November 16, 2008
An Interview With:
Q. First of all, want to talk a little about the defense. It seems like some of the things that you guys are doing, and doing well, are different than what you were doing during the year. Can you talk a little bit about how it's evolved?
COACH WEIS: Well, I think that since the bye week, we've just been starting to work on some of, you know, how drastic the improvement's been with the defense since the bye. Third down yesterday, one at third and one being at the end, but I think that what the defensive staff has done and the defensive players for that matter is from week‑to‑week they have been able to adjust. Yesterday was a totally different defense than what we have been playing, to match what Navy does, and really it was a very simple, fundamental game plan, which now just came down to being fundamentally and completely sound, and I don't think they could have responded much better than they did.
I think what they have shown on defense and what we have shown on defense is week‑to‑week an ability to try to gear your game plan towards your opponent, and coaches have done a good job of putting the players in the best chance of being successful and the players have made a whole bunch, a whole bunch of plays.
Q. I know you mentioned Harrison is going to be a free safety next year. The way he's playing now, does that make it difficult to do that?
COACH WEIS: I tell you what, he's one of our better defensive players. He's very, very disruptive. Obviously you can go against some teams now and he can become a bit under‑sized, because at 210, soaking wet, that's what he is.
But he's played so aggressively, he's been like a strong safety down in the box all year. You can call him a Sam linebacker or strong safety or whatever you want, but he's really giving us ‑‑ been very disruptive for the defense and made a whole bunch of plays for us.
Q. Michael Floyd and Brian Smith, what do you know about them today?
COACH WEIS: I'll give you the update on both of them. I think that they will both miss the next two games, but they will both be back probably back practicing by the middle of December.
So, you know, the bad and the good; the bad, they miss the next two games. But the good is there will in all likelihood, there will be another game left after that where they will be back and have a couple weeks to get conditioned, because their knees will be fine by that time. They are both looking at like a four‑week period, and fortunately for us, that would take us to the middle of December, and still giving you over a couple of weeks to get their cardiovascular up and be ready to go.
Q. Are we talking strains with both?
COACH WEIS: In both cases they were strains, but strains where they wouldn't be able to go. It would really, really be unreasonable to see either one of them playing in the next couple of weeks. It's more of a four‑week deal.
Q. You know you're going to get the play‑calling question; so?
COACH WEIS: As a matter of fact, we just approached it about ‑‑ a little bit before I came in here to say, okay, what am I going to say when I'm asked this question. And we really have not gotten a chance to iron it out.
So the whole offensive staff, I just left them a couple of minutes ago and we are in the same boat where I was last week; by Tuesday, the first thing I'll come in and tell you is exactly where we are, because really been scrambling a little bit to get to where we are right now.
You know, we spend the morning ‑‑ we spend the morning on Navy and the afternoon, we start working on Syracuse and then the little wrinkle of how the news from there, how that can potentially tweak what they do offensively and defensively, you have to try to apply that, too.
So I will start off Tuesday and tell you exactly where we are.
Q. In our profession, at least with me, part of my job when things are not going well with the team sometimes is my mom gets accused of driving a beer truck. I know that last year was not the easiest week for you; as a coach, though, do you ever prepare for how you deal with a week like that or do you just never think about it?
COACH WEIS: Well, I was asked a question by somebody last week, and I said that I really just keep myself immune from those things. Because I have to deal with the day‑to‑day operations of the whole organization. If you're talking about ‑‑ are we talking about big picture things and criticisms and everything?
I really think it comes down to this. I think when things are not going well football‑wise, you as the head coach should feel that you are open to scrutiny football‑wise. I think it comes with the territory. I think that for all of you who come to here on a daily basis and we have give and take all the time about what's going on football‑wise, usually, not that I agree with you all the time or you agree with me all the time, but we kind of have some kind of meeting point at the end of the day.
Really what bothers me more than anything are national guys or regional guys who are not here day‑to‑day, and then they feel ‑‑ forget about the professional, because I said you're already open for scrutiny when things don't go well.
But when they personally attack you, I think it's just out of line, and I think it's irresponsible and I think it's really immature.
Q. Following a little bit, looked like your son was quite relieved.
COACH WEIS: I'd say that's a fair statement.
Q. Is it tougher on the family a lot of times? I'm sure for him going to school every day and your wife going out in the community must be more difficult.
COACH WEIS: I think that more ‑‑ Charlie might be the most high‑profile, but it's like that with everyone, every coach. It isn't just Maura and Charlie Weis. All of our wives and kids live this.
And different from a fan, who believes that they have a right to say whatever you want; this is their livelihood. This is what we do. And our wives and our kids live the wins and the losses right along with us.
You know, you talk about like little Charlie, for example, sometimes it can be brutal being a kid. Sometimes you go into school and it isn't just the kids sometimes. Sometimes it's the teachers. It's not the easiest thing in the world.
My wife, she just wants to go do hand and friends and ride her horses and when she goes to the grocery store and somebody comes up at the grocery store and says, "Yeah, tough one yesterday." That's the last thing in the world she wants to be dealing with, either. But it isn't just Maura and Charlie Weis. They have to live it right along with us. I feel that way with everyone affiliated that's working because they get affected, too.
Q. You told a couple times after some ‑‑ the fifth game, the first game, your first game ever; any remarks about the close win yesterday?
COACH WEIS: I think that he said two words and it was like "thank God" or something like that. Because you know, when we were talking off the field, he said he saw that ball going up to Blanton at the back side, and he said, "Don't even tell me."
I said, "We had it all the way, Charlie."
But I said it in jest. I think that "thank God" might have been the appropriate response at the time.
Q. And just the news on Syracuse, how does that affect ‑‑ I know just heard, but is it tougher playing a team like that? Does it change or how ‑‑ is it hard to say how it's going to affect?
COACH WEIS: From my standpoint, the coach ‑‑ no concerns. You can coach loose. You know, you want to call five flickers in a game? Go ahead and call them. What are they going to say? Really, you want to blitz on every down? You want to rush three in on every down? Go ahead and do it.
Now, what you don't know, okay, you don't know the affect it's going to have on a team, because it could have a very ‑‑ the team could rally, or they could be dispirited. I think as a coach from the opponent team, you've got to count on them rallying. That's what you've got to count on. You've got to count on it being a rallying cry.
Q. I know you don't like to talk much about the next game on Sunday but does it make it more dangerous than it would have been if he didn't know?
COACH WEIS: I think any time a coach ‑‑ coaches that can coach without having to worry about any concerns or ramifications, I mean, of what would happen if you did them, I think it makes an opponent much more dangerous.
Q. You talked about the run game last week, are you seeing signs that it's going to break through, obviously a great production yesterday; can you talk about the line's play, and also one of the players said you really challenged them to out‑rush Navy, which not a lot of people do.
COACH WEIS: Well, think that I that was a team goal. It wasn't just the offensive goal, because to out‑rush Navy, that means the defense has to play pretty well, too.
That was actually from our team, that was the second ‑‑ after winning the game, one of the things that I felt that our team had not done a great job is rushing the football. And also, Navy's forte is running the football. So I challenged the team to win the rushing game in this game and they did.
So I give them a lot of credit, because that credit goes to the offense, but it also goes to the defense, too, to be able to win those totals in that game.
Q. Did you see anything different from the offensive line schematically, or was that a physical attitude improvement?
COACH WEIS: I was trying to create an attitude with, this is how we are going to play the game. And you know, we turned the ball over three times in the first half. We were moving the ball some, but turned the ball over three times in the first half. One of them is on the quarterback; two of them are on the offensive line; you're kind of sputtering; the defense is kicking their butt. I think they gave up about 20 yards of offense in the first quarter. I mean, they are playing very well, so you get to go in at half‑time up a field goal.
But I think the best thing that happened with the offense is that at half‑time, okay, we had plenty of time to get in there and make some proper adjustments, tell them, okay, this is what we are going to do. We cut down the game plan to about eight plays in the second half and that's about all we ran in the second half. We ran them over and over and over and over, and I think that when you get that type of production like they did in the third quarter going into the fourth quarter, that was a pretty good measuring stick.
Q. I think it would be fair to say you guys have been as a staff looking for the right button to push with this offense over the last couple of games. Do you think you found one, or was it specific to the opponent or how do you view the progress yesterday?
COACH WEIS: Well, I think the first thing we are trying to do is reestablish a tone on the line of scrimmage of physicality. I think that's where it starts. I don't think it makes a difference, anything else on offense, that if you're to the going to be physical at the line of scrimmage, then you know, you're really not ever going to be ‑‑ ever have a chance of being really consistent.
Look, we were not perfect in the game by any extent of the imagination, but were we running the ball for five and a half yards a carry and for over a couple hundred yards, and the first three running backs really running hard and establishing the line of scrimmage; that's a good start.
Q. Lambert, you mentioned the ankle; is he done?
COACH WEIS: No, as a matter of fact it's more encouraging on Lambert. They told me he's 50/50 for this week and for sure for next week, which on Thursday, it didn't sound as promising. He came down off of a jump ball in practice on Thursday and now on Thursday, no one gets hurts on Thursday in practice. I'm over on the offensive field and they come over and tell me Lambert got hurt and I said how did he get hurt? Next thing you know, he's on two couches and then he's one crutch. He's off the crutches today and he's out of a brace. They said ‑‑ I'm saying questionable, because that's what they gave me 50/50.
Q. The follow‑up to that would be RJ's play, and he made the big play right at the end and the first play, will he come back in and start?
COACH WEIS: I'm on the RJ bandwagon right now, and it is not just because that's how he's stepped up. Here is a guy, a freshman, really not afraid of anyone, and that's a really tough position to say that at. You know, you go against so many good players out there or bigger players or faster players, there's a lot of physical skills that go there; you know, he just goes up and lines up and plays.
You know, his cockiness turns into confidence, and whether it be that early play in the game or the tackle for the loss for ten or 11 yards or that jump ball for the end of the game, there's no doubt in his mind that either he was catching it or no one was catching it. I really like the way he's playing.
Q. A couple of plays from the first half, the quarterback, was that an audible?
COACH WEIS: No. What happened is he got an odd look in an odd spacing look where he didn't feel that from the front that they had there that we would have been able to get the play off that we had designed.
So he was trying to ‑‑ we had a call at the line of scrimmage, where he could run the ball, if he got on odd look and he got the look that he saw and didn't think that we ‑‑ the pass was not going to be sufficient.
So he tried to get the run, just way too short on the play.
Q. And also the wildcat, I don't know what you guys call it?
COACH WEIS: The only problem is Golden was supposed to run that ball outside. When you go back and watch that play, that play was designed to go around the corner with Asaph, so Asaph was running around the corner and Golden was about eight yards inside of him.
When you have a guy like that in there. Try to get him to the edge. However when he came to the sideline, I just asked him next time we put him in there if he would run to the edge.
Q. Also curious, you guys came out at the end of the first quarter, the clock runs out and seems like that element of surprise is gone.
COACH WEIS: That's okay, because if you see how they lined up, okay, and then they were over there talking about it, okay, we knew exactly what look we were getting when we went out there.
It would be one thing if you were anticipating a look where you would not be able to get it blocked, okay, but that wasn't ‑‑ that wasn't really what happened on this one.
Q. Speaking of Blanton, have you had another freshman with that kind of confidence or a rookie in the NFL that matched that type of confidence?
COACH WEIS: Even a guy like an Asante Samuel who is playing for the Eagles now, he doesn't have that same ‑‑ as brash as he's become as a player and a corner in the NFL, he was not like that as a rookie.
I remember Ty Law; as brash as he was in the league, he was not really like that as a rookie. I'm really interested to see how this kid is going to go over the next four years, because he's backing up his mouth, which that's a good thing to see. I really like him out there.
Q. From watching the tape, what did you see from the on‑side kicks? Did he not handle it as well as you would like?
COACH WEIS: Well, I'll go over all three of them.
The first one Robby batted the ball out of bounds forward, and you can't blame that on him. We told him to bat the ball out of bounds; unfortunately when he hit it went forward, so it's a penalty on him.
The next one although it was a good kick, we were very passive at the line of scrimmage. So the guy at the line of scrimmage, unless the ball is hit on one hop to them, are supposed to go be blockers, so they didn't, either. They didn't attack the ball or they didn't attack the blockers, okay, so they get the ball on that one.
Now, the last one, I do have a minor gripe on, because they flew a flag on that play, which I'm going to have to find out why they picked up that flag, but the guy ‑‑ they blocked Robby before the ball went ten yards and threw a flag for that. But then they waived off the flag.
So I'm going to have to kind out from Terry why exactly they did that, because what they can't do is they can't ‑‑ guys going to catch the ball, they can't block him before the ball goes ten yards.
So I just have to find out what happened. But the kid hit two perfect kicks but still, I think our lack of aggressiveness on the front line had a lot to do with, you know, their success and our failure.
Q. I guess you would like ‑‑ don't you tell the guys, step forward and make the play; come out and make a play and end the darned game?
COACH WEIS: I don't know if you watched me, but not after the first round, but after that one, I went into the huddle and said those words almost verbatim. Might have been a few adjectives in there, too. But it was about doing exactly the same thing. It was about being aggressive and attack the ball and go get this and get out of here. But it was more of the same.
Q. Looking at the stats, Clausen has 18 touchdowns and 18 interceptions, which is probably pretty typical for a second‑year quarterback. But there's got to be a fine line between wanting him to be confident like a Blanton on the offensive line and be a bit of a swashbuckler, but also being cautious. Is it difficult teaching a young kid that fine line?
COACH WEIS: Well, I helped out a little bit yesterday based off what they were doing early in the game. Like I said the first interception, that was definitely on him. The next time he's getting hit, he's getting hit just as he's throwing the ball.
But I think that when you get into a game like that, see, the MO that some of the teams that we've been playing recently is, let's back off, let's back off and make them nickel and dime us; or make them have to run the ball, because they don't believe that we'll have the patience to go ahead and run the ball.
So, you know, that's basically what you sit there and say: Fellas, calm down, this is what we are going to do, this is what they are doing and this is what we are going to do. Sometimes in a game like yesterday, the answer was, to run the ball, and that's basically from the half‑time on was basically all we did.
It wasn't taking the ball out of Jimmy's hand. It was if they are going to play rush three and cover two, that's what you should do.
Q. Does he feel conflicted, like does he feel like he doesn't know when to be more aggressive and when to pull back, or where is he emotionally with that?
COACH WEIS: First of all, I think he's unselfish. So like most quarterbacks that would be upset that we are were not throwing the ball more, no one was happier in the locker room than him with the running game, and I think that's a good sign to see. You always want to see a quarterback after a game like that; that even though we won the game, they are in the tank because we didn't have a lost production run‑wise; I saw no evidence of that.
He knows based off of how different teams play, there's different ways that we are going to attack them. But I think it was important yesterday at half‑time for us to do exactly what we did. I think that that's why we came out and went touchdown, touchdown, field goal to start off the second half.
Q. Navy's final drive yesterday, they called that extra time‑out which you realized and everyone else seemed to realize; I don't know what the protocol is there, like in basketball, is there any sort of recourse you have in that sort of situation?
COACH WEIS: Well, we went and did some due diligence on this today, and the only thing that we can figure out is there's some ambiguity around the time out that was called around Jonas's fumble, okay. There's some ambiguity on that one.
So the question is, whether or not there was a charged time‑out or there wasn't a charged time out. So even though a time‑out, they made an announcement that I didn't hear, the time‑out came off the board, some people think that we are watching TV, that they said, there will not be a charged time‑out; and therefore, there should not have been a time‑out come off the board, even though at the end of the game, there were no time‑outs left on the board, technically according to the officials, there was still one left.
I had never got an explanation where the one left came from, but when we did our research today, that's the only thing at this time that we could come up with.
Q. Mike's play, a really big play, can just talk about what a great player he's developed into for you guys?
COACH WEIS: And he had about two or three tackles, too, and came darned close to recovering that one kickoff, too.
Here is a guy that, you know, keep on ‑‑ every game, whether it be as a gunner on a punt team, a cover guy on the kickoff team, now rushing the punt, you know, there is hardly any games that we play where all of a sudden he's not in the stat sheet as one of the guys on special teams that's producing.
He's a perfect example, he's a perfect example of what a guy with an over‑sized heart can do. I'll take a bunch of Mike Anellos any time.
Q. Seems like the kind of kid you love to coach; is that fair?
COACH WEIS: Seems like he should be playing for Navy, doesn't he? (Laughing) I'll take Anello any day of the week. I'm telling you, he's my type of kid. Don't tell him that, though.
Q. Just because he came in here as a walk‑on, like a regular student, like you did, for example, does that make it kind of fun to step back and watch when you're not thinking about everything else?
COACH WEIS: You know, we had this conversation earlier this year when I put him on scholarship. And he said the last thing he ever thought was going to happen to him when he walked on was that he would actually be out there getting significant amount of time playing. He just loved the game so much, he just wanted to be a part of the football program.
And look at the positive residual effect that's happened for both the Notre Dame football and for Mike Anello, because he did.
Q. (No mic).
COACH WEIS: Reword the question differently, but the answer is probably yes.
Q. (No mic).
COACH WEIS: Why don't you request him this week, and why don't you request to speak to him this week and ask him that question?
Q. (No mic).
COACH WEIS: Oh, he's already said he wants it? Okay. I can't talk about those subjects.