Pete began his presentation with a quip about everyone wanting to see the fake punt play which brought a good laugh. The coach said that the team knew we had them when we went in locker room ahead at half time. They could hardly wait to get back on the field.
He went out of his way to thank everyone for the crowd support at the games and used the word "awesome" several times. In comparing Saturday with the first game against San Jose State 4 years ago, he talked about a new level of energy. He also said that he would be talking up the fantastic match up facing us next Saturday to the team this week and that we would be playing for the Orange Bowl.
The presentation of taped plays from the ND game, Pete began with a selection from the Special Teams. He gave many compliments to Tom Malone for the fine job done on punts this year and showed his first punt last Saturday that was downed inside the 5-yard line. Then with great bravado, Pete showed the fake punt several times from both views. He said it was about making a first down but left no doubt that he would call it again in the same situation. Then he showed a play from Kick Off coverage and again called it our signature play. He wants it treated like our calling card where we demonstrate the kind of physical contest to be faced by our opponents. Pete concluded this segment with the first field goal by Ryan Killeen and reported that Ryan had tanked his teammates for sticking with him throughout the season.
Coach Carroll then turned to his favorite defensive plays from the game. First play was the defected pass by Dallas Sartz when he blitzed early in the game. There were several plays showing tackles behind the ND line of scrimmage. They included plays by Frostee Rucker, Mike Patterson, Matt Grootegoed, Shaun Cody, Lofa Tatupu, and he paid a special compliment to Sedrick Ellis who he projects to be an important player next year. Mike Patterson is apparently a hot property in the NFL draft.
Eric Wright was shown with very good coverage on a couple of plays. Several blitzes were shown including one where Lawrence Jackson and Jeff Schweiger pinched in on the QB. Also a successful blitz by Dallas Sartz. One of the highlight plays was the recovery of Shaun Cody coming from the offside to make the tackle on a screen pass for no gain. He showed a couple of "big hits". One by Matt Grootegoed that I'm sure made the TV highlight show and another near the end of the game by Thomas Williams. Another was a play where Jeff Schweiger and Keith Rivers disrupted a play and Collin Ashton stuffed the ND runner. The coach also showed several plays that indicated the fine pass coverage we played.
The offensive selection was equally impressive. The first play was a sideline pass to Dwayne Jarrett where he improvised on his pattern. Then another pass to Jarrett where Matt Leinart audibled. The coach was quite complementary of Jason Mitchell and showed both the tipped pass for a first down and the TD completion in the end zone. A remarkable completion to Alex Holmes was shown with Matt Leinart threading the pass in between two defenders. Three completions to Steve Smith were included. The one that I wanted to see most was the TD pass up the middle. Steve clearly puts a move on the ND Safety, breaks clear and the Safety falls down. Steve was also featured for blocking on the TD pass to Dwayne.
We watched the TD pass to Reggie Bush several times and there is nothing I can add to what's been said of the play that broke the back of the Irish in 2004. We also looked at the fine completion to Chris McFoy. Two running plays were shown. First the draw by Reggie Bush which gained about 15 yards. Then the run from the end zone by LenDale White that cleared the ball out to the 10-yard line.
The coach began the Question and Answer portion of the meeting by saying that we would be impressed with our showing on the All Pac10 team to be announced later in the day. He also went out of his way to compliment the play of Matt Leinart, our quarterback. He shared the information that both Keary Colbert and Carson had encouraged Matt to stay. And in the same subject he said that Keary wishes he were still a Trojan player.
The first question was about the success of ND's running game and the coach complimented the Irish's execution. In a facetious question about the fake punt, the coach was asked why he didn't follow it with an onside kick. There was so much laughter that I didn't catch Pete's answer, even though I couldn't tell you if I did. A question followed about whether UCLA might try the same misdirection runs that worked for ND. Then a question about whether if Matt won the Heisman would he go pro. Next came a question about the way the team practices substitution patterns.
Pete was asked about the possibility of us losing Assistant Coaches and if he had talked with Kennedy Pola lately. He was then asked if he wasn't changing policy by emphasizing the rivalry with UCLA this week and, as we have become accustomed to, Pete had a very logical answer. He was again asked about UCLA. He was again asked about the "open space" afforded the ND QB on runs.
The coach was asked about how many recruits showed up this last weekend and he gave the states they were from but not the names. He was asked how coach Ken Norton was handling the "UCLA week". Pete was asked if the wet field had helped the ND QB's running game. Then an in-depth question about our tendency to stop runs but be vulnerable on passes, which was reversed in the ND game. Pete gave a good answer.
In another good question, Pete was asked to compare Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart. Needless to say he was laudatory to both and did not want to choose between the two but did give his views that each had different strengths. Next a question on injuries. Then a question about the ND offense. Pete was asked to give a summary of the Pac10 teams next year - which he did. Then the inevitable comment that always brings great applause that I will summarize like this: "We love you coach".
The coach was asked about our philosophy about returning kicks now that nobody wants to kick to Reggie. The final question was prefaced by reminding the coach that he had told us the recruiting was 70% done last week. So the question was whether that figure had changed over the weekend. I may never be invited back to MMQB but let me give you a hint - think 73%.
No more MMQB for 2004. I wish I could share the answers given by the coach but a deal is a deal. I hope what I've been able to report gives an accurate flavor of the meetings and the forthright nature of the give and take. Beat the Bruins.