Oct. 28, 2009
THE MODERATOR: We’ll start with Jimmy Clausen and Eric Olsen.
Q. Both of you, can you tell us what it would be like this week playing a home game?
Jimmy Clausen: I think it’ll be kind of fun. Just to go play a home game at a neutral site against a team that we really don’t play very often. I don’t know if Notre Dame has ever played Washington State.
It’ll be a lot fun going first time this season going on a plane and going to San Antonio and playing in the Alamodome.
Eric Olsen: I feel the same way. I think that it’s an exciting opportunity. Here at Notre Dame, we kind of play a geographically diverse schedule. It gives a lot of players the opportunity to travel places that they’ve never been.
Like I personally have never been to Texas, so that’s something that’s cool. It’s fun to go to these games in different places every year and get to see the rest of the country.
Q. You don’t think there’s anything negative about maybe losing this game that could be played here for the home crowd? It’s not a worry at all that maybe you’re losing a little advantage in that?
Jimmy Clausen: I don’t think so. Obviously we like to play at home and in front of our fans. But I think that it’ll be a little bit of a motivation for guys, especially the guys from Texas and stuff that are playing in front of their families any everything.
And the young guys that are going on the road trip, or a far road trip for the first time, I think that’s a little extra motivation for some guys.
Q. What are your recollections about playing in the Alamodome?
Jimmy Clausen: Playing in All-American game was fun. Get to play with the best talent in the country. It was just a fun week going out there and meeting those guys. I still talk to a bunch of the guys that I met for the first time at the game.
It was a fun place to play in the Alamodome with — I don’t know how many seats there are in the Alamodome, but it was a lot of fun.
Q. You get to go out in the city at all while you were there? Do you know much about it?
Jimmy Clausen: A little bit. We were kind of on lockdown the whole week until after the game, but the city is really nice. The river walk and everything like that. They put us up in a nice hotel, so it was really nice.
Q. Have you ever been there before?
Jimmy Clausen: I went the year before the All-American game just for like a day, a day or two.
Q. Eric, I see you had to do a little extra jog yesterday. Exactly happened there?
Eric Olsen: Team policy is if you go offsides you have to take a lap, so I had to take a lap.
Q. So no immunity for being captain?
Eric Olsen: No, definitely not with Coach Verducci, but I appreciate that at least. So it was all right.
Q. Facing a 1-6 team, a lot people think you guys will just go in there and steamroll ’em. How do you avoid that mentality and how do you make sure that everyone on this team doesn’t think that going into this game?
Eric Olsen: Well, I mean, for us, we kind of look at the facts here. We haven’t really shown any evidence of being able to steamroll anybody. All our games, no matter who we’ve played, have kind of gone down to the last minute whether we won or lost.
So judging by that, I guess it would be kind of tough not to expect this game to go in the last minutes. Obviously we don’t want that to be the case. We’re working in practice and watching film and everything for it not to be.
But we don’t have any evidence that we’re gonna go in and steamroll anybody at this point. Until we do that, we can’t take any game for granted.
Jimmy Clausen: I think we’re just taking this as another game. Whether we’re playing a top team in the country or a team that’s 1-6 or 0-7, it really doesn’t matter for us. We just have to go out each and every day during practice and get better as a team.
I think that’s one of the things that Coach Weis and the coaching staff is really stressing this week, is to get better as a team and to improve on the things that we haven’t really done really in previous weeks.
Q. We talked to you about your progression over the last couple years. How has your progression been helped, along with Golden (Tate), that you guys have kind of progressed together?
Jimmy Clausen: Well, I think it helps when you both come in together, both of us being juniors, and just going through all the little things we’ve gone through, the ups and downs in a season, things off the field.
You know, just from my perspective, for Golden, he came in as a running back, so he never really knew how to be a receiver. Never really had done that. For him, just running routes is probably the biggest thing that he’s had to work on since moving to receiver when he came here. He’s done a great job of learn from Coach I (Ianello) and watching a lot of tape, not just of himself, but the players in the NFL and previous players in Notre Dame. Just trying to get better t those little things.
Q. How much better does he make you as a quarterback?
Jimmy Clausen: He makes me look good every single weekend just with his play making ability, just making plays down the field. And not only Golden, but all the running backs, tight ends, and the rest of the receivers. Just makes my job a lot easier if I can just throw them the ball and let them run for 20, 30, 50 yards.
Q. I know you talked about how you don’t really care about the awards. You’re just worried about the wins. But the fact that you got named as a semifinalist for the top quarterback award this week, I’m sure your honored to be in that list.
Jimmy Clausen: Yeah, I just actually found out from (director of football media relations) Brian Hardin that I was a semifinalist for that award. So, you know, that’s an honor. I just gotta give credit to my offensive line first, who always blocks for me.
You know, like you said, all the play makers, like Golden and Armando, the list just keeps going on.
Q. Going back to Golden for a second, coaches say a lot you can’t diagram a pass play to go to a specific receiver most of the time. How does that work? You probably want to look for him because he is such a good play maker. How does that balance come where it’s not directed towards him but you’re still looking for him?
Jimmy Clausen: It’s kind of hard, because you try to make plays to be defensive, not to try to get someone the ball. In a case like Golden, you try to get him the ball as much as you can.
But defenses kind of dictate what you can and can’t do with him. So you try to put him in different positions, you know, put him in the slot, put him on a linebacker so they couldn’t double him if he’s outside.
I think one of the best things that Golden does is when I’m scrambling out of the pocket, him coming back to me and just making a play down the field, I think that’s his biggest asset.
And, you know, going up and getting the ball is another one of his biggest assets.
Q. When Michael went down, the idea was, `Oh, double team Golden. You’ll never see him again.’ Has it been maybe surprisingly easy to get him the ball as much as you have?
Jimmy Clausen: No, it kind of happened last year. It was kind of hard getting him the ball. But I think that shows how much he’s matured over his sophomore to his junior year. He’s trying to run better routes, put him in a position to be able to make plays whether you put him in the slot or outside.
I give Coach Weis and the offensive coaches a lot of credit for putting Golden in a position to make plays and help this team win.
Q. Eric, a little bit of a different topic. But now that Manti (Te’o) is one to one on defense, in practice do you sense any way that he impacts the defense, he adds when you’re going against those guys in practice?
Eric Olsen: I mean, it’s kind of tough, because at this point in the season there’s not really much of one offense or one defense.
The times we do see them play, you know, I do think that he does a tremendous job of, you know, not acting like a freshman anymore. Obviously he’s been getting the time and making the tackles that show he belongs on the field.
At that point, he has to understand that he has to step up. He has a major role on this team. He can’t just chalk it up to being a freshman. The thing about Manti is that he’s so mature and he’s definitely stepped up in the maturity aspect of this game and done a tremendous job of that so far this season.
Q. I don’t know if I’m noticing this right, a lot of times good plays work out because of a pump fake. Seems like you don’t do that too much this year. I don’t know if I’m wrong on that, or is that something you look to do on certain plays?
Jimmy Clausen: Um, it’s a funny question, because I was watching ESPN a few days ago and they were talking about Ben Roethlisberger and Brett Favre and using the pump fake and different things like that. You know, that’s never something that I’ve really used.
It was kind of intriguing just listening to the announcers talking about that and just seeing what they do to corners and linebackers when we use a pump fake.
But I’m gonna maybe look into that during the off season. But i’m just trying to get those guys the ball as quick as I can.
Q. Eric, because Saturday night is Halloween, I imagine when you were growing up you were the biggest kid in the neighborhood. Is there a particular costume that resonates? Or candy?
Eric Olsen: I was a pumpkin one year when I was really little. I don’t think that counts. I had a few good ones. My favorite one was Indiana Jones. That’s the best one I remember. My dad made me a costume, and we bought the hat and the whip and all that. I was a big Indiana Jones fan when I was little.
Q. Jimmy, anything?
Jimmy Clausen: My —
Eric Olsen: I was too cool for costumes.
Jimmy Clausen: (Laughing) My costume last year was the superhero Flash, but we lost that game, so…
Q. Eric, talk about the younger guys on the offensive line. Coach Weis alluded to yesterday that you’d like to get them in the game a little bit more. What have you see from those guys in practice?
Eric Olsen: Well, I’ll start with the really young guys, the freshmen. I’m just happy that there’s a big space in between me and them. Those guys are really good football players, and they’re gonna make a serious impact here as they get older.
But as far as the other guys, Braxston Cave, Mike Golic, Lane Clelland, they’re really starting to get it now. I think it takes a little while, especially as an offensive lineman, to really fill out as far as strength conditioning and then learn the offensive and be comfortable enough to be able to actually run the plays in the offense.
I think those guys are really starting to get it now, and they’re making tremendous strides the weight room, whether it was the off season or even now during the season. The rest of the guys, (Matt) Romine, (Andrew) Nuss, (Taylor) Dever, they’re in a little bit of a tough position because they’re all behind some veteran guys that have a lot of starts under their belts right now.
But, you know, to the credit of those guys, no one has been like, ‘Well, I’ll just wait until next year. Then it’ll be my turn.’ They’re watching film and taking the mental reps and making sure that when get to January, when we get to the off season, that they’re just not starting from scratch and they already have a good sense of the offense and what they need to do to make an impact on this team.
I think from the seniors on down through the line, everyone in the room is really doing their part and really getting ready to make an impact when their time comes.
Q. Jimmy, we were talking to Kyle (Rudolph) yesterday. How have you seen defense maybe adjust how they cover him? How has that changed over the last few weeks?
Jimmy Clausen: Obviously Kyle is a big play maker and an asset to this team and this offense. Defenses kind of try to take him away. You know, it’s hard when you have Michael and Gordon on the outside, because teams like to double both of those guys.
Now what they’re trying to do, what I see, is they’re trying to push the defense over. Trying to go cover two to goal when he’s playing X. Then the safeties try to cheat over the top of Kyle.
So they’re just trying to double both of those guys as much as they can to take them away from me. Kyle and Golden are going doing a great job of moving from outside to inside and vice versa to make plays and get me the ball.
Q. What did you get out of the individual period yesterday? Coach Weis kind of working with the tight ends while you were there. What’s the benefit of that?
Jimmy Clausen: I think the benefit is for both me and Kyle to know how to understand the route and what I’m looking at for Kyle. I think the biggest thing is just in that route just to stick and come back to me. And if he takes two steps and doesn’t get the ball, then he’s gonna push out a little bit.
So I think just knowing what Coach Weis wants for the both of is really gonna help us.
Q. Eric, kind of a follow up on the last question. For the younger lineman, the guys working hard in the meetings, if they get in the game Saturday, how much will that then jump start their progress?
Eric Olsen: I don’t think anything is more important than actual game experience. In order to be ready to play in the game, I think you have to do that background work and the film studies and understand what’s going on. I think the combination of those two things, watching the film and knowing what to do mentally, will get them ready if they actually get in the game.
If they actually do get in the game, I think that really jump starts a young player. I mean, it’s fun to play in front of your familiar and the fans, No. 1. But at the same time that game experience and getting used the speed of the game is a big change from high school for the young guys. I think the combination of those two things really helps out young lineman.
Q. One of the big goals for this team this year was to improve the running back. That may have overlooked because Jimmy and the receivers are having such a great year. But Armando is averaging 4.9 a carry. Can you talk a little bit about the improvement in the running game, the run blocking, and what’s been the keys to that?
Eric Olsen: Yeah, I think that sometimes the statistics are a little bit skewed when people try to analyze the run game versus the pass game.
Obviously we want to be able to run the ball efficiently in order to open up the passing game for Jimmy and all the weapons to make plays.
I think at times we’ve done a really good job. I think at times we haven’t. I think that goes for every team in the nation, you know what I mean? It’s just a constant battle of trying to improve it in every aspect, whether it’s the short yardage running play, whether it’s the first and ten running play to start the drive.
I think all those things are aspects of the game that we’re working on week in and week out. I think we definitely do see improvements. We definitely have improved in certain areas of running the football. You know, that just does great things for our offensive. It opens up a lot for Jimmy.
Any time you put the ball in his hands and let him throw it down the field, good things are gonna happen.
Q. All the coaches talk about your maturity this year. What do you attribute that to? Is that just experience, or is the game slowing down, as they say?
Jimmy Clausen: I think it all has to do with experience. You know, coming in is as a freshman, maybe just trying to get on the field and help the team win. You know, after season we had freshman year, you know, to get better, you know, last year and then to make another drastic leap to this year, it’s just something that can’t really get if you’re not on the field and experiencing all those things, just the ups and downs of everything on and off the field. Just how to handle yourself in different situations.
For myself, I think the biggest thing that’s helped me is Coach Weis and Coach Powlus just guiding me in a way to make me better on the field and to watch more tape and watch guys in the NHL, like Tom Brady during the off season to make myself better on the field.
Q. When you got here, there was famous, I guess, Hummer incident that maybe got a little blown out of proportion. Did that tell you right way the attention that comes with playing this position at Notre Dame?
Jimmy Clausen: I knew the attention that the quarterback gets playing at the University of Notre Dame. That’s something that I’ve had to get used to.
Like I said in previous weeks, I’m just having a great time being the quarterback at Notre Dame and just cherishing every single day going out on the practice field and just knowing that I’m the quarterback of Notre Dame and trying to have a lot of fun with it and get my whole entire team involved and just have a lot fun and have a great season.
Q. I talked to Coach Powlus and Joe Theismann. Joe says you two text each other pretty regularly. Does it help having that support? Coach Powlus said he talked to you about the fact this the quarterback of Notre Dame is always on. Having that kind of support from the former players who played the position help you adjust to the role?
Jimmy Clausen: Yeah, I think it has helped me tremendously just having Coach Powlus as my quarterback coach. He was pretty much in the same exact position that I was: highly touted coming out of high school and kind of thrown into the fire. He’s just helped me a lot knowing things on and off the field.
And just talking to Joe Theismann, obviously he’s had great success at the college and professional level. Just knowing that those guys are behind me and they’re there for me anytime I need some help, it’s just great to know you have guys you can fall back on.
THE MODERATOR: Kyle McCarthy and Scott Smith up at the front table. We’ll start with questions from the media.
Q. I think last game you played some free safety and this week you’re officially listed as free safety. Is there much of an adjustment there, or is it much different?
Kyle McCarthy: Not really. I’ve been in this defensive system for two, three years now and either safety position I’m comfortable in. And really they’re interchangeable and there’s not a whole lot of difference. So I’m pretty comfortable in that role and whatever the coaches say.
Q. What’s been the key this year? You obviously made a lot of big plays. What’s been — is it experience or what’s been your ability to be in the right place at the right time this year, do you think?
Kyle McCarthy: I think it’s a combination of a whole lot of things. First and foremost, I think the guys around me are making plays. A couple of interceptions. I know there’s been some good pressure up front.
And then the one last week, Raeshon (McNeil) made a great play, so I’m just benefiting from the play of my teammates, and then experience. Just being out there and being comfortable helps a little bit too.
Q. For both of you, how strange is this going to be this week flying to a home game?
Scott Smith: It’s going to be a little different because we haven’t been through the whole routine of getting on the plane and doing that whole thing on Friday, but just knowing we’re going to have to kind go into that hostile environment where it’s going to be more pro-Notre Dame fans.
It’s going to be a little different, probably especially for younger athletes haven’t been on a longer trip like that. But it’s nice to know you’re not going to have to go into that hostile environment. Pro-Notre Dame game.
Kyle McCarthy: Should be a fun trip. We’re excited about getting down there. For us it’s pretty much like a road game except we’re not going into the hostile environment like Scott said. We’re going to have the majority of the fans. So it should be a fun time.
Q. What do you guys think of the whole neutral site home game? Do you think it’s a good thing? Is there some advantage to it all or disadvantage that you see?
Kyle McCarthy: Well, if it’s at the end of the season we’re playing somewhere down South, that’s always nice. I think that’s a benefit.
Scott Smith: I think it’s good too because Notre Dame’s fan base is wide, countrywide. It’s still considered a home game, might give people more of an opportunity to come watch us play.
Q. Kyle, I was talking to David Bruton Saturday. He said he was happy to see all your success because he was the reason for it. Your thoughts on his comments there?
Kyle McCarthy: I have more interceptions already than Dave did all last season, so I don’t think so (laughter).
Q. How gratifying is it as a team leader to be able to have such big plays at the end of the game as a captain and as a leader for you?
Kyle McCarthy: It’s nice. I feel like I’m helping this team out, and just I’ll do whatever it takes to help the team get better and win and, you know, really, like I said before, I’m just — I’m just the guy getting the stats. But the other guys should get credit. They’re making the plays.
Q. When you look at this game going into this neutral site game, at the same time there’s a lot of guys on this team that played in Alamodome, how much does that help having that kind of experience across the board that something like 30 guys have already been there?
Kyle McCarthy: I think it will help a lot. Just Scott and myself, we’ve been places before and going back to play there, you get a little bit of a comfort level and you know what to expect. So hopefully it helps out in that regard.
Q. For both of you guys, some people have used this game as the term “trap game” for this game because of the fact they’re 1-6. How do you guys as team captains try to avoid that mentality throughout this week getting ready for this game?
Scott Smith: I think on any given Saturday anybody can beat anyone. So the fact that they’re 1-6 doesn’t matter what their record is. Every team in college football is dangerous. Good athletes and good players that can make plays.
So this week just approaching it just kind of another step to get us to where we want to be at until the end of the season.
And we know if we don’t take care of business this week and somehow looking past Washington State, it’s going to hurt us a lot just because they are dangerous and they have the opportunity to beat us.
Kyle McCarthy: This is obviously a big game for them. I think their coach has come out and said they’re treating it like a bowl game and this is college football.
Anything can happen on any week. So we know we need to come out and play our best game and you really don’t worry about their record or our record, we just need to play within ourselves and not make mistakes.
Q. Scott, as special teams captain, can you talk a little bit about (Nick) Tausch’s demeanor how he settled in and the kind of run that he’s on right now?
Scott Smith: I think the first thing I noticed about Nick is how calm he is. He doesn’t seem to get too rattled or too high or too low. I think that’s real important for a kicker just to be able to stay calm. And he has a ton of confidence in what he’s able to do and it shows.
Not sure exactly how many kicks he’s made in a row. I don’t want to jinx him. But he has that confidence and demeanor when he’s getting ready to kick that he knows it’s going in. And when your kicker thinks that way, it’s a lot easier for the rest of the team to think that way.
Q. Do you see just a confidence that you have in him, is that something that you really notice when you guys line up everyone on the sideline out there?
Scott Smith: Yeah, it’s definitely true. I really believe that everybody on the team, anytime he kicks a field goal just knows it’s going in.
By the time he walks out there, the whole kick off team is basically assembled at the other end of the field getting ready to kick the ball off because we know it’s going in. And everybody’s just starting to get rest and they just basically assume it’s going in based on what he’s done so far this year.
Q. Kyle, could you talk after kind of sitting down processing what happened last weekend, how do you feel like the new look secondary with the personnel being shifted around worked out, what benefit do you think that kind of gives you?
Kyle McCarthy: Worked out pretty nice. I thought Sergio (Brown) and Jamoris (Slaughter) stepped in and played well and our corners played well.
Continue this week to just kind of mature and work together and gel as a group. But I think everything’s worked out really well.
Q. And watching Corwin in practice, he seemed to be getting on you guys pretty good covering the 7 route, and Sergio talked about it after the game. What’s the challenge in covering that and why do you feel you guys may have not been as successful there as you want?
Kyle McCarthy: It’s a combination of things. Obviously the call has a lot to do with it. Sometimes there’s weaknesses in the coverage, and a lot of times that 7 route is a weakness in a zone coverage.
So that’s one reason. And the other reason is just recognition of formation and tendencies and things like that. So now that we’ve been exploited on a little bit, we’re working on it, and I think you’ll see an improvement this week with it.
Q. Do you think one of the biggest things is just kind of mixing up coverages a little bit more, that that’s not consistently a weakness?
Kyle McCarthy: No, I don’t think it’s that. I believe it’s just the route scheme and the way our guys we’ve been playing it. So we’ve tweaked it a little bit, and hopefully it works out.
Q. Scott, when Manti (Te’o) is playing the way he’s playing now, what kind of added dimension?
Scott Smith: I think the last couple of weeks Manti has stepped up and started to come into his own. And you see how big he is and how athletic he is and how aggressive he is, is probably the first thing that you notice, just the fact that you’d think he’d hit anybody in the mouth any time, anywhere.
So just having that and the ability for him to run around and make a lot of plays and also being more comfortable with the play book, kind of as time goes on and getting more comfortable in his role. I think really the sky’s the limit for him in terms of what he’ll be able to do.
Q. Kyle, I know he’s one guy of 11, he’s a freshman, but is there a palpable different feeling given he’s the last guy running around?
Kyle McCarthy: Brings a whole lot of energy to our defense. There’s no question he’s a play maker, but just the speed that he brings and intensity he brings helps out our defense a lot.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks everyone.
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