Sept. 17, 1996
Off The Practice Field…Coach Lou Holtz
JOHN HEISLER: This is John Heisler here at the University of Notre Dame. Couple of quick reminders:Kickoff this week in Austin will be 11:10 am central time. Reminder that we have our regular Sundaywrap-up at 10:30. You can call us for details on that. At this point we will have Coach Holtz makesome opening remarks; then he will entertain questions.
COACH HOLTZ: Okay. First thing I will address a little matter. I am not aware of how many people usemy name in rumors, and innuendoes, etc., but it is unfair to our team; it is unfair to a lot of things, unfairto other people to have in the NEW YORK TIMES and on TV that I am going to the Dallas Cowboys. There isnot element of truth to that. I just don’t know where these things start or where they get their information.It just completely mystifies me. But in any event, it is unfair to our team.
As far as our team is concerned, let me cover the health phase of it first. Marc Edwards and Mike Doughtywill not practice today. I don’t know whether they will be able to practice tomorrow. But Tchaikovsky saidonce if I don’t practice one day I know it and if I don’t practice two days the experts know it and if I don’tpractice three days the everybody knows it. And I have never had a football player that has missed themajority of our time in pads and played up to the level of performance that is going to be needed in this typeof football game. Other than those two, we should be pretty good. Peter Chryplewicz will have a caston his hand the rest of the week. We will just have to see what is going to happen.
I was hoping for warmer weather, but it has been a little cold here and when we go out to practice about4:15, 4:20 really gets cold. Yesterday I had on a sweatshirt, a sweater and a jacket. It was quitecomfortable. Down there it is going nobody the mid-90s and heat does concern me. Heat concerns mebecause it is in the middle of the day. In the past when — you know you have had this type of game youknow, you played Southern Cal, you play here in October; you play there in November. I hope Texas will bewilling to move this to November. I think it would work out very, very well. Or else bring them up here inlate November.
But the heat does concern me a great deal because we don’t have a preponderance amount of depth. Wehaven’t had an awful lot of people to play as much as you’d like.
And you know, particularly with the long TV time-outs, etc., it is going to be a long, hot afternoon downthere.
It is hard to tell what kind of preparation we will have as we haven’t started in practice in pads yet, but theplayers had a tremendous attitude yesterday. They are looking forward to it. I don’t know how excited theywill be after they look at Texas on film. First thing you do, you look at the Texas game last year, wehad some very, very good breaks. We scored on a punt return by Emmett Mosley before we ever had theball. Our first time they punted we ran it back for a touchdown. Allen Rossum ran a punt back for atouchdown — excuse me, ran an interception back for a touchdown and we recovered a fumble on their 12yard line which set up a touchdown.
Late in the third quarter Texas was ahead 20 to 19. And they ran the ball. I don’t know what total yardagethey had, but they had about 450 yards total offense. This is probably the most talented Texas footballteam that I have seen and I have played against some of their great ones when I was at the University ofArkansas. You know, they have always had great athletes, defensive secondary, this is certainly nodifferent this year than it has been in past years.
I think you look at Westbrook at corner, etc., they are really excellent players. We played them when theyhad Earl Campbell. He was a great back, but he was the main back that they had. They have threeoutstanding running backs. You look at Williams. You look at Mitchell. Those two played against us last yearand the guy Priest Holmes was there starter two years ago and missed all last year with an injury. So theyhave three great running backs. They have outstanding quarterback. I think Brown only lost two games thathe has started. He has the ability to evade attackers; very, very accurate thrower. He just a very, veryskilled athlete who is also an outstanding quarterback.
I compare him very, very favorably with Kordell Stewart at the University of Colorado. As a matter offact, offensively they remind me a lot of Colorado. The fact they have a great athlete a quarterback,whether it be Brown or Kordell Stewart, Colorado had the Heisman Award winner at tailback whereas theyhave three great running backs. They had the great wide receiver Colorado named Westbrook. University ofTexas has a great receiver, Michael Adams.
Plus they have a very, very good compliment of cast of characters with those people, but you look at theskill positions, I don’t think I have ever seen a Texas team be as talented at all the skilled positions as theyare. As I say, when you try to compare them to who we played in the past as far as personnel, Coloradocomes back to mind. I need not tell you what happened in the Bowl Game, in the Fiesta Bowl Game. We didn’thave much success with them.
Defensively, they have given up, I think it is four touchdowns in their last four games. I think in the last 16quarters they have given up four touchdowns. They are playing very, very well and they are playing with agreat deal of confidence.
I think you know, Bryant Westbrook, as I said excellent defensive backs, very, very number 50 — number96, Chris Atkins who played against us last year played awful an awful well – 290 pounds. People at Texasrun very well. They are very solid and of course, they have an excellent kicking game. They blocked onepunt against New Mexico State. Their punt return man Mike Adams is really a real threat. I mean, they giveyou an awful lot of problems. Better athletes on their kicking teams than what they have had in the past.
What is going to be the key in this football game for us, as I say, offensively, we are going to have to playawful well and we can’t have the mistakes that we have had.
I think Texas is a very consistent football team, but if I had to categorize them, I could would call them abig-play football team. We are not a big-play football team and we aren’t going to get a lot of big playsagainst them, either run or pass. Our longest run this year has been 17 yards and that was on a reverse.Our longest run buy a fullback or tailback this year is 12 yards, so if you aren’t a big-play football team,what you are going to have to do, you are going to have to be very, very consistent. We have not reachedthat yet. Although, I think we are getting better in being a little bit more consistent. I think the kickinggame is going to be critical. Because of the heat, we are going to take most of our starting offensive anddefensive players off the kicking game and we are going to try to fill in with some people and they are goingto have to rise to the challenge. I think our football understands how good Texas is; how explosive they are.But on the positive side, we have an awful lot of athletes from the State of Texas. I think we have fivestarters on defense that are from that state. They were raised in that environment. I think it is Bert Berry,Alton Maiden, Jarvis Edison, A’Jani Sanders, and Allen Rossum, so we have five that are from the State ofTexas.
Our players will not be intimidated by the crowd. When I say hostile crowd, I am not referring to a negativecrowd. I am just, you know, you overhear when we played Florida State when played Miami and those andyou know the type of environment that is generated at a college campus. I guess they are going to have thelargest crowd they had. They put in extra bleachers. I know the tickets cost more. It is on nationaltelevision. Everybody I talked to says, boy, this is the biggest game. They have been talking about formonths down there. So they had an Open Date which is certainly to their advantage, but we have noexcuses. We are looking forward to going down and play them, but yet at the same time, we know we have adifficult challenge. I had hoped that we would come into this game with far more confidence on offenseand far more confidence in our kicking game than we did at the present time.
However, maybe we can get some down there, but that is not the ideal place to try to purchase it.
JOHN HEISLER: Questions.
Q: I know going into the season you were — I guess the secondary is one of your concerns. Talk a little bitabout how the secondary played in the first two games.
COACH HOLTZ: I thought secondary played very well with the exception of our third and 38 play at NorthWestern, I thought we played well. We weren’t challenged much with backs breaking into the defensivesecondary. I thought we played the second half last week against Purdue.
We were hurt some on third down and 10s in the first half, but I thought the second half, our footballplayers went out and really played well in the defensive secondary. The secondary was the one area whichwas very, very questionable going in. I must say Allen Rossum really responded very well. Covington isplaying well. Jarvis Edison is playing well and A’Jani Sanders did not practice much last week but he playedvery, very well against Vanderbilt. I hope he will be at full speed, if not, than I have a lot of confidence thatBenny Guilbeaux will step in do very, very good job for us. They have played well, but they have not beenchallenged the way Texas will challenge us. I think Texas is averaging about 448 yards a game. They arerushing for something like 235 yards a game, and about 5.8 or 5.9 yards a rush and they are throwing forover 200 yards. So what really gives you some problems is when they have the backs, it can go a longways once they break into that secondary clean and so you can’t double Mike Adams; you can’t do some ofthose things on a consistent basis. But I have been very pleased with what our secondary has done, butthen, again, we haven’t played Texas.
Q: If I can follow-up on that, what do you see in Rossum as a player as a high school player and reason yourecruited him, that sort of stuff?
COACH HOLTZ: I remember going to Allen Rossum’s home. I think it was right after the Cotton Bowl, we hadbeaten A&M and the next day we had visited Allen Rossum, and just being impressed with him. He has very,very good speed. He has — he is very outward going. If you ever talk to Allen Rossum, I mean, he is abubbly, enthusiastic type young man. I don’t care what you are talking about, when I go out doingcalisthenics, warming up, he is one guy that I like to talk to. He talks to you about everything and he willvoice his opinion. He has got a lot of confidence, very talented. He got beat some when he was a freshmanand sophomore early in the year and Allen Rossum was forced to go in and play before he was adequatelyprepared or adequately ready and yet he had never got down hard and never got discouraged; moreimportantly, never lost faith in himself. And we felt the last half of last year he really started to come onand this year he has played very, very well.
Q: Coach, Notre Dame has played only Vanderbilt and Purdue, quotes around that, but Texas’s twoopponents, Missouri and New Mexico, New Mexico state, whoever it was, aren’t exactly Nebraska either.Is there any edge, one way or the other, for either team in preparation or scouting, when neither one hasplayed what the other people recognize as tough teams?
COACH HOLTZ: Well, I think that the preparation would go to the team that (A) has most people back and (B)has an extra week to prepare. Not just — it isn’t just preparing — when you have an extra week, whichwhat you have the opportunity to do is (1) you have the opportunity to get healthy. You cannot minimize theimportance of getting healthy. No. 2, you have a week where you really don’t have the pressures on you andthe players can relax a little bit more then they are excited to get back. Number 3, you can change somethings offensively and defensively.
Now, had our game against Vanderbilt not gone down to the wire, you know, you can possibly say well,Notre Dame was hiding something. They didn’t want to show this; they didn’t want to show that. We havehad to show everything. I don’t know if Texas has showed everything that they are capable of doing becausethey haven’t been in a tough game and they haven’t been challenged, but I’d say the advantage goes to theteam that has the opening week. And Mackovic is 7, 0 and 1 and I want to say this about John. He has done atremendous job at the University of Texas. He went into that program when it was down, did a good jobrecruiting. He has done an excellent job of coaching, and he has them now where they are a top 10 team,you know, for the last couple of years, and based on the talent they have, they will be a top 10 team for thenext couple of years.
Q: Talk about your defense; whether or not this is getting close to what Bob Davie really likes to play with?
COACH HOLTZ: Yeah, I think defensively we are approaching the style that we would like to have. We areplaying with confidence. We are playing aggressively. We aren’t doing an awful lot of blitzing or things likethat, but we are playing aggressively. More importantly, we are playing as a total team. I think you have togive Bob Davie and defensive coaches an awful lot of credit for the development of our football playersfundamentally. There is some talent on there, but I think to see Renaldo Wynn develop; to see MelvinDansby, but the most pleasant surprise has been Alton Maiden at middle guard. I think what he has done hasreally solidified our inside. He is a very difficult player. He is not going to make a lot of big plays but manytimes somebody else has an opportunity to make a big-play because Alton Maiden played really and truly ateam defense. But the thing that pleased me the most about us on defense is we are playing as a team. Weare playing with enthusiasm. We are playing fun and we enjoy playing with each other and I don’t think youcan minimize that.
Q: If you could just again on the defense, in assessing it, do you have idea of how good it might be — I wasjust looking up, this is the fewest points that any of your teams have allowed through the first two games.Is that a sign of the competition or how good your defense might be?
COACH HOLTZ: Could you ask me that Monday? I don’t know how good we are on defense. I think we arebetter than we have been for the last couple of years. But then again, we really haven’t been challenged andcan we continue to do it? – I don’t know.
I hope our players think they can. It is going to be a challenge for them. The way I answered it afterVanderbilt and I guess I could answer it after Purdue about our defense, I remember somebody asked CoachBryant, he said what kind of football player was Leroy Jordan in high school. It is my understanding LeroyJordan came from a very, very small high school, I think he played 8-man football. I am not sure, but avery small high school. Coach Bryant said he looked like a great player should look in 8-man football. And Iall I can say about our defense — I don’t know how good Purdue is on offense and I don’t know how goodVanderbilt is on offense. But our defense the first two games has looked the way it should look if it is notplaying an outstanding offensive football team. We have played some offensive football teams that weren’toutstanding and they have had some success moving the football.
The one area that we have not excelled in on defense is when we get a team backed up, they have been ableto get a couple of first downs and get the ball to mid-field and then punt the ball away and because of ourinability to make good decisions or whatever the case maybe, we end up with it inside our 10 yard line, Ithink, four times this year in two games.
But I think our defense is fun to watch. I think we are a good defensive football team. I would not say we area great defensive football team. I think we are a good defensive football team, but a good defensive footballteam. But a good defensive football team will not slow down Texas.
Q: Can you talk little bit about Ron Powlus’s performance so far, and how much have you used the Blarneyoffense in the first two games?
COACH HOLTZ: I don’t know who gave that name, the Blarney offense, but I want to promise you this: Itcame from outside our football offices. That is the last name we would give it. But I assume that came fromthe media but be that as it may. I don’t know what a Blarney offense is. I don’t know what it is supposed tobe. What I can tell you our offense still has not changed much except we will do some different formations.We will split people out. We will do some different things. But it is still the same. We like to be able to runthe ball. We like to be able to control the football, but we have been unable to do that.
I got a letter last week — no, at the luncheon a guy set up a question and said when you are going to throwthe football, we are tired of watching you run the football unsuccessfully. Well, I hate us watching us runthe football unsuccessfully. I love to watch us run the football if we get first downs. But there isn’tanything worse then to run the football and not get first downs.
We threw the ball 32 times — I think we through it to — how many times in the first half at Vanderbilt? 20.We through it 24 times in the first half last week which I guess is an all-time record at Notre Dame. I can’tbelieve that. But you throw the ball 20 times, and 24 on another (inaudible) that is because you aren’t ableto run the football as consistently as you what you’d like. We are going to continue to work on our passinggame. We will continue to do the things that we have done, but we are going to have to be able to be abalanced offensive football team.
Q: Can you talk about Ron Powlus’s performance so far?
COACH HOLTZ: Ron Powlus, I think, has done an excellent job for us, I really and truly do. He threw oneinterception in two games and that was when the receiver slipped on a go rout and it was one-on-onecoverage down the corner of our end zone and our receiver Malcolm Johnson who is 6’4″ started to jumpfor the ball and his foot slipped out from under and it fell and they intercepted it. Other than that, he hasdone nice job protecting the football. I think he has done a nice job. We put a lot of pressure on him to make alot of calls and do a lot of things at the line of scrimmage, etc., and I think he can throw the football moreconsistently than what he is at the present time, but by the same token, when Ron Powlus (inaudible) haserred he is a — he is on the side of conservatism, where you have a guy running the flat and the defender isslightly behind him, that is the only guy you can throw to, then we would appreciate if you are going tomake a mistake, you lead him where only he has a chance to get the ball. That has happened a couple oftimes, but I don’t know what other peoples’ expectations are, but I thought his drive against Vanderbiltafter we fell behind the fourth quarter was exceptional in this respect. We got a 17 yard penalty. We arefirst and 27. He hits a short guy, that is the only guy open for five yards; hits a freshman, another guy for9 yards; then he comes back and hits Malcolm Johnson for 14 yards in three straight plays. The patiencethat he showed, he didn’t panic, he just took what the offense was there, and I think he has done anexcellent job with it.
Q: You had some pretty classic games with Texas here in Austin when you were at Arkansas. Is there anyone particular game or couple of plays that really stand out in your mind from those trips to Austin?
COACH HOLTZ: Yeah. One, particularly. 1978, we came down there, I think we were No. 2 in country. Wereally had a good football team. And we jumped up on top of that and I had a little defensive back who was asenior he was 5’7″. He was second team and he was a senior. He came in to see me. He felt he could help uswin. He wasn’t playing a whole lot. And he — just didn’t think he could judge the ball well. We went downthere and if you recall the game in 1978 – I forget who your tight end was. He was a good one.
HOLTZ: Yeah, might have been Sampleton. We jumped on you pretty good, second play, Ben Cowins wentabout 70 yards against you, excellent defense, Johnnie Johnson and other people. But in any event we lostVaughan Lusby. And we put in the young man who will remain nameless at the present time and you throughthree touchdown passes over him and you beat us, I want to say, 28-27 or 27-21, or something like thatand that was really a heartbreaking loss because I felt we had a good football team. Then we came back thenext week, came down to Houston. I didn’t bring that same team back; then Houston beat us. Then at the endof the year, I thought we were as good a football team that I had coached that year.
But that was probably as talented a team as I have had. We went down to Austin and I thought we were abetter football team than the University of Texas, but, boy, playing down there is not particularly easy,and I really think about that game. I don’t think about it during the season, but when you ask me to reminisceTexas, that is the first game that comes to my mind at Austin.
Q: Getting back to Powlus for a second, given your knowledge and understanding of the great Notre Damequarterbacks, I am wondering where you would place Powlus and if he is not in the highest echelon, whatwould it take for him to get there?
COACH HOLTZ: I can’t evaluate that. I think like anything else, is winning the National Championship. I thinkthat is a primary thing and the other thing is how well you do when you go on and play in college — I mean,in the pros, how well you do.
Could I take you very briefly through Joe Montana’s career as I understand it?
COACH HOLTZ: Joe Montana, as a Junior, didn’t play. He was 13. And I think Joe Montana — this is when hewas Junior, went down to Mississippi, I don’t even think he played. He was a Junior when they won it all.He went down to Purdue and they were down by three touchdowns and the second string quarterback theyput him and he gets injured and they put Joe Montana in and he brings them back to victory. And this isjunior year, he hadn’t played at all.
Then he didn’t even start the following week. They started somebody else and they were behind. They puthim in again. He brought them back to victory; ends up bringing them to the National Championship that year.Now the next year of course Joe Montana had the great comeback against Houston down in the Bowl Game.Montana went down there and he beat the University of Texas in 1977. They had a great football team, EarlCampbell I was talking about, but he also had some pretty good athletes on that football team, I mean, youknow, Ross Branner and some other people. So unfortunately, a quarterback is many times evaluated basedon what kind of team he quarterbacked, and if you happen to be with a team that maybe is deficient in onearea or so, it is going to hurt you. I thought there was at least two years where Rick Mirer led our offensesas brilliantly as you could lead it. I think we went two years there and I don’t know if we lost one game42-39; we lost another Game 35-34, but you are only remembered at Notre Dame by how many NationalChampionships you win. While it is a little bit unfair, it wasn’t like Joe Montana had three great years hereor started as a sophomore and got all the accolade. I mean, his Junior year, he is 13. That is not anexaggeration.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about last week’s game against Purdue? You broke Rockne’s record for gamescoached at Notre Dame. And how you felt about that.
COACH HOLTZ: Are you on ESPN now? Are you taping this now?
Q: Yes, sir.
COACH HOLTZ: Okay.
Q: You are making me nervous with that answer.
COACH HOLTZ: I feel awkward answering it because I think that longevity doesn’t mean a thing. All thatmeans is that you get up in the morning, you don’t have anything else to do. You continue to do it. I havebeen blessed with great administrators. I have been blessed with great athletes and great coaches, as I saidand I mean that sincerely. Notre Dame has done more for me than I have ever done for them. If I go out andplay 125 rounds of golf which I love to do, but I don’t get a chance to do it, and Greg Norman plays 43, doesthat make me a better golfer just because I played more rounds? I don’t think that the number of games thatyou played — this guy — I do not ever see a record where he had 26,000 at-bats, that is NFL — all I hearis how many hits, how many doubles, how many home runs, so the amount of times at-bat doesn’t meanmuch.
Q: Did you think about it at all last week? Did you realize you were breaking the record?
COACH HOLTZ: No, coming out of the tunnel I thought a little bit about it. Only time I really thought about itlast week was the night before the game when my son called me, he wanted to know how my heart was. Isaid my heart is pretty good. He said “do you have problems with headaches?” I said, “no.” I said, “why areyou asking?” He said, “nobody has ever coached this many games; I thought maybe your health was due togo” or something like that. I said “no, I don’t think so.” But I really didn’t think about it. I didn’t think aboutit after the game until the players had presented me with that plaque, which I said to them well this mayencourage me to coach for several years longer; they tried to take it back.
Q: You mentioned the other day something about Darrell Royal being very instrumental in your coachingcareer, can you elaborate on that?
COACH HOLTZ: When I was 26 years of age or so and I was at the University of Connecticut and I think theyear was about 1965, Texas had won the National Championship. We had a running back name Ernie Koy. Heran the wing and powersweep, etc. and so I paid my way to go down to the University of Texas in thesummer. And I went down there in the summer and I took a list of about, I don’t know, 80, 82 questions,something like that, that I wanted to ask Coach Royal and I went down there, didn’t know anybody, didn’ttell anybody I was coming; ran into Bill Ellington who was backfield coach. He was the only guy in the office.He was very nice to me and talked and he talked to me about their wing tee and their offense, etc. I said Ihave got some questions I’d like to ask Coach Royal. Coach Royal happened to be in the office. So when Billtook me in the office it was like 11 o’clock and Darrell Royal was obviously going to play golf. I introducedmyself as the assistant Coach at Connecticut. I was rather young looking then. He was rather kind. He said”what can I do for you?” I said I would like to ask you a few questions about handling players, motivation,how you motivate, how you discipline, etc. Things that just didn’t — how you handle it. Which some day Ihope I can be a head Coach and I think you do an outstanding job in this area and I just like to be able to canask you some of these questions, do you mind. He said, no, I don’t have much time, I am going to play golf. Ihave them written down. I pulled out the list. I want to tell you, I started reading from the list. And heanswered them. He answered them in depth and detail; didn’t have a recorder, but I wrote those things downand about 5:30 or 6:00 o’clock we are still there and he answered those questions and I must have spent sixhours with him and I had the notes, of course I — I know that when I was at Arkansas I got out those notesand I would reread them from time to time. Many things I say are things that Darrell Royal said in thatinterview, you have heard me say, well, we just have to close range; somebody pick up the rifle and marchon, I mean that was Darrell Royal, and if a dog is going to bite you do it as a pup and I asked him aboutdiscipline, motivation, just about everything.
I wish I had asked him how you get to be a three handicap when you are 60 years of age in golf because he isan excellent golfer; just a wonderful person. And other than the people I have coached for, that meetingprobably had more to do with my philosophy and handling people in discipline than anybody else I have had.He just had a unique way to put things in words. He could say it in words. You can sit there and you canlisten to him forever. He had a unique ability to do that. So the fact that they are going to honor DarrellRoyal, I’d love to be part of that honoring Darrell Royal; what he did on the field was tremendous, but he didit with class. He and his wife, I think his wife’s name is Edith, beautiful people, he just — I love to readeverything. I read his book that he wrote years ago. I, to this day, I love to just sit down and listen toDarrell Royal talk about football in general or life in general.
Q: You are going to whip out the list before this game?
COACH HOLTZ: I can’t find the list. When we moved what happened, and this is unfortunate, but when Imoved here from Arkansas, they packed up a lot of boxes and if you come in my office, you know, I cangather a lot of stuff and so they packed up all my boxes and sent them here and they put them in the storageroom and somebody didn’t think very much of them they threw them away. And they were discarded and sothere were a lot of things in there that were discarded within the first year after I got here, sounfortunately my original list of 108 goals was in it as was the notes from Darrell Royal.
Q: I think as you had mentioned —
COACH HOLTZ: The income tax — after I left Minnesota, we got a full audit. What a headache. You don’t haveto worry about that. That was years ago. I am okay. We got money back. Anybody else have a questionon the air?
Q: Did you ever talk to Royal in later years after you had become an established Coach?
COACH HOLTZ: Oh, yeah. I have talked to him many times. I have written to him. I have said it publicly. Welaugh about it. We laugh because I came in and I also want to say this: Bill Ellington could not have been anynicer. Bill Ellington took me out to eat. Made sure I had a place to stay — and I went down there under no –for Darrell Royal to take that whole day and spend it with me was really incredible. I have talked to himabout it. I have written him. We laugh about it now. But it was a very, very important meeting. As I say, itwas summer of 1965, I think it was.
Q: Can you talk about how when teams beat Notre Dame it puts them on the map. Texas hadn’t won a NationalChampionship since 1970 and they are looking at this as a possible stepping stone to get back to that era.Talk about what wins over Notre Dame means to other schools?
COACH HOLTZ: I don’t think there is any doubt that a win over Notre Dame carries a great deal of prestige.One it — a win over Notre Dame, I hope the people realize it down there, saddens an awful lot of people andI hope they will take that into it account. But also probably exhilarates probably an equal amount. I don’tthink a win over Notre Dame is necessary for Texas to gain a national recognition, reputation. I think theydid that last year. I think the success that they have had, I think beating the, you know, Texas A&M onnational television, etc. Texas has such a great reputation and, you know, Florida, Tennessee is a big ballGame, but Keith Jackson and Bob Griese are down there in Austin because this is a big game because I thinkTexas really and truly does have a legitimate chance to win the National Championship- I don’t think there isany doubt about that. They have that caliber of football team. And I think you can look at it and say, yeah,they are very capable of winning it all. They have a very, very aggressive defense; great secondary;very, very skilled people; big-play people. Solid kicking game. And a very well conceived offense anddefense. So, yeah, I can see why they think that.
A win over Notre Dame and two losses to somebody else though ain’t going to do it.
Q: How would you compare this to last year’s trip to Ohio State in terms of the excitement and enthusiasmthere and also you are 0 and 3 at Texas, what kind of lessons do you learn from those losses that you takewith you there this time?
COACH HOLTZ: Well, don’t play a five, seven defensive back if you lose your starter and play a man-to-manon the tight end who is 6-6. That is number one.
Number two, the other year we played them I had lost Monte Kiffin our defensive coordinator to NC State asHead Coach. He is now the defensive coordinator in the NFL. I lost some several key coaches. And we playedthem on August 29th. They moved the game up first for national television. We played them at night. And sothat was the second one.
The third one we went into SMU to play SMU and I think we were undefeated in our 10th game. And we wereto play Texas fourth game of the year. We usually played them before Oklahoma. So they moved the gamewith Texas to the last game of the year for national television and we played SMU when they had Dickersonand James and went undefeated, and it was just a tremendous football game. And they scored with about aminute to go and it ended up tied. We ended up 17-All. It was a very controversial penalty in that game of46 yards on pass interference, but after that game was over we went down to Texas the next week and didnot play particularly well and Texas really played well. That is only time I really felt our team playedpoorly down there.
But going down to Austin, it is a very difficult place to play. The stands seems to be far away. The lockerrooms are not air-conditioned. The fans get excited. They rent Big Bevo out there. I think they play BigBevo at home. I don’t think they play — they play him at home. Just a hard environment because there is anair of excitement and Texas plays so well at home. Some teams play very well at home. I don’t thinkNotre Dame plays particularly well at home and one of the reasons — it is hard with the luncheon and withthe pep rally and just everything else to remain as focused, but Texas is very, very strong at home. Soeach time we have lost down there – I remember the game quite vividly – but I look at it this way: The oddsare in our favor. Odds are absolutely in our favor this time.
COACH HOLTZ: Ohio State was, I think, very, very similar. Everybody had been excited about the OhioState/Notre Dame game. They looked forward it to. What it does, when people look forward to a game,here’s what — they don’t make mistakes. Last year I don’t think Ohio State had a turnover in the wholefootball game. They made great throws; great catches; gave great individual effort, much like we did lastyear against University of Texas. We had some great individual effort by our players. I mean, tremendousefforts. Autry Denson made tremendous effort on third down and 12 where he just had a superb effort toget the first down. And I just think that they will be very — Texas will be very well focused andenthusiastic. Everybody has been looking forward to it. That is all everybody is talking about. That wearswith your players. I’d rather we go down there and have them be talking about the volleyball game orsomething, or talking about you know, I just think this: I think that Texas fans ought to be upset that RossPerot is not in their presidential debate. I think that ought to be their main concern they have at the presenttime.
Q: Of all the coaches that a young guy from Connecticut could have gone to, why did you pick Darrell Royal?
COACH HOLTZ: I picked Darrell Royal because they had won the National Championship, I want to say, in1964. I liked the way that they ran is the wing tee. They had played Arkansas on TV, but I just liked thestyle of their offense. I liked the way they did things. And just felt that this would be the best place to go. Ithad come down basically to either Bear Bryant or to Darrell Royal. And I just was happy that I chose AustinTexas and, you know, — and you know what is really amazing about it? I am assistant Coach at Connecticutand didn’t make much money and my wife never even second guessed my decision to go, which maybe tellsyou something, but it really and truly was to go into that first class environment, big time, huge stadium,everything else about it, really made a very, very strong impression on me in the years to come.
Q: You said a second ago, you said the odds are in your favor. Can you elaborate on that a little bit more?
COACH HOLTZ: Because there is no way we are supposed to lose four. God didn’t put me on this earth to losefour times there. Odds are in our favor.
Q: Allen Rossum, any chance you might rethink just having him return one kickoff per game?
COACH HOLTZ: We don’t have — yeah, there is a chance that he could. There is a chance that he could, butbeing honest down there in that heat, Brian, he has the speed that goes all the way. That is the one thing youlike on him. But if somebody has a 6 or 7 play drive and he has been running down and he even cramped up alittle bit Saturday, you know, because of the surface and the playing field, but I would consider — it wouldbe a rare exception, it would have to be a decision made. We have the fewest number of kickoff returns ofany team in America and we are the simplest. Not because we shouldn’t have, but I think that the worstmessage you can send to your football team is to have eight different kickoff returns. I played on teams thathad 10 and we used them all every game. We don’t want to have any, but — yeah.
Q: On the subject of hostile environments, you have been talking about it, of all the players that you havetaken football teams at the different places that you have coached, where does Austin stands on the list ofhostile environments?
COACH HOLTZ: It would be up there with the very best, I think Austin. I think Ohio State. I thought BostonCollege was one of the more difficult places to play I have ever gone to. I have only been there once.Birmingham, Alabama was a very, very — hostile would not be the correct word. Intimidating would be abetter word. I think Ohio State can be intimidating. Austin is definitely intimidating. Alabama is intimidating.I thought that Boston College was just different than anything I have ever seen. Now, I thought Duke was ahard place to go into and Duke really had good football teams when I was at NC State and there was neveranybody in the stands and you had to walk 120 yards to the fields and then the people played super. I didn’tmean to elaborate on that. Was there something else you wanted to ask me? But I would say it ranked upthere with Alabama, Ohio State. I think Southern Cal is intimidating to a certain extent, but what you gainfrom Southern Cal is the players have seen so many games on TV there and the Olympics and you just sucha great tradition and history of it; when you go to a place that has tradition and history, you sort of getexcited to go in there a little bit. Miami, that is a different place. There is a classification beyond that.(audience laughter) Miami — I don’t think I have ever taken a team into an environment as quite like Miami.Ohio State was close to it. I would think Austin would be close to Miami. You know when there is a certainexperience you have, you try to block out of your mind, you know, forget you ever had it? Miami, OhioState and Austin would probably come to my mind on that.
Q: I assume Autry starts as tailback. Does Randi become No. 2 and what kind of rotation do you envision?
COACH HOLTZ: Robert Farmer played very well last week. We played very well on offense and defenseindividually. But Robert Farmer played well with the football played better than I had ever seen him playwithout the football. Randy Kinder has not played in over a year. He didn’t do anything in spring practice.Randy Kinder only had two limited scrimmages and he didn’t carry the ball very much in that. So we aregoing to bring him along. He will play on Saturday, I am sure, but how acclimated he is would depend on howmuch of the load he carries. Fortunately, Randi has a lot of experience playing, so he should be able toadjust to it quite rapidly. Just something we are going to have to see.
Q: Deke Cooper change positions?
COACH HOLTZ: Yeah, we made a change. We took Deke Cooper; put Deke Cooper at free safety behind JarvisEdison. Took Ty Goode; put him at corner and we took Shannon Stevens from corner and put him at flankerand in all probability, he will back up Emmett Mosley at flanker. I think Deke Cooper will continue to play inthe kicking games which he has done. He will play some nickel-back. I think Deke Cooper is going to be anoutstanding defensive back. I think that is his natural position and I think he is going to be outstanding there.
Q: Is there a long-term possibility of Cooper being outside linebacker?
COACH HOLTZ: No, I don’t believe there is any chance whatsoever that Deke Cooper will move anywhereexcept to safety on this football team. You know, a guy like Ronnie Nicks, who is a little fullback, littlestrong safety, will probably end up being inside linebacker next year and he knows it and he is eating likethat is where he wants to be.
Q: It is early in the week, but do you have a sense — you have a pretty veteran team. Do you have a senseas to how they are going to react to this situation this week and you have had one game where it turned outto be very close but this is a big build-up game, do you have a sense as to how your team is going to reactto this?
COACH HOLTZ: I think the team will react favorably. I think that from the time you put on A pair of shoes,you want to be in A high pressure game; you want to be where the stakes are high and they are very high inthis football game. You don’t always want to go on the road and feel that you are at a little bit of adisadvantage.
I am excited about it from — you come to Notre Dame to play these type of games. I just want our playersand the only thing I am going to say to them is enjoy it, enjoy it, relish it, cherish it, savor it. Whateveryou do, don’t let it cause you to worry or get nervous or have intrepidation. I mean, nobody is going to sendyou to Bosnia after this game, just enjoy it.
Q: First question is being on the field for the first time with all the new seating, what kind of impact, oncethose seats are filled, will they have on the players and of course yourself? The second question is howintimidating is it for other teams to come in to Notre Dame or is it hostile for them?
COACH HOLTZ: Very good question. When I looked at the seats around there, it looked like when you just go– like it was a roof that was shading the other people, but I think when those seats are filled, I think it isgoing to be an awesome place to play. I think that you are going to have — the atmosphere is going to bebetter than it has ever been at Notre Dame because you are going to have more people and almost the sameamount of space, so to speak. They are going to be close to the field; not a bad seat; going to create agreater excitement when you consider the pep rallies, and the luncheon; we come out of church and I mean,there are a thousand people waiting for our players. I think it is going to create a better environment. Ithink playing at Notre Dame could be a little intimidating except that everybody looks forward to playing inthis stadium because it is, you know, one of the most famous stadiums and there have been a lot of greatgames there; a lot of great athletes. Even Jim Otis, when he was with the St. Louis Cardinals, made thecomment to me that one of the great thrills he had was when he played an exhibition game here and when theBears played here– I went to see Dan Hampton. I coached him at Arkansas Dan Hampton said that was oneof the great thrills he was looking for being able to play in that stadium. So if a pro is talking about anexhibition game, I know what the other players are saying when they come in here. We sort of get a littlebit of that when we go to the Coliseum in L.A. that they get when they come here.
COACH HOLTZ: Any other questions?
Q: I don’t know if you heard a reaction of the crowd when Jarious Jackson came in the other day. Are yousensing a backlash or negative tone toward Ron this year?
COACH HOLTZ: No. And I don’t pay any attention to it. Let me tell you this: Everybody wants to know twothings that is a Notre Dame fan. Who is the new Coach. Who you think will replace him; then everybody –who is going to be a new quarterback. We had Beurlein and they want somebody else. When we had Beurleinthey wanted Andrysiak, we had Andrysiak they wanted Rice. We had Rice and they wanted Graham. Thenthey wanted Mirer. Then we had Mirer and who was behind Mirer, I don’t remember, but it goes on and on.So, you know, I don’t worry about that. Some day the people are going to be appreciative that they have hadRon Powlus here. I will tell you what, I think he has handled tremendous unfairness in a lot of differentrespects with an awful lot of class.