Irish Football Set to Take on Michigan State
An interview with head coach Bob Davie.
Sept. 8, 1998
JOHN HEISLER: Just a couple of reminders before we start: For those of you on the satellite there will five minutes of satellite from the Notre Dame/Michigan game at the tailend of the feed. Transcripts of the teleconference today will be available not only through our fax back service but also on our web site which is und.com. Kickoff this weekend is at 8:06 eastern time in East Lansing which is 7:06 here in South Bend. Our Sunday morning wrap-up press conference with Bob Davie again will be at 10:30 in the Joyce Center this Sunday. Bob Dave is here. He will make some opening comments. Then he will take some questions.
COACH DAVIE: As I think we have all probably heard the phrase "Cautiously optimistic." I this is -- on the way driving over here, that probably best explains the situation we are in. There is no question we beat a good team last Saturday. No question that was a tremendous win for us. I am not trying minimize it at all. But it is time to move on. I couldn't help but think driving over here last year this time we were 1 and 0 also. We all know what happened in those next four games. I told our players yesterday we met at 7 o'clock in the morning, met from seven to eight, I watched the tapes of the Michigan game. I told them I would give them until 3:20 when we met again, start at Michigan State, to enjoy all the back-slapping they could enjoy because it was their first day back in class and they hadn't seen the student body. But after 3:20 all the back-slapping was over - to find a way to dodge people, spin away from them, whatever you have to do to get away from it. So we need to put the Michigan game behind us and move forward. We were 1 and 0 last year at this time. I think one thing we learned last season - that was we were an inconsistent team. We have shown flashes last year of doing some good things, but the bottom line, we were inconsistent. I am anxious to see if we have eliminated those inconsistencies. When we came back in January that is something we addressed. I have always felt like you eliminate inconsistencies by really making a sacrifice, by making an investment in something. Our football team has done that.
So I am anxious to see if we can come back this week and play a good football game because that is what it is going to take. You have heard it a lot of times. But I really think it is true. You make --. The biggest difference you see in your football team is between the first game and the second game. It can go either way. But I think if your attitude is right, your foundation is right, you should make improvement. I certainly look for us to make improvement. We are going to need to make improvement. You look at our team, defensively, no question we need to improve on pass-rush; we need to improve our pass defense, particularly our third-down defense. We also need to eliminate giving up big plays. We gave up three big plays on Saturday. Michigan State had some big-play wide receivers and a big-play runningback.
Offensively, we had way too many missed assignments; particularly up front. We were inconsistent throwing the football. Special teams, our punt protection was not very good. Our field goal extra point protection wasn't very good and our field goal block, extra point block, other than Jimmy Friday blocking that kick, really weren't very good. I think obviously to improve on the mechanics of the game. Squandering away those three timeouts, although it didn't hurt us Saturday, very easily could have hurt us. Just the mechanics of the game and the communication is something we need to improve on. We need to help our players as a coaching staff because we did waste some valuable timeouts. I think we also realize what a challenge we have in Michigan State. They are a good football team - much better team than their record.
You know just -- that just isn't me sitting here saying that. You were all in that stadium last year when we played them. I think our team realized we are playing a good team. Certainly all they have to do is look at last year's tape. They dominated us every way possible. They were up 17 nothing almost immediately. Two running backs gain over 100 yards. They had the ball for seven minutes longer than we had it in the football game. They dominated us, offense, defense, and really dominated us in special teams. I think when you look at Michigan State's team or this game this week, there are some concerns for us. First, we are playing an extremely talented football team that has a lot of good players back. There is no question -- I can't speak for them, but I can imagine they are wounded because they had such high expectations going into this season. They will come out and play their best football game of the year Saturday night. I don't think there is any question about that. I think they will be as good a looking football team physically as we will play.
I remember last year walking off that field and in talking to our coaches after the game, it was a very impressive football team physically. A lot of those players are back. For us going and playing on the road the first game - we have a knew quarterback that started his first game at home Saturday - this will be the first game he ever starts on the road. That is different. I think playing up there at night, certainly it will be a tremendous atmosphere, but all those things obviously are of concern just on the scenario of the game. You look at Michigan State's offense - the thing that jumps out at me is that they have excellent wide receivers. Not just their two starters, but they have some depth there.
They have big-play capability at the wide receiver position and they do throw the football down the field a lot. I have some concerns with that. Runningbacks are talented led by Irvin, he had over 100 yards last year. They have a good scheme on offense. They do a good job; give you a lot of looks, keep you off balance, and they do have the ability to line up and run the ball. On defense, they have got 9 or 10 starters back from defense that was 11th or 12th in the nation last year. Their front 7 is really impressive - big, strong physical and they do have some depth up front.
I think their secondary is talented as well. They have played really two good offensive teams. Colorado State and Oregon, and they are different teams than us. Colorado State and Oregon give everyone problems. They have got a lot of speed. Certainly I am sure they are looking forward to lining up against us and matching up and then and playing a physical style of defense. Special teams, looking at it, we thought last year they were the best special teams football team we played.
They have got excellent returners, No. 86, Scott, is a great returner. Irvin returned the opening kickoff, I believe, last year 57 yards or 60 yards against us. They do a good job. They are a good punt return team. They are a good kickoff return team. They have got a freshman punter that is averaging 52 yards a punt. And their kicker kicked three, I believe, touchbacks Saturday against Oregon. So they are a talented football team. And to go up to Michigan State, to go up to East Lansing, and win on a Saturday night is going to be a tremendous task for this team. As far as us, I talked about some of the concerns that I have. As far as the injury situation, I don't have that right here with me, but I know off the top of my head that A'Jani Sanders with the ankle, I would have to say he is 50/50 right now. Kory Minor is probably 50/50 with the turf toe. I think Bobby Howard will play. I think Ronnie Nicks will play. He has a hip. Jim Jones probably less than 50% and Jason Murray would be less than 50%. That is off the top of my head, but I think the two biggest concerns would be A'Jani Sanders and Kory Minor.
At this time I will be happy to take any questions.
Q. Autry Denson obviously got to have a great start. What makes him a special runningback and how is he better now than he was perhaps last year even a few years ago? COACH DAVIE: I think Autry is stronger right now. I think he is a little bit more physical. I also think he may be a step faster. And he became stronger and faster because he really worked this summer. He is up to about 203 or 204 pounds, I think. I think Autry Denson played the best football game he has played, in my opinion, since he has been at Notre Dame Saturday. Did some great things with the ball, but he did some tremendous things when he didn't have his hands on the ball. He is fun to watch play. The kid loves to play football, but I think he is a little bit stronger and I think he is a little bit faster right now than he has been.
Q. Coach, I sense that Jim Sanson coming in was a little trepidatious (sic) because of the season that he had last year. Do you sense that he gained any confidence with the field goals or was that confidence taken away when the extra point was blocked there at the end of the game? COACH DAVIE: Well, really, the blocked extra point was not really Jim's fault. We had a breakdown in protection up front. And actually Michigan had put some pressure on him all afternoon, really -- they had one outstanding extra point field goal blocker. I think it had to -- it would have to be a confidence builder for Jim. One thing about Jim, he is pretty resilient. He has been through an awful lot here at Notre Dame. I like his attitude all summer. He was here all summer, worked hard all summer. It is about time some good things happen for him. And I think this could only make him better as the season goes on. There is no question he has the talent. He is a talented kicker and we are going to continue to be smart. He still has a bit of a muscle problem in his quad. We are controlling how many times he kicks during the week. We are going to stay away from using him on kickoffs and hopefully with that plan he can have a consistent season.
Q. Following up, will Hunter Smith stay as your deep kicker on kickoffs or will Miller -- because I know you were kind of hoping that Miller would win the job coming out of camp? COACH DAVIE: We are going to continue to have competition. Right now Hunter Smith will be the kicker Saturday. We are going to take David Miller on the trip. I'd like to get David Miller in the game. I think he has got a bright future here at Notre Dame. Hunter Smith is a little bit ahead of him in our opinion.
Q. With all the nice things you said about Michigan State's defense, after you had a chance to look at the film, what is your analysis of how that defense could give up 48 points in the first three quarters and 590 yards at Oregon? COACH DAVIE: Well, I know a little bit about Oregon and I know a lot about their scheme and how they play. You know it is a lot of things. It is like us scoring 36 points on Michigan. You are not going to do that without some turnovers; without some big plays, and without the flow of the game and the momentum of the game entering into it. You know, I am not going to sit here and speak for Michigan State's defense as far as what, you know, about the specifics. I just know having coached defense a lot depends on a lot of other factors in the game other than just how your defense is playing when it comes down to how many points. But I really think that they will match up well against us. It is going to be a physical football game this Saturday and I am impressed with Michigan State's defense. They do have a lot of good players back and they do have a good scheme. They have made steady improvements since Nick Saban has been there and last year they did finish 11th or 12th in the nation. So as far as having the specifics, I don't really know why, but a lot of things go into it more than just those final statistics of the game.
Q. Coach, you expressed concerns about your past defense. Do you plan to make any adjustments there? COACH DAVIE: We spent -- we are going to spend a little more time this week. We did as coaches Sunday and Monday and we will be with our football team on third down defense, trying to do a few more things scheme-wise. Also looking at some different kids in pass-rush situations. Looked at some of the young players Tyreo Harrison as maybe a pass-rusher. Also doing some different things of personnel in the secondary. So nothing dramatic other than just trying to get the right players on the field at the right time and maybe doing a little better job scheme-wise of -- I am not sure we are going to be just a great 4-man rush team. So we may have to do a little more scheme and try to get some pressure on the quarterback also.
Q. Coach, do you like the fact that, you know, in guarding from a let-down after such a big emotional win, does it help from a let-down's standpoint that Michigan State, you know, in your words, dominated the game last year? COACH DAVIE: Well, I don't really know. I don't know if it hurts or helps. It is what it is. I think we can all try to put spins on things and all try to create scenarios, but the bottom line is last year, they beat us every way possible. It is hard for me to sit here and say: I am glad that happened. But you know, you put the tape on and you see it and you see that they have the same players back. You understand the potential of that football team and a lot of times it doesn't matter what we say as coaches. It is what those players believe. They usually believe it when they put on the tape and see themselves playing. And certainly they can look at last year's tape and realize that Michigan State got after us pretty good last year.
Q. Bob, Jarious appeared to be high on the first half against Michigan anywhere from three to five feet over the receiver's heads. In light of the way he played later do you feel that he was a little hyper and overexcited perhaps about first game first start, et cetera, and kind of settled down; would that be a reason and maybe there won't be a repetition of that? COACH DAVIE: I think so, Jack. I am sure if you talk to Jarious he would tell you the same thing. He threw the football extremely well in training camp, just very consistent day in and day out. That is why I felt at halftime that he would play better in the second half because I had seen him do it throughout camp. But certainly I think he was excited. He did have some open receivers and didn't take advantage of it. Although, you know, I look back to the first series of the game, we had a legitimate chance to catch that corner rout for a touchdown and that would have been a tremendous confidence boost to Jarious right there. I mean, I talked to our coaches at halftime about we need to find a way just to let Jarious carry the ball without any reads. We need to find a way to have Jarious make a completion without any reads. Even if it meant option pass, a swing, or dump pass, or something because, I knew once he got some confidence that he would perform better because he really is a good passer. So I think it is a combination of things. Also his mechanics in the first half - maybe because of anxiety or whatever reason, but his mechanics really weren't as sound as they normally are.
Q. Two-parter again about Jarious. First, wondering what he brings to the option game, maybe that you guys lacked last year and also with some of the defensive backfield problems that Michigan State has and Campbell being out for the season now would maybe look to throw more? I know you throw only 10 games last time? COACH DAVIE: I think so much depends -- obviously personnel plays a factor into whether you throw or run, but I think so much of it becomes scheme. Until you get in the game and see how teams are playing you, defensively it is hard to say how many times you are going to throw the ball. I thought we would throw the ball more than ten times on Saturday. But the throw-flow of the game dictated that we didn't. So I think more than just Michigan State's personnel, you know, you control what you can control. I mean, I am not sure how they will match up. It will come down to more the X and Os and adjustments that are made to specific formations in the game. I think Jarious -- and the other part of that question, I think Jarious really is a fine quarterback. Not just an option quarterback, not just a kid that can drop back and throw it. He is multi-dimensional and I think that -- like that -- I think all our quarterbacks have that to a degree. He is a good option quarterback. You can see how strong he is. He took some good shots Saturday. He took some big hits out of Michigan's secondary. So you can see he is strong, he is physical. I think he makes good decisions and I think he is an excellent option quarterback but I also think he will prove to be an outstanding drop-back quarterback as well. I think that is the next step for us, offensively we are going to work this week a lot on our passing game. Not that we haven't already, but you know, we need to consistently be able to throw the football better than we did Saturday. I don't think there is any question about that.
Q. With some of the criticism that you and your staff have endured last year, can you talk about the personal feeling you had last Saturday to beat the defending co-national champs and some of the response you have had in the last three days? COACH DAVIE: Well, one thing I have tried to do - and I am not trying to sound corny or anything - I have tried to keep myself away from paying a whole lot of attention one way or the other. I think you can fall into a trap doing that. You like to focus on what -- I have said it before -- but focus on the task at hand. I don't think it does you a whole lot of good to subject yourself to what is being said one way or the other. I think our coaching staff believes in that philosophy as well. I think our football team believes in that. I think we have learned that lesson. How I felt - in all honesty, I felt good for other people. I mean, the players and the coaches are the ones that really have made the sacrifice, really have made the investment and you like to see people rewarded for their hard work. And I certainly realize Michigan and Lloyd Carr and his coaching staff worked extremely hard as well. But it is good to see the plan work. It is good to see the kids and the coaches paid off for their hard work. And what you feel good about, you feel good about the next challenge because you can build on a positive and I like that. But the bottom line you are actually happier for other people than you are yourself. It was good to see that student body come down the stands and to see smiles on peoples' faces after that game. That is about what I felt.
Q. You talked about the different style of offense that Colorado State and Oregon runs. What can you take from that? Do you want to play up to your strength as a power team or do you try to finesse it and try to go the opposite way of their strengths? COACH DAVIE: I talked to Jim. We met Sunday and then Monday. I think we need to worry about ourselves -- I think we keep our package tight. I am more concerned about us, in all honesty, than I am Michigan State. I am not sure how they will defend us. So the key for us is execution - do what we can do best and worry more about ourselves and our execution than we do necessarily how Michigan State will play us. Because we will make adjustments in the game. I don't have any concern about that. So it is our execution. We are not going to spend a whole lot of time really looking at the specific way they played Colorado State or Oregon.
Q. Is the plan - is Lamont Bryant physically ready to move into the starting lineup or will you go with Tony Weaver again? COACH DAVIE: I think based on performance Tony Weaver is still the starter. I think Jason Ching did some good things. What we may do is use Lamont Bryant more in pass-rush situations. I will use him more as a nickel pass-rusher and I think he can maybe give us some plays doing that. That is one of the things we are looking at. But Tony Weaver played fairly well for his first game out and he deserves to continue to be the starter.
Q. Corey struggled with an ankle injury in camp. Now he has a turf toe. Are you worried at all about where he is at right now as far as the preparation he is missing and physically, do you have any concerns about it? COACH DAVIE: I feel bad for him. He came back at 245 pounds. I mean, the first two weeks of training camp his -- I mean he was playing, by far, the best football he has played. I mean, Autry Denson and Kory Minor who have played a lot of football at Notre Dame came back and just I mean, they were -- they made improvement. That is not easy your fourth year as a starter. So I feel bad for him because he worked so hard and he was playing so well. Unfortunately he had the ankle and the ankle is pretty much healed. The turf toe is on the other foot. It is doing better. I talked to our trainers this morning. He is doing better. I am not concerned about him missing work. I am concerned that he can't take advantage of all the hard work, because I think you are going to see a heck of a football player once he gets back healthy. I think he is a better player right now than he has been since has been at Notre Dame.
Q. With the game being at night and on turf, do you prepare any different mentally? The team has to sit around the halls all day, things like, the atmosphere is different and on a physical side, preparing for a night game, do you plan on practicing under the lights and on turf? COACH DAVIE: Yeah, first of all, I don't think any of us enjoy night games from the coaching perspective. You have to wait all day Saturday. It is tough. As far as our preparation, we are going to practice on grass all week. We may go in on Sunday just to walk-through, to let them wear the shoes that they are going to wear during the game. But they have already worn those shoes before. We are not going to practice any different. I think it is much easier going from grass to artificial surface than it is from artificial surface to grass. So we are not going to practice at night. Really, our preparation -- one thing I don't want to do is ever change. I like consistency and I like repetitions, run the same things over and over and I don't want to change those things. Plus, if we practice at night, we probably won't have many people there with all the study sessions we have around here. But I am concerned about, you know, Saturday afternoon. You sit around and you watch games and that in itself is exhausting. I think it is more tiring watching those games than it is coaching or playing in them. So you are always concerned about, you know, you let them watch the games, but you tell them not get too involved in the games. We will probably walk through and do some things Saturday just to get them up moving around. Michigan State has the same problems so it is all -- it is all the same.
Q. Beyond Weaver, can you evaluate the play of your freshmen? Do you anticipate getting more of them in the mix or expanded roles for any of them? COACH DAVIE: Well, Tony is the only one that played enough snaps to really evaluate in all honesty, how he played, Givens came in and played one play. Blocked the wrong guy. Boiman was on the punt team; didn't do a particularly -- actually he didn't do a real good job on the punt team, he tried to block the punt. I am trying to go back through my head. Tony is the only one that played enough to really evaluate, but I do think they will get additional playing time as we go.
Q. Regarding backup quarterbacks, I know that was a concern going into the season. Will you try to work your No. 2 quarterback into a game situation? COACH DAVIE: I'd like to get him in, yeah. To say who it is right now, I am not 100% sure. It probably will be Arnaz Battle right now depending on the circumstances, what the time of the game, what the situation of the game, et cetera. But, yeah, I would. That is obviously a concern. I don't think any one of our backup quarterbacks has ever taken a snap at Notre Dame. So one thing we are going to do next week, we -- normally on Mondays, we have Monday night football with our young kids but because we have the Open Date next week, I want it to wait and next week we are going to do a lot of scrimmage work and live work and really get a good chance to look at those freshmen.
Q. Last few years college defenses have taken up the pressing type of defense. I wonder how you feel your style of offense you have adopted will -- if you think that is something that is going to happen more that more teams maybe will turn to option or the threat of the option? COACH DAVIE: I think so. I think so. You have to make a decision. If you are going to be a two-back team and have two backs in the backfield which we are, if you don't have just tremendous speed at wide receiver against one-on-one coverage, take advantage of 8 and 9 man front and zone blitzes, you have to be able to balance them up some way with option football. One thing you noticed, Michigan is a big zone blitz football team and they move that front a lot. I think just watching how they played us, it did control them to a degree how much they did that. The threat of the option being there, you have to be balanced. You have to play east and west on defense, not up the field on defense. So I think you have got to go one way or the other - either have to flow it or you have to be able to run some options because if you are going to line up in two backs and try to run isolations and cross-sweeps it is hard. They just outnumber you. So for us, right now, in our situation, the best thing for us is -- because I don't want to become a one-back team spreading people all over the field. That is not in our best interest to control the eight-man front. Our best option is to -- I do think you are going to see more of it. You look at Ohio U in a little different offense, but Ohio U goes down to NC State and had, I think 400 yards, you know, 30 something points, I mean, there is no one wanting to jump up and play those option teams right now, I promise you that. So it is hard. I think you will see more of it, I really do. The trend is turning back to that.
Q. Who is Johnathan Hebert; where did he come from? COACH DAVIE: I had to ask Urban Meyer the same thing. No, he is a walk-on and he is really a good blocker and he is also going to be utilized on some special teams. But he is another guy that's been in the walk-on program here and has worked his way up and, you know, as I have said before, we have got some incredible walk-ons in this program. He is another example of that. He will be going to Michigan State as well.
Q. Going into a Michigan you said you wanted to play the team -- to play crisp, move quickly to the ball. Did you see that -- are you happy with that? COACH DAVIE: I think so. That is probably the most encouraging thing. We didn't -- I mean, you look at the tape, you go back and look at the tape like I did Saturday night, you wonder how you won sometimes when you see some of the things that happened in the game. But the one thing that was consistent was I think we play faster as a team right now. I think we play faster. I think we are a little bit crisper. I do think we are in better condition. I do think we are more aggressive as a team. That you know, we have only played one game. Some things I think we can maintain and that is one thing I would expect us to -- that is the most gratifying thing is, I think, we are a more aggressive, faster football team. I am not talking about 40 times and all that, but just the way we played the game. I am encouraged by that. I think our team senses that too.
Q. How about rotating, what did it come down to? How many plays did players go in and how did that work? COACH DAVIE: We did it about every four, five players, rotated that front. I think that really helped us because you know it would have been easy to burn out early in that football game on defense and never be able to recover from it if we would have kept the same kids out there on the field. Once again, we go into this game - the reality is Kory Minor may be out Bobbie Howard may be out A'Jani Sanders may be out; Ronnie Nicks is nicked up a little bit. I feel better about our depth. Those are quality players, but we have got to go on. I think we have developed enough depth that we are not just going to fall off the cliff. We are going to continue to use as many players as we can. A guy like Lee Lafayette - he did a tremendous job on the kicking teams. Lee Lafayette is going to play a little bit this week as safety as well. So we have got some more numbers.
Q. I know you are trying to keep everybody on an emotionally even keel, but with this tremendous buzz on -- not only on campus, but around the country, the convincing way you won that first game, are you concerned that maybe too much of their store of emotion might have been let out of the bag a little too early? COACH DAVIE: First of all, we have not made any tee-times for Phoenix in January. There are no -- we have no tee-times yet. But I don't think so. I think, once again, there has been such an investment made for such a long period of time. I would hope that we do have more than one game in us. In fact I know we do. It is going to come down to this week whether we play well or we don't and it is going to be written if we don't, it's that we couldn't handle the success, but I don't think that is going to be the case. I think it is going to come down to how we execute and how we play against Michigan State and how we perform in the game more than the scenario. Because these kids are smart enough to know. They have been through enough situations. They were 1 and 0 last year. So I really don't think that is the case. I will be extremely disappointed if our football team is not focused. I think we have got a responsibility as coaches, and I think that is our job to make sure they are focused.
Q. During the preseason when you were talking about or you were asked about handling adversity, you said you'd like to see how you would be able to handle some success. How are you handling this and how does Saturday change what follows externally as far as what your players have to be prepared for? COACH DAVIE: Well, I'd like to play well to take advantage of Saturday. Because let's face it, if we don't go play well this week and the next week, Saturday will be of no significance. I hope we all look back to Saturday after we have been successful for a consistent period and say, boy, that was a heck of a win and that got things turned around. For us to do that, we have got to go play well. One thing about being at Notre Dame as a player or a coach, there is always something happening and I really don't think that it is going to affect our team that much. I think we have done a good enough job of, you know, without creating a bunker mentality, without painting us against the world, I think we have got it down to what the issues really are and what really is significant. That hasn't changed. If we would have lost Saturday, things would be written this week and things would be said this week, but the reality is, what happened on that tape, and how we played was what was significant. The same thing that we won, isn't the external things that have any factor or provided any motivation to it to. It is what we do as our own group and how we execute and how we practice and how we prepare. So I would be disappointed if we changed, if our players see that any differently. Because that is truly how I see it. All those things outside, all those issues and all those scenarios and all those spins and all those agendas, are of no factor to this football team. It really isn't. I would hope our team is convinced of that. At some point we have to line up and run 28 and know the snap count and know who to block and be in good enough shape and be good enough fundamentally to do it and do it better than what we are playing. It has nothing to do with anything else. Now that we have won there is no reason to think that we won't be able to focus on what is important.
Q. Are you either concerned or making special notice to the players that you are going to get other peoples best shots even more so now because of what everyone else saw on Saturday? COACH DAVIE: Probably true. I mean, you look at Michigan State right now, that is an 0 and 2 football team. We will get Michigan State's best shot. But I think at this level of college football and these games being the magnitude they are, I think you get peoples' best shots every week because you have heard me say about the investment we have made and sacrifices we have made. Every college football team in this country is making investments and sacrifices too. I think every week you go out there, it is everybody trying to win and trying to play as hard as they can. I think the reality is you give the best shot every time you go out there.
Q. Talking about shots, last year Jim Colletto that took a lot of shots the second half, especially his offense just ruled. A lot of people aren't giving him credit. What was he like on Sunday when you talked to him and how much credit does he deserve? COACH DAVIE: I think he deserves a lot of credit. I think our offensive staff deserves a lot of credit. But the truth is, our players deserve the most credit because they are the ones that execute and they are the ones that play. But I do think we have put in a good plan for our personnel. I do think we have had a good solid foundation in the plan that goes back to January of not going out in the spring and doing things that we weren't going to do in the fall. I think Jim has been pretty consistent. And I am glad to see some good things happen for Jim, for our players, for everyone, but he is involved like he normally is, back in there watching football. He spends a lot of time watching football and that is why I like him. He is a ball coach. He has been pretty consistent about that since I have known him.
Q. After what you just said about not letting the external things affect you as a coach, do you pay attention or worry when the players do sort of talk about their motivated by wanting to get Notre Dame football back or that people have written off Notre Dame, is there a fine line there between trying to motivate them, you know, to prove something and not be affected by all the outside things? COACH DAVIE: Yeah, I think so. Once again - and I said this in the opening press conference of the year - you have got to be careful because if you turn it into a crusade, and you turn it into being motivated for all those different reasons, there is only so much you can concentrate on and so much you can think about. So you end up trying to find all these reasons that you should be a better team or why you should do this or why you should do that. The reality is you should do it because you have worked your rearend off at becoming a better player and better team. My point is there is only so many things you can think about. I'd much rather have them focus on what is important.
Q. Could you talk little bit about the maturation process of some of the athletes? I know Autry Denson seemed like he was totally focused, a lot different from last year in that he wasn't so concerned about himself maybe in some situations. I remember especially at third down, 4, I think there was a sweep going on. Might have got 15 going this way, but he needed 4 to get the first down. He cut it inside; got the first down; took care of business. COACH DAVIE: Well, I have never seen Autry as being selfish or no time last year did I see him more concerned about himself in all honesty, Bob. I have always seen him as guy that is a team player. I have seen him as guy that goes out there and gives 100%. So I have never seen him as a selfish player. I think he is a better player right now when he doesn't have his hands on the ball. He had a little bit of a problem last year with pass protection. I think he has improved at that.
Q. Get the feeling there were some guys wanted to show that maybe they should have gotten a little more playing time last year, it is a matter next group stepping up and taking -- COACH DAVIE: We have more depth. We have a few more kids back. We have more kids that worked harder in the off-season; I think, have developed into better players. And certainly they deserve the chance to play. But the bottom line -- we have a little more depth than we have. Last year at this time Ronnie Nicks and Joe Thomas were already out. Bobby Howard was out. We were extremely thin. So I think it is a combination of things.
Q. Grant Irons looked like he wore his new weight well. COACH DAVIE: He played well. He knows he can play better. But Grant did some good things. One thing about Grant, he will give you 100% every snap. I think the future is really bright for Grant.
Q. Was there any response to what happened Saturday that was especially gratifying or meaningful? Any phone calls, anything that was said after the game? COACH DAVIE: Not really. No. I wish I had something, you know, clever to say, but in all honesty, not really. It is just fun to go home and be around the people that really matter and I don't think anyone realizes as much as I try to keep it away from my family-you know, like I said you are happy for other people. It is happy to see other people enjoy things and other people smiling and feel good. So, to me, it was just going home and Joanne made dinner about 9 o'clock and about 11 o'clock I started watching those tapes of the game and about 3:30 I watched the end of our game on NBC. So it was about business as usual, but I tell you, I was in a lot better -- I felt a lot better watching those tapes, I must admit.
Q. You had Darcey Levy lined up in that formation that you ran. How do you want to use him? How do you want to split -- split is probably not right word -- what kind of timing do you want with him and Autry? COACH DAVIE: I would have liked to have gotten Darcey in the game as the eye tailback. Darcey needs to play. We are doing a little bit with the three-back look. David Givens may do a little bit that as well. I think that could be a good package for us. I think we have got some good things we can add to that. I would like to get Darcey Levy in the game. I am anxious to watch him play some. Once again, you are going to have to drag Autry and carry him off the field to do that. But I think we need to do it, no question.
Q. I believe it was just one play and it was very early, you ran an unbalanced line with the tackles next to each other. What do you try to -- what are you trying to accomplish with that? COACH DAVIE: First of all, Luke Petitgout is really a good athlete. You get Luke Petitgout over as really the tightend, so it is an unbalanced line -- we did a lot of that last year. See, last year when Jabari was 220, we had to do that to get the eye formation running team, we did that out of necessity. It proved to be pretty good for us. I think it is one more thing that causes defenses to make adjustments. We are totally comfortable doing it so we have got an advantage there. But it is not a big part of our package now that Jabari is up to 250 and we feel like he can block a little bit better. But we did do it a couple snaps Saturday.
Q. I don't mean to get off the subject but I think I would be remiss and the country would probably like to know if you ever have a chance to keep up with McGwire setting history in baseball, it is tough when you are watching your game recaps, but have you had a chance to and have you talked to the players about it or are they into it at all seeing history, something coming around that maybe we may never see again? COACH DAVIE: Just about everyday before practice or after practice I get the update from the media. Because they have a lot more time to follow this thing more than we do. But certainly I got the update yesterday. That is an amazing. I saw the highlights of him hitting his 61st home run, certainly comes across home plate and picks his son up, then points up to his dad and says happy birthday on his 61st birthday; points to the Roger Maris family and his fans. I mean, that is just incredible. The thing I notice is how big those arms are in those post-game press conferences. He looks like a big 5 technique or big tightend, but certainly I have followed a little bit, and that is an amazing story. I mean, it is amazing. JOHN HEISLER: Thank you very much.
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