Sept. 23, 2015
Notre Dame Football Media Conference
Q. Joe, are there elements of your defense performance against Georgia Tech that will help you against UMass recent though the schemes are completely different?
Joe Schmidt: Oh, definitely. I think the Georgia Tech game was a great game for just mental and physical toughness. Obviously you get to work a lot on run fits. Although, the runs may be slightly different that Massachusetts is going to run, really the fundamentals of tackling the ball carrier, defeating blocks, defeating cut blocks, those kind of remain the same throughout the year.
So that was a great game, really just to kind of work on all those fundamentals and driving your feet and running to the football. So hopefully we can carry over that mind-set and those techniques for this next game.
Q. Watching the film on UMass, what has stood out about their passing attack?
Joe Schmidt: Well, it’s prolific. I think it’s in the top 20 right now, I believe, in the country. They have got a good quarterback, very solid offensive line and some receivers that can create some problems. And really, they have a coordinator that was in the NFL and he knows how to challenge a defense with concepts.
So there are things that we need to make sure that we’re aware of and working on and that’s kind of what we are spending a lot of time on this week being ready for that and for everything they do.
Q. Would you would you approach Tillery’s approach to the game?
Joe Schmidt: He’s a unique cat. He’s an intellectual guy and he’s somebody that I really — I like him because I’m not the kind of guy that an hour and a half before the game is like crazy — I don’t get that way. And Jerry, from what I’ve seen, I kind of stick — I’m the same guy.
So I let people do whatever they want to do but from what I’ve seen Jerry is still kind of like a happy-go-lucky guy up until game time, and I like that. It conserves energy. There’s no use to going crazy before a game and doesn’t seem like he does. I think the rest of that defensive line is good for him because those guys have done it so many times, Sheldon and Isaac, and even Cage now, second year, Trumbetti and Romeo, all those guys are able to keep him calm throughout the process. I really like his approach right now.
Q. During the defensive room — during the week, what does he add to that equation?
Joe Schmidt: Well, it’s always fun coaching with Jerry. I don’t know if you guys have been able to watch the Showtime series, but Jerry has made a few appearances and I think that kind of gives you more of an interesting insight into what Jerry is like. But he’s a good kid. He practices really hard but he’s still a freshman, and he makes some of those freshman mistakes sometimes. It’s been a fun journey with Jerry, it really. Is I love playing with him. I love playing behind him.
Q. Matthias came off the bench against Georgia Tech and immediately forced a fumble. What about his personality allows him to go from on the sidelines to coming into a game and making the play immediate?
Joe Schmidt: Matthias started like nine games on the way to the National Championship Game, and started in the National Championship Game and played I think four years now. He’s been a starter. He’s been not a starter. He’s been the special teams captain.
He’s been just about everything in his time here, and so I just think it’s so funny that it’s even a question if he’s ready or if he’s going to perform because he’s a baller. He’s been a baller. He’s always going to be a baller. He’s the same way in practice, and to him it’s a game and he’s ready at all times. That’s why we all have complete confidence in Matthias because he’s been there and he’s done it and he’s been successful and he’ll continue to be successful.
Q. As a captain, do you have to maybe drive home the message a little more this week where everyone seems to be taking Notre Dame — do you have to drive it home more to the younger guys that you can’t let your game down?
Joe Schmidt: Well, any team can beat any team on any given day. I think there have been enough examples of that throughout the years. I’m not saying — and the thing is, Massachusetts is a very good football team and they do a lot of things that are very, very challenging.
So I think it’s going to be a very, very good ballgame, and I’m really looking forward to playing it. So I’m not really listening to that kind of noise. I’m really looking forward to playing this team and getting out there, and there’s a lot of things that are going to be very challenging on Saturday.
So we’re looking forward to it, and I don’t really have to say anything, because guys are watching the film and they see a good football team. They see a team that can bring a lot of different concepts offensively, as least, that are challenging to a defense. So I really don’t have to say much. If I do, that’s a problem.
Q. I’m sure you’re pleased overall with the performance against the Georgia Tech offense. As you look at it, maybe some of the specifics that you could have been better at as a whole that can apply maybe in a couple weeks when you’re facing a somewhat similar offense.
Joe Schmidt: Well, last minute and a half, we would like to have back, and we can’t allow things like that to happen. And really, it comes down to a few plays in those series that we just didn’t play the correct way.
So we have to make sure that we correct those and rectify those. But really throughout the rest of the game, there were issues that we had. We had another situation — indiscernible — played a perfect game. I thought we played a good football game and we are going to need to be better in a few weeks for that. But really, you just kind of take away the things we did right and then build on those things we just talked about.
Q. And what was Coach VanGorder’s assessment? The guys say he’s never satisfied — he obviously was pretty happy, so much so that he got smacked in the face by a ref. Did you guys see that?
Joe Schmidt: Yeah, I saw that. I think it’s the same kind of story. We weren’t satisfied — we were happy with the victory but it was another game and we needed to be better than that. So that was not — we were not — we want to be better than that. We need to be better than that.
Q. Didn’t even look like anything realized that anything happened to Tranquill because you immediately turned and ran off the field.
Joe Schmidt: Yeah, I didn’t know.
Q. At what point did you find out? Because you ran back toward —
Joe Schmidt: Yeah, I turned around after — like I kind of saw their team looking over in the corner and then I saw him on the ground and I saw, I think it was Jalen with his helmet up a little bit and like this look on his face. Yeah, it was really hard.
Q. He was playing pretty well.
Joe Schmidt: He played one of the best halves I’ve ever seen him play.
Q. You can look at that and say in retrospect, the guy is celebrating, you have to be careful. Is that just a freak thing that you don’t give any consideration to —
Joe Schmidt: It’s a freak thing. Funny, I hardly ever celebrate after plays but that was a really great play and he was really excited so I got really excited. Things happen.
Q. So something like that wouldn’t prompt you guys to think —
Joe Schmidt: You can’t tell people to stop celebrating on plays.
Q. Especially not on the defensive side of the ball.
Joe Schmidt: No.
Q. So much has been made about your leadership on the field, the way you get guys in position. What was it like or how nice was it to be able to have a ten-tackle game and be able to contribute in terms of being a leader in terms of tackles and whatnot on Saturday?
Joe Schmidt: Well, really, the whole time I’ve been part of this defense, I’ve never really tried to get any more or less tackles in a game. I just try to make the tackles that come to me and make the plays that come to me and not worry about the rest of it.
Yeah, it’s great. I really don’t care. If I have zero tackles when we win the football game or if I have 20 tackles when we win the football game, I just want to win the football game. Like I don’t care about anything else.
So it’s just as exciting as it is for me to make a tackle as it is to maybe make an adjustment and move somebody there, and all of a sudden somebody else takes a TFL, that’s the exact, and if not more, of a rush for me to see my friends making plays like that. So I really — really it didn’t matter to me.
Q. Is that part of your game that’s underrated maybe because people talk about your brain so much, that they maybe take away your physical —
Joe Schmidt: I don’t know, I thought — I don’t remember what my stats were last year but I had a good amount of tackles. I had 65 and I think I was close to the top when I got hurt. I was leading the team in tackles when I got hurt.
Q. I know VanGorder probably doesn’t grade you guys this way, but if you remove the last two years, is that the best grade your defense has gotten the last two years?
Joe Schmidt: I don’t know, that’s tough. We’ve had some good performances over the last two years, but without those last two series, we played a very, very good football game. There was one stretch of four plays that we would love to have back, but that’s just the way it is, right.
Q. Was that your best, do you think? Did you grade out as your best?
Joe Schmidt: My production rate, we have ratings for production, and production ratio was one of the better ones. I don’t know if it was the best but it was up there. The lower it is, the better it is and it was a very low score.
Q. I want to ask you about a couple guys on the offensive line —
Joe Schmidt: I love to talk about them.
Q. What is it like going against them in practice and what do they bring to an otherwise veteran —
Joe Schmidt: Q and Mike are brawlers and really Q is a brawler. He’s somebody that loves to get in there. He’s a tough, hard-nosed, nasty football player and that’s what you want on the offensive line position. Q is a guy that, like, for me, it’s the ultimate challenge physically because there are very few people built bigger than Q.
If he ever gets a free release up to the linebacker, it’s going to be a long, long day for you, I don’t care who you are. He’s a great player and he’s really improving on his techniques. So he’s a very good player and I spend a lot of time going against Q as he’s a guard.
Then the tackle, Mike, he’s so long and athletic, that when he gets going, he absolutely can pile drive just about anybody. Some of the bigger collisions I’ve been a part of are with McGlinchey taking my ear for a side (ph). Those guys are really doing well and Coach Heistand does a great job coaching them.
I mean, really, it’s a blast for me going against our first offensive line, second offensive line, because they are so well-coached and they work so well together. So they are doing a good job.
Q. DeShone Kizer, what do you think of him as a captain and also giving you guys —
Joe Schmidt: Well, DeShone has had — he’s been thrown into a very hard situation. And I think he might have touched on this with the media a little bit, but it’s very different from being the backup quarterback at Notre Dame to being starting quarterback at Notre Dame.
So he’s done a good job I think of kind of just taking a step back and not allowing himself to be caught up in that kind of swirl. So he’s a great dude, and I think he really hasn’t changed since that announcement’s been made and that’s the hardest thing. I think he’s been doing a great job with this offense. His command is great.
Q. He could be wide-eyed —
Joe Schmidt: It really is — that’s been one thing he’s always been very good at is at the line, his command, his tone, just it’s underrated, the quarterback’s ability to come to the line, survey the defense and demonstratively and effectively run the offense, and DeShone has always been extremely good at that. Even when he might not have known what was going on as much or even when maybe he wasn’t as happy with how he was throwing the football, he was always very good at that.
So as someone who likes to think that they are good at it, as well, I think that — I like watching him do stuff like that, because it’s the little things, like making sure that everyone is on the same page with a check and running the correct play and then getting a first down or something. Those are the things maybe that are overlooked.
He’s made some great throws recently. He made a throw yesterday from the opposite hash, like a 15-yard out route on the Monday on time, hit the receiver in stride. And I mean, those — that kind of throw, it’s 15 yards plus 45 yards diagonally on the money. There are few quarterbacks that can make that throw.
Q. You talked about Matthias earlier about being a baller. With five captains, you have five leadership styles. What is he like as a leader?
Joe Schmidt: Matthias is a connector and is someone that can relate to everybody on the football team. He can relate to everyone in this room really. That’s kind of Matthias’s gift. He’s incredibly valuable to this football team and that’s kind of how he operates.
Q. Matthias, wondering if you could talk about the influence Eugene Robinson had on you?
Matthias Farley: Coach Robinson, he’s a big reason I think why I decided to really, really pursue football. He took a lot of time after practice when I was a junior switching over from soccer and really invested in me. He didn’t have to do that. He had so much success in the NFL and for him to take that much time out of his day to have an impact on mine was huge. That’s why I chose 41.
Q. Can you talk a little, is it tough being a captain as a non-starter? I know the team voted you that, but is it tough at all being in that position?
Matthias Farley: I don’t think so. I mean, like a captain’s role is to lead and it doesn’t always have to be on every single down. I know a lot of guys look to me for advice on different things or something to keep them positive. So it doesn’t necessarily have to be a play-a-hundred-plays-a-game kind of deal. I love being a captain and I’m very comfortable in that element.
Q. What’s your style?
Matthias Farley: I try to encourage people. That’s what had the biggest impact on me when I was younger and even older when people would just take the time to encourage me, somebody that believed in me or whatever, it makes a big difference.
Q. Asked Coach yesterday about the role that you had, obviously you started in 2012, not starting now, and asked how do you kept accept it, and said basically you don’t accept it; that you’re not happy with it but obviously you want to be. How do you deal with that or what role do you try to make for yourself here?
Matthias Farley: I don’t try to make a role for myself. I just try to control what I can control, which is my attitude and my effort and those things I can change, whether I’m throwing a hundred snaps a game or none.
Q. How do you stay engaged, just like Saturday when Drue is getting so many snaps, so many snaps, he goes down, all of a sudden, it’s you. How do you take that leap from just being on special teams to all of a sudden being there every down mentally and physically?
Matthias Farley: It just comes from preparation. We have a philosophy of the “Next Man in” which we harp on week-in and week-out. It’s been that way since I’ve been here. You have to prepare like a starter because who knows what could happen on a Saturday and your number gets called, so you have to be ready.
Q. That was a pretty big role you were stepping into that they were asking you to do against that kind of offense. How comfortable were you with it and how long did it take to get in the flow of things?
Matthias Farley: I’m very comfortable in any situation. I’ve played against (indiscernible) teams longer than most people have been here. So not that big of an adjustment. Again, goes back to the weeks of preparation leading up to it.
Q. Joe mentioned you’re a “connector.” What is it in your personality that makes you a connector?
Matthias Farley: I’m just a people person. I have a big family. I have six brothers and sisters to growing up, it was nine of us including my parents in a very small house. And if you don’t communicate, if you don’t work together, if you don’t vocalize what you’re thinking about a particular thing or ask; for me it was my brothers and sisters growing up, like how they were doing and vice versa. It’s a very strange dynamic to be around that many people and not have a relationship with them.
Q. As you said, you’ve prepared for a lot of options but have you ever since you’ve been here gone into a game with the level of confidence that you guys had going in as far as playing that type of offense?
Matthias Farley: Well, I think there is definitely a bit more confidence probably going into that game just because there’s a lot of guys who are very, very young, a lot of true freshmen played in that game last year.
So there’s a comfortability factor that comes with seeing it before. And also preparing for the triple option since camp started, so it wasn’t Tuesday the first time we saw that thing. We have been harping on it and making it a focal point for a long time.
Q. I don’t know how dramatically different it was from previous times, but did it feel right during the week, like we’re on to something here?
Matthias Farley: Yeah, I think it also just comes down to the trust factor between the guys who are out there, knowing that so-and-so is going to do their job and so-and-so is going to do their job, so allowed everyone else to play faster because — due to a lot of injuries last year, there are a lot of guys who played who might not have, and are in positions to be more comfortable in it and know their assignment.
Q. We’re going to have an opportunity to interview Jerry Tillery for the first time today — everybody smiles when we mention that to a player. What approach should we take?
Matthias Farley: You can ask Jerry anything. He’s an awesome guy, very engaging. His head’s really big so he’s very, very smart.
Q. Direct correlation?
Matthias Farley: I think so. Jerry’s an awesome guy. He’s come in and worked his tail off and put himself in a position to be playing a lot as a true freshman which is really big, and I think you’ll really, really enjoy interviewing him. He’s an awesome guy.
Q. You play on emotion and you celebrate a big play, and a guy suffers a very difficult injury to deal with. What are your thoughts on that? I know you guys aren’t going to stop celebrating — I compared it to a guy going out for a rebound and landing wrong on his foot, as much happenstance as that. What are your thoughts when a teammate goes down and would there be any hesitation on your part or anyone else’s part to engage in a celebration that could possibly cause an injury?
Matthias Farley: Well, I don’t think you can tell guys not to celebrate. It adds so much to the game and it creates so much energy to everyone else over on the sideline or on the field with you.
And also I guess the biggest question guys have when things like that happen is why. It isn’t necessarily related to the play. It’s not a football play. It happened between whistles. It’s one of those questions, why do things like that happen to anybody.
Q. Have you ever landed wrong coming down from a leap?
Matthias Farley: Like I said, I don’t.
Q. Early you mentioned you never know when your number will be called. Kizer was called — have you had a chance to talk to him and give him advice, because obviously when you said has come true for him.
Matthias Farley: I can’t even imagine trying to be a quarterback at any level, especially here when there’s so many going on and there’s so much class going on, the offense is very complex, there’s different looks the defense gives you week-in and week-out.
So to be in the position he was in earlier in the spring to now, I think it’s just a testament to the coaching and the way everybody prepares, because you really don’t know when your number can be called.
Q. How proud are you of him and the rest of the guys who might — obviously the game last week, seems to handle himself with poise?
Matthias Farley: Yeah, it’s huge. He hasn’t played — his first game ever starting. He came into the huddle and stands tall in the pocket. He’s a big presence and he’s a very confident guy which helps, because you have to be, especially in that situation. You can’t go in there and be timid. You have to command an offense and I think he’s done an incredible job doing that.
Q. As the captains, have any of you specifically took him under your wing? Did any of you take specific time or advice?
Matthias Farley: I think everyone went up to him at some point or another and said we believe in you and you’ve got to drive this thing now but I don’t think anybody’s given him like a rah-rah speech or anything like that. I don’t think he needed that. The biggest thing is just knowing that we believe in him and we are behind him and we have all faith in the world in him.
Q. Getting back to Jerry, what does he bring to your meeting rooms and practices during the week in terms of personality?
Matthias Farley: He’s a huge personality. He’s always good for a laugh or something. His facial expressions are hilarious. He also works his tail off and he wants to be really good. I think it’s that coupled with an incredible work ethic and drive that make him a lot of fun to play with and a lot of fun to be around on and off the field. He’s pushing guys around him to be better and he’s not satisfied with being mediocre whatsoever. So I think that brings everyone else up, as well.
Q. Joe said he’s happy-go-lucky right up to the start of the game. What does that add to the pregame feeling in the locker room?
Matthias Farley: It’s a game. It’s supposed to be fun. It can’t always be a clenched fist. You have to be able to be loose and be able to lock in when it’s time.
I think it’s a big sign of maturity for him to be that young and to be able to get loose and not all tight and freaked out or anything like that leading up to it, and then go out there and act like a shark.
Q. Have you played with anyone who has brought that same kind of personality to a pregame or mid week or anything?
Matthias Farley: Zeke Motta would be like that. He would be goofing around and I would be freaking out, and he would be like, guys, it’s football, it’s supposed to be fun. It’s supposed to be fun and it’s a game and you enjoy playing it. It’s a big stage obviously but you should still enjoy doing it.
Q. With UMass, the noise around it is that you guys are favored to win by four touchdowns and this should be an easy game. How do you remind your teammates, like, hey, if we let our guard down, anyone can beat us this week?
Matthias Farley: Yeah, absolutely. There are no easy games on our schedule. I’m sure every team that we play circles us because everybody wants to beat us, and we can’t listen to any — I mean, I don’t know that we are four touchdowns — it doesn’t matter. We have to execute. Doesn’t matter who we play because we are going to get their best shot, so we have to be to be prepared for that week-in and week-out.
Q. So much has been made about Joe Schmidt’s leadership, his brain. Can you talk about his physical play on the field and how much he contributes in that aspect of the game, as well?
Matthias Farley: Joe is incredibly physical. It’s almost crazy how physical he is given the fact that he’s a slightly undersized linebacker, but he goes out there and plays like he’s a giant. Always involved in tackles. Always knocking people back. He has a huge presence out there. I think a lot of guys look to that and see that and a lot of linebackers emulate that.
Q. Do you feel that part of his game is underrated, not by you guys, but by fans and media because they think of what he does in terms of leadership and whatnot?
Matthias Farley: Probably. Joe plays like he’s 6-6, 260 and leads like he’s nine-foot-something. He’s an incredible brain. He’s an incredible mind and when it comes to football, he’s also an incredible physical player. I don’t think he gets enough credit, period.
Q. Last week you got tested on the ground. UMass is going to air it out quite a bit. How difficult is that transition as a secondary and also are you excited to get tested this week?
Matthias Farley: Any time you play a triple offense team, it’s an adjusted. Yesterday, even Monday, guys were dialed in to getting back to standard football and not option football.
And it’s exciting to be a DB in a game like this because there is a lot of opportunities to make plays, but you also — there’s a lot of opportunities to not.
So you have to really, really be focused and locked in very similarly to playing a triple-option team to each and every play refocusing and resetting and making sure you’re doing your job each and every play.
Q. From an injury standpoint, Notre Dame always has those naysayers and doubters, you saw them come up preseason, but with all the injuries, there’s even more lately. Has that fostered an us against the world mentality in the locker room?
Matthias Farley: I think it’s all been us against the world. We could do anything and we would still — no matter what the situation is. I think guys have accepted that and enjoy proving people wrong.
Q. We talked about Jerry or Terry last week. What does he bring to your team in mid-week stuff, not just in practice, but in meeting rooms and film, and what does his attitude bring to that?
Sheldon Day: Just keeping Jerry positive and him just being himself and just having him in the room is definitely good. He lightens everything up. For example, yesterday, we were in film, and he made a comment that had the whole room laughing. Just things like that which you appreciate in Jerry.
Q. What was the comment?
Sheldon Day: I don’t know if I could say (Laughter).
Q. Leading up to games, both Matthias and Joe said he’s kind of like happy go lucky, not really nervous or clenching his fist or anything. What does that bring to the locker room when you have a guy that’s upbeat almost before a game?
Sheldon Day: It makes you, I want to say, it makes you not tighten up too fast. You know how people get their emotions wound up real quick, and he just makes sure everybody’s relaxed and seeing him have a smile on his face just enjoying football kind of brings you the reality of it. It kind of makes you enjoy the experience as well.
Q. Was he even like that before the Texas game, his first college game at night?
Sheldon Day: Cameron still had Jerry by — still definitely trying to find his way.
Q. And in terms of his personality, you mentioned you roomed with him on the road. What have you gotten to know about Jerry in the last month and a half, or since he’s been on campus since January?
Sheldon Day: He wants to live life to the full let and he’s trying to do everything in his power to get the full experience or the Notre Dame experience and just experience the outside world, and living in places such as MÃƒÆ’Â©xico, Ireland, just places we wouldn’t think of.
Q. Last week, there was a lot of talk about nobody believed you could beat Georgia Tech. Do you get motivation from that? Does it bother you? Do you care? Do you hear it?
Sheldon Day: We really try not to hear those type of things. We control what we can control and that’s within the locker room. So it’s all about who is in the locker room and how much we are uplifting each other.
Q. Three games into this year, how do you feel like you’re a better player, technically, health-wise, what’s the difference between you now and last year?
Sheldon Day: Just how I can diagnose things quicker. I can play faster at a high level because I’m not worried about, oh, do I have to do this or this on the play and things like that. I think that comes with film study and kind of understanding what Coach VanGorder wants on each and every play.
Q. On Terry, how quickly did you hit it off with him that you’re his big-brother type thing?
Sheldon Day: It took a while. Jerry, he take in, he was talking to everybody and stuff like that, but he hung out by himself and it took awhile to get integrated within the team.
Q. Did you have to pull him out of his comfort zone, like come hang out with me, or how did that get started?
Sheldon Day: It was more the D-Line getting together and we started kind of breaking off, big brothers and little brothers type of thing. I feel like that’s how it kind of came to what it is now.
Q. Who ended up winning the putt-putt match?
Sheldon Day: Me of course.
Q. And this weekend, your niece is going to be up for the game. Curious what that experience is going to be like for you to see her before, to see her after, all that.
Sheldon Day: My niece is my joy. Every time I can make her smile, it just brings me so much joy and just to see her up here, it’s definitely going to be special.
Q. Your mom was telling me, when you were thinking about early enrollment and she was about to be born and you debated, should I leave now; or should I stay and enroll in the summer so I could be here for this. Do you remember what that experience was like and the indecision you had there?
Sheldon Day: I was fully committed about coming in early because I thought my niece was going to be born before I got back and stuff like that, and it just so happened that she was going to be born while I was up here. And it was a hard experience for me, not being there and not being able to watch her grow up and things like that and to be a part of her life.
I made the decision to come here early, and I felt like it was better in the long run but it was definitely a tough one for me.
Q. Do you remember where you were when you got the call, got the news, all that stuff?
Sheldon Day: My sister came home from work one day and I was like, is your stomach getting big. It was an awkward time to say — and she was like, what are you talking about, I’m just gaining weight.
And then it was like: You don’t have to lie to me, are you pregnant, are you pregnant. It took forever for it to finally come out and it altered everything.
Q. I remember when she was born — when you were up here.
Sheldon Day: Oh, (Laughter) — I actually don’t remember. Is that bad?
Q. That’s okay. With five captains, five different leadership styles, how is Matthias a leader? How does he lead the team?
Sheldon Day: Matthias is that guy that does it right, brings energy and makes sure that everybody is accountable. So just for example last week, we kind of got a little loud right here in the meeting room and he kind of told everybody to shut up and let’s lock in.
So things like that where he can just step up, take control of the room is how he leads.
Q. What do you think he brings to the defense? Obviously he’s been a starter. What’s his strength? What does he do best?
Sheldon Day: He wants to do everything right and he’s played in a lot of games for us. He’s definitely one of the guys you can count on in the back end.
Q. How proud are you of the defense performance last week overall, obviously minus the last minute and a half?
Sheldon Day: Well, we still have a lot of things to work on, especially our finishing ability. We didn’t play with great technique last Saturday, so just cleaning up everything and kind of playing with more of a dominating mind-set, that’s what we’re working on.
Q. Do you feel you guys made strides in terms of from the week before and just made kind of a bit of a statement for the defensive unit?
Sheldon Day: I would definitely say we made a statement that we play one of 11, and each person knows their job on each and every play.
Q. When something like that happens to you, do you consider it just a freak thing? Do you think that maybe guys shouldn’t be so exuberant in their celebration, or is that an after the fact thought now?
Sheldon Day: We definitely play with passion around here. Just excited that he was playing and we don’t want to take that away from him. But it’s a freak accident. I did a similar thing my freshman year, but it wasn’t to that extent. It just depends on who you are.
Q. Did you stop doing it after that?
Sheldon Day: That was my last time celebrating.
Q. Could you talk more about your niece, just what her name is and how that changed you? You’re a tough guy on the football field but when you’re around her, you’re different.
Sheldon Day: Her name is Dalea (ph), and she’s so happy about the little things. Every time she gets to see me, it’s Uncle Ed, Uncle Ed. There’s so much where she takes me away from football and takes everything away and it’s all about her, and just seeing her smile, and seeing her run around and laugh and play is something special.
Q. Is there something you guys do, cartoons or anything you do?
Sheldon Day: It’s her doing the little cheerleading, her and my mom have it, one, two, one, two, go, Irish, go, go, go (singing). Things like that, watching her support me and she doesn’t even know what she’s doing. It’s so cute.
Q. Is that something she does on the phone before a game or every now and then?
Sheldon Day: Probably every now and then but every time I call her, she asks me, when can I come see you, when can I come see you. How much she cares about me is kind of crazy.
Q. Just wanted to ask you about the weapons you have around you, and how much it helps having guys like C.J. and will as you get into this role as the starting quarterback.
DeShone Kizer: It’s awesome. You know, it definitely keeps you a little bit more comfortable to know that once you get the ball out to the guys, you expect a five or ten-yard route with the speed and life after the catch they have, it’s unreal. You can just put the ball out there and hope that something great is going to happen and more times than not, it will.
Q. I know you spoke after the game about the experiences of going through all the firsts, but now that you look back to Saturday, how special was that day for you?
DeShone Kizer: It was awesome. The walk, coming over from the hotel, trying to figure out how to get to sleep at night, it all comes together as one amazing moment that I’ll always remember, my first start against a Top 15 team and to come out as successful as we did, it was huge.
For me, everything now is going to start repeating and I have to learn how to get things rolling and take one game to the next and how to go from one week of great preparation to another week of great preparation and get a rhythm of how a season is going to turn out being the starting quarterback.
Q. Looking back at the footage, we noticed when you ran out of the tunnel, you kind of turned around and looked at the fans. What went through your mind at that moment?
DeShone Kizer: I’ve always made it a point to just try to take it all in but then five seconds out of the tunnel, let it all come in, all of the butterflies, try to get it out of the way and really experience what it’s like to be a football player at Notre Dame.
Once I turned around and gave that confidence, start throwing and blocking all out (ph) and playing the game. It’s an amazing place to be here and an amazing position and somewhere I’ve always wanted to be. I took my time to really reflect and feel it and a lot of the fans were cheering on their Irish. From then on out, it’s all business and trying to focus on accomplishing the mission.
Q. Brian said during the game you had maybe some ball security issues. I think there was a play early in the game where you kind of rolled out and should have just grounded it I think or just taken the sack. But what have you kind of worked on with those issues this week to try to correct them for UMass?
DeShone Kizer: Probably mind-set. Last game I played, other than a couple plays in Texas, and then Virginia, was a high school football game. I was bigger and stronger than most people. I tried to always extend the play. I never felt like the play should ever die and that kind of gamer mentality might haunt me, coming up and playing against guys that are a little more experienced and understand how to track down a quarterback deep in the pocket.
It’s just a mind-set that I need to change, being able to understand the protections and understand that it’s not always going to be a big play ball; and be able to ground the ball here and there and throw it out-of-bounds. It’s something I’m going to work on this week and it’s something that hopefully should be an easy fix for me with a change of mind-set.
Q. How helpful is it to have a full game of film to work on?
DeShone Kizer: It’s awesome. As a quarterback — you can only get better as the game goes on, as you see your ball get to right where it needs to be, as you start feeling the pocket and start getting better.
I really see myself progress throughout the game and notice where I start taking a couple steps back after half-time, coming back out and not being able to rip the ball like I was before the half, really allowed me to evaluate more of the mental edge of things rather than just my play, which is obviously something I haven’t been able to do since high school. To really evaluate that and hopefully move forward from that is going to be big and a continuation this season.
Q. How would you evaluate your mental edge?
DeShone Kizer: You can’t allow your mind to step away from the game too much at half-time. You have to allow yourself to stay in it at all times and stay focused and that’s something I’ll have an opportunity to do as the season goes on; and come out in that half-time warmup and come out ripping it right away, instead of out trying to restart yourself and restart the game and try to look at it as two parts; you have to look at it as a whole and allow the rhythms that you create in the first half continue over to the second half.
Q. One of your captains said that they didn’t have to give you a rah-rah speech and you didn’t need it; that you’re poised you’re not overwhelmed by the moment?
DeShone Kizer: I’ve said that my parents have always taught me to prepare for who you want to be, not who you are. Since I’ve been in high school, I’ve always tried to make it a point to deal with the pressures and deal with all the adverse situations as it awaits you, grow as a person and to be able to overcome them and to respond with calmness rather than with nerves.
There’s a lot of people out there that respond quite differently with nerves and I try to make it a point that instead of trying to overcome nerves and express confidence, which can sometimes look like false — your team looks at it like this guy is nervous and pretending to be confident. I just try to stay as calm as possible and then respond as well as I possibly can, and so far, it’s been going all right.
Hopefully I’ll continue to learn and grow more comfortable and not have to deal with nerves as much, and always be confident and not actually having to act confident.
Q. Coming from obscurity to big man on campus, what’s that like?
DeShone Kizer: Crazy. I can never dream of all of the stuff that’s happened to me in the last couple weeks; the recognition and intangibles that come along with being the quarterback at the University of the Notre Dame. You can never really expect your position at this university to grow as it has.
It’s been amazing, and I’m truly blessed to be in this position that I am in right now. It’s fun and it has a big spotlight on it but you have to put it away and focus on the next game because the only way it’s going to continue is to go out there and be successful on the field.
Hopefully it continues and my footprint on this football program and on this university continues to grow. But until then, I’ve just got to win — this week we have to go 1-0 this week and we’ve got to prepare and just try to continue to grow in my position here at the University of Notre Dame.
Q. You mentioned you try not to get overwhelmed by the pressure — there’s always a lot of hype that Notre Dame could be a National Championship — do you have feel pressure to try to live up to the hype and on pace with what the goals were from day one?
DeShone Kizer: Practice last week, I had a little bit of those pressures going on. As a team we set some high goals, and as expected for a team of the calibre that we are at.
But when it comes to getting to those goals, we all completely understand it’s a week-to-week basis and we are not going to get there unless we prepare and as a team we’ve done a really good job the last three weeks of preparing for our opponents and hopefully this week we’ll continue that trend and start making that trend a habit and create that culture that we talk about all the time. Hopefully that continues to grow and we continue to grow as a team and continue to get better week-to-week.
Q. Coach Kelly talked about your footwork changing a little bit and they tinkered with that last week. How does that affect you, when you have habits of footwork, what’s comfortable for you, how does that work changing something midstream?
DeShone Kizer: I wouldn’t consider it a change. We came together and we talked about it together and he explained to me that it’s not some big complete change. He would never do that to me and I wouldn’t expect him to. This is a small tweak.
If you really want to break it down, I was just taking a big punch step. I was getting a little long with everything and that creates inconsistencies. The longer you’re motion, the more of a chance there is to be inconsistent. So all I did was drop my — get rid of my punch set, allow me to start with my left foot back and get right into my motion, quicken things up, keeps me tighter, keeps my balance a little better.
It wasn’t really a big change to the way I was going about things. Just a small tweak that’s becoming more of a habit. I did a pretty good job within the game, but there’s obviously some glimpses here and there where I was throwing some dirt balls where I was getting lazy with — (indiscernible) — focus and continue to make it muscle memory, I think we’ll be all right.
Q. Is that one of those things you were asked about, having if I will many to evaluate, when you see that happen in a game and you see the footwork maybe not where you want it, does that make it easier to correct moving forward?
DeShone Kizer: A hundred percent. You get to evaluate the timing and rhythm of the game when that happens and all the extra stuff that led up to that, what was I doing on the sideline before, where was my mind at when I was making that throw and when I got lazy with my footwork. That’s something you can’t do when you’re out there on a practice field taking practice reps against the scout guys.
Q. What does Chris Brown mean to the offense? What chemistry have you been able to develop with him?
DeShone Kizer: He’s a freak. He jumps high, runs fast, great size. He attracts a backside safety quite a bit, and that’s what most people don’t understand. When you get the ball off the (indiscernible) and making big plays, understand all the different points in our offense, that could lead to welting (ph) the ball.
He’s a heck of an athlete and he’s more of a — not more of a, but he’s definitely a security for me to get the ball to the back side when it comes to third down plays and when play off — inaudible — give it to him all day long and expect him to get five to 30 after the catch.
He’s a great leader to this team. He’s been here and done that, and he’s experienced more than most of us have experienced. To have that guy, play with comfort and look in your eyes and tell you things are going to be all right when it comes to close situations and give him the ball, there’s no better person to have on your team.
Q. How quickly did you feel you had some connection with him —
DeShone Kizer: Ever since day one, ever since I’ve been here, he’s always been a leader. He’s always the first one in the receivers line. He’s always the first one in the practices. He’s the last one to leave. He’s the first one to hit you — that want and that fire to be great. Once the ball is in his hands, he’s going to do great things with it.
Q. Is there more to your game that we are not seeing right now, as you get more comfortable, you’ll be able to improve and show more of your strengths and let it rip, for lack of a better term?
DeShone Kizer: I believe the more comfortable I get, the better I’m going to get, as my first start and quite frankly, it’s just okay. Quite a few passes that I could have made in that game that could end in some big yards, I was 21 for 30 and a couple dirt balls that I could easily have moved up to 24, 25, 30. Just small things like that hopefully will continue to grow and lead to even better performances as the weeks go on.
But it’s all going to start in preparation. As a quarterback, I keep preaching, it’s all about being comfortable and all about getting into rhythm and the more that you prepare and the more comfortable you get with the defense, the better you’re going to be out there. I’m just trying to focus on what I can do today and within the midway to prepare myself.
Q. What are strengths of the UMass defense that you say, you have to be careful about this?
DeShone Kizer: They have shown two different looks in the last two games against Colorado. They are going three down and showing a lot of weakness in the run game and being able to run the ball and then they come out against Temple and stopped the run game great. We are trying to really gauge where we fit in out of those two different offenses that they played against. We are expecting to be able to go out and do what we typically do.
One good thing about this offense is we are starting to create an identity. Our offensive line is so powerful up front and our running backs are so good, there’s not much you can do to stop our run game. And once that gets going and you bring an extra head in the box and throw it out to our playmakers, like Will and Breeze and Amir and Tarean, you can throw it anywhere out there. And once we get rolling with that and continue to create this identity, there’s not much you can throw at us and we’ll end up stopping them.
Q. Is there something when you go home that you miss —
DeShone Kizer: Dino’s Pizza. After every Friday night game I would come home right after I left the locker room and before I went over to a friend’s house or whatever to celebrate, my parents always had a nice specialty pizza waiting for me and I definitely miss that.
Q. What kind of pizza?
DeShone Kizer: It’s a special. It has almost everything on it. We removed the onions and add green olives. That’s the only thing I know.
Q. Is there somebody on the offensive line or somebody that’s really taken you under their wing to make the transition easier?
DeShone Kizer: It’s funny, I got asked that question last week, a friend from back home, like if anyone’s pulling you up. We have so much experience on the team that everyone plays a part on that. Ronnie Stanley has been there and done it. Nick Martin has been there and done it. Steve Elmer has been there and done it. Almost all the way across the board, we have so much experience, and in a different way, each of them can bring me up.
Nick Martin does a great job as a center when it comes to communicating fronts and protections and stuff like that. Ronnie Stanley is always in my ear making sure I’m staying calm and collected and not being someone I’m not. He really emphasizes leading in the same way and I definitely learn from that and to try to stay with the same sort of a mind-set on each drive and each play no matter what the situation is.
When it comes to outside, we do a great job of communicating from receivers to quarterback. We spend a lot of time on the sidelines talking overlooks and talking over what’s going to be the next play and that get communicated to the offensive coordinator and typically leads to some sort of success in the next route. Everyone plays a part and when it comes to — Nick Martin, Ronnie Stanley, Will Fuller, Chris Brown, guys who have been there and do it with all the experience they have, have done a good job of pulling me up on a day-to-day and week-to-week basis.
DeShone Kizer: Yeah, it’s pretty cool, it’s a special place. We played some good ball over there and I’ve been able to put a nice size footprint in Toledo and now it’s turning over tenfold and worked out good. I’m definitely a Toledo proud person and I’ll be representing for them every time I’m out there on the field.
Q. The amount of offensive weapons you guys have, when you have guys like Will and C.J., fun is that to be part of that type of offense?
Nick Martin: It’s extremely fun, when guys are making plays like that, especially C.J. not stopping his legs, Will just outrunning entire defenses; you look up and they are still going.
Q. Who is more prolific between the two of them?
Nick Martin: Hard to say but I don’t know, they are both pretty dang good.
Q. When you look at this match up this week, you guys go from quote unquote, underdogs to heavy favorites. As a captain, how do you make sure that younger guys aren’t looking ahead?
Nick Martin: You prepare the same each week. Doesn’t matter who you play. That’s what great teams do. Work on Wednesday and got to get after it.
Q. What adjustments did you make during the week and are they something you can make during game, only having one short yardage carry that didn’t go anywhere, that was a big change.
Nick Martin: First of all, you just put emphasis on it, something you want to do well. Practice all week, and then you fall back, you play how you practice. ClichÃƒÆ’Â© but it’s true.
You do make adjustments during the game. Obviously you can switch up things but when it comes down to it they are going to go back to what they are go at and that’s what you see during the week in practice.
Q. Does that grade out as your best game this year or one of your best games as a starter year?
Nick Martin: I don’t recall to be honest.
Q. How about for the offensive line as a whole?
Nick Martin: Yeah we played well obviously. Still some things we have to clean up.
Q. Coach Kelly mentioned some of the false starts were on tackles, Ronnie having three and Mike having one and he said it could have been a cadence issue with the new quarterback. Is it tougher for tackles because they can’t look in at the ball as a guard can? Is it really that stuff to get used to it for a first-time starter?
Nick Martin: There’s no excuse faulting the O-line. You have to hold your water — on defenses and whatnot. For tackle-wise, seeing the ball definitely harder for them. Obviously try to get that jump on obvious runs and try to get on the defender as soon as possible.
Q. When a guy like Ronnie has a few mental mistakes and a penalty, how different is it for you as a leader to approach another fellow leader? What method do you use for some of the better players or more accomplished players on the team to lead them or bring them along?
Nick Martin: You’ve got to go by their personality. Ronnie and I are very close. I know how to talk to them. I guess we’ll leave it at that.
Q. Talk differently to Ronnie than Quenton and Mike?
Nick Martin: Absolutely.
Q. Learn that from your older brother?
Nick Martin: Yeah, I learned a lot, most things from my older brother.
Q. What’s the challenge of going against Jerry in practice?
Nick Martin: Great balance. His body twists and turns in weird ways and he always seems to stay up so you have to your feet underneath you. You can’t be forward at all.
Q. 6-6 is pretty big for that position. When you first went against him in practice and spring practice, were you surprised what he was able to do?
Nick Martin: No. Notre Dame recruits the best athletes and best players in the country.
Q. Has he ever said anything to you in practice that’s caught you off guard in terms of his attitude and his approach?
Nick Martin: I don’t think so.
Q. From DeShone’s standpoint, how have you seen him grow in the short time that he’s been the starting quarterback at Notre Dame?
Nick Martin: He came in with poise, great poise. He’s very confident and that’s what I’ve seen the past two weeks.
Q. When he’s with the line, you mentioned the poise. How does he command — are you guys buying in with attention towards him right from the get-go?
Nick Martin: Absolutely and that goes back to like I said before, his voice, how he says things. He says it stern and people believe what he says.
Q. Coach says you bought in — what is it about him that you want to do your best for him?
Nick Martin: His confidence, and he trusts you, right off the bat. One of the first things he said going into the Virginia game, I trust you; you’ve got to trust me.
Q. What is it like having a young guy, never started before, in that position, and he just acts like he belongs there.
Nick Martin: That’s what you want in a football player. You’ve got to be confident, there’s no doubt about that.
Q. A lot of expectations, big goals, and to have your starter go down, there were some nerves but he’s been able to handle that pressure and if those are still there, you win a big game — were there any nerves or worries, that, hey, we’ve got a young quarterback here?
Nick Martin: I don’t think so. Things don’t change. You prepare the same way. Just a ton of weapons — the goals don’t change. You’ve got to have vision.