Sept. 29, 2008
Q. Brady (Quinn) had so many eccentricities, but good ones, like his diet, being a workout freak. Do you see a little bit more of that with Jimmy (Clausen) as he gets a little bit older?
COACH WEIS: The one thing he’s always been is he’s always been a gym rat. By that I mean he’s always around. I think that’s one quality of any good quarterback, is they need to want to be around. The quarterbacks, you have to look for them, you can’t find them, usually are the ones that are missing that special something that gives them potential to be a big time quarterback.
Whether it’s the breeding, the family, whether that’s part of the deal, football has always been important to him. I think that always helps. Then the fact that he just likes to play the game. So to him, the more he can be around it, the more of a junky he can be, he wants to progress and he wants to progress in all facets. I think mentally is one of the areas where he’s progressing very fast.
Q. We threw a bunch of freshmen questions at you Saturday. Can you talk about your freshmen class a little bit today. Ethan Johnson impresses me the way he’s held in there.
COACH WEIS: As a matter of fact, we played him early, too. What he’s done is he’s been able to get good penetration into the backfield. I think that’s one of the things you need with defensive linemen, are guys that besides just being able to be stout enough to play the run, they can get some penetration into the backfield and be disruptive. I think he’s shown at a very young age he’s capable of doing that.
Q. Tight ends, not using (Joseph) Fauria this week, not quite physically ready?
COACH WEIS: No, he was ready to go. I think he was mentally ready, too. Just that we’re in that situation where you don’t want to use a guy until you have to use him. The way the game presented itself is we didn’t have to use him.
Trust me, we were prepared to play him in the game.
Q. Four games in, has there been anything that’s surprised you this season so far?
COACH WEIS: Well, I was pleased to see how they reacted let’s say not surprised. I was pleased to see how they reacted to the loss to Michigan State. We obviously had a bump in the road last weekend. We came back. There were some distractions right off the bat. They came in on Monday, got focused in on the entire week. They practiced really hard.
We talk so often in here about evidence in practice correlating to what actually happens on the game field. I was not surprised but pleased to see that the evidence of the things that happened on the practice field showed up on the game field on Saturday.
Q. Is it sometimes tougher for teams to bounce back from losses?
COACH WEIS: I think it’s tougher to go to work, and I say “to work” figuratively, okay? But it’s tougher to go to work when you come in after a loss because the constructive criticism that takes place after a loss, what you really need to get better, you know, is a little tougher to hear when you’re already a little bit emotionally or psychologically in the tank. Whereas after a win, it’s really easy to criticize people.
It’s easy to come in because they’re already feeling good. Now you can sit there and say, Look, fellas, look what we did wrong here. We did this, this, this and this. They’re a lot more receptive after a win than after a loss. I say the toughest part is getting here, getting through the constructive criticism.
In reality, one of the best things these players do is get on a field after a loss. Getting on the field, it’s the first time they really start getting over the loss.
Q. After having a night to think things over, watching the tape today, are you still as happy about yesterday’s game as you were yesterday?
COACH WEIS: I could go pros and cons on all three facets: special teams, offense and defense.
Briefly on special teams, I thought our coverage units were exceptional. I thought our kickoff coverage was exceptional. (Mike) Anello and Scott Smith each had three tackles in the game. I thought they played really well. Our punt coverage team was good, once again. We got some good yardage on our kickoff return. The only area where we didn’t get any action was at a punt return, which that bothered me some. Then, of course, we missed the one field goal.
But there are a lot of good things that happened on special teams.
Defensively, obviously one of the biggest, if not the biggest play in the game, is R.J.’s (Robert Blanton) interception for a touchdown, which is the only turnover in the game. That’s another positive, that we didn’t turn the ball over on offense. So you have a plus one for the game. The interception you do get goes to the house.
I was pleased with the red zone defense. I was exceptionally pleased at how they played in the second half on defense on third and fourth down. I think they pitched a shutout in the second half. I’m not exactly sure, but I think they were 0 4 on third down and 0 2 on fourth down. When you can do that, usually something good is going to end up happening.
On the negative side, we have to do better in execution on both sides of the ball. We need to get off to a better start than we did. Defensively I think they’re when they watched us having them backed up, when a player has watched us having Purdue backed up, letting them get off their goal line, that will be a concern. Giving up the same ball for a touchdown versus cover three, you know, that will be a concern. Getting a couple penalties, the horse collar and the PI (pass interference) on Sergio (Brown), that will be a concern.
But overall I thought the second half performance compared to the first half performance were night and day. For me, I’m saying if they can gain some momentum from the second half going into the first half next week. On both sides of the ball we can’t get off to a slow start.
That gets me to offense. Get the ball, the first drive, go three and out, get a penalty on the third play of the game for the second game in a row. Second drive we get the ball, come up fourth and short, okay? Fourth and less than a yard, don’t get a yard, turn the ball over on downs. The next time we have second and goal from the eight yard line, get a false start penalty. Almost every time you end up with a penalty in the red zone it ends up costing you points, okay? At the end of the day, we end up missing a field goal. Not only do we not get a touchdown, we ended up not getting any points. There are the first three drives the game.
Conversely, you take the last drive of the first half, not including the last two plays. You really score four touchdowns in a row. Scored a touchdown there, those two plays, then you scored the first three times you got the ball in the second half. I mean, it doesn’t get much better than that. Really, it’s four touchdowns in a row. Then you follow that up with a field goal after that. It’s really five scores in five drives.
I think that, 13 big plays in the game, six runs, seven passing, rushing the ball for over 200 yards, Armando (Allen) rushing for 7.9 a carry, Jimmy not throwing a pick, executing the offense as well as he’s executed it. He’s had days with higher completion percentage, but he hasn’t played any better than he played yesterday. He played pretty darn well yesterday. He got us out of some plays. He moved runs from one side to the other side. I mean, he really did a nice job for us yesterday.
He obviously wasn’t alone. Michael Floyd, there’s one of those freshmen we’re talking about, a hundred yard day. I mentioned Armando. Kyle Rudolph has three catches. He blocked pretty well, has three catches, two for a first down, one for a touchdown. The two tackles, (Mike) Turkovich and Sam Young, played pretty stout in the game. One sack in the game, because we get beat inside on a spin move, then the pass protection.
If you look at the analysis of the whole game, there’s a lot more pros than cons. But there’s plenty of constructive criticism that will be dealt out tomorrow morning nice and early.
Q. Perfect situation for you as a coach?
COACH WEIS: Doesn’t get any better than that. It really doesn’t get any better.
Q. A lot of those touchdown drives, you tended to spread the field. Why did that work so well for you?
COACH WEIS: That was our intent going into this game. What we wanted to do is dictate what the defense dictate the defense having to show what they were going to have to do. Every week we have the potential to do that. I think that going into this game, especially after last week’s game where I felt we had a little different mentality, but at the end of the day we got into that mentality. I think this was a way for us to start and make sure we didn’t get one dimensional, come out and figure we were going to throw the ball all day. That wasn’t in any way our intent, coming out and throwing the ball all day. We knew what we had to do. We had to loosen them up before we started hammering them inside or on the stretch play.
Q. Will you talk to your guys about using this as a springboard? If so, how will you phrase that?
COACH WEIS: I already did that after the game. That was the first thing I talked about, was how you have to take this second half now. You’re 14 14. The game could go either way at halftime. You played such a solid second half in almost all facets. I said, Now what we need to do is get off to a faster start against Stanford than the last few games.
I think it sets a even though it turned out well in this game, you don’t want to count on any game sitting there at halftime and being able to pull away the way it went yesterday. I think we got to get more production in the first half.
Q. You mentioned the home field. Three games in, what do you have to do to make this a tough place to play?
COACH WEIS: Well, I think ‘a tough place to play’ is twofold. It’s how your guys mentally play up to playing at home, number one. Number two, it’s the involvement of the crowd in the game. I think that second half, just as the game went, so the crowd went. I think that everyone in the second half was having a good time. The players were having a good time. The fans were having a good time. Everyone was having a good time. I think at home that’s one of the enjoyments of playing at home. When things are going well, everyone’s having a good time.
I think we have another opportunity this week to take another step. You got another one at home against a formidable opponent. That’s what we need to do. We need to take the next step.
Q. Was the first step in this whole thing really the Michigan game? Seemed like San Diego State, the fans were tentative. You mentioned after the Michigan game you thought they were really enthusiastic.
COACH WEIS: I think that the fourth quarter of the San Diego State game, the crowd got into the game, but deservedly so. You can’t always blame the crowd. Sometimes you got to blame the play. I think the way the fourth quarter went in the San Diego State game, it started this whole thing off.
The start of the Michigan game, you know, the fans were already into the game early because of how the game started. I think as this ball keeps rolling, I think it could get better and better.
Q. Is the converse true, that when it goes poorly, it’s much tougher? Golden (Tate) mentioned yesterday that playing at home felt like playing on the road, the noise.
COACH WEIS: I don’t get that one from Golden. I’d have to ask him what he meant by that. I don’t want to comment on that one without hearing the framework in which Golden was saying that.
Q. One of the more interesting stats from the first four games is that you have 14 touchdowns, 12 scored by underclassmen. I’m sure you don’t notice that as it’s happening during the game.
COACH WEIS: Grimes let me know he scored two, just so you know (laughter).
Q. There has to be a moment where you sit back and say, freshman, sophomore, freshman, freshman. Highly rated recruiting classes are coming through early.
COACH WEIS: Not to mention the fact that the quarterback, he’s in that group, too. I think these guys are starting to show they can get some production. One other positive framework is that the guys in the front are a year older than that. Most of them, except for Turkovich, are all third year players. I think even though some of them are only in their second year of playing, you’re starting to get more experience built with those young guys, just coming and bringing some extra energy.
It’s fun to watch Michael Floyd out there. It’s fun to watch Golden Tate out there. It’s fun because they play with such enthusiasm.
Q. That in turn creates a little different dynamic with your team. You have a changing of the guard with the younger guys. Do you have to deal with that with the older players?
COACH WEIS: I think the older guys are all involved. They know that how things have gone in practice is really how it’s going towards playing time. They go together. I mean, these two guys have done a really nice job. While a couple of the other guys were banged up, waiting for them to get really healthy, these guys just stepped up, stepped up and stepped up. Now it’s going to be tough to take ’em out.
Q. You talk about the increase of athletic ability on the coverage teams. I would assume it’s more than that; it’s got to be an execution issue as well.
COACH WEIS: Well, I think it’s been across the board. First of all, I think Brian (Polian) has done a nice job getting the special teams ready to go. I think, good or bad, the fact that he has the head coach sitting in there in all the meetings creates a much higher, greater sense of urgency about the production on special teams. I think if nothing else, I wouldn’t say it’s a deterrent, I’d say it’s had a positive residual effect.
I think these guys have gone out there trying to have some fun out there. It’s fun watching guys like Anello. I mean, that first kickoff coverage, go watch it. He’s all the way on the right, comes all the way across, cuts to the edge, makes the play. He’s having a lot of fun. A lot of guys are having a lot of fun with him.
Q. Anything on Luke Schmidt?
COACH WEIS: He had that cognitive test. I would say we should say he’s going to be out indefinitely. I’d say I don’t know any better way to say it than he’ll be out indefinitely.
Q. In talking to all the players, I kept asking the same question last week, why you were better prepared to deal with adversity. Everybody to a man talked about maturity, that kind of thing, having dealt with the issues last year. Found it interesting after the game yesterday, the celebration with the students was really kind of tame. They kind of took this win in stride.
COACH WEIS: It’s funny you say that because I kind of noticed the same thing. After the Michigan game, you would have thought they won the Super Bowl. But I think that now, instead of it being just one game, now you get over there, sing the alma mater, enjoy it, because it really is a surreal feeling looking up into the stands, watching the student body sing the alma mater with you.
But I think that then, and right into the locker room, as happy as they were, it was much more matter of fact. Not that they weren’t happy, not that they weren’t enthusiastic, because they were. But, you know, it was more, Okay, we got Stanford coming up. That’s the way they acted.
Q. Grimes yesterday said he felt like Jimmy was making the reads he remembers Brady making. How close is Jimmy to maybe where Brady started?
COACH WEIS: He’s getting closer. I mean, let’s say, for instance, the touchdown pass to David. That was all out blitz. They were bringing the house, okay? They were bringing more than we could block. So we had routes outside to get you to first down. The route was get the first down with the outside guys, then go for the home run with Grimes. He saw there were more coming with more than we could block, even though Sam Young did a great job of taking two on the play. He stepped to his guy, got a hand on the other guy who was coming on block. Jimmy just saw that, back pedalled, laid one up there. That’s not something an inexperienced quarterback does. I mean, that’s something an experienced quarterback knows, Hey, they got more coming than I can handle. I know the only place I can throw the ball is a layup down the field, let them run up under it. That’s a big time play. I believe it was fourth and seven at the time, too. Incomplete pass, it’s their ball. Instead it’s a touchdown, strike up the band.
Q. Talking to (David) Bruton after the game, I asked about the freshmen class, why there was so much confidence coming in. He said it was probably because you struggled so much last year, they were watching thinking they could come in and play right away. Do you think that’s reason why they’ve come along so quickly?
COACH WEIS: I’d say they had plenty of evidence watching games last year that they would have an opportunity to get into the mix. But at the same time I’d also say we’ve been saying right along, I’ve never seen, in any class coming in, a camaraderie like the one with this group this year. Forget about the ratings, okay? Forget about the rankings. The camaraderie that these guys had from beginning to end of recruiting. As we had rehashed last year several times, when they were getting hammered and hammered, they guys stuck together. They formed such a close bond that they want to be a part of something special. A bunch of them are now getting themselves on the field.
Q. Michael Floyd, what is it about this guy that let him come in so quickly, especially when you look at him in contrast to where Golden was?
COACH WEIS: The first thing is Michael was a receiver in high school. He played at Cretin Derham, who has a really good program, very good passing offense that they run at the high school he’s from. We have a lot of respect for them. As you know, we recruit a whole bunch of kids from there.
The bottom line is he was already in a very highly structured pass offense in high school, whereas Golden was a running back, so it’s totally different. It’s apples and oranges. They’re both unique individuals. They’re different body types.
I tell you one thing, they both in their own way, when the ball is up for grabs, more often than not, they’re going to be the one coming down with it.
Q. Is that why you think the fade route is such an effective weapon with the personnel you have right now?
COACH WEIS: I think we’ll keep throwing ’em.
Q. Before the season started, did you have any expectations of this team? What kind of expectations did you have? Where did you see your team being after four games?
COACH WEIS: I’m very similar to everybody else. I look at those games one step at a time. If you really looked at our team analytically, the teams we’re going against analytically, you have to say you have a chance of being in every game. So, therefore, if you have a chance of being in every game, I’d like to be sitting 4 0 right now. That’s where I’d like to be.
In my mind, if you’re asking me did I think we could be 4 0 at this time? The answer is yes. Okay, we’re not, but that’s where I thought we could be.
Q. Are you displeased with the fact you’re not 4 0?
COACH WEIS: Am I unhappy we lost to Michigan State? Ubetcha I am.
Q. As far as the progress of this team in four games, are you seeing what you want to see out of them?
COACH WEIS: I think if you took yesterday’s game, because you have to take it in stages, yesterday’s game, I think the defense found the issues that they really had to deal with. In the second half, I think the quarterback was 9 for 21. I think they held him to seven points in the second half, did great on third and fourth down. That’s really how you want to play football. Gave up much too much in the first half. But second half, with the exception of the one seam ball for the touchdown, I think I was generally pleased.
Offensively, it’s the best production. That third quarter is really when the game was won yesterday. I think they kind of, as an offense, made a statement that they can run the ball and they can throw the ball and they can pick up the blitz and they can win one on one. Now they got to show they can do it on a more consistent basis week in and week out. Can’t do it this week and then next week go to Stanford and lay an egg. You can’t do that.
Special teams generally I’ve been content at this point with the performance. Obviously there’s some things that are well documented that they have to fix. But I’ve been generally content with most facets of the special teams.
Q. Back to the freshmen. You played a lot of them last year, too. This year you can count on them but maybe not rely on them as much.
COACH WEIS: I think that’s a fair question because last year there were probably some guys playing before you’d like for them to be playing. This year guys have been able, with the exception of rare situations like Michael getting out there so much early, Kyle getting out there so much early, and some of it is circumstantial, of course, but these guys have been able to get eased into it instead of thrown into it.
Now you get a guy like Ethan that we were talking about before. He didn’t have to come out and play 50 plays in the first game. Each game after that, he’s getting in more and more and more and more and more. Ideally, that’s the way you’d like to do it.
Q. Now that Jonas (Gray) has played on special teams, would you be more inclined to get him carries?
COACH WEIS: That’s the intent, when we decided to do that, okay, to go ahead and involve him on special teams. It’s the same thing we did a week earlier with by (Steve) Filer. We don’t all of a sudden, We’re just going to throw him in there. When we put those two guys, Filer and Jonas, I mentioned it last week, when I talked about Steven, I also talked about Jonas, we made a decision these were two guys that could help us on special teams. Obviously when the situation presents itself, we’d like to see them get involved in the offense and the defense.
Q. Four games in, are we getting closer to the point where for the most part the freshmen are going to (indiscernible)?
COACH WEIS: I think we were talking about Fauria before. You get a guy like Joseph who was ready to play in this game, if we need to play him, we’ll play him. In a lot of cases if there’s guys that are far down the depth chart, they’ll probably stay far down the depth chart at this point.
Q. When you injured your knee, you jokingly said you were going to (indiscernible) body guards.
COACH WEIS: I did, as you noticed.
Q. Someone made a nice save.
COACH WEIS: Yes, Rick (Perry) did a nice job. As a matter of fact, (Kory) Sheets got up, he was a little bit stunned by it because he was a little bit away from me as he was getting run by me. He popped up, he looked at Rick. I said, Kory, he’s just protecting me. He said, Okay, gotcha, coach.
I think Rick was being a little overprotective. But I’d rather him err on the side of caution, to tell you the truth.
Q. Did you have to give those guys extra incentive?
COACH WEIS: I told them, if I get hit, they get fired. It was pretty easy (laughter).
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