Sept. 22, 1996
Off The Practice Field…Head Coach Lou Holtz
JOHN HEISLER: This is John Heisler here at Notre Dame. Coach Holtzwill make some opening remarks then we will take questions.
COACH HOLTZ: I had the opportunity to look at the film late last nightin depth and detail and, you know, it was just a tremendous game. I washoping to see a replay so that I could see it, like to see it from a TVpoint of view, but it was an excellent game. Looking at the film, Texasplayed very well and did a lot of things that we weren’t quite readyfor. Defensively they played us with an eight-man front. They did moreblitzing than any defense we have ever played against.We thought they might make some, but it really went contrary to GaryDarnell’s style and I thought he put together a brilliant defensive gameplan. Their safety man was within five yards of the line of scrimmage, and Ithink made 18 tackles. But I also knew that their secondarywould be the strong part of their defense. That is considered the bestsecondary in the country and I felt that they would play a lot ofman-coverage and put people up on the line, so I wasn’t surprised bythat but I was surprised by the amount of twisting and things that theydid a long that line.
Offensively, they didn’t change an awful lot ofthings except they ran up inside more than we anticipated. A year agothey hurt as an awful lot on the perimeter. We made up our mind that wasone place they weren’t going to hurt us. We knew we would be a littlebit vulnerable inside, but I was surprised that we held them to 312yards. When it was over, I couldn’t believe that. I thought ourdefensive coaches did a tremendous job at halftime making someadjustments – taking away their passing game which we did pretty much inthe second half.
As far as our football team is concerned, let me touchdefensively. It wasn’t one of our better efforts. Losing A’JaniSanders in the second series of the football game really hurt a greatdeal. A’Jani gave you the ability to play man-coverage and do a lot ofother things, but I thought Benny Guilbeaux and Ty Goode stepped in anddid a very commendable job under the circumstances. I thought AllenRossum played an excellent football game. He and Ivory Covington. Ithought our corners played very well against some very, very finereceivers and really tackled well. We didn’t tackle as wellon defense as we have and we didn’t play as well, fundamentally,but then again, I think Texas had a lot to do with it. The thing thatamazed me was in the heat that we played as well and with as much effortin the fourth quarter. I was worried that we didn’t substitute enoughearly in the ballgame and that the heat would catch up to us, but itdidn’t seem to bother us. But it was very, very hot down there on thefield.
Offensively, we lost Mike Doughty early in the second quarter –and Mike Doughty had played exceptionally well for the quarter and ahalf that he played. Luke Petitgout came in and in his first bit ofaction that he has seen on a consistent basis, he played awfully well.He had a few mental errors — that hurt us. But overall, I was verypleased with the way Luke Petitgout played. I also thought ChrisClevinger played his best football game maybe since he has been here atNotre Dame. Chryplewicz played well. I thought that Ron Powlus did thethings that he had to do protecting the football, et cetera, and our backsplayed well. We started Jamie Spencer. Jamie hurt his ankle and JamieSpencer had never really played in a big ball game when the game was indoubt, but what little he played, I was really impressed with. So I am anxious to have Jamie Spencer come back and get healthyand get the ankle better. I think Jamie is ready to play at critical times in agame. I really was most pleased with the way he responded in thefootball game. When he got injured, Marc Edwards had to come in and playmuch more than what we had anticipated and for not practicing, MarcEdwards is the first football player I have seen that didn’t practice muchthat week and played very well on game day. I thought Farmer and Kinderran the ball well; played well, were involved with the game and we haveto get the ball to Kinder and Farmer far more than what we are doing atthe present time. Autry Denson was excellent. Autry carriedthe ball 24 times for 160 yards or something like that and many of them werecritical runs. I thought our backs blocked well and played well.
Whatcan I say about Jim Sanson, except the young man has an awful lot ofcourage. He stepped up. He kicked that field goal from the three, bootedright through and then the long one, it could have been good from the 45or 50. What is amazing is we haven’t hit many of those in practice. Heis very inconsistent in practice. I nicknamed him “Foul Ball” because hekicks a lot of foul balls in practice, but you know, his dad is a coach– I think he is — and his dad has given him some great leadership andsome great advice. Themost encouraging thing was when we got ready to kick it, boy, theplayers, there wasn’t any doubt in their mind that he would make it andthat that’s a guy that they wanted in there. And that had to make that young manfeel very, very good — the way they rallied around him. Jim never getsnerved — you can’t get him rattled — but it was a great place kick.
Other than that, I was disappointed in our punting game. I felt that ourkickoff was very good. Our coverage, once again, was very good. Ourkickoff return, we really didn’t get a chance because they either hadthe wind and kicked it out of the end zone or they pooched and we areright back and we go through this every year. They kick off to us earlyin the year and we run one back and then they start pooching it. Butother than the penalties on the kickoff return, I thought the kicking,PAT, field goal, kickoff, kickoff return was neutralized. But our punt –we got a bad snap. We allowed a guy to come through and that wasdisappointing. We have really hurt ourselves with our punting game andwith our punt return. And we can’t continue to do that. However, theplayers really did compete well. There was never a negative thought onthat sideline by the players. There wasn’t any doubt.
It was a greatenvironment. There was tremendous enthusiasm. The crowd was really loud.There were so many turning points in that football game, you go back youget nervous. We are down 14 to 3 and they are moving the football and wetake the kickoff and put on a beautiful drive down the field. I mean,that was — that drive was really critical because if we were 14 to 3and we only go three downs-and-out or pick up a first down and punt. Wedid have 27 first downs, which shocked me. But that drive was criticaland then, you know, it is mind boggling. We get the ball just before thehalf – and this has happened over and over and you people witness asmuch as I have – all we are trying to do is make sure they don’t get theball again before the game ends and next thing you know we are in theend zone and I don’t know how it happens because we don’t work on thetwo mini drill very much, but that one was critical. The third quarter,we did not play well on offense. When we got behind 24-17 and drove downto the 35, I was disappointed. We had run a fake punt, which if itdidn’t go, I could live with it. But we weren’t to throw the ball out ofthe end zone. The ball was to go up with a lot of height and come downaround about the 5, somewhere between the 3 and the 10 yard line; not 9yards deep in the end zone, so we really didn’t get a chance to seewhether it worked or not. I think it had a chance because they didn’thave anybody back deep. And the guy chasing him down, chasing DekeCooper down the field, couldn’t tell it was a punt. And so if theydidn’t have a safety man back, then you go down there and then twothings happen. Either you catch the ball because the guy blocking youisn’t sure going to try to catching it or else you get passinterference. If Deke could have just gotten under control — and sothat was disappointing. But now they get the ball on the 35 and KoryMinor comes up with two big plays and LaRon Cobbins. Cory Minor throwsit for a 3-yard loss. We get the interception. And then we put on a nicedrive. We take the ball. We drive down and we get to about the 10 yardline and we go to the 3. We put Marc Edwards down and the peopleupstairs said, I think he is in the end zone. I said no, they didn’tgive it to him. Well, my feeling is if they didn’t give it to him, andthe guy thought he is in the end zone, the ball is going to be on the 6inch line. We run a quarterback sneak; well it turns out we are on aboutthe one and a half. We get down to the 6 inch line and now you are inthe 6 inch line, everybody knows what we are going to do. That is no bigconcern mine. My feeling is; we tell our football players, if you can’tget six inches, you don’t deserve to win. We run the base play, but thecrowd is really loud and the ends are the ones that jumped off side andI don’t fault the ends. They can’t hear. I couldn’t hear. But now, youknow, that is all part of the game. That is all part of playing on theroad, but now we are on the 6 and things really look bad andwe run an option from the 6 yard line. We run the option from the 6 yardline and for the second time in a row, our fullback went the wrong wayand I mean, might need to try to run it that way, but Autry Denson thengot in the end zone; very well blocked by Luke Petitgout; by MikeRosenthal and Peter Chryplewicz. Those people really did a tremendousjob. Powlus pitched the ball a little bit early, but a tremendous effortby Autry Denson. So now you kick the extra point; there is 2:50 left togo in the game, we kick the ball off in the end zone and there is stilltime to score to win.
The bad punt was really critical. I think thatthey got off a bad punt which is the first bad punt he made. We hadBobby Brown open; overthrew him. That could have ended the game there,but it just was back and forth; took a lot out of our players. It wasvery hot. It was emotional. We are beat up pretty good. I haven’t gotthe injury report, but I don’t think Chryplewicz can play. Mike Doughtyhad back spasms very badly and we hope we can get those resolved. If wecan, he will be back. We definitely lost A’Jani Sanders and, in allprobability, we lost Peter Chryplewicz which are two tremendous blows tous. But you know, we will go from here. Ohio State, you know, if youtell me you are going to play somebody that is averaging 71 points agame, I wouldn’t be trying things — should we full-court press him;should we man-zone; should we play a box and one. I have never hadanybody averaging 71 points a game. Other teams are only averaging 3.5,average more than that in hockey. So it is unbelievable but right now wewill go from here, but a win should help our confidence somewhat; yet atthe same time, it also illuminated some of the deficiencies we have as afootball.
Q. Coach, without going into all their personnel because you haven’tprobably studied them close on Ohio State, but are you a littlesurprised that they seemingly have replaced all those Heisman Trophy andAll-American players that got out of there last year?
COACH HOLTZ: I am not surprised defensively because they have 10starters back on defense. They have Vrabel who is all-Big Ten. They havea defensive back by the name of Shawn Springs who is as good a defensiveback as there is in the country. I think he is probably the best we haveplayed against last year. You know, their whole defense is backs, sothat does not surprise me. I am surprised with the productivity theyhave on offense. I knew they had a great offensive line. Most of themare back in Orlando Pace. They have maybe one of the top two tackles infootball. Now, Jack, if you will notice, I didn’t say in collegefootball. People had said he had come out last year he would have beenone of the first five players picked. I knew their offensive line wouldbe very good. Pepe Pearson, I think it is, tailback, they have a hugefullback. I knew they were would be good on offense. I don’t know whatthey are doing on offense, but I want to tell you, 71 points a game isunbelievable and I don’t care – I don’t care who you are playing and Idon’t care, that is impressive. I have not had a chance to see them onfilm. I haven’t seen them on TV. I have not seen any highlights but theyare obviously a notch above everybody else just based on statistics.
Q. How difficult of a coaching situation are you in this week comingoff such a big game at Texas and then having to face Ohio State?
COACH HOLTZ: Well, this is one of the more difficult things. Last year,if you recall, we played very well against Texas and won the game andwent down and played Ohio State and we made some mistakes. Now, we didnot turn the football over at all yesterday. Texas only turned it overone time. So we played a pretty flawless football game as far asprotecting the football. Then we went down to Ohio State last year andmade some mistakes. In the punting game, we fumbled a snap. We got hurtwith a lot of big plays. It is very difficult to come back particularlywhen you lose a couple of people. You know, when you are scoring 70points a game, they are going to come in here well rested. They aregoing to come in here very enthused and you know, I have a lot ofrespect for John Cooper as a football Coach. But we are going to go intothis game beat up and, you know, mentally very, very tired. But thething about it is, we know it is a big ballgame and I am anxious to seehow our football team will respond it to. But make no mistake about it,it is very difficult to have a football team ready two weeks in a row.
Q. Coach Holtz, what did you get — does a team get a certain amountof confidence, though, when it goes to a place like Texas and wins likeyou guys did? What has been your experience with teams in the past, doyou see a different kind of level of confidence on a team aftersomething like that?
COACH HOLTZ: Well, I think going down there andplaying in front of a large crowd and, you know, the noise factor and,you know, every time Texas did something positive, which was quiteoften, I mean, the crowd went absolutely fantastic. And we ran an optionone time and this was very critical in the football game. Perfectlyblocked and we had — Ron Powlus came down and optioned the one guyleft. And we had a hat on everybody and we pitched the ball. I mean, RonPowlus has a 7 yard gain when he pitches the ball, and we missed a blockon one of the defensive backs. Had we made that block, Randy Kindermight have been able to pick up another 25, but we missed a block. Theguy came up and hit Randy Kinder and I mean, we ended up losing aboutthree yards on it. I mean, it was an unbelievable hit. The crowd justwent crazy. Then when they showed the replay, they went twice as crazyand then you know, we have to punt the football and they partially blockit and they drive down. I mean, it was a momentum thing. You are on theroad and the crowd gets loud, but what we learned at Vanderbilt and whatwe learned at Texas, if anything, is this: That we know how we are goingto react when we are behind. Away from home, in a hostile environment,and I say hostile, it should not be the word hostile, but it should beintimidating environment, and yet our football players hung in there andthe sideline is just a very, very fun place to be with this footballteam even when we are behind. And you know, the coaches are competing;the players are competing, and so I think in that, that our players aregoing to gain confidence in the fact that when things aren’t going well,is we know how this football team is going to react.
Q. I wonder if you get more out of scouting Ohio State from thefilms that they had against you last year or if you will get more out ofscouting them against Rice and Pitt, two teams that really haven’t beenable to deter them from doing anything and the fact obviously this yearyou will see some different personnel?
COACH HOLTZ: Well, it isdifferent personnel and they might be emphasizing different things. Ihaven’t seen any highlights or anything else. Now, they had anoutstanding defensive coordinator last year. Did he go to Arizona State?
COACH HOLTZ: He went to Oklahoma, okay. That is — butthey also had an outstanding defensive staff and so they played very,very well on defense. We will look at last year’s game obviously. Wewill look at this year’s game also because, you know, when JariousJackson is our quarterback and I want to say this publicly, JariousJackson has had a tremendous week last week and Jarious Jackson is goingto be an excellent passer. He is going to be an excellent passer. Nowwhen Jarious Jackson is our quarterback or Eric Shappel, our offensewill be somewhat different. Our offense will be somewhat different thanwhat it is right now. So I think when is you are looking to evaluatewhat people, you have to look at the personnel they have. I don’t knowwhat they are doing defensively. I haven’t seen them, but I do know theyhave 10 starters back from last year’s’s defense, and you know, theyhave done an excellent job against Pitt and Rice. But we will have tolook at last year’s film, but we also look at this year’s film. I am notlooking forward to looking to this year’s film because I don’t –obviously they have done some outstanding things.
Q. I wonder if you could reflect back to at this time last year whenyou were having your health problems and you had lost to North Western,how much better is it this year and also having the game at Notre Damerather than in Columbus?
COACH HOLTZ: Well, I’d like to go down and playthem in Columbus again. I mean, that was an unbelievable environmentthere. You had all the ex-athletes there lined up coming out and it wasa very, very exciting time. I don’t think where you play really has awhole lot of bearing on the football game. I really don’t. We are gladto be at home because it is just a little bit easier in thesurroundings, etcetera. But last year, we had lost to North Western andwe tried to bring the team back. After the opening game last year, theonly game we lost was to Ohio State in the regular season. We ended upin the regular season 6th in the country. We played pretty well againstthe Florida State team. But this year I feel about the same. Every gameis absolutely critical and we know Ohio State had a great football teamlast year. I don’t think that we can get into a scoring contest withthem, yet they had such great success in moving the football on us lastyear it concerns you…
Q. How difficult was that on you personally?
COACH HOLTZ: Every yearis a little bit different. I am not trying to avoid the question. Thisyear the players have a little bit more confidence. We are probably moredisciplined; a little bit more mature in some areas, and our hopes andour ambitions and the expectations of people are much higher this yearthan last year. We were just trying to build our confidence and ourselfimage at this time last year. Where, right now, you know, we are 3 and0, but we have been behind in two of those wins in the fourth quarter.But Texas does have a good football team and, you know, they have thesame problems we have this year. Texas this week has to go on the roadto play Virginia and that is not going to be an easy thing because whenyou play two games tough back-to-back, as you and I both know, it isvery difficult. Ohio State is going to have the same thing. You know,they got Penn State the week after. That is their first Big-10 game andif John Cooper is as smart as I think he is, he probably should work onPenn State this week. That is what Woody would have done.
Q. Coach, there was so much hype here last year before the NotreDame game for months. Can you give us an idea whether you and yourplayers have been hearing much about Ohio State this year up in SouthBend?
COACH HOLTZ: The same hype that you had at Ohio State last year wehad at Texas this year. I mean, it was the same thing; talked about itfor months and meant an awful lot. But no, nobody said anything to meabout it and don’t get me wrong we have great respect for Ohio State andthey are one of the top 5 teams in the country and one of the 5 topprograms in the country of all time and I am from Ohio and I understandthat. But here you better be focused. That is all everybody talked aboutdown at Vanderbilt. Stadium was sold out – sold 29,000 seats andtickets. Last year they sold 11. With us you just focus on it, the gameyou have got to play that particular week. And don’t get me wrong,tremendous respect for Ohio State, as I say, but I hadn’t thought aboutOhio State because we were worried about Vanderbilt in the opening gameand we are worried about Purdue and Texas; now greatly concerned aboutOhio State. And I look and say, gee, Washington lost one game by 2points to Arizona State and then turn around Arizona State is nowundefeated and beat Nebraska 22 to nothing. You look at Air Force, theyare playing great defense. We know how well they move the football. Andthen we have Navy, they are r3 and 0. And so what I am saying to you is,yeah, you are aware of what is somebody doing down the road you have toplay, but you don’t know anything, you don’t know how they are doing itor how good they look on film. You just look at it and say, wow, thenyou see BC almost beats Michigan at Ann Harbor 20 to 14 they lose or youhad 14 to 7. But you just try to stay focused on the task at hand thatweek. That is one thing you have to do here at the University of NotreDame. Maybe you have to do it at other places, I don’t know, but youbetter take care of business here that week at Notre Dame.
Q. Share with us what was going through your mind…
COACH HOLTZ: I am sort of in a state of shock walking across the fieldand a guy comes running up and grabs me and when a man comes up and hugsyou, your first reaction, you know, and it is Bob Davie — all ourcoaches have been a great asset, but Bob agreed I have so much respectfor our coaches in general and the respect you have for Bob. We talk alot on the phone, you know. I have a button I can press where I amtalking to the offense or talking to the defense, etcetera, and youknow, one stage of the game when we are talking and we just shared somethings and his faith and belief, he never doubted for a minute we wouldwin the football game no matter what the situation. He came running upand hugged me, said I told you we would win it, Coach. He said, I hadtold you. I was happy for him. That game meant a lot to him. He gave agreat pep-talk. I talked to the team, but I am not real emotional withthe team. As I say, a guy gave me a great pep-talk and I ran down in theopening kickoff and I got hit in the throat and couldn’t remember a wordhe said, and it was just gone. I always talk to our team and then thisyear, I have had it where a different coach talks to them before thegame for a couple of minutes. Bob, gee, Bob gave them unbelievablepep-talk. Kids were so fired up, I had some other things I was going tosay. There wasn’t anything I could say. They didn’t want to hear me.They wanted to go and play. But it was a great win. It really was and Ithought that our defense did a tremendous job; particularly the secondhalf.
Q. First time I think you ran the option, Powlus kept it, I don’tknow if that was option or not was that important or not…
COACH HOLTZ: When we run an option and I guess we probably ran five thewhole game which is more than we have run with him at any time. Usuallywe will run two or three, but they played a lot of man-coverage. We runan option, it is basically not designed for him to keep the ball. Ipromise you, they won’t play Jarious Jackson the same way they play RonPowlus, but when they do have you pick the ball and it is pretty wellblocked and we will probably end up with a first down and I thought hetucked it up in there and ran very well with it and got about 7 yards.It was critical. He has no reservation at all about doing whatever hehas to do in order to win.
Q. Showed Texas that he wouldn’t carry the ball rather than just forgetting the option…
COACH HOLTZ: I don’t think there isany doubt that you know, he will move the to change some. You are notgoing to score from 30 yards out. But it does cause somebody to beassigned to him. See, all an option is this: An option is where thequarterback, in essence, is blocking the end. For example, if the endhas to take the quarterback and he pitches the ball, then he hasneutralized the end and then that gives you an extra player fordifferent blocking schemes, etcetera. And we ran it about five times andit was successful, I think, ran it six times, it was successful four.Some big plays.
COACH HOLTZ: I agree with you. It was a dumb call.Stupid call. Nobody in there right mind should call that. It is like thequarterback went in the ballgame and had a play called 23, quarterbackdidn’t think that we would go and so he automatic — he ran the 19 playand 19 scored and came off the field and the coach said, why did youcheck the 19. He said, I looked over there and the one cornerback waswearing 10 and the other quarterback wearing 9. He said one cornerbackand the other was wearing 8 and I put 10 and 8 together and added themup together so I ran 19. The coach said 10 and 8 are 18. The guy said,you are right, if I was as smart as you we would have lost. It is thesame thing here. It was a stupid call, except I felt it was the bestcall and we give us the best chance to win and if we executed it – if weexecuted it – I felt we would score on it. Now Autry Denson did have todive into the end zone, but he got to about the 1 untouched. Had thefullback gone the right way, he would not have had to dive in the endzone. But I just felt it was the best call. I really did. I just — youknow, a lot of times you have to go by what you feel in the gut and Ihave got to say this: You look at film, and you try to anticipate whatsomebody is going to give you and those calls are made by yourpreparation during the week. Where you say, okay, if we have to do this,what would be the run we would run; what would be the pass we would run.And try to put yourself in that situation. But I think that just showsyou never know what a crazy person is going to do.
COACH HOLTZ: Peter was limping a little bit in thegame and yet he made an unbelievable block on 2 point — or on thetouchdown. Hurt his ankle. It was swollen quite badly yesterday. When hehad a bad ankle when he was a freshman, he wished a while. One of thosehe finished the game; just puffed up, really going to prevent a littlebit of hardship for us, but we will just have to see.
COACH HOLTZ: Well, when we scored I was saying I amreally glad we have overtime now because your decision is easy – kickit. I am not sure we would have went for two because there is still 250and we had three timeouts. If we kicked it off into the end zone, theyare going to be on the 20 and that means if the score is tied, then theyare go be forced to try to score as well. And if we can play gooddefense and they throw an incomplete pass or two, the clock is going tostop and if we get them in third down they run the ball, we can use ourtimeout. So we — if we went down and played defense we would still getthe ball back. And so I think I probably would have kicked it because itwas 250 left and 250 is a lot of time if you feel you can kick the ballout of the end zone. If you go for 2 and you make it, now, you got toplay defense, but they are going to anything goes, they are going tothrow it over the middle; they are going to throw it in a milliondifferent places. If you go for 2 and you don’t make it, now, what theyare going to do is they are really going to milk the clock and it isgoing to put tremendous pressure on you. Now you are going to run onsidekick and if you don’t get the onside kick to that, then they will getthe ball deep in your territory like on the 50, 45. Whereas if you kickit and you kick enough and they start on their 20 and it is a tied game,worse it is going to do is go into overtime if we play defense. But Ihave got to say this: When we got ready to line up at that field goal, Iwasn’t real excited about going into overtime because then the momentumwould have been going towards Texas. Then I was wondering if we win thetoss and we take defense first and Texas gets the opportunity to defendone end of the field or to play it on one of the end of the field, whatwould take? They would probably take it against the wind because thewind would not affect their kicker from the 25 yard line. If they wentthree downs and didn’t make it, he still has plenty of leg. And so, Iwas a little bit worried about that and so a lot of things go throughyour mind. But I can’t tell you, that young man just flat hit that ball.I mean, whoom, it was no foul ball on that one. That was a solid hit.But the great thing was the confidence that everybody had in them beforehe even went out there.
Q. Were you surprised that Texas ran the ball from the 20…
COACH HOLTZ: I felt this: With the score tied, they ran asweep, I want to say, to our right for about three yards; then I forgetwhat the second play was. The third play was they tried to run thetightend on a hide and they had hit that a couple of times on thirddown. We jumped it pretty good. It was overthrown. They ran the ballsecond down also?
Q. No, they got a first down on the 31.
COACH HOLTZ: Yeah.
Q. Then they ran it three times (inaudible)
COACH HOLTZ: They threwit on third down because we were going to — they did run it aftersecond down because I thought about using a timeout then to stop theclock, but I decided we would use it after third down if they ran itagain. But you know, we got the ball in real good field position twiceand unfortunately last two times we got the ball — we got the ball ontheir 35; then we got it on our 40 for the last drive. Anything else?Okay.