Nov. 10, 1996
Off The Practice Field…Head Coach Lou Holtz
JOHN HEISLER: Good morning, Coach Holtz is here, he’ll make someopening remarks and then take some questions.
COACH HOLTZ: First of all, I had the opportunity to look at the film, I didnot have an opportunity to study it, which I normally do cominginto this press conference. We got home I guess aftermidnight last night and the snow was rather heavy, and by thetime I got home and went up to early mass — so I’ve looked atthe film but haven’t studied it. I got up this morning andsaw all the snow, I think that while we’re expanding thestadium, we ought to dome it. I think that would be the mostappropriate decision we could make.
I thought it was afootball game yesterday where both teams came out with an awfullot to be proud of. I thought that Boston College played verywell. I expected them to play well. I expected them to play hardand I expected them to make some great plays. I thought thatWalker ran with great determination and Hasselbeck played well,and the receivers made some outstanding catches. On the otherhand, I thought our football team did an awful lot of goodthings.
We have some things that concern me. We had fourturnovers, which you can’t have. The one on the 1-yard line onfirst and goal to go on the one, was really devastating, becauseit got the crowd back into the ballgame. That could have put usup 14-3 early in the second quarter. Not only did theyrecover, they recovered at the end zone and proceeded to marchdown to take the lead. The penalties were more than I’veever had a team penalized. I’ve never had — we have officialsat all our — I don’t know how you can go one week and have veryfew penalties and the next week have 14 or 15 of them. It’sbeyond me. Everybody’s got different decisions, et cetera, Idon’t know. And I’m not going to comment any further on that.After they tied it up 21-all, I thought ourfootball team responded very, very well.
Our offensive lineplayed an exceptionally fine football game, our backs ran well.The fumble Autry Denson lost was the first one he has lost sincehe has been here at the University of Notre Dame. Marc Edwardsand Cikai Champion in the first half put a lot of pressure onJamie Spencer, but I thought he responded very, very well. Ithought Jamie has really matured and grown this year and reallystepped up and protected the ball and played very, very hard andvery, very well.
It was a total team effort as far as ouroffense is concerned. I was a little disappointed we couldn’tget more people open and throw the ball a little more, but wehad great success running the ball.
Defensively, the onlything that really discourages me defensively is we don’t playthe ball in the air as well as we need to. And we don’t play aswell on the goal line as we would like to. And that’s oneingredient that I think really is very important to anoutstanding defense, how well you play on the goal line. Butoverall it was a win. We overcame an awful lot of difficultthings during the course of the football game. And we helpedtheir drives or at least had various penalties called, put themin better field position, et cetera.
But coming out ofthere, winning the football game was the main objective and it’sjust about the way I was hoping the script would go. I knew itwould be a very difficult environment, I knew they would playwell, and I hoped we would respond well, which we did. Nowwe play Pittsburgh, they’ve been open two and a half weeks, andthey beat Boston College in the last game and almost beatVirginia Tech the week before. They’re a football team that’sgetting better and better. We have three more games left.
Ireally feel comfortable with this football team for the mostpart. When I say comfortable, where you don’t have to say muchto them. As far as work habits, et cetera. And it’s just a very,very relatively easy routine that we have fallen into. I knowthe last two ballgames would be difficult, going to Dublin,Ireland, coming back and playing Boston College. But the playersresponded well. And I thought our effort was excellent.
Lookforward to this week. We’re going to have to cut back practice alittle bit because of the weather, one, and in addition becauseour team’s starting to get worn down. You’re starting to getinjuries and things of that nature. And it doesn’t mean that wewill back off on practice, but we just won’t be as physical onWednesday as what we have been. Tuesday will remain the same.We’ll try to cut back practice. Yet it’s also some situationsthat we’ve got to resolve. A’Jani Sanders, he certainly hasour sentiments and our best wishes. I know how difficult it isto lose a parent and to lose a mother is a tremendous thing toovercome, but we’re hopeful that everything will go well withhim.
And so we’ll just meet with the football team and goon. And I expect Pittsburg to play the best game they’ve playedthis year. Johnny Major has done a nice job with this game. Iwatched them early in the year when they played Ohio State tohow they’ve developed now, they’ve really improved tremendously.
Q. I don’t know if you’re ready to start talking post season,but could you talk about the five teams that took a fall aheadof you and what things are looking like over the next few weeks?
COACH HOLTZ: Yeah, I really wished I could. I was reallyimpressed with Boston College’s ladies hockey coach’s room.That’s where I dressed. They had a TV in there with about 70channels. While I was getting dressed I watched a little bit ofWisconsin, Michigan, and Purdue. After the game watched a littlebit of Alabama and LSU. It was very nice. So I got a chance tosee a little bit of the Purdue game. I thought Purdue played anexcellent game and shut down the run from Michigan. Tennesseegetting beat surprised me. But I’m very happy for Rip Sheer(phonetic), he played quarterback for me at Williams and Maryyears ago, he’ll probably retire in a year or two, that’s howold I’m getting. Just some crazy upsets. Virginia getting beat.I don’t know what it does to us, for us, et cetera. I know weaccomplished our first goal, which was a winning season, whichmay not be great by many seasons, but that is the first ultimategoal we set as a football team. The next goal is to go to aJanuary 1 bowl and play a Top Ten team, that’s what we’d like todo. But we’ve got Pittsburgh and Rutgers and Southern Cal. So wehave a lot of games ahead of us. And I don’t know what willhappen, I don’t know how it will turn out. But I’m just gladthat we still have the opportunity.
COACH HOLTZ: The question is, is the offensestarting to fall into rhythm and dictating when we want to pass,et cetera. Yeah, I think so, I think we’re falling into arhythm. I think we’re very, very comfortable with what we’redoing. We’d like to throw the ball more. You can sit up there inthe press box and see it’s man-to-man coverage, it’s one-on-oneout there, but we need to throw the ball more if we don’t havesuccess running the football. But people are playing us witheight and nine-man fronts. That doesn’t really concern me, itnever has. It would be much more productive if we can beatone-on-one receivers out there on a consistent basis, but Ithink we ran four option plays yesterday and the only one thatdidn’t get a first down was the one Kinder was out there goingin for the touchdown, gets tackled on the one, Jamie Spencer infront of him, that’s the only one that didn’t get a first down.We haven’t needed to run the option much. We haven’t needed tothrow the ball much. But we still, same old things you see,fullback down the sideline off of power, things like that. I’mfeeling comfortable with this football team in general. We havea couple of players that I hope will respond well, but thepeople that are playing right now really did a nice job.
It’s really gratifying to watch Jamie Spencer. Here’s a guywho I thought would be a good fullback a year ago, but justnever really understood what college football is about, whatNotre Dame is about or what fullback is all about. And, I don’tknow, a couple of weeks ago he just all of a sudden startedbecoming a good football player, I mean a good fullback, he’salways been a good football back. And Joey Goodspeed has madegreat progress. And to have a guy like Jamie Spencer step in andblocking and running and catching, he just did a tremendous job.So offensively I feel comfortable. I’d like to throw theball more than what we are. We spend a lot of time passpracticing passing for the minimum amount we do.
COACH HOLTZ: Well, we still have differentformations, it’s just that we have — when you have a fullbackin the back field you can have different angle combinations, alot of down blocking and trapping, et cetera, where we spliteverybody out it’s sort of one-on-one blocking. And that workssometimes, but sometimes it doesn’t, as epitomized by some teamsthat used to run the football well have trouble doing it. Sothat was the thing that we felt was — when we split ourtailback out, that we lost some of the angles or we split ourfullback, we lost some of the angles that we could give ourplayers.
Now we’ll still put the slot man up there, andstill have three receivers to one side, but he’s also in aposition where we can run back to the other side by putting themin motion, et cetera. So that was the main thing, that I thinkwe — I feel comfortable with what we’re doing.
I’d like tothrow the ball more. I really and truly would. But we justaren’t productive when we do it, either in our pass protectionon a consistent basis. We tried to throw just before the halfand got the guy open and protection broke down and Ron got hitand they ruled it was a fumble. So you’re leery.
The amazingthing, if we don’t — I believe this from the bottom of myheart, if we don’t have a missed assignment, and we don’t have alost yardage play and we don’t have a penalty we think we canmove the ball on anybody now. Just give us three downs, we thinkwe can get ten yards. That’s the attitude you want to have. Isthat true? Not necessarily so. But that’s the attitude we haveand our players have. But it’s the penalties that are called.The penalties that are called. That put a handicap in us.
COACH HOLTZ: I think that other than protectingthe football, which has been the most discouraging thing I’veseen in my entire coaching career, that we can’t protect thefootball better. But I think that Autry Denson the last twoweeks has run the way we would like Autry to run, and the way weexpected him to run. Robert Farmer, he’s just got to get theball more. He makes things happen. But he averaged about 38yards, 40 yards a carry the last two ballgames.
I thinkRandy Kinder is starting to come back into his own. So, youknow, we’re getting good blocking up front and then when thebacks make things happen, that encourages the linemen to blockeven longer and harder.
We’re getting tremendous down fieldblocking from the receivers, that’s the one thing our receiversare doing, they’re doing a great job down field. So we havevery, very solid back field, but that’s all we have, basically,is what’s on the field. We don’t have one or two other backseven on scholarship at the present time. I’m happy for Farmerand really happy for Randy Kinder as well. And we want to rollthem more, as long as everybody can be productive with the balland playing well without the football, we’d like to play themmore.
COACH HOLTZ: I don’t want to be one to say Itold you so, but I think we sat in this room and everybody saidyour punt return now is down and is that because you lost thisguy? And I said there’s nothing wrong with our punt returnexcept catching a ball. And since then we’ve caught the ball andit’s been excellent. It can be a little bit better, I think.
Our return game, a little disappointed in the kickoff returnSaturday, I didn’t think we really broke it. It was hard to getthe timing on it, et cetera. But overall our return game hasbeen pretty good. I think our punt coverage has been good. Iwant to play special tribute to Deke Cooper and Randy Kinder,they’re the two sprint players on our punt team. And they havereally done a special job. And poor Deke Cooper has playedsafety. He’s a sprinter on the punt team, he’s in charge of thesprinter on the punt return team, which is a very difficult job,and he’s done an excellent job. He’s on our kickoff coverageteam, not a safety on it. Gee, the guy is just on the field anawful lot. And so I think a lot of players, Bill Mitoulas,Wagasy, Babey, Carretta, a lot of those people are really doinga tremendous job for us in our kicking game. I think Sanson hasdone a nice job, Hunter Smith has done a nice job. I just feelcomfortable. You go to practice, there’s no screaming orhollering. There isn’t any half hour attitude, motivationaltalks before practice. I just say a few words to them and onoccasion somebody’s eyes will wander and I don’t think that willhappen again.
COACH HOLTZ: No, it was the same atmosphere,same atmosphere. I mean the people are so close to the stands,and it’s not the first place I’ve been where some of thecomments that come your way are unbelievable. I thought I wasplaying at home. But the fans were into the game and we’retrying to snap the ball, and I understand this. We go on theroad, we’re going to have some motion penalties, and they’rejumping defenses, and up on the scoreboard they have “MakeNoise” and inciting the crowd. But our approach has always been,you shouldn’t try to take the crowd out of the game. So we tryto snap it. And we’ve never asked for a slow down on it, ever.And I just don’t want to take the crowd out of the game. But itdoes make it a little difficult, but when you go on the roadyou’re going to have to overcome that.
COACH HOLTZ: Boy, I didn’t know what washappening, because our players were getting a little frustratedover a variety of different things and looking at the film I cansee where they did get frustrated. I can see Renaldo Wynn didget frustrated. But there was some controversy down there, and Iwent sprinting over there just to make sure that the — theplayers were standing around. And the referee said no. And Iasked the guy who was a BC official, I said was he in? And hesaid no, he hit that far short of the goal line. I said, well –I looked at the film, there ain’t no way. He hit about fouryards deep short of the end zone, and he went over the pylon.The ball was over the pylon. Yeah, I thought it was a touchdown.
COACH HOLTZ: No disciplinary action or nothingelse. Just we didn’t feel that they were in a position to helpus win. There’s nothing more to it than that. One thing we madeup our mind, whoever practices well and could help us win. Therewere several others that didn’t make it.
COACH HOLTZ: Well, it’s very difficult to keepfrom getting frustrated, and myself as a Coach getsexceptionally frustrated. But with the communication or theattitude, I think. And I just tell our players, I’ll be incharge of voicing displeasure with the officials if that’s thecase. That’s not the result of a player or an assistant coach oranything else. And I just like them to know that I’m there onthe sideline and I am watching the game, that’s all. But yourise above that. And we covered that before the game that thereare going to be times when calls go against you, et cetera.
I’m not complaining about officiating, but a lot of thingshave gone against us for a lot of years. But we just have to dowhat we can do and not worry about anything else. I thoughtEmmett Mosley was in when I looked at the film. Now, the film isnot conclusive. I thought he scored and they ruled he didn’t.Okay. Next time the guy catches the ball out of game and theyruled he’s in bounds. We hit a screen pass for a big gameand the guy turns his back and Jeremy Akers is blocking him whenhe turns, and it’s pushing in the back. I thought he turned hisback, the official didn’t. There’s a difference of opinion. I’msure I’m looking at it from one point of view, the officials arelooking at it from another point of view. You just would thinkover a period of a lifetime, or at least 11 years, things wouldbalance out. I’d like to think that.
I’m going to tell youthis, the new coach is really in for some great benefits, I wantto tell you.
COACH HOLTZ: He’s going to get some great callsfor the next 11 years. No, we’re off camera. You know what I’msaying, it’s ridiculous. You see it. Week after week after week.They ruled that one catch, I looked at that film, person in thethird row had a better shot at it than he did.