Sept. 10, 2008
Q. Jimmy, obviously a great fourth quarter in a pressure packed situation. What do you think that can do for your confidence?
Jimmy Clausen: I think it’s good, not just for me but for the team. We were down pretty much throughout the whole game. Just coming back, staying focused, knowing what we’re supposed to do, just sticking with our game plan. I think the biggest thing was just for the offense to go out and execute.
Q. David, can you talk a little bit about the demeanor of Jimmy during that crucial time?
David Grimes: Yeah, he never panicked. He remained calm. We were still in his corner. We knew we could pull this one out. We needed Jimmy to step up, make sure that the team could fall right behind him. But he stayed calm the whole time.
Q. We talked a lot about Jimmy emerging as a leader. Do you think that’s a positive step, that particular fourth quarter in general?
David Grimes: Most definitely. It shows the true character of our team. We wouldn’t give up. We wanted to win by any means.
Q. What do you remember about last year’s game against Michigan?
Jimmy Clausen: A loss. I think that’s the biggest thing that I got out of last year playing against Michigan. They’re a real athletic team. Coached real well. They know what they’re doing out there. Fly around with the ball. But the biggest thing is we lost to them last year.
Q. The fact that it was 38-0, what does that do for you going into the game? Does it add to the rivalry? Losing doesn’t help last year, but the idea of what it adds to this game?
Jimmy Clausen: I think a little bit. Obviously we don’t want to lose. Last year we didn’t play our best game against Michigan. Came out, I think we were prepared, but we just didn’t really execute. This year we’re just going to practice hard like we’re doing right now, get ready to go. Come Saturday, we got to be ready to play.
David Grimes: Yeah, like Jimmy said, a loss is a loss. We’re definitely motivated. We realize what happened last year. We don’t want to have that same feeling this year.
Q. David, since you’ve been in this game more often, talk about the rivalry. One of their players was talking about how it’s different for them than the Ohio State Michigan State rivalry is. Talk to how it compares to USC.
David Grimes: It means a lot. Especially me coming from Michigan, I watched the game all the time, Michigan versus Notre Dame. Both schools have the storied tradition. It’s big time college football.
Q. How does it compare to USC, though?
David Grimes: Both are big rivalry games. I couldn’t lean toward any team, which one I’d rather play. But both are rivalry teams.
Q. Coach (Weis) was talking about your touchdown pass to Golden (Tate), saying it was a play you wouldn’t have made last year. Talk about what you saw. Any time last year you could have done that?
Jimmy Clausen: I don’t think there was any time last year. I think I might have done it one time to David (Grimes) when we were playing Duke, throw a touchdown at the end.
You know, it’s just different. Like Coach Weis said, I’m more mature this year. I know the offense better this year. I don’t think just me, but the whole entire offense has just got a different mentality this year. We’re going out there in crucial situations, we got to make plays. That’s the main goal. We made a play that the team needed. That’s what we got to do.
Q. Did you call audibles very often last year or was that a pretty rare occasion?
Jimmy Clausen: No, I pretty much never did last year.
Q. Did you do more than that play? How many plays did you audible? Half dozen? A dozen?
Jimmy Clausen: Maybe a handful, I’d say.
Q. David, growing up in Michigan, were you a Michigan fan? What did that program mean to you as a kid playing football?
David Grimes: It meant a lot. I was a big time Charles Woodson fan. So, you know, I used to love Michigan coming up. Now it’s the other end of the spectrum. You know, this game has its legacy. I’m just happy to be a part of it.
Q. Did you get recruited by them at all?
David Grimes: Not at all.
Q. Did that disappoint you?
David Grimes: No, not at all. I’m happy where I am right now. I couldn’t ask for a better opportunity, you know, or a better place like Notre Dame.
Q. Jimmy, the opposite upbringing coming to Notre Dame rivalries growing up, Southern California. You know that USC Notre Dame rivalry was huge. Were you aware that Michigan Notre Dame had a rivalry? What are your thoughts on it now that you’ve been through it once?
Jimmy Clausen: Growing up I always watched SC-Notre Dame. I knew Notre Dame-Michigan was a big rivalry. Like David said, I liked watching Charles Woodson as well, all the guys that Michigan had, all the guys Notre Dame had.
This is a big game on Saturday. It goes back a long ways. There’s a lot of tradition between these two teams. I just feel blessed to be a part of this tradition.
Q. Can winning a rivalry game give you momentum heading into the rest of the season?
Jimmy Clausen: I wouldn’t say a rivalry game. I’d just say another game. You know, right now we’re on a three game winning streak. We’re just trying to make it four. We’re just trying to get that next win, just keep moving forward.
Q. Jimmy, you talked about you remember it being a loss last year. Do you remember how many times you were knocked down during that game?
Jimmy Clausen: I don’t remember how many times I was knocked down. I just know I was knocked down a few times. You just got to get back up, keep fighting, try to come out with a victory in the end.
Q. Does that weigh on you, not in a negative way, but the result of it being a 38-0 loss, do you turn that into motivation this week, to say this is a rivalry game, we know what happened last year, we want to turn things around now?
Jimmy Clausen: I think so. Every loss is an embarrassing loss to us. We just don’t like losing. When you have that attitude, that mentality, whether it’s a one point loss or a 50 point loss, it’s going to be embarrassing for you.
We just got to come out, work hard every day during practice, get better, learn what we’re supposed to learn for this game plan, come out and execute on Saturday.
Q. The result being 38-0, David, do you use that as motivation going into this week’s game?
David Grimes: Exactly what Jimmy said. I think the 38-0 is irrelevant. A loss is a loss. We’re just trying to go back out there and win this game.
Q. With it being your final game against them, does that weigh that much more for you personally, that you haven’t gotten a win and you want to get that win over Michigan?
David Grimes: Yeah, I would love to go out on top my last year against Michigan, have those bragging rights. So, you know, the team’s going to get ready this week and we’re going to try to make it happen.
Q. Jimmy, going back to that touchdown, Golden said it definitely wouldn’t have happened last year. He wasn’t referring to you; he was referring to him. He thought if you were to try to throw that to him last year, it would have been intercepted because he would have run the original route. What are your thoughts on that?
Jimmy Clausen: I think he’s right on with that. Last year, he probably could have told you this, but he really didn’t know the offense like we do now.
I have confidence. He has confidence. The biggest thing that he has right now is he knows what he’s doing in different situations, whether it’s changing the play at the line of scrimmage, adjusting his route based on the coverage. I think he just knows what he’s doing now. That’s making him that much a better player.
Q. Does that make you guys as a duo that much better because you have grown and matured together?
Jimmy Clausen: Yeah, it makes everyone better. I know what I’m doing better. Dave (Grimes) knows what he’s doing better. The rest of the receivers, the linemen, running backs, everyone knows what they’re doing. I think that just makes us as a whole better.
Q. Can you talk about this Michigan defense. Obviously not even so much the one last year, but this year’s team is looking pretty good as a defense.
David Grimes: Yeah, they’re a pretty physical defense. They returned a lot of — well, a few starters, some players that have some experience. Just watching them, you see they get after it. They have some size up front, some speed in the secondary. They’re real good. We’re looking to get out there and compete against them.
Jimmy Clausen: They return a lot of guys. Their whole front four is back. Their two corners are back. One or two of their safeties are back. They’re an experienced defense.
Like Dave said, they’re going to get after you each and every play. We’ve just got to prepare for what they’re going to do. They show a lot of looks. It’s going to be tough for us. They’re a real good team, real good defense. We just got to prepare for them.
Q. Coach Weis talked yesterday about at a certain point in the game Saturday Coach Haywood asked Coach Weis to come talk to the offense. The message was you were waiting for something to happen instead of creating it. What was your perspective of that talk you had?
David Grimes: I kind of felt the same way. We were going out there either waiting for somebody on the offense to make a play or even somebody on the team, such as on defense or special teams, to make a play, rather than us taking initiative to go out there. You could kind of sense it throughout the game. But we got things clicking during the fourth quarter. Guys stepped up.
Q. Was there frustration that you weren’t putting points on the board?
David Grimes: Not really. I wouldn’t call it frustration. But we know what we’re capable of. We had some opportunities go bad. We just know we got to capitalize on them next time.
Q. Jimmy, what was your perspective on that, when Coach Weis talked to you guys?
Jimmy Clausen: I think the same thing. We were just waiting for something to happen. We just needed to go out there. We knew what to do, but I think we were just a little passive. Instead of going out there and making a big play, like David said. Once we got settled down, I think guys made plays on different occasions. We drove the ball down the field and scored.
Q. Coach Haywood was talking about it was his first experience up in the booth calling the game. He said he knows where you need to distribute the ball before the ball is even snapped. How would you like to have that perspective? Wouldn’t that be nice?
Jimmy Clausen: Yeah, seeing it from up top is a little different from seeing it down on the field. But that’s just the job of a quarterback, is being able to see.
Q. How well are you seeing? Coming out of your first game, how well did you see the field?
Jimmy Clausen: I think I’m seeing it pretty good. I’m just taking my time, pre-snap read, going up and seeing what coverage they’re in, what the front is. I think that helps by watching a lot of tape. If you watch a lot of tape, you can see what their tendencies are in different situations. When we’re in a certain formation, what they’re likely going to do. I think that’s helped a lot for me.
Q. How many times, when you went back and looked at the tape, did you miss a receiver, not overthrow, but not find the receiver that you should have thrown the football to?
Jimmy Clausen: Probably a handful of times, whether it’s not seeing the coverage, whether I should have went opposite of the rotation, to the rotation. Just depended on what they did. Probably a handful of times.
Q. You were not a big play offense last year. Does that come later? I know Coach Haywood talks about staying on schedule in plays, second and five, third and two. Do the big plays come at the end? Do you have to build up to that in order to be a big play offense? Do you know what I mean?
Jimmy Clausen: Yeah, I know what you’re saying. I think it just comes with confidence. You want to stay on schedule. But at a certain point, you know you got to stay on schedule but you also got to make plays. Got to stretch the field, get down the field, get the ball to receivers and the backs, let them do what they do. That’s making plays. I think that’s the biggest thing.
Q. David, your perspective on that?
David Grimes: Staying on sequence, like Coach Haywood always talks about, it’s a good thing. But big plays are even better. Whenever we can make a big play, that’s better for our offense. At the same time we know that some defenses aren’t going to allow the big play, and you got to stay on sequence and march the ball down field. Whenever we have the opportunity to get a big play, we’re going to be more than willing to capitalize on it.
Q. Specifically I’ve been asking the guys about the screen game, screen passes. Coach Haywood was talking about how hard you guys work at that, how much time you put in on that in practice. Could you talk about the screen pass, the difficulty of the timing with it, how hard you have worked on improving that. You weren’t very good at it last year. Looks like you’re in the process of improving that considerably.
Jimmy Clausen: I think the biggest thing is the timing, like you said. I think the timing has to do a lot with the offensive linemen and the backs. In different situations, different screens, it’s got to time out perfectly to be able to work.
The defense presents a lot of different looks, especially when they’re blitzing. You may have a screen, whether the backer comes, the back has to shed him off and throw him, whether to cut and then go. It takes a lot of time. We’ve got to work on that each and every day to get better at it.
Q. Why is the screen game so important to the offense that you run?
Jimmy Clausen: I think it’s important in every offense, whether the defense is coming with a blitz or they’re rushing real hard or it’s third and long and you need to get a first down. I think a lot of teams use screens on third and long situations just to try, if the defense is coming hard, to throw it over the top and let the running backs go.
Q. Jimmy, you talked about it with Golden, but talk about the way the sophomore class as a whole has grown up this year.
Jimmy Clausen: We’ve grown up a lot. Last year was our first year in college playing big time football. We took baby steps last year. The team needed us to step up this year as a sophomore class, I’d say.
I think the whole entire team has stepped up not just the sophomore class, but the freshmen guys that are playing, they’ve stepped up. We need every single guy on this team. Like Coach Weis always says, it doesn’t take the 22 guys that are out there, it takes all hundred of us to be a great team. That’s what we’re looking for.
Q. David, how have you seen that class grow up this year?
David Grimes: The sophomore class, they’re playing with more confidence. Guys obviously know what they’re doing. We have a lot of sophomores that are in the mix, that we count on. I think they realize that, too. They definitely have stepped their game up.
Q. Clarification. Were both touchdowns passes audibles?
Jimmy Clausen: Yeah, both of them were.
Q. (The touchdown pass to) David (Grimes) was a clean out route?
Jimmy Clausen: Dave just made a great play.
Q. Have you ever gotten to speak to Lou Holtz?
Jimmy Clausen: I’ve spoken to him once before. That was last year when he came and was one of the honorary coaches for the spring game.
Q. Last week almost all of your passes were outside the hash marks. Can you discuss how that may change this week and the importance of getting Kyle (Rudolph) or Will (Yeatman) involved more in the passing game?
Jimmy Clausen: Yeah, last week, they play a lot of post safety. When teams play post safety, the corners are pressed outside. You pretty much have to throw the ball outside the hashes because there’s a safety in the middle of the field between the hashes. You can’t really throw the ball right at the safety because he’s either going to intercept it or kill the receiver who is running down the middle of the field. They presented a single safety. We had to throw the ball other places.
Q. It seems the rhythm of the offense works so much better once you went no huddle. Was that part of the fact of the urgency to score or…
Jimmy Clausen: I think it was just the urgency. We needed to get down the field. We needed to score. We were down. We needed to start making plays, like Coach Weis said. That’s what we did.
My job as quarterback is just to get the ball to the athletes and let them do what they do. That was what I was trying to do, just get the ball to Dave (Grimes), Armando (Allen), the rest of the guys on the offense, just let them run around.
Q. David, you were talking about being frustrated because you knew you guys weren’t playing up to your potential. How much, in your mind, more are you capable of than what we saw last Saturday?
David Grimes: I think the sky’s the limit for this team. But I think we showed what our team is truly made of in the fourth quarter. We stepped up big time. We moved the ball down the field. We had the opportunity to make some plays early in the game, and we did. I guess we were just knocking the rust off. But I think our true team showed up in the fourth quarter.
Q. Jimmy, in your mind, how much more capable can this offense be?
Jimmy Clausen: Like David said, the sky’s the limit for us. We just got to come out each and every day, work hard during practice, execute the game plan. During practice last week, we were practicing real, real good. Good tempo. Really didn’t work out in the first three quarters. But it sure showed up in the fourth quarter when it was crunch time. We had to get the ball down the field to score, to win the game, and that’s what we did.
Q. Jimmy, you’ve known Armando (Allen) as long as anybody here. How have you seen him grow up, mature?
Jimmy Clausen: He’s matured a lot. Coming in from Florida, he had a lot of pressure in the state of Florida. For him to come to South Bend, Indiana, to come to school at Notre Dame is huge for a Florida guy. When we got here, we just set out a goal, we need to get better each and every day, work hard.
Last year he was coming off an ankle injury. He’d be the first one to tell you that he probably wasn’t a hundred percent, just like I was last year. He’s progressed a lot since last year and the first day he got here. He’s been showing up to practice each and every day trying to work hard, get better, just like the rest of the team. We just got to show up on game days.
Q. Were there other things in the course of last weekend besides just audibles that you could do now that you couldn’t do last year?
Jimmy Clausen: I don’t think so. I just think the mental aspect of the game was the biggest thing that has changed from last year to this year. Just staying calm, making sure the guys were in it, weren’t throwing in the towel. Just staying confident, knowing that we just got to execute and we’ll get down the field and score.
Q. When you’re reading a defense, how much time, if any, do you put into where individuals are in the defense or is it just completely scheme alignment, those kind of things?
Jimmy Clausen: I watch a lot of tape, see where guys are lined up, what they’re doing, what their stances are, what techniques they’re doing. I think you have to do that to be able to compete on Saturdays. I watch a lot of film with a lot of guys on the team, after practice, before practice. I think all that can do is help you.
Q. David, you mentioned about waiting to make a play after a long off season. What do you think went into that? I would think you would be so eager to make a play, that wouldn’t be an issue.
David Grimes: I’m not sure. It’s possible guys could have been a little hesitant. We got the ball rolling when we needed to. We got the win.
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