Dec. 10, 2004
DOUG WALKER: Good afternoon. This is Doug Walker with Notre Dame sports information. Coach Kent Baer will be available for about 15 minutes to take questions live and over the phone. Coach will take questions live for about did 10 or 15, then we’ll turn it over to the phone call for some other questions. We’ll be joining you in just about 90 seconds.
COACH BAER: We had our third practice this morning. The reason we did it this morning was no school today, so we thought we’d get it out of the way, let them go study this afternoon and night. We have a pretty full day tomorrow with practice, then we’re going to give them Sunday and Monday off, go back on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, let them go home for a few days, everybody shows up to the Bowl site on the 22nd. Really that’s about where we’re at with practice.
Q. What is the mood of the team? Trying to get everybody united?
COACH BAER: You know, the three practices we’ve had have been good, real good. I thought there was a lot of enthusiasm. I think they’re really intent on getting into this game plan. I’m enthused about it, two finals, it’s tough that way a little bit, because there’s a lot of guys that have to miss because of study groups, preparing for finals, that sort of thing. We’re just going to try to work around it all. We’ll have a handful of guys missing here and there, but for the most part, pretty good.
Q. How are you feeling personally? Obviously a lot on your mind.
COACH BAER: Doing well. Doing good.
Q. What do you think of their team?
COACH BAER: You know, won four out of the last five or five out of the last six. I think the only one they lost was SC in fog. I don’t know whether anybody saw that game. It’s hard even to watch the tape. Amazing they played the game. It was 28-20 against SC in Corvallis. So, we might be playing one of the hottest teams in the country.
They remind me a little bit when I was at Stanford, I think our second year, first year, I don’t remember. We won six in a row to end up in a Bowl game. We were a pretty hot football team. Ended up playing Michigan State and shut them out in the Sun Bowl.
We’re playing a team that’s pretty hungry. They throw the ball all over the place. They have got every route imaginable, everything you can imagine in the passing game. Throwing for 300 yards a game. They’re rushing for about 65 or 70 a game. Defensively, they’re playing great. They’re right at 316 yards a game, which in that league is pretty good. That’s such a wide open league.
So, you know, quarterback is a big, strong guy, can really throw, a lot of good receivers. Tight end is a really good player. Reminds me from a kid from Pittsburgh, a couple kids we played against at SC. I haven’t seen a lot of the other side of the ball yet, but I’m going to watch that. They’re really a talented football team and we’re going to have our hands full.
It’s going to be a challenge. Our guys are excited to play them.
Q. What kind of success did you have against their team when you were in the Pac-10?
COACH BAER: I was in the Pac-10 for 16 years. That’s a hard place to play. I’m glad we’re not playing in Corvallis because that’s probably the toughest place in the league, that and Pullman, Washington. Hard places to play.
But Mike Riley, ever since Mike went in there, started to turn that around, then Erickson was there, then Mike came back, I mean, they’ve upgraded their facilities. I’m trying to think, I know we beat them at times at home. I remember struggling on the road against them, so I’m glad we’re playing them at least at a neutral site.
They’ve changed so much over the years. When I first went in the league, they were a wishbone team. But, you know, they’ve had some success obviously over the last six or seven years.
Q. How can you ensure that stays Notre Dame is hungry? You mentioned Oregon State is.
COACH BAER: That’s a great question. I hope we can. You have got to keep talking to the team. Every time I talk to them about it, the rest of the staff talks to them about playing this game, it’s about winning. They really want to go in there and prove something.
I like our enthusiasm. The only way you can judge it is based on your meetings that you have with them, the weight lifting schedules they have, how intent they are on doing that, and also the enthusiasm of practice. So far it’s been great.
Q. What’s the injury situation right now?
COACH BAER: You know, I really don’t have an updated list. I know there are a handful of guys missing today. We’re holding guys out to get them healthy for it. But I think Justin is going to be okay. I’m trying to think of the other ones we’ve got. I think Maurice Stovall is going to be fine once we get to the Bowl site. There were guys a little beat up coming out of that last game that we’re going to hold back a little bit in practice to make sure we get them ready for the game on the 28th.
Q. Can you talk about their attitude, the maturity they’ve had to show?
COACH BAER: It’s a sign of a good football team. We’re fortunate to have some really good seniors, some guys that are great leaders in that senior class. Just sitting with some of them right now, they were talking about some of the younger guys, how they’re still trying to get to know some of the younger players. That to me is exciting. That’s why you bring those guys along, to develop leaders. If we were a younger football team, you’d have a little more concern. But they seem to be excited. There’s so much going on around here right now, obviously you’re going to have some distractions you can’t help. It seems to be going well with most of the kids.
The other thing is that they’re in finals, too. This place is not easy. There’s a lot of studying involved, getting ready to do that. I’ve always said I have so much respect for student athletes nowadays, especially at a school like this, the amount of time that’s required in the classroom and studying, going to class, then football. It’s amazing to me, they juggle the time, budget the time the way they do.
Q. Your name has been mentioned a lot with the Utah State job and you were not at practice Wednesday. Is that part of where you were at? Do you have any comment on that situation?
COACH BAER: That’s where I was at. I sat down and had a lengthy meeting with the athletic director at Utah State and the president. You know, after looking at the situation, my emotional heart and my personal heart was into it because that’s where I’m from. My parents live there. They live five minutes from campus. My son lives there. My daughter-in-law, my granddaughter, four sisters live there. I grew up there, played college football there and coached there for nine years.
But my professional heart just didn’t seem like the right thing for me to do right now. I’d love to be a head coach someday. I want to make sure it’s the right situation. I don’t want to be a head coach just to be a head coach. So, again, it was just a gut feeling. I agonized over it quite a bit yesterday. Woke up this morning, I’m fine. So I think I made the right decision. I know they (Utah State) hired a good football coach. They’ll move on and so will I.
Q. Were you offered the job there?
COACH BAER: I was not offered the job officially yesterday. They did ask me if I would take the job when I sat down and visited with them, if they offered it to me at the time. I said no. I had not been on their campus. I go back all the time, but I have not been on their campus to take a look at the facilities. I wanted to look at the training table. I wanted to look at the academic resource center. I’d never seen the indoor practice facility they built. They do have some plans eventually.
That was one of the problems I had with it. I’m not quite sure where they were going with the future plans. They need a new locker room, meeting rooms and weight room. They weren’t willing to commit on when that was going to happen.
They did not officially offer me the job that day. They asked me if they offered it that day, would I take it? I said no, I need to come and look. That was probably the end of it right there.
Q. Was that in Arizona?
COACH BAER: That was in Arizona. Why Arizona, I don’t know. I met with them once in L.A. and once in Arizona, so. But that’s over with, so I’ll move on.
Q. As you start getting into the film sessions and stuff, Kyle Budinscak was saying that Oregon State looks like a Pac-10 team. You have played Stanford this year, you played USC this year. What does it mean when someone says they look like a Pac-10 team?
COACH BAER: Just a wide-open offensive style of team. Who mentioned that?
Q. Kyle Budinscak.
COACH BAER: I didn’t know he was in the Pac-10. (laughter) That league is so wide open. Everybody is in the wide-open spread type offenses. That’s probably what that means and what he means.
I know this, that they’re one of the better defensive teams in that league. At times people look down? I think they look down at that league when it comes to defense. These guys are pretty good defensively. They can run, cover, play a lot of man. They get up in your face and press you with the corners and the safeties. They’re pretty physical.
As you know, people that have been around here for a few years, when they’ve played in the past in the Fiesta Bowl. We definitely have our hands full. We still haven’t finished the game plan yet either. We’re going to go back this afternoon. We’ve got maybe 50% of it done. We’re going to try to get another 30, 40% done this afternoon, maybe finish it over the weekend. We’re still not quite sure about all of that. I know offensively they’re getting fairly close to the game plan.
But, you know, they’re an excellent team. Just one of those teams, they’re going to throw it, they’re going to throw it a lot, and we’ve got to be able to cover.
Q. When you reconvene next week for practice after saying Sunday, Monday off, do you expect to be working with your full game plan at that point?
COACH BAER: The full game plan will be in. Like I said, maybe 75 to 80% will be in tomorrow, and the rest of it will be finalized by next Tuesday.
Q. I’m assuming the last time these two teams met, you and Coach Willingham were rooting like crazy for the Beavers. Could you talk about your memories of that game?
COACH BAER: I’m trying to remember when that was. Refresh my memory.
Q. January 2001, the Fiesta Bowl.
COACH BAER: Well, again, I wasn’t here, but I remember watching it. I remember I actually had friends on both sides, both coaching staffs. I actually talked to some of them before the game. I just remember a lot of speculation going into that game. I remember watching it. I do know this, that when I was at Stanford, I thought that Oregon State team was one of the best, if not the best team we played that year.
Q. What is your analysis of Freddie Parish’s start against USC, and what are your intentions at the cornerback spot?
COACH BAER: Freddie did an excellent job for us that day. It’s really just a tough situation to get him in, get him all the looks, all the things that he need to do to be a good corner, a boundary corner, against such a good offensive football team.
But I thought for the most part, he did a great job. I know they gave us some looks, especially in the passing game, that he hadn’t seen, that we hadn’t practiced. I thought for the most part he did well.
He’s going to continue to work at corner and safety and right now, I couldn’t answer whether he’ll be starting at that position or not. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Q. Your defense has given up 10 touchdown passes in the last two games. Do you sense them being a little shell-shocked back there?
COACH BAER: No, I think they’re fine. We got a lot of pride. I like the group. Quentin Burrell is our leader. The rest of those guys will rally around him. They’re going to be fine. Some of the things that happened in the last couple of games, they schemed us pretty good a couple of times. We’ve learned from a lot from those games.
Fortunately, a lot of what we’re going to see against Oregon State, we’ve seen. Some of it is very similar to what SC did in the 11 personnel package. There’s some things, a lot of carryover in some things. So for the most part, we’ll be okay. We just have got to figure out exactly what we want to do game plan-wise and stick with it. That’s all part of coaching. We’ll get there.
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