Sept. 19, 2000
NOTRE DAME TELECONFERENCE
An Interview With: COACH BOB DAVIE
JOHN HEISLER: A couple of quick notes: Those of you that are with us via satellite, there will be 4 minutes of highlights at the tailend of our conference from the Notre Dame/Purdue game. Kickoff this weekend in East Lansing is at 3:35, that is eastern daylight time, that would be 2:35 here in South Bend.
Just a couple of other statistical notes, Notre Dame’s schedule again this week is ranked No. 1 in the country in degree of difficulty by the NCAA. This is the first time in Notre Dame history that the team has opened against four straight ranked opponents. That has never happened in Notre Dame history.
We are trying to find out how many other times that happened any time in college football. The time we have so far was last year by Central Florida. Central Florida last year opened against Purdue, Florida, George Tech, and Georgia, all of them were ranked at that time.
At this time that is the only time that we could find where somebody started a season like this.
Coach Davie is here. He will make some opening comments, then he will take some questions.
COACH DAVIE: I think to the kind of put this game in perspective, I think everybody probably sees the same thing. We’d like to think we are an improved football team. But until we go win a game on the road, I don’t know that we can say that. That is the challenge. It is pretty simple.
It is no secret that we haven’t had a lot of success on the road. Even though I think this football team is a different team, I do think we are an improved team. I like a lot of things about this football team. We have to go and win a game on the road. That is not easy.
You look back at Michigan State. They won six straight football games now going back to last year. You look at who they did beat late last season. Certainly Penn State, who at one point last year, was the No. 1 team in the country, they beat Florida in the Bowl Game. They went 10 and 2 last year. I honestly thought after we played them early in the season that they could and would have the opportunity to win the National Championship last year. That is how talented, how good a football team I thought they were.
They were the No. 1 team in the country. I think for a while there during the first six weeks of that season, they were 6 and 0. Only two games they lost last year were on the road. So they are really a talented football team. I think that is obvious.
Playing up there, it is not an easy place to play. They are good. But for us to be good, we need to go win a game like this. That is where it is. We certainly have no excuses. We are approaching this game really like it is the last game of the year.
I met with our team Monday when we started this season out, I reaffirmed that Monday in our meeting. It was a four-game series. You always break things down into sections.
Certainly, looking at our first four games, because of who we played, but also just the structure of our schedule in having the Open Date after the fourth game, that is what it is. It is a one-game season for us. And we have to take everything we have in place right now, find a way to go win a football game on the road against really a good football team.
You look at Michigan State. Offensively they are like they always are. They have got big, big people on that football team across the board. But on offense they are big. It goes without saying, their backs are big TJ Duckett is probably 255 or 260 pounds. Their fullbacks are big. They have two tight ends that I think are really good, 83 and 85. Both the receivers played a lot last year. We know how talented they were at receiver last year. No. 7 and No. 2 both played a lot of football, talented guys. Look back at last year, cutoffs, you see 7 and 2, made a lot of plays.
Quarterback, I am not sure what that is going to be. Ryan Van Dyke is a young guy we recruited, very impressed coming out of high school. Obviously, Jeff Smoker comes in and played the majority of the season. Played an awful lot against Marshall, played the whole game against Missouri.
They are a big talented offense. They line up and run the ball. They use the tight ends. They are a multiple-tight-end-team. Motion tight ends, trading the tight ends. I think they really do a good job of play action pass. That is something two years ago we went up there and it really jumped up and bit us – to play action passes, throwing the ball down the field. So I anticipate the same kind of game.
They are not one-dimensional. When it comes to having a young quarterback in there, Jeff Smoker, they do pretty much what they are going to do. They ran the ball. They throw play action — looked like the same offense with him in there as it did with Ryan Van Dyke. I am sure they will continue to be balanced.
Defensively, big, physical. I think No. 3 or 4 in the country last year in rushing defense, kind of like that again this year.
If you look at Missouri and Marshall, they didn’t run the football on them. They made some plays on them, but they didn’t run the ball. They are a talented defensive team. They have got a linebacker who played defensive end last year, big guy, No. 57. They got a line backer that is a big physical player. No. 4 might be there most talented playing on their defense, playing as a junior college transfer, playing for the first time, really talented up front. A lot of people in secondary, they play man-coverage, got good athletes.
Kicking game: The punter is back. I think he is outstanding. A new place kicker, but I don’t think he has missed so far this season and the holder is back and snapper’s back – returners are good players. Talented football players. That is why they are 12 and 2 in their last 14 games. That is why they didn’t lose a home game last year. We certainly have a challenge to go up there and play well. Everyone is going to talk about, I am sure, playing on the road — let’s face it, when we went up there in 1998, it didn’t matter if we played that game out here on our practice field. When you have a punt blocked early in the game, when you throw interceptions for touchdowns, when you give up big plays on defense, it doesn’t matter if that game is in your backyard if you are playing like that.
So, to me, once again, it is all about the preparation and I think it is obvious that when you play on the road you have to prepare that much better. I think we are a more mature football team. We will find out.
As far as the injury report Jabari Holloway, I think he is going to be okay. He is going to practice. I just saw him a minute ago when I was leaving the locker room, I think he is going to be okay. Brock Williams continues to struggle with the knee. But he is a pretty tough guy. We are in pretty good shape. I think there is a big balance for us this week. (inaudible)
Q. What factor, if any, is the fact that Michigan State has won the last three games against your squad?
COACH DAVIE: I think they are probably very confident. And they should be. They have beaten us pretty handily. Last year it was a good football game. It was 13-13 with six minutes left. We had momentum on our side on third and they completed an 80-yard touchdown pass to Gary Scott, broke the game a little bit. Last year the game was competitive. It was a good, hard-played football game. The two years before they completely dominated us. So I am sure they are confident. I think our football team feels like it is a little more mature.
I think they are a little more confident because of what has happened over the last couple of years.
Q. Now that he has a game under his belt, what would you say about Godsey’s confidence right now?
COACH DAVIE: I think he is probably about the same. Maybe, you know, the last drive of the football game, I would think would have to help him. Even though our players felt good about him going into the game to a degree, the fact that our players now have seen him respond, probably >from a confidence standpoint, probably helps that supporting cast probably more than it does Gary.
So I think, obviously, bottom line, kind of like going up there and make this week — at some point you do have to go do it. So I think without a doubt it helps him.
I am excited about that he didn’t turn the football over and we didn’t have a bunch of unforced errors in the Purdue game. But it is a whole different test this week going up there and certainly a different environment.
They are a loud crowd. We had a lot of problems up there two years ago. So I am sure he is a little more confident. But this will be another big test this week, probably much bigger than he had last week.
Q. Michigan State players that I talked to yesterday said they can just see that Notre Dame is a better team this year, that they seem to play harder from start to finish, that type of thing. Do you sense that too? I mean, are they a more inspired bunch this year?
COACH DAVIE: I think we are a better team right now. Although, at times last year, if you look back to last season, we started out, we were so inexperienced and those first several football games when we got to the Oklahoma game, the Southern Cal game, we were a pretty good team last year. We were 5 and 3 and won four straight games, we were pretty good at a point last year. Then a lot of things happened late in the season.
But if I have to say right now, I think we are a better team. But in the middle of that season last year we had developed into a pretty solid football team, but I think we are probably a little farther along right now.
I think the continuity in special teams and things, we are a little more mature, all the things I kind of talked about at the start of the season, I would have to say, we are a little better right now.
As I mentioned, playing out here in this stadium is one thing. Playing up there is another thing. That is why I am still a wait-and-see-attitude.
Q. How about your special teams, seems like it has been quite a weapon for you all over the board.
COACH DAVIE: Well, it is a credit to the players. Any time you have returners like we have, they have a chance to be explosive. I think our kickers are both improved. Those are the things that jump out at you. And I think those things inspire not only the fans, but they inspire our football players as well. Let’s face it, if you are on the kickoff return team, you have got a guy back there that you think can take it to the house, you are going to play with a little more juice. Same thing on that punt return team, same thing in our kicking situations.
Our protection now is pretty good because we got a guy back there that we have got some confidence in. The old saying, mistakes breed mistakes. I think it is the same thing about inspired efforts inspire the whole unit. It has been a combination of things, but a lot of credit to those returners. A lot of credit to those guys that are kicking the football, both punting and kicking it. That is a big reason why we are better.
Q. What legal message do you suppose can be used to keep Duckett in some kind of — keep him in the ballpark?
COACH DAVIE: What legal methods can we use? I think he is a guy that you have to — this sounds simple, but you have got to stop him before he gets started. I mean, when he gets rolling now he goes down hill, he is impressive. When he gets heading north and south, just takes it on a straight line, he is a heck of a player.
So you obviously have to try to get some penetration and get him stopped before he gets rolling. That is not easy because they are a big offensive line and they zone block a lot of things and there is a lot of two tights, they understand that too. So it is trying to hit him, trying to knock that ball out of there, try not to give up the big play, and stay in your gaps. I think that is probably the single biggest thing because if you watch him, he is a real patient kind of guy. He has got that great knack that I think the great backs have of just being real confident and real patient and all of a sudden when he sees a crease he just takes it.
Some guys – and I have said this before – are kind of like guys that the air comes out of the balloon, as soon as they touch the ball, they are just going every which way, they have no patience in waiting for the gap to come open.
With him, he is real patient and then when he finds the gap, he just hits it. So you have got to really be patient and be disciplined on defense and not allow seams to occur in your defense because when you watch him, he is kind of real patient and then, boom, he hits it. So you have got to really be disciplined on defense.
Q. Speaking of TJ Duckett, what is it like to watch a guy like him on film when you are scouting Michigan State knowing that you were really were close to getting him and that you were one of the first schools to really envision him as a tailback?
COACH DAVIE: Not to minimize it, no factor at all. There is a bunch of guys out there that we recruited hard, that we were close to getting, that we didn’t get.
Some stories become bigger stories, which, I can understand that. But you only worry about the guys you have on your team, period. There is enough things to worry about trying to take care of the 85 guys we have without spending a whole lot of time worrying about that.
That is one thing I enjoy about college football is you build up some relationships with people. You watch their progress. I really like TJ Duckett. I have liked him from the moment I walked in that high school up there and in Kalamazoo – I enjoyed the time with his dad and coach that we spent up there. I went by his house and met his mom. I am sorry to hear that his mom passed away. I like him. I like the relationship we have, but no more than the relationship that I have had with just about every guy we have recruited here since I have been head coach. It makes it no bigger of an issue with me. Bottom line, he is not here playing with us, and you prepare for him like you do anyone else. But I certainly respect him and, you know, if you — if you think back – not that you think back on this – but just to tell you, we were probably the only school that recruited him truly as a tailback.
We, from Day 1, went in there recruiting him as a tailback, period. So there is no surprise to me what he is about to accomplish there. He can end up being one of the great backs. He is a combination of a lot of different players. But he has got a lot of ability and I have seen that and we have seen that since the day we started recruiting him.
Q. Just following up on him, why were you kind of still ahead of the curve there? I mean, what did you see in him that said to you that this guy could be the guy as a tailback?
COACH DAVIE: Well, it was a combination of things and I have got to be honest with you, we knew that that was probably our best opportunity to get him. We knew that his brother had gone to Michigan State, that we were behind. He is from the State of Michigan. There were a lot of people recruiting him. It was two things. One, we thought he could really do it. No. 2, we thought it gave us the best opportunity of going in there and selling him on something different that other people weren’t really selling him on at that time. So it was sincere appreciation of his ability and also a little bit of marketing as part of recruiting.
Q. When you mentioned that to him, I mean, did his eyes light up and say, yeah, that sounds real interesting or how did he respond to that kind of recruiting approach?
COACH DAVIE: He seemed to like it. But I guess he didn’t like it enough.
No, I think a little bit has been too much made – and I hate to go back and talk about this because you never know in recruiting, but it is not like he was coming to Notre Dame now. I mean, he still — it wasn’t like: Coach, I want to come to Notre Dame and I had to say: Listen, you can’t come to Notre Dame. It never got that far along in the process that all of a sudden he would have been playing for Notre Dame and carrying the football if this happened. It was a long way to go.
Michigan State recruited him and signed him. So let’s not make this into a whole issue that he would be lining up in the backfield right now if something didn’t happen. He never told me one time he was coming to Notre Dame. But he seemed to like us. He seemed to like the conversation. We had a great relationship, but there was a long way to go in recruiting. So this thing has kind of taken on a life of its own for no real reason.
Q. Two of the three meetings you had with MSU they jumped out to a very quick start, you had to play catchup. How important is it for you guys to start quickly and also, the second part of the question is: How much will a win over them mean to you personally?
COACH DAVIE: I mean, they beat us three straight years. They are as talented a football team as we will play all year.
It would mean we are a good football team to be able to go on the road and win a game like this.
It would mean 3 and 1 getting to an Open Date. That is what it would mean.
The other question was that they started out on us quickly. You know, I don’t know that the score early in the game is that significant. But I know that how we play early in the game is significant because you just can’t self-destruct because it does turn into a feeding frenzy when you are on the road. And that is what we can’t do. I mean, we have proven that you can be behind in football games and come back. So the score is one thing. That, I think, you can overcome. But if you go out there and stumble and bumble (sic) around and have self-inflicted mistakes, that is a whole other thing.
So it is true that two years ago they just jumped on us so fast that the game was over. I don’t know that I have ever been in a game like that and I hope I am never in a game like that. But that was a remarkable deal. I thought it was going to be 100. It was 40 something to something at halftime and I mean, I am sitting there thinking: There is a bunch of ways to get in the record book at Notre Dame as head coach and this is not one of them that I want to look back on. So I was trying to keep them in double digits in the second half. Fortunately we were able to do that.
Q. Following up, seems like the whole issue is about preparation. You mentioned that early on in your opening statement. Do you feel that your team is as prepared as they can get against a team you have never beaten?
COACH DAVIE: I think it all comes down to pride in everything you do. And I think this football team — kind of my message with this team has been: It doesn’t matter if you are punting the football, punt returning the football, kickoff coverage, going to class, doing the right things, and the real point is preparation. You take tremendous pride in your preparation as a coach and a player. I really think our football team is buying into that. They are guys, when they show up, that is a whole lot easier to show up at 2:15 than it was at 4 o’clock. To show up at 2:15 and buy into the preparation. That is what I like most about this football team is I think we have made some headway in terms of just preparation and understanding how important it is.
Q. You have talked about the percentage, the number of games that have come down to the final series of final plays in the last two years. As head coach —
COACH DAVIE: Three years.
Q. — what percentage of those games can you expect to win on a year-to-year basis?
COACH DAVIE: I think that — I don’t know. But obviously, with great preparation, with less mistakes, that percentage goes way up.
If you look at three years ago when we were 9 and 1 or 9 and 2 going into the Bowl Game, think of those games that we won – the Boston College game, the Navy game, I mean, I can think of a bunch of them we won. Last year we didn’t win. But you know what, we weren’t as good a football team last year, that is why we didn’t win.
And I talked to our team and that is the reason — you know, you talk about the Nebraska game in overtime – not to make issue of that – but going into the season, we say every game is going to come down to the final series and we practiced overtime – just to use that as an example – of the mindset you try to create with this team, you know, you prepare for close games because of who we are playing.
And we are no different than any other team. If everybody was playing those peoples that we were playing every week, they would be in close games too. And, you know, certainly the percentages aren’t as high as if you are playing teams that weren’t real good teams, but, you know, you are coaching to win every one of those close games by paying attention to the details.
Q. When you look down the road, you look at the schedule, do you feel that you can get to the point with your program where eight or nine out of eleven games aren’t always going to come down to the last —
COACH DAVIE: I don’t think that is realistic. I think if you look at our next year’s schedule, when you are at Nebraska in the first game who hasn’t lost in, what, 50 games in Lincoln, something like 49 and 1 in Lincoln. We go to Purdue. Look at Purdue’s home schedule in the last three — home record in the last three years. Play Michigan State at home. You go to Texas A&M who I think is 52 and 1 in the last 53 games at home. You are going to Nebraska, going to Purdue and you are going to Texas A&M in the month of September.
A&M and Nebraska never lose at home. I mean, never. Purdue is extremely difficult to beat at home. Pittsburgh, at home, who is much improved, West Virginia, at home, most improved, Southern Cal. Then you go to Boston College and tremendously rivalry game who is improved, Tennessee at home. Now you have Stanford at Stanford who is a much improved team. I might be missing one. Let’s call it what it is. We are going to have to be a great football team, tremendously coached, a deep football team just like we have to be as this year unfolds, to really get successful to be in a BCS game.
But I not only think we can do it, I know we can do it. But we got to have some things go our way, some good fortune. Can’t loss guys like Battle — we have got to continue to recruit, got to keep coaches. It is a reason this thing is starting to happen right now. It has been a huge, huge rebuilding job. Let’s call it what it is. It is going to continue to be that. It is a tremendous challenge. There is not a football coach in the country that would look at that and say: Boy, I tell you what, those guys are underachieving there, that is all BS.
So you hit the nail on the head. That is why it is a tremendous challenge. But I really like where we are headed right now. But I am going to do as good as I can and how it is going to be is how it is going to be.
Q. You talk about continuity with your coaching staff. Obviously, you go way back with ^ Greg Madison. How has the relationship that you have had with him — obviously you are more than just coach. You are friends. How do you broach the topic of: Hey, Greg, I think maybe I need to be making the play calls come this Saturday?
COACH DAVIE: That is not something that you walk in there in August and say, Greg, I am going to call the defense. I have got a responsibility to look at every phase of our program, obviously, and evaluate where we are.
Offensively, we have done it. Special teams, we have done it. Recruiting, we have done it and defensively, we have done it. Greg Madison probably is my closest friend. And I would hope he says the same about me. We have got tremendous respect for each other.
In our situation, heading into those challenges you just talked about for this year, with the way things have gone defensively, let’s stop and think, in three years on defense we have had one — I think one defensive player drafted. Is that right in three years? Who? Allen Rossum in the third round as a returner. Kory Minor was seventh-rounder. We have had two in three years. It’s been a challenge. But looking at who we played and where we were, I felt we needed every ounce of so-called expertise we had in this program to solve this problem. Greg understands that completely. I think Greg embraced that because all we want to do is win. That is all Greg Madison wants to do is win and be successful. He busts his butt in this program recruiting just like every coach has to build this thing back up. So that is a non-issue. And that is how it has been.
Q. He said it allowed him then to focus on the D-line which is of utmost importance, where it all started…
COACH DAVIE: That is right. I think he is a tremendous football coach. But with all of us, it is a bottom line. It is a bottom line – we have to be successful. What I have to do is provide us an opportunity to be successful and do what I think gives us the best chance. That doesn’t mean that I don’t like this guy or don’t respect this guy or don’t think this guy is a good coach. That is just where we are right now.
To be honest, I think it has been something that has allowed him to go sink his teeth in the defensive line and it’s been a little easier for us defensively. That is what I appreciate about all of our guys. We have got a great group of guys. It is not about me or him or egos or feelings hurt. It is about what this is. That is why we got a chance to be really good because we have got too many people that understand the big picture.
Q. You talk about the preparation (inaudible) Can you tell us about some of the stuff you are going to change or not going to change?
COACH DAVIE: No facts. Honestly, no facts.
It is all about the preparation. We are not going to get up there and sprinkle some kind of magic dust on the turf or let’s minimize all those issues. It is all about not getting a punt blocked, let’s block a punt. Let’s not give up a big pass, let’s make a big pass. So that is where I am. Our schedule Friday is going to be about what our schedule is always been. Just happened two years ago we played at night, so we didn’t get up there ’til later. But we are changing some things because the game is earlier in the afternoon.
Q. Update on Terrance Howard?
COACH DAVIE: Terrance is fine.
Q. He will be at practice today?
COACH DAVIE: Yes. He and I got together last night with Kevin and Desmond. Terrance Howard is fine and I have got a tremendous amount of respect for him. He has been through a lot – and a lot of different areas. We all know his father passed away this past spring. His father is a great guy and one of the reasons he is at Notre Dame. He is heck of a player, got high expectations for himself.
But Terrance Howard is fine. And, you know, I really like him. I think he has got a chance to be a good player and I think the situation he is in is somewhat difficult and it has been compounded by some things that have happened and sometimes things are unfortunate that it becomes such a discussed issue with the young guys – I am not blaming anyone for that. But sometimes those things kind of take on a life of their own when, in any situation, with young guys, you would appreciate if maybe they don’t take a life on their own. So he is back. He is fine. He never left.
Q. Michigan State quarterback, whether it is Van Dyke or Smoker, they both seem to be pretty big guys. What is their style of play? Are they similar? Are they different?
COACH DAVIE: I think they are pretty similar. That is why I mentioned with their offense, I think Morris has done a good job of keeping that offense in sync with Jeff Smoker. He is pretty far along for a young guy. If he is mobile, he throws the ball well. So does Ryan Van Dyke. So not much changes with one of the two of them in there.
Ryan has been in the program a little longer, obviously a little more experienced, but it is not a big change. They look pretty similar to me. Ryan is a little bit taller. Jeff may move a little bit quicker, but I don’t know that for sure.
Q. So even though you don’t really know who is going to play, your preparation is the same for both? COACH DAVIE: It is exactly the same, yeah.
Q. I wanted to talk about quarterbacks a little bit. You may have not even been able with everything that has happened, thought about this down the road, but is Gary Godsey’s day as tight end over and what did you like about what you saw as a tight end last year in practice with him?
COACH DAVIE: Well, first of all, when we watched him play, we really liked him as a tight end and I think he could be an outstanding tight end obviously. He can be 6 foot 6″ probably 255, 260. He has got good hands. He is a good athlete, not a guy that runs particularly fast, but he has got good body control and he is a good athlete. So I don’t think there is any doubt he could be a tight end. I also think he can be a real good quarterback. I just think we have to see how all this plays out. Obviously he is a quarterback right now. There is not even a thought of moving him back to tight end. But who knows how this whole thing goes – how good he plays with his opportunity, I — let’s be honest, that will impact that decision.
If he jumps up and takes advantage of this and leads this football team, that is a moot point. If he doesn’t, and we struggle and we have to put a different guy in there, then maybe that becomes the issue. I think Gary understands that and it comes down to resolve. Right now, I mean, there is no question what he is, he is a quarterback.
Q. (inaudible) mentioning Terrance’s situation about not letting transferring thoughts take on a life of their own. I think almost every freshman thinks about it with your young quarterbacks. (inaudible) is that something you kind of keep a watch on and —
COACH DAVIE: Yeah, you do, but you also don’t try to create a problem by constantly talking about it. You try to handle each situation the same really. You try to treat guys with respect and you try to understand where they are coming from and you try to have a tremendous relationship with each young man and each case is so different. Each case is just so different.
But, certainly, human nature, that is an issue, and as we — I wish at every position we were as deep and talented as we probably potentially will be at quarterback. But any time you are that deep and talented, not that we are today, but those guys are all going to mature. Let’s face it, guys want to play just like I’d want to play. So that is always the better you recruit, and the better the talent level, the more those issues — I mean, those are real issues. That doesn’t mean a guy is a bad person. That doesn’t mean he is selfish. I mean, that is what coaching is. But it’s also what part of the game is – of learning to grow as a person and learning to put the team first and all those things, but it is a work-in-progress. It is a work-in-progress, so, yeah, that is an issue with those young guys.
Q. Arnaz, what does he do in practice? What will he do while he is rehabbing?
COACH DAVIE: He did some things yesterday. He threw the ball and obviously using one hand, but he feels pretty good. What that means, I don’t know. Still he is out indefinitely. I don’t think anybody knows, but we are going to try to do some things with him as we move forward, and obviously the hand specialist is going to be the one that makes the decision with that. But we are moving ahead a little bit. He is into a rehab stage now after the week off.
Q. A couple things, this series has been one of many huge swings. Notre Dame dominated for so long. Then in the ’50s and early 60’s Michigan state had their time. I think Notre Dame won eight in a row before Michigan State won these last few. Any explanation for those peaks and valleys and why one team would grab hold of it?
COACH DAVIE: I think there is trends in things. If you look at Michigan State – and I am not an expert on Michigan State – but in all sports, you look at Michigan State in basketball, they have been tremendously successful and there is a lot of sports, girls basketball, I think they are on an up right now, they are on a high right now. So has Purdue been. I think Purdue and Michigan State both have been really successful at not just in football the last several years, but in all sports. And I really can’t explain it, but I noted that as well, that Michigan State won those games like in the ’50s and ’60s, then Notre Dame won a bunch in a row and now we are in kind of a down thing as far as the resolve. So I hope it is about time to start tipping that thing the other way.
Q. Scheduling philosophy. This has always been one of the most important games for Michigan State – the reason they are in the Big-10. Is this a good game for Notre Dame to have on the schedule and something you think should always be there? COACH DAVIE: Yeah, I think this is a great rivalry. It would be hard for my to imagine not playing Michigan State. I think that is a traditional rivalry and, you know, you think back to the 10-10 tie, all those things, I mean, this is a game I think Notre Dame should play every year.
Q. The question I guess is opening up the offense up and the reason (inaudible) it is not so much trying to cast a critical eye on your offense, but with Michigan trying to dominate, you have to keep your defense fairly rested?
COACH DAVIE: We are going to find a way to try and move the football. Whatever that means, that is what it means. We are going to try to find a way to keep the football and move the football keeping in mind that we have a young quarterback playing in his second game. That is a difficult challenge because they are talented on defense. They are multiple on defense and they are going to blitz us. They are going to blitz us. So we have to do some things differently than we did last week. We should be able to do some things differently than we did last week, but how far do we go without putting ourselves in a position to have self-inflicted mistakes. And that is why I say this is — we are putting every ounce as we do every week, every ounce is going into coming up with a plan that this football team can do to give us a chance to win this football game, but it is a challenge.
It is a challenge because you are playing a good defense team on the road and how much do you do with that young quarterback. But at least now you know that there are some things that you think you can do in the game where last week you didn’t even know if you can get the thing snapped in the game. So you feel a little bit better, but now that — I’d like to have this game in our stadium, you know, that way, I’d feel a lot more comfortable.
Q. Before the season the fact the Irish were unranked, I think you told several of us you thought the guys may get a little hyped up or motivated by that. (inaudible) Do you tell these guys let’s not get to, you know, pay any attention to the number too much now that we are ranked?
COACH DAVIE: I didn’t — I didn’t use that whole ranking thing to kind of put a chip on our shoulder. Because if you are going to stand there and say that the rankings really don’t matter, and what they say before the season doesn’t matter, then how do you come in the next meeting and say, hey, guys, they picked us 32nd. We really ought to be upset about that where you say the day before the ranking — before the season, don’t mean anything — I am not going to come down now and make a big issue out of it for the same point if I said before the season it really doesn’t matter. But what I am using it as is obviously the opportunity that we have, you know, that people notice that we are a better football team. That we do have an opportunity here to go win a game on the road that would mean we are even a better football team.
We have got a lot of things ahead of us, but right now the preparation to go win this football team, or we are going to be right back where we are right — back unranked again. It is all about this game. I have not put a lot of conversation into those rankings, just as I didn’t before the season started.
Q. How much concern is the lack of production especially at tailback right now and in looking at ways to solve the problem, offensive line problem, or defenses geared to stop the backs not hitting the holes (inaudible) —
COACH DAVIE: It is people lining up and teeing off on us. That is what it is. Nebraska, who is really good on defense, they were tough last year. They were first and second in the nation in total defense. A&M, we ran the ball pretty good on them and we are pretty in sync. Nebraska took us out of it a little bit. Arnaz scrambling the football against Nebraska was our offense and a punt return and kickoff return. Didn’t turn it over one time. That is the big, big positive throughout this year is we only have two turnovers.
Purdue, no chance, the way they blitzed us and just because of what we did a little bit by design and also what they did. I give them credit, they had a good plan and they — I mean, they were after us. We ran some plays into some defenses, you had no chance. We started to do a little more as the game went on because we felt the quarterback could. I don’t think it is because our backs aren’t hitting the holes. I think it is because we played some really good defense against the — and again this week, and we also were forced into a box a little bit where just, scheme-wise, it was hard. Doesn’t mean we should have done something different because of the situation we were in. But it means we are going to have to do something a little bit different now to be able to run the ball.
Q. Looks like Jabari is going to play, but you are pretty thin at tight end. If you were to lose a tight end, are you down to maybe playing offensive linemen in double tight end situation or is Gerald Morgan ready?
COACH DAVIE: That is a good point. We are talented at tight end, but we are thin. Gerald Morgan works tight end. We can use Teasdale some at tight end and also Billy Palmer, young guy that we would hate to use, but we have Billy Palmer that could play some, then Joe Recendez, a walk-on, that went through the spring and did a good job. But all the above. John Teasdale could do that. He is pretty athletic and we have talked about that. But also Gerald Morgan right now would be the guy and Billy Palmer, then Joe Recendez.
Q. Obviously Bobby Williams has been with Michigan state for ten years, but when you become the head coach, you kind of put on your own staff. Have you noticed anything different in terms of philosophy and how he approaches things or the program, how you are going to defend him versus Nick Saban?
COACH DAVIE: I really haven’t. I am not obviously close enough to their program. I have noticed he is undefeated as the head coach and beat Florida in the Bowl Game. So he is doing something right.
But as far as looking at this year and looking at last year, it is obvious that his both coordinators stayed, the entire staff stayed and it looks to me from a scheme standpoint to be pretty much the same thing as they did last year. I think that is an advantage they have. Obviously you know that they kept their entire staff and they were able to move forward with that scheme which is a good scheme on both sides of the ball. Only change they have in special teams. He went to the NFL, I believe.
Q. This team is a little bit different. Some of the older guys have to remember two years ago it got out of hand real quick. (inaudible) Do you use that or do you talk about anything — do the players kind of try to make amends themselves? How do you approach it?
COACH DAVIE: I think you look at what happened and why it happened and could we have controlled some of those things that happened.
You know, it wasn’t so much the fact that we were playing in a different stadium or playing with a crowd there and the noise there. It wasn’t so much because we were wearing white shirts. It was because on the first punt we had a guy that we didn’t coach him well enough because he was supposed to block the fourth guy and he blocked the third guy and the fourth gay came completely clean. Had nothing to do with: I didn’t hear the call. That is what happened. We gave up a couple of base plays where there was no question about: I am covering the right guy, but I just played lousy technique and he ran by me. Things that we can control. Things that we can control to do better. You make an example from the last situation that those outside influences had nothing to do with what just happened here, let’s not make this more complicated than it needs to be.
So once again – I know it is elementary – but it comes back to just the preparation for the game and the things that we control.
Q. Against Purdue defensively seemed like you had all eleven guys were in about (inaudible) 5 yards within the line of scrimmage. Were you trying to fool a little bit more than you had in the past or just something that was by design and is that new from last year?
COACH DAVIE: As I said, you look at everything that we have done and I felt looking at it that once again, you are in that dilemma of can you cover or can’t you cover. Let’s face it, last year it was really hard playing the teams we played with where we were. But one of the things that we looked at, an evaluation was that we had become a two-deep-type look and we were always blitzing from a long way away and we were always off. Our nature has always been to be up and I think getting the aggressiveness back both from a technique standpoint and a scheme standpoint is something that I thought we needed to address.
So we really started almost from scratch to try to become a more aggressive defensive team and make a commitment to being an aggressive defense team. So we have that now in our package that we are a-more-up-on-them-team because I just felt we were too far off them and an at some point, you have got make a commitment to say: Look, we are going to go do this and these are the guys we are going to recruit and we are just going to go. I felt with who we played this year, and who we had coming back in a secondary who is — now is the time to do it. Last year I am not sure we could have done it. It is kind of a combination of we have to do that, that is our mindset and also our personnel, let’s us do it. But, yeah, I mean, what you are seeing is accurate.
Q. Does Gary Godsey have more latitude this week, maybe than last week, to change those plays and was he reduced or limited in doing that last Saturday?
COACH DAVIE: Let see, I give Purdue credit because they did line up and show one thing and then just did really a good job with our snap count of being in something different when the ball was snapped. The plan was good. The checks were good. But they did a good job of being in something different on the snap. So it is not like we were overly simple with Gary. Purdue deserves that credit.
But I also, as you say, I gave Michigan State credit. They have good coaches and good players. They are going to do the same thing. We have got to have more latitude in what we are doing. We have got to do some things differently to allow us to have a chance to run the football.
So yeah, all of the above, I mean, we have got to be a little more open with some things. We have got to give him an opportunity to do some different things.
Q. Last thing, just curious, Charlie Strong (inaudible) they have got the top scoring defense in the country. He is using parts of the scheme that you used at Notre Dame for a couple of years. Are you familiar with that? Have you followed that at all?
COACH DAVIE: I have not followed it much, but I mean, Charlie deserves every ounce of credit for that. It is not something that I know of that we have — we haven’t talked at length on that whole thing. Charlie has a really good background in coaching having been at A&M and having been at Florida and then being here. He is a good defensive coach. He deserves a lot of credit. I think Charlie — I have noticed the same thing, they were really good on defense last year with an offense that really struggled and they have continued this year and they are really a blitzing, attacking defense and that is something that Charlie strong deserves all the credit for. But I have noticed the same thing. He is doing a heck of a job.
Q. You mentioned talk about Arnaz early on you said that you are not going to (inaudible) his scrambling opened a lot of running things up and you are not going to get that with Gary. Do you have to depend on his arm to open things up this week?
COACH DAVIE: You have to because, as I said last week, the two things that worried me about Gary Godsey was, No. 1, playing in the game for the first time. The unexpected things. But No. 2, even more so was the productivity that we all saw, we received from Arnaz, because in the Nebraska game he ran for 110 yards against Nebraska. That is a big part of our offense. And so, the productivity from that phase of it is gone. It is going take Gary a while to run for 100 yards. It is not going to happen — it is going to take — might take two games for him to do that. But yeah, I mean that is a concern.
So where does the productivity come from? Now do we launch it every down with a guy in there that is playing his second game when we have a pretty good supporting cast, that is dilemma. That is what Kevin Rogers — that is why he has that huge salary and all those perks that he gets for coaching here at Notre Dame, that is what we are paid for. That is the challenge of it. That is why it is all about having a plan that we can execute.
Q. You mentioned (inaudible) you said it is all about preparation. I assume that preparation home and away are similar season to season. I know that teams generally do worse on the road, but in the past three seasons Notre Dame has done worse time on the road. Are you doing anything at all differently or —
COACH DAVIE: Not really. I think you have to go back and look at who we played on the road, how we lost on the road. Each situation — you know every one, I don’t mean you, anyone in particular, but everyone wants kind of the philosophical or the easy answer to a lot of questions.
Everything is different and it is all about the preparation.
Q. You talked about one of the concerns last week being Gary Godsey was in an unfamiliar situation. I guess 11 of the last 12 times Notre Dame has had a novice quarterback he has won the opening game. The talk is about what you lose in this situation. What do you gain? There has got to be an upside somewhere.
COACH DAVIE: I don’t know because that is an amazing statistic right there. That is kind of — you would think it would be the opposite of that. I think that is one of those ones you can probably win some money on a bet with to say eleven of the last times Notre Dame started a first-time quarterback, did they win or did they lose. You know, that — I don’t really know. That is an odd statistic to me because you would think it would be the opposite of that or you would think it would be somewhere more balanced. That is amazing.
Q. You talked about before making up for some of the runs that Arnaz had offensively. What you guys used Saturday, that was different from the first two games, was screen passes. Were you happy with those and do you expect to see more of that?
COACH DAVIE: We have had that in our package. We caught them one time in man-coverage there in the second quarter on that drive, we went down and kicked a field goal. It was good for us in man.
We got a little impatient on the screens a couple of other times, but when you are playing a team that is just up the field on you, that gives you a chance. And it is a pretty easy throw for the quarterback, so, yeah, I mean, the screens are always there. Michigan State does a good job with screens too.
Q. A while back you remembered a moment when Urban said to you that nobody fully understands what has gone into getting this team from last November to this point. Last week you had a first time quarterback lead a (inaudible) two-minute drill to win a game at the end. How does that accomplish, as far as things that you are staff has had to do, and what does the outcome give the program long range in terms of credibility being 2 and 1 instead of 1 and 2?
COACH DAVIE: I mean, that is the bottom line. I realize that. But I do feel a lot better about where we are. In the long-term of what we can be, I am talking about the real long-term because I see a lot of good things happening in good people. I also realize that that ball is two feet to the right – all that sounds like I am crazy sitting up here saying that. It makes it a lot easier when you make it when you win. But I think what Urban said is something that our football team feels the same thing – to be able to get it to where when you have a punt return — those kids know exactly what to do and they have done it over and over and they are confident in it. You have got enough good players to execute it. On a kickoff return, the same thing. So it is a combination of continuity, recruiting, and then the personality part of it. Have a bunch of guys working their rear-end off and going through the bad times, it is just a combination of a lot of things to get it to the point where you really like what you are doing and you like who you are around and that whole thing. I realize when you lose, it still comes down to the bottom line. But I really like where we are and it has taken a long time to get us to where you feel the whole thing meshing from a personality standpoint and energy standpoint and a work ethic standpoint.
So I like this team. I really do. I sincerely like it. I am going to like them if we lose and I really think we have a chance to be successful if we get some breaks. If we can stay healthy and if we can get through — that schedule, that schedule is a — I mean, you got to really be good, really good.
But I think we are headed in the right direction. I think we have turned the corner how it all plays out, that is why we go play those games.
I know Michigan State feels good. Bobby Williams feels good, too. They have got a bunch of energy right now. They won four straight games, six straight games.
Q. Daryl Campbell, curious about his progress. How is he adjusting moving back to end. Where is he with you?
COACH DAVIE: I think he is going to be a player, a really a player here. We had him at end all spring. Going to be a heck of a player.
But with A&M, Nebraska and Purdue – Purdue with all the things they do, Nebraska with that option game, we came back in the spring — in the summer and really looked at it and said, okay, we have to ask Daryl Campbell as a freshman to do this, this, this, this against A&M, Purdue and Nebraska. It is like with Weaver, because he has played, he can go do it without bogging this young guy with all that teaching, so we move him to tackle. He starts over. We hate to see it, but he started over in camp. Now we have moved him back to end and now it is a little different, games coming, we got some wishbones coming and stuff. But just because he is a young guy and playing him on the edge and in those early games with all those scheme things that we had to deal with. It was just so much teaching that you took the game away from him a little bit.
So I do think now he is in a position — he played some against Purdue. You are going to see him start to play. And I really think — I mean, he is a guy — I love his attitude. When you look at Daryl Campbell, you are going to have Grant Irons back, Tony Weaver back, Darryll Campbell back, Cedric Hilliard, Wisne, you are going to be — I see us starting to get to be where it is supposed to be now. And I think Cedric and Darryll both have great futures here. It has been a work-in-progress and some of it was our fault because we play him at end, we probably shouldn’t have had him at tackle knowing who we played earlier in the year, but he is a guy that his body is changing so fast. He is 280 pounds now. He was 235 coming out of high school. He is just he is growing into a position.
Obviously, yeah, we are trying to be a little more attacking, penetrating. I think the thing you see in a big statistic, to me, is negative plays whether it is sacks or whether it is tackles for losses. That is something that we have tried to, you know, our tradeoff had been, we gave up big plays, but we didn’t create negative plays. That is a lose/lose situation.
So we have tried to make the whole thing a little tighter and more aggressive, but we are a big-time work-in-progress with that. We are not — we have got a long way to go yet. We have got to stay healthy.