Oct. 7, 2006
An Interview With COACH Walt Harris
COACH Walt Harris: We congratulate Notre Dame on a victory here today. Obviously they played good and our guys played hard.
I thought our guys from our perspective played a little better. We had some unfortunate things happen that were weren't quite able to capitalize on the plays that we needed to capitalize in order to make it a lot closer game, but that's football; it doesn't always bounce the way you want it to bounce. We have a lot of work to do, but we have some improvements that I thought offensively at times, defensively I think it still continues to get a little better. Special teams was better today. But once again, we ran into a good football team with a good quarterback, and they protected him tremendously well and they operated like you expected them to. I thought Darius Walker did a nice job. Obviously their front was the difference for us on offense.
Q. You mentioned the mistakes that your receivers dropped two pretty open balls. Do you see it as one of them was a touchdown that could have changed the tenor of the game?
COACH Walt Harris: We thought both of them had a chance, one for sure in the end zone and the other one had a chance to be a good gain, but that's the way it is. As far as football, you've got to try to fight your way through it, and they weren't able to do it.
Q. Is there something that Victor Abiamiri does against you guys that allows him to be so successful? Is there kind of a kink in your scheme that allows him to do that?
COACH Walt Harris: No, I just think he's a good football player. Correct me if I'm wrong, we won't have to face him again? I'm sure Charlie will come up with some others. He can't wait to play us, that's what it looks like. We wish him well.
Q. Notre Dame started with a long drive. Do you think defensively, do you think that the guys sort of wore down as the half went on?
COACH Walt Harris: I'm sure they did. I don't think that drive was so wore us out as much as we came back with a 14 play drive, but then we had three drives and three downs to punt. That wore our defense out. We weren't able to get it done.
Once again, I think you have to give credit to the defensive front. I thought they were they dominated us in the short yardage situation and also pass protection.
Q. You ran the double pass for a touchdown. Did you see something in their scheme, something that personnel makes that vulnerable to that kind of play?
COACH Walt Harris: Well, whenever you try a play like that, it could be real good or it could be real bad. We thought they had a chance. It took a while to come down, and we were praying pretty hard. Fortunately our guy camped underneath it and got it done. It was one of those plays, I wish we were at the point where we don't have to do that kind of stuff, we just go down and execute it, but sometimes we have to do that.
Q. You've been plagued by injuries. How would you assess your backups in the running game today?
COACH Walt Harris: How would I assess our backups?
Q. Like Toby, the guys who ran the ball today.
COACH Walt Harris: It was great to have Anthony Kimble back, he was physical for us, and I thought Toby did, too. I think the thing I can't wait to watch is we really had trouble pass protecting and yet we ran the ball effectively most of the time. It's the same guys blocking, same guys defending. I thought we had a good plan to run the ball and we tried to run the ball. One of my goals personally was to stick with the run game longer and see if it would help us. I think we improved, so that's positive for our picture.
Q. Notre Dame's offensive line has at times struggled this year. What was your assessment of it?
COACH Brady Quinn had a lot of time to pass on a consistent basis. Not every time, but on a consistent basis. They're big and physical, and it's nice to have a freshman come in and play as a true freshman. You've got to look way up to see him. We're hoping he graduates early.
You know, they're good up front. They play a tough schedule and they've got physical guys. I think that most of those guys are veteran football players except for him. That makes it a lot better for Brady.
Q. You had a 4th and 1 play midfield. Was that something you saw in the defense?
COACH Walt Harris: We would sure like to maybe try something different, but we felt like we had to come into the game and try to make something happen. To play conservative, I don't think that that's what we needed to do in order to give our players a chance to win. A lot of times when you do that, you decide you wish you would have called a different play or maybe wish you had kicked. But I just was trying to help our team because I thought we were in for a tough battle here in a hostile environment, and I thought it would help. Unfortunately we didn't get it done.
Q. Would you compare this team to the Notre Dame team you saw last November? Do you think it's a better team?
COACH Walt Harris: They're both good teams. They both beat us. They have a fifth year senior quarterback, who I just talked to him briefly before the game. He's really matured, and like Coach Weis said, he's already played through a lot before Coach Weis ever got a hold of him. Obviously he gave him an excellent offense to play in. But he's seen it, so he doesn't get rattled and he has great composure and he's a very good scrambler. He makes the plays and that really helps their pass protection, makes it hard on the defense.
Q. There's been several times this year where you evaluate receivers during the game and make substitutions based on their play. What was the decision of the different evaluation of receivers you had to keep them in the game?
COACH Walt Harris: Yancy got hurt and was out for quite a while, so that was a big reason why Mike he actually came back in the game. The only other one we don't have that many. The only other one was Sherman, and Coach Waugh, an outstanding receiving coach, thought it would be best to go with the other guys.
Q. Marcus McCutcheon didn't practice warming up before the game. Coach's decision or doctor's advice for him to not play today?
COACH Walt Harris: No, I think it's hard to come back from a somewhat serious knee injury and be out for four weeks and come right back in and the first game he has to play is in Notre Dame Stadium. He's been able to run around with a regular and be able to be touched by somebody. I think we want to take care of our guys, and we still have some games to go, so we're looking he should be better this week with another week under his belt and still be confident. He really wants to play. There's no question he's chomping at the bit.
Q. Looking at the stats right here, Stanford was 1 for 8 on 3rd down and Notre Dame was 7 for 13. Can you talk about how big that was and what you've got to do to try to change that?
COACH Walt Harris: That's been a challenge for us all year. That's how you win games, that's how you lose games. You've got to get it done on 3rd down, and we weren't able to and they were. It's simple. We know it's plagued us, and that's why you have those three plays, then out. That's our challenge right now.
Q. You talked earlier about you wanted to stick with the running game today. Both of your top two runners averaged over four yards per carry. Are you surprised that that did not help open up a better passing game?
COACH Walt Harris: I don't think the passing game wasn't open. I think that's not a fair statement. I think the passing game was open, we just couldn't get to it.
FastScripts by ASAP Sports....
Stanford Player Quotes
Junior RB Anthony Kimble
On his TD pass in the second half ...
"That's my first touchdown pass since I was a senior in high school. It certainly wasn't a great pass, but it gave us a score. I believe we got that play from USC last season and we put it in the game plan as we were able to execute it."
On his team's offensive effort...
"We have had some problems with the running game so it was good to get some productivity out of that today, but we still need to get everyone executing on a consistent basis and on the same page then get it going. The offensive line did do a great job today in getting holes to run through, but we still need to bring it all together."
Senior QB Trent Edwards
On his overall effort ...
"I felt like I took a couple of sacks that I shouldn't have because I held on to the ball too long. I also missed a couple of receivers when they were open, so it's pretty frustrating, but I have to learn from it."
On the offense's performance ...
"We talk about it early in the week to get something started right away and we did that with the first drive. We got some momentum, but unfortunately we didn't continue that the rest of the game. We had a lot of players that continued to fight, but we just couldn't stay steady all day."
On Notre Dame's defense ...
"We knew we needed to play well up front because their front four guys are really talented and they ran some good stunts and twists up front that kept us off balance all day."
Senior LB Michael Okwo
On Notre Dame's offense ...
"They came out on the first drive pumping on all cylinders and they were in control from there. They got a little extra spark at the end of the first half and they were able to keep fresh legs in there almost all day and they wore us down a little bit."
On Stanford's defense ...
"I think we are starting to really come together and play as one unit. I know that I really enjoy playing with these guys, but we just have to be more steady in our play and keep one another on the same page."
An Interview With: COACH Charlie Weis
COACH Charlie Weis: I know the Yankees are losing 4 0 so you don't have to start with any wise cracks (laughter). Go ahead.
COACH Charlie Weis: I had a few guys that we could have gone either way on going into this game. Zibby I know will never tell me the truth when it comes to how he's feeling coming off of that. I just didn't feel that he had total straight back, even though he was pretty close, and I felt that I wanted to try while I could try to do all I could to try to save him so we had two weeks before we played another game.
You could put a bunch of guys into that category. You could put him into that category, Travis was another one where he could have played the game, Ambrose is another one that could have played the game, Renkes, he could have played the game. There's a lot of guys that could have played the game. But all those guys that were close, the only guy that wasn't in that situation was Paul Duncan was sick, so it had nothing to do with an injury, he was just sick. That's why he was in sweats. But all those guys were close to playing a game. I was just trying to bite my lip and see if I couldn't buy some extra time, which fortunately worked out okay.
Q. Was it his shoulder or --
COACH Charlie Weis: It was the remnants of yeah, it was the strength that he had lost some strength after that pop. It wasn't the head, it was more the strength in his upper body. He was running around out there fine, it's just that I told him, look, Zibby, if I ask you if you can go, you'll say you can go and you'd be lying, so we'll leave it at that and see if we can't buy you some time.
Q. How would you evaluate their concentration, focus and their execution?
COACH Charlie Weis: Well, I think that I was really pleased with that long, meticulous first drive that we had on offense, 17 plays, 91 yards or whatever it is. As a matter of fact, we had four drives in the game that were fairly long, 91, 68, 76 and 77 so it wasn't like we had great field position in the game for some of these drives.
But then they came back and answered with a long drive of their own, and why that happened, the offense kind of I thought fell asleep a little bit because now we're on the field for half of the first quarter, they're on the field for the second half of the first quarter. By the time we get the ball back there was a little bit to go in the first quarter and I thought there was a lull in the action there for a while.
But to be honest with you, the defense after that first drive, for the rest of the game with the exception of the halfback pass, they played pretty darn well.
Q. Can you just go through your decision to play James Aldridge late?
COACH Charlie Weis: Well, last week when that situation the last game when that situation presented itself, we had a sloppy field, the kid is coming off a knee, you have a sloppy field, and the last thing I want to do is go pound him inside for a few runs, which is what we gave him today. We pounded him inside with a few runs, and have a sloppy field the first day out and the kid is a little bit scared the first time anyway.
So today I had an opportunity to get him a few carries. I'm certainly not going to throw the ball in that situation and I'm certainly not trying to score. I think that it's important in his case to go ahead and get in coaching analogy, get his feet wet, get in there and get a couple reps where he gets tackled by the bad guys. I think that will only have positive residual effect.
Q. Victor Abiamiri, is there something that Stanford does that makes him so effective against them?
COACH Charlie Weis: I don't know, we might just try to get him see a psychologist and see if we can put an S on all these helmets we're going against because he turns into a pass rushing demon when we go against them.
Q. The defensive line as a whole really had a nice push all day. Could you evaluate their play?
COACH Charlie Weis: Same thing, we played a lot of four man rush schemes. It wasn't a big blitz day today, and I thought that they had sustained good pressure on them, on the quarterback, for most of the day.
Q. As far as Brady, he really spread it around nicely, very efficient. Where is he as far as improvement throughout the course of the season?
COACH Charlie Weis: That type of day, there aren't that many quarterbacks that can play the game the way he plays the game. By play the game, I mean throw it to the open guy. Most quarterbacks want to lay up to a couple good guys they have and throw it over and over and over again. Well, this offense doesn't really work that way. This offense is more read the coverage, run through the progression to try to get it to the right guys and we're a couple balls and hands away from having a humongous day. There was a couple of balls that were really, really close to having a monster day. But I thought he was pretty well on today.
COACH Charlie Weis: That was phenomenal. I thought the ball was overthrown to tell you the truth when he threw it, and then he laid out and caught the ball, diving with one hand. Of course when he came to the sidelines, I said, "two hands, please." (Laughter). I thought it was a heck of a catch.
Q. Can you assess the play of the offensive line today? Correct me if I'm wrong, I think all five went most of the way?
COACH Charlie Weis: Except for those couple minutes at the end. We would have try to played Paul a little bit but we held Paul. Those guys played the whole way. I think in the first half they weren't pressuring us very much, and then when we came out in the second half they pressured about two thirds of the time the rest of the game, and I think that we zoned that off pretty well and ended up having a decent day. I thought those guys, with the tight ends included in there, I thought they did a pretty good job blocking in the running game.
Q. Darius had over 150 yards with the running game. Now that you've kind of committed yourself to it the last couple weeks, closer than it was to where you want it to be?
COACH Charlie Weis: Well, I'm always committed to it but I want it to work. I always like to call the game that way, where you're heavy more along the balance of 50/50, and I think it really puts more of a mental bind on the defense where you can get into not knowing whether it's a run or a pass every time you go out there. I'd always like to call the game just the way the zones work out that way.
Q. Carlson in the backfield today, talk about that move.
COACH Charlie Weis: A little wrinkle. I think that sometimes your offense can get a little stagnant if you just use your main formations from different personnel groupings, so remember when you guys were asking me about where's my fullback? There's my fullback, so you've figured it out.
Q. You said that if you didn't see what you wanted to see, it might be kind of an unpleasant bye week. How do you feel about this going into a bye week?
COACH Charlie Weis: I'm content with this game. First of all, with the offense, and when the defense goes out there and gives them a long drive and basically shuts them down the rest of the day, that's a good thing. Offense I thought was fairly meticulous, a meticulous day. It's not about scoring 50 points; it's about how you feel about how you're playing. You convert over half of the 3rd down opportunities, you run the ball for close to a couple hundred yards, you throw with no interceptions, throw three touchdown passes. You can sign me up for that most weeks.
Q. What would your evaluation be of the team now that you've completed six of the 12 games?
COACH Charlie Weis: Well, we consider it just like wrapping up the first half of the year, so we break the season down into two seasons. Coincidentally the bye comes right in between those games.
I think that the players clearly understand, which is what our message was in the locker room, they clearly understand how much work we have to do as we get ready to go two weeks from now to go against UCLA. But I think they also feel good about themselves that they've rallied down the stretch first half.
The season is a long season. It wasn't that long ago you're walking off the field against Michigan having gotten stomped on, and I think they've really rallied nicely. I think that the confidence is starting to grow, and that bodes well for second season, which kicks off on the 21st.
Q. Could you talk about the defense overall, 226 yards?
COACH Charlie Weis: Well, they've been very, very good on 3rd down, even when statistically we've had bad games, 3rd down has not been one of them. They've been getting on the field on 3rd down. I think that bodes well for the success of the defense as far as giving up points. I mean, really when it's all said and done, you give up the double pass, but other than the double pass and the first drive, they came close to pitching a shutout.
Q. Can you talk about the call in the first half?
COACH Charlie Weis: Well, let's just put it on the play caller. Let's say that the play caller screwed it up. We'll just leave it at that.
Q. You had a conversation with Maurice Crum. How did he react to that?
COACH Charlie Weis: Well, I very bluntly said to him, look, the quarterback is running over the side. He's throwing the ball 20 rows into the stands. He's not trying to complete the pass, he's just trying to throw the ball away. If you touch him, they're calling a foul.
I don't know how hard he hit him, I couldn't tell from where I was. But the point is that's just not smart. You think about it, you're the official, the quarterback is just throwing the ball into the stands, the guy comes over and hits him, you're going to call a personal foul, too. We're getting off the field in that situation. I just wanted to let him know in no uncertain terms that that wasn't okay.
I had a conversation with Victor, too. Victor was offsides twice during the game. I said to Victor, it's one thing when you jump offsides when you're trying to jump the count; it's another thing when you line the ball up offsides twice. There's some penalties that are lack of mental concentration, and I thought that in those cases they were penalties that were lack of mental concentration.
FastScripts by ASAP Sports....
Notre Dame Player Quotes
Senior LG Dan Santucci
On fourth down conversions...
"We were just upset as an offensive unit, not converting on fourth down. The coaches have confidence in us and that's something we take pride in. We didn't get it accomplished so we were upset."
On staying focused against an 0-5 football team...
"We stayed pretty focused this week. We concentrated a lot on what we needed to do to become a better football team. When you do that, you don't really care who you play."
Senior WR Jeff Samardzija
On the plays being spread around...
"It's kind of fun; we're just out there making plays. It's real nice when you can spread it around to John, to Darius, to whomever. It kind of keeps you on your toes, ready to go."
Senior TE John Carlson
On his one-handed touchdown catch...
"I just tried to get my hand on it and I came down with the ball. Brady made a great throw. He threw it away from the defense and certainly gave me a chance to make a play on the ball. I got my hand on it and it worked out."
On Coach Weis calling his catch phenomenal...
"I'm just going to ignore that comment and pretend I didn't hear it."
Senior DT Trevor Laws
On Coach Weis' warning of a hard week if the Irish played poorly...
"That was pretty big motivation. Hopefully, this will be more lax of a bye week for us."
On preparing for Stanford...
"You can never underestimate a team even though they've gotten off to a rough start. We were able to review our game last year and see what we did right and what we did wrong."
"We had a pretty good pass rush last year, but there was a lot more we thought we could do. I thought we had a pretty good pass rush today."
On overcoming injuries...
"It always helps having the regular guys in there. When they're not in there, it's nice to know that other guys can step up."
Senior DE Victor Abiamiri
On the defensive line...
"Once the defensive line gets after them, you can sense the other team gets their rhythm thrown off."
"Every time you go out, you want to put pressure on the quarterback. It's frustrating when you don't. We have a talented group of guys and we have to play pretty well for our defense to be successful."
On getting a fast start...
"You always want to get off to a fast start in football. Once you get after a team in the beginning, you start licking your chops."
Senior QB Brady Quinn
On his performance...
"I think I made more physical mistakes than mental mistakes today. There were a couple of passes where I had the right read but didn't put the ball in the right place to make use of the wide receivers."
On today's win...
"It's what we talked about all week. We wanted to get a meticulous win, just going down the field and scoring. We never wanted to give them an opportunity to feel like they were in the game."
On the bye week...
"There are a lot of guys who are banged up and need these two weeks to rest up. Others mentally need a break. It'll be nice to take a break and focus on being a student for a little bit of time."
Senior OT Ryan Harris
On the emotion behind the game...
"We wanted to finish up the first half of the season right. We wanted to beat Stanford, but for us, we wanted to start being the team we know we can be."
Junior RB Darius Walker
On having two strong performances back-to-back...
"It feels good. I have a lot of confidence going into the game right now and I'm really feeling comfortable on the field."
On the effect of a successful running game...
"It keeps us versatile. When everything is clicking, the defense really doesn't know what we're going to do."
On running stronger as the game goes on...
"I think it's all about focus. The more comfortable you feel touching the ball, the better you run. For me I think the more I touch it, the better I play."
On the team's lengthy first drive...
"We really wanted to set the tone early, and that 91-yard drive did that for us. We then felt like we could move the ball regardless of where we were on the field."
Senior WR Rhema McKnight
On John Carlson touchdown reception...
"That was one of the best catches I've ever seen. That was a fantastic catch. He had great focus and just made a play."