Sept. 30, 2015
Q. Sheldon, how does Isaac Rochell push his game forward over the last few years and what do you think the biggest jump is from last year to this year right now?
Sheldon Day: He’s playing a high level right now. Just seeing him transition his game from pass rush to run blocking, he’s just — he’s becoming a complete player right now, and just seeing his growth every day, just seeing him work different moves and seeing what he can and can’t do and just challenging himself is probably the most impressive thing that he’s done.
Q. I don’t know, maybe people unfairly didn’t see him as a pass rusher first last year. But do you think that’s happening for him now?
Sheldon Day: Oh, yeah, for sure. Coach Gilmore has definitely done a great job with all of us, and especially Isaac, just giving him new moves and just making him challenge himself and making him think outside the box when it comes to pass rush.
Q. Also from a conditioning standpoint, last week didn’t really apply, but Virginia, Georgia Tech, you and him were basically out there for nearly 100 percent of the plays. How long can you guys go before that actually starts to take a toll on you and you don’t feel like you have 100 percent?
Sheldon Day: I guess we’ll see, Coach Longo has done a great job with us, just making us kind of push ourselves to the next level and just making sure that we’re giving everything we have on each and every play.
Q. I asked Coach Kelly about, you know, you guys use the phrase eye discipline or eye recognition or something along those lines, and I asked whether, you know, whether that can actually solve all of your problems by having the proper eye discipline, and he said, well, kind of depends on the situation. And I think the trick last week was one of those. How frequently can you rely on that or are there sometimes where the opposition just has a plan that’s a little bit trickier or greater?
Sheldon Day: Well, Coach VanGorder tells us to always have our eyesight presnap and just gives you a better understanding of what possibilities can happen. It’s always those certain situations where it doesn’t go the way that you thought it would or it goes a different way. So it helps to a certain extent.
Q. So how confident, you personally, you go into those situations, and you just trust it completely, and if they do something contrary to that, then you adjust?
Sheldon Day: Yeah. I would say it’s definitely reactionary. You go in with a presight, and if it doesn’t go that way, you just fly around pretty much.
Q. Last year after that North Carolina game when the quarterback had quite a bit of success running against you guys, we kind of talked about how to correct those things and how a lot of those defensive line. Is that a bit of a point of emphasis this week because of Watson’s ability to escape?
Sheldon Day: We definitely remember what happened last year against North Carolina, and we definitely don’t want anything like that to happen again. So we’re definitely tight on our rush lanes and our assignments this week and make sure that we collapse the pocket and make sure he scrambles into one of the other three defensive linemen.
Q. And is that — he’s a more accomplished passer actually than Williams was from North Carolina last year. So do you still want to be able to dictate to him, though, that you can trust your back seven if you have him throwing from the pocket and you’re collapsing the pocket, whereas, getting him in space is really probably the biggest problem for a defense.
Sheldon Day: I would definitely say we trust each other and we know each other’s assignments. But I definitely say we still want to affect him any way possible.
Q. Sheldon, how does the experience of this defensive group pay off in a game like this, in this big-game road environment?
Sheldon Day: Lets us rely on other opportunities that we’ve experienced in the past and just knowing that we’re going on the road, in a hostile environment, and we’ve been there and we’ve done that, and we’ve won in a hostile environment. Just helps us to kind of remember that and rely on that experience to help us out.
Q. What’s your message, then, to the young guys who are doing this for the first time?
Sheldon Day: Stay focused and look up to the older guys, seeing how we prepare, see how we do things and make sure that you stay on top of the little things this week to make sure that you don’t let the hype of the game get you too wild up.
Q. You mentioned the hype of the game. Obviously there’s a lot surrounding it. Game day is coming. And then there’s the talk on Twitter. How do you get some of the young guys that you guys play with to level off and make them realize that too much emotion can be a bad thing?
Sheldon Day: Just make sure they don’t focus on the outside noise. It’s so easy to get caught up in Twitter and what people say and things like that. But it’s all about what’s happening in this building and what you can control.
Q. Talk about Deshaun Watson. He’s had some inconsistencies in his career. How important do you guys feel it is to throw him some different looks and maybe get him off his game early?
Sheldon Day: We definitely want to get after him early, especially up front, make sure we rush the passer as well as we can and on the read option, make sure we don’t let him become a problem. So we’re definitely trying to make sure our looks are right in practice and make sure we’re doing everything perfect.
Q. And you talked about how important it is to have those big plays early, in a hectic road environment. I think most of us kind of think that has to come from the offense. How much of an impact do you feel that you guys as the defense can make early and kind of shift the momentum?
Sheldon Day: We want big plays. The D line playing on the other side of the line scrimmage getting tackles for loss, sacks, anything to kin of throw the offense off and make sure that we dictate what’s happening.
Q. Just wondering you’ve played obviously as many big games in the country starting 2012. Who was the best college quarterback you played against?
Matthias Farley: Probably Jameis Winston. I mean he was unbelievable, making incredible throws, extending plays, getting hit and delivering, you know, an incredible ball that can only be caught by his receivers. So I think he’s got a great presence about him.
Q. Obviously far different, but what have you seen from Deshaun Watson that will challenge a defense something you probably haven’t seen yet this season?
Matthias Farley: He’s a true dual-threat quarterback. He plays with his seat. He has a great arm, accurate passes. Putts the ball where his receivers can get to it and gives his receivers opportunities to go make plays. And then also, he will stand in the pocket. It’s not like he’s going to look to run and just get out of there at the first sign of pressure. He’s going to stay poised, and he’s a very calm quarterback, which I think, you know, manifests itself in the way he plays and also the way his teammates respond to him.
Q. And when you’re in these unique situations like Notre Dame going somewhere rare like Clemson, and it’s been ten years since Florida State. Do you see environment now most of the team having played at Florida State and a few of the guys played in challenging environments. There’s not many of you who have played in Oklahoma?
Matthias Farley: Yeah. Anytime we go on the road it’s a challenging environment, a hostile environment. Being a night game it just adds to the environment and hoopla around the game as far as the same is concerned.
Q. Maybe for the offense trying to get in, having to go games and stuff like, it’s actually more entertaining?
Matthias Farley: More fun.
Q. Once you’ve played in these situations it’s not an intimidation factor. It actually probably helps you a little bit?
Matthias Farley: Yeah, absolutely. You feed off the energy. A night game people usually get there early. The stadium is going to be full for warmup. You can find of feed off that energy in the stadium.
Q. And following up on that Matthias, how do you learn to deal with that? There’s has to be an occasional process the first time, second time you deal with going into a crowd like that.
Matthias Farley: Well, I mean something that helps I think is you don’t really have a choice, because you’re there and you have to really focus because it is loud. It is a hostile environment. The fans don’t like you, as they shouldn’t. So I think it’s definitely an adjustment maybe going through warmups, maybe the first play for some guys who have never been in that situation. But at the end of the day it really focuses on doing your job and you really key into that and you kind of put the noise out.
Q. Does there have to be a learning curve? I mean when you’re young the first time that you experience it, is every young player taken aback by it?
Matthias Farley: I don’t think so. I think there’s a lot of guys who are real poised. And that’s why you come to Notre Dame, to play in games like that and environments like that.
Q. What’s the first memory that you have of going into a situation like that at Notre Dame, with Notre Dame?
Matthias Farley: I’d say Michigan state, 2012. I mean that place was rocking. From the time we even pulled in on the bus before we even got in the stadium, the tailgate and the fans were getting after us. It just adds to the excitement. And everyone is always excited to play a game. That’s what we work for, but anytime you go into a hostile environment, you just feed off that energy.
Q. Have you ever a 62-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Do you need like that big play when you go into a road environment to quiet the crowd early and kind of establish yourselves early?
Matthias Farley: I don’t know if we need T I mean it definitely helps. You know, anytime you can have a run like that, I remember running on the sideline and the whole place went quiet, which you know, is obviously big being in a hostile environment, kind of taking the momentum and taking the crowd out of it is huge. It definitely helps, but you know, I can’t say it’s the most important thing. You just have to play a very solid game in all three stages.
Q. I mean is it harder to almost like come back on the road when the opposing team has momentum, the crowd is pretty raucous. Does that make it harder to come back in that situation?
Matthias Farley: I don’t think it makes it harder to come back. I think it causes you to really gel together even that much more as a team and guys call each other out if someone is not playing that well or whatever it may be. And we really look to each other to stay together in those situations and do come back.
Q. Coach Kelly said yesterday he likes you guys to have enthusiasm but not emotion because emotion could be draining. How do you kind of temper that enthusiasm or energy you get throughout the week?
Matthias Farley: We just treat it like every other week, you know. It’s the biggest game on our schedule because it’s the next game on our schedule, and to not get way up or way down for a team or an opponent, to focus same way you do each and every week, prepare the same way and not listen to the hoopla and all the noise surrounding the game.
Q. And over the years they reference Michigan state, Oklahoma. How have you gotten better personally when you go into those environments at staying calm, staying controlled, focusing just on your job?
Matthias Farley: Well, Michigan State that was the first time I played because that’s when Jim Morris got hurt and I really didn’t have a choice. You have to walk in and be — there can’t be any dropoff if you come in, or if you are a starter and you are in, you can’t have any — you can’t let the crowd affect you. You have to do your job. So myself personally, you know, I got thrust into a weird situation, which maybe probably acclimatized to it may be a little faster just because I really didn’t have a choice or there wasn’t really a grace period for me to figure it out. Just you had to do it.
Q. You just got tossed in there as opposed to thinking about it all week?
Matthias Farley: Yeah. I mean I don’t think guys think about it all week. Guys are focused on doing their job and not how loud the crowd is going to be.
Q. I know you say you want to treat it like another game, but I mean in all reality it’s not. There’s been some talk back and forth from both sides. Do you pay attention to that? Does that like add anything to it at all?
Matthias Farley: I mean I’m being 100 percent honest when I say it’s another game. I mean it’s a big game. All our games are big. But you know, I don’t think anybody looks at it as bigger than last or bigger than next. It’s the most important because it’s the one we’re about to play.
Q. And then Deshaun Watson, he’s had some inconsistencies throughout his career. How important is it to show him some different looks and kind of confuse him early on?
Matthias Farley: I think that’s important in any situation, with any quarterback. You know, Deshaun is a great quarterback, and he’s very, very poised. So you know, it’s going to be big for us to try to do that early, but you know, at the end of the day we have to be doing our job each and every play.
Q. Matthias, before the tech game b k talked a little bit about being the underdog and kind of motivating you that way. Last week was more about how favored you guys are and be weary against that. Does this team get a lot of juice out of both those things, you know, in terms of being a motivating factor?
Matthias Farley: I don’t know if it’s a big motivating factor. I think it’s more of just being aware of it. Coach Kelly does a great job of making sure you’re aware of whatever could be the potential down fall. No one wants to be said to be the underdog at home. That would add for a home environment. And then obviously a game like last week, you have to keep your foot on the gas. So Coach Kelly did a great job all week of reminding us that, you know, UMass can beat you if you don’t come to work if you don’t come and prepare the right way all week. I don’t know if it’s an up-and-down thing as far as the emotion and feelings, go, but it’s the constant reminders that we get from the coaches that you have to prepare the same way no matter who you’re playing.
Q. Is that sort of a universal theme since you’ve been here? Like do different teams have different personalities? This team may be motivated by that whereas in 2012 maybe you guys didn’t care whether you were underdogs or favorite?
Matthias Farley: I don’t think guys care, you know. Because I mean everybody wants to beat us. I mean we could beat the No. 1 team in the country and be the underdog the next week. So I think it’s just being aware that that’s the case and preparing each and every week the same way and not letting any dropoff happen throughout the season.
Q. DeShone, seems like you guys have great success and you personally in two-minute-drill-type situations. I was wondering what is it about those kind of situations that have sort of brought the best out of you?
DeShone Kizer: It’s sort of time to let loose. Those two-minute situations, there are times where quarterbacks finally get the opportunity that they know that they’re going to throw the ball each down, takes a little bit of pressure off of each play in a sense where you don’t necessarily have to worry about, you know, putting together run, run, pass or getting yourself into the next best position. It’s more along the lines of just trying to grab yards and get things rolling. And with the receivers that we have out there, it makes it a lot easier and it makes me a little more comfortable in getting the balls in their hands and trying to get the next six, seven, yards, play at a time and hopefully get ourselves into scoring position at the end of the drive.
Q. You talked after the UMass game about having the mindset of always believing that the offense will outscore anybody. Is that a mentality that you’ve always had, just that kind of self-belief, that you’ll always be able to score on every drive?
DeShone Kizer: Yeah. The ball’s in my hands the majority of the plays. If the ball’s going to come through me, then I better be the one who’s going to have the confidence that we’re going to do something big when the ball is in my hands. It’s hard not to have a sense of confidence with the guys that we have. Our offensive line is amazing, all the way across the board, from the left side with Ronnie and Q, all the way down to the right side when you have Mike on the outside and Steve on the inside and then obviously the anchor Nick Martin in the middle. The offensive line is amazing; skill positions are amazing. Will Fuller is having a great season so far right now. Breezy is getting things going. Amir got things going last week. We’re really getting things rolling, and with all those guys out there all playing great, along with one of the best backs in the country right now, there’s nothing left to have but confidence and scoring every time you have the ball.
Q. With going to Clemson, I know you guys do a lot as far as crowd noise and that kind of stuff in practice to try to prepare for it, but mentally when you have not been in that situation as the starter, do you do anything to try to put yourself in that situation or do you just have to experience it?
DeShone Kizer: You know, I think I’ve done a pretty good job so far with being able to cope with the hype of each game. There’s always been something new for me, whether it be coming in late in the game when Malik goes down against Virginia, having my first start at home against Georgia Tech. There’s always some sort of a hype. We’re Notre Dame. Every game is going to be a big game in its own sense, and obviously this is the first time that I’ll really be playing in front of 90,000-plus screaming fans from down south. But we won’t necessarily have the following that we normally have at away games and home games.
When it comes to my preparation, I just know that as long as I’m comfortable in my own shoes and I believe in the game plan and I fully get the game plan. But if we can get the communication down, which we’re doing a good job of it so far with good practice mindset, having the music on loud and crowd noise on during practice, then we’ll be completely all right and we’ll be able to do the things that we always do from week to week.
Q. Coach Kelly was talking about the relationship between the quarterbacks. What is the room like with the quarterbacks and how has that helped you getting ready to take the field as the quarterback with all the help of the quarterbacks?
DeShone Kizer: Yeah. Since I’ve been here, we’ve done — I’ve had a good upbringing with Malik and Everett pulling me along, and now I take it as my job and my duty to make sure I’m bringing along the guys below me. We all have different experiences. We’re all able to share those. Obviously Brandon had a great game against UMass, just as expected. The kid is an amazing athlete, and we always have conversations about just do the things that you do best. You don’t have to be anyone but yourself out there. Brandon was a weed athlete in high school and has one of the widest arms probably in college football right now. And all he has to do is let it go. All those things kind of translate very well to the college field as long as he’s out there without this crazy, big-game feel in his mind. If he can get the comfort level that I’m starting to get now, I believe that he’s going to be a very good quarterback. And with that being said, the rest of the offensive room is right there with him. We’re always having a good time when we’re at practice. We’re all about business, with Coach Sanford leading the way, I think we have one of the best offenses — or one of the best quarterback rooms in the country.
Q. You mentioned Carlisle. Was there a bit of a concerted effort to get Amir involved last week or if not just Amir, more players involved? You really spread the wealth a lot more against UMass than Georgia Tech.
DeShone Kizer: We played quite a few more plays against UMass than we played in most other games. It’s not necessarily that we game plan on getting someone the ball, ever. It just happened to be where Will is starting to get some extra attention. They’re going to start helping safeties over, and in order to go against that, we’re going to have to throw the ball inside. And we had a couple of opportunities. I put one in the dirt, which should have been a nice 15-yard completion, but then came back to it again and hit them a couple of times. And then one great thing about our slot receivers, Amir played running back in college at one point in time. He’s a great rusher. You bring the emotion and get the extended feel is great and Tare can do the same exact thing on their inside. So it’s not necessarily that we game plan getting Amir the ball at certain points in the game, but it’s more just putting the ball in your playmaker’s hand.
Q. The other two I think you hit converted third downs, and after missing your first third-down pass, you didn’t miss again the rest of the day. Is that similar to two-minute situations where you can just on third down and passing situations, you can just let it rip and you’re not thinking about footwork and things like that?
DeShone Kizer: Completely. Completely. I’ve always said it’s all about being comfortable. The couple balls I’ve had in the last few games that are low and away are me just being too tense or something in the lower half of my body that is not really working. I’ve been doing a pretty good job of attacking those things in practice the last couple of weeks, and I’ve been ripping the ball pretty good. So hopefully they’ll eventually be eliminated. When my mind is elsewhere and I’m not really focusing on getting the ball out to where I should be getting it out, sometimes you have flaws, and I’m a big guy with a chance of being a big motion, and when I elongate everything, there’s a greater chance of error.
Q. Coach Kelly mentioned you will have to go to silent cadence obviously in this environment. Do you have much experience with that, and is there ever an advantage for an offensive silent cadence in that the defensive line might not be getting off the ball as quick if they have your cadence down?
DeShone Kizer: I do have some experience. I did it a little in high school. We’ve done it quite a bit throughout the off season. We started incorporating it way back in Culver. We know the environments that we’re going to play in throughout the year and we’re going to take reps in throwing through the silent cadence mode. When it comes to advantages and disadvantages, I think you can incorporate the silent cadence just the same way that you do with your verbal cadence when it comes to having a different rhythm doing some things different from a quarterback perspective that to try to get a jump on what the defense is doing. When it comes to defensive line, I mean eventually they’re going to get off just the same way they get off in a verbal cadence. Eventually it’s going to be the same exact way. The only difference is Nick Martin will be yelling go after I give him the signal instead of myself yelling go.
Q. Coach Kelly always talks about next man in. How quickly does that reality hit you when you see a teammate like Malik go down like he did earlier in the season?
DeShone Kizer: There wasn’t necessarily a transition period for me to really give you a duration on how long it took for me to get it. It was just here. I was in. You know, Coach Kelly as much as he preaches next man in, preaches even more about preparation, and in order to be the next man in and be successful what you’re doing, if you’re preparing like that before that, then the transition period doesn’t last as long and you’re able to get into a groove and get things rolling like the guys who have been playing as backups in the beginning of the year are now.
Q. Emotionally when you see an injury like that take place and you watch it happen, how quickly do you have to put that out of your head and just go into that mode of preparation to suddenly being in the moment?
DeShone Kizer: There’s so much going on on a week-to-week basis when it comes to game planning and preparing that you don’t necessarily think about the situation and all the emotions from the game. I mean when Malik went down, I didn’t have time to think about how bad his injury was. I mean to be truthful, you don’t even have time to feel bad for him because you’re out there playing ball. The last thing you’re thinking about is what’s going on on the sideline. You’re trying to make sure you can win the game. After the game is when you can spend time making sure your brother is okay and really figuring out the situation. When it comes to a week-to-week basis, there’s so much time spent off the field with preparation for this week’s game and with your studies that the emotional side of things doesn’t really get involved because you’re so engulfed with everything else that’s going on.
Q. One of the more interesting players for Clemson is Mackensie Alexander, the cornerback. Those guys have stats kept about what they’ve done. They keep stats about how often they’ve been avoided or how often he’s been avoided. When they do throw the football his way, what do you see from him?
DeShone Kizer: He is a very good athlete. He’s aggressive; he’s strong, he’s fast. Probably going to be one of the better corners that we play against throughout this season. But at the same time Will Fuller is fast; he’s strong, he’s a great athlete. Breezy is fast; he’s strong, he’s a great athlete. I mean this is college football. Everyone is elite once you get here. We’re a Top 10 team; they’re a Top 15 team. We’re going to have great athletes on both sides of the ball. So when it comes to him in particular, we’re going to treat him as if we game plan against any other athlete. We’re not going to shy away or go towards him or how many targets. We don’t really keep stats on that. We’re not going to go out there with the mindset of keep the ball away from that guy. I’m going to throw the ball to the first read that’s open. If it’s on his side, it’s going to go that way. If it’s getting away from him because he’s covering down and playing good defense, then go to the back side and try to find the next open man.
Q. Don’t avoid him like other teams have?
DeShone Kizer: If the guy who he’s guarding is open, I’ll throw him the ball. If he’s not open, I’m moving on.
Q. And that came up last week because obviously there was safety help on Fuller last week. And then you have to get other, you know, receivers involved. Do you — is that what you anticipate with Will Fuller this week, a similar treatment?
DeShone Kizer: You know, from what they’ve shown throughout the season this year, they rely heavily on playing man coverage. Makes me believe that they have really good corners as they do and their defensive backs are very good. They play a lot of man coverage. I don’t necessarily think that they’re going to go up and change too much on affecting Will. They have a lot of confidence in the guy out there, in Alexander, and we’ll see how that turns out. I don’t necessarily know their game plan towards him, but I kind of expect that every week if Will makes that one or two plays, they’re going to make an adjustment and each team as we go along in the season will make some sort of a different adjustment. So we’ll go on the fly, and we’ll be able to talk on the sideline and I’ll talk on the phone up top to really figure out how to go about their adjustment that they make if they do have to make one.
Q. You mentioned Chris Brown trending up and you also said in the past that you have a good pass-catch relationship with him. I mean that’s a guy that — I know that you’re looking to who’s open in the progressions, but that’s a guy that you feel comfortable with turning to in a big-game situation like this.
DeShone Kizer: He’s been in every experience possible. He’s been in every big game possible, and he has experience. Most people on our team don’t. He’s made some big catches in his career. He’s been around the block a couple of times. He’s the type of guy where if the ball’s in his hands, I know he’s going to be able to make a play after the catch. He’s not a guy where I’m looking to get him the ball at the sticks because he’s going to get tackled right there. He’s the guy that if we’re going for 8 yards, I know I can give him the ball at the sticks and he’s going to be able to make a play to make it nine.
Q. In terms of getting the football to the tight end, you have a couple of more tight ends — you guys are really deep at tight end — step up last week. Is it the tight end because of where he’s positioned and the position of the field that he works, is he a young quarterback’s best friend, so to speak?
DeShone Kizer: Yeah. Tight ends at this university are — we’re great all the way across the board. Obviously we’re down a starter from the beginning of the year, and we’re moving on. But we still have great people in that position, great athletes at the position. So when it comes to getting them the ball, teams tend to — they typically have to make a decision. Whether they guard down on the tight end with a linebacker, if they want to bring them into the box. If he’s in the box, we’ll try to incorporate the tight end. If he’s outside the box, we’re going to try to run the ball until they bring the guy in the box. So when it comes to getting the ball to the tight end, it’s a cat-and-mouse game. And the only way that they can eliminate the cat-and-mouse game is to play man coverage, and once they start playing man coverage, then obviously it’s time to play ball. And if they go one-on-one, whether it be on the outside to our great receivers that we’re talking about or playing some hard-nose football inside and bringing a tight end down and maybe going two tights and playing hard-nose football up the middle.
Q. That’s how it all unfolds?
DeShone Kizer: When you’re preparing as much as we do, there’s only a few different things that you can do.
Q. DeShone, you mentioned Martin being the anchor of your offensive line. What has it meant for to you have someone with Nick’s experience in front of you as you’ve taken over?
DeShone Kizer: It’s amazing. He’s a great communicator. He’s the same guy every day. He’s a guy that, I walk in as a freshman, and you just sense that he’s, you know, a competitor, and a true leader. And with that being said, I’ve been looking up to a guy like him for the last year now and now I get to work with him hand in hand. He does a great job of communicating with me. We have a really good relationship when it comes to seeing the defenses and understanding the boxes. We talk quite a bit off the field, which makes it great. And when it comes to, you know, being out there with him, he’s a guy that I can look to as my, you know, my body guard, my pillow, my guy that I can, you know, if anything is going wrong, I can look into his eyes and understand that, hey, we’re going to get through this together. That just comes with experience, like I said before. And when he has the talent to the left and right of him, it makes his job a lot easier as well.
Q. That kind of been the case with the line collectively has made this transition you talked about a little bit easier for you or a lot easier even?
DeShone Kizer: Yeah. I understand that if I’m calling the right protection, there’s a good chance I’m going to be protected each play. Also as a line we do a great job of communicating from drive to drive and from week to week. As long as we continue to do that, I think we’ll have great line play.
Q. Is it fairly easy for you to call the right protection? Is that something you’re real confident in right now?
DeShone Kizer: Yeah. I believe that protection has always been something I’ve been pretty good at. You know, as we go on into the season, the blitzes are going to continue to get more exotic. The better the defense, typically the more they do on the defensive side of the ball when it comes to giving you different looks. But I think I’ve done a good job throughout my career here in really studying tendencies of safeties or the way that they want to play their defensive line and understanding where the pressure is coming from. And also what makes it a lot easier is when you have guys who are talking to you. I mean my offensive line and I are having a legit conversation before the play when it comes to understanding which side is going to drop, which side is going to come. And with the experience and with the communication that we have up front, it makes the protections a lot easier.
Q. Could you put into perspective like how often you’re right with that? Is it like 99.9 percent? Is it like 80?
DeShone Kizer: The great thing about the offensive line that we have here at the University of Notre Dame is even if I’m wrong, typically I’m right. They’re able to make their own calls; if, you know, there’s something I miss on the outside, they can communicate and get it down the line. We have great backs who block. So if I am wrong when it comes to manning up the sides or that the blitz is coming from, C.J. Prosise isn’t afraid to get in there and pull a guy down or Josh Adams or Dexter Williams. They’re all great when it comes to that, and we have a lot of great concepts and a lot of great game plans when it comes to exotic looks where we can just go max pro and get the ball outside.
Q. Last week when you looked at the tape, I think on actual dropbacks you got sacked on the first one and then pretty much it was clean pocket the rest of the day. Is that something you expect maybe not necessarily to change on Saturday night, but do you have to anticipate a little bit more of a distressed pocket where there’s maybe somebody in your face sometimes based on talent level?
DeShone Kizer: You know, that’s — as a quarterback, that’s something you can’t necessarily do. If you’re out there thinking about the distress in the pocket, you’re not going to be throwing the balls you need to be throwing. This is probably going to be one of the better defensive lines that we play this year, but once again, I have complete trust in my offensive line. They’ve seen it all before. Coach has gone it over and over and over and over again, the looks that we’re going to end up getting this week. With that being said, trusting the pocket and trusting how things work, I’m going to be doing potentially the same thing I’ve been doing in the last two games when it comes to being comfortable and understanding where the weak spots in the pockets are and where the weak spots in the blitzes are.
Q. You traveled to Florida State —
DeShone Kizer: I did.
Q. — last year when you were on the road. What do you remember about that environment? Is there anything you could take away from that experience? Is it just like, okay, this is sort of what I should be expecting?
DeShone Kizer: Yeah. Florida State is something that I’ve thought about quite a bit this week. It was a very, very loud environment. I’ve never heard anything so loud in my life, something where, you know, it feels like your insides are shaking on third down. But with that being said, being able to feel that and being able to go through the emotions and being able to see Everett almost conquer that loud crowd gives me a little more confidence going into, you know, a bigger environment like this against Clemson that although it can get loud, the best way of coping with it is being — you know, doing the extra small things, making sure you’re being quick in getting up there and relaying the play a couple times down and getting back into your stance so you can be able to make a check. And also with that being said, the best way of quieting a crowd down is making big plays, and I got to experience that last year against Florida State where every time we got some momentum going, it wasn’t as hard to communicate. So we gotta make sure that we get things rolling as soon as possible and hopefully at least take it down a couple of notches on the loudness scale.
Q. How quickly last year did it hit you, that okay, this is a different environment than I’d ever been in before? Was it pregame, as soon as it started?
DeShone Kizer: As soon as the first tomahawk thing, it was unreal. I never really expected it to be as loud as it was. We heard it all week at practice. We’re out on the grass field and Coach Kelly played it over and over and over again. But once I really heard it and felt it and got to understand how loud it was going to be on game, which is probably the first kickoff, that’s when I really started knowing how loud and how crazy an experience it was going to be to play at an environment like that.
Q. Not to belabor the whole like dirt ball or dirt burger. I’m not sure the term you used for short passes that short hop a little bit. When you’ve got so much on your mind, is it easy to always think about your footwork when you’re also trying to pick up protections, who’s blitzing, reading my routes, all that stuff?
DeShone Kizer: I think that right there is what takes a quarterback and separates the good to great, that gap right there. Being able to have so much trust and so much muscle memory that your lower half is going to be doing the right thing, that mentally up top, that the mental area of that doesn’t necessarily distract what’s going on down low. And that’s all that we’re doing on a week-to-week basis when it comes to practicing is making sure that I can make that lower half muscle memory, so those issues don’t happen. When it came to the throws that I made in the UMass game and the difference between the throws that I made in UMass versus Georgia Tech or Virginia, it wasn’t necessarily all lower half. The mistakes that were made in the UMass game had to do a little more with understanding the timing of the route and understanding the contact that we’re running the route for. My eyes got caught inside. I was late to the outside, and the ball just didn’t get there on time. If I’m understanding the defense and understanding why we’re running the plays a little more, then those balls will make it out there in time, and that’s all going to come with me understanding the game plan this week and understanding why we’re calling the calls that we’re making.
Q. And in particular just on that topic, you sort of had a fake flip screen to Will and their two corners like just jumped it immediately and you kind of missed Amir. What sort of happened on that specific play?
DeShone Kizer: I was just sped up, completely sped up. Clock is rolling. We had a motion. I had to get the motion across. I started clapping for the ball to get in my hand. Didn’t necessarily get the right grip on the ball. Expected Amir to throttle up a little more than he throttled up. He ran the route like he was supposed to. I put the ball behind him. Completely on me.
Q. Early forecast for the game on Saturday are calling for some rainy conditions. What’s your experience been like handling rain in the forecast before? Do you feel prepared for this game to do that? How comfortable are you with those type situations?
DeShone Kizer: Looking back in high school, I never really had too big of an issue when it came to rain. I have pretty good-sized hands where I can grip the ball pretty well. Some of my best games in high school came in the rain. So it doesn’t necessarily worry me. It’s definitely something that I haven’t experienced lately, but we’ll definitely prepare for that with using wet balls in our practice and understanding that the wind is going to come into play and things like that. It’s all going to be a mental mindset. As long as I can focus on getting the other things down and really understanding the game plan and preparing in the right way that way, then the rain and those conditions don’t necessarily come into play.
Q. Nick, did the dynamic of the offensive line change greatly when there was a change at quarterback with you guys this season or is it business as usual with this group?
Nick Martin: No. It’s business as usual. We like to keep things the same up front, we have to prepare the same way and we gotta play the same way. Doesn’t matter who’s behind us.
Q. What’s the message for guys that have experience in big games like this on the road for the guys that maybe are doing this for the first time, don’t have a lot of experience playing in front of a hostile crowd like this?
Nick Martin: Go back to basics, rely on your fundamentals and preparation. It’s going to be loud, but after a few series, you’ll get used to it, and honestly, enjoy it because they’re fun. A lot of people don’t get these opportunities. This is something you’ll remember for the rest of your life.
Q. I know DeShone mentioned that he didn’t play the game at Florida State, but the loudest place he’s been, he said it was ringing on the inside it was so loud. You’ve been doing this for four years now. What’s the loudest environment you’ve played in and enjoyed?
Nick Martin: Well, Florida State was definitely one of them, and I would say probably the loudest was Michigan, like in 2013. My first away game starting silent cadence. They set the record for stadium goals like this and you can’t hear the person next to you. But it was also probably one of the more fun games you play in. That’s why you play, for those moments.
Q. You said you get used to it a couple series in. Do you notice, I guess, warming up, this is why I’m here, this is fun and then all of a sudden, like holy cow.
Nick Martin: Yeah. No, it definitely — obviously you kind of realize before the game and everything, but after that, I mean definitely the first series, when they get going, I mean you can’t hear anything.
Q. And on that topic, Coach Kelly mentioned obviously silent cadence is going to be involved in the game at Clemson. Any advantages for an offense using silent cadence?
Nick Martin: You practice it every week, you know. You practice it, you do it. It’s kind of one of those things.
Q. Between you and DeShone, I understand the dynamics, but who does it challenge most on the offense? Is it the wide receivers or is it the tackles when they have to rely on that? And DeShone mentioned that you would actually be saying go.
Nick Martin: Yeah. No, I do. That call at some points in the game the guards should get it; tackles probably won’t. I would say, depending on the down, certainly the tackles obviously having more athletic pass rushers out there, definitely challenge. That’s what I say, you go back to basics, you rely on your fundamentals.
Q. Everyone seems to say that you guys kind of have that nasty edge about you on the offensive line. How much do you enjoy being the guys that kind of bring the edge to this team?
Nick Martin: I mean you love it. That’s who we are or who we try to be. That’s our job, too, especially running the ball, you gotta get after people. It’s the mentality we have. It’s a sense of pride.
Q. Are you ever surprised with how everyone describes DeShone as they use the same words poised; you know, he’s comfortable. Are you ever surprised by the way he kind of carries himself while he’s on the field?
Nick Martin: No. You know, he does it every day. He’s the same guy every day. And when you do that, it’s easier to fall back on that.
Q. And then with C.J. Prosise, what are the biggest changes that you’ve seen in him? This is still a new position for him, but he’s tearing it up. What have you seen him develop in the most as far as a running back goes?
Nick Martin: He has unbelievable vision. Obviously he’s one of the biggest. His pass blocking is getting better, protection. His break-away speed still surprises me. I mean one of the first touchdowns or whatever it was, he turned that corner and I thought he was going to be out of bounds and he was just gone. It’s fun to watch, fun to block for. Sometimes you don’t see it during the game, but you see it on film, he’s getting four or five extra yards, somehow staying up. He’s a fighter.
Q. We were talking to DeShone about setting protections, and he said working with the offensive line, even if he’s wrong, usually he’s right because you guys sort of clean it up. How often is he right? I mean what’s his batting average there?
Nick Martin: The majority of the time. You know, there’s been a few instances where things happen. But for the most part he is right. And that helps. He’s a very intelligent quarterback. We do what we can. Sometimes if he’s not, we’ll try to take the protection. If not, he’ll know who he’s hot off of and he’ll make a play.
Q. How much time do you spend with him away from this building or away from practice just going over stuff? He mentioned that he’s spent a lot more time with you over the last few weeks than he ever had before.
Nick Martin: Yeah. Absolutely. Film wise, O line is always watching film, and obviously different guys pop in, whether it be tight ends, quarterbacks, running backs. And outside, too, that’s one thing, I think we developed to talk not about football. That’s one thing I learned, especially with Malik, is getting to know him off the field more as a person and how much that really converts when you’re playing and how much that comfort level you have and trust you build.
Q. Why do you think that matters what you guys do away, just like hang out at your apartment?
Nick Martin: Yeah, exactly. It builds a bond. I mean obviously just being a teammate you automatically have the bond what you go through. But having a bond outside the field, you know, I feel it goes — that’s why the O line is always together. I mean it’s a cohesive group. And when you get on that field, you gotta trust them. He’s gotta trust us with, I guess you could say — you don’t want to say his life. But it is. We mess up up front, he pays for it, we don’t. And that’s why it gives us a sense of pride. You gotta lay your life on the line for your brother.
Q. You don’t go against Rochell a whole lot, but I’m sure you’ve had some encounters with him over the last few years. Where do you think he’s better as a player? Where have you seen him improve most over the last few years?
Nick Martin: Really his consistency, especially in camp more so when we were against him, he’s doing his job. Obviously we don’t get to watch too much of how he plays, whether he makes plays or not. But that’s one thing I notice is he’s going to be doing his job, and that’s a reliable player.
Q. Thinking about the running game, it’s been a long time since Notre Dame’s put up these type of numbers with the running game. You must have so much pride in that and in a game like this knowing that you can grind it out if you need to. Just talk about that, just how maybe the running game has come together and maybe you’ll have to lean on that just a little bit more this game?
Nick Martin: Yeah, absolutely. Like you said, it’s a sense of pride. As an O lineman we love to run the ball. We like when we have success. Going back to our running backs, the way they run, you guys have all seen it. It’s unbelievable. Up front, we work our butts off to try and make holes and do our best. But beyond that also, it’s about the people that come before you, too. The O lines, having guys like Chris Watt, Zack Martin, Christian Lombard, those guys, and even before that, the O line at Notre Dame, especially in the 90s and ever since then, has always been a sense of pride, and we just try to carry that on.
Q. And maybe some of the toughness you’ve seen in DeShone. He gives you a lot of credit that he can look in your eyes and trust you, but is there an example of when you looked in his eyes and said, wow, this kid’s getting it?
Nick Martin: Yeah. The poise he showed in the first Virginia game, in that situation obviously he did well. But even after that, the way he handled himself in Georgia Tech, first home start, did well. Not to dwell in the past, but UMass. It’s a team you can overlook. Obviously you got Clemson the week before. But in college football anyone can beat anyone on any given day. I thought he handled himself really well, prepared the right way. And that’s a veteran move.
Q. Is that something you don’t even worry about now? It’s only been a couple of games.
Nick Martin: Yeah. No, I don’t. It goes back to that trust and comfort level. He’s a football player. He was recruited for this system, and he’s doing well.
Q. You’ve mentioned you’ve got to spend a lot more time with DeShone talking about non-football things. What’s DeShone’s way of escaping all this pressure that you’ve kind of gotten to see firsthand?
Nick Martin: Yeah. Really, just get away from it. You know, just hang out with the guys and not always talk about football. You know, during the season you really don’t have a life outside of football, at all. But that’s why we do it. We love it. And it is, it’s kind of just getting away from it, relaxing, not having to do with those pressures. Just talking, watching TV, playing video games. Whatever it is, just kind of getting away.
Q. What video game can he beat you at?
Nick Martin: Oh, man. I’m not a big video game guy, so probably anything. We had a league — I don’t even know why I’m telling you this, but we had a league, Will Fuller literally beat me about 100 points in Madden. So that explains to you how bad I am.
Q. What’s his strong suit then?
Nick Martin: Will?
Nick Martin: Oh. You know, read defenses, whatever. He’s a quarterback. (Laughs).
Q. Best dual threat quarterback you guys have faced up until this game in your experience at Notre Dame?
Joe Schmidt: Is that including —
Q. Not including this game, no?
Joe Schmidt: Okay, yeah. I was going to say.
Q. I would assume it would be the best.
Joe Schmidt: Yeah. Best dual-threat quarterback. Oh, I mean it’s hard because we’ve played so many guys that have been so accomplished through the air and on the ground. I guess I could give you a couple. I thought the kid from North Carolina was very good. I thought, you know, shoelaces from Michigan was incredible, running the football, throwing the football. You know, there’s a lot of guys that kind of come to mind. I’m trying to think back, you know, kind of through the years of people that have been very good at running the football. I don’t know. I’m trying to think — those are probably the two that first come to mind. I don’t know. I guess I would have to think about that. I haven’t really thought about it.
Q. Seeing Deshaun on film all week, seeing Watson on film, where does he kind of present a unique challenge for you guys?
Joe Schmidt: I mean he’s a very, very talented quarterback. He can do kind of everything within the offense. He operates through the offense exceptionally well. He has a tremendous amount of poise at the line of scrimmage. You know, he doesn’t really seem to get rattled, makes all the throws, runs exceptionally well. So I have a tremendous amount of respect for him as a player.
Q. That 2012 game in Oklahoma, I think the first quarter Cierre Wood had a big touchdown, like 60 yards. What did that do for you guys on the sidelines to get that big play early on and establish yourselves in that one?
Joe Schmidt: You know, that was — that game was — that game was kind of an emotional high throughout and I don’t even remember the run, to be honest with you. I just remember are, you know, that team had self belief, and just trying to go in there and do everything we could for each other and make plays for each other. And that’s how we just kind of try to play. And that’s what I remember from that game, and you know, I’m just trying to do everything I can to kind of create that kind of atmosphere and environment for our guys when we go on the road this year.
Q. When you do get a big play like that, whether it’s Cierre’s play, Chris Brown 50-yard touchdown later in that game, what does that do for the adding to that self belief that you mentioned?
Joe Schmidt: Well, yeah. I mean big plays are great. You want big plays. You need big plays within the context of the game. So maybe it settled some guys down, you know, and lets people start playing their game and realize it’s just a football game. We make plays, they make plays. It’s just — you know, whenever a big play happens, for momentum it’s big, but also just settling the young guys down, it’s big.
Q. Joe, what’s been the key to the success here with you guys having all the injuries that you’ve had and still finding a way to get business done every weekend?
Joe Schmidt: Well, injuries are going to happen, so we’ve had the mindset of next man in since I’ve got here. And guys just really focus on being prepared for their opportunity. You don’t know when your opportunity is going to come. You know, and that’s how I got my first chance to play here at Notre Dame, so it’s really just something that we try to have, you know, harbor here within — in all of our meeting rooms is that you don’t know when your chance is going to come. And the older guys really work with the younger guys to make sure that they’re ready for their chance. So whether that’s Malik always working with DeShone and now that’s paying off or if it’s Durham Smythe working with Weishar and AlizÃƒÆ’Â© and Tyler and Chase and all those guys working together, it doesn’t matter because really all we care about is the team, and it’s not about one guy.
Q. As someone who’s kind of been through it with both ends getting your opportunity because of an injury and then losing the rest of your season last season to a season ender, do you have a different perspective of that next man in mentality than if you wouldn’t have if you hadn’t gone through it?
Joe Schmidt: Yeah. I think I’ve kind of seen it from both ends. So I see how important it is, from — you know, from the guy that needed the coaching to go in and play, to seeing it that I needed — for the guy that needed to do the coaching. So I guess I’ve seen both sides of the coin, and it gives a unique perspective and hopefully a unique ability to help guys on this team.
Q. Going back to that Oklahoma game, a lot of us remember it and remember going in that it was a situation where people didn’t know if you could do it. Have things changed now where you guys feel like, okay, we’re going into this hostile environment; we want to stay undefeated, and we know we can do it at this point?
Joe Schmidt: I don’t know if — I don’t know if that was the feeling in our locker room, really ever. And so I think, you know, I see that you guys are trying to make comparisons to the 2012 Oklahoma game. But I really — I don’t see this game in the same light as that game or this game really in the same light as any other game or any other game in the same light as any other games that we’ve played. I try to look at them all within their own context. You know, this is a different team, playing a different opponent, and I think that we try to go in with the same confidence, the same attitude, the same demeanor into everybody football game. That’s really our ultimate goal. We don’t want to go in up for one game, down for another, sideways for the third. You can’t do that. That’s not the way to be successful, and that’s not the way we’re coached.
Q. Seems like the program has grown, then, since then where you have that attitude and you changed that. Maybe it was just developing under Coach Kelly at that time?
Joe Schmidt: Coach Kelly has done a heck of a job developing our program and I’ve kind of been here throughout the process. So hat’s off to him. I tried to — all I’ve tried to do is just, you know, play within the scheme and try to fit the culture that’s here and kind of build on that.
Q. There’s been a little chatter going back and forth on Twitter, especially early in the week. Is there somebody on the field for you guys who’s maybe the king of chatter? I mean going back and forth?
Joe Schmidt: I think you guys might know the answer to that question. I’m not going to say who.
Q. Stalker on the team?
Joe Schmidt: Yeah. Perhaps. Which could be me. You never know. I’m a very fierce-looking guy.
Q. There’s gotta be a fine line to that, though.
Joe Schmidt: You guys are laughing. What the heck.
Q. There’s gotta be a fine line to that, though, to where you talk to keep yourself motivated but at the same time stay within the game.
Joe Schmidt: Really, I think — I hardly ever talk, so I’m probably the — when I do, Sheldon normally laughs at me. But I think — we’re all so worried about the game and our calls and our plays. We hardly — there’s really — there’s way less talk than you think on the football field. We’re mostly talking to our guys, and they’re mostly talking to their guys. So I think — we try to stay away from any of that. But you know, the jokes are funny, but that’s really, yeah, that’s it.
Q. And just being one of the older guys on the team to see some of the younger guys go into a big game like this, is it kind of fun for you to maybe mentor them or to see their excitement, to see their energy?
Joe Schmidt: Yeah, well, I’m excited. Sheesh, you know, this is a fun game. This is — you know, these are match ups you want to play in, and this is why you play the game of football. This is what you dream of as a little kid. So I’m really excited about this football game, and I mean I love to mentor other guys because I’ve been in the situation now a few times. So it’s fun to see their reactions, but I’m also still just a kid playing the game that I love and living my dream. So it’s pretty cool.
Q. Joe, yesterday Coach Kelly said he likes when you guys have enthusiasm in a week like this surrounding a big game, but he doesn’t like when you take that a step further and become too emotional about it, because that can be draining. How do you balance that?
Joe Schmidt: I think leadership is crucial, just trying to be smart about how you prepare. You gotta prepare the same way. Maybe you have a little bounce in your step or what have you. But you gotta — you gotta focus on just preparing the same way, going back through your routine and doing the right things to ultimately be ready on Saturday. So that’s kind of what we’re focusing on. I think that’s what he’s touching on. You don’t want to be emotional, you know, too emotional, rather, at any point, because yeah, that is exhausting. And you want to make sure you’re playing just the same way all the time.
Q. Is that something maybe you had to deal with more as a younger player?
Joe Schmidt: For me, yeah. That was a process for me. This is just personally, you know, from my personal experience. Yeah. I used to — I used to have to try to — I had to really focus on not becoming too emotional. I think I’m better at it now.
Q. Where do you think this defense is as far as how you’re playing on the field now versus where you want to be to accomplish your goals?
Joe Schmidt: I obviously want to get better, and I’m working on it each and every day. We have our own goals, you know, within our room that we’re working towards. And Coach VanGorder is on us and we’re on ourselves and we’re on each other. So we’re all trying to get better each and every day.
Q. What are the specific areas where you maybe need to focus on right now?
Joe Schmidt: Across the board. Everyone needs to get better. There isn’t one guy that’s on our defense right now that can’t get better. There’s no one that’s at the top of their game. It doesn’t matter who you are. So we all have to try to continue to work, and you know, we have to get in the film room. We have to get out on the practice field and execute, and then ultimately be ready emotionally, spiritually, physically on Saturday to execute. So that’s where we’re at.
Q. Joe, you guys have been hit by a couple of trick plays, Virginia, and then last week. How frustrating is it — I mean you guys have basically played pretty good defensive football with the exception of a couple of plays like that. How frustrating is that when somebody goes against such a strong tendency and takes advantage of you like that?
Joe Schmidt: Well, I mean yeah, it’s frustrating, because we’d like it not to happen. We don’t want to give up big plays. So I think it’s just a matter of everybody coming together and making sure we’re on our work. We don’t ever lose our eyes, and we just stay assignment correct. So yeah, it’s frustrating, but I also think I’m very — I’m very proud of the way that we don’t ever give up. I mean if you watch those plays, you know, I just remember vividly an image from UMass where they threw their double pass, but you know, he might have under threw it just a little bit, but there was like seven of our guys, including a defensive lineman in a full-out Sprint after their wide receiver. And you know, we catch him, which is something that I as a defensive linebacker and as an older guy love to hear, or love to see. Sorry.
Q. And just in terms of like teams breaking tendencies, not trick plays, but just going against tendencies. I don’t think the average observer of the game off the field realizes how often an opponent does go against those tendencies. Can you give an indication as to how often that happens?
Joe Schmidt: I mean nobody ever wants to play completely within their, you know, whatever they’ve been doing. They always want a break, whatever it is. You know, an offensive coordinator doesn’t want you to know what they’re doing. So I think every game someone is going to try to be unpredictable, because if you’re predictable, you’re going to lose, I feel. It’s very hard to kind of go into a game and know exactly what’s going to go on. I just don’t think that’s realistic.
Q. They did a lot of unbalanced lines. They had four guys lined up to the right of the center. They did some different things, or I don’t know if they were different.
Joe Schmidt: Yeah.
Q. Had you seen any of that, like the 83-yard run, did that break tendency?
Joe Schmidt: I can’t remember exactly what the formation was with that. Pretty sure it was just slot. I think, you know, they did some unique things in that game, Massachusetts, that is, for people who might not know what we’re talking about. But you know, we had seen them on film, obviously. People don’t just come out and run a whole new offense, but there are no wrinkles. So the formations for the most part were similar. Some differences. But there is little wrinkles rather than large-scale changes in their offense. That’s kind of what I’m trying to get on.