I picked it up tempo?wise as far as starting to get on people again because you have to understand what buttons to press when. The button to start hammering people early in the week was not the button that needed to be pressed.
Q. Do you adjust that idea of what buttons to push when given the way the team comes out following that kind of game?
COACH WEIS: It’s much easier to get on ’em today, which we will. There’s plenty of things. If my first thing, what I’m trying to get across to the team last week was to get off to a fast start, you saw what happened, well, obviously I didn’t do a very good job and they didn’t help me out very much either. At least now I can go in and say, I guess I did real well here, my first goal was for us to get off to a fast start.
They’re smart. They know what I’m getting at here. They know what we have to do to get better. All kidding aside, I think they realize if we’re going to be a competitive team the rest of the way, starting with Purdue, we’re going to have to play much more consistently.
JOHN HEISLER: We’ll take some questions from people on the telephone.
Q. It’s easy to forget about this now because you won, but you made a comment last night, you mentioned to the guys at halftime, where do you want this season to go. Have you thought this could have been the first crisis you faced if you had lost that game, especially with the nature of things at Notre Dame, in your short tenure at Notre Dame?
COACH WEIS: I didn’t reflect on that till I was on the bus on the way home. When I say those things at halftime, then we get through the game, I mention that in the press conference, it obviously was something that was on my mind on how I would have handled the situation. But because I didn’t have to handle the situation, I really didn’t have to come up with an answer.
But, yes, it was something I gave great thought about on the bus ride home last night.
Q. Do you want to share some of those thoughts?
COACH WEIS: Because they didn’t come to fruition, you don’t really know for sure what tact you would have taken, okay? Obviously because we’re Notre Dame, you’re always subject to public scrutiny both as players and as coaches. It comes with the territory.
I think as the head coach your biggest responsibility still comes in managing your team. I think that would have been the issue. That would have been the issue that I would have been most concerned with, is making sure the players didn’t think, We’ve played four games, the season’s over already. That’s something that you really don’t know how you’d handle. Right now it’s a rhetorical question because you didn’t have to. But it was something that I thought about. I wonder how I would have dealt with this if it would have come to fruition.
Q. Is it a bit of learning experience for you when you deal, in preparation for Michigan State, you’re in a loss, when you’re in the pros it’s not that big of a deal, in college, one loss can really derail the stuff you talk about.
COACH WEIS: You raise a good point. I’ll answer that question then give you a response. Definitely a loss in college carries a lot more weight because you play less games, and the magnitude, significance of each loss are far greater than they are in the pros.
With that being said, I hate losing, so it doesn’t make a difference how many games you end up playing. I hate losing. I don’t dislike it; I hate it, okay? Having lost that game to Michigan last week was just a miserable experience, okay? Now, it wouldn’t make any difference who it was, whether it was Michigan or anyone else, I would have hated it just the same. That alone, you know, makes you not want to have that feeling a second week in a row. I wouldn’t have liked that at all.
Q. After Brady threw that pick, he obviously responded instinctively and tried to tackle the guy. When you have as little experience behind him as you do, do you perhaps say to him, Don’t do that, put your body on the line?
COACH WEIS: No. He throws a pick, I expect him to go over and try to keep the guy from getting in the end zone. That’s his responsibility. Do I want to risk Brady getting hurt? Absolutely not. Really the bigger question would be, Why would you keep throwing the ball when the quarterback’s under duress, that’s when he’s really getting hit. I haven’t seen too many quarterbacks get hit making a tackle. I have seen it happen a couple times, to tell you the truth. I haven’t seen too many over my years get hurt making a tackle. I’ve seen a lot more of them get hurt getting sacked.
If I’m willing to hang him out to dry by keeping on slinging the ball, the least I should expect him to do is try to tackle a guy after an interception.
Q. We talked a lot about this season of Travis Thomas, his transition. Can you talk about what Mitchell Thomas is doing, he’s not showing up as big in the statistics as Maurice is.
COACH WEIS: One of the reasons is because we weren’t very much in base defense last night because they were hardly ever in a regular offensive personnel grouping. See, regular personnel groupings are when you only have two receivers or less on the field. I think last night there was like seven plays the whole night where there weren’t three or more wide receivers on the field, okay? The reason why he doesn’t show up very much is because when teams aren’t going to play regular defense, he’s not on the field as much.
Q. Overall, over the course of the season.
COACH WEIS: A lot of it has to do with how many opportunities you have to make plays. I’m not positive what his count was, but his count was probably somewhere in the seven raping. I’m not positive. Vernaglia can add a couple of those reps, too. I don’t really track whose in there. I just know one of those two guys are in there. I know we weren’t in a lot of regular defense last night.
Q. Brady a couple weeks ago talked about fighting the identity of the offense during the Purdue game last year. You just talked about you haven’t really found your personality yet. Do you kind of look at that game and say this is what we have to do, get on track right now?
COACH WEIS: I’m not really going to speak too much on Purdue. What I’ve watched of them so far, they’re doing a couple things differently that would cause us to do some things differently. A lot of things we did last year against them were based on some of the things we were doing that they aren’t doing as much.
I’d like to say that this is going to be the game. We’re going to have to back it up. That includes me. We’re going to back it up. We just haven’t done a very good job of creating a situation as a team for an identity, but especially offensively because we’ve gotten in a position where we’ve gotten off to slow starts and gotten behind.
Q. You talked on Thursday about going over tapes, reviewing with Mr. Perry of the Big?10. Any kind of review process that would go with this thing that happened on the sidelines?
COACH WEIS: I’m not sure. I know they called some holdings on them last night, didn’t they? That was a good thing, wasn’t it? Did you notice that? I don’t know how many of them, but there was more than one. Three or four, I think. It was a good thing.
I’m sure there will be some kind of review process. I when it’s all said and done, I think it was called right. I think they got it right. I’m including my guy getting the penalty. When my guy got the penalty, the guy was still on the field when he hit him. I think there’s a difference between a late hit, which occurs out of bounds, and unnecessary roughness, which occurs inbounds. Unnecessary roughness, they felt the guy was running out of bounds, he didn’t have to hit him the way he hit him. I at least can understand that logic. Whether I would have called it or not, of course I wouldn’t have called it because he’s my guy. I’m sure there will be some kind of review there. I think when it’s all said and done, they’ll think it got it right.
To be honest with you, it got broken up pretty quickly which was a good thing. That could have turned ?? what ended in 30 seconds, could have turned into something pretty ugly.