Nov. 16, 1999
Q: Your comments following Saturday's win vs. West Virginia?
A: It was a great way for our seniors to go out in their last home
game, having the opportunity to win. We're 7-2, and it gave us our
first win in the month of November. As we talked about before, we're
trying to have a winning month of November, and we've started off on
the right track.
Q: What are your feelings as you start to prepare for Notre Dame?
A: I assume we will be heading into an angry place after Notre Dame
lost to Pittsburgh. Obviously, they are a very talented team. They're
a very senior team, with eight seniors on defense. Offensively,
they're playing with some young players in the backfield, but obviously
Jackson's having a great year and they have a senior-junior offensive
line, so they are a very talented football team. We will have our work
cut out for us on Saturday.
Q: You mentioned the influence your Plebe coach, Dick Duden, had on
you. What lessons did he impart on you?
A: He always used the phrase 'it's money in the bank,' referring to
practice. If you practice well, to your maximum capability, maybe you
wouldn't need it immediately, but he would say it's money in the bank.
Somewhere during the year, if you invested it, if you put it away, you
would be able to take it out when you need it. We needed it and used
it at Syracuse. Some of our kids are drawn down deep to find ways to
win football games.
Q: This week, with the implications of this game, do you suspect your
players are going to need to dig deep to make a withdrawal, or will it
be there for them?
A: I would hope that having the opportunity to go out and play a great
football game on national TV will get them going. It's done well for
them the last couple of weeks. They've done a great job getting
themselves ready to play. I don't expect that it will be any different
Q: What were the implications of last year's heartbreaking loss to
Notre Dame? Did it stay with you a while?
A: Yes, but we went out to Pittsburgh and beat them the week after we
played that game. That was maybe the first indication that this
football team, this football program, was growing up. It was a tough
loss, but we were able to come back and win the football game against
Pittsburgh the next week, so that was good for us.
Q: In the long run, do you think that game played a role in the
progress of your program?
A: Absolutely. We lost two games at home last year, Navy and Notre
Dame, that were tough. The one thing that we focused on this year,
coming into the season, was mental toughness, the ability to play 60
minutes and be mentally tough. That no matter what happens, no matter
when it happens in the football game, we will be mentally tough for the
entire 60 minutes, and if it goes to overtime, we're going to have to
find a way to keep playing hard. We did that in our first game, vs.
Baylor. That game went to the last minute, the Navy game did,
Pittsburgh did, Miami did, and Syracuse did. So we've had five games
go to the last minute, with Miami being the only one that went against
Q: How has your program developed over the past couple of years to the
point that you are now a ranked team with serious bowl consideration?
A: It's a tribute to our seniors. They've been through a lot, and
this has been a very emotional year for them. They came here with
great aspirations, then got caught in the middle of a gambling scandal.
There was a lot of finger-pointing, a lot of people were not very happy
with the situation here. They got caught in a coaching change.
Everything that could go wrong did go wrong for them. But they hung in
there. Prior to last season, they made a commitment to this program.
A year ago we had made great progress, but we didn't have anything to
show for it in terms of wins and losses, because we finished with the
same record as the year before. But this year has been tremendous. I
have six seniors on defense. I didn't have six seniors starting the
previous two years together. You look at a team like Notre Dame with
eight seniors on defense, and it's amazing to me that they have that
kind of depth. That's what we're fighting to get. It's a credit to
our kids who hung in there and have played so well.
Q: Do you think the team is now starting to reap some of the rewards
of their efforts?
A: Absolutely. (ESPN commentators) Bill Curry and Dave Ryan commented
Friday after practice, 'Boy, you're practicing a lot better now than
you did before the Baylor game.' There's much more confidence.
They're starting to buy into it. If you don't practice well, you can't
play well. They're finally understand that if you drop the ball in
practice, you may do that in a game. If you miss an assignment in
practice, it could happen in a game. They have to practice well in
order to play well.