Sept. 6, 1996
Off The Practice Field…Head Coach Lou Holtz
JOHN HEISLER: Good morning. Coach Holtz is here. He will make someopening remarks. Then he will take questions.
COACH HOLTZ: It was aweird game. I’ve never had 434 yards, 25 first downs to 126 yards and 5 firstdowns and ben worried about losing the football game. First of all, Ithought defensively we played very well with the exception of the third-and-38 pass. It was just the jump ball — Ivory was right, the guy wentup and took the ball and made a nice catch on it. Other than thatdefense, we played very well. Renaldo Wynn was exceptional. I thoughtBert Berry played very well. You would be hard-pressed to find somebodyon defense that didn’t play pretty well. I talked to Lamont Bryant. Hecame in and did a nice job. Melvin Dansby, Alton Maiden, Corey Bennett,Tatum and Cobbins played well. We dropped a couple of interceptions weshould have had. Kory Minor. Just everybody on defense. I thoughtA’Jani Sanders played very well, strong safety and I thought thatCovington and Rossum played very, very physically on the corners. It wasjust a good defensive effort.
Offensively, very disappointed with thefilm. Unlike last year, I came in here after last year’s opening lossand I said we could win the next 10 or lose the next 10. We had 10guys here do a job and one guy followed up next time — I saw a lot moreencouraging things last year on offense than I saw this year. The onegentleman who played very well in the offensive line was Mike Doughty. I felt Mike Doughty really played hard physically. He played very, verywell. I thought that the encouraging thing is that we did have434 yards and we did have 25 first downs, but, you know, the turnovers,we weren’t very consistent. We couldn’t control the line ofscrimmage.
On the kicking game, I thought Jim Sanson did a very nice job place kicking. He kickedoff very well. He hit the field goals with a great deal of confidence. He attacked it. Wasn’t afraid to miss or anything else. Just went inthere and really competed very well, so that was encouraging to see.
But there is a lot of work that has to be done on both sides of thefootball, predominantly on offense. Defensively, I am sure we will be tested much more so withthe next six opponents, average 270 yards a game rushing. We did such afine job against Vanderbilt last year, so we will find out more about usdefensively, but basically on one game, it is really encouraging.Offensively, I just don’t know, we just can’t put the ball on the ground.Obviously some people did some real good things to have that kind of productivity, butI thought our receivers competed well. I thought Emmett Mosley playedwell, Michael Johnson made some critical catches, but I am greatly concernedoffensively, more so than I ever thought I would be.
Q. Lou, it is too early to say anything about tailback, do you know anybetter idea of what Randi’s status will be?
COACH HOLTZ: I don’t knowwhat Randi’s status is. The thing you have to watch is that if you comeback too early and you aggravate it, it calcifies. Once you get acalcification in your quadricep then you are looking at eight-, nine-, 10-weekinjury, but it is not that. So, we don’t want to bring him back too early just to make sure we do avoid anycalcification in it. Autry Denson will go to tailback exclusively. Wehave to do that. Autry Denson obviously hasn’t played as much tailback.You would think of a sophomore jinx watching yesterday, but he didprotect the football — if you protect the football, youare automatically the starting tailback.
Q. Does that mean Malcolm Johnson will play split end and Emmett willgo to flanker?
COACH HOLTZ: Yes. And Emmett Mosley will go to flanker. Cooper was supposed to play yesterday, but he didn’t. He will be theNo. 2 flanker and Nelson will be the No. 2 split end and Champion willlearn both. Those will be the five that will basically try to go withthis week.
Q. Are you looking at any other lineup changes?
COACH HOLTZ: I thinkthat Jerry Wisne is going to get a good chance at guard. He didn’t playa whole lot, but when Jerry did, he played very well. I think we aregoing to see Lou Petitgout alternate at left tackle in the game onSaturday. I think the only fair thing is Lou Petitgout should be givena chance to see whether he is one of our better tackles, and soClevenger will still start, but Petitgout will play alternate, playingtime next week.
Q. What is your practice schedule before you fallback into yourroutine Monday?
COACH HOLTZ: What we will do is give them offtoday. They had to go to class today to get the day off. They got backat 2 o’clock last night or something; went to class today. They are offtoday. We meet with them 10 o’clock tomorrow morning. Watch the film,talk to them, we will chain and thrash them. Then we will go out andpractice without pads. Then they will be off Sunday; then back in thenormal routine on Monday.
Q. Lou, as you alluded today, there were some obvious positives andnegatives in the game last night. Do you feel that one outweighed theother? The positives outweighed the negatives or vice versa?
COACH HOLTZ: I think, you know, I just look at the team and say this is wherewe have to go and here is what some of the problems are and can they becorrected? Yeah, I think they can. That was Mike Rosenthal’s firstgame ever at guard. Mike Rosenthal did some good things, buthe is not as consistent as we need to be. The thing that I will say onbehalf of this football team, that if you looked at the statistics anddidn’t look at turnovers or the punt bouncing, we got 25 first downs against theirdefense and 434 yards, which is equivalent to a 31-, 35-to-nothing victory. And had we achieved that, I don’t think I would besitting here saying we are going to be a pretty good football team. I learned more in the fourth quarter when we got behind. Notonly we got behind, but how we got there. We get the ball on the one-yard line, drive it out to the 28 and fumble, and then the defensethrows them back and you think, gee, they are going to haveto punt the football and the next thing you know, you are behind 7 to6. And then you kickoff and get on your 25-yard line, you hit a passnow. You are forced in 27. And yet this football team went on a 14-play drive that covered 92 yards. I guess the 17-yard punt on that andin 14 plays they covered 92 yards at critical times, and that showed mean awful lot. Because somewhere down the line, you are going to bebehind in the fourth quarter. How are you going to react? What is thetemperament? What is the attitude? So, I think there is some positivethings about that. The last seven times we had the ball, just beforethe half and we went, I don’t know, we went from our two-yard line downto about their 12 just before the half and kicked the field goal. Thelast seven times we had the ball, we scored three points. We fumbled twice tostop drives. We were stopped once and the game ended. And so, youknow, there were some great consistencies, but we weren’t real sharp. There is no doubt about it. As far as little things, steps, landmarks,being in a football position, just overall offensively and then again,it was not one of our better days. But does the positiveoutweigh the negative? I never look at it. If there are negatives, itis bad.
Q. I have a couple questions about Autry Denson. No. 1, will he — nowthat he is a starting tailback — will he continue to return punts? No. 2,so many of us thought he didn’t look like the same guy incertain situations in terms of hitting up in the hole last night. Wasthat a result of there being nowhere to go; the guys in front of him notgetting the job done or did some of it have to do with himpracticing out at flanker so much earlier this summer?
COACH HOLTZ: Ithink you are right on both accounts. I think it was a combination ofboth of them. Sometimes there wasn’t anywhere to go and sometimes he waslooking maybe for a little bit more yardage than what the play wasdesigned. A lot of times, indecision by a tailback looks like he isn’twilling to hit it up in there and that is not the case. Sometimesindecision occurs because he sees where the hole is, but he seessomebody filling that hole and nobody is on him. In other words, wherea guy comes free and he is in the hole and it looks like, boy, he oughtto cut back. He has pretty good peripheral vision, so you get a littlebit hesitant and consequently you don’t make good decisions, but Idon’t question his courage. He did protect the football and to me thatis absolutely critical.
Q. Catching punts?
COACH HOLTZ: I think Autry catches them. I thinkhe runs well. Whoever is going to line up at the right depth and dothose things would be the guy to run it back. Right now, I would sayEmmett Mosley. I think Autry Denson catches punts as well as anybodythat we ever had here.
Q. Part of the lack of being sharp, would you include the second halfwhere there was one stretch you got a little upset — more than a little upset, I’dsay — when two plays in a row, they drew a penalty for delay and then hadto use a timeout. What was the problem, too much time in the huddle orwhat?
COACH HOLTZ: Jack, I didn’t think I got upset. Everybody always talks about howupset I get. I thought I was exceptionally cool. I watched that filmlate last night; then watched ESPN. I had said something to the officialand he didn’t think that was the case, but he would look at it a littlebit more. You try to fall into a rhythm there and a lot of it — Ithought this happened. I have had this happen to me before. The ballis marked for play sometimes a little bit more rapidly than we haveever seen it and, as Ron said, he said the guy wasn’t even down, theball wasn’t marked for our guy to get in the huddle and the 25-second clockwas underway. I have never had a problem getting theteam in and out of the huddle and get plays called. You have followedme for several years and we called them exceptionally quickly yesterday,but it is just thatRon said that the clock was starting, you know, before the ball wasmarked, before we got in the huddle and consequently, it was 20 seconds. Ilooked up one time, and then it was 22 seconds, you know, we were just comingback from the punt and the clock was at 22 seconds. I mentioned it to the official. He was very nice about it.He said, well, he asked the other ones to take a look and see if maybeI am marking yours a little bit quicker than the other ones. I didn’taccuse him of it and just seemed to be that way and the quarterbackbrought it up. For us to have to use a timeout is something I cannotaccept and yeah, that would cause me to get upset.
Q. Lou, you talked about rhythm on offense. How much was thatdisrupted when you have Robert Farmer fumble on the first series and allof a sudden Autry Denson immediately goes back to tailback in the secondseries?
COACH HOLTZ: It doesn’t help any. All Iwanted to do was to be able to protect the football and to have the ballon the ground seven times, Farmer fumbled three and Edwards fumbledthree. And the thing about Edwards, you look at it, you say, well, arewe being fair? Edwards had a pretty good history of protecting thefootball over the years. But this is something that we cannot tolerateand it is unfair to the football team, but it should not happen. I mean, if they take you tothe morgue, I mean, they should have to pry that football loose fromyour rib cage. But when you get holding penalties and you get seven fumbles, than it is just awfullydifficult to maintain a rhythm. We never really went to the optionwhich is probably what we should have done, should have run a little bitmore option. We only ran the option twice. Once we didn’texecute it properly. You know, all we had to do was pitch the ball andwe didn’t pitch it. The other one we got a first down, but we didn’trun it particularly well, but we couldn’t get outside on them. We hadtrouble running up inside on them and we became predominantly aright handed football team. We ran the overwhelming majority of ourplays and I know our opposition knows it’s behind Mike Doughty and MikeRosenthal.
Q. With the fumbles and concerns and the penalties and everything, howmuch can you build on it with the character of this football team ofwhat they showed on that final drive?
COACH HOLTZ: I don’t question the players. You know, the early gamealways scares you. Injuries are such a problem. You are looking at Renaldo and you are looking at, you know, Kaczenskiand Doughty, you look at Powlus, you think about Cobbins and Tatum, youdon’t want to get anybody injured because numbers and depth is a problem. I tell youwhat, I think that they have a lot of character and they want to begood. We will grow from it and we will benefit from it. We make noexcuses. As I say, if you look at it statistically, those weresome good games, statistically, but it didn’t amount to points. Westarted off with very poor field position predominantly because we letthe punt bounce or we got a clipping penalty or a holding penalty. Idon’t know. Three times we started inside our 10, didn’t we? You know,that is a long way to go.
Q. Lou, a week ago you were real strong and had depth at tailback. ThenKinder strains a muscle and all of a sudden this problem with fumbles. What are your plans other than starting Denson, if you need help backthere?
COACH HOLTZ: Well, I think we will get that thing resolved. Ithink what we have to do is we have to play Jamie Spencer a little bitmore, but Jamie has not protected the ball as well as we would like, buthe went in and played very well. He didn’t play asmuch as he should have but he played well. I think we got to look atGood speed. We’ve got to look and keep searching. I will tell you this: Woody Hayes had a great tailback. Ran back the openingkickoff, I think it was against Baylor orsomebody and he is running for a touchdown — opening kickoff opening game –fumbled the ball on the other team’s five-yard line running into the endzone and Ohio State lost the game 17-14 — and the guy was moved to defenseimmediately. These are not going to be tolerated. I mean, it is thatsimple. It is unfair to the football team, unfair to the defense, andit is just not going to be tolerated. I think the players understandthat. They don’t fumble because they want to, but nevertheless, you arethe guardian of the football. Without it, you cannot play a game. Youcannot play a game of football without a football, so, obviously, it isthe most important thing in the game. Now, if you got the most importantthing in the game, then I would expect you to protect it like you wouldyour scholarship.
Q. When you say “Jamie Spencer more in the game,” would that be thenmoving Edwards to tailback or would it be in place of Edwards atfullback because of the fumbles?
COACH HOLTZ: We are going to protectthe football. That is No. 1. That is the only thing I am going toshare. One thing I say about Ron Powlus, Ron made some bad throws, mademore bad throws yesterday than I have seen him make, but the one thingthat I talked to Ron about was protect the football. And Ron didn’t tryto make the great throw. If he erred, he is going to err on the sidewhere it is going to be an incompletion and you know what? That isn’tall bad, was it? Some people can say, I am going to make this greatthrow so everybody can see how great I am and yeah, they hit two ofthose and the third one is picked off, so I think you’ve got to make surethat you just protect the football regardless of whether you are aquarterback, runningback or fullback.
Q. If I can just follow it up one more time. You mentioned you don’tknow if it is fair given the way Edwards had protected the ball in hiscareer at Notre Dame. Does that mean you might take a look at someoneelse starting at fullback?
COACH HOLTZ: No, we wouldn’t start somebodyat fullback. Give somebody else a chance to play. Let me tell you, wearen’t going to jump around — Edwards felt terrible. Robert Farmer feltterrible, but we are going to protect the football and we are going toget a message across. We will get a message across — if you protect the football and you play without the balland you block, you will play. Not how many yards you make; not how manytackles you break; if you protect the football and play without it.
Q. One other question — is there a reason why Cooper didn’t getinto the game more yesterday?
COACH HOLTZ: Yeah, there was, but itwouldn’t help me to go into it now. What happened on it, Coach UrbanMeyer was upstairs and he didn’t tell me, but he wanted Cooper toplay more, but Mosley wanted to play. Mosley didn’t tell Cooper he issupposed to go in. That will be taken care of. That is why I said Ididn’t really want to go into it, but…. (Laughter).
COACH HOLTZ: We knew that Evan Law lined up to the lineof scrimmage. The thing that they did differently, they didn’t play ashaded nose. They played a two-gap nose man. Using that type ofdefense where they play it — consequently, he would — where if youupset him sometimes he is not a factor in a play. Without being head up,he plays very, very well and makes some good plays so they pinchedthe ends much harder than they had and that we have seen. Other thanthat, I thought they played a little bit more zone than Ihad anticipated. But, no, they didn’t do anything different. Didn’tplay as much double eagle as we anticipated, but basically other thantwo gap nose, they didn’t do anything much different.
COACH HOLTZ: Well, I think the quarterback is certainlycritical, his attitude and his confidence in the huddle. That is thesame as it is with the coach. That is why I say I try not to get upseton the sideline because you send a message to the players, boy, we arein big trouble. They jump up and up and throw your hat, rant and raveand they say, boy, are we in trouble now. Same thing with thequarterback. Ron threw a couple of badpasses, but looking at it on film, there was a guy hitting him as hethrew and he saw the guy coming and he erred on the side of conservatismand I appreciate that.
COACH HOLTZ: I think we can be a good solid offensivefootball team, but we are going to have to develop Cerasani. He is going to have to come as tight end. I think he gives us somethings. We want play Chryplewicz as many plays he played. I think wehave to solidify certain positions in the line. I think we gotto protect the football and we got to play better without the football. Are we capable of doing it? Yeah, I think we are. Why didn’t we do it?For a variety of reasons. Everybody is excited. Everybody just wantsto win so badly and gets overanxious and overexcited and fires off theball without a lot of technique. I think we are going to be limitedbecause we don’t have great speed at wide receiver, but we can getpeople open and we had them open yesterday. But we will just have towait and see as we go along. I intend to become a very good offensivefootball team, I might add, but we aren’t right now.
COACH HOLTZ: The defense carried us. Thatdoesn’t happen very often here, but they carried us and that was great. Ithink that we can get some things resolved. All I want to do is getthrough the first couple of weeks and see where we are and go fromthere. I am not as optimistic as I was a year ago because a year ago,it would be 10 guys really excellent and one guy not doing his job ornot being successful and so consequently, it would be a three-yard gain.And yesterday it was a three-yard gain because of several people. Imean, it was not a case, oh, if this guy gets hit, he is gone — itwasn’t that at all. So I don’t know how good we could be. We will haveto see.
COACH HOLTZ: I really think that his struggling was tosecure the ball and it would have been nice if the backs would haveshared the same enthusiasm for that, just ball security. I cannotemphasize how important ball security is with the quarterback. He mighthave been a little overly cautious on the one option we ran that — ifhe had pitched the ball, but I think that, you know, he wasn’t as sharpas I have seen him. The field sometimes can be a little bit different. There was pretty good size crowd. They looked like Oklahoma. Everbeen at Oklahoma Stadium? You stand on the one side and you can seetheir head and shoulders on the other side. They would be running thatwishbone down — they had a huge crowd, like Texas Field will bebasically — they had a huge crowd and sometimes that affects yourthrowing a little bit but I thought that, you know, he hit some bigpasses when he had to.
COACH HOLTZ: What he says was we would be okay lastweek if the official didn’t have a jump ball. We did. We should havehad a safety man back there with him. Can that happen on the jump ball?Yeah, that can happen. But I think that we have got to get a littlebit better position; get a little bit more help out of the safety, butthat is going to happen. I mean, but boy they tackled well and they arequick and they covered well and so, you know, we will live with theother one. But I thought the secondary played very well.
COACH HOLTZ: Well, I mentioned last week we tried eightfield goals from the 20 and only made one and that greatly concerned me. I just like a kicker to be positive and to attack it. Just go attackthe ball and to be positive. And Scott just didn’t hit the openingkickoff at all and he didn’t hit the field goal at all. And I felt,well, you just go by what is in your heart. If he said well what logic– there is no logic for it, there is no explanation — I just felt it in myheart I think that guy is going to kick the ball. And he did. Firsttime he kicked it, I mean, boom, it exploded. Then he kicks off abouteight yards deep in the end zone. I have never seen him do that before. But that was very encouraging what he did.
COACH HOLTZ: No, one thing I said was that one thing wehave done, we have protected the ball well this fall than we had. Andwe hadn’t fumbled the ball. Never fumbled. Something we haven’t done.
COACH HOLTZ: I think that the main thing that I don’tworry about is, you know, I thought he did what we asked him to do theentire game, protected the ball. He enabled us to move the football. Ijust, you know, all we want to do is win and I thought he showed anawful lot. It was first and 27. He just you know, he never — just theway he handled himself and the team and was patient. You know, first wehad Emmett Mosley for six; then we had Nelson for about nine; then he comesback and hits Malcolm Johnson for about 15. I mean, hedidn’t get impatient. He didn’t panic and, you know, just took what wasthere and that was very encouraging. Well, I felt defensively we showedsome signs and I understand we are going to face some real explosiveoffenses in the future. We didn’t necessarily face one yesterday, butlet us give Vanderbilt a lot of credit, you know, they took theTennessee team at Knoxville last year and held them to 12 points. Everygame is going to be a struggle as much as it was last year. We don’thave the big play guy. We had 434 yards without a big play. There isgot to be something positive in that. It wasn’t like you got 60 on oneplay and then 40 on this one. We had it where we didn’t move the ballvery well but Rocket or somebody would make a couple of big plays. Wedidn’t get any of those. So we are going to be a very plodding typeoffensive football team. But I do think that we have a chance rightnow, you know, to move forward and let us see what we do against Purdueand see if we get better each and every week. If we eliminate theturnovers, eliminate the penalties and poor field position, who knowswhat will happen. But we are not going to be an explosive offense. Wedon’t have the overall speed, don’t have the breakaway. We can’t dothose things. That doesn’t mean we can’t be good. Just means we aren’tright now. Their isn’t a lot of defensive coordinators that stayed up aslate as I did last night. They probably slept very sound after watchingESPN.
Q. Not to stigmatize anybody, but if Edwards’ history of protectingthe ball kind of is a plus for him, Robert Farmer’s history is kind ofthe opposite. Does that work against him?
COACH HOLTZ: Well, I think,you know, you just have to go with protecting the football and Edwardshas a challenge and he has got to protect that football in the futureand Farmer has that as well, but let us look at it and let us see whatwe can do to — first of all, I think when mistakes happen it is alwaysvery easy and very convenient to blame players – well, he fumbled and hedid this. I think before we start blaming players, I think we need, ascoaches, need to look at it and myself included, have we prepared themadequately; have we spent enough time with the proper drills; have weemphasized it enough in practice; have we put him in situations – let usnot put the blame on the players. Let us look at it as coaches first. This time, this is my mistake. It is not the players. Let us not put theblame on them. All I am saying is we fumbled the ball. It wascatastrophic. We are lucky to get out with a win, but I am not going toput the blame on the players. I accept the blame and we will go fromhere.