Sept. 7, 1999
SOUTH BEND, Ind.
JOHN HEISLER: Just a couple of quick notes:
Kickoff this weekend is at 2:35, that is the exact time.
Also a reminder that we have been told by a number of people from West Lafayette connected with Purdue that they expect tremendous amounts of traffic. There is a great amount of construction in and around Lafayette and the campus as well. They have sent us press release. I am sure you can get more information from Purdue. But for any of you travelling to the game you might want to give yourself some extra time and for any of your readers, or listeners, or viewers, urge them to do the same thing again.
Again Coach Davie is here, at this point he will have some opening remarks, then he will take questions.
COACH DAVIE: I think with all that road construction down around West Lafayette and on that campus, we probably just ought to play this thing here, probably be a little easier for the media to get down there.
Obviously doesn’t get any easier for us.
We are in the middle of that Big-10 stretch right now and I think all of us — it goes without saying — that you have tremendous respect for Purdue.
There is not a football team — there is not a football coach in the country that would relish going to West Lafayette and playing the Boilermakers. They have done a tremendous job. They don’t need me or you don’t need me to say that. I think everybody realizes that they have done a great job with that program. You look at what they have done, I think 11 and 1 at home since Joe Tiller has been the head coach, you just look — they have won seven straight games, won two Bowl games against two really good teams.
I think when you look at them, you always start off looking at that offense, it really is a challenge. Both mentally and from and athletic standpoint, matching up athletically, but the mental part of it is just how much pressure it puts on you.
Reminds me a lot back when University of Houston was in the run and shoot. It is a little bit different because they play with the tightened sometimes, but it is just — every play, every time the ball is snapped there is a chance that they can score. It is that style of offense. It puts tremendous pressure on you mentally. It is a little bit foreign to you.
So because of that, there is a lot of mental strain on players in the game and then, obviously, just matching up, spreading people all over the field.
Defensively, I think they play really hard. That is something they have done a good job. I have watched them develop over the last couple of years. They play with a lot of intensity and hard.
The kicking game – I think their kicker is really outstanding. He made an incredible play Saturday on a blocked field goal, having the presence to raise up and throw the ball for a touchdown.
Their punter is back from last year.
Obviously it is a challenge, and you will understand what I mean when I say that as much as I respect Purdue and the challenge we have with going down there and playing, I am much more concerned right now, much more interested in our football team and the progress we make. That is the challenge we have. I knew the challenge going into the season was taking a young talented football team that had to play a difficult schedule and make sure that we improve every week. I still feel the same way, that if we can improve, weekly and if we can improve by the end of the season, we will have a bright future and we will be a good football team.
Now, saying you improve and improving is two different things. It is not a given that you do improve week-to-week. There is a lot of peaks and valleys. There is a lot of mental toughness that has to go into it.
The bottom line is if your attitude is good and you can stay healthy, you have a chance to improve. If your attitude is not good and you get beat up and nicked up, and you let some outside things influence, you don’t improve.
So it is important for us just to control, focus on the things we can control. And just focus on improving as a team. That is the challenge. That is what you enjoy about coaching.
We are in the middle of a tough Big-10 stretch. We have got some young players. But yet we have got a lot of positive right now too. This is what I enjoy about coaching.
I think our players enjoy the challenge, but there is no question that we need to correct mistakes and need to improve. I think we can do that.
Offensively, I love the aggressive style we have. I like the diversity we have. I like the play-making ability we have. But it is — obviously we cannot win playing the caliber teams we play with the mistakes we are making. That is simple. But we control it.
We have to eliminate the turnovers. We have had seven already this year. You go back the last two years, we had 13, I think in 1997. We had 13 going into the USC Game last year for the entire season. We already have seven. So we need to eliminate turnovers. Now is that easy to do?
It is not particularly easy to do when you are a diverse offense and you have young players. We even have more young players playing this week. You will see Julius Jones back there on punt returns. You might see Terrance Howard back there on kickoff returns.
We all see we need to eliminate turnovers, but it is not as easy as you first think it is because it factors young players out on that field and we are a diverse scheme.
Second thing: We have to eliminate the mistake. We had four sacks against Michigan on Saturday. You look back we had nine all last year in one season. We had four in one game. Once again, you have three offensive linemen that haven’t played. We have got a tailback in there in past protection, one thing led to another and we had some busts (sic).
We have got to eliminate the sloppiness. We cannot pitch the ball on the ground. We have had seven turnovers. We are fortunate it isn’t in double digits the way we have pitched the ball.
We have had penalties – seven offensive penalties, four procedure penalties. But all those things are correctable because for the most part, it is coming because we are a little bit young. We get a little bit discombobulated, but also that is what the challenge is to eliminate it.
On defense, I think we have to get more plays out of our front. Lance Legree is back, how much he will play, I am not really sure, but it helps us having him in the rotation. We have got get some plays out of our front. It is not easy against a Purdue offense that is basically a three-step drop. They chop you a lot of times on passes and get your hands down, but we have got to get some plays out of our front. We had a couple out of Lamont Bryant. We need more.
We have got to continue to develop the young defensive backs. I am pleased right now with Clifford Jefferson, Deveron Harper, but now Beckstrom, Poree, Shane Walton is back healthy, Gerome Sapp will get a chance to play some, Ron Israel. We have got some quality guys back there, but we need to see them play in the game and we need to show improvement.
I think overall on defense we have to get more aggressive. We have to cut it loose. We have to create more plays.
Kicking game: We have got to get our field goal kicker settled down. He kicked two extra points in the Michigan game, the protection was good, the snaps were good so that was a positive. It’s been a long time since he made a field goal.
We have to work on our punt return game with a new punt returner back there. We have to work on our kickoff return. Both those things had chances to be positive for us, particularly with Joey Getherall isn’t there.
I think our punter has done a pretty good job mechanically. He has gotten the ball off under some tough situations. Now we need to get him to be more of a factor and help us with field position.
So across the board, we have got to make improvement. That is what football is. That is what coaching is. That is what you enjoy. That is part of it because we certainly have enough numbers and we kind of control it. That is a good position to be in. I do think we can make a significant amount of improvement with the team.
Injuries: Like everybody that has played two games against two quality opponents and a lot of heat, you are going to be nicked up, you are going to be beat up. Jarious obviously has the toe.
Ronnie Nicks has an ankle. I would say Ronnie is doubtful for this game.
McNair has a sprained arch which is disappointing because, you know, we need to improve at the fullback position.
I’d like to see Mike right in that mix. It would be a great opportunity for him right now because the job is open. But I would say he is doubtful.
John Owens, the tightend, has a calf pull that has been kind of gotten progressively worse. He won’t play.
Joey Getherall out three to four weeks with a separated shoulder. Hopefully we get him back right after the Open Date.
And Jamaar Taylor, I don’t know if we even talked about this, just an unfortunate accident with Jamaar, he was on campus Thursday night, the chain came off his bike, he flipped over the handle bars and was fortunate that it wasn’t a worse injury. He came down hit his head. But, we first thought he was going to have to have his knee surgically repaired. They went in Monday, yesterday, and they determined that it doesn’t need surgery. So that is a positive. He is going to be out for an extended period of time. Fortunately that wasn’t worse.
When you look at Purdue, you always start with their offense first because they do a tremendous job. It starts with the quarterback. The thing about Drew Brees to me is his competitiveness and how mobile he is, how many plays he makes throwing the ball on the run. He has got a good presence. He is one of those guys when he gets flushed out of there, he doesn’t panic. He looks for open receivers on the run. You have got to contain him on those boot legs. He does a great job with boot legs. He is an accurate passer. He is a good player, obviously.
Their wide receivers, I think they have four or five good ones. I really like No. 14, he is a speed receiver. I think No. 20 does really a good job, a big tall receiver that can run. And the tightend 89 is a good receiver. So they recruit for that offense and it is an offense that receivers and tightends like to play in and they do a good job.
Defensively, as I said, they play hard. Their two inside tackles are really physical players that played a lot of football, they rotate some guys in there.
Their linebackers are athletic players. Some of them converted runningback type players, play hard.
They are an aggressive style team. So we have got our work cut out for us. It will be a challenge going down there playing — once again playing away from home.
At this time I am sure some of you have some questions, I will be more than happy to answer them.
Q. I am wondering in the aftermath of Saturday what your thoughts on the excessive celebration rule is. Around the Big-10 today there was big mixed reaction. Cooper, for instance, called it stupid and said it should be abolished, so did Ron Turner. What do you think?
COACH DAVIE: Well, first of all, I agree that the NCAA should take a stand on celebration, should take a stand on toning. I think that is a thing that keeps the integrity of the game intact. I think that is a thing that separates college football from the NFL.
It is a team sport. So I agree that we should take a firm stance on any of those issues where players draw attention to themselves.
Do I think Bobby Brown’s was excessive in nature? No.
Do I think he was toning in nature? No.
But by the letter of the rule, he did something he shouldn’t do. He did draw attention upon himself. You hate to have it called in such a significant situation for our football team and for Bobby Brown. Bobby Brown will have to live with that the rest of his life. He didn’t make a proper decision, didn’t think through all the ramifications of what would happen if he did it.
Is that an easy thing to do in that situation? No. But — so the point is I agree with the NCAA in taking a hard line stance on celebration. Do I think his was extremely excessive by nature or toning by nature? Not really.
But where do they draw the line? I would go more for calling it close than I would be for being lenient on it. We have just got to put it behind us, learn from this situation, and move forward.
That is one of those things that is going to be discussed for a long time. But let’s face it, the things that go on in the NFL with players dancing, coming up with all different little bird walks and different things, to me, that takes away from the game. I think you can be enthusiastic. I think you can play with a lot of emotion, but it is a team sport and anything that draws attention upon an individual player is wrong. Bobby understands that. It is too late to take it back. So they made the right call because that is the way the rule is written.
I think also that the game was on national television early in the season. I think the statement was to be made by the NCAA, I really do. But we knew that going in. I talked to our football team before the Eddie Robinson class. We were one of the first nationally televised games on. I knew the NCAA was taking even a harder stance on those things – kind of like they make players keep their shirt tails tucked in now, they make players all wear their socks at the same length.
I like all those rules. It is unfortunate it was called against us, but that is the way it is. I kind of rambled on there, but they made the right call in that situation. I don’t have any doubt that they did.
Q. I think everyone understands that the keys to success this Saturday are limiting the amount of time the Drew Brees and the Purdue offense have with the ball. It appears that Central Florida was able to run the ball effectively, but they seemed to kill themselves with turnovers and really hurt their chances. Do you see your game plan focusing more on the run this week, trying to eliminate as much time that Drew Brees and his offense have with the ball?
COACH DAVIE: There is two things:
Obviously you have to control the football, to try to keep them off the field with their offense. But they are such a quick strike offense that they are going to score points, so you can’t just button it up and say you are going to just run the football in there. You are going to have to create some plays to score some points. Because even though you control the ball and take away from their time at possession, they are going to score some points because it is a quick strike offense.
Like always, you go into this game with a plan to control the ball, eliminate mistakes, eliminate turnovers, but you have to do enough things to create some big plays for your offense. Because one thing about this game, this game is never over. If you are ahead of them by a significant margin, it is not over because they can score at any time. That is why they keep that mental pressure on you throughout the whole game because it is such a wide open quick strike style offense.
Q. I got a two-part question here. First of all, do you anticipate a high-scoring game because of the nature of their offense and on defense, do you anticipate playing a lot of five or more defensive backs, if so, who is going to be in the mix there for the nickel back and so forth?
COACH DAVIE: First of all, I don’t really anticipate a real high scoring game. I don’t think that is real advantageous for us to go down there and get into a shootout. Hopefully we can control that a little bit.
But you just don’t know – how many point develop, sometimes develop off turnovers off and blocked kicks, but I hope — I don’t think both teams are just going to go up and down the field on offense in a game like this. Because you have two improving defenses, I think.
As far as playing substitution defense, you have to. You have to be able to match up with their receivers. If you keep linebackers in the game and you just try to match linebackers up on their wide receivers who are displaced, you are not going — you are going to limit yourself as to what you can play. We have to play some substitution defense.
Lee Lafayette will be in the game. Ron Israel will be in the game. Also Gerome Sapp, as I mentioned earlier, I think those young corners will have an opportunity to play this week because when you play a game like this, it is like fast-break basketball. You are running every play and you are chasing receivers every play and you have got to go down there with a lot of defensive backs.
Fortunately we have some more numbers this year in the secondary and I think we are a little further along than we have been in the past in that area. But the problem is we have got a lot of young players in that secondary.
Q. Coach, what is the emotional state of this team after such a heartbreaking loss and secondly, have you talked to — when you talked to Bobby Brown, how has he reacted to the situation?
COACH DAVIE: Well, first of all, it is always tough to gauge what the emotional state of a football team is. That is tough. Always on Mondays you seem to go out there and you have a lot of urgency, a lot of intensity, a lot of attention to detail after you lose a game. I think that — that is pretty much the way it is everywhere. The message comes across pretty loud and clearly as to what you need to improve on. So you always start out the week with tremendous focus. And tremendous urgency.
As this week develops we will know more. But the bottom line is we really won’t know until we play that game Saturday. I have been in it long enough that trying to judge a football team’s emotions during the week is really tough. Trying to judge their emotions in pre-game, before the game is really tough. So we will know once we kick that thing off in West Lafayette. But so far so good.
I think our players realize coming out of the Michigan game, it is somewhat frustrating because we shot ourselves in the foot so much. I think they see the potential of our team.
They also see how quickly things can break down and you never know what play is going to be that is going to cause that breakdown.
So far so good with the attitude of our team.
The second question was about Bobby Brown. I talked to Bobby immediately when it happened. And I have also talked to him throughout the weekend and obviously yesterday at practice. Bobby took it like a man. Bobby told me that he hadn’t slept since it happened, he is sick over it. But he took it like a man. He realized it was something that he made a poor decision doing, so what you do is you just learn from your experience and you move on.
At some point you have to put it behind you have to put closure on it, and go forward. You don’t blame anyone else. You don’t blame the officials. That is easy to do. You know, that is easy to do those things. You step up and take it like a man and you move forward. I think he has done that.
Q. Do you think that the celebration rule, that some adjustments could be made to that rule?
COACH DAVIE: Well, I think we answered that before. That is a tough — all those rules are brought on normally because someone circumvented a rule. They have to tighten rules up and add more rules because people find ways to get around a rule sometimes. So the reason we have that rule is because it did get a little bit excessive and did players did start to get carried away.
I think as much as I hate to be the guinea pig, so to speak, this was a nationally televised game, with huge ramifications, in front of 111,000 people on a big stage all across this country, and I am sure college football players and college coaches across this country are using that as an example. I hate to be the one to be made an example of, but I do think it is good for college football to eliminate all those things.
Where do you draw the line if you are the official? Do you sit there and try to determine was it toning, was it celebration? That is tough. I think you have to take a hard line approach on it.
Q. You said you were fortunate that you didn’t have more turnovers because of a lot of Jarious’ pitches. Do you think that that is — he looks a little bit tentative. Do you think that is stemming from maybe some tentativeness or maybe not being totally in sync with the running backs?
COACH DAVIE: That is about two or three things that happened in the game.
One, we ran kind of a three-back option out of an unbalanced formation and their strong safety came down and we really thought he would take the pitch and he came down on the quarterback. In fact he may have made a mistake, but it was something that we probably hadn’t practiced enough and it is the first time Jarious saw that and he paniced a little bit. That happened two times in the game. That is our responsibility on those two.
Another time, the pitch back was out of phase a little bit and Jarious pitched off the wrong player. He should have just kept the football. Tony Fisher, the fourth one, dropped the pitch. So there were three different things that happened.
The other one when Jarious got sacked, he coughed the football up and we were fortunate Holloway made a tremendous fumble recovery.
So, as always, there is not one simple solution to the problem. It is a complex thing. There is a lot of different things that happen and I don’t think it is because Jarious is tentative. If anything, it is because he is trying to make so many plays and trying to always make the big play, which is a quality he has.
But also I think he needs to play a little smarter at times so it is not just one thing, it is kind of a combination of a lot of things.
Q. With Joey out for an extended period of time, does Raki step in and is he your starting flanker. Besides Javin Hunter makes some plays especially in big situations, you talked all of last year and beginning of this year of needing big-play receivers. Do you think it is time to turn him loose as a big-play type of guy, would you like to see him —
COACH DAVIE: He will make that decision for us. Obviously if he is capable of being turned loose, he will be turned loose.
I think Javin Hunter has made a lot of progress. I think David Givens has made a lot of progress. Both those players are going to be good players here for a long time.
Raki Nelson has been a very consistent receiver for us and I think Raki will get first shot at the starting job. But you see how we alternate those players.
Fortunately we have some depth at that position. I do think we have some game-breaker style players with some of those younger guys. Unfortunately we lost with one with Joey Getherall because I really thought he was becoming a big-time player for us, but we will get him back. I think we have some made some progress at the receiver position.
Q. Can you clear up a little bit on Jarious’ injury status for Saturday’s game?
COACH DAVIE: He has a turf toe, a sprained big toe which he has had before. Everyone around here is hoping that he plays. If I had to bet, I would say he will play. Probably shouldn’t — if I had to give it my opinion, I think he probably would play in the game.
I think Arnaz Battle said it well last night when he said I don’t think a toe is going to keep Jarious out of the game, but it is a pretty significant injury particularly when it is that big toe and it is on his right foot.
I would guess he would play in the game. How effective he will be, who knows. We will just have to see how it responds this week and how it responds in the game.
Q. You talked about — not to belabor the celebration there. If officiating has in mind to make a statement on a national television game, and some of the other factors you said the magnitude of a game. Do you think a program’s reputation also, they might be in the back of their mind — I mean, would they be more willing to give a benefit of doubt to a program based on its reputation or even more likely to pull a flag on another program if they had the reputation for being sort of a —
COACH DAVIE: I have always given people benefit of the doubt. I think — I have been around officials now for 23 years, I guess, in coaching. You look at the background of these officials, type of people they are, they are some tremendous people college football, not just officials, but across the board.
I don’t think that all those things figure into it. I think what happened is just what happened. There was an official who realizes the rules, understands the rules, and Bobby Brown scored and he gave a fraternity signal and the official pulled a flag and threw it.
I don’t think that all those things go into it when people make decisions. I give people the benefit of the doubt. I think sometimes what happens after the fact, when everybody has a chance to analyze things and everybody has a chance to discuss things, and all these outside side things come into it. Particularly here at Notre Dame. Particularly here because everything that happens is going to be discussed and bounced back and forth. I saw today where somebody said on my desk from an Internet where they had 50,000 voters on did Anthony Thomas score on third down or didn’t he score and what the votes were. So some of these issues after a conversation become more complex than they really are.
The bottom line Bobby Brown scored, he didn’t have a premediated plan, he got up and did something. The official didn’t have a premeditated plan, he saw him do it, he drew the flag. And one of the great things about being here is all these issues become huge. That is what you love about the place. But also I don’t think it is near that complex and I do believe in people and I think I have got no doubt that these officials are quality people and they do a heck of a job week in and week out.
Q. Late in the game when you need poise out of players, how do you coach a team to show more poise?
COACH DAVIE: That is why I say it is my responsibility. One thing that I have taken pride in is I think we have been pretty steady in the boat. I don’t think we have spent a lot of time worrying about things we can’t control and I don’t think we have been an up-and-down kind of a program. I think we have been pretty steady. I would hope that our players are steady. I think they were pretty steady in that game.
What Bobby Brown did wasn’t a total reflection of this program or this coaching staff. What Ron Israel did, he was trying to make a play, that is not a total reflection of what we are or what we are all about. There are individual things that happen. I just think through consistency of how you handle situations, consistency of how you treat people and react when bad things happen.
If players see me jump and up and down and scream at officials and moan about it and lying about it for the next two weeks then that is all they are worried about – trying to put that blame on someone else instead of where the blame belongs.
So I think it is just consistency on how you do things. Those things will all work themselves out and even out. At least I’d like they think they would.
Q. Did you feel it was necessary to address the issue with the team as a whole? Did you do that Sunday? Yesterday?
COACH DAVIE: An issue like this — the issues you need to address to an extreme are sometimes the ones that everybody doesn’t see. This issue I think took care of itself. Everybody saw the ramifications. Nobody on our team would like to be in Bobby Brown’s shoes right now. I think this one pretty much took care of itself. We have got some pretty intelligent players. So the issues that you really bring up are the ones sometimes that people get away with or think they’d get away with that didn’t get caught. This one explained itself pretty good.
Q. So you haven’t established and across the board punishment for the next person that does it?
COACH DAVIE: No. No. I deal with each thing as it comes.
Q. How will you handle the quarterback situation this week as of — like beginning today, do you go into it with the plan that Arnaz is the starter and treat it accordingly today or how will you do it?
COACH DAVIE: Being honest, I kind of do that, but in the back of my mind, I am thinking No. 7 is going to be out there at quarterback. But I also think Arnaz will play in this game. I wanted to play Arnaz against Michigan, but the way that game — in the first quarter we never had the ball on offense. Second quarter, Jarious put on a show. The third quarter, we don’t have the ball much, we are discombobulated when we get it. Then in the fourth quarter, Jarious — it was hard to get Arnaz in the Michigan game, just the flow of the game.
In the back of my mind, I think Jarious will play. I realize Arnaz may end up playing a lot in this game because we don’t know how Jarious will respond so we are going to go full speed with Arnaz and put the total package in with Arnaz knowing both of them will play.
Q. How many do you anticipate that the absence of Jarious at practice will affect the effort to clean up what needs to be cleaned up?
COACH DAVIE: That is a legitimate concern. Because it all starts with the player that has his hands on the ball the most and that is the quarterback. So that is a legitimate concern. And the things you need to —
We are sloppy with the football. Jarious isn’t practicing and we have got more young backs in kicking situation. That is why I say that problem is not easy to rectify right now for us for those reasons.
But I think the message, the strong message of — with Jarious, as much football as he has played, he can learn by listening and he can learn by watching because he has been in a bunch of games. So I think just the constant message being sent by us may help us. But it is a concern because he is not practicing.
Q. An unrelated question: When you are dealing with this type of offense, what can be done to prevent that offense from setting the tempo and the tone of the game?
COACH DAVIE: 50 mile an hour winds. I watch that weather channel everyday, I have been disappointed. (laughs).
You keep them from the big plays. You try to minimize the damage, so to speak. That doesn’t mean you don’t play aggressive. You try to keep them from scoring touchdowns. That sounds simple. But they are a team that is going to move the ball. You try to make them kick field goals and keep them out the end zone because the closer they get to the goal line it gets a little bit tighter for them in that style of offense. I think you really in this game more than any game, you play one play at a time where every play is a new game. Because they are going to make some plays. If you let that hang, the negatives start to enter into it, you get back on your heals, then you really have problems. You just try to minimize the damage, keep them out of the end zone.
Q. When do you expect Jarious to get back to practice?
COACH DAVIE: I wish I knew. I don’t know. Sunday — I didn’t know if he played Sunday. Yesterday he was much better. I haven’t seen him today. I don’t know. I really don’t.
Q. What do you say to a guy like Clifford who said he now has a goal of getting two — at least two interceptions on Saturday and he is looking forward to this game?
COACH DAVIE: I am glad he is looking forward to the game. I think if you are a defensive back playing in a game like this, if you have some competitiveness to you, this is a chance to showcase your talent. You ought to look forward to be playing in a game like this. So I like his confidence. If his goal is to get two interceptions, it is probably a goal he should probably keep to himself. He probably doesn’t need to tell everybody that is his goal, but there is nothing wrong with that. He is a young guy, competitive guy, probably starting to feel a little better about himself, starting to gain a little bit of confidence. But I don’t think he needs to tell everybody what his goals are.
Q. You had mentioned game breakers and I wondered if you could talk about how Javin Hunter fits into the rotation and what you would like to see more from him?
COACH DAVIE: Javin has made steady progress. With his hands on the ball I think he’s a weapon. I think he is an exciting player. We do run the football. We do run a lot of perimeters runs where the wide receivers have to block and that would be his area that he needs to improve on the most. Bobby Brown, on the other hand, is a real good blocker and is a real steady guy. When you do both, you have to be able to do both as a receiver and that perimeter blocking is so important. That doesn’t mean he is a bad blocker, he is just a young guy that hasn’t done it much in high school and he is now doing it for the first time. But he has made a lot of improvement. He has got someone coaching him that is a hard-nose guy now, he will get him to block.
Q. Deke Cooper was a guy you didn’t have a couple of springs ago, then he came back and kind of came to the forefront in the Michigan State game, seems to be improving. Talk about his progress and what kind of a leader he is back there for your secondary?
COACH DAVIE: That is a great story, Deke Cooper, a guy that — you know, struggling academically, he wouldn’t mind me telling you that because he says it himself. Was on offense and went to defense. Kind of thought he might be a step slow back there. Everyone was a little bit down on him for a lot of things. He bounced back, persevered, and I think he is a tremendous leader. You are right, he stepped up in that Michigan State Game and since then he has really played solid football for us. Played through the game Saturday with that quad injury, played the whole game with it, limping around, it cramped up on him. So he is a competitor and I think a great kid.
Q. The progress of your offensive line. Where do you think they are both in terms of pass protection and run blocking?
COACH DAVIE: I am a little nervous about them. I don’t think Michigan really applied a lot of pressure to us, kind of surprised me. We had some missed assignments, gave up four sacks really because of assignment breakdowns, not technique breakdowns.
So the passing game with multiple looks I have a concern, do we get the right calls.
I am concerned in the running game, you know, can we consistently run the ball, can we block consistently enough and block the right people consistently enough without turning someone loose that gives us a negative play.
But, boy, the future is bright with those players. There is a lot of good ones, a lot of talent and the backups, you look at Jeff Faine now is back and healthy, Mahan, Vollers, Scarola has shown some improvement. Rob Mowl is back now. So we have got some good depth. They are all back. We will be sitting here hopefully next year talking about these same guys so that is a positive.
But we are young right now and I am concerned about it.
Q. You mentioned displeasure with the fullbacks. Does that play into the pass protection and also the run blocking, is that where the problems?
COACH DAVIE: Yeah and I don’t mean to come down so hard to say displeasure, those guys, they play hard. I talked to Joey Goodspeed last night, it is just that the standard is set higher for Joey Goodspeed. They are not playing bad. I just think all of us have a higher standard including them based on what they did in the spring, what they did in training camp. We need to get them more involved, get them playing at a higher level and competition will bring that out. Unfortunately, McNair, Jason, Murphy are both hurt right now or we would have four of them competing.
Q. Comment on the nature of this Purdue/Notre Dame series? For a long there it was not a very competitive series. The Irish pretty much dominated. Seems like the whole series has changed around.
COACH DAVIE: I think it has probably has changed for us like it has changed for other Big-10 teams. As I mentioned earlier, whether it is Notre Dame or whether it is Ohio State or whether it is Penn State, whoever, playing Purdue is a chore. I talked to — there was a writer in last week I think from the NEW YORK TIMES that had been at the Penn State/Arizona game, and then they met with Joe Paterno talking about the season and upcoming schedule and he mentioned the Arizona game to him. I believe he mentioned the Michigan game and maybe the Ohio State game and Joe Paterno said the one he is worried about is going to West Lafayette and playing Purdue. So we are just like everyone else in that, you are darn right, it is competitive now because they are a good football team. They have done a tremendous job. My hat goes off to them. Joe Tiller has done a tremendous job.
Q. Obviously it is vital to keep some kind of pressure on Brees to take some of the pressure off the secondary with those four and five receivers that, but when rushing Brees, how much does the necessity to keep him from getting outside and rolling and hitting receiving on the run affect the ability just to get to him?
COACH DAVIE: Yeah, he is not a guy that is going to sit in that pocket long. He does — I think he does so many things well but probably the thing he does the best is create plays with his mobility. Then he makes really good decisions on the run.
So it is hard because you do have to contain him. It is hard by nature because they spread you out so much with their formations just like we do a little bit now and we have done with our quarterback run. Jarious gains a lot of yard because of scheme a lot — sometimes, because you spread people out and then run the football with the quarterback.
Any time you have to displace people to cover down on receivers, he has a strong enough arm to make you displace to cover down on those receivers, when he runs the football and there is a bunch of creases in there, so it is hard. That is why they are good. That is why that scheme is good.
But it is like anything else, matchups are what is really important. Can your guy go out there and cover their guy or do you have to put two guys to go out there and cover there guy? Then it is really hard. It is like anything else, it is how the personnel matches with the personnel, but it is a good scheme.
Q. Guy coming in on the blitz just have to wait that extra beat to see which way he is going on the direct rout to him….
COACH DAVIE: It is hard to come from very far away on the blitz because the ball gets off so quickly. It is a quick passing game. Always you have to come in a contained mode because if he gets outside of your defense and particularly when you are in man-to-man coverage, there is some huge chunk. With the quarterback running the ball or any time the quarterback breaks contain and you are a defensive back trying to chase a receiver when the play breaks down that is one of the most difficult things. So putting pressure on but being in a contained mode is not easy.
Q. Would you just real briefly touch on the importance of Fisher and Driver in this game and where they are, how do you assess their progress?
COACH DAVIE: First thing is Fisher and Driver have to protect the football. Cannot turn the ball over. I think the more comfortable they become the more explosive they will become. I still don’t think they are playing as fast as they can play. They are a little bit tentative at times.
The young backs Terrance Howard and Julius Jones I think are players. So they are all important. We do a lot, we pitch them the ball, we throw them the ball, they have to pass protect, we do a lot with our tailbacks. That is one of the reasons you will see some breakdowns right now. So they are all important. The mental part of it is really important for them.
Q. Last year the ability to survive that game against Purdue seemed to be an emotional lift for your team. The kind that sustained itself for some time during the season. Are you looking for that kind of possibility this year? Is that the kind of stakes that this game —
COACH DAVIE: It’s a big game. Just like last year, you are right, a little different last year coming off that collapse at Michigan State, didn’t have probably much confidence going into the Purdue game, that was huge for us to hang on and win that game at the end.
Probably fortunate to win that game. We won seven straight games after that. A little different this year probably because the Michigan game-we do come out of that game with some confidence, but it is once again a big game because, let’s face it, we have five straight home games after Purdue all against good teams but just — it is a pivotal game, even though it is early in the season and we are a young football team call it what it is. It is pivotal. It is a big football game.
Q. Special teams seem to be making some progress. With Joey Getherall out of there, look at a Julius Jones or who’d line up there?
COACH DAVIE: Julius Jones will be back there on punts. It will be either Julius Jones or Terrance Howard on kickoff returns. We will just see how that goes.
I don’t want to put too much on Julius’ plate the first time out there. But we will see as the week goes on.
We have made some progress on kickoff returns so we had a legitimate chance to break one against Kansas – kid made a great play for them. Against Michigan we brought it back about the mid-field on really the one that we had a chance to return. The other one was kind of line drive and we had to abort the return and go up the hatch.
We have made some improvements. I think those guys are capable, as long as they can protect their football for us.
Q. Other thing was on the option, a couple the pitches when you looked down to see who was going for the ball it wasn’t tailback necessarily – David Givens was back there a couple of times. Does that give you like an option to run balance each way by giving it to the wide receiver?
COACH DAVIE: Wishbone?
COACH DAVIE: We got a little wishbone. We got some personnel, David Givens is a guy, a combination runningback tailback. We are not going to be a wishbone team. David Givens is a versatile player. He does some of that for us. He is kind of a combination tailback wide receiver, and I think he is going to be a weapon for us here.
Q. In order to gain success defensively in this game do you put more emphasis on the secondary or defensive front?
COACH DAVIE: All the same. They are all tied together. With everything you do, it has to be totally synchronized because one without the other isn’t going to work. So really it is an emphasis on both things.
It is emphasis on endurance and competing play after play because you are out there on an island as a defensive back, but it is important for those defensive linemen to realize that that defensive back is out there on that island.
Q. Any question in your mind as to the mark of the ball (inaudible) whether you got the first down or not?
COACH DAVIE: There was a lot of the question on that. It was close.
When it happened at first I thought it was a first down. I just took for granted that it was a first down. There’s so much confusion down there on that sidelines and the angle is so bad, then immediately after the game was over officials were gone — they always do – officials are gone. You are not going to get it clarified right there.
Looking at the tape, I mean, it was close. That ball was caught. We had to get to the 11, I believe, for a first down. That ball was caught in my opinion on the 10 and a half with forward progress and he was knocked back. It was certainly, in my opinion, close enough to be measured. You’d never see where the official is coming from to spot the ball. There was no official there to make a forward progress rule. Then the game is over. It was interesting — Michigan came out on that field, there were a few second left from a celebration. There was some celebration going on before that game was over.
Q. Where was the guy in the stripe shirt there?
COACH DAVIE: Yeah, well, the bottom line, you know, as we do with all of these, we discuss these issues. I have had a personal phone call to Dave Perry and we have talked about every play in that game that was of question. But I am not going to do it in a public forum. That is not fair to the officials, not fair to us to do that. So we have had all those discussions, but all those discussions are not going to change what happened. You just hope in the future that everything just balances out. I don’t mean — I don’t mean that it means we have got slighted. That is just how it is.
Q. With respect to the privacy of those conversations, were you satisfied with the explanations you received?
COACH DAVIE: Totally. All you do is how they saw it. Somebody steps up and makes the call, like in anything it is judgment. As long as the mechanics were proper, that is all you ask. The play on the goal line those mechanics were proper. They were standing right there looking straight down on that call on all those calls. As long as the mechanics — just like on Bobby Brown’s penalty, mechanics were there, that guy was standing right next to him.
Anybody that writes and secondguesses about all those calls, they weren’t standing right there. They made the call, that is how it is. I am satisfied because they answered the questions I had. That doesn’t mean I agree with everything, but I am satisfied.
Q. Against Michigan seemed that Tony Fisher was the featured back, getting more touches and carries. Will he have that same kind of role against Purdue?
COACH DAVIE: I think you are right that Tony Fisher had more playing time, obviously touched the ball more. Tony Fisher right now as far as the different dimension he brings with pass receiving, protection, all the things we are asking a tailback to do is probably a little bit more solid right now than Tony driver. But it is close.
Tony Driver will continue play. The gap is not as big as what it seemed probably in that Michigan game. But coaches, there is human nature involved, when one guy has a big run, he usually gets a chance to carry it more. When a guy has a big catch like Fisher had he usually gets the chance to do it again. So the gap is not as significant as what it was as far as playing time. They are still pretty close.
Q. Does his pass capability give you one more little wrinkle to the offense?
I think, yeah, you saw that Saturday. Probably had a chance to take advantage of a couple more situations that, you know, we didn’t get the ball thrown and caught. He was wide open down the seem one time and because of the high shotgun snap we didn’t make a great throw, he probably could have caught it but he didn’t. But, yeah, there is some talent there. When you look at Fisher, Driver, Terrance Howard is the same style, and I think also Julius. They are a good combination of tailbacks and guys that can catch the ball.
One thing you have seen in college football now if you can give diversity by formation without substituting, because if you substitute to do it, the defense substitutes and they can match up with nickel and dime players in the game. If you can be a two-back team and then line up in a one-back situation, that causes problems for the defense because they have a linebacker matched up with a running back. It is that simple.
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