Nov. 22, 2009
University of Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis met with the media Sunday afternoon for his traditional game wrap up press conference. You can watch the press conference in its entirety exclusively on und.com right now.
For an audio podcast of the press conference CLICK HERE.
Here are the rest of our post game elements from the Connecticut game…
An Interview with:
COACH Charlie Weis
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon. We have Coach Weis here at the front table. We’ll start with questions.
Q. Yesterday you really wanted to defer any questions about you to today. You said you would talk about you today. Can we start there, how you feel about where the program is and your future with it?
COACH Charlie Weis: Not to be evasive, but I’m going to tell you that I think that I’m going to need some significant time to get to that point. It’s Thanksgiving week. Guys coming off of an overtime loss. It’s an emotional loss for the 33 seniors.
You’ve got a shortened week with Thanksgiving day coming. No school on Wednesday. We get off schedule. Fly out early on Friday for a West Coast trip.
I think that the most important thing for Coach Weis and the coaching staff are to make sure we do all we can to give our players the best plan to be in position to beat Stanford.
And that might sound like coach speak, but it’s also reality. And I think that we’ll have plenty of time for me to answer that question more in detail at a later date. But right now I think the most important thing is for us to do what we do on a weekly basis. And Sunday is a day where we go over the previous day, get a running look in, do our scouting report on Stanford, and move forward.
Q. Just moving forward with one more question, follow up. I’ll ask you the same question I asked you last week. Do you know if a decision has been made?
COACH Charlie Weis: No, I haven’t spoken with (athletics director) Jack (Swarbrick), if that’s what you’re asking. No, I haven’t talked with him. The last time I saw him was in the locker room after the game. I haven’t talked to him since. And I’m sure you won’t be I’ll make sure from my standpoint that you’re not the last to know. When I have some information for you that I can pass on to you, I certainly will.
Q. Generally speaking, how disappointed were you in the performance overall yesterday?
COACH Charlie Weis: Well, I think that there were different facets of the game, that I was disappointed at different times. For example, our rush defense we gave up the one big play for a touchdown. But other than that, I thought things were going okay until we got to the fourth quarter and then our rush defense wasn’t any good.
All of a sudden, they’re running counter and power and then bouncing the ball outside and getting chunks of yards. Passing game, we started off hot. I think Jimmy (Clausen) was like 12 of 15 early in the game. Scored a couple touchdowns early.
He stayed relatively efficient a good portion of the game. But it still comes down to producing touchdowns. And when you have to settle for field goals, we’re down close, I’m trying to give the guys an opportunity to run it in.
And when we don’t run it in and it leaves you with one pass, one pass, then you put yourself in a disadvantaged situation. So we got down in the red zone six times and it goes down as six scores. But in reality it’s three touchdowns. So it’s still 50% production, which I don’t think is sufficient enough in a game like that.
And the kicking game, our kickers actually were the highlight, where they’ve been a low light lately. (David) Ruffer and (Ben) Turk both I thought kicked the ball extremely well, with the exception of Ruffer’s one kick out of bounds. That’s been one of our Achilles heels this year, is our kickers themselves.
But then we get a kick off return for 96 yards for a touchdown and a punt return for 31 yards that are both field position game changing plays.
So despite the fact that there were highs in the game, those mistakes, in conjunction with a couple of critical errors, like the critical penalty when we have a drive stop, I mean, they’re the type of things that are the difference between winning and losing.
Q. You mentioned (Notre Dame athletics director) Jack Swarbrick earlier. He’s a guy I think a lot of people outside of Notre Dame don’t know a lot about. He’s not a guy with a traditional athletic department background and such. Could you characterize your relationship with him, and he’s been here about a year and a half, two seasons with you, and what your relationship with him is like and what you think he’s brought to Notre Dame?
COACH Charlie Weis: First of all, he’s a Notre Dame guy, which is always a good start, because he understands the place. And I think that with a law background, it’s a nice complement for how the AD position has evolved. AD used to be just about organizing games and things, and now it’s contracts and negotiations and BCS and there’s so many things involved.
A lot of times, just like being the head football coach, you think you just coach football. You don’t realize all the other elements that are involved in the job. And I think that sometimes an AD position could be almost a thankless job because there’s so many different ways you get pulled and so many different elements.
I can’t critique an AD other than the fact that I think our relationship has been fair and cordial the whole time we’ve worked together.
Q. In regards to your defense, how active were you during your five years here in recruiting of the current defensive players? Because I know during the game you said you kind of take a hands off approach with the defense. But in recruiting, were you very active in selecting those players?
COACH Charlie Weis: I’m very active in selecting every player and recruiting every player.
Q. Having said that, Coach Tenuta is regarded as one of the best defensive coordinators in the country. Where would you say that the blame for the defensive performance this year lies? Is it partially coaching? Partially players? Or is there more one than the other?
COACH Charlie Weis: Do you really expect me to come up and throw people under the bus? Is that what you think?
Q. Not specifically.
COACH Charlie Weis: Let’s be very practical about this answer so we don’t get into a sarcastic comment. Let’s be very practical. When there’s breakdowns on either side of the ball, let’s specifically, because you addressed defense, let’s talk about defense.
You have to look at least multiple elements of breakdowns. Okay. One, always start with coaching. I always start with that, because that’s what I do. Starting from the head coach to the coordinators, to the position coach. I think the number one responsibility that we have to do is teach our players what to do. And then there has to be a correlation, a transfer of information from the classroom to the practice field, to the game field. And when that doesn’t happen enough times, okay, there’s a breakdown there’s a breakdown and a communication between the players and the coaches. So before I place any blame on a player ever, it always starts with the teaching element of coaching, which is what coaching really is.
That being said, you look at the stretch play yesterday, they ran for a touchdown. Now, were there enough players there? I mean, did we get outnumbered there? Was the edge set? All the answers to those questions are yes, yes and yes. So then somebody’s then got to make a play.
So rather than single out any player or any coach, I think it’s a combination of those two elements, and that answer would be the same answer if you asked me if it were on offense or special teams, I would have to give you a very similar answer. Generic as it may be, that is also a very practical answer to the question you asked.
Q. I’m thinking about the run defense. It’s kind of a 4 4 3. Did you notice anything in watching other teams defend them in that?
COACH Charlie Weis: What happens, when they go to two their two tight personnel, which we call “22”. When they put two tight ends and two backs on the field, they threw the one hitch out there to the right hand side. But that really isn’t a pass formation for them. That’s a heavy, load up the run formation. That’s why we brought in an extra linebacker to try to match size with size.
Q. Is that something that’s practiced all throughout camp?
COACH Charlie Weis: We do it with teams that run “22” or “13”. “13” is with three tight ends and one back with one wide receiver. But in those two personnel groupings, we get big and take out a DB, take out a corner and bring in an extra linebacker.
Q. And this is more of a rushing defense, big picture. The last two teams in November, even if it didn’t manifest in points, the opponents have run it with a lot of success. Is that something you can look at and work on in an offseason?
COACH Charlie Weis: It certainly wasn’t the weather. You can sit there and say it was a beautiful day. So you can’t say that the weather had any factor in that. Good teams get beaten down. Our team looked fresh to me going into the game. So I think I’d be making an excuse for our team if I said that that was the case.
Q. We’ve talked about what your record is when you win the rushing game, you’re still undefeated there. Another stat, when Jimmy throws 40 times, you’re 1 and 10. I know you’re not going to dictate a game plan around a statistic, per se. But do you also have to at times force feed the ground game just because it puts you in a position to control the line of scrimmage and those kind of things?
COACH Charlie Weis: That’s basically how we game planned this game yesterday was we knew we were going to give a heavier dose of pass early. And then we were going to flip flop and go to a heavy dose of run. Now, some of those passes that you’re counting as passes because they’re throws, they’re runs. Probably about 10 of them.
So about 10 of those completions yesterday that are not passes called, they’re runs called. So as you’re doing your analysis, those little swings out to Michael Floyd, okay, they’re all runs.
Q. Those are checks
COACH Charlie Weis: No, they’re called runs with a pass element based off of how the front’s playing.
Q. And he’s changing that?
COACH Charlie Weis: No, nothing’s changed. It’s built into the play. So a lot of times you’re seeing those plays and you’re counting them as passes, they’re all runs called.
So where a lot of times in your analysis, you’re just saying, well, they ran it 30 some times for 130 yards, that’s so many yards a carry.
But all those swing passes where Michael Floyd is taking it nine yards and it’s 2nd and 1, they’re all called runs. Although we don’t statistically factor it in the run game, in the grand scheme of things they’re called runs, therefore it’s 2nd and 1, you just gained nine yards on a called run.
So out of those 45 passes, there weren’t 45 passes called in the game. There weren’t 40 passes called in the game. So I understand your point statistically. But you have to understand that a lot of those plays a lot of those passes that are thrown right there are called runs. It’s not a check off. It’s just based off of a look that the quarterback gets when he’s out there.
Q. I know you love it when we bring up quotes from early in your career when you first got here. But
COACH Charlie Weis: I do not recall (Laughter).
Q. Then I may have to remind you.
COACH Charlie Weis: I do not recall. I might have short term memory here, if you’re going to reminisce at this point.
Q. I’ll make it real quick. The comment about 6 and 5 is not good enough.
COACH Charlie Weis: And I still agree with that.
Q. And so my question is, then, do you feel that because that’s not good enough, is there a justification on the university’s part to call an end to this era?
COACH Charlie Weis: You know something, if they decide to make a change, I’d have to say that I’d have a tough time arguing with that. They decided to make a change. I’d have a tough time arguing with that. Because 6 and 5 isn’t good enough. Especially when you’ve lost five games by a touchdown or less. And several 3 point games and you’re right down to the wire.
My intent is to be here. But if that were the rationale, it would be tough for me to argue with that point.
Q. You talked a little bit about it yesterday, but just the fact that the players showing support for you coming out of the tunnel and then after the game, a lot of the players were supporting you saying it’s not the coach’s fault. It’s our fault. What does that mean to you?
COACH Charlie Weis: It means we recruited the right guys, the guys that have a lot of character. Most college kids have some except for the true leaders of the team, like the top player, the Jimmy Clausen type, have a tough time taking on the accountability issue and taking the blame and putting it on their own shoulders rather than letting it go in another direction.
They don’t need to do that. Tom, I know I’m the head coach of the team. So ultimately the responsibility of things that go wrong fall on my shoulders. So they don’t need to do that.
But the fact that they’re saying those things tells you a lot about the character of those guys, because they don’t need to be doing it. And I don’t ask them to do it. I don’t want them to do it. But the fact that they are doing it shows you the character of the kids that we bring in here.
Q. This past season, November, hasn’t been very good. Has it been a case of something you can put a finger on? Is it conditioning? Opponents? What’s happened?
COACH Charlie Weis: Now is not the time. I don’t do the study of this at this time. We’re in a grind with one week to go in the grind. When the grind is over, that’s when you go back and that’s when you go back and review the bidding.
Q. I know you guys have different packages on offense for each game. But it seems like in the last few weeks you guys have gotten more and more away from the wildcat. Is there a reason for that?
COACH Charlie Weis: One of the reasons is because Rudy (Kyle Rudolph) is out. And when we play in that package, we have we use Rudy and either (Mike) Ragone or (Bobby) Burger. Remember, Burger was out, too. So some of that is personnel related. The people you put on the field when you go ahead and run that. Because when you run wild cat, there’s different versions of wildcat, but where you leave eligible and ineligible receivers as part of that package because it forces teams to scheme accordingly, based off of who can technically release for a pass.
Q. I know if you look at the box scores, (Michael) Floyd had a big day. Is he still struggling to get back into it where he was before he got hurt?
COACH Charlie Weis: I can’t say he’s rusty, because he’s been playing here a little while. But I wouldn’t think that he would think that he was as sharp as he was early in the year.
Q. Probably a better question for the players. But talking to them, do you get a sense there’s an appetite to go to a Bowl game whether they’re 7 and 5 or 6 and 6?
COACH Charlie Weis: I haven’t addressed it at all with them at this point, because we don’t even talk about it until it gets to that time.
So I would not have my finger on the pulse of that question at this time.
Q. Just to put a point on that. You wouldn’t see any scenario where you would go to Jack Swarbrick and say I’m stepping down?
COACH Charlie Weis: No, that’s not happening. But Tim’s question was a fair question, where he said if they decided to do something, could you understand that? And I’m the head football coach. Who else is responsible? Now, I could sit there and try to blame everybody else, but ultimately, it falls on my shoulders. That’s the way it is.
Q. Following up on Pete a little bit. How would you defend your program at 6 and 5, Charlie?
COACH Charlie Weis: Let me tell you something, I’ll be perfectly honest with you again here. Right now I have to worry about trying to get these kids up again after another tough loss again to go on the road and play against a tough opponent on Thanksgiving week. So right now defending a program is not really an issue for me.
Right now I’m more worried about 2:15 pm, these players rolling in, and working about in a 48 hour window taking them from where they are when they walk in the door to where they are when they hit the practice field on Tuesday. And it’s a short period of time and a lot of work needs to be done in that time.
And on top of that making sure that the coaching staff does all they can to give them their best plan, to factor in bringing them out of the tank. That’s just the way it is.
And I toil on that one thing and spent a lot of my time and energy in that direction. That’s why, not to be evasive to Tom’s question or your question or Pete’s question, that’s where my energies have to go until I get through the Stanford game. And once I get through the Stanford game, then I have to have time to pull back and start thinking about some of these things.
Q. How worried are you as you try to get them out of the tank again? How many times can you pull a team out of the tank? Is that a pretty big concern?
COACH Charlie Weis: Well, we’ve lost every game by a touchdown or less. We’ve been able to pull them out of the tank every other week. Why should I assume we weren’t going to do it this week, against the only team we haven’t lost to since I’ve been here. It’s the only team the only team since I’ve been here we haven’t lost to is this one we’re playing. They’re pretty good. That’s the only team we haven’t lost to.
It isn’t like in the past where we’re losing games by 30 points and coming in after getting the crap kicked out of you saying: What are we going to do, fellas? This is a double overtime loss. It’s a different game. And fortunately our players have been able to rally back every other time to get ready to go again. There’s no reason to believe that we can’t do it one more time.
Q. Full speed ahead, planning on recruiting after the Stanford game?
COACH Charlie Weis: That’s the plan. We have a couple guys here on official visits. And one of my more interesting conversations I’ve ever had in recruiting today, it went pretty well.
And one young man’s mom said: ‘I’ve never heard anyone speak so candidly and honestly as you.’ It’s kind of refreshing making people feel that you’re telling them the truth.
So we’ll see how it goes. I think it’s important, anytime there’s some uncertainty, it’s important for the integrity of the program for everyone involved to make sure they do all they can to make sure recruiting goes full speed ahead, because that’s the life line.
Q. On Nick Tausch, was it his ankle again or something else?
COACH Charlie Weis: I guess I’ll find out today. It was asked last night, it caught me totally off guard, because he kicked in practice, kicked great in practice. Last one, 44 yards right down the middle. 6 out of 7, one miss on a bad snap.
That’s the only time he did it all week. He comes out in pregame, everything’s fine. Kicks the last kick. Barely goes through the uprights, says he can’t go. What am I going to do? Thank God we have David Ruffer. And thank God for interhall football. What dorm was he in? Thank God for Siegfred. As a matter of fact, their rector last year came and said somehow I ruined their football team because I took away their kicker. I guess he played wide receiver for them, too.
Rather than talk about something negative on Nick, let’s give Ruffer a lot of credit here, because with the exception of the one kickoff that went out of bounds, it was heck of a performance. 3 for 3 on field goals, including the overtime kick that was not a chip shot.
I think you have to give the kid a lot of credit. And I saw him I was in such a good mood after I walked out of media last night when I walked back through the training room, the first person I saw was him. But I made a point to stop and to let him now how proud I was of his performance, because to get thrown in there at the last second, you know, you gotta give the kid a lot of credit.
Q. When you’re sort of in a situation like this, does a holiday like this, having time with family, maybe take on a little bit different meaning?
COACH Charlie Weis: Well, at the Weis house holidays are very, very important. And Thanksgiving has been one of our favorites. I think that we have a few people over. We don’t have a lot of family, at least locally, we don’t have a lot of family.
So besides Maura, Charlie and myself, we’ll have a couple of other people over. But I like to do what everybody else likes to do, sit there enjoy time with the family, lay around, watch TV. I may avoid football games, by the way. But lay around and watch some TV.
And I think that it’s always one of my favorites. We moved practice up early on Thursday. We meet with the players at 8:00 in the morning and we try to finish by 12:00. And then we go feed them a big dinner so they can go lay around and do the same thing. But just all holidays at the Weis house are special, but Thanksgiving is one of our favorites.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.