Sept. 29, 1996
Off The Practice Field…Head Coach Lou Holtz
JOHN HEISLER: Good morning. Coach Holtz will make some opening remarks;then we will take some questions.
COACH HOLTZ: The game startedoff with the opening kickoff when the right side didn’t collapse and oursafety man didn’t play it well. I can’t remember the last time somebodyreturned a kickoff to our side of the field and it just — got momentum.Then we have them third down and 8 and we miss a tackle and thequarterback scrambles instead of kicking a field goal. They get a touchdown and we get the ball and drop a 40-yard pass. That is the way the whole day went. I want to congratulate OhioState and credit them. I thought they played an outstanding footballgame.
Let me talk a little bit about our front 7. I thought ourfront 7 on defense played awful, awful well against a very, very strongoffensive line. If there was one thing that was really criticaland there were so many plays in the game that were critical, but we didnot play well, particularly, other than our front 7. I thought Rosenthalplayed very well. Doughty played well. I thought Powlus played prettywell. Marc Edwards played awful well. But two minutes and 16 seconds togo, they had the ball on their 16 yard line and in three plays theywent 74 yards and that touchdown before the half was really critical.Going down 15 to 7 is a little bit different. We came back in the secondhalf. I still felt we could come back and win the football game. Cameback the second half and drive down to about their 5-yard line; onsecond down, a tremendous effort by Vrabel. The young man made atremendous effort and tackled Powlus after a 2-yard loss and we had tosettle for the field goal. The game, you still felt in the fourthquarter we had a chance to win. Hindsight, I look back, on fourth downand 11 from their 26, probably should have kicked a field goal, but atthat time I felt we needed touchdowns and ran a play on fourth down and11. We came up with a yard short. They had a blitz. Ron had to releasethe ball a little bit quicker than what we would like and the receiverconsequently came up a yard short. Nice tackle by their safety man.
Defensively,they just made plays with their receivers, but I thought our front 7,considering everything, played pretty well and held up pretty wellagainst the run. I was afraid people would play man-coverage and jump upon it and bring their safety man up to the line of scrimmage and withthe twist and the stunts we could not handle it. I feel bad for ourplayers. I have never had a team play this bad in a big game since Ihave been coaching. And I am sort of mystified why, although I havecertain reasons to suspect certain things. But even in the warmup,we weren’t very sharp. I told the team in the locker room, I said, I havenever seen a team have as poor a warmup as we did and I couldn’t tell youwhat it was. And then, to get off to that terrible start, we foughtback; played somewhat intelligent, but the turnover hurt, the fumblehurt, obviously. But the main thing was our inability to movethe ball consistently the first half and then the drive with two minutesand 16 seconds to go in the punt return. But we did not playwell. And the better team won.
Q. Lou, when you are talking about you are mystified as to the reasons,are you pinpointing lack of adequate preparation or effort on theplayers part?
COACH HOLTZ: I don’t fault the effort of the players.I think so much of it has to do with confidence. Players were excitedabout playing. But you know, Ohio State was impressive on film and youknow, it is impressive when you play somebody who is averaging 71 points agame and has scored every time they have had the ball, with their firstteam. The kickoff. Everybody is excited togo down there and make the play. And I go down, but we had five guys that they didn’t even account for on the kickoffreturn. Five guys on the right side, which instead of folding in theiranxiety, they are going to go down there and splash the guy on the12-yard line. They run down there, well, the guy is by him. No, itwasn’t a case of wanting to play at center. We just weren’t sharp.
Offensively I look at it, when people run a lot of twists — wehave always been a smash mouth football team. That is the nature of ourgame. And what has happened is we have gotten away from that and becometoo much of a finesse football team and yet when people lock up on ourreceivers, one-on-one, we have trouble. I give Ohio State credit onthat, you know, just looking at it, and I want to tell you this: I thought Powlus played an excellent football game. I thought hewas under tremendous pressure. I thought he ran the club well. Hechecked off well; delivered the ball where it had to be. He threw twointerceptions. The one interception he threw was after we drove downthere – they came with an inside blitz and we had a crossing rout routewith the two receivers where they would pick on one another and theydropped a linemen out. I think it was a linemen thatintercepted the ball. Nose guard – he dropped out and here comespressure and he drops out and he sees man-coverage and see him crossin,that was picked up. The other interception was a perfectly thrownpass. The tight end just had it for the first down; bounced up and theyintercepted it, but I thought he played well.
Q. Coach, you talked about that you didn’t give your players as good achance as they could have had. What do you mean by that and also did yousee the altercation between Coach Cooper and one of your players and ifso, do you know what happened there?
COACH HOLTZ: I can’t believe Coach Cooper would get a confrontation with aplayer. I know John Cooper and I have too much respect for him. If hedid anything, he was just trying to break something up. What I saw wasit was a pass that hit our receiver and bounced up in the air and theyintercepted it and Ron Powlus came over and made a very, very goodtackle. I mean, probably the best tackle we had by a skilled positionplayer and as he rolled over and started to get up, and I am sure hewasn’t in the best mood, somebody pushed him down, you know, and youcan’t tell from film. I don’t fault anybody, but I don’t believe Coach Cooper — I just would beshocked and I just can’t believe that happened and it didn’t show on thefilm. And I looked at the end zone copy and I looked at the regularcopy, the sideline copy and the end zone copy. I did not have the endzone copy, the kicking game yet, but I did look at the side-view of it.
Q. Are you concerned at all with what Ron Powlus said afterwards aboutthe season being over, the National Championship being over and theimpact that may have on the rest of the team?
COACH HOLTZ: Oh,tremendous devastating blow to us, yeah, you are concerned any time youset your goals high and you lose them this early, yeah, it isdevastating, and — but I tell you this — we will addressthat. We will address that. I am concerned aboutWashington. I am concerned about Washington right now which lost theiropening game to Arizona State in the last second and Arizona State hassome fine quarterback, but they also have one of the best tailbacks Ihave seen just judging from highlight film. So Arizona State isobviously for real. So you know, I am worried about Washingtonand I am worried about Air Force. Air Force just was running the ball upand down on everybody. Then I am worried about Navy. Worried about themall, but the main thing, I am worried about is our football team rightnow, but, yeah, it is devastating and I just told the story on TV. Skipcalled me last night and a week ago he played probably the best team inthe conference or at least supposedly away from home, New Hampshire anddidn’t feel they played particularly well. They had three turnovers andgot inside the 5 twice and didn’t score and he lost and came home andstarted looking at the film Saturday night. He got mad and he went homeand my grandson is there and he is watching a video called King Lion. Hejust told me one little phase of it that I think is applicable, the lionis standing there and the monkey takes a bat and hits him in the head.The Lion says why did you do that. He said, it doesn’t matter, it is inthe past. And a few minutes later the monkey took the bat and swung itat the lion again; the lion ducked this time. The lion said, why did youdo that. The monkey said, doesn’t matter, it is in the past, but youlearn from the past and I think that if you love the game of footballand you compete – yeah, you aren’t always going to have everything youwant and everything isn’t going to happen in our disappointments, but Iwould be disappointed. I would be shocked if this football team closedshop. And it isn’t going to close shop. There is no way this is going tohappen.
Q. Does the loss yesterday shift your focus of the bye week now wherebefore maybe you wanted to get a few guys healthy and look at someyounger plays, do you have to now bring this team back and make suretheir focus is not only on Washington, but the rest of the way out?
COACH HOLTZ: I think that is obvious that we do have to regroup.You can never tell what you are going to do the next day until you seewhat happens today. Yeah, you can have general plans in the future, butwe just have to approach it. I am going to meet with the team today at 2o’clock. I will meet with the team at 2 o’clock. I don’t even know whatI am going to say to them yet, but we will meet with them at 2 o’clock,and we will give them off tomorrow and we will practice Tuesday,Wednesday, Thursday.
Q. Coach, you were on the staff of the ’68 Buckeyes that one theNational Championship. Could you draw any similarities between this teamand that team and is the potential of this team there to be as good asthe 1968 team possibly?
COACH HOLTZ: I can’t compare 1968 andthis year because so many different things changed, but I do think OhioState has a great chance to win the National Championship. Now Iwant to tell you why: No. 1, there are certain qualities you have tohave. (1) you must have a strong offensive line. You must have a greatsecondary. The secondary is critical. If somebody makes a mistake upfront, they move the change. If somebody makes a mistake from thesecondary, you miss-tackle in the secondary, they light up thescoreboard. I think Ohio State’s secondary is very, very good. I thinkSprings and Howard are fine, fine corners. I think number 13, theirstrong safety really made a lot of key plays like the tackle on AutryDenson. I think Kelly really plays hard. He plays smart and heplayed the ball — they play excellent man. They play very good zone.They are also very strong up front, Vrabel and Garnett, and Fickell andthe rest of them. So I think defensively they are a great football team.When they ran a lot of twist and did an awful lot of other things, thedifficulty on that is — and we have had people run twists on us andthen they have given up running twists on us in the past, but thedifference is the secondary came up, as I said, their safety man-madethe tackle seven times and our longest gain was eight yards and he nevermissed a tackle. Their safety never missed a tackle. And so, I thinktheir secondary is very good. I think their offensive line isexcellent. I think Pearson is a very, very fine tailback, excellentspeed behind a big offensive line and they are so big, they sort ofblocked out the sun. I think Jackson and Germaine does a nice job asquarterback, they don’t make many mistakes; don’t beat themselves. Ithink Tillman and their other receivers give them a chance againstman-coverage. But I don’t think that we can play them any better thanour front 7 played yesterday. I think our front 7 played well. Theproblems — the thing that disappointed me that offensively we havetaken out all our quick-hitting plays and things like that and becomemore of a finesse and a formation team and I still think that is thedirection we would like to go. If you are quick-hitting hard-nosefootball team and allow your players to be more aggressive, then you canhurt the twist and the stunt. We had to run a little bit more optionthan we ever have. That was because of the man-coverage and because ofthe twisting. I think last night counting the option and the play actionoff the option, we ran 10 plays for 104 yards and we dropped a 40-yardpass in the open. But we could not do anything when we handed the balloff deep in the backfield because of all the twisting and the safety manbeing up there on him.
Q. What is the value in a game like that of the element of surprise thatOhio State had with their defensive stuff that they hadn’t shown youbefore and is that — are those things that can be prepared for, whatkind of advantage is it for Penn State this week against Ohio Statehaving seen all of that stuff on film that you hadn’t seen before?
COACH HOLTZ: Well, there are two things on this. One, they changeddefensive coordinators, so it is not like they had the coordinator froma year ago. Two, they changed their defensive front this year from lastyear. Because last year they were a 4, 3 and a 4, 3 stack team. Thisyear they are a 50 eagle team. Now, any time somebody is a 50 eagleteam, you understand they also can play some double eagle and they canplay some eagle to the tightend. They had not shown — they had shown alittle bit of double eagle, and most people would split the end out, andso consequently, you didn’t get a chance to see what they would do to atightend. But the twisting and the stunting, and things like that, Ithink will give Penn State a better view of their stunts and what theywill do and what their theory is, and tips and tendencies and theybrought forward to the split-end side and we did not pick it up thefirst half and I got to be honest, there was one or two occasions where,you know, you bring four to a side and you are sort of rolling the dicewhen you throw the football, you bring four to a side, which they did onoccasion, second half, I thought we did a better job on that. One timethey did some things and got away with it. The only sack we had thesecond half, I think was after we got the ball on the one yard line andmoved the ball out to about the 14 and they came with the blitz and werelease at tightend, but the quarterback wasn’t prepared. The guy didn’tcover the tightend. He blitzed and so it was unaccounted for in thequarterback thing, they just turned the tightend loose. But Ithink that Penn State — I think anybody will have a hard time beatingOhio State because they are so good in every single area of the game andtheir secondary is good and their offensive line is good and they havegood skilled people. But I think if there is two ingredients that allgreat football have and the secondary is the one that is overlooked themost. Ohio State had a great secondary in ’68 and not because I coachedthem. We had great athletes. I mean, three of them were first rounddraft picks and the other one went in the second round. True, wehad three sophomores and a junior on that football team, but they weregreat football players. But when I look at a team that can beoutstanding, I look at those areas, offensive line and secondary.
Q. Followup. You said you didn’t feel like you gave your team a chancementally, emotionally —
COACH HOLTZ: No. If I had to do it overagain, I wouldn’t do anything different. You try to sense the thing –we had them loose Friday night which you want before a big ball game.You want them loose – I don’t know. I cannot put my finger on it rightnow. I just don’t know, but when I say it was obvious in warmup that wewere not sharp. Our backs didn’t run sharp. They didn’t run sharp inwarmup. They didn’t run sharp the first half. I mean, we are in the openfield. There is a safety man. We run right into him. We don’t try tomove him; don’t try to avoid them — it is like we were in a stuper. Idon’t know, maybe the opening kickoff caused that, but then again theopening kickoff should have never happened if we — we did some thingsthat we haven’t done in ten years; we haven’t done it all year.
When I say we didn’t give them a chance, I think that, you know,we have gotten to be a finesse football team and you can be a finessefootball team to a certain extent, but you have to have skilled peoplemake plays. You got to try to get one-on-one coverage and I don’t thinkthat, you know — we have taken away some aggressiveness from ouroffensive line and things like that, and it is a combination where Ijust didn’t feel we allowed our players to be aggressive enough. I thinkthat we’ve become too much of a finesse team and so consequently ouroffensive line looked very poorly. But I want to tell you MikeDoughty and Mike Rosenthal played awfully, awfully well. Kaczenskiplayed pretty well. But you know, in something like this — and it ispainful, as a head coach you got to be honest and realistic, I just lookback and say, we weren’t ready. I wouldn’t do much different can’taccount for that. But you try to say we have gotten away fromsome things that we really believe. Despite all that, the puntholds up it would have been interesting to see.
COACH HOLTZ: I don’t know if we have a lot of options. Ithink we have got to look at our safety situation. I think thatdefinitely has to be. I don’t know what options we do have. We are goingto have to look at it and see. Right now I am just interested in meetingwith the staff and then meeting with the team and then taking the next48 hours and really examine it.
COACH HOLTZ: No, I don’t think you can. I really don’t know. I knowthis: Powlus can run it. I mean, he made some throws that wereincredible if you look at it. I am talking about the post rout. The postrout to Malcolm Johnson. He put it the only place you could possibly putit. Kelly made a nice play, but, you know, I mean it was right there andI have seen Derrick Mayes catch those many times. You just got to makethat play. You know, he hit a couple outcuts under pressure that, youknow, were not successful, but you can’t fault that. And I just don’tthink that, you know, we just can’t allow people to play us inman-coverage and get away with it. That is always — that was a concernI have had since day one.
COACH HOLTZ: What speed are you talking about?
Q. Talking about their secondary, talking about their wideouts.
COACH HOLTZ: You can neutralize speed. What makes it difficulton Ohio State you neutralize speed, with speed, or with a gun. Eitherone will neutralize speed. You can play zone and you can crowd the balland keep the speed confined, but then again, with an offensive line,they are going to pound you. What you have to do, you just have to beable to, you know, our miss-tackles in the secondary hurt us a greatdeal. But then again, that is speed and an open field creates problems.
Q. You mentioned that you don’t have many options, but can you ensure –what might be some options in the secondary (inaudible)
COACH HOLTZ:I am a great fan of Deke Cooper. Doesn’t have great speed. You know, wejust have to look. In the next week we are going to see. We put DekeCooper out on the wideouts on the punt return. Those guys are prettygood. I don’t know if you noticed the job Deke Cooper did, on that lastpunt, I mean their sprinter wasn’t seven yards downfield and Deke stillhas him and Deke got position on him. I mean, the guy just does somethings. I don’t know, we are going to have to see. Devron Harperruns pretty well. I think our corners are playing pretty well. I reallydo. But you know, it had to be a combined effort. We expected Ohio Stateto make some plays and that is to miss some tackles. They are just tooskilled. Not two for 60 minutes. The one that really killed us was theone before the half. That is the one that killed us.
COACH HOLTZ: I think it is an attitude and some otherthings you do with the football. When people are running twists,etcetera, then you just got to come off the ball; be aggressive and runquick-hitting plays. When you hand the ball off seven yards deep in thebackfield and then those twists and things like that can be a problem.However, when people run twists, it slow down the pass rush. There isn’tany great pass rush when you get twists. You might bring a guy late ontwist, but you are not going to get up in him so consequently then yougot to be able to throw, but that means your receiver has got to be ableto get the guys open.
Q. The coach’s poll has you ranked 14th. Where after Ohio State do youthink you belong?
COACH HOLTZ: I have no idea. We just — let usgive credit to Ohio State. As I say, it was disappointing we didn’tplay well. Don’t even think about that. My concern now is the footballteam. Like he said about Powlus, I haven’t read it yet. That is myconcern right now, our football team; not the polls, not anything elsebut our football team. I say we will bounce back. I am saying thatbecause that is the result I want; that is the result I have got in mymind; that is the result we are going to get. There is no way I am goingto sit here and write you a check saying we are going to get it. Is itgoing to be easy? No, but somehow that has to be the end result.
Q. Can you think of a better team you have played?
COACH HOLTZ:I can’t think of a team that played better against us than what OhioState did and in so many things, so many things. It just — you look atthe film you say, you know, it is almost like destiny. I mean, you talkabout having the right stunt at the right time and no rhyme or reasonnecessarily for running it, running a twist stunt with the end comingunderneath when you got a trap called and then having the guy loop outwhen you have a sweep called and they are both — you look at it, theyare both the same down and distance when you’d called it. If you lookand say, well, maybe you have a tendency — no, it is same down anddistance but sometimes you expect them to be right 50% of the time, butI give them credit. We did not play well – make no mistake about it. ButI think as a football coach you have an obligation to give them the bestchance to win and I don’t think that we did that, but we didn’t knowwhat they were going to do either, I have got to say that to you.
Q. A lot of teams play their best game against you guys. Do you thinkOhio State did that?
COACH HOLTZ: I think they played very, verywell and was very well drilled. They were really very, very much in tunewith what they had to do and how they had to do it and were very, verysharp. I can say that. And I can’t remember a team playing anybetter defensively against us and — but when you have that happen, youhave to make some plays. When we had a chance to make them, you know, wedid not make them. We had the ball four times the second half – notcounting the time it took punt return, you know, then the game is over.
First time we took the ball on about our 16 and we drove down totheir 5 and had they settled for a field goal. We never wentthree downs and out the second half. Next time we had the ball, we get afirst down, we had to punt it. Next time we got the ball, we got themdeep in our territory and drove down; ended up on their 16 yard linehalf a yard short. Next time we got the ball, drove it down for atouchdown. So the second half we played a little bit better; made afew adjustments at halftime, etcetera, but, no, they just playedawfully, awfully well, and in a game like this, momentum should go backand forth and it didn’t go back and forth enough. A great game is agreat fight, one guy hits one guy and the other goes and hits the otherguy. But you know, like the momentum started with them on the kickoffreturn and we didn’t get a chance to get the momentum back when wedropped the 40-yard pass. Now we had a chance to make some deep playsand very possibly pass interference could have been called, but wasn’t,it was an uncatchable ball. Guy was knocked down. It was an uncatchableball. Looking at the film, we are lucky that the ball didn’t hit the kidin the eye on the ground, but it was uncatchable. But what I am sayingis that — then we get the block punt; we can’t take advantage of it.They seize the momentum right at the end of the half. I mean, up until– you come out the second half, you are down one score, but that onewas critical. Then when we finally did get the momentum back, we cause afumble. Ball is rolling deep. I watched team after team pick that fumbleup and run in. Our guys coming, all of a sudden it takes one of theseweird sideline bounces. We are lucky to get the ball. Then, of course, apunt return. So momentum would — we did not get the momentum swingingback and forward enough. They are an excellent team; protect the passervery, very well, don’t make many mistakes. As I said, secondaryoffensive line, good kicking game, good skilled people.
COACH HOLTZ: That doesn’t occur very often during thecourse of it. But that is why in the past, you have always tried to havecertain things in your offense that you can adjust to and adapt to nomatter what they do that you just plug in this or plug in that. But hereat Notre Dame, it happens quite often and you get accustomed to it. Youhave got to be able to make adjustments and your players have to be ableto handle it. When we did have the right thing going, you know, wemissed a guy. There was a play just come to my mind, it was — I don’tknow — in the fourth quarter, I guess, early in the fourth quarter,they came with the blitz and the one thing that would happen on theblitz would be — if you pitch the ball, when we came down and theyblitzed the linebacker and I mean, the guy just missed him. It wasn’t acase where he came free. The guy just missed him. He was right there.The guy is — what is Kelly, 6’3″, 214 pounds, we missed him, whichcaused Ron to pitch the ball earlier. We got about nine yards on him,but if that guy can come out there you have got two blockers and twodefenders guy; you got a guy in an open field. You have got to be ableto plug different things in. And we just never fell into a rhythm.
Anything else? Okay.