Sept. 30, 2006
AN INTERVIEW WITH: COACH Joe Tiller
COACH Joe Tiller: He can play football and he'll get better.
Q. Did you anticipate -- I'm not suggesting you anticipate 250 receiving yards, but did you think with the match up this could be a little bit of a breakout game for him?
COACH Joe Tiller: No. I don't know. I don't think in terms of that. When I say a breakout game, to me, the Purdue folks have heard me talk about him for a long time. So he's doing what we thought he could do.
COACH Joe Tiller: No, he was not featured coming into the game. It was because he was open and he caught the ball.
Q. From an offensive standpoint was this perhaps about squandered opportunities in the sense you lost the fumble in the first half, had a couple drops that would have extended drives, obviously turned the ball over on downs in Notre Dame territory. Those are some key factors, right?
COACH Joe Tiller: Sure. You get down in the red zone, you like to score. It's important to come away with points in the red zone. It's not always critical to score a touchdown in that, in the red zone, but you need points in the red zone. Of course we didn't do that.
Q. It seemed like you did a lot more in the second half and it was working to some extent, any particular reason? The pressure wasn't there in the first half.
COACH Joe Tiller: We found out in the first half that we were going to have a difficult time covering him and we didn't know if they would come out running the football, we felt like they would. People have run the ball against us at times this year. They have passed it against us. So they have done a lot of things against us. So you go in an a game and you structure your defense accordingly and then try to figure out what it is they're doing and then see how you can counter it. And that's why we ended up bringing more numbers later in the game.
Q. Just briefly, what did you think in your opinion were the keys of the game; and a second part to that question, with Notre Dame's weapons and your young defense if somebody told you before the game you were going to hold them to 35 would you have said I will take my chances with that?
COACH Joe Tiller: No, not really. I would like to hold them to less than 35. But I would like to, but your point is a good one, we're extremely young and we won't play a more experienced team than the one we played today. And most likely won't play against a more talented team. We may. We may. As we get into Big-10 play, we may see a team that's as talented or maybe more talented. But against that type of a team, you know, I thought we had our moments where we did some good things defensively. I thought Anthony Spencer had an outstanding game once again. But I think that from an offensive point of view, there was no secret coming into 2006, we felt like we were going to have to outscore some people. So if they score 35, we need to score 36.
Q. You said you weren't necessarily surprised they came out running, but yet it seemed like on paper this was a match up that didn't seem like that would go that way. So why were you not necessarily surprised that they tried to feature the run and establish it?
COACH Joe Tiller: Because they really like their tailback and the guy rushed for a couple hundred yards a week or so ago. And so I think I would let the big dog hunt if I were in their corner. I think they felt like physically they were a superior offensive line to our defensive line. When you have that type of a match up you usually think about running in the ball, controlling the ball, wearing the other team down, and just eventually breaking their will by wearing them down. So that's not an unusual strategy.
Q. Were you surprised Notre Dame's third down conversion rate, considering they came into the game not doing very well on third downs, they were a sixty percent at one point and they just converted a lot of those. A lot of those were for double digit yardage too?
COACH Joe Tiller: Yeah, I thought they did a nice job of pushing our young corners off and coming back to the ball. I was impressed with the way they came back to the ball. Like this far beyond the first down marker. Which is the mark of an experienced player and an experienced team and an experienced quarterback bringing them back to the ball.
And I think McKnight is exceptional at that. I think that's what he does the best, but yet he has the ability to run by you. So he's a real handful. And the other guy is too. Jeff is too. So, no, it didn't surprise me. We would have like liked to have had a few of them not go that way, but.
Q. Curtis take another step forward today?
COACH Joe Tiller: Yeah, he did. I don't think he hit the open linebacker and so I think that his development continues. This is now his 10th game as a starter, so he's still about coming to the close of his first year as a starter. I think he's improving as a player. I really like the way, which I think reflects, is reflected in his personality, but I like the way he managed the game. I like the way our offense managed the game. There were some situations there where you could have had false starts and I think that our, that we were a little jumpy early but we settled down and did a nice job with it. And a lot of that can be directly traced to the quarterback and his presence of mind to get the offense functioning.
Q. In my years around you I've never seen you or your staff as vociferous on the sidelines as you were at times and I'm assuming it was about the officiating. Other than when they missed the call on the illegal substitution, was there anything in particular that was upsetting?
COACH Joe Tiller: Well, I didn't particularly like the one time when we didn't convert in the red zone, I thought that our receiver, number nine, he got held, we couldn't get off. And then I thought they drove our guy two yards out of bounds and didn't, we didn't, and nothing showed up. So that's the way they see it and the way they see it is the way they call it and the way they call it is in the record books.
Q. You've seen a lot of Brady Quinn the last four years, I wonder if you could reflect on his play today and his career against you.
COACH Joe Tiller: Well, we watched him grow at a distance. I think he's certainly a quarterback with a real feel for the game in terms of maximizing his opportunities, finding that open guy, knowing where everybody is on the field at all times, and I think the biggest difference in him now from when he was a youngster was we sacked him a couple of times, a few times today and hit him a few times today, but he wasn't careless with the ball at all. I think he is a much more polished guy than he certainly than he was as a youngster. I thought he had great physical talent as a youngster, and now I think he has outstanding physical talent as well as mental skills to help him maximize his abilities.
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Purdue Player Quotes
Anthony Spencer, Senior, DE
Overall Comments ...
"They ran the ball at will in the first half and that really put us in a hole and we were couldn't get out of it. They made better plays in the red zone than we did, and that make a huge difference in the outcome."
On Notre Dame's running game ...
"We were expecting Walker to run the ball that much because they have been getting a lot of criticism for not running enough. We figured they would run a lot, but we certainly didn't figure it would work out as well as it did for them."
Selwyn Lymon, Sophomore, WR
On his day ...
"Our coaches told us that they were going to try and cover Dorien Bryant really hard today and they challenged us to step up. I was able to get a lot of one-on-one situations out of it and Curtis did a good job of seeing the field and getting me the ball. I didn't plan on having a game like this, but it feels good. It would have been nice to get the win, though."
On his 88-yard touchdown reception before halftime ...
"I saw the safety come over and I was preparing myself for a big hit after the catch, but I was able to stay on my feet and I just took off."
Curtis Painter, Junior, QB
Overall Comments ...
"We never felt like we were out of this game, but not being able to score coming out of the locker room in the second half left us a step behind. We missed a couple of third-down opportunities and some other chances and we couldn't get back in front. We need to correct those mistakes to play like we know we can."
On Lymon's big day ...
"That's the thing with our offense. When the defense keys on one guy, like they did today with Dorien Byrant, we have some other guys who can step up and that's what Selwyn was able to do today. We knew we had an opportunity to hit some big plays and we were able to execute that today."
AN INTERVIEW WITH: COACH CHARLIE WEIS
Q. Everybody knew about or talked about their young secondary, what was your offensive plan when you tried to run, you tried to throw underneath, was the whole idea to set up the deep pass or what was your thinking going into it?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: Well actually, that's the way I like to call every game. I like to call run, action, I like to call games like that. But we made a commitment to this week, to make sure that we didn't give up on the running game. We just felt, I just felt that the last two weeks as the play caller, I gave up on the running game because we got behind. And I just made a commitment along with our staff and our players that we are going to make the running game go no matter what happened, we were going to make the running go. And then of course there's the residual affect of that, that once it starts working, it makes it easier to sprinkle everything else in. And that's basically what happened today.
Q. Joe Brockington starting, Travis out, what's the situation?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: What happened was, Travis got hurt on the last play of the game against Michigan State. He was laying on the field at the end of the game last week, so it wouldn't have been something that would be noticeable, because there wasn't another play. We held him out for cautionary because he took a mean shot to the ribs. The MRI came back negative on his ribs, but he's been really sore all week long so we felt the safest thing to do -- we went right up to game time with him. But he just didn't feel, just didn't feel right. So we held him.
Q. The kick returners?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: Well, what happens is Grimes pulled out in warmups. So that wasn't a decision to change kick returners, David didn't play. He's been banged up a little bit and I said he's been banged up a little bit, but he's been practicing all week, but in warmups he -- I told him that I would go with him, that he deserves to be the number three receiver and the lead kickoff returner, I said, but you got to be honest with me, if you can go full go, let me know so we can put somebody in who could go full go. So after warmups he came in and said, coach, he goes, I want to play but I can't go full go. So we flip flopped based off of that.
Q. Can you evaluate your defense's play today and also did Darren get picked up or did you just make a change there?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: I'm not exactly sure about the defensive substitution. So I know that he played both Darren and Leo. As a matter of fact I know, I thought that Ambrose might be out there too. Because I knew our intent was to try to play a bunch of guys in this game. So I really don't know the answer to that. I'll have to wait until after I meet with the staff and I'll give you that answer tomorrow.
Q. Overall assessment of the defense?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: There's a lot of passing yards in the game, I would say though the only play that really ticked me off was that long touchdown right before half time. Because you're in cover three, you know, and you got to basically got -- they throw a post route into double coverage and I let them know that I wasn't real happy with that one. Because it's a minute to go in the half, you're up by, you just, you used a gadget to go up by three scores, you're feeling pretty good about going into half time up by 21 and now all of a sudden in one play it's now a two score game.
Q. Brady's efficiency in the first half, how huge was that?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: It had a lot to do with it. But it also had a lot to do with the running game too. We spent a lot of time on the nuance routes that, like I said, we have just been missing. And today I thought he was pretty much on the money. I think that the extra work paid off, but also getting the running game going, that helped some too.
Q. Receivers on the money too though?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: Well, I would say I only saw one miscommunication all day. It's not that they didn't make plays on us now, but the one miscommunication was on that one throw back where he threw the ball to Jeff and Jeff was bowing out and, but it looked like that Jeff was adjusting on the up the left seam right there. And I would say that was the only one of the day where really they weren't on the same page. But I would say other than that, I think that it was a pretty good effort.
Q. And what was the changes with the kicking game?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: Well, you remember a couple line drives he was trying to over kick a little bit last week. Remember those touchbacks last week. Those two line drives there. So he was a little strained too. That was another one that we went right until game time, he's kicking off and in warmups he just said that it wasn't, he wasn't a full go. So he wasn't a full go so we made the switch.
Q. On Jeff's touchdown, was that something that was designed all the way or did he see something?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: No, that was, he was going to call timeout if -- we had another time out left, so that was one where we weren't going to not get the field goal. But if they gave us the look, that wasn't like a check off, it was if they don't have the look, call timeout and we'll go out and being kick, we'll kick the field goal. But fortunately we had the look that exactly was the one we practiced on, so, and it worked.
Q. Could you talk a little about your third down efficiency and also your red zone efficiency?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: Well, it was significantly better in this game. I include those couple of fourth downs in there as well. So I think we were, what, 8-14 and 2-2. So that's 10-16. Well over 50 percent. We're averaging about two percent for the last couple weeks, so that was a drastic difference. Conversely now, our defense once again, you take the 4-11 and 0-3 on third down, that really make it's a 4-14. So our defense, the defense is getting off the field on third down and we did a much better job in this game of converting on third down.
Q. How determined was Rhema coming into this year and throughout the year to have a season like he's having?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: Well, it was Rhema's decision to come back when he was offered a medical red shirt. When he was offered that, you know, you still have to get cleared through the university, because we're in the a red shirt university, as you know. So he still has to go through the process and make a decision of whether or not he wanted to come back and go to grad school and play another year or try to get into the league at that time. But I think that, I think he's -- you know, he's committed to helping this team win as many games as he can and obviously performances like today only help him personally as well.
Q. You wrote in the grease board in the weight room that 9-3 wasn't good enough. Is this defense good enough or potentially good enough to be better than 9-3?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: Well, once again, I think it comes down to scoring in the red zone. And sometimes you give up yards, but yards can be misleading. Sometimes yards are garbage yards too. I mean, so I think that for the most part that the game looked like it was pretty well under control at 35-14, into the fourth quarter. I think that we never like giving up big plays, I think that will be once again a point of emphasis and one thing I talk about tomorrow after I've gotten a chance to look at it more, but I know they ended up with close to 500 yards offense for the day. But not all of them were meaningful. When you're in two minute for -- just like we have gotten yards at the end of the last games when we were in two minute the whole time. You know, Purdue's got lot of offensive fire power. That team is going to score a lot of points on a lot of teams. They got a good quarterback and they got good receivers and have a good running back and a good tight end. And they have a veteran offensive line. So this team, this team's got a lot of fire power on offense. They're going to score a lot of points on a lot of teams. You haven't heard the last of this team that we just played today.
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: Actually it was going to be David Grimes running, okay, but when David was hobbling around yesterday, in practice, we practiced and told George, with David running it and George running it and in case David pulled out. So we actually, I was drooling to call it, you know, I just don't know if calling it on the ten yard line or 11 yard line if that was the perfect call, but it worked, so we'll take it.
Q. Your impressions of Lyman from Purdue.
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: Well, you look at the -- you look at their day now, he had eight catches for 238 yards. I mean they're putting him in the Hall of Fame or something. And two touchdowns on top of it. That's a hell of a day. Just think about it. That's a hell of a day no matter who you're playing any time. I'm sure he's a little disappointed going home, because he personally had a good day and the team didn't end up winning. But he should have his head held high because we put all our attention on Keller and Bryant and for the most part we did a good job and them, but here's how I talk a lot of times, you can't shut down everything. So we put all our effort, a lot of attention on them and pretty much held them in check and there's Lyman with eight catches for 238 yards and two touchdowns, with a long 88. He can stay home next time we play them.
Q. Coach Haywood, do you think he inspired Darius a little bit?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: I encouraged them to have an altercation on Tuesday. (Laughter.)
Q. You talked about you wanted to establish the running game, when you told Darius, did his eyes light up and say, oh, boy, he couldn't wait to go?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: No, Steve, unfortunately I plan to do this every week. Unfortunately, I plan to run the ball that many times every week. Okay. It's just, once again, the magic number, you run it over 40 times, which we did. So I think that when it's all said and done, I think that every time you play the game, you like to have balance. It just doesn't always work out that way.
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: No, I really wanted to get him a little bit more time, to tell you the truth. James might have been a good person to work on that end of the game stuff, it might have been a good time, but I'm just envisioning, here's a guy just coming off a knee, they got a 1800 guys up on the line of scrimmage and I'm going to go ahead and get his head ripped off on the first couple carries. I figured I would rather not do that and I would rather find a better time to go ahead and do that.
Q. There was an ESPN report a couple week ago about how Michigan players said the Notre Dame offense is easy to read.
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: With the butt kicking we took, I can see them saying that.
Q. Do you feel like the reverse and the fake today is a nice retaliation to that statement?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: Listen, okay, when you're down by a hundred and you're throwing it on every down, it's pretty easy to read. Okay. When you can run and play action and mix and mingle and do all the things you want to do, it's really tough to read. So on that day, they were absolutely correct. I can understand why they say that. Okay. But on a day when you can have balance, that is not the case.
Q. The offense seemed to come out really strong today, 22 first downs in the first half, which tied a season high at that point. To what do you attribute that efficiency right off the bat for the offense?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: You noticed like in the first drive it was all runs. All runs and a screen pass, I believe. I think it was seven plays with seven, or six runs and a screen. So when you can come out there and say you're going to establish the run and run it on every down, that usually, you usually have a good chance. And then you're going to have, the residual affect of that is now they're going to look to start stopping the run and now your play action and those other things now become a little easier to do.
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: No, we're going to work on it. Listen, James is just coming back. You got to earn your stripes at this place. We don't hand anything to anyone. When he earns his stripes, he'll be out there. I don't believe in giving anyone anything. It doesn't mean -- I don't care what everyone's reputation is and everything, he'll get his time, he'll play. But he's going to have to earn his time. We don't give anyone anything around here.
Q. Bob Morton, is he okay?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: Yeah, we wouldn't have put him -- the way the game was going, it could have been one of those ones where, let's tape him up and go, like the olden days, but I told him right when it happened, I said, let's, unless it gets absolutely critical, let's not put him back in the game today. So whether they could have said, tape him up and go or not, he wasn't going back in there.
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Notre Dame Player Quotes
Senior C John Sullivan
On running the ball with success...
"That was a point of emphasis this week after how our running game has been doing recently. We went back to work this week in practice, really got after it and had good success running the ball today, so we're really happy."
On Brady Quinn's performance...
"Brady's great every week and he does what the team comes to expect from him. We're just out there trying to make things work for him. When he does well, success for the whole team follows."
On Darius Walker's day...
"Darius has a great spirit. It was great that we were able to do some things that allowed him to be successful today. Don't give us all the credit though - he was making people miss, so Darius did a great job."
Senior WR Jeff Samardzija
On practicing timing this week...
"Obviously, when you can get some extra time in practice to work on some things it's going to look a whole lot better. As a receiving corps with Darius and John (Carlson) involved, everyone looked pretty much in sync."
On the importance of establishing the running game...
"It's football. The running game is always very important to any team, so anytime you can get the running game going, things are going to open up. I don't know how many yards Darius had - I know it was a lot - but anytime you can do that, it helps a lot."
Junior RB Darius Walker
On his day today...
"I thought it was a good day, but at the same time, there were a lot of things that I could have done better -- a lot of runs that I could have made better or some times when I could have made another defender miss and taken it all the way."
On the performance of the offensive line...
"The good thing about the offensive line is that they bring the same intensity every week. They really do a great job for me - kudos to them. They're the reason why I stand before you today with the numbers that I put up. It's really because of the offensive line and the tight ends and the fullback opening up the holes for me."