Oct. 17, 2007
Q. Travis, could you look back at the SC game, the last time, that was one of your biggest roles at running back. What do you remember about that day, that game plan, how that game played out?
Travis Thomas: A real classic game. My role was more of a downhill, hard nosed type of role, change of pace type a guy. I don’t really like to look in the past too much. But, you know, it was a fun game to play in, and something that I don’t think anyone is going to forget.
Q. What do you remember most about that game?
Travis Thomas: Just the spectacular ending. Things didn’t go quite the way we wanted it to. Yeah, I could say the way it ended.
Q. Sounds like your role is going to change on Saturday. Have you been waiting for a moment like this? What are your thoughts on maybe it evolving a little bit?
Travis Thomas: I’m pretty fresh right now (laughter). All I’ve been doing pretty much is goal line and short yardage. My body feels pretty good. I’m excited and up for the challenge.
Q. Your style, that downhill approach, I would think for a running game that hasn’t been all that productive that would be pretty important to keep the clock moving, run time of possession a little bit more than you have been able.
Travis Thomas: I’m sort of a little larger back. I’m more of a hit it and get it downhill type of runner. That could play into my hands, too.
Q. Over the last few weeks, how fresh you are, joking about it, what has that been like, to be part of the running game early on?
Travis Thomas: Obviously you want to be on the field as much as you can. As the runner you want the ball in your hands as much as you can. Like I said, I’m here to help the team win. Whatever role I need to play in order to make that goal accomplished, I’m up for it.
Q. This is really for any of you guys. Looking back now, do you feel like maybe that’s the defining game of your time here, at least thus far, just with the way the game ended, the classic nature of it?
John Carlson: You know, I think it’s hard to label a single game as a defining game or a defining moment. We’re still here. We still have games to play. Maybe four, five years down the road we’ll be able to look back and say this was kind of a pivotal point in our careers. It was a tremendous atmosphere. It was a phenomenal game, crazy ending. I’m sure it will be played on ESPN Classic for years to come. But, like Travis said, that game’s in the past. We’re looking ahead to this team and this year and the task at hand.
Q. John Sullivan, when you think about this year’s game, this season has gone so much different than past seasons. Does the rivalry, the USC spirit with Notre Dame, is it the same, or are you just trying to take care of yourself and you’re thinking about that?
John Sullivan: Notre Dame versus USC is a great rivalry. There’s a lot of tradition that goes into the game. Previous games that have been played in the past make the rivalry special. I don’t think that’s different this year than any time in the past. I think the records don’t mean anything. I don’t think they’re important with regards to this one game because you can look at this game as kind of like its own season. We’re undefeated against USC this season, so I think that rivalry is still strong no matter what the records are.
Q. When Coach Weis got here, he made it very important that USC was a game on the schedule that he was pointing towards. Do you feel that? Have you felt that in the past?
John Sullivan: There’s definitely an emphasis on trying to beat USC. They’re a great football team. They have a long and rich tradition, like Notre Dame does. Any time you get two schools together like that you want to come out on top in that rivalry.
Q. Evan (Sharpley) was named the starter (at quarterback) this week. Just talk about how practice went yesterday and how that may affect the game.
John Carlson: Personally, I think practice went well yesterday. But I felt that practice has gone really well for the past two weeks. It really doesn’t matter to me. I don’t want to speak for these guys. But for anyone else who is back there at quarterback, it doesn’t change our roles. Like I said, practice went well. I felt like Evan played well. Like we’ve said all along, we have faith in all of our quarterbacks.
Q. You guys approve of the throwback uniforms? Coach Weis apparently doesn’t like them. He says that you guys do.
Travis Thomas: It’s a Green Bay Packer-type of look. Change is good. We’re excited about wearing them.
Q. John Carlson?
John Carlson: I’m a huge fan. Any time you have an opportunity to wear something that looks that crazy and wild as the uniform does, it’s exciting and it’s fun. Like Travis said, it’s change. At this point I think it’s a good thing.
Q. More exciting if you were wearing the green jerseys?
John Carlson: It’s a different deal. It’s really special to wear those green jerseys. You know, last year I didn’t get to play in that game (vs. Army) and I was really disappointed. I was sitting in the locker room when the equipment people started to pull out the green jerseys. I was kind of pulling my hair out in disappointment. This weekend will be special and unique. But the typical green jersey game is a whole separate entity.
Q. John Sullivan, you like them, too?
John Sullivan: I’m a big fan. I like throwback uniforms in general. Any time you can change it up, I think that’s a good thing. I think it will add even more excitement to the game this week.
Q. Not everybody is sold on the pants, though. Is that true?
John Sullivan: I think there are certain people that aren’t sold on the pants. Speaking for myself, I’m sold on them. I think they look cool.
Q. John Sullivan, John Carlson said that your roles don’t necessarily change with Evan being back there. You struggled snapping the ball. You discussed it a little bit last week. Does having Evan there change anything at all? Is there any more of a comfort there because he’s been around longer?
John Sullivan: No, the problem with the shotgun snaps fall solely on me. They have nothing to do with who’s back there at quarterback. If there was a problem with exchanges that were under center, then maybe there could be kind of a relationship with that, where both parties could be involved. Shotgun snapping falls squarely on the center’s shoulders. It’s completely on me.
Q. What is it, do you think? Have you figured it out at all? Are you closer to figuring it out?
John Sullivan: If I figured it out, it wouldn’t still be happening. I think the key right now is just to try to relax. I think I’ve got it a little bit in my head that it’s something that I’m struggling with right now, and I think trying to make every snap perfect is what’s causing me to have some bad ones. It’s just something I need to practice, which I’ve been doing. It’s something I need to get comfortable doing at full speed.
Q. I know golfers get to a place where they can’t make a three foot putt to save their life. Is it sort of like that?
John Sullivan: It’s a problem I’ve never had before. Obviously it’s a mental block that I’ve got right now. It’s something that I will fix. It’s not a problem that I anticipate having for much longer. I’m doing whatever I can to fix it.
Q. John Sullivan, in talking with (assistant head coach-offense/offensive line) Coach (John) Latina, he said that in his career he’s probably never had challenges like this year with continuity on the line, really struggling to get it developed. You have been here and been part of the line. The same five guys have started all 13 years. What has this year been like, guys changing positions, guys coming and going, getting injured? What has that been like for you?
John Sullivan: There’s been a lot of things. Like you said, changing positions, guys taking off, things like that. But, you know, that’s part of being an older guy. That’s one of the things I try to do as a leader for this line, is keep the guys that are still here focused on what’s important. People that leave, guys switching positions, those are all minor things. As far as how it’s gone this year, we struggled at first. Recently, I think we’ve established some continuity. I think we found a little bit of a rhythm, especially with our pass blocking. I think it’s been a really fun experience actually to watch younger linemen come along and start to play better and really see them do a good job.
Q. Thinking about everything else that’s going on, when it’s guys leaving, friends, is it easy to do, to not think about it?
John Sullivan: You just got to try. Obviously there are distractions that go along with any season, no matter what they are. You just have to do your best to focus ahead on what’s important.
Q. Any one of the three of you. When Evan comes out and talks to us he seems very close to the vest, doesn’t tell us a lot. Is he a quiet guy? What kind of personality is he in the locker room?
Travis Thomas: Maybe (indiscernible) as much off the field as the other guys. There’s questions when we have our personnel test, someone ask Evan questions about the game in regards to the way we’re playing it. He always has a little joke on the side to go along with it. I’d say he has a good personality.
John Sullivan: I think Evan is pretty loose. Even though he might play it tight to the vest with you guys, he’s relaxed, and he’s like that in the huddle, too. He has a great personality, a perfect personality for a quarterback. Just like the other quarterbacks, he has an air of confidence around him that’s important for that position.
Q. You’ve played a lot of the top rushing defenses in the country, five of the top 11. This is the last one. How important is it considering last time ball control was so important? How important is it this game to get some good rushing yards so you can control the ball?
John Carlson: I think it’s important to run the ball in every game. As a rule in football, you want to be able to establish a run, and that will open up a pass, and it allows you to control the clock a little bit. With that being said, every game kind of dictates a response by the offense. Depending on what the defense does, we might have to adjust the game plan. Really, until you get into the game, you don’t know how many times you’re going to rush the ball. You don’t know how many times you’re going to though the ball. You really don’t know what’s going to work. So, yeah, it is important to establish a run, but you have to respond to what the defense does and do whatever works.
Q. Can you just talk about USC as a team, their defense overall, what they bring, what makes them a tough defense to face?
Travis Thomas: They have a lot of guys that came back. They have some veteran guys as well as mixed with some young guys in there. Great team speed on defense. They run very well. They bring good physicality, so I think they have a combination of a lot of good things that make them such a good team.
John Carlson: As Travis said, they have a lot of team speed. They’re kind of the typical USC defense with big, strong, fast, athletic guys that are going to hit you in the mouth. We know we’ve got a big challenge ahead of us.
Q. You’ve all touched on what that rivalry is. You talked about the ’05 game a little bit. John Carlson, Travis, talk about what that game means to you in particular, facing USC your final time means to you guys.
Travis Thomas: I mean, it’s USC. You look at the schedule every year, know they’re going to be on there somewhere. The way we go about things around here is take games a game at a time. One game entity. There’s no way you can overlook where USC is in the schedule. It’s something you look forward to every year. If you can’t get up for this game, you can’t get up for any.
John Carlson: Like John Sullivan said earlier, both schools have storied histories, have had a lot of success in the past. Especially recently USC has been kind of the top dog in college football. So, as Travis said, it’s always a game that you circle on the schedule. We’re excited to have the opportunity.
Q. If there’s one guy who doesn’t know necessarily what the game means as much as others is Robby Parris. He was talking his lack of knowledge of football history. Have you seen that with him? Is he like a different type of guy when it comes to really knowing the history of the game a little bit?
John Carlson: Robby is kind of a loose, fun loving type guy. He’s a great player. He goes out there and competes. Off the field, he’s pretty relaxed. I’m not concerned with his lack of knowledge on tradition.
John Sullivan: It’s not really a topic that we’ve ever discussed. When we’re away from the football field, you know — when we’re on the football field we’re talking about what we’re trying to do as a team. Away from the football field, we’re not really talking about college football history and quizzing each other and stuff (laughter). I’m not sure how much knowledge he has with respect to the history of the game.
Q. As captains, when you see players leaving the team, three guys on the offensive side, have you thought about the need of going up to the younger guys and talking to them, just to see how they’re doing, trying to see if there’s anything you can do off the field to help them out in any way?
John Carlson: I think that’s been our role from the start. It’s not something that we’ve had to initiate because three guys have chosen to leave. As fifth year players, as captains, we’re here to help the young guys out, and that’s with on the field issues and off the field issues. That’s not something that just started over the past few weeks.
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