October 13, 1996
Lou Holtz Sunday Press Conference
JOHN HEISLER: Coach Holtz is here. He will make some openingcomments and take some questions.
COACH HOLTZ: I had the opportunitythus far to study the offense; study the defense. I haven’t studied thekicking game. The first comment that comes to my mind is we are playingtoo well on defense to give up as many points as we are giving and thatis not the defense’s fault. Our kicking game is just putting us inatrocious field position and yet our punter and our place kicker aredoing an excellent job. I thought or punt team performed well, but I’vegot to study it. Our kickoff team, letting the punt bounce and justputting our defense in poor field position. That is unfair to ourdefense because they are playing far too well. You give up 240 yardsand 20 points, that just doesn’t mix. The fault is not our defense. The fault is field position that is being supplied by the offense and bythe kicking game. Defensively I was very, very impressed. I did notthink we could do as well against Washington’s offense as what we did. I think that our front 7 played awfully, awfully well. Bert Berry,Renaldo Wynn, Alton Maiden played exceptional ball game as well asDansby, Minor, Cobbins, Tatum. The biggest improvement was in oursecondary. For having been only there a couple of weeks, I thought DekeCooper played made a lot of plays. He just shows up. He is not veryfast, yet he is our sprinter on the punt team. He doesn’t look like agreat athlete and yet he does the best job of holding up their sprinterson our team. He made the interception. The other individual that reallystepped up was Devron Harper. Look at him, I mean, he made some fineplays; competed well, so those two freshman along with Lee Lafayette. Lee Lafayette would have made a major contribution to this football teamhad he not been injured, so those three freshmen and the secondary arereally most encouraging. I thought that Allen Rossum and Ivory Covingtonplayed awful, awful well; both tackled well. Benny Guilbeaux playedwell.
Jarvis Edwards came in played and awful well. I think it wasprobably the best our secondary has played thus far. And consequently itwas just fun to watch our defense play. I think late in the secondquarter we had only given up one first down, which was reallyimpressive. Offensively, we played well in all areas. We had more bigplays in one game than we probably had the entire year. I felt allreceivers played well. I thought our receivers had improved and gotsome big plays from Shannon Stephens, four of them to be exact, so heshows signs, these last two weeks, of really making some progress. Ithink one guy that doesn’t get enough credit is Cikai Champion. CikaiChampion played very, very hard; blocked awful well. Malcolm Johnson, Ithink we need to see a little bit more of Bobby Brown and ShannonStephens on the field. Some people I don’t know if Peter Chryplewiczhas ever played a better football game since he has been here at NotreDame as far as blocking. We felt a key match-up was Peter Chryplewiczand whoever was over him. He played awfully, awfully well and he caughtthe ball well. I think Mike Rosenthal, Mike Doughty, Chryplewicz, andKaczenski were just an awesome — I don’t know if we have ever had aright side play as well for a whole ball game and as physical as theydid. Our entire offensive line played well, but those three inparticular.
I think our running backs ran well, and all of them had thechance. We rotated them around – Denson, Farmer and Kinder. AndEdwards played well and Jamie Spencer played well and when I am saying”played well,” they played well without the ball. I thought Powlusplayed well and did some things that you just don’t teach. I mean,hitting Chryplewicz on the 5 yard line there, third down for thetouchdown, it was his third receiver. He just sees things. He ran theball, and he just — I’d say what do you want to run, I want to run 24pow, I want to run 22, they were just really into a good rhythm. Ithought some of the younger players, Joey Goodspeed really has a lot ofrunning ability and it was encouraging to see some of the players cometo the forefront. I thought Hunter Smith did a nice job kicking. JimSanson, we had a PAT blocked without any pressure – we talked to himabout it during practice, he is just kicking the ball far too low; notgetting it up quick enough. And it wasn’t a case where there waspenetration where we didn’t miss the extra point and there were otherones, the ball just wasn’t kicked high enough. He is going to have towork on that. As I said, the disappointing thing was our kickoffcoverage; letting the ball bounce on punt returns, which gave then, thefumble and the snap. We fumbled a snap, it was on first down becausethey were jumping defenses and any time you go on first down,quarterback can’t pull out quickly or the center can’t afford to be late- I don’t know which one it was – but the snap was mishandled and thatcould have been disastrous. David Quist made two tackles on the goalline which were really critical and that was probably the mostencouraging thing was the goal line stand; not only because it reallygained back the momentum, but because great defensive teams play well onthe goal line and we had two good goal line stances down there which Ithink that you build on that. I go back and I look at the differentthings – it was a good win. I didn’t know how we would play, but Ithink Washington is much better than what they showed against us. Theyobviously did not have a particularly good day. We did. I thoughtJarious Jackson came in and in the first two series, he really wasn’t incontrol. Didn’t have a leader. I thought the last two times he went inwhen he moved the ball, he took charge of the team. I mean — that iswhat you really want with a quarterback and so that was a goodexperience for him to have a chance to play four series, I think it was. And as I told him, we were not going to hamstring him when he went intothe game; that we would give him a chance to move the football and dodifferent things. But it was a win, and we move on now. Injury-wise, Ido not know of any major injuries, but I would imagine Covington, wewill have to see about Covington and other bumps and bruises. Kaczenskigot hit on the sideline and he could not have gone back into the game,so I am concerned about Kaczenski. I do not know of any other ones atthe present time that are serious.
Q. Now that you have played five games, you have had a variety ofdifferent types of situations, that come-from-behind win on the road,actually two come-from-behind wins on the road; a loss at home andyesterday a dominating win against a relatively highly ranked team. Doyou have a feel yet for the personality of this year’s football team?
COACH HOLTZ: You know, Brian, one of the unusual things was going intolast week’s game. I did not. I — I couldn’t read the football team. I couldn’t judge them. The personality of this football team, I thinkright now is they just really like to play the game. They like to playthe game better than any football team I have seen. I am talking aboutpractice and everything else, but they don’t — I don’t know how to putthis, offensive linemen like to be aggressive. They don’t like to passprotect. This football team, I think, just predominantly likes to playthe game. Here you have Autry Denson, Farmer and Kinder at tailback and,you know, they practice well. As I said, Kinder and Farmer maybepracticed better than anybody else on our team last week and they playedwell. They like the game and I cannot ever emphasize the importance ofthat; you say, well, everybody likes the game. Yeah, everybody likesthe game when they are catching the ball and when everything is goingwell. I am talking about just liking the game, going out to practice. I talked to Cobbins about something because he is a captain and Irespect his opinion. I talk to all our captains and I talk to others,other seniors. Every time I say to Cobbins, what do you think aboutthis. He says, all I want to do is graduate and win. He just says Iwant to play football, win and graduate, nothing else. This team is notinto politics. This team isn’t into anything except they like to playthe game. I think that is how I would characterize it at the presenttime, Brian – more so than any team that I have ever coached anywhere.
Q. Following up on that, Lou, maybe the polls aside on thisquestion, how good do you think — I mean, you have been up and down inthe rankings, how good do you think this football team is?
COACH HOLTZ: I think this, Brian, I think that we have some awfully good strengths. I think our defensive front 7, as we knew going into the year, waspretty good. We knew that we had pretty good backs, although we put theball on the ground far too much, but we still played pretty well. Ithink our offensive line, we felt, would be pretty good. We felt RonPowlus would be pretty good. The problem we had was secondary andreceivers and speed. I think Deke Cooper has helped our secondary. Ithink Devron Harper has helped our secondary. But I think to loseA’Jani Sanders and have a Benny Guilbeaux — our secondary is gettingbetter and if they can continue to get better we can be outstanding ondefense, but we can’t continue to put them in poor field position, but Ithink that the strength of the defensive line was neutralized until oursecondary started coming. The same thing is, offensively, I think thatour receivers are starting to come and we are not putting as muchpressure on our receivers as what we did earlier in the year. How goodare we? I think we are — I think we are a pretty good football teamwhen we play the way we did yesterday. I don’t think we are very goodat finessing. I don’t think we are very good at fooling people. Butare we a great football team? No. Could we become a great footballteam? Yeah, we are capable of it. But our kicking game has got to getbetter. We need more speed in our kicking game; particularly in ourcoverage aspect. That has probably been the most discouraging thingtoday, has been the way we have fielded punts; not the way we block forthem – the way we fielded them, and the way we have covered kickoffs andthe turnovers. Those would be the three most discouraging things. Andyou have got to be able to run the football to be a good football teamand I do think that we are not a great running team, but I think we arepretty good. I think we are a solid football team whose weaknesses aren’t as glaring today as they were three weeks ago and hopefully theywill even become strengths in other three weeks, Brian.
Q. Is there anybody else you might try with field and punts?
COACHHOLTZ: Well, I don’t think I have ever had anybody that catches themany better than Autry Denson. And in fairness to Autry Denson, HunterSmith does not punt in the game the way he punts in practice and — whatis Smith’s averaging, 43? But Hunter Smith — and usually we have ourpunt team with a back to the camera and that is usually puntingdownwind. And so Hunter Smith is kicking them 60, 65 yards and we arenot used to seeing the 32, 33 yard punt. So number 1, when the ball iskicked, he immediately thinks he is going to have to run back because wekeep trying to make him count off the yardage. It is not a question offielding the ball. He fields the ball better than anybody on ourfootball team and as well as anybody we have had since I have been hereat Notre Dame. What he has to do is have enough courage and finally hedid step up and caught one yesterday of about 33 yards. That is all hehas to do. I think he can field it well, but we just — we need tounderstand and when we meet and look, how we are putting our defense andour offense in bad field position by some of the things that we aredoing which is self inflicted.
Q. How do you envision lining up at wide receiver this week?
COACHHOLTZ: I think that if you ask me to line up the two right now and Ihaven’t talked to our coaches – split end will probably be MalcolmJohnson with Bobby Brown behind him. And flanker would probably beMosley or Shannon Stephens with Cikai behind him.
Q. Was Rick just shook up when he got hit on the sidelines or didhe get dinged in the head? COACH HOLTZ: What happened is he got hit inthe leg and he couldn’t go back into the ballgame. It was unfortunate.Our sideline — and I am at fault as anybody in this world, but oursideline — I want to tell you, you know, I try to anticipate somebodycoming and you look and there is not a lot of room to get out of theway. We don’t have a lot of room to begin with, and we dress so manyplayers and it is just very, very difficult and I don’t know whathappened, but it is one that went in there, Carretta and (inaudible)went over there and they came to me and said he can’t go back in. Now Ihaven’t gotten the injury list yet I am hopeful he will be okay but Idon’t know.
Q. I realize hindsight is 20/20 but the way your team dominatedyesterday, do you regret that you didn’t have the same game planagainst Ohio State two weeks ago, sir?
COACH HOLTZ: Oh, no. I wantedto lose the Ohio State game. (audience laughter). No, Howard, I am justbeing facetious. The thing that — knowing what we knew at the timegoing into Ohio State, Howie, we didn’t know the difficulties we hadbecause one of the problems we have on defense, our secondary, and oneof the problems we have on offense was our receivers and they were goingagainst one another, but, yes, absolutely, I really think this is whatgives us the best chance to win. It gives us a chance to have the mostbig plays. It gives us a chance to be most consistent. It gives us achance to fall into a rhythm. Yeah, I think we need to throw the ball alittle bit more and obviously will than what we did yesterday. But,yeah, I think this gives us the best chance to win. I don’t think thereis any doubt, Howie, we are a better football team playing the way wedid yesterday than the way we tried to play earlier in the year.
Q. Much was made yesterday about the return of Notre Dame footballand you talked about old-fashioned going back to the running game. Howbig of a role does the tight end position and has the tight end positionplayed since you have been at Notre Dame in that approach?
COACH HOLTZ: Well, the tight end is really critical because he sees so many differentlooks there and whether you run inside or outside, the tight end isabsolutely critical on it and particularly in yesterday’s game. Youknow, the tight end got to be able to catch passes and run routs,etcetera, but he definitely has to be able to block for us. And we ranoff-tackle, I don’t know how many times, over the tight end and PeterChryplewicz just did an incredible job. He played as fine a footballgame as I think we have had a tight end play here, just was outstandingin every phase of the game. And there is no doubt, David, that thetight end is very, very critical to us and we have always had a goodtight end and we have a good tight end this year.
Q. Lou, it is becoming apparent from the way things are goingaround the country this season that a team might be able to win theNational Championship with one loss. Is Notre Dame back in that mix andwhat are your feelings on that situation?
COACH HOLTZ: You know, Bob, Isort of feel that this might be a year where everybody is going to haveone loss. I do know this, come January 2nd there will only be one teamwithout a loss. I don’t think there will be two. I think that you justhave to see what happens. I think the only team that has a shot atFlorida is Florida State. Maybe the only team that has a shot withFlorida State is Florida, and if Ohio State would have gotten caught byWisconsin yesterday, maybe, I don’t know. I don’t see anybody beingable to beat Ohio State. You still have Arizona State came back, somaybe they will make it through unscathed, although they play SouthernCal at home this week, that will be interesting. I think that — it ispossible for everybody to end up with one loss, although somebody wouldhave to upset Florida State and Florida State would have to beatFlorida; and somebody would have to beat Arizona State and somebodywould have to beat Ohio State, but the only thing that we have tried tofocus on — I have never tried to labor this team under anymisconceptions that we still with a shot at the National Championshipbut there is only going to be one team on January 2nd that isunblemished at the most and we aren’t going to be one of them, but wecan’t do anything about that. I felt so bad after the Ohio State game,and it was two weeks ago I was here, and the thing I lamented was I feltI didn’t give our players a fair chance. And we really didn’t, and sowe made up our mind we are going to go back. When I say we didn’t givethem a fair chance, we ran — they ran a lot of twists and stunts andamazing, the game plan that Washington University ran was almostidentical to the one that Ohio State ran. Almost the same defense, sametwist, same stunts. Just we ran more quick hitting plays and did thingslike that, so it isn’t what people do and it isn’t what you do onoffense. It is the execution of it. We narrowed down what we did andwe got a lot of reps on it. So just go from there.
Q. What did Wisconsin do that no one else was able to do to makethat game so close and were you surprised about that?
COACH HOLTZ: No. I really want. Bobby Alvarez called me on Thursday and unfortunately, Iwas putting out some forest fires, not brush fires on Thursday, I didn’tget a chance to call him back and I regret that because I usually talkto Barry and Cooper and Skip and some other people, every week theycall. But Barry has a very good football team, but Ohio State is avery, very fine football team. I think defensively they are very, verysolid. But if you don’t make many mistakes and you don’t give up manybig plays and you keep them backed up, I think you can have some degreeof success against Ohio State. I do not think Ohio State is unbeatableanymore than anybody else in the country is unbeatable and yet I havegreat respect for them, but I just am not surprised, Wisconsin is apretty good football team. Anything can happen. You know the same teamyou see one week is not the same team you see the next week. Let usalso keep in mind, Ohio State came off of a Notre Dame, Penn State gameback-to-back and, you know, maybe they weren’t at their best, but youknow, let us give credit to Wisconsin and to Ohio State.
COACH HOLTZ: No. I think he wants to be backthere. You come out to practice; you see Hunter Smith boomin. So heused to everything coming off him, whoom, with the wind too; then allof a sudden not used to it coming up on him short, but, he can catchthem, he can come up and catch them. He just got to have someconfidence and evaluated but I think you make a good point, does he wantto be back there. I thought about putting somebody else back there, hewasn’t real happy about it, so I just have to assume that he does. Thisis one thing we have got to address. We can’t keep doing this. We areputting our defense in terrible field position and they don’t deservethat.
Q. With what you said about finesse, the power game that you showedyesterday, is this the official death of “blarney offense”?
COACH HOLTZ: I think we still try to do some things, no. We still had some one back and split the back out some, not apreponderant amount because we didn’t need it, but I think it is whatyour talent allows you to do. We were going to try to match up our wingback on their linebacker, our tailback on their linebacker, but they didsomething they had never done before, they went zone on hit when we didthat. They didn’t stay man-coverage on it, but — so you just try totake and do what you can do offensively and what can move the football. And I’d like to think that if we can’t run the ball that we can do someother things. We can run the option. We can run the short passinggame. We can run play action pass, but we aren’t going to be ascomplicated as what we have been. By “complicated,” I am saying, toomany formations, too many passes, too many things for people to learn toget reps on.
Q. Talking about the freshmen and secondary, forgive me but I don’tremember the year, but years ago in mid-season, I think it was after aloss (inaudible)?
COACH HOLTZ: I tell you what had happened, it wasWillie Clark and Jeff Burris going down to Tennessee. They played atTennessee and we won the game. I don’t see that happening because rightnow we have — Allen Rossum and Ivory Covington are playing awfully wellfor corners, and I think A’Jani Sanders and Gilbeaux and Jarvis Edwardsare good sound players that are going to get better. They are going tohave to get better because with A’Jani Sanders who is a freshmaneligibility-wise, Gilbeaux is a — no, he is not. But A’Jani Sandersdidn’t play at all last year and you got Lee Lafayette who I thought wasgoing to be excellent and Devron Harper and Deke Cooper. I mean, thoseare four fine, young players, you know, so what I think we are going –we are going to have a little more depth. We are going to have to startgoing 5 and 6 defensive backs when we have to, but you want to talkabout going from one style offense to the wishbone and next, I mean,geez, talk about us playing one game at the equator and the next one atthe south pole. But those young players are really doing well, but Idon’t anticipate any wholesale changes, but I do anticipate then thembecoming more and more involved in it.
COACH HOLTZ: Coach Moore and I have been togetherfor nine years and I think he is a great coach and an outstandingperson. He voices his opinion and I voice mine and you know, talkingabout pass protection and blockin and things like that, just things ingeneral, we felt — I didn’t realize it was that obvious, but I justwant to let the players pick sometimes, but we have been together nineyears and he is a great football coach and he is a great human being.
COACH HOLTZ: Many times if the turnovers werebecause of ball handling, handoffs, carrying the ball improperly. Ourguys carry the ball properly. We also have run into a string wherepeople are really making good hits and the heads are going on the ballwhich sometimes — but we just — it isn’t carelessness and it isn’tcarelessness because if that were the case, you would be dropping theball on handoffs, etcetera, but it is a case where sometimes you have tohave two hands on the ball and that is going to become a necessity forsome people.
COACH HOLTZ: Nothing serious. Just that your lastgame here might come a little quicker than you think. You don’t havetwo hands on it just about what I said you, running out of the tunnelfor the last time, you know, put two hands on it, enough is enough. But he played awful well without the football.
Q. Lou, can you explain a little bit too and what the future holdsin terms of your not wearing the head phone and (inaudible)?
COACHHOLTZ: It wasn’t something that I had anticipated doing before, but aswe got near game time and you know, you had two weeks and I was verywell prepared, but I just — you got to be able to think and you got tobe able to go by your gut feeling and as Bob Davie said to me during thegame, he says — boy, he said, when you tell me you have a feeling inyour gut and I feel differently, he says I sure don’t want to change it,because usually my gut feeling is usually right whether it be I think weought to do this on offense or — and during the course of the game,what I found that you can’t do things by committee when you have gotsuch a short time. You can’t take a popular consensus. So what Idecided is that for right now, at that time, that I would not use theheadset, but I would have Bob Chmiel right next to me who would tell meeverything and they would recommend a play every play, which is theirobligation, and — but I may not take that recommendation, but youcatalog it or, you know, you can say, was that man, was that zone, wasthat three coverage, was that double eagle, was it 31, was it 13, youknow, you get that information, but you only get it when you want it. So I just felt that it enabled me to stay in the game a little bitbetter at the present time and that is all and got a lot of help fromupstairs. They did a tremendous job. But we got into a rhythm andgetting into a rhythm is as much timing as anything, in other words, theplay goes in; you get out of the huddle, you know, you get into a rhythmand we hadn’t been into a rhythm on offense all year.
COACH HOLTZ: Bob Chmiel, I think, got a littletired, but I tell you what – when you don’t wear the cord, nobody stepson it. At least, I don’t notice they did. When you got that cord, youare always jerking your head and — but, no, I thought it worked outvery, very well because we had great communication with upstairs anddownstairs.
Q. One other thing, Barry Alvarez had a week off before Ohio State. Did you talk to him (inaudible) and tell him that maybe the power gameworks (inaudible)?
COACH HOLTZ: I talked to him about, but I didn’ttell him what to do. We talked more about attitude, etcetera, and weexchange ideas. It used to be, for the coaches that always called me,coach, I have got this problem, what do you think. Now they call me andgive me advice, but I mean, we exchanged ideas. I think Barry is avery, very special guy and a special coach.
COACH HOLTZ: No, I just think you make somemiscalculations earlier in the year about what we would be able to dotalent-wise and I think as the year goes along, you know, our receiversreally made great strides the last two weeks, but it might also bebecause we took less pressure off of them. But, no, I don’t look at itthat way, just felt this is what we had to do and why I was so mad lasttime we came in here because I felt that is what we should have donebefore previously. We aren’t going to be able to run that way againsteverybody. We are going to have to throw the ball much more than we didyesterday, I am sure, as the season unfolds. Okay? Thank you very much.