Nov. 10, 1996

Off The Practice Field...Head Coach Lou Holtz

JOHN HEISLER: Good morning, Coach Holtz is here, he'll make some opening remarks and then take some questions.

COACH HOLTZ: First of all, I had the opportunity to look at the film, I did not have an opportunity to study it, which I normally do coming into this press conference. We got home I guess after midnight last night and the snow was rather heavy, and by the time I got home and went up to early mass -- so I've looked at the film but haven't studied it. I got up this morning and saw all the snow, I think that while we're expanding the stadium, we ought to dome it. I think that would be the most appropriate decision we could make.

I thought it was a football game yesterday where both teams came out with an awful lot to be proud of. I thought that Boston College played very well. I expected them to play well. I expected them to play hard and I expected them to make some great plays. I thought that Walker ran with great determination and Hasselbeck played well, and the receivers made some outstanding catches. On the other hand, I thought our football team did an awful lot of good things.

We have some things that concern me. We had four turnovers, which you can't have. The one on the 1-yard line on first and goal to go on the one, was really devastating, because it got the crowd back into the ballgame. That could have put us up 14-3 early in the second quarter. Not only did they recover, they recovered at the end zone and proceeded to march down to take the lead. The penalties were more than I've ever had a team penalized. I've never had -- we have officials at all our -- I don't know how you can go one week and have very few penalties and the next week have 14 or 15 of them. It's beyond me. Everybody's got different decisions, et cetera, I don't know. And I'm not going to comment any further on that. After they tied it up 21-all, I thought our football team responded very, very well.

Our offensive line played an exceptionally fine football game, our backs ran well. The fumble Autry Denson lost was the first one he has lost since he has been here at the University of Notre Dame. Marc Edwards and Cikai Champion in the first half put a lot of pressure on Jamie Spencer, but I thought he responded very, very well. I thought Jamie has really matured and grown this year and really stepped up and protected the ball and played very, very hard and very, very well.

It was a total team effort as far as our offense is concerned. I was a little disappointed we couldn't get more people open and throw the ball a little more, but we had great success running the ball.

Defensively, the only thing that really discourages me defensively is we don't play the ball in the air as well as we need to. And we don't play as well on the goal line as we would like to. And that's one ingredient that I think really is very important to an outstanding defense, how well you play on the goal line. But overall it was a win. We overcame an awful lot of difficult things during the course of the football game. And we helped their drives or at least had various penalties called, put them in better field position, et cetera.

But coming out of there, winning the football game was the main objective and it's just about the way I was hoping the script would go. I knew it would be a very difficult environment, I knew they would play well, and I hoped we would respond well, which we did. Now we play Pittsburgh, they've been open two and a half weeks, and they beat Boston College in the last game and almost beat Virginia Tech the week before. They're a football team that's getting better and better. We have three more games left.

I really feel comfortable with this football team for the most part. When I say comfortable, where you don't have to say much to them. As far as work habits, et cetera. And it's just a very, very relatively easy routine that we have fallen into. I know the last two ballgames would be difficult, going to Dublin, Ireland, coming back and playing Boston College. But the players responded well. And I thought our effort was excellent.

Look forward to this week. We're going to have to cut back practice a little bit because of the weather, one, and in addition because our team's starting to get worn down. You're starting to get injuries and things of that nature. And it doesn't mean that we will back off on practice, but we just won't be as physical on Wednesday as what we have been. Tuesday will remain the same. We'll try to cut back practice. Yet it's also some situations that we've got to resolve. A'Jani Sanders, he certainly has our sentiments and our best wishes. I know how difficult it is to lose a parent and to lose a mother is a tremendous thing to overcome, but we're hopeful that everything will go well with him.

And so we'll just meet with the football team and go on. And I expect Pittsburg to play the best game they've played this year. Johnny Major has done a nice job with this game. I watched them early in the year when they played Ohio State to how 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 ahead of you and what things are looking like over the next few weeks?

COACH HOLTZ: Yeah, I really wished I could. I was really impressed with Boston College's ladies hockey coach's room. That's where I dressed. They had a TV in there with about 70 channels. While I was getting dressed I watched a little bit of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Purdue. After the game watched a little bit of Alabama and LSU. It was very nice. So I got a chance to see a little bit of the Purdue game. I thought Purdue played an excellent game and shut down the run from Michigan. Tennessee getting beat surprised me. But I'm very happy for Rip Sheer (phonetic), he played quarterback for me at Williams and Mary years ago, he'll probably retire in a year or two, that's how old 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 we accomplished our first goal, which was a winning season, which may not be great by many seasons, but that is the first ultimate goal we set as a football team. The next goal is to go to a January 1 bowl and play a Top Ten team, that's what we'd like to do. But we've got Pittsburgh and Rutgers and Southern Cal. So we have a lot of games ahead of us. And I don't know what will happen, I don't know how it will turn out. But I'm just glad that we still have the opportunity.

Q. (Inaudible)

COACH HOLTZ: The question is, is the offense starting to fall into rhythm and dictating when we want to pass, et cetera. Yeah, I think so, I think we're falling into a rhythm. I think we're very, very comfortable with what we're doing. We'd like to throw the ball more. You can sit up there in the press box and see it's man-to-man coverage, it's one-on-one out there, but we need to throw the ball more if we don't have success running the football. But people are playing us with eight and nine-man fronts. That doesn't really concern me, it never has. It would be much more productive if we can beat one-on-one receivers out there on a consistent basis, but I think we ran four option plays yesterday and the only one that didn't get a first down was the one Kinder was out there going in for the touchdown, gets tackled on the one, Jamie Spencer in front 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 to throw the ball much. But we still, same old things you see, fullback down the sideline off of power, things like that. I'm feeling comfortable with this football team in general. We have a couple of players that I hope will respond well, but the people that are playing right now really did a nice job.

It's really gratifying to watch Jamie Spencer. Here's a guy who I thought would be a good fullback a year ago, but just never really understood what college football is about, what Notre Dame is about or what fullback is all about. And, I don't know, a couple of weeks ago he just all of a sudden started becoming a good football player, I mean a good fullback, he's always been a good football back. And Joey Goodspeed has made great progress. And to have a guy like Jamie Spencer step in and blocking and running and catching, he just did a tremendous job. So offensively I feel comfortable. I'd like to throw the ball more than what we are. We spend a lot of time pass practicing passing for the minimum amount we do.

Q. (Inaudible)

COACH HOLTZ: Well, we still have different formations, it's just that we have -- when you have a fullback in the back field you can have different angle combinations, a lot of down blocking and trapping, et cetera, where we split everybody out it's sort of one-on-one blocking. And that works sometimes, but sometimes it doesn't, as epitomized by some teams that used to run the football well have trouble doing it. So that was the thing that we felt was -- when we split our tailback out, that we lost some of the angles or we split our fullback, we lost some of the angles that we could give our players.

Now we'll still put the slot man up there, and still have three receivers to one side, but he's also in a position where we can run back to the other side by putting them in motion, et cetera. So that was the main thing, that I think we -- I feel comfortable with what we're doing.

I'd like to throw the ball more. I really and truly would. But we just aren't productive when we do it, either in our pass protection on a consistent basis. We tried to throw just before the half and got the guy open and protection broke down and Ron got hit and they ruled it was a fumble. So you're leery.

The amazing thing, if we don't -- I believe this from the bottom of my heart, if we don't have a missed assignment, and we don't have a lost yardage play and we don't have a penalty we think we can move the ball on anybody now. Just give us three downs, we think we can get ten yards. That's the attitude you want to have. Is that true? Not necessarily so. But that's the attitude we have and our players have. But it's the penalties that are called. The penalties that are called. That put a handicap in us.

Q. (Inaudible)

COACH HOLTZ: I think that other than protecting the football, which has been the most discouraging thing I've seen in my entire coaching career, that we can't protect the football better. But I think that Autry Denson the last two weeks has run the way we would like Autry to run, and the way we expected him to run. Robert Farmer, he's just got to get the ball more. He makes things happen. But he averaged about 38 yards, 40 yards a carry the last two ballgames.

I think Randy Kinder is starting to come back into his own. So, you know, we're getting good blocking up front and then when the backs make things happen, that encourages the linemen to block even longer and harder.

We're getting tremendous down field blocking from the receivers, that's the one thing our receivers are doing, they're doing a great job down field. So we have very, 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 backs even on scholarship at the present time. I'm happy for Farmer and really happy for Randy Kinder as well. And we want to roll them more, as long as everybody can be productive with the ball and playing well without the football, we'd like to play them more.

Q. (Inaudible)

COACH HOLTZ: I don't want to be one to say I told you so, but I think we sat in this room and everybody said your punt return now is down and is that because you lost this guy? And I said there's nothing wrong with our punt return except catching a ball. And since then we've caught the ball and it's been excellent. It can be a little bit better, I think.

Our return game, a little disappointed in the kickoff return Saturday, I didn't think we really broke it. It was hard to get the timing on it, et cetera. But overall our return game has been pretty good. I think our punt coverage has been good. I want to play special tribute to Deke Cooper and Randy Kinder, they're the two sprint players on our punt team. And they have really done a special job. And poor Deke Cooper has played safety. He's a sprinter on the punt team, he's in charge of the sprinter on the punt return team, which is a very difficult job, and he's done an excellent job. He's on our kickoff coverage team, not a safety on it. Gee, the guy is just on the field an awful lot. And so I think a lot of players, Bill Mitoulas, Wagasy, Babey, Carretta, a lot of those people are really doing a tremendous job for us in our kicking game. I think Sanson has done a nice job, Hunter Smith has done a nice job. I just feel comfortable. You go to practice, there's no screaming or hollering. There isn't any half hour attitude, motivational talks before practice. I just say a few words to them and on occasion somebody's eyes will wander and I don't think that will happen again.

Q. (Inaudible)

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 the comments that come your way are unbelievable. I thought I was playing at home. But the fans were into the game and we're trying to snap the ball, and I understand this. We go on the road, we're going to have some motion penalties, and they're jumping defenses, and up on the scoreboard they have "Make Noise" and inciting the crowd. But our approach has always been, you shouldn't try to take the crowd out of the game. So we try to 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 it does make it a little difficult, but when you go on the road you're going to have to overcome that.

Q. (Inaudible)

COACH HOLTZ: Boy, I didn't know what was happening, because our players were getting a little frustrated over a variety of different things and looking at the film I can see where they did get frustrated. I can see Renaldo Wynn did get frustrated. But there was some controversy down there, and I went sprinting over there just to make sure that the -- the players were standing around. And the referee said no. And I asked the guy who was a BC official, I said was he in? And he said 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 four yards 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.

Q. (Inaudible)

COACH HOLTZ: No disciplinary action or nothing else. Just we didn't feel that they were in a position to help us win. There's nothing more to it than that. One thing we made up our mind, whoever practices well and could help us win. There were several others that didn't make it.

Q. (Inaudible)

COACH HOLTZ: Well, it's very difficult to keep from getting frustrated, and myself as a Coach gets exceptionally frustrated. But with the communication or the attitude, I think. And I just tell our players, I'll be in charge of voicing displeasure with the officials if that's the case. That's not the result of a player or an assistant coach or anything else. And I just like them to know that I'm there on the sideline and I am watching the game, that's all. But you rise above that. And we covered that before the game that there are going to be times when calls go against you, et cetera.

I'm not complaining about officiating, but a lot of things have gone against us for a lot of years. But we just have to do what we can do and not worry about anything else. I thought Emmett Mosley was in when I looked at the film. Now, the film is not conclusive. I thought he scored and they ruled he didn't. Okay. Next time the guy catches the ball out of game and they ruled he's in bounds. We hit a screen pass for a big game and the guy turns his back and Jeremy Akers is blocking him when he turns, and it's pushing in the back. I thought he turned his back, the official didn't. There's a difference of opinion. I'm sure I'm looking at it from one point of view, the officials are looking at it from another point of view. You just would think over a period of a lifetime, or at least 11 years, things would balance out. I'd like to think that.

I'm going to tell you this, the new coach is really in for some great benefits, I want to tell you.

Q. (Inaudible)

COACH HOLTZ: He's going to get some great calls for the next 11 years. No, we're off camera. You know what I'm saying, it's ridiculous. You see it. Week after week after week. They ruled that one catch, I looked at that film, person in the third row had a better shot at it than he did.

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