COACH HOLTZ: I'll just start by saying how proud I am of this football team and the adversity coming to battle through and all the highs and lows of this day with the weather and the two hour halftime and everything that we went through as a football team. It's nerve wracking enough to come in here and play the tradition and everything else of this University, and for me a very emotional day to have the opportunity to come back. But to throw everything else up on top of it, just how proud I am of the way this team handled themselves, the way they stayed poised, calm. There were a lot of opportunities to flinch today, but really proud of the way they handled themselves.
We talked about what a great challenge this was for us coming in here as a young program being that only 13 years ago we didn't own a pair of cleats or a helmet or football at South Florida, and to be the youngest program in the BCS and to have an opportunity to have a couple wins on the road with Clemson in the Bowl and Miami and then having the opportunity to come up here to Notre Dame and win I just think speaks volumes about the leadership that we have at this University with Judy Genshaft and Doug Woolard and our administration. I think it speaks volumes about these players and the way they have bought in and competed their tails off when so many people on the outside wouldn't believe in them.
But you know, it's bittersweet at the same time. On Monday we had a banquet and was talking with Leroy Selmon about how excited he was to have the opportunity to be here today and he was talking about how he had never been to Notre Dame. He was the one that started football at South Florida, and he just was so looking forward to this, and we got news yesterday that he has been hospitalized right now, which is where he still is, and our thoughts and prayers go to him. So it's very bittersweet to have the opportunity to be here and not have the opportunity to share it with a guy like Leroy Selmon, who was kind of one of the founding fathers of this University.
I give Coach Kelly an awful lot of credit. I think he's got a very good football team. We were just able to turn and win the turnover battle today, and winning the turnover battle and capitalize on a couple of errors, capitalize early and have the opportunity to put some points on the board and at the same time capitalize on being able to take points off the board for them because we had turnovers in the red zone. I think we had one of them probably inside the 20 and one of them in the end zone I believe were two of them. So I’m just really proud of this football team. I can't say enough positive things about them. It's a great moment for South Florida.
Could you talk about the big emotional turnaround, Notre Dame drove the ball down to the 2 yard line and then you get that big turnover?
To start the game? It was huge, because we came in and I thought Mark Snyder and Rick Smith and the defensive backs, they did a great job, and we took the mindset, bend but don't break, bend but don't break, let's not give up the home run ball. I think Michael Floyd is a great player on film. I think he's a lot better than he is on film. I think he is one of the special players in college football. I think he's a difference maker. He is special. And because of him when we just turned and said let's try and make sure we keep him in front of them. Even trying to do that he still caught one later. But the whole mindset was bend, don't break. Our motto was make them snap it again, don't just let them in the end zone, make them snap it again. I don't care if it's a 20 play drive. They haven't scored yet if they don't cross that end zone. Don't let them in the end zone, make them drive the field, don't give them anything cheap. So when they got down there on the 2 yard line, I think it was Jerrell Young came up and made the strip and then just a great job scooping and scoring, kind of broke a little shoelace tackle, went and scored. You look up and they've had the ball and have driven the whole length of the field, had probably about 15 yards a clip, and you look up and you're winning 7 0; hello, kind of a good feeling at that point with where we are. Kind of symbolized a little bit of the day, especially when you look at this game statistically.
Were you surprised at all to see the change in quarterbacks?
The two quarterbacks are very similar in what they do, so it's not like a running quarterback that's all option and a drop back guy. You prepare for them the same way. I think he really impressed me with what he did coming out there today, the way he stood in there and some of the shots he took and some of the strikes he threw down the field. I believe he had a number of dropped balls, too, because he threw some great balls. I was really impressed with him. Was I surprised or shocked? No, you're down 16 0. I certainly understand that mindset to say, hey, we've got to do something, we've got to do something to get a charge out of our football team. I don't sit in his locker room and make his decisions, but it did not shock me, no, sir.
You've won a lot of big games here, but this one may be one of the biggest. Can you just put in perspective what this means for your program?
I think it's huge. Notre Dame is, as I said, one of the most tradition rich programs. They have played football 120 years. We are celebrating our 104th victory today as a program. So when you talk about how young we are, I don't think you can measure what a win like this for us means on the road with our youth. I think we've had some big wins in our program's history, having wins at Miami and Florida State and Auburn and on the road with Clemson in the Bowl game. We've had some big wins, but I think as I told the team last week, I'm much more concerned how we handle this game, whether we win or lose, than I am what happens to it, because we have had some big wins. What we have not done is we have not been able to line up and play consistently throughout the course of a year and win a Big East Championship, and that's the No. 1 goal that we have as a football team right now with what we're trying to do.
Did you wear Leroy's number on your helmet?Whose idea was that? Was this game always going to be dedicated to him?
I did. I think the numbers on everybody's helmets, hat, shoes, there were stickers in the locker room, guys were putting them everywhere, and I think it shows the respect that everybody has for Leroy Selmon. I addressed it one time with the football team, and that was in our church service. That was the church service we addressed it, talked about where he was. But outside of that we didn't talk about it in the locker room or at any point in time about to play, but I think everybody was grabbing the stickers out of respect for Leroy Selmon.
I understand some of your coaches have referred to the lightning delays at your first scrimmage in training camp and how you kind of fell back on that experience.
When we went to Vero Beach, we were getting ready for our first scrimmage, and it was delayed about an hour and a half, and the players were getting antsy, saying, coach, what are we going to do. I said, just go in the locker room and sit tight. We'll let you know when it clears, and we had about an hour and a half delay. And that was the first thing I said to them when I walked into the locker room. I said, hey, we've been here before. I told them before the game, we knew weather was coming. I told them before the game, we'll address it as it comes. Until then let's just go play the game. When it came, I said, we've been here before, Vero Beach, we had an hour and a half. The players were in there saying, coach, we've been here before, we've got it, we've all right, we've been here before.
So an experience like that you can't prepare for what either team had to go through today. I don't care, you can't prepare. The NCAA won't allow you to with a 20 hour workweek, won't allow you to spend an eight hour day trying to get one practice in. So you can't prepare for it, but I think it's little things like that, that it's the maturity of this football team, it's the desire, the want to, the passion. I think that's where we were able to turn and handle it. I don't think I was a little upset at the first one because I was told we'd get a ten minute warning and the way we found out we were taking the field was when Notre Dame ran out onto the field. Our guys were laying on the floor and shoulder pads off and shoes off, and all of a sudden it was like, hey, let's go. It took us about half a quarter, took us about ten minutes to turn and get it going and they got some momentum running there in the third quarter. We couldn't slow it down. But then the offense put that drive together to go down the field that finished with a touchdown pass to Evan Landi. So just really proud of the way the team handled it. They were extremely mature about it.
That's four in a row on the road. What have you been able to teach these guys about going into places where there's adversity and coming out on top?
Well, I learned from one of the best. What did he have, 23 I think it was, a 23 game road streak I think it was at one point? You go play on the road, you've got to play together. I think that's one of the biggest things about being able to play on the road. We talked about regardless of how this game goes we started fast at Florida a year ago and went right down the field and scored and started 7 0 and then threw five picks the rest of the game and ended up getting beat. We felt like we were good enough to play in that game but we didn't give ourselves a chance. We also talked about going to Clemson, and they go down and miss a field goal and then we throw an interception and we start slow in that game but ended up coming back to win it. We talked about the ebbs and flows that go through a football game, but the team that's going to win it is the team that's going to focus for 60 minutes and continue to play the game. And we just talked about sticking together, 75 guys in that locker room wearing a uniform, everybody was here for a reason, everybody had a role today.
Can you just talk about the moment with your kids on the field where you were at the tunnel and you were just giving them a huge hug?
Yeah, I said all week, I have not alluded to in any way, shape or form me coming back to Notre Dame. This game to me was such a selfish, minuscule part of this big win for our program. I never talked about it, and I said, our players weren't even born when I was here. It was that many years ago. And so I wasn't going to make it about me, and we talked about them and the program and the opportunity and what we could build. But just the comments from them was moving. We've got your back, coach, we love you, we thank you, we appreciate you, this one was for you, just the comments from these players that I never once talked about it because I didn't want to make this about me. But it was an emotional moment for me, just to have the team respect me and to say the things that they did to me.
Can you make it about you for one second and tell us how it does feel for you?
I don't know that it's sank in at this point. I mean, I didn't know how I would respond running out there on the field. I've got an incredible amount of memories in this stadium, at this University, as a student driving around campus. As soon as the buses got here I took off and walked over to the grotto and lit a candle just because that's how I got through college. I was lighting candles at the grotto. So I went over there and lit a candle and then walked back over here. A lot of emotional things, that was the dorm I lived in, going around, a lot of emotional moments for me. But when we walked out on that line, as we've talked about, it was all that happens between the stripes, and I don't get to go out there. So my job and my role today was to do everything I could to be a supporting actor for a great group of young men that went out there and put their heart and souls on this field in order to get this done today.
Two things: Was your dad here today, and number two, you mentioned it's hard enough to come here and play against the tradition and yet you just pointed out that your players weren't even born when you were playing. Did the players feel that tradition or do they know about it?
You'd have to ask them that question. I certainly know about it, but I did not spend the week giving them a Notre Dame history lesson. I did not spend the week doing that. I kept the focus that I'm most concerned about what happens between the lines. I talked about we're not going to put cameras around our neck and have a tourist trip up here. We decided to come up here and play a football game. It was a business trip for us, and that's how we were approaching it, and I was concerned about what happened between the lines. So never once did I talk about the history or tradition of Notre Dame. I did during the week when I talked about comparing the two programs from a tradition standpoint. My father was not here today. My mother, brother, sisters, I don't know, about 80 tickets' worth were here. We've got a pretty good clan. But no, my father was in the studio today. From what I understand they told him he wouldn't have to go on the air when the game was on, so for eight hours (laughter) they probably thought that was a three hour commitment when they turned and made that to him, and here it was eight hours later he still had the opportunity to watch the game.
But again, it is great to come back to a University that has meant so much to me and so much to my family, and the respect that I have and the class of the fans and the people here and the positive comments from everybody walking over the grotto, the fans and everything else, Notre Dame is everything I've always believed it was, and it was great to come back, and I have great respect for this University and institution, but I'm really proud of South Florida and the way these young men came in here and the way they competed, and it's a step in the right direction for us.Click here to share your thoughts with other USF fans!