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Hear What Coach Davie And Irish Players Have To Say About The Fiesta Bowl

Dec. 12, 2000

Following are transcripts of interviews held Dec. 8, 2000, with various Notre Dame players and coaches on Notre Dame’s Tostitos Fiesta Bowl Media Day:

An interview with Irish head coach Bob Davie

I think all of us here are really excited about this. It’s obvious by the ticket sales and by the response of our student body and our alumni and for us as a football team and coaching staff it’s really exciting. I think obviously it is a reward for what we’re able to do this season but beyond that, to me, I look at this as just a great opportunity to go practice and to continue to try to improve as a football team.

We went about it just a little bit different this year. In past years in December, we’ve practiced a little bit on the weekends for a day or two and the coaches would go back out recruiting and we would reconvene. I didn’t feel that was in our best interests or the best way to go.

What we did this year was really let the players get away from it. We run several times a week as a team. Every day they do something, whether it’s running or lifting. But we’re not going to practice until December 16th. Finals are over on the 15th. We’ll get together that night for a team workout at 6:00. We’ll have a dinner afterwards and talk about our schedule. We won’t do anything as a team X- and O-wise until Saturday the 16th. We’ll basically keep the same schedule on the 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st and we’ll have them out of here on the Friday the 22nd by noon so they can get home for several days before Christmas.

We are going to be totally prepared before we start practice. We’re going to come off the road next week on probably Thursday and Friday and just get locked into some gameplan things. I’ve had a chance to do some of it this week. (Offensive coordinator) Kevin Rogers has been here in town all week.

The point I’m making is rather than kind of stop and start, we’re just going to wait and then we’re going to jump into it with both feet and just go. We’ll get back together on the 25th, Christmas night in Phoenix. Then we’ll practice the 26th, 27th, 28th, 29th, 30th and 31st, the day before the game.

I really like our schedule. We are going to practice one time a day, not twice a day. We’re going to have our normal meeting times and try to keep it as consistent as we can, just like we were getting ready for a regular game. I think in the past we’ve dragged it out a little too long.

Obviously, we are going to be practicing in Loftus. I don’t want to beat them down in Loftus on that turf every day. We’re going to start out the first two days just like we would start off in preseason camp which is shorts and T -shirts — we’re not even going to wear shoulder pads. By the third day we’ll be into shoulder pads. We will probably go a day or two in full pads and then back off a little bit.

We are going to try to be really smart about this. We are going to be enthusiastic about it, be excited about and we’re going to practice with specific gameplan things in mind — not go out just to practice. We have the schedule completely done for here and Phoenix as far as how many practice periods, where we are going to eat, what we are going to do with the team. I want to be organized with this and make this a great trip.

As far as injuries, (senior tight end) Jabari Holloway will try to come back and practice on the 26th. It’s hard to compare exactly because everybody is a little bit different. But it’s a lot like Jarious Jackson’s knee was two years ago at the Gator Bowl. We played on Jan. 1 and Jarious came back on the 26th and practiced and was able to play. So we’re hoping the same is true with Jabari.

(Junior cornerback) Shane Walton is probable for the game. He is going to start practice on the 16th. He has a cast that he’ll be able to use and play with. I think he’s going to be okay.

(Junior flanker) Arnaz Battle will be able to do everything with the cast on. Actually a different cast is going to be put on on Tuesday — I think that’s the 19th — and he’ll be able to practice with that. I’m really excited about getting Arnaz out there and having these several weeks here to just get him oiled up at wide receiver.

Other than that, everybody is going to go out on the 25th. We have a charter going from here and then the players obviously come from their hometowns. The only ones that won’t come out on the 25th are the players that have been injured, Greg Pauly, Jason Sapp, but Grant Irons and Arnaz will both come with us on the 25th.

As far as Oregon State, I’ve watched them, they’re good, they’re very athletic. You look at their three wide receivers, they’re probably the best set of wide receivers that we’ve played this year and that’s a pretty good statement because West Virginia was really talented, USC was really talented. They are a one-back team, but they really run the football and they make a lot of plays.

Defensively they’re No. 1 in the Pac-10. They’re very aggressive, they challenge you and they’ve done some good things. They’re a good football team. It’s easy to see why they’re co-Pac-10 champions, why they’re 10-1. I see it as kind of two similar teams, teams that will look to make improvements over the next couple of weeks. Teams that maybe a lot of people don’t think are great teams — I don’t know how people around the country look at it — but I think it’s going to be a heck of a football game. We have our hands full to prepare for this game, but we’re excited about it.

Q. Is it going to be difficult to convince your players that you are playing a quality team?

BOB DAVIE: No, it won’t be difficult at all. I think what Oregon State has done this year in the Pac-10 is really remarkable. And I promise you this: when we put the tapes on, our players are pretty intelligent guys. The level of Xs and Os and the level of strategies you see and the level of athletes you see, it is apparent why they’re 10-1. When you look at Dennis Erickson, if you look at what he’s done, he’s been in coaching a long time and he’s been very successful everywhere he’s been. He’s coached in a lot of big games. Our football team will look at those tapes and have tremendous respect for Oregon State and I mean that sincerely.

Q. Have you and Dennis Erickson ever crossed paths?

BOB DAVIE: We really haven’t. I have been at some functions that he’s been at. In fact, we were both at the Fiesta Frolic they have in the summer. Just in this profession he’s held in such high regard. Just what he’s done, to coach at the places he’s coached, to be as successful as he’s been. You’ll always see the same style of play on offense and you’ll always see the same style of play on defense. It’s very reckless and very energetic and they play with a lot of emotion. So I haven’t been around him a lot, but I have tremendous respect for him because I know a lot of people that have.

Q. What concerns you most as you take your early look at the films from Oregon State, is it something on the offensive end or the defensive end?

BOB DAVIE: First of all, they have tremendous big-play potential on offense, because of their scheme. They spread you out and they’re able to run the football. You look at the end of the UCLA game, it was unbelievable to me. It was third down and 21 on their own one-yard line, they were maybe up by six points — it was third and 21, they run the draw for 22 yards and the first down and about two plays later the tailback breaks one for about 65 yards and a touchdown and they go up 48-31. They’ve got big play potential on offense with their tailbacks and then they have those real talented wide receivers. On defense I see them being real quick on the perimeter, their corners are really good and I think their defensive ends get up the field extremely well. They’re going to be a difficult matchup for us. In the kicking game they are very athletic. It’s no secret why they’re 10-1 when you look at that tape. They’re the favorite going into this football game, and I can certainly see why.

Q. Have you faced any team that has two running backs the caliber of Ken Simonton and Patrick McCall?

BOB DAVIE: I have been impressed with both of them. I noticed that Simonton was out in several games, but they didn’t miss a beat. I don’t know that we have seen a running game like Oregon State. We’ve played Nebraska, who I think ended up the No. 1 rushing team in the country. We played Air Force, who I think is No. 2 in the country in rushing offense. We played Nebraska, Purdue and Air Force and they all finished the year in the top 10 in the nation in total offense. We’ve played some great offenses. But I don’t know that we played anyone that is as committed to running the football out of a one-back set as Oregon State. That concerns me. They don’t particularly do a whole lot of things, but they do everything well. They really execute. They run the zone play, they run the counter. Both those backs, the more time you give it to them, they seem to find cracks and break big runs. We’ve not played a team that really is the style of Oregon State. It is tough to defend because they spread you out and they have the ability to run the football.

Q. Will Urban Meyer (Irish receiver coach and newly-named head coach at Bowling Green) be coaching with you in the bowl game?

BOB DAVIE: I think Urban Meyer gives us our best chance to win this football game, plus Urban deserves to be here. I’m completely comfortable with Urban coaching, or else I wouldn’t have done it. He’s been recruiting for Bowling Green, but he’ll be back when we start practice on the 16th and he’ll be with us through the bowl game, as will Dan Mullen, one of our graduate assistants who is going to Bowling Green with Urban.

Q. Does Notre Dame belong in a BCS game?.

BOB DAVIE: I am not going to apologize to anyone for us being in the BCS. You know I am biased and I certainly understand if I am at Virginia Tech and I am 10-1, only having lost to Miami with my quarterback hurt, that is a legitimate argument right there. If I’m sitting in Lincoln, Nebraska, and I have beaten Notre Dame in the second game in their stadium in overtime and I’m not going to the BCS, that’s a legitimate argument. So the system is not infallible, but from Notre Dame’s perspective, I think we played as difficult a schedule as anybody in the United States. You can go back and look at strength of the schedule and say, okay, maybe it doesn’t come out that way because strength of schedule is dictated by one thing, and that is what your opponents’ won-lost record is. I don’t know that that’s totally accurate. You can’t tell me that USC at 5-6 would be an easier opponent than someone else at 7-4 or 6-5. So our schedule was as difficult if not more difficult than any team in this country this year. You can’t come back and say the teams that you played, their won-lost record wasn’t as good as what we thought going into the season. Those teams played a lot of good teams. We don’t have to apologize to anyone. We lost a game in overtime to Nebraska. At that time Nebraska was the No. 1 team in this country. We lost up at Michigan State on the last play of the game basically, to a team at that time that was extremely confident and extremely talented. Then we were able to win seven straight games and we were able to win against some teams, the last couple of weeks, whose coaches probably weren’t going to be back and had everything to gain and nothing to lose. I am not going to apologize, but I realize there are some legitimate arguments out there in the case of Virginia Tech and in the case of Nebraska.

Q. Why do you think Nebraska or Virginia Tech didn’t get selected?

BOB DAVIE: I look at Nebraska, they certainly have a strong tradition and travel a bunch of people, as evidenced right here in this stadium. I look at Virginia Tech as a team that’s very attractive, with a potential Heisman Trophy candidate, maybe the best player in college football. If I had to vote, in my mind, he (Michael Vick) is the best player in college football. I don’t know if anyone, out of all of the bowl games that I watched this year, did their homework more than the Fiesta Bowl.

Before we even played a game, the Fiesta Bowl had a representative here that was at our pep rally the Thursday night before we played Texas A & M. They were at our Texas A & M game. They watched our football team all season long. If they were going to take us only on our ability to draw fans and for television, why did they even come to those games and watch us play during the season? John Junker and Steve Wheeler can speak for themselves. They don’t have to apologize for anyone because they did their homework. I think they have a pretty darn good football team coming out there that is on the rise right now and improving week by week. I would give them more credit than that. There is a reason why they were back here watching this football team all season long. It wasn’t to see how many people we could bring to the football game, it was to see how good a team we were.

Q. Will Arnaz Battle play in the Fiesta Bowl?

BOB DAVIE: I would love to, but if we do play Arnaz in the game he loses that year of eligibility. The plan is to practice Arnaz these next two weeks, so that he gets the benefit of the preparation for the game from a gameplan standpoint. It is kind of like another spring ball for him. Then he’ll just be on the sidelines in the game and we’ll start back up in the spring. I think it’s a tremendous opportunity for us to get Arnaz right in the middle of it.

Q. How was the decision made to move Arnaz to flanker?

BOB DAVIE: I watched the dynamics of the situation. I watched the dynamics of how our football team was evolving, the two other freshman quarterbacks, how they looked in practice. The dynamics of Arnaz being in a position where he would have to come back in the spring and beat Matt LoVecchio out, because I had made the decision after we had won seven football game that the first of spring practice Matt LoVecchio was going to be that starting quarterback. I also realized Arnaz Battle is one of our 11 best players on offense. It was a culmination of a lot of things, but in my gut I knew it was the right thing as I watched Arnaz and I watched the dynamics of that situation. It was kind of like with Gary Godsey. I didn’t really talk to Kevin (Rogers) about it. It was one of those situations that I felt, looking at it from the distance a little bit and seeing all those things, that this was the right thing to do and the right time to do it. I feel really good about it, I do. I hope it works out and I hope it’s the best decision that Arnaz Battle has ever made in his life.

Q. How do you decide who gets the work at tailback between Julius Jones, Tony Fisher and Terrance Howard?

BOB DAVIE: They’ll all three play. This is about winning this game. The reward part, that’s just about over now. We’ve glowed in the glory about going to the Fiesta Bowl now. We’re about ready now to go and try and win this game, because we all know what the ramifications are of winning and losing. All the fun part is about winning. So we’re going to play those three like we have all year — who can help us win? I look at all three of those guys as being able to help us win.

I’m excited about the direction that thing’s taking, and I think our football team has really bought into the idea we have to run the football to win. If we can successfully run the football, we can beat a lot of people in this country.

Q. Can you comment on the job Dennis Erickson has done at Oregon State?

BOB DAVIE: It is remarkable that Dennis Erickson’s reputation across this country as a great football coach is consistent with everybody you talk to. I don’t pretend to know everything about Oregon State, but I also know what Mike Riley did, and I’m sure Dennis would say the same thing. Just reading some of the bios of their players and studying it, several of them said they came to Oregon State because of the enthusiasm that Mike Riley brought. I don’t know what his record was, but Mike Riley was very successful there — so the foundation was set to a degree and Dennis has done a remarkable job to take that foundation and to be 10 and one.

They’ve won a lot of close games — they’ve found a lot of different ways to win games. They’re a lot like us in that regard. Their statistics are better on offense and defense, but they’re a lot like us in that they found ways to win games. I look back and say that Mike Riley probably did a heck of a job to get that foundation started and Dennis just came in and did a remarkable job.

Q. How do you feel about your own coaching situation?

BOB DAVIE: I’ve got a lot of juice right now. I feel good. In a lot of ways I feel like we’re just starting. I feel like with the solidarity we have right now and the administration with Kevin White here, I feel really good. I also understand what reality is, I look at that schedule and I know what the expectations are. But I feel really good about this and I do feel like we’re just getting started and I do think at some point, realistic as maybe those expectations are, I do think we can handle those expectations as we move forward. It may not be next year, but I feel like we’re headed in the right direction.

Q. How do you evaluate what your team accomplished this year based on what was expected back in August?

BOB DAVIE: I think there is a fine line between winning and losing. We’ve all probably received right now, at the end of this season, with the positives being said, we’ve probably received the benefits of not being as bad as what people perceived it to be. In other words, we were not that bad at the end of last year. Now, because we lost four games and because of some things that transpired in the off-season, we had to deal with all the doom and gloom of the preseason. That wasn’t totally accurate.

So the progress we’ve made from last year to this year, and I may be hurting myself by saying it, it might not be as dramatic as people are trying to make it be. Somewhere within that is the reality. Now, I’ve been really pretty consistent since day one on this job and the reason I’m energized and excited is because I truly believe we can do it and reach the expectations that people have for us — to continue to do it the way we have done it. I think it gives all of us confidence and all of us a lot of juice for the future that we’re headed in the right direction.

Q. What does this bowl game mean as you look at next season?

BOB DAVIE: I think it’s huge, I really do. And once again, at the risk of putting more pressure on ourselves to win, putting more pressure on this team — let’s face it, we have to be better next year than we were this year. When you play Nebraska, not here but there — and you play Purdue, not here but there — and then you play Texas A & M, not here but there. Then you have Michigan State that you haven’t beaten. Then you look at Pittsburgh, West Virginia. West Virginia hired a new coach, they’re been successful everywhere they’ve been in that offense. Their quarterback is back. Tennessee comes into this stadium. We’re at Boston College, we’re at Stanford. We’ll see what it’s going to take, but we have to be better.

That’s why I’m so excited about having a chance to play in this bowl game and get better these next two weeks and starting in January just like we did last year — because the stakes go up because of where we play those teams next year.

Q. Were you surprised Anthony Denman was voted MVP?.

BOB DAVIE: I was very curious myself as to who would be voted the MVP of this team. I saw the votes, there were five or six of them that could have won. We had the same thing with captain. We probably could have had six captains this year. We probably could have had six MVPs. Anthony Denman, because he is such a contact football player and because he will hit and throw his body around on a day-to-day basis, whether it is Tuesday or Saturday, I think that’s probably why he was the MVP. And then when you watch him run down on punts and not do the most glamorous things, I can see why he was voted MVP. He’s a tough, tough guy.

Q. Can Grant Irons play in the bowl game?

BOB DAVIE: Grant couldn’t have come back and played, physically he could not do it. He had what amounted to major shoulder surgery. There is no chance of him coming back. Grant is unique. He is one of the most unique guys I’ve ever been around. Because he’s so positive, he’s been an inspiration to me. I wish I had what Grant Irons had in that he looks at every day as positive. He’s the happiest kid, he’s just a great kid. I think back to the Monday after the Nebraska game. We go out there to stretch, and Grant is not only out there, here’s a kid that’s out for the season, he’s out there with his helmet on, goes to stretch, goes to every practice, goes to every meeting, never skipped a beat other than the shoulder surgery a couple of days later and he came right back after that. He’s just a unique guy, you cannot help but respect him. He’s one of those guys that gets teased a lot because he’s different, but he is different in a positive way. As this whole thing unfolds, things do happen for a reason. I felt bad we had to play him his freshman year particularly at a position that was not his best position. I am glad it worked out this way. If we had gone 2-9 or 3-8, I might not be as glad that it worked out this way, but I’m glad now.

Q. How much personal satisfaction do you take from what your team did this year?

BOB DAVIE: I would be less than honest if I said I’m not proud of what we’ve done this year. I got a phone call yesterday from a guy that I have a lot of respect for, Bill Curry with ESPN. Bill had called me back in July. I don’t know Bill well, we’ve just been in contact a couple of times with each other, he did one of our games at Hawaii in ’97. He called me before the season and we just talked about some different things. He had been at Alabama, Georgia Tech, he’d been in Kentucky, he’d been through a lot of things. Then, we didn’t talk throughout the course of the season. He called me yesterday and just talked about watching our team. Bill knows how difficult it can be sometimes to get your eye off the target, to get it where you’re just so consumed in your only feelings, that you don’t do the things that really matter, coaching your team. I mean he understands all of that.

I’m proud of what we’ve done and how we’ve done it. It gives me a lot of confidence that we can continue to do it the right way and that we can win here doing it the right way. I’m really proud of our players sitting at that banquet. I’ve been to a lot of football banquets and I’ve seen a lot of players get up and get awards and I’ve been at a lot of these Friday luncheons and I’ve seen a lot of players speak and I don’t see our players getting up there trying to be celebrities. I don’t see our players trying to get up there to be the cleverest or the cutest, bringing the house down with laughter. I see a bunch of good kids that don’t necessarily have to bring attention upon themselves. They want to win as a team. It takes time to get that way. I feel good that the personality of the coaches is starting to transcend into the players and that’s probably the biggest thing.

The biggest point is, I think we can win here. We don’t have to have a Heisman Trophy winner. We don’t have to have a first team All-American every year. We don’t have to have the guy on the cover of The Sporting News or Sports Illustrated. We can win here with a bunch of unselfish guys that play as a team. I still believe if you can run the ball, if you don’t turn it over and you play pretty good defense and great special teams you can win. But with that comes that unselfishness of Terrance Howard being on the punt team, running down there when he knows he could maybe be the starting tailback somewhere else. Getting Anthony Denman and Rocky Boiman on that punt team, that is the essence of the whole team. That is how we have to win as we move forward. We are not going to go win in Lincoln, Nebraska, just by out-talenting or out-individualing Nebraska and A & M and Tennessee. We have to win as a team and I think our players truly buy into that in a lot of ways. I think that’s what Notre Dame is. I don’t think you have to be the flashiest at Notre Dame and I don’t think you have to draw all kinds of attention yourself at Notre Dame. A lot of people want you to do that and there is a stage there to do that, but I think in the end we can win doing it the way we are doing it and I think our players believe that. too.

Q. Who would you give the Heisman Trophy to?

BOB DAVIE: If I had to start a football team, I would probably take Michael Vick first. If I had to say who made the biggest impact on their team, it would be a tie between Drew Brees and Josh Heupel. I know Chris Weinke is a great player, but I know he’s surrounded by great, great football players, too. And there’s some other engineers that probably could have run that train. What Drew Brees has done at Purdue, that’s unbelievable, and Josh Heupel is the same kind of story. I would probably go with Drew Brees because it’s been four years and to take Purdue from where it was to where it is now, playing in the Rose Bowl, I’m not sure people around this country realize just how good he is and what a good job he’s done there.

An interview with senior inside linebacker ANTHONY DENMAN

Q. What has it meant to be voted MVP by your teammates?

ANTHONY DENMAN: I think it is a tremendous honor. It shows my teammates respect my athletic ability and my leadership ability. There were a lot of candidates that could have easily got it, Joey Getherall, Matt LoVecchio. I just have to thank my guys basically.

Q. Was it a surprise?

ANTHONY DENMAN: It did come as a surprise. A lot of guys could have been easily in my position, MVP, and I’m just thankful.

Q. What are your thoughts on what this team accomplished?

ANTHONY DENMAN: People in the beginning of the year said we were going to be 0-5, get blown out by Nebraska. The perseverance and the mindset that this team has, we don’t care what anybody says. Even the media said that we weren’t going to do anything this year, so it’s kind of sweet to be in this position right now.

Q. What do you think the future is for this team?

ANTHONY DENMAN: Actually, I wouldn’t mind coming back. Like I said at the banquet, it’s been a lot of fun. It’s been worthwhile. Now, I feel like I want to come back for another year and play with my boys. Just do this thing over again. And maybe win the championship next year. They have some tough games on the road like Nebraska and Texas A & M. I think this team has confidence now to take it to the next level.

Q. You came to Notre Dame as a running back. How did that switch to linebacker work?

ANTHONY DENMAN: Every person goes through some hard times, and I thought I would be in a different position. It is kind of tempting to take the easy way out and leave, but I think it paid off, persevering through it all. My grandmother wouldn’t let me leave, that was out of the question. And it worked out in the end. I thought switching was an opportunity because Kory Minor was a starter. He had a lot of guys behind him fighting for the No. 2 spot. Autry Denson had the tailback spot locked up. Nobody else was getting the carries for a couple of years besides him, I knew that. I just wanted to get on the field and contribute to the team. That is where my focus was. And that’s why I changed and became a linebacker.

Q. Your thoughts on last season?

ANTHONY DENMAN: Last year I felt we got some bad breaks in the beginning, that kind of put a damper on the rest of the season. We lost a lot of close games. Last year it was just tough all around. Those guys, those seniors last year, they didn’t deserve to go out like that. It’s unfortunate, but we’ve done a lot from last year.

Q. What was it like having Coach Davie work with the defense this year?

ANTHONY DENMAN: He’s been on all the defensive players’ backs to get more production and play more aggressively and play fast. You’ve seen the style on the field. It was a critical part, Coach Davie coming in and being more hands-on. Going back to the old days, to be our defensive coordinator and getting down and dirty with us.

Q. Are you the heart and soul of the defense?

ANTHONY DENMAN: I think all of those guys are the heart and soul. I think you can’t have one without the other, just the chemistry and the bond. All those guys play hard, I don’t see anybody loafing. I think it’s mutual respect for your teammates. You want to run for the ball and do those little things to help out your team. Everybody is going to emerge next year. They have a lot of talent coming back and a lot of experience. I am looking for big things. I am looking for them to play in whatever big bowl there is next year.

Q. What brought about the change from 5-7?

ANTHONY DENMAN: I think what brought that about was probably the embarrassment of last year. Every guy that came here or most of the guys that came here came from winning teams in high school, teams that won state championships. They were winners. They won individual awards. Everybody came here as a winner, that’s what you get in Notre Dame. I think that pride and sense of urgency that we had from last year, 5-7, it happened and we didn’t want it to happen again. We used all the other stuff as motivation. People saying we were going to be 0-5, things like that, we used that as motivation to fuel our engines to come out and do something good this year.

Q. You’re low-key off the field but different in the games.

ANTHONY DENMAN: I think you have to make that switch. When you are on the field, you get a different mindset. It’s competition, kill or be killed basically, you know what I’m talking about. But off the field, I am a totally different person.

Q. Your thoughts on Grant Irons’ contributions?

ANTHONY DENMAN: It’s been kind of funny sometimes, because we kid him a little bit about bringing his helmet out to practice and running around. And I say, Grant, take that helmet off, man, your season is over. And he’s like, yeah, yeah. No matter how much I kid him about it, he still keeps it on. He still lives that dream and still wants to be a part of it. I think he is still a part of it. He just wants to be a part of it, I don’t blame him. We make fun of him all the time. Grant is everybody’s boy. He is a great guy. He makes me laugh all the time. He was my roommate. We cried together the first day freshman year when our parents left. It was like a rollercoaster ride. It is like a precious moment, I guess.

Q. How about the defensive line play his year?

ANTHONY DENMAN: The D-line is in very good shape this year, they’ve been protecting me all year. They set this up this year. People said we didn’t have any pass rush, in the preseason and Notre Dame will be picked apart because their DBs are slow and their pass rush is non-existent. But this year we had 30-something sacks and they responded. They’re doing a great job this year.

Q. Do you take pride in proving your skeptics wrong?

ANTHONY DENMAN: We take pride just in being together and proving to each other that we can do this. We use it as motivation, like I said, but deep down we’re just happy that we accomplished something together, trying to bring our name back to where it’s supposed to be. People were talking about us being 0-5 and stuff like that. You got to use that as motivation. Either you’re going to fold and be 0-5 or you’re going to say, heck no, and go do it. The St. Louis Rams, the year before, they had a losing record, and then all of a sudden they were in the Super Bowl. We had the confidence last year, but things just didn’t work out. This year we are having fun on the field playing as a unit, just having fun with your friends on the field. That’s what it boils down to, making plays.

An interview with junior tailback TONY FISHER

Q. What exactly do you know about Oregon State?

TONY FISHER: We know their offense is very explosive. They have a great tailback, quarterback and real nice receivers. We know our defense is going to have everything cut out for them, but we are just going to go out there and play real aggressive. As far as defense, they have some real good defensive ends. So it’s going to be a challenge for both teams because both teams are very similar. Whoever comes out with the hardest punch is going to win this game.

Q. Do you think you guys are going to have any problem running the ball against them?

TONY FISHER: It’s hard to say. If our offensive line come out ready to play, I think we should be able to control the ball. But if their defense plays harder than our offensive line comes out playing then we’ll have some trouble.

Q. Is there any competition with you and the running backs of Oregon State?

TONY FISHER: I think Terrance and Julius and I want to go out there and establish that we are three of the top running backs in the nation. I think Oregon State’s running backs want to go out there and do the same thing. I think it will be a challenge for us. I think the biggest thing is both teams want to go out there and win a game. With Notre Dame, we want to come out there and establish that we are a team that’s on the rise and go out there and win a game, no matter who is running the ball the best.

Q. Your thoughts on the bowl matchup?

TONY FISHER: It is a big marquee matchup, they’re ranked No. 5 in the nation. They’re ranked ahead of us. So for us, we just want to go out there and prove ourselves to the nation. We’re still opening up people’s eyes right now. We have to go out there and win a game. We have to go out there and do what we have to do.

Q. How do you stay focused early in the season when you hear that Julius (Jones) is the featured back?

TONY FISHER: I think for me it was more family and being around Terrance (Howard). We just helped each other out. We didn’t know who was going to be the featured back at the beginning, but then as time went on, I think it became obvious that Julius was going to get the ball more than us. For me, I think it was kind of hard early considering I was only getting the ball a few times a game. I think if I really didn’t have any close friends on this football team, then it would have been really hard for me to stay focused. But with Terrance being around and having my family and having their support and encouragement, it made it real easy for me.

At the beginning of the season I think there were some selfish thoughts, but as the season went on, we were winning the games that count. When our number was called, we were able to be productive. And right now I am not even worried about it. I think all three of us deserve playing time and all three of us will go out there and be productive.

I don’t think anything went the way any of us thought it would go. I wanted my role to be real big at the beginning of the season. My role didn’t get big until the end of the season. I think that happened at the end of last season, too, when I was a sophomore. Hopefully my role will be increased next year and continue through. I just want to continue to be as helpful to this team as I possibly can.

I don’t think it was an ego thing, because all three of us were still looked at as starters. Just because one person goes out there first doesn’t mean that he’s necessarily a starter. All of us were basically getting the same amount of playing time. It was just one person was getting more carries. I think somebody said I led the running backs in playing time, but when you look at all of us, we played around the same amount of plays.

Q. Was there an effort late in the season to prove you could run the football as a team?

TONY FISHER: I think so. I think we had some long drives against USC, even more than the ones we had against Boston College. We went out there and proved ourselves against a very athletic USC team. We were going to go out there and establish a strong running game and when the opportunity presented itself, we were able to pass the ball, too.

An interview with senior flanker JOEY GETHERALL

Q. Your thoughts on the season?.

JOEY GETHERALL: It means a lot to me and a lot to all these guys. I think we came here with the thought of going to the national championship games and going to a big-time bowl every year. That hasn’t happened. The chance to go to play in a big-time Bowl, the Fiesta Bowl, is a dream of mine, so, hopefully, I go out with the win.

Q. What do you know about Oregon State?

JOEY GETHERALL: I’m pretty familiar with the Pac-10, and I know what types of players they have. They have some juco players on the team and I’m familiar with that, being there are a lot of junior colleges out in California.

I played with several guys that went off to junior colleges. I’m pretty sure of the types of players they have, a lot of hustlers, a lot of guys that can make plays out there. So we have a lot of respect for them.

Q. How did Coach Davie handle things this year?

JOEY GETHERALL: I think he’s been the same coach. I think every year you got to change, adapt to what type of style of game is being played out there.

I think this year he’s been probably a little lenient with us because we’ve been winning some games. Practice has been a little less hitting out there. I think that has been helping us.

Last year, we weren’t winning too many games, and he thought practicing harder would make us get better. But we had a little more rest this year, and I think it helped in the long run.

Q. How did you come on so strong after being 2-2?

JOEY GETHERALL: I think a lot of us, after those two losses, lost a little bit of confidence. But we all knew what we were capable of. We knew we were two plays from being undefeated.

The year before, we were in the same situation. We lost two very close games with Michigan and Purdue.

Last year, we folded up a little bit, and Michigan State beat us pretty bad at home. And this year, we didn’t want to fold up. We just kept going out there, giving 110 percent.

We had a meeting with all the players, and this time, we all told ourselves, we weren’t going to give in, we were going to go out there and give 110 percent. We went 7-0. I think the record speaks for itself. We went 7-0 for the long run out there.

This season has been a great accomplishment for me. I am going to end my career on a high note, going to a big-time bowl.

With this opportunity in our hands, I think we’ve got to take advantage of it. We have got to go out there and give it our all in practice. I think it’s going to be all business.

Q. How do you view the tailback situation, with all the depth?

JOEY GETHERALL: I think that shows you how much depth we have on this team. There are a lot of guys that are capable of stepping up at any time. We have a lot of guys who are backing up who are great players.

Tony Fisher and Terrance (Howard) were ready to play at any time when Julius (Jones) got hurt. Tony Fisher, last year he started, and this year he had to deal with being the backup. This year, they got to show what they’re capable of. I think Tony and Terrance could play anywhere, but Tony finished up the season as a starter. And I think he is one of the greatest tailbacks in our league. He can catch the ball.

I’m sure Tony had the thoughts in his head, “I’m not starting.” But I think you have to go out there with a positive mindset. As long as we’re winning, I think that’s the main thing. If we’re winning, everyone is going to be happy. I think it would be a whole different situation if we were losing and he wasn’t playing, I think he would be a little upset. Everyone is going to be happy and not going to complain and cry because we’re winning.

I think Tony and Terrance understand the situation — that when things are going good, you’re not going to change things. When we started with Julius, I didn’t think Tony was going to complain. He understood his role, he kept playing out there. And when he got his chance, he showed everybody on the team, the coaching staff, that he could step in at any time and do just as good or better.

Q. Do you feel like you’re always having to prove you’re big enough to play?

JOEY GETHERALL: Those are the things you are going to be faced with. You are going to have your critics. I never minded that. I had no problem with that. I think everyone is going to have something negative to say about you. I understood that and never got upset about that. I am happy with my progress here.

With the injury in my freshman year, they said I was too small. When they said that, they just wanted to make excuses for me. I wasn’t going to go out there and say, “I am going to give up because I’m too small.” I had to prove to everyone that I could play on this level.

Hopefully, I got rid of that — whatever you want to say — that “being too small, you can’t play out there.” I think a lot of players like Tim Dwight, Wayne Chrebet, I don’t hear anybody saying that they’re too small now, because they’re excelling at the next level. Hopefully, I get the opportunity next year.

I am not going to say I am going to play out there. I am not going to be cocky and say, “I am going to excel.”

It would be a dream of mine to play at the next level. You should be lucky to have the opportunity to go to the next level. It is a privilege to be up there. And, hopefully, I get that opportunity.

Q. Do you remember your recruiting visit with Coach Davie?

JOEY GETHERALL: I can recall a little bit. I’m sure my Dad remembers every little bit of it. He probably can remember everything, a lot of things. It’s just like more of a blur to me.

I just remember going to his office that day, telling him how much I wanted to go here. He asked me some questions. He was real committed and upbeat about the situation. I said that it’s an honor to go here. He said, “I am giving you a scholarship, you should be excited.” I am not a person who is going to show all my emotions right there, but I was so excited inside.

Thankfully, I brought my highlight tape. And I think if I hadn’t brought that, I don’t think I would have been offered a scholarship here. I showed Coach (Urban) Meyer and Coach (Jim) Colletto, and they were pretty ecstatic about it. They said they told Coach Davie about it.

Q. Can you talk about the senior presentations the night before the USC game?

JOEY GETHERALL: I think everyone gave a speech, all the seniors. Everyone gave a heartfelt speech out there, and they talked about their experiences. A lot of people talked about what they’ve been through, their memories and friendships they’ve had.

I remember guys talking about how they’re going to miss putting on the helmet, going to practice. Even though you don’t want to go to a practice, these are the things you are going to miss and remember. The tough times, going out there when you’re sore and messing up. You don’t want to go out there on those days, but those are the things you are going to miss and cherish forever.

The memories — you want to remember them forever. You want to be out there and play with them, just to have that chance to be with our guys 24 hours a day, like we did in the fall with two-a-days. We were together 24 hours a day.

Those are the times you can remember. Those are the things that we want to remember.

Q.What do you know about Oregon State?

JOEY GETHERALL: They have a little flash, they have a lot of athleticism out there, a lot of speed, a lot of track guys out there.

Don’t take anything away from Oregon State. They have a great coach in Dennis Erickson. He brought a little bit of Miami to them – that flashiness, that cockiness. They believe they can win this game. And both teams should believe they can win this game. And we are going to go out there, and I think it’s going to be a battle out there.

Q. What did Matt LoVecchio do to take command of the team?

JOEY GETHERALL: I don’t remember anything specifically that he did, but it’s more so the whole team. This is a team, like Matt even says, it’s not Matt LoVecchio. Everyone out there helps him. We all rallied around him to help him out. Receivers have to make plays. Running backs have to make plays. Offense has to block.

We knew we had to step it up for him. We knew what he was capable of. We knew he had a lot of talent and he was capable of leading this team. He played better and better each and every week.

Q. Any advice for Arnaz Battle?

JOEY GETHERALL: It’s going to be real, real fun to see what they do with him next year. Are they going to put him at quarterback for option plays, or do various things with him? Who knows what they’ll do?

I think he’s real talented. I think he’s one of the most athletic players in the country. To just go out there like he did at quarterback, go out there, have fun, use your talent to the best of your ability, and he’ll do fine out there.

Q. Your memories of the ’99 season?

JOEY GETHERALL: I think that hurt a lot of guys. We lost all those games each and every week. By the end of the year, it was kind of like most of the guys — it was a relief that it was over, because it hurt so much.

And we knew what we had to do in the off-season: Get ready for this upcoming year. I think Mickey (Marotti, strength coordinator) was ready. All the players were ready that were coming back to get back in the weight room, get back to running, and come back in the summer. And by that time, we were just ready to play the game.

Q. Were you worried about whether you would be invited to the Fiesta Bowl?

JOEY GETHERALL: It made me real nervous. I am just thankful for the BCS and the Fiesta Bowl Committee for allowing us to play this big-time game. I’m thankful to Oklahoma for beating Kansas State in that game. I knew that game had a lot of meaning to us to be able to go to a bowl game in Tempe.

I think for a lot of the guys it was a waiting game. I think we just went out there, we couldn’t really do anything. It wasn’t really in our hands. It was up to the whole BCS to do what they felt was right. And I’m thankful they gave us this chance.

It might be unfair to Virginia Tech or maybe Nebraska. I think college football is a business, just like a lot of things are a business. I think they knew Notre Dame would attract a lot of fanfare. A lot of people want to watch us win — or even watch us lose. That will attract a lot of fans and, hopefully, get some good ratings for the TVs.

An interview with senior nose guard LANCE LEGREE

Q. Your thoughts on the Fiesta Bowl invitation?

LANCE LEGREE: It feels real good. I think this team, as a whole, deserves it. I think we’ve been through so much, it just shows our work ethic and what we decided to do from the start of the spring training. It is a good thing that we’re able to receive this reward for our work this season.

Q. Is this kind of a reward for Coach Davie, too?

LANCE LEGREE: Well, I think he feels good with what we’re doing right now. Over the years I think Coach Davie has taken a lot of heat for what the team has been doing with the losing season that we had. But I think a lot of times just him being here, he takes a lot of the heat because of who he is. I’m glad he’s getting the rewards for what we accomplished this season. I think that was one of the main things that we, as a team, we thought it was wrong for what they were doing to Coach, because a lot of the pressure they put on him. We lost a lot of close games, not necessarily because of the coaching, but because of the bad plays made by us. So I’m glad for him this year.

Q. Your thoughts on the matchup?.

LANCE LEGREE: Well, every time you play a ballgame you have to be prepared for the team’s best shot. Everyone has played 11 games during the season and everyone has been through a lot. Every freshman is now a sophomore and every senior is now a fifth-year senior and every person is very experienced. They’re going to give it their best shot. We know they’re going to play their best game because of the stadium that we’re playing in and also because of the time of the year it is. We know every Saturday we go out there, it is going to be one-on-one against the person you are going to be playing against. And ultimately, the best team is going to win the game.

One of my goals this year was to be able to go to a big-time bowl game, to be able to be successful in the season. We had minimum success when we went to the Gator Bowl and the Independence Bowl, so I really want to be successful this time.

We know the type of talent that is on this team. And we know the type of guys that we have on this team and the kind of push that they have.

An interview with freshman quarterback MATT LoVECCHIO

Q. What are your thoughts about Arnaz Battle moving to flanker?

MATT LoVECCHIO: I think whatever Arnaz is going to play on the field, whether it’s quarterback, halfback, flanker, he is a leader on this team. He’s helped me so much since I’ve been here. He made it a lot easier for me just learning things. He’s been a great help all the way. He is a dynamic, exciting player. When he gets the ball, watch out.

Q. What did this team do to make it to the Fiesta Bowl?

MATT LoVECCHIO: I think just the help of other people has gotten this team this far. Since the Stanford game and the Michigan State game, there has been total confidence in me and everyone.

And I think when we all work together, when we just play as a team, it makes it easier for me. And I think the rest of the guys feel comfortable.

Q. You are the one out there throwing the ball and facing a rush. What about your own personal development?

MATT LoVECCHIO: I am giving everyone else the credit. I think just all the confidence and all the offensive linemen that we have, all the receivers, all the patience that everyone has had, all the coaches developing a young quarterback. With all the mistakes, it’s easy for someone to lose their patience. Just all the patience that the coaches and players have had, just the confidence we all had with each other, that’s why we’re here right now.

Q. Did your high school experience prepare you for this?

MATT LoVECCHIO: You come here and the coaches are going to get on you. They’re going to yell at you and try to get the best out of you. I was really never babied in high school. I’ve been yelled at before. I’ve been told what to do. I had that. I respect coaches coaching you. I want to get coached. I want to learn as much as I possibly can out of the position. I want to get better. I have the willingness for me to take coaching, and to take it to the highest level I possibly can.

Q. How are you a better player than when you first started to play?

MATT LoVECCHIO: At times, as the season’s progressed, you do get the comfort level out there as far as the crowd and the opponent. The experience definitely helps. I think going out there, just slowing everything down is the most important thing.

As the weeks go along, you see different defenses week in and week out. It starts to get repetitive after a while, something we’ve seen earlier in the season, or later in the season it is going to be the second time you are going to see it.

I think defensive recognition. Earlier on, it was the first time I saw the defense. But now, it is going to be the second time, so I think it’s going to be a little easier.

Q. What specifically do you want to improve on?

MATT LoVECCHIO: Looking back to the West Virginia game, I probably could have had three interceptions in that game. I remember throwing the ball across my body to David Givens.

I think I remember in the Air Force game running out of bounds, five yards out of bounds. That’s pretty much a sack on my own part, just throwing the ball away.

And making good decisions is something I tried to develop as the season has progressed.

Q. How have your teammates treated you?

MATT LoVECCHIO: These guys are great. They’ve had nothing but support since I’ve been here. We all have the same goal in mind, and that’s to win football games. We’ve been doing that.

Right now, the reason I think we’ve been doing that is because we are playing as a team. When we do play as a team and we work together, good things are happening.

As far as earning those guys’ respect, I think since day one when I went into that huddle, I think the most important thing for them to see in me is I am not going to go in there and be soft-spoken. If they see weakness in me, that would be me not knowing what I’m doing.

I took it upon myself to go in prepared. If I had to go in and study on my own, I would do that. Letting them know I know what I’m doing, I think, was important for me.

I go out each day and practice. The way we work on each rep in practice, you go out there, and I think you’re just so prepared by the time the game comes, you go out and play and you have fun. It makes it even more exciting. That’s the reason we play.

As far as being a bundle of nerves, I don’t think I was.

I had to go out there and just be confident in my ability. And, with everything that is going on with the offense, I think that since day one I’ve been trying to take everything day by day and take everything in stride. If it’s Monday and I’m worried about Saturday already, that’s not going to help me or anyone else.

Just learning the gameplan from the start of the week to the end of the week, and take everything in stride is how I’ve been doing this.

Q. What were your initial expectations for Notre Dame?

MATT LoVECCHIO: I think here at Notre Dame anything can happen. So many things have happened this season, and you can’t come in here with expectations.

You can’t say, I am going to back up this year, and then I am going to start this year. You just have to work as hard as you possibly can on the field and off the field and just keep your goals in mind, and I think things will work out for you, especially here.

I wanted to be a normal freshman, just to come in here and get used to going to class, to being away from home, to living in a dorm, a roommate, playing football. There’s just so many things when you come in here you can think about, but you have to take it day by day.

It’s a busy day here. You wake up, you go to class. It doesn’t really stop for me until about 10:30 at night.

It’s hard work, but I think it’s all paid off, and we’re in a position right now where it’s all worth it. I pretty much call this place home right now as opposed to back in October when I was still a freshman who was not really accustomed to this place yet.

Q. Your off-season goals?

MATT LoVECCHIO: Probably getting in the weight room, getting bigger physically, and just throwing the ball as much as I can.

Q. Are you the reason your team has won seven straight?

MATT LoVECCHIO: As much as everyone says that, I think so many people have contributed for us to be 7-0 right now. You can talk about people in every single game. To field goal blocks, to plays we made on defense, it’s just been a total contribution from coaches and players.

Q. Do you pay attention to the hype?

MATT LoVECCHIO: I try not to read too much or to watch too much. I guess it is just a part of being the quarterback at Notre Dame, and that’s one of the reasons you come here. It’s a dream to be in the position we are in right now. It’s just unbelievable.

Q. Your thoughts on the other two freshman quarterbacks?

MATT LoVECCHIO: I think they’re both really, really good quarterbacks. When we go out there every day for practice, even though we’re throwing to each other and we are going through drills, I think we’re all competing with each other at the same time.

Off the field, I think we all have a good relationship. When we are on the field, we are competing and learning together, and I think it’s making us all better at the same time.

An interview with offensive coordinator KEVIN ROGERS

Q. Have you had a chance to appreciate what it means to have won seven straight?

KEVIN ROGERS: In all honesty, legitimately we were worried about game to game. Each game after Arnaz (Battle) was hurt was a monumental task. You only thought it could end that way when we got to the USC game. That was the first time it was really on the line. In order to get into the position that we were in, we had to win those previous six games. We really never thought a whole heck of a lot about it. We really concentrated on each game.

Q. Are you pleased with how the running game has come together?

KEVIN ROGERS: Well, obviously when you feel good that you can gain four yards a crack, it is a heck of a lot easier. But, by the same token, the offense has gone through kind of an evolution since Arnaz (Battle) went down. We are doing things a little bit differently than we had earlier. Because Matt (LoVecchio) was the quarterback, we scaled down a lot of things and consequently we got better in some things. We didn’t run nearly as many plays, but the plays we ran we got better at.

Q. What do you think of Oregon State?

KEVIN ROGERS: I’ll tell you what, you watch Oregon State on defense, they’re pretty darn good. They remind you very much of Coach Erickson’s teams at Miami. They’re a 4-3 scheme, they get up the field. They run real well. They’ve got two good cover corners. They legitimately have a very good defense. I think they are the No. 1 defense in the Pac-10. They play emotionally. They are a fired-up defense. They go after the ball. They are a quality defense.

Q. Do you know Dennis Erickson?

KEVIN ROGERS: I’ve met him several times. I don’t know him personally. When you do a job like he’s done in a place like Oregon State which hasn’t had very much success, heck, they’ve never won 10 games before. You look at the job he’s done at Oregon State and what Bill Snyder has done in Kansas State, two of the best jobs in college football in a long time as far as what they’ve done with those programs, especially in such a short amount of time. They probably had some good players in the program, but they augmented those programs and they play especially hard. There is no question — there is that Miami bravado, with the way they play.

Q. How was Matt LoVecchio selected to take over at quarterback?

KEVIN ROGERS: You had a feeling pretty early on in camp that he was a guy that was a little bit more mature. I think the intangible qualities of a quarterback sometimes are more important than the physical qualities. I always point to Joe Montana. He was a guy that didn’t necessarily have the greatest arm or wasn’t necessarily the biggest guy or the fastest guy, but all he did was win. So I think there are intangible qualities that go into the evaluation of a quarterback moreso than any other position on the field.

I felt that Matt LoVecchio was closer to being that way in this point in his career than the other two kids were. These other two kids were very, very talented guys physically. Matt was a little bit farther along in his demeanor and the way I thought he could handle the situation.

I don’t think Matt is the guy that gets underneath the center and thinks, Joe Theismann played this position, Joe Montana played this position, I think he just goes out and plays. I don’t think he thinks, this is the big USC rivalry, he just goes out and plays.

He commands the respect of the older guys. He was one of those kids who would get in a huddle and say hey, listen up, or tell a guy to shut up, if a guy was talking in the huddle, which is pretty difficult for an 18-year-old to do. I felt like he had that presence early, and that essentially was the reason that we went with him, because of that presence.

Q. What happens next spring?.

KEVIN ROGERS: In fairness to Jared Clark and Carlyle Holiday, they have to be given an opportunity to compete for that position. That’s what they were told when they got here and that’s what is going to happen. Matt has a big edge with the eight games that he’s played and he’s done a great job. Legitimately those guys have to be given the opportunity. We have to find out who the best of those three is going to be. One of the tough things about having a great quarterback — a lot of places are just going to be happy having one of those guys. Because there were three guys, because we have three quality guys, it was tough. We don’t want to lose those guys because where they feel that they are, we don’t want them transferring, we want to give them an opportunity to play.

I think that right now their mentality is very healthy, at least I perceive it to be. I think they understand the reasons that the decision was made. I think they’re on board with it. I think I know exactly where they stand. By the same token, I think they believe they can play here, and I do, too. I think right now, today, we are in pretty good shape with those guys.

Q. Can you make a comparison with (former Syracuse star) Donovan McNabb?

KEVIN ROGERS: Matt’s better right now. He’s better in the cerebral part of the game. Now Don didn’t play until he was a red-shirt freshman, so he had a whole season to soak, whereas Matt, two weeks before he started, he was on the scout team. We had a chance with Don to have him travel, have him be in meetings, take third string quarterback snaps, then go through an entire spring before he actually had to play and he needed that. Now Matt, behind the eight ball, really didn’t have that luxury. We had a guy in Arnaz and Gary Godsey who really needed every snap he could get in preseason. So the snaps were really limited. You take that into consideration and what the kid ended up doing for us was really amazing.

Q. How has the offensive line evolved from a year ago?

KEVIN ROGERS: You look at last year and we didn’t have very many experienced guys. Michael Gandy was probably the most experienced guy we had up front, he and John Merandi. And Jim Jones had never played. It was really his first year playing. We had John Teasdale, we had Jordan Black, you had Gandy, who had limited experience, and Merandi who was a one-year starter. In fairness to Jim, the toughest position to play on the team is offensive lineman in terms of the intricacies of the game and he’s really come a long way. He is an NFL prospect right now.

Q. What sort of things does Matt do wrong now compared to earlier in the year?

KEVIN ROGERS: Well, he makes mistakes on a different level now. Earlier on the things that you did were basic things just trying to keep him out of trouble. Now if he makes a mistake, there is a little bit more intricacy to the mistakes because we are trying to do a few more things with him. Again, sometimes you don’t realize it, but he’s fumbled the ball once, he’s thrown one interception, I believe we had one fumbled snap because we snapped the ball early. He gets us into the right play. More than anything else, he doesn’t get us beat. And now he’s starting to make some plays at the same time. If you look — the other day I pulled off every play that we ran for over 20 yards. There are a ton of them that are passes or quarterback runs. So he’s getting better. We’ve got to get him in that weight room and put some weight on him, he looks a little frail to me.

An interview with junior defensive end ANTHONY WEAVER

Q. What does it mean to go to the Fiesta Bowl?

ANTHONY WEAVER: Last year I was sitting at home this time, so it is a huge accomplishment. If you had the opportunity to play a game with guys like (Anthony) Denman and Lance (Legree), it means so much to me because those guys are like my brothers. To see them go out like this, on top, where they belong, it’s special, it means a lot.

Q. Your thoughts on Anthony Denman?

ANTHONY WEAVER: He is a great guy. In my opinion, he is first-team All-American. I see this guy running around making plays. He’s a great guy. We hang out all the time. He’s not a cocky individual. He doesn’t care whether he gets all the accolades, what he does on the field, he does it for people that matter to him, his parents, his family, his teammates. He plays hard for us. I think he is a great player, an amazing player. As far as him downplaying it, that’s just his personality.

Q. What would it mean to beat Oregon State?

ANTHONY WEAVER: A victory would be huge. We said this isn’t the last game of this year, it is the first game of next year. If we win this game, it will give us a good start, probably to preseason rankings next year. If we can win on the road next year, we’ll be in the driver’s seat, that’s our goal. Next year our goal isn’t to go to the Fiesta, it will be to win the national championship, and this game is just our first step. It could put us back on the map and prove that we deserve to be in the BCS. If we go out there and win this game, we’ll prove to everybody that we deserve to be in there, that we are one of the top teams in the country.

That’s our goal, that’s the whole reason we came here, we didn’t come in here to be 9-2. We definitely didn’t come in here to be 5-7 like we did last year. You come to Notre Dame to win championships, put another name on the bottom of that sign when you walk down the tunnel. We’re all trying to be part of something special. That’s our goal next year, to win the national championship. We know we have the talent and the ability to do it, it’s just a matter of coming together.

Q. Your thoughts on Grant Irons?

ANTHONY WEAVER: Grant’s special, man. He was out for the season. I think we were playing Stanford. We will be in meetings and Grant will be like, Coach, are we supposed to hit that stunt? I said, Grant, you are not hitting any stunt. Don’t ask any more questions, okay. He’ll be out there stretching with us. I’d say, what are you stretching for? Wearing his helmet, he’s different. You gotta love him for that.

He always want to be playing football, he loves the game. He’s trying to learn new things, trying to get better, even when he can’t practice. He’s a man of strong character. He’s always happy. When he was out for the season, it hurt him, but he didn’t say forget this team, I am going to sit in the back. He was out there helping us, supporting us, doing whatever he can, even with his injury.

Q. What about Coach Davie’s contributions on defense this year?

ANTHONY WEAVER: We knew that Coach Davie was a great defensive coordinator. We were confident in his play-calling ability. We were confident in Coach Mattison’s ability, too. We know the two of them together, bringing their minds together and collaborating and making the play calls, it helped us tremendously. Instead of just having one guy carry the burden, having the two of them definitely helped us in the long run.

I think the two of them got together and decided with the talent we have, we have to be more attacking in front, just be more of an attacking defense. Last year we sat there a little bit and took their best shot. We never really attacked them. We were always on our heels and they were always the ones attacking us. This year we attacked them and they had to make the plays, whereas we were just sitting back last year trying to stop them from getting that 10 yards.