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    An Interview With Coach Bob Davie

    FIGHTING IRISH Head coach Bob Davie talks about Notre Dame's performance against Nebraska in this week's interview.
    FIGHTING IRISH
    Head coach Bob Davie talks about Notre Dame's performance against Nebraska in this week's interview.
    FIGHTING IRISH

    Sept. 10, 2000

    An Interview With Coach Bob Davie

    COACH DAVIE: I think everybody would probably agree that it was a great college football game. It may be as physical a game as I have coached in. There were some licks in that football game. So there is no one calling in a moral victory or anything like that.

    But I am certainly proud of how our team played. I think they competed very hard. I thought they hung in there throughout the game, overcame some momentum situations and put themselves in a situation to win the game. So I am disappointed that we didn't win, but I am really proud of the effort. That is one of the finest efforts I have seen in coaching.

    There were some big-time hits going on. Nebraska is a powerful football team. So I am proud of how we competed. I am proud of how we played.

    I am disappointed that we didn't win. I think when you look at it offensively, there are some things that really stand out. We knew going in that Nebraska was a real good defensive football team. They lost excellent players from last year. They lost the safety. They lost the defensive lineman, San Jose moved the ball on them a little bit. A little different team than ours, but we felt like we could move the ball. I don't know going in that we thought that we can just run it consistently, but we felt we could move it.

    I am disappointed that we didn't consistently move the ball, but we certainly had our opportunities.

    If you look back in the game there were some critical penalties. We had the holding call on Javin Hunter's long completion. Instead of the ball being at the 11-yard line, it's first and 20 back at mid-field. That was a critical call. It was a good call. Jim Jones held him. It was a heck of a catch by Javin Hunter.

    We had the holding call on the zone option there in the fourth quarter. Our tight end held the outside linebacker. That was a good call.

    We had offensive pass interference on our tight end. That is a close call.

    But there were some penalties in the game. We also had a procedure penalty so it was disappointing offensively that we had four penalties and I think that impacted our productivity a little bit.

    Second thing, we had some missed opportunities. Twice in the first half we had excellent field position, once on the 35-yard line, that is when Javin made the great catch where we had the holding penalty. We ended up punting the football.

    Then again in the first half we get the ball mid-field, don't generate any points out of that and have to punt.

    End of the game in overtime we had first and goal at the 8 and settled for a field goal. So the penalties and then the missed opportunities.

    The other thing I think you see when you watch the tape, we had some opportunities throwing the football that we didn't quite take advantage of. It is not all the quarterback's fault - the protection broke down a couple different times, but we had some tight ends opened on crossing routs. We had some open receivers one time when it was empty. When Arnaz threw the interception, when the ball was batted, we had a chance to have a big-play on the post. On fourth and one when we went for it, both tight ends were wide open, so we had our opportunities. And when you play a team like Nebraska you better take advantage of those opportunities and that is why we are disappointed.

    On the other hand, offensively we didn't quite have as many opportunities to have the football. Any time you run a kickoff back for a touchdown, you run a punt back for a touchdown, obviously you score points, but you lose an offensive series. So that kinds of impacted those statistics a little bit.

    Just looking at the game how it went offensively, is just trying to summarize it. I think the quarterback, Arnaz started out a little shaky on the first two series. He really threw balls that could have been intercepted. And we were very fortunate they weren't intercepted.

    The third series, as I mentioned, when we went empty, and they are in straight man-to-man coverage and we have the post, the ball is intercepted. So we started out he was a little off balance throwing the football.

    You look at the running game, hard to consistently run it against them because they are a lot of 8- and 9-man fronts. The best opportunities we had to run the football was Arnaz scrambling. He did a tremendous job of that, just creating plays. He also did a great job with something we call the "quarterback decide play" where we come out and fake the draw and we read the defensive end. If the defensive end closes, he keeps it. If the defense ends stays wide, he hands it.

    We had a couple of real good plays on the decide play. But Arnaz gave us the best opportunity to run the football. You look at the passing game, we struggled 3 for 15 in the game and did have some opportunities.

    The positive thing is, though, we only turned the ball over one time. That turnover came on the third series of the game. From that point on, we never put the ball on the ground.

    So I thought we probably played less than we expected to play on offense. But we certainly had our opportunities. Halftime that is what I told our offensive football team, I felt like if we played as well as we were capable of playing in the second half, that we would put some points on the board. So I am a little bit disappointed, but once again, you have got to give Nebraska credit because they are a good defense football team.

    Defensively, I thought for the second week in a row we played extremely hard. I thought we tackled well against some big powerful backs. We made some mistakes. I told our players before the game, you don't have to play a perfect, perfect, perfect game. What you have to do is give your career-best effort. I think if you judge it on that, then it was a success defensively because they did play with tremendous effort.

    We weren't as clean as I would hope to be. We had some busts early in the game. To be honest, they didn't hurt us as bad as they maybe could have hurt us. But I thought we played really hard.

    I thought there were a lot of big hits in the game. I thought Anthony Denman and Tony Driver really came up and hit you and I thought our corners did a good job in run support.

    The big plays in the game, obviously the quarterback on the belly option goes 65 yards. I think it was for a touchdown. We were a little bit misaligned, but we made a great play.

    Looking back on it, he made a great play and he can really run.

    They ran the isolation against us for 25 yards for the touchdown, the second series of the second half, and our linebacker ran across the gap and we basically allowed them to do that. But the kid has good speed.

    I think their quarterback is a great player. I think they are a big powerful offense. They are difficult to defend, but I thought we hung in there and gave ourselves an opportunity when we got stronger as the game went on. I thought once we settled into what they were doing, I felt pretty good about it.

    The key play in the game, to me, as it came down, as it unfolded, was third and 9 in the overtime - had to do it over again, I'd be in man-coverage right there. We played zone. We didn't line up exactly correctly. They got the ball off to the tight end on a little thing we call the "hobo rout." If we had been in man-coverage at that point they'd have to make a great throw. Honestly, I thought they'd run the quarterback draw or the option right there and put themselves in position for a field goal. I didn't think they would risk throwing the football and maybe be out of field goal range.

    So give them credit. They converted on third and 9, but that was disappointing.

    Special teams. I think it was outstanding. I think it -- obviously we spent a lot of time on special teams and I know Nebraska prided themselves over the years on special teams. So for two weeks in a row, I think you can see that the hard work paid off. Any time you can return a kickoff for a touchdown, any time you can return a punt for a touchdown in a game like that, it is huge.

    I thought our punt protection was really solid. A lot of people don't realize Nebraska blocked seven punts last year and No. 3 and No. 4 -- 34 for them are excellent punt blockers. Field goal protection was good. Nick Setta again did a good job with extra points in field goals.

    Kickoff coverage, not disappointed in the coverage - McNew struggled a little bit, kicked two balls out of bounds which hurt us with field position. But overall, good solid effort special teams.

    So we put ourselves in a position to win by playing good solid defense, by doing some things on special teams. To me, I felt we had it where we wanted it.

    Just to address a couple of situations, you know, I think that it always comes down to decisions you make in the game. On fourth and one, we went for it. The field goal to me at that time was not an option. I never even considered kicking a long field goal. I felt we had momentum of the game - just like the week before against A&M when it was fourth and one, just about in the same spot on the field, the decision is: "Should we run the ball" or "should we throw the ball." The reason we threw the ball on the play before that on third down, we ran it up in there for about half a yard. They came with an all out blitz. We knew they were going to blitz us again. They did blitz us. We had both tight ends open. Protection broke down just a little bit. But you all saw what happened. We ended up punting right there. Obviously, hindsight, you'd love to have run the football, get a first down, and now run it down to about three minutes left in the game and kick a field goal go in for the touchdown and put the pressure on them.

    We made the decision. I think it was the right decision at the time. We just didn't execute.

    The decision at the end of game by getting the ball back with a minute and 7 left, that was totally my decision. We get it back with a minute and 7. They have three timeouts left in the game. The series before that, we tried to throw the ball on third down. The protection broke down. We almost got sacked. Arnaz hung it up on the post, didn't make a particularly great throw, so they get the ball back with a minute and 7 with three timeouts. It is not that we didn't try to win the game. The first play is (inaudible) we are going to throw the football. They have it defended. Arnaz does a good job of tucking it away and gaining a couple of yards. We come back second down, we run the quarterback draw which is a heck of a call for us in that situation, give Arnaz a chance to beat you with his legs. I am a little surprised Nebraska didn't call timeout themselves because, as I mentioned, they did block seven punts last year. I was not going to punt that football in that situation. Being three for 15 the series before, we didn't throw the football well. And the fact that they blocked seven punts the year before, I think we made the right decision in that situation. So I felt really good about going into overtime.

    We had practiced overtime. We called our team up, put them in a huddle. We told hem exactly what we were going to do. It is just that we didn't take advantage of being first and goal on the 8 offensively. We didn't take advantage of having them in third and 9. But give Nebraska credit. There is a reason they are the No. 1 football team in the country. But give our players credit, too, because they left it all out there on that field.

    So that is where we are. We know it doesn't get any easier. We paid a heavy price for that game. And we have got a couple of significant, significant injuries.

    The reason I didn't tell you about these injuries first was because we would never get to the wrap-up of the game.

    First thing. We had a devastating blow this morning. Arnaz Battle has a fractured navicular. He hurt his wrist on the first play of the game. He played the entire football game with what amounts to a broken wrist. After the game, you know, it wasn't that bad. He was able to grip. He was able to make a fist. Came in this morning, it had swollen up over night, couldn't make a fist, couldn't grip. We X-rayed it. There is a crack in the navicular. He is out indefinitely, maybe out for the year. May have surgery. We are going to exhaust all options obviously. We are going to have some different people look at it, but right now, he is out indefinitely with a fractured wrist. It is his left wrist. But obviously, that doesn't make enough difference right now in our opinion.

    The seconds injury, Grant Irons will be out for the season. He dislocated his shoulder. He will have surgery within the next ten days. They are going to try to let the swelling go down.

    So there is a chance that we lose Arnaz for the year. There is -- obviously we have lost Grant for the year. We have several other injuries. I think the other injuries -- any time you play a game like this, you are going to have injuries that impacts you for a couple of days.

    Javin Hunter had a concussion. We think he is going to be fine. Brock Williams has a knee. He will be okay. Lance Lagree played the whole game with that sprained toe that he sprained in practice. He is going to struggle this week. But hopefully he will be back for the game.

    There is a few other ones. Joey Getherall was knee'ed in the back, has a really a back contusion. It is not a disc. He will probably play.

    Mike Gandy when he went down on the field he was kicked in the ankle. He is fine there. He hurt his shoulder a little bit. All these are two-to-three-day-type injuries. The best of my recollection, that is the list right there.

    With Arnaz, certainly it is a blow, but more than a blow to this football team, it is a blow to him. His parents were here for the game, his mom, his dad, his grandmother. They are in route home. We tried to get in touch with them. They don't even know yet. So it is unfortunate. You talk about a young guy that stayed here all summer, has worked extremely hard to polish his game, I think it is on the verge of greatness. But that is all part of football. Arnaz played as a freshman before he was ready to play. He had to play because we didn't have a backup quarterback. So if Arnaz doesn't play the rest of there year, hopefully he will have another year of football and have two years of eligibility left.

    Almost the same thing with Grant Irons, you all were around here when Grant Irons played as a 218-pound freshman, was unfair to him to have to play. I called his dad and apologized that he had to play as a freshman. So now Grant, as stinging a blow as it is now to our football team, as stinging as it is to him, things happen for a reason and Grant will have an opportunity to hopefully get a fifth year out of this.

    So it is what it is. We have got a lot of good football players on this team. We have got a lot of character on this team. And if we can play as hard as we played yesterday, and we can continue to improve, we are going to be a good football team. So that is where it is. That is devastating news, but that is part of football.

    At this time I will be happy to answer any questions.

    Q. Can you just talk in more detail on exactly when Arnaz hurt the wrist and how he hurt hit?

    COACH DAVIE: On the first play of the game we came out with a boot pass and after Arnaz threw the ball, he came down and just caught himself on his left wrist and, you know, at that time, whether it was the excitement of the game, the emotion of the game, the adrenaline of the game, it really didn't bother him until the second half.

    But it was on the first play of the game and give the kid a lot of credit, obviously, he played an entire football game with a broken wrist is what it amounts to.

    Q. What is the current situation at the quarterback spot now, who will start against Purdue and who will be the backup?

    COACH DAVIE: Obviously we didn't even have time to prepare for this last night because when we left, we thought it was just a slight to moderately sprained wrist and didn't think that it would be a problem. So it has kind of taken us by surprise here this morning and I am not trying to be evasive in any way it is, just that we don't know just yet what we are going to do.

    We certainly have some options there with Gary Godsey, who we thought showed improvement through the spring. We have some young freshmen quarterbacks we think are going to be outstanding. So it just depends what we have to do in our opinion to beat Purdue offensively once we look at their defense for this week.

    So we are going to kind of have a short-range plan because this has caught us by surprise and then as we evaluate it, hopefully come up with a long-range plan. But I just don't know right now specifically what course we will take.

    As we went into the game Saturday, Gary Godsey was the backup quarterback. So we are going to get back together here later this afternoon obviously and discuss our options.

    Q. Does that mean that whatever quarterback you choose at Purdue when you finally decide (inaudible) --

    COACH DAVIE: I think that could be an accurate statement. I don't know that that necessarily true. But there is a chance that that could be because obviously this came without warning and you do have some young quarterbacks that we are still in an evaluation process with. So the first order of business is what do we have to do to beat Purdue. The second order of business then will be Michigan State, then we have an Open Date. So that is kind of where we are.

    I think that is probably an accurate statement is, you know, who knows how this is all going to play out with the options we have and certainly some young guys are going to have opportunities, but none of us know who is going to jump up and take control of that and grab it.

    You saw with Arnaz where when he was the backup quarterback, he took on a certain demeanor, took on a certain presence. Then when he had his opportunity to be a starter, he took the next step. I think the same thing can be true this week maybe with a Gary Godsey all of a sudden now he is in a position to be the starting quarterback and the same could be said about those freshmen.

    So the whole landscape of the thing has changed so dramatically that we are just going to see how it plays out here for the next day or so and make some decisions.

    Q. Three weeks ago that may have not been considered. Having Arnaz go down three weeks into the process, is it different now, I mean, in terms of Gary Godsey being ready in terms of the freshmen, one of the freshmen being ready to step up?

    COACH DAVIE: Well, it is still -- you know it was unthinkable three hours ago. It really was. I mean, I think we all realize what a blow this is. You have all seen how we have evolved as a football team and all season how much work has gone into it, into this offense. So this is a tremendous blow. But that is what college football is at times. That is what football is and it is an opportunity for someone else.

    I feel fortunate that Gary Godsey is in the program. I said that at the end of last spring. I thought he made a lot of improvement. If you think back to the spring game, I thought he was solid in the spring game and did some good things. We are not a one-dimensional offense. I mean, certainly option is a part of our offense and those quarterback runs are part. Some of that will be taken away to a degree if it's Gary Godsey, but we have enough things in our scheme and have some talented linemen and running backs and I think pretty talented at wide receiver that we have enough things that Gary Godsey can do.

    So we are far enough along in the offense. Although this is a major, major blow - it is not going to be an excuse. There is no one going to be feeling sorry for us and nobody should feel sorry for us. We have got some talented players and we have got to go forward. So it is unthinkable, but it just happened. So we have got to take the next step.

    Q. I am sure your decision for quarterback will come based on a lot of what happens at this point. But can you talk about the individuals, their strengths -- (inaudible)

    COACH DAVIE: I think, once again, you are always cautious about this because they just haven't had as many reps in full-speed situations. But if I could say it right now, Carlyle Holiday would be the most athletic and he does have a strong arm. Consistency, I don't know. He just hasn't had that many opportunities, but he is extremely athletic, probably the most like Arnaz in his capabilities of running football.

    Jared Clark would probably be the strongest thrower and he is a big, strong physical guy that can run the ball. He is probably a 4-8 type of quarterback. He is not really an option quarterback, but he can run.

    Matt LoVecchio is probably a combination of the two of them. May not be as athletic as Carlyle, may not throw it as well as Jared, but I think he has some presence to him and I think he understands the system. So he is kind of a mix of the two. That is why it has been so difficult because they all three have qualities and so it has been a little bit of a problem getting -- making a decision on which one should get it, to be quite honest.

    Q. Would you choose a player that has a better grasp of the system over somebody that may be a little bit more athletic --

    COACH DAVIE: That becomes the decision, but obviously, if you knew that one did have a significantly better grasp of the system, then it's easier to make that decision or if you knew that one was significantly better as an athlete or significantly better as a thrower, and you can put Gary Godsey into that mix, we don't know that he is significantly better just because he has been here more than a spring than other guys. So that is the problem. That is the problem.

    You always have with Arnaz, you try to get Arnaz every snap, getting him ready and it is just because you were young there to begin with. It is not as easy as you might think to get that next guy ready. So it is a difficult decision.

    We are going to sit down and think it through. In the end, sometimes these decisions, you always put on yourself as a coach to make, it is going to come back to the players making the decision. Although you only have three days of practice, that is an opportunity for somebody to step up and make the decision for us.

    Q. Changing the subject back to the decision in overtime, you must have made that decision, though, prior to receiving the punt because Nebraska ran a play on third down --

    COACH DAVIE: Exactly.

    Q. (inaudible)

    COACH DAVIE: I knew we had stopped them several times on defense at the end of that game. I felt momentum was on our side. They had three timeouts left and what you don't see - and not that I expect to you see - is how much time we spent on punt protection against Nebraska.

    I was paranoid about them blocking a punt on us, and kicking a field goal to win that game. And I felt momentum was on our side. I felt if we could just let our team play it out, that we had become the stronger football team at the end of that game. And I didn't want to take it out of our hands by having a punt blocked or making a mistake with a quarterback that was three of 15 because I thought at that point we had gotten stronger and I felt we could play them and beat them. I wanted to keep playing. So I didn't think the odds of us going, you know, whatever yardage we needed to go to kick a field goal, I didn't like the odds of us throwing the football.

    On first down, I was going to take a chance there and roll and throw a pretty conservative pass. But then when that was unsuccessful, then it was no doubt in my mind what we were going to do and I was worried about them calling timeout.

    So yeah, I felt that we had gained strength as the game went on and I was not going to lose that game with a blocked punt.

    Q. You didn't think you had enough safe things (inaudible) --

    COACH DAVIE: We did quarterback draw -- we were three for 15. On the third down in the series before that -- when it was third and 8, our protection breakdown and we get that thing up there to Joey Getherall. Some points you got to make the call. I could understand where people would second guess that, but from where I sat, punting that football back to Nebraska at the end of that football game was a major mistake, major mistake. It was some wind with them and their kicker is back there- last year, their field goal kicker - I was not going to take that game out of our kids' hands. We were playing good enough defense.

    What it came down to was third and 9. They hit the tight end for a first down. And if there is any second guessing, I am going to myself, it is not being in man-to-man coverage or blitzing them on third and 9, but the reason you didn't do that, because I thought it was going to be quarterback draw and I thought it was going to be zone option right there.

    So I slept good last night on those decisions and I am not trying to be cocky about it or anything. I felt we did the right things. I thought going for it on fourth down was the right thing. I thought throwing it was the right thing, but any time you lose, that is part of it. I don't blame people for having their opinion, but I disagree with it.

    Q. (inaudible) how much from the offense you will lose by having Godsey in there?

    COACH DAVIE: Gary worked extremely hard going from 245 pounds down to about 230 pounds. He is better athletically than he was a year ago. But he is by no means a scrambling-type quarterback or an option-style quarterback. So most of the option package would be missing.

    Some of the quarterback runs he can do, but it is not going to be as effective as Arnaz. To put a percentage on it, I don't know. But, fortunately, we do have enough things out of eye formation and we do spread the field enough, I think he is really a good thrower. I think Gary Godsey is an impressive guy throwing the football. In fact R.C. came up to me before the game and asked me who big No. 14 was, the quarterback, I thought he really threw the ball well.

    So he can throw the football and he is capable, but certainly we are on a limited-option-style game with him in there.

    Q. Is this the worst (inaudible) biggest dropoff from --

    COACH DAVIE: I think with any football team, when your quarterback goes down, that is a blow. In our situation, we are like most teams in this country where there is probably a gap between your starter and your second quarterback. Just glad Gary Godsey was here through the spring and I am glad we went out and recruited the those three freshmen, so we are like a lot of teams, we are all in that same boat and the same thing in the NFL, it is the same thing, that is why those quarterbacks wear red shirts in practice.

    Q. How forward can you be on this decision and can you sit down with your coaching staff this afternoon and let's say you decide on one or two to practice tomorrow and start putting a game plan in, I mean, do you have to decide this afternoon? Could that change Monday? Could it change Tuesday? Could it even change Wednesday?

    COACH DAVIE: Well, I think what you do is come up with scenarios. And, as I said, you let the players play those scenarios out by making the decision for you.

    We are going to look at Gary Godsey, see how he takes commands of that huddle. We are going to look at Purdue and see the things that we feel we have to do to move the ball and to win the football game.

    But in the end, the players are the ones that play and they make those decisions for you. So we are going to create some scenarios and somebody is going to have the opportunity to step up and take the job. And what is so critical in this, and why I feel like we can be successful is because the character of our other players. There is tremendous character on this team and I am not saying that as a cliche or just to try to make myself feel good. I really like this team. I really like it. And we are going to have to pick up the slack and go from here. Because our expectations -- they are not going to be lowered because of this.

    Q. How is the dropoff between Grant Irons and Ryan Roberts?

    COACH DAVIE: Grants Irons played extremely hard against A&M. He played hard against Nebraska. There is a dropoff there, but I will say this, Ryan Roberts came in and played that whole football game yesterday and played his tail off. He played hard. And this is a kid that came back from back surgery in the spring that you didn't think was going to play again. So there is a dropoff there. But Ryan Roberts has played really solid football when he has been in there and he did it against A&M.

    We will probably look at Daryl Campbell back at defensive end some. You know, I feel really bad for grants Irons. You talk about a kid that worked hard now, worked hard. And all of a sudden it is taken away from him. That is devastating to him.

    Q. You mentioned a week ago (inaudible) positive reinforcement and how important that has been in light of last season. How (inaudible) --

    COACH DAVIE: If you didn't know our football team as well as I know them, if I wouldn't have seen our football team compete the way they have competed the first two weeks, then obviously it would be a major concern. But knowing the kids the way I know them and knowing our coaches the way I know them, we are not ones to look for excuses. We are not ones to feel sorry for ourselves. We have had a bunch of opportunity to do that. That is not a concern to me.

    The concern to me is to be efficient enough, to execute well enough offensively. I think we are going to rally around whoever the quarterback is. I think our football team will rally around this situation. In fact, I know they will. It is about being efficient enough, and keeping enough players together to go win playing the kind of schedule we play. Because that is the bottom line, to me is -- there has been a lot of things said. Things get more dramatic than they need to be. But the reality is, we had 21 players not playing last year in those last three games, and playing a lot of good teams over the next several weeks so I have got no question about the character, all those issues with this team. The confidence of this team, I don't even concern myself with that. It is being efficient enough to go play good football teams.

    Q. What about the other quarterbacks (inaudible) --

    COACH DAVIE: They don't know yet.

    In fact, Arnaz was over this morning, Arnaz knows, Grant knows, Grant's family knows. As I mentioned Arnaz' family is in route home.

    Q. (inaudible)

    COACH DAVIE: I have not had the chance to talk to Arnaz. I tried to call him here a little bit after he left. We were in watching the tape and Arnaz went back to his room. I am going to talk to him sometime this afternoon noon. Greg talked to Grant. Grant was devastated by the news. So I am not going to call a team meeting and tell them the news. But we will get together tomorrow. Most of our players come over and watch the tape on their own today.

    Q. When did you learn this?

    COACH DAVIE: I think it was -- I was done watching the tape, I would say it was about 11:30.

    Q. (inaudible)

    COACH DAVIE: We had the same -- we have the same routine every Sunday. Our players come in Sunday morning, Jim Ross and the doctors meet with all the players, every player, and then about 11:30, Jim comes in and meets with me, Jim and the doctors, and that is the first we heard. We had not had any indication.

     

     

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