Oct. 13, 2009
COACH WEIS: Before we get going about USC, I just wanted to send best wishes to Stafon Johnson on behalf of our whole team and university. We wish he gets well and a speedy recovery. Our thoughts and prayers are with him. Having said that, let’s move on to the Trojans.
They’ve been outscoring their opponents in every quarter but especially to start off a game at 47-17 in the first quarter, 41-6 in the second quarter, they’ve been pretty dominant. They’ve been to four consecutive Rose Bowls and won seven straight Pac-10 titles and won 71 out of the last 77 games. A lot of the credit has to go to Pete (Carroll). Sometimes people underestimate how good a job coach Carroll’s done, but in his nine years there, his 92-16 record has — you have to take it — add a few other points in here. You know, he’s loss a lot of players and a lot of coaching staff but they just keep on ticking. He’s done a heck of a job.
For example, this year he has both Johnny Morton and Jeremy Bates involved in running the offense. John is the offensive coordinator and Jeremy is the assistant head coach of offense who scouts the quarterbacks. And they’re still scoring 29 points a game and rushing for 208 which is 5.5 per carry and throwing for another 223 and over 430 yards offense a game. This is all, you know, coming in with Matt as their — Matt Barkley as their starting quarterback. He is a very talented, fundamentally sound quarterback, playing well beyond his years.
At running back due to the injury of Stafon, you know, Joe McKnight’s kind of taken over as the lead dog. You know, he’s getting a great number of carries. He is a very good athlete. Speed, explosion, change of direction, acceleration — he’s a dynamic player.
When they want to go to the big guy they just put (Allen) Bradford in there and he’s become their pounding back and we’ll see a fair amount of C.J. Gable as well.
You can’t take (Stanley) Havili for granted either because he is probably one of the best fullbacks there are in the country. And I could say the same thing for Anthony McCoy at tight end. Although we will see some (Rhett) Ellison and (Blake) Ayles in there, too.
You know, McCoy is that go to guy at tight end. He catches the ball well. He can plug it. Every one of their skill guys can do more than just, you know, just go line up out there. They all can make plays.
Same as true when you get to receivers. They’ve been starting Williams as their go to guy and David Ausberry but Brice Butler has been playing a whole bunch and Ron Johnson, looks like he’s going to get back on the field this week. Good timing for them. Bad timing for us. Because Ronald’s another guy with great athleticism and just brings another weapon for them to utilize.
Really all starts with their offensive line. They have four returning starters along their offensive line. They’re athletic up front; as good as there in the country at this position.
You have (Charles) Brown at left tackle. He is a big guy, moves well, he is athletic, has good feet.
(Jeff) Byers, you know, they granted him a sixth year of eligibility so he is experienced. He’s tough. He’s competitive.
With (Kristofer) O’Dowd at center. He moves well, gets on the second level, shows explosion.
(Alex) Parsons over at right guard. He moves well for his size. Another big guy.
(Tyron) Smith plays at right tackle. He is another guy that is very athletic.
We’ll also see Butch Lewis in there rotating in there with some of those guys.
Over to the defense. Rocky Seto’s kind of bided his time at USC. He’s been there for 11 years and this is his first year as defensive coordinator at his alma mater. You can see that they’re really not missing a beat.
You know 65 yards rushing a game, two yards a carry, 173.8 passing a game, 238 a game total, 29 percent of third down, 21 sacks, 23 percent touchdowns in the red zone. You can’t say enough good things about their defense. And they’re losing all those — everyone’s, oh, they’re losing all these guys to the NFL last year, and doesn’t seem like they’ve missed a beat and they’ve been playing very well on defense.
It starts up front. Everson Griffen, he was already athletic enough but now he’s added a bunch of weight since last year so now he is not just athletic but also big. We’ll see a little Malik Jackson behind him, but we’ll also see him show up in nickel. Wes Horton’s been starting off, a true freshman along with Nick Perry. They’ve been both playing because (Armond) Armstead is banged up, but now looks like Armstead is returning to the action. So we’ll see a whole bunch of these guys rotating in there at defensive end and/or defensive tackle opposite of Griffin.
You know, (Christian) Tupou, he returns inside. I know he’s banged up a little bit, but I’d be surprised if we don’t see him and (Jurrell) Casey as the two inside guys. But they rotate people in there and keep bodies fresh, and they’ll be pretty formidable up front.
Linebackers are very athletic. (Chris) Galippo holds it down in the middle. He is a good tackler. He is a physical linebacker. Mike Morgan has taken over at the strong side linebacker. He’s very, very athletic. He can rush the passer. He can be disruptive. He’s a really good football player. As is Malcolm Smith on the other side. Malcolm missed a little action the last couple games and they’ve been playing Jordan Campbell in there, but I think Malcolm should be back and ready to go.
Secondary: Obviously everyone knows about Taylor Mays, probably the best safety in the country. He’s got rare size and speed. I was just talking to one of my guys about him this morning. You know, how a guy who is that big at 6’3″, 235 could run that fast. But he’s a dynamic player.
(Will) Harris, he’ll play safety next to him. He started last year versus us. And they dropped him down when they were playing against Cal and used him a little bit as their nickel back.
The two corners are (Josh) Pinkard and (Kevin) Thomas. They’re both athletic and they can run. They really don’t have a hole on defense. Usually when you go against a defensive team you find a hole, some guy you can exploit. I think this is one of those rare teams where you really don’t find that hole anywhere.
Coach (Brian) Schneider is running the special teams. Looks like (Jacob) Harfman has taken over as both the punter and the kick off guy. Whereas (Jordan) Congdon will handle the place kicking. They got two snappers — long snapper is (Cooper) Stephenson; the short snapper is (Chris) Pousson. Kickoff return looks like Gable and (Curtis) McNeal and McKnight; two of those three guys will end up being back there. For the time being Damian Williams manages the ship as the punt returner.
Q. Can you update us on some of the injuries, (James) Aldridge, Jimmy (Clausen), Armando (Allen) where those guys are, (Darius) Fleming too?
COACH WEIS: Everyone’s a go. As a matter of fact, in warm ups today you’ll even see (Michael) Floyd out there in a uniform today. He won’t be playing; I’m not going to do that for window dressing, but he looks like he might be ahead of schedule and looks like come November, there is a chance we might get him back and playing again. But he can go out there, can’t catch balls but he can run around today.
But, you know, Jimmy’s Jimmy, you know. Turf toe is better but he’ll have it ’til after the season’s over. Fleming is back. Aldridge is back. They’re all back.
Q. Following up on Floyd, what is he allowed to do right now; what is he limited to?
COACH WEIS: Today is the first day we’re letting him run around with pads, so the players will be a little surprised all of a sudden when they see him running around out there with pads. But we’re going to get, I believe it’s a CAT scan, like the second of November. I think the first would be six weeks. So, you know, the second or third of November right before the (Navy) game. And based off the results of that CAT scan they’ll determine if and when we can get him back. Fingers crossed the earliest we can get him back is (Navy).
Q. You got a lot of recruits coming — I know you can’t talk about anybody specifically, but talk about the atmosphere you hope to have for them and why you like having guys like this at though games?
COACH WEIS: Well this is a very active week for us because we’re playing against one of the best teams in the country and a ton of recruits coming in, both officially and unofficially. That’s one of the reasons why we’re not having a press conference on Sunday because my appointments with these guys will run from 8:00 in the morning till 5:00 at night just so I can sit down and have an appointment with each guy after they’ve gone through Saturday.
I think that when these kids want to come in for a visit during the academic year, during their season, well they want to come in for a big game. What bigger game is there as far as buzz and everything else than this one.
Q. The 2005 game, can you talk about your memories of the atmosphere, maybe what you learned from that big game as you move into this one?
COACH WEIS: Well, from a recruiting standpoint I thought that the atmosphere and the game itself actually was a benefit. Personally you never can be — I never forget how miserable I felt after the game was over. So for everyone else they might have had a good time I was just absolutely, completely miserable. You know, but they won. We had our chances; we didn’t get it done.
Q. Following up on that a little bit. You kind of worked some motivational magic back in `05. What did you do to get your team so focused and so up for that game?
COACH WEIS: I think it’s easy to get up for a game against USC. I think that we are doing a number of things in the last two weeks working towards them, but you can get them to a fever pitch but you still have to go play against USC on Saturday. No matter how many little tacks you use as you get ready to go, it’s still one of the best teams in the country come Saturday at 3:42.
Q. I was walking in, I see a whole lot of chalk drawings out about, “Beat SC.”
COACH WEIS: They weren’t here at 10 to 4.
Q. My point exactly. Can you feel the excitement starting to build around campus for this weekend?
COACH WEIS: I haven’t been on campus, Pete, so I can’t really tell you, but I think all the feedback that I’m getting is everyone is really excited for this game. As well they should be.
My goal is for them to be excited at 7:00, not to be excited now. 7:00 (pm) on Saturday I’m talking about, not seven on Thursday morning. Or what is this, Tuesday morning.
Q. Nick Tausch has really kicked well for you, made a lot of pressure kicks in close games; talk about his demeanor.
COACH WEIS: I think once he got those early couple butterflies out of his way, you know, the one extra point and the one field goal, he’s been money, and it’s been that way in practice, too.
As a matter of fact, yesterday we planned on him having eight kicks, but after he went six for six on the sixth one I said, That’s enough. I don’t want any negative waves, so I think at that point I just went ahead and ended it.
But, you know, it’s really refreshing for me as a coach and the coaching staff, but the players too, that they feel confident if it came down to a kick at the end of the game, they would feel that he’d make that kick.
Q. There are positions in sports, kickers, goalies, closers in baseball, they’re kind of quirky and superstitious. He seems to be matter of fact, “hey, the ball’s there and I kick it through the uprights.”
COACH WEIS: Yeah, I’ve been around some kickers that are just normal. Matt Bahr was one of those. Matt Bahr was one of the most normal people you ever met. Whereas I remember when Bill brought him in for a workout when Raul (Allegre) got hurt and he came down and Jeff Hostetler said, “How do you want me to hold it?” He (Bahr) goes, “Just put it down and I’ll kick it.”
Most of those guys, they want it tilted a certain way and spin the laces at three quarters and things like that. Well, Nick is a lot like that — “just put it down there and, you know, I’ll kick it.”
Q. Charlie, you mentioned how miserable you were after that ’05 game. I remember you going over to their locker room, how hard was that to do and just remind us what you said to them?
COACH WEIS: It was really hard to do but it was also the right thing to do. Sometimes people don’t like when I bring my family into things, Dennis, but I thought as bad as I felt I thought that the game was that great of a game. You know, I never can feel good about a loss, but I thought it was a great teaching experience for me with my kid to bring him over and show him this is the right way to handle yourself under duress. So I just went over and congratulated them on their win and wished them well the rest of the year.
Q. Not to be facetious, but do you think you are past the point of growing the grass out? So much was made of that in ’05.
COACH WEIS: Yeah, the grass was kind of long that day but some of the weather had to do with that, too. Remember one of the problems we have here is that as the year goes on when you get into October and November the grass doesn’t grow back as much here.
When you have a lot of home games in a row — we play USC then we play Boston College, then we go away for a week and come back and play Navy. You know, if you cut it razor thin at this time of year, you could end up ruining your field for the whole year; That’s really the whole thought process.
It was kind of long that day, but, you know, both teams were playing on it. That wasn’t the — the intent wasn’t to create an unfair advantage.
Q. Did you get anyone specific based on that game recruiting wise; can you name guys you got out of that?
COACH WEIS: There’s a whole bunch of the guys that are now currently in this fourth year class that were all on that visit. I can’t name all of them right off the top of my head because it’s double digits, but a lot of them were there and a lot of them jumped on board. So it was a big game.
And, obviously, the positive residual affect from going ahead and playing a great game this week could be tremendous for our recruiting process.
Q. It’s hard to say that, in that respect, that was a positive loss. People want to make so much out of what a great game it was.
COACH WEIS: If there is such a thing. I’d say the residual effect was positive. The feeling was still miserable.
Q. Talk about your opinion on the concept of a signature game. This could be a signature game for you.
COACH WEIS: USC is one of the best teams in the country. They’ve beaten us seven times in a row, really, the bottom line. Some of them have been ugly. So I think winning this week would do wonders for my spirits. But it wouldn’t just be my spirits, it would be everyone affiliated with Notre Dame. So that is what we’re going to try to do.
Q. And in watching the film of Matt Barkley from start ’til now, what’s been the development of his four games?
COACH WEIS: I think the one thing he does very well is he knows who his play makers are and he gets the ball in their hands. That is a good tack for a young quarterback to understand, “hey, I got these guys, here’s my play makers, let’s get them the ball.” It’s kind of easy because you can just turn around and hand it to Number 4 a whole bunch of times with that offensive line they have there and usually some good things are going to happen right there.
But when he throws the ball, he’s got good receivers, he’s got good tight ends, he’s got good running backs including a fullback who is certainly not a slug, this guy is a good pass catcher coming out of the back field. I think he’s done a nice job spreading the ball around and getting the ball in their hands and allowing them to make play.
Q. How different he is from Jimmy (Clausen) when he was a freshman?
COACH WEIS: I think that Jimmy wasn’t around as good a supporting cast. That might be the biggest understatement I might ever say, but I’m trying to be politically correct. (Laughter) I think that Matt is playing behind a seasoned offensive line with good skill people, but he’s not just managing the game, he’s making plays, too.
You know the easiest thing to say is just go in there and just manage the game, but he’s making plays. I have a lot of respect for him.
Q. Last year’s game against USC obviously ended up being one sided. What areas in your game do you feel that you have done the best in narrowing the gap with them?
COACH WEIS: Well, I actually thought our defense hung in there for awhile in that game. I thought the offense, I thought we just got man handled, You know, from start to finish I thought we got manhandled. They were able to man handle us without having to bring a lot of pressure.
They were able to pin their ears back with four guys and get after us. I think they completely controlled the line of scrimmage, and I’d like to think that that won’t be the case this week.
Q. May have asked you this in the past, but you’ve gone against Pete Carroll many times and know him quite well. What are the one or two things, the one or two assets that he possesses that makes him as good of a coach and successful coach as he has been?
COACH WEIS: Well he’s really evolved. I’m not going to compare him to either of the Bill’s (Parcells and Belichick) who I have the utmost respect for, but here is the thing I admire about him the most, okay. He’s lost all these good players to the NFL. Last year he last his offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator, okay; they’re both gone. Now you look at the team right there and, you know, this is what great coaches do. Great coaches lose players, they lose coaches, they put somebody else in and the thing just keeps on ticking. So I think that in the grand scheme of things when coaches can do that, you know, you know that they’re doing a heck of a job.
Q. Will you be wearing green jerseys Saturday?
COACH WEIS: No, we’ll be wearing blue jerseys on Saturday.
Q. I read today that you have a cap on in your office that says “USC Owns Notre Dame”. I was wondering where you got that and why you keep it out there?
COACH WEIS: I do have that cap but I keep it for a different reason, Tom, which is kind of private. But with that cap came a letter from somebody with a very derogatory comment towards my daughter. So until we win a game, I’ll hold on to that cap. And when we’ve won a game, that cap won’t be around any more. It’s kind of a refresher for me and I’d just rather than share the derogatory comment I’d like to just keep that private.
Q. You told us on Tuesday that Manti (Te’o) had his best practice. Wondering if he continued to show that the rest of the week?
COACH WEIS: Manti is getting to look more like a guy who is been out there. I’d say he is far from a finished product, but the fact he is getting so many reps now and he’s got that one game of starting under his belt, I think he looks a lot more comfortable now. That being said, he’s going against a dynamic offense this week, so he’s going to have to be ready to bring his lunch pail with him.
Q. Just wondering if you could talk a little bit about where Jimmy (Clausen) and right now and previous times you’ve been not wanting to compare him to Brady (Quinn) but you are at a point where you can compare him at a similar place. Do you think he is ahead of where Brady was at this point?
COACH WEIS: I think we’ll have a better answer for that come Sunday. I think that he’s had a heck of a year. I mean, you look at what he’s done through these first five games, there couldn’t be anyone in the country playing any better than him. But now he is going against the best defense that he’s seen all year long. So I think these are the type of moments where you really get to get judged on how well you do when you go against the really, really good guys. That’s not being disrespectful to the first five opponents. This is a what have you done for me lately type of position right here.
So he won’t be judged by bringing us back three times in a row or four times in a row for that matter, he’ll be judged by what he does against USC.
Q. Charlie, kind of expanding on that a little bit. Obviously Jimmy is starting to get Heisman hype; how comfortable are you with that?
COACH WEIS: I think if Jimmy were to ever win that award it will mean that we won a lot of games. Because if we didn’t win a lot of games, he would not be in the hunt, and that’s really, you know, they go hand in hand.
All those good guys who win those awards usually their teams play pretty darn good and they won a whole bunch of games. I think that’s another positive residual affect that comes from when you play well and your team wins. We don’t win a lot of games, no matter how good his stats are, I don’t think it will do him good. If he wins that, because we played great, because he played great, sign me up.
Q. As the defensive line and front seven in general have really started to make strides, seems like the last couple games, seems like the defensive backs, especially if you look at the national rankings, whatnot, against the past, haven’t been I think as good as advertised; what areas of improvement would you like to see from that unit?
COACH WEIS: I think when you bring a lot of heat or bring a fair amount of heat and you have corners one on one outside I think that’s the first area.
No one can really have anything negative to say about the way Kyle McCarthy has been playing because he’s played great. I think that really it’s going come down to the corners challenging their wide receivers, because I thinks that where a lot of that action is taking place.
Q. Coach, I’m wondering if you could go back to Pete Carroll for just a second and describe anything that you like about his style or anything that you have taken from him as a coach observing another coach?
COACH WEIS: First of all, I think that his team’s play with a lot of enthusiasm and with a lot of confidence and a lot of cockiness, and I think that a very good quality to have. When they step on the field, it doesn’t make a difference who they are going against, they expect to win. I think that’s what good teams do. And that obviously comes from the head coach. You know, that permeates from him on down.
Secondly, they’re very sound in just about everything they do. They very seldom make the big goofy mistake. I mean there’s an occasional turnover where you might force the ball or the ball comes out, but they’re sound fundamentally in all facets of game including special teams. So they’re sound fundamentally and they play with a chip on their shoulder. And he recruits good athletes on top of it. That’s a pretty good formula for success.
Q. If you could describe how hungry you are?
COACH WEIS: I think that our university really, really could use this win. Not me personally, our football team, our university. We don’t just play for us. We play for them, too. It’s been a long time coming. And we know the challenge we have at hand, George, we’re not oblivious to that fact, but been a long time coming and we’re going to give it a fair go.
Q. Do you think it would be fair to say this is your best chance to beat them since you’ve been here?
COACH WEIS: I think that our players believe they’re going to win. I don’t know if that’s always been the case.
Once again, I’m going reiterate it, they understand the talent level who they’re going against, but I’d say this is probably the first time since I’ve been here where the players really believe they’re going to win. They might be in the minority but they certainly believe that.
Q. You had mentioned (Taylor) Mays a little bit earlier; I guess in some ways are you surprised he’s still here, and then what mismatch does it create just with his mix of size?
COACH WEIS: First of all, anyone that goes back to make sure they graduate from college, it’s always a good thing. You know, could he have gone in the first round of the draft last year probably. I’m not in the NFL anymore so I can’t tell you, but you know he is that rare combination of size and speed — 6’2″, 235, runs a 4.3 and is looking to knock people out; I mean, that’s a pretty good package he is bringing with him.
Q. And as far as recruiting goes, that game in 2005 was kind of headed in the right direction. Even when they’ve hammered you pretty good the last couple years you’ve still gone to the, Hey, look we need you. At this point do you feel like you have to get back to the right direction, the we need you, it’s not going work any more?
COACH WEIS: We’ll just have to wait and see how the game goes, Pete. I think that I’m counting on them to get caught up in the excitement of the day. When we bring them in for recruiting weekend it’s not just the game, there’s a lot of things we do in the recruiting weekend. There’s academic support, there is admissions, there’s a lot of things that go on — besides them eating about eight times. Seems like every time you turn around they’re eating another meal. But with that being said, I think that there’s more to a visit at Notre Dame than just a game.
But we’d like to think that now they’re part of, you know, we’ve already lived through the tough times, and, you know, they’re on the — we’re on the other side of that arrow. You know, that arrow went and flipped and it’s going in the other direction.
Q. Kind of underrated part of a big recruiting weekend just the challenge it puts on your support staff, your players to host. Talk about that and then just the volume of guys you have coming in. I think is somewhat unprecedented.
COACH WEIS: Well I talked to the team about this yesterday at the end of practice. I explained to them the number of players that we have coming in and we talked about when they came on their visit and we told them if anyone has an excessive number of people coming in for the game and weren’t able to host, get to us early.
My support staff is second to none when it comes to the due diligence. Obviously starts with Rob (Ianello), but you know Rob involved with all the coaching stuff so between Dave (Peloquin) and Tim McDonnell and Kathryn (Schuessler) and all those people who are working to set up the stuff internally. I mean, usually things go pretty well. And our players understand the importance of recruiting and some of them really like to be involved. I’m not really overly concerned that we won’t be properly managing the recruiting weekend.
Q. In the past you’ve had go to guys hosting. James Aldridge hosted a lot of guys throughout the years. Dayne Crist and Tyler Stockton have hosted guys. Who are the guys you rely on most?
COACH WEIS: It depends on the personality of the kid you have coming in. You know, we try to match personality with personalities. You know, if a kid’s a guy that wants to stay home and play video games, we got plenty of guys like that. So it all depends on the personality of the kid who is coming in.
I think that our job is to match personalities. So when somebody’s here they can hang with somebody that’s just like them. To put somebody with somebody that they’re apples and oranges, that doesn’t make any sense. So when you have over 100 guys on your team you have plenty of opportunity to mix and match and find people to deal with each specific recruit.
Q. Kind of the same subject. Do you find that it really matters what happens in the game for a kid — any game — if a kid visits; does that hold a lot of sway or not that much?
COACH WEIS: That’s a good question because sometimes it really doesn’t matter. It’s all the other ingredients that come with the recruiting weekend. But there are several of these players that want to see whether or not they believe that you’re going to be good enough to compete at the top level. Because a lot of these guys are coming in — that’s the caliber of player you are dealing with. You are dealing with the best of the best. So they want to see whether or not they can envision playing for Notre Dame with Notre Dame being one of those teams that is playing at the top level.
Q. The subject of signature victories. Why do we tend to think as a quarterback needing a signature victory? Why don’t tight ends or defensive tackles get talked about?
COACH WEIS: I agree. I think everyone needs it. I don’t think it’s the head coach. I don’t think it’s the quarterback. That’s why I answer — people think I’m answering generically, I think Notre Dame needs it. I don’t think Jimmy Clausen needs it. I don’t think Charlie Weis needs it. One of the residual affects that come for Jimmy Clausen or Charlie Weis, because they’re the most visible people in the program as quarterback and head coach. They’re more blatantly obvious. But I’m saying Notre Dame after seven years getting beaten on by one of their archrivals I think it would do well for everyone not just Jimmy Clausen.
Q. What do you think Jimmy would gain by winning a game like this?
COACH WEIS: I think that Jimmy’s got a lot of buddies over in that other locker room that he’s been hearing a lot of abuse from for a couple of years. I think he’d like to have bragging rights. I think more than anything else, we can talk about the Heisman, I mean, we can talk about the team being 5-1 and all of a sudden skyrocketing in the ratings. We can talk about those things, but I think more than anything else, him being able to pick up the phone and call all these boys in that other locker room, I think that would be the greatest thing for him personally.
Q. To follow up on the answer you gave to Pete, you said your players believe they’re going to win. Why do you believe they’re going to win?
COACH WEIS: Well, it goes back to the question that Tim asked a while ago. You know, last year I thought the defense hung in there for a while and the offense was just taking a whooping. I’m not expecting to be taking a whooping.
Q. You’ve seen that much improvement in your offensive line?
COACH WEIS: You been at the games?
Q. Coach, obviously you don’t expect to give away the game plan but generally speak when a guy like Ronald Johnson comes back from injury, are you able to make him prove that he’s back, or is that just too risky?
COACH WEIS: What are you going to do not worry about Ausberry and Butler and those guys? I think Ronald just gives them another athletic, speed receiver that you have to be concerned with, but I don’t think that, you know, you can shun away from those other guys because they have some good players. In addition to Number 18 they got other good players out there, so you can’t just worry about Ronald coming back. You got to worry about the whole pack.
Q. Charlie, you are enough of a student of this school obviously, two classic games the last 25 years, ’88 Miami, and ’05 USC the Irish scored not on offense they scored special teams and defense. You guys haven’t scored a non offensive touchdown this year; how much of a point of emphasis is that?
COACH WEIS: I think we’re trying to make big plays. I’ll throw in the ’77 game, which is my senior year just while we’re at it, with a blocked punt for a touchdown. But I think that having a big play for a score, you know, on defense and/or special teams, you know, can change the complexion of a game very quickly.
Q. You talked about 10 to 4:00 earlier and that seems about 40 minutes earlier than you are at least telling us you’re getting in.
COACH WEIS: I have not been sleeping very well.
Q. That is my question. I mean, could you tell us how many hours of sleep a night you have been getting?
COACH WEIS: I get enough. I get my four hours in. You know, but see that’s not that unusual for football season. It’s four or five hours, that’s usually what it is. You know, get home late, you want to spend a little time saying hello to your wife and go to sleep and get up early. That’s just what you do. That’s what we do.
Q. You know you talked about this a little bit with other questions. The sentiment of teams being beaten before a game begins they know they can’t win. You might say the last two seasons you could fairly say that about the Irish. Talk to us a little bit about other players maybe besides Jimmy who know they can win this game.
COACH WEIS: I think there’s a whole bunch of them for a change. I think two years ago when they rolled in there, I think we might have been beat walking out the tunnel. Last year, I think that we hung in there at the very beginning of the game, but it didn’t roll that way. I think I am expecting our team, a large number of our team being on the other side of that fence this time.
Q. I just want to know if you can talk about Golden Tate’s development since he was a freshman and sort of this year how he’s sort of maintained his level of production with Michael Floyd being hurt and the defense presumably giving him even more attention?
COACH WEIS: When we brought Golden in here he was basically a fast running back that we were converting to wide receiver. And we moved him out to wide receiver and we were very limited in the number of things we could do with him other than straight-line speed things. He’s really evolved as a receiver, as a route runner. He always had the speed and he always had ball skills, but he was way behind in the definition of running routes, and that is probably been his greatest improvement as well as his competitiveness.
Now as far as his production goes, we’ve asked a lot from him since Michael (Floyd) got hurt because if you just line him up at X where he normally plays, I think that you’d just be asking for a long day for Golden. Because I think you get — whether they roll him into zone or whether double him in man, he’d have a tough day at the office. So we’ve had to put a lot of him mentally so we could put him in different positions to give him an opportunity to have the ball in his hands and he’s handled that very well.
So in addition to the obvious production he’s had numbers-wise, I think probably the greatest thing I could say is he’s been able to handle mentally all that we’ve thrown at him to try to great him in position where he could have the ball in his hands.
Q. Charlie, has there been a moment where Jimmy, obviously it’s process for a quarterback to mature, but has there been a moment where you think he took his biggest step?
COACH WEIS: Yeah, I actually think there was. I think that the Purdue game where he has a turf toe and we started off the game with him in shotgun because we knew that we couldn’t five step drop ’em or three step drop ’em like we normally would. Then we put Dayne (Crist) in there and managed most of the second and third quarter, got production in the second — touchdowns in the second quarter, but, you know, moved the ball but no touchdowns in the third quarter.
I think the bottom line is when he had to play in the fourth quarter, when he had to come in the game, when the game had changed and we had gone from a 10-point lead to going down and he led us on the drive at the end of the game and threw a touchdown pass, you know, with 30 seconds to go in the game, I think that that was a moment where his career might have changed on that drive. Because it showed the team a toughness that, you know, the team has to witness that, and it was visible to his teammates and our fans and everyone else. I think that was a turning point for Jimmy Clausen.
Q. You use the terms “confidence”, “cockiness” and “enthusiasm” and you’ve talked about the change in your team in an X and O fashion; what have you seen on those three traits the difference between last year and this year?
COACH WEIS: Well, I think that although we’re not the same team temperament as USC, I think that our team within our own way of doing things has become a lot more confident every time they go out there there’s an expectation where good things are going to happen instead of hopes that bad things don’t happen. I think that’s a very important comment. You know, for teams to expect good things to happen instead of hoping that bad things don’t happen.
Q. Is there a tipping point when they got on the other side of that?
COACH WEIS: Well, I think that after losing to Michigan and coming back the next week and winning at the end of the game against Michigan State, I think that was the first one. But I think then followed with the second one was the next week we come back and now instead of a defensive player sealing the victory, now it was an offensive player sealing the victory.
I think that last week we got in the Washington game and things weren’t going too well there at the end of the game. I think that the team now because of the previous two weeks with what had happened in the last minute the two previous weeks kind of felt that something was going to happen and we were going to find a way to win the game. And I think that the team now believes that it’s been weathered and I think it gives them a lot better chance to win on a weekly basis.
Q. What’s the difference in preparing for this game with Jimmy where he is now versus where he was last year?
COACH WEIS: Well, Jimmy’s part of this answer, but part of the answer starts with the offensive line. I think that if we played like we did last year and get dominated like we did last year, it won’t make a darn bit of difference what Jimmy does, and I think that is where it all starts.
I think last year it was just a manhandling. And I think that’s what they’ll try to do to us again. You know, they had great success doing it, there’s no reason to believe they won’t try that same approach.
That being said, I think that Jimmy’s become the leader. So when he’s out there, the guys expect good things to happen, and he expects good things from his teammates. And I think if you are there in the huddle in practice every day, it’s just different. His expectations for his own play are through the roof, but his expectations for the performance of his teammates, you know, has risen everyone’s level.
Q. Last thing coaches want to hear is “if”, but you were talking about that bad feeling you have from 2005. Do you ever reflect on how close you were? Ambrose (Wooden) couldn’t have had better coverage, you know, maybe the spot was wrong, you know, down near the goal line. I think they’ve even changed the rule on the Bush push; I don’t know if you know that no longer exist. Is it worth even reflecting on that, how close you game?
COACH WEIS: I think that we had a chance to win the game. We had chances to win the game and we didn’t. And for me to reflect on that and reflect on that other than the disappointment and the emptiness that you felt from that game would be, you know, the wrong way to approach it. We had our opportunities. I could sit there and, you know, whine and make excuses but it doesn’t do us any good.
I think that hopefully the guys that were here in 2005, which there are a few will remember how crummy they felt. And hopefully that will help them this Saturday.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks everyone.
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