Sept. 26, 2007
Q. Jimmy (Clausen) has made three starts now. We’re going to talk to him on Thursday. I’m wondering — what has struck you about how he’s been on the field? Not necessarily mechanics, all that stuff — I know you aren’t the quarterback coach — but his approach, demeanor, how he’s operated the offense so far.
John Carlson: I guess I’ve been impressed in his ability to bounce back both physically and psychologically. He takes a lot of hits and he gets back up. A bad play might happen, but he comes back and doesn’t seem to be rattled by it. I feel like he’s shown a lot of maturity and toughness.
John Sullivan: I’d agree with what John said with all those things. I think he’s also been a great leader in the huddle, which the quarterback is in command of the huddle at all times. That’s never faltered for us. He’s done a great job with that, just being motivational out there, especially in this last game, making sure everybody is focused, trying their hardest on every play. He’s done a great job with that.
Q. John, you talk about him being a leader in the huddle. He is just a freshman; obviously run a bunch of huddles in his career. Is that somewhat still surprising when he has a lot of older guys around him, that he’s taking charge like that?
John Sullivan: More so than being a freshman, he’s our starting quarterback. So I think that kind of outweighs some of his youth. I think it’s a necessary part of his role on this team. The starting quarterback has to be a leader. You know, he’s embraced that. It’s not particularly surprising he has, but I think he’s done a great job with it.
Q. Can you describe what the huddle was like with Brady (Quinn) running it?
John Carlson: You know, I think it’s hard to look back and think about last year and previous years. Here we are, our starting quarterback is a freshman, and that’s kind of our focus right now. We have to stay focused on the present and the task at hand. Obviously, Brady was a great player. He was a first round draft pick and set all kinds of records here. But he’s not here anymore. Our focus is on this team and this quarterback.
Q. I understand that. I guess I’m just looking, did he do all the talking in the huddle? When he was in the huddle, was that his huddle?
John Sullivan: When the quarterback is in the huddle and speaking, no one else talks.
Q. Regardless if he’s a freshman?
John Sullivan: Regardless.
Q. John Carlson, when you do go out for passes, do you feel like you get double teamed or are getting a lot of the attention from defenses because, at least going into the season, you were the option with the most experience?
John Carlson: Not necessarily. It depends on the team, depends on the situation, depends on the coverage. But in general, no, I don’t feel like there’s added pressure. I don’t feel like I’m being double teamed, necessarily.
Q. Travis, you’re a special teams captain as well. The last three games, you’ve had penalties each game. Is it something that is bad luck or is there something else?
Travis Thomas: It’s just something that happened, you know. Every penalty was different. It was a different situation. You know, you continuously work to get better every week, kind of not put yourself in a predicament to get penalties. Those things are long gone. I’m looking forward to this weekend and hopefully won’t have any.
Q. What did last week’s performance do for you? Obviously it wasn’t as complete as you wanted it to be. Couldn’t carry it over into the second half. Considering where you were in the first three weeks, what did last week’s performance do for you guys? What did it show you? Where does it lead you now?
John Sullivan: I think last week’s performance … to our team, we proved to ourselves that we can go out there and we can be an effective offense. We had some things that we can carry over now. Even though they didn’t carry over into the second half, our effectiveness running the ball in the first half and scoring points is something we can carry into practice this week and use as some momentum to build upon and hopefully have an even better performance, a 60 minute performance this weekend at Purdue. I think just getting things on track the way we did in the first half, having some positives in the game, was a big step for us in the right direction.
Q. Almost like a sigh of relief, finally having some success like that?
John Sullivan: It felt great to score an offensive touchdown, I have to say.
John Carlson: I think we showed some signs of definite improvement, and especially in that first half. I can’t speak for everyone, but for me, it was a lot more fun. You know, we had fun out there. The crowd was great. I was impressed with the energy they provided us. Starting Friday night at the pep rally, I was extremely impressed, and they carried that over into Saturday. You know, the energy level was high in the stadium. We made some good special teams plays at the beginning, made a great defensive play, we scored a touchdown early. But just in general, that first half was a lot more fun than anything else we’ve done all season.
Q. Travis, your opportunities are a little bit more limited now. You had an opportunity to score and you did. Does this give you a little bit more of a sense of urgency when they do call your number because the other two guys are getting more carries?
Travis Thomas: You know, one of the things I mentioned earlier in the year is we all have a role on the team. Your role can change from week to week. It just so happened that last week my role was short yardage goal line. If that’s my role this week, then I’ll take it and do the best I can. When my number is called upon, try to get the job done. Fortunately last week, you know, we got the ball in and were able to score a touchdown.
Q. John Carlson, to follow up on something you said before with having more fun. Is it something that was missing even from the practices during the week before last week or is it just the way those games were going? Was it something that wasn’t necessarily there in the preseason?
John Carlson: I think it’s really hard to have fun when you’re not playing well. It shouldn’t be fun to play poorly. But I felt through training camp the intensity was great, everyone was working hard, and it was fun. I think once we get into the season, we lost a few games. It’s disappointing and frustrating. I think we lost some of that enjoyment. Like I said, the first half especially on Saturday, we came out, we played well, we executed, and it was a lot more fun.
Q. Travis, being a fifth year guy, kind of waiting your turn, is it easy to see your role fluctuate from week to week? How do you keep that in the right perspective?
Travis Thomas: The thing is just staying positive, you know, continuously working to get better, just enjoying playing. Like John said, it’s kind of hard to be happy when things aren’t going well, you’re not playing well. But, you know, just enjoying the game, enjoying the opportunities that you have, embracing them, just trying to go out there and help the team in any way you can.
Q. Is one of those ways kind of coaching up the younger guys like a (James) Aldridge, (Robert) Hughes or (Armando) Allen, to be more prepared?
Travis Thomas: I mean, my job is not to coach. But as a captain, if I’m asked for some advice, I’m always there to give it. I’ll always have words of encouragement to give.
Q. (Robert) Hughes is a guy I think we saw an extensive role for the first time. What do you make of his game and how has he impressed you over the course of the season maybe back into the summer a little bit?
Travis Thomas: Just being patient. You know, he hadn’t really played much `til last week. Just staying positive and just working hard. I think that’s something that not only he does but we all do. Just strive to get better.
Q. Maybe the most impressive part of his game that lets him carve out a role in a pretty crowded backfield?
Travis Thomas: I mean, I don’t really analyze anyone else’s game but my own. I mean, he’s obviously a larger back. He runs well with the size that he carries.
Q. Can you talk about Purdue, what you’ve seen from them, the matchup problems they may be able to pose for you guys?
Travis Thomas: From a special teams standpoint, they have some guys that are pretty electric. That’s something that we’re going to have to be prepared for and be up for the challenge to stop. Offensively, we’re just going to go out there and continue to try to be physical, put drives together and play a complete game. That’s something that we’re looking forward to doing this week.
John Carlson: You know, obviously going into this game, we have to be familiar with their defense and their personnel, what they do. But similar to last week, the focus has to be on us this week. It really doesn’t matter what they do, what front they play, what coverage they play, if we don’t go out there and execute. We will be familiar with their defense. But, again, the focus again is on us.
John Sullivan: Yeah, just tag on with what John said. To this team right now, we’re trying to build on the positive things that we had from last week. We have to focus on what we did well, trying to do it better, and even the mistakes we made, trying to correct those. As far as Purdue goes, I mean, it’s staring you right in the face. They’re an undefeated team. We know they play a lot of guys on their defense; they stay fresh. It’s an intense rivalry between the two schools. I’m expecting it will be a hard fought game on Saturday.
Q. Where has the balance been in preparing for them versus last week when you were preparing for Michigan State? How has that been different than last week maybe?
John Carlson: I feel that every week we focus on being prepared for what we’re going to face. I guess last week the focus was more on self improvement, you know, things that we have to do. We’re always going to be aware of what fronts they play, what defenses they play, what kind of blitzes we’re going to see. The scouting, that stuff never changes. Coaches always have us prepared for what we’re going to face. But at the same time, when we don’t execute, the focus in practice has to be more on us. We have to correct mistakes. We have to be more physical up front and everywhere. We need to make plays at every position. I guess you could say that every week we’re prepared for the defense we’re going to face, but especially lately we’ve had to focus more on ourselves because we haven’t been making the plays in games.
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