Oct. 24, 2012
Q. How do you view the atmosphere at Oklahoma and that 79 4 home record that they have under Bob Stoops?
Manti Te’o: It’s an incredible accomplishment, and obviously they’re a really good football team and they’ve been a really good football team. But we’re going to prepare the way we’ve always prepared and we’re not going to do anything different.
Q. Looks like Landry Jones has been getting into a comfort zone the last few games. What have you seen on film from him?
Manti Te’o: He’s just doing what Landry Jones does. He executes. He slings the ball around, he’s very accurate and his “O” line does a good job in protecting him. We understand what they like to do. We have two more days to get ready, and it’s going to be good.
Q. Is it maybe more important get him out of a groove early so he doesn’t get flowing and everything to get pressure on him?
Manti Te’o: I think with any kind of quarterback it’s always good to get some pressure on them. I know our “D” line will really focus on that and keep doing what they’re doing. So obviously when we are going to pressure him, we’re going to pressure and when we are going to drop, we’re going to drop, it all depends on the situation. Whatever Coach calls, that’s exactly what we’re going to do.
Q. What do you see on film from Blake Bell, and how do you stop a guy that big?
Manti Te’o: You just hit him. At the end of the day, you bring ’em to the ground, so not anything different.
Q. How did you guys prepare for him this week?
Manti Te’o: Nothing different. He runs the same as anybody else. Obviously he’s bigger than normal running backs, but it’s football, you know, it’s nothing different.
Q. They have been good in the red zone this year and they have only one trip where they haven’t scored. That’s been a strong point for your defense. Does the mentality change for you guys once you get inside the red zone?
Manti Te’o: I think the mentality is wherever we are, we want to get a stop, and especially in the red zone. We understand where the end zone is, it’s very close, and we’re just trying to limit points, and obviously a touchdown is worth a lot of points. So for us, when we’re in the red zone we understand that we have to tighten down and understand where we’re at on the field.
Q. Does having less space behind you, I guess, when you’re in the red zone, does that make it easier to tighten down or does it change the way you approach stopping an offense?
Manti Te’o: I think for the defense you have to understand who you’re going up against. It poses different situations for the offense; defense we just play the same. Obviously we will be more “on body” than we usually are because we understand the end zone is so close. So for us we just gotta keep doing what we’re doing.
Q. I think a lot of us expected Theo Riddick to have a strong year, but not many knew he was such a physical north/south guy for an undersized receiver. Did you know that about him when he was a slot receiver? Was it a surprise in the spring to see him run like that?
Manti Te’o: No. I think Theo (Riddick) came in as a running back and he’s naturally a running back. So we saw glimpses of that, and everybody knows Theo to be a jump cut runner, but Theo is a North and South dude who just utilizes his agility whenever he needs to, so to see Theo do what he is doing is no surprise to us, and he’s going to continue to do that.
Q. I saw something the other day that talked about how Danny Spond and Manti Te’o hardly come off the field. How far has Danny come?
Manti Te’o: Danny has sacrificed a lot and put a lot of hard work into this team. He’s dedicated himself and he could have easily just threw in the towel when he got that injury that he had, but I think it motivated him even more to come back bigger, stronger and faster, and to play the amount of snaps that he’s playing it takes a lot. It takes a toll on your body, and for him to do what he’s doing and be doing the things he’s doing so as well speaks a lot to his dedication and commitment to this team.
Q. Manti, just to bet back to Blake Bell package, why do teams have such a hard time hitting him?
Manti Te’o: First of all, they block well, and Blake Bell is really patient. He’s a really patient runner, and when he sees daylight he attacks well. For us, everybody has to be in their “fit” and they have to understand where our team is going to be and fit off of them. I think when that happens we know what to expect and we know what they like to do, so we’ll adjust then.
Q. Big picture, we were talking to Coach Kelly yesterday about enjoying the journey a little bit, and I was curious from a player’s perspective, is it easy to lose sight of that? Is it easy to get caught up in games and results and statistics and not enjoy the little things and the day to day stuff?
Manti Te’o: Yeah, every player is different. I think for a veteran player we tend to look at things as a day to day routine. For younger guys, I think it’s easier to be distracted by the end result. But I think our team this year has done a really good job on just focusing on the “now” just focus on what we’re doing now. Today’s Wednesday, so it’s working Wednesday and focus on getting better today. Then we will focus on Thursday, Friday and then Saturday. I think in that case we have done a pretty good job.
Q. When did that happen for you that you could focus on Wednesday for the sake of focusing on Wednesday and not think about it in terms of, okay, I’m doing this for Saturday?
Manti Te’o: I think I’ve always had that mentality of taking advantage of every day but more so since it’s my senior year, and I understand that every day is important because it helps me prepare myself for Saturday. I always look at every day to get better, to get healthier and as long as I’m better today than I was yesterday, at the end of today as long as I can look back and say, you know, I’ve improved, then I’ve made some strides.
Q. What were you like as a sophomore?
Manti Te’o: Just somebody that was always excited for the game and just looking forward to the game.
Q. And one of your teammates, Prince (Shembo), I don’t think that setting the edge it doesn’t show up on a stat sheet, and it’s probably not all that enjoyable to do either, but how has that improvement in that part of his game helped your defense?
Manti Te’o: First of all, we had Darius Fleming there last year and he did a great job in always setting the “edge” and making sure that the ball was always inside of our defense, and then you have somebody like Prince Shembo. Those are pretty big shoes to fill, but Prince has done a tremendous job in not only just setting the edge but being a player and being a weapon out there. If you look at him, Prince is not that big, compared to the guys he’s going up against, but when you watch the tape, that little 6 1 dude is folding 6 8, 300 pound linemen, so I’m happy to be on the same side as Prince Shembo.
Q. I realize everyone is key to your defense, and you guys talk about being 1/11th of the defense, but is that a pretty big 1/11th, to know that a runner can’t get outside of him and he’s going to be kicked back in?
Manti Te’o: Yeah, everybody has to do their job and if Prince wasn’t on the outside, obviously it causes a lot of hesitation because you don’t know where the ball is going to go. At least you know when Prince is on the outside you know the ball is going to go on the inside of Prince and you can move that much faster. There is not as much thinking that goes into it.
Q. Can you talk about Kap (Lewis-Moore) and how good of a leader he has been for this team?
Manti Te’o: Kap has been a really good leader. He’s been that vocal guy. There was a play this last Saturday where he literally stood up during the cadence of the quarterback and was making checks with his “D” line. You know who the captain was on the field, and he embraces that responsibility as the captain of our team. And he works every day to not only be a better captain but most importantly be a better football player.
Q. How important is this week, this game for Notre Dame?
Manti Te’o: It’s very important because it’s the “next” game. We have the opportunity to go up against a good team and be in, you know, an opponent’s stadium so it’s definitely a big game for us.
Q. Is this a signature game, one of those that can cement where you guys are?
Manti Te’o: At this point every game is a signature game. Every game is important. We approach every game that way, and I think we’ve come a long way and I think at this point in time in the season every game is a signature game.
Q. Manti, can you talk about the emotion on the team right now? Coach was saying yesterday about the excitement and of course it’s a big game so how the team is reacting?
Manti Te’o: I think we’re all excited to play Oklahoma. I think a lot of us are trying to anticipate what it’s going to look like. We understand that we’ve played in pretty friendly environments for quite some time now. We’ve played in two home games and then in Chicago against Miami, which was pretty much a home game. We haven’t really played in a hostile environment since Michigan State, so we’re really looking forward to going over there and playing a good game against a good football team. We’re all excited.
Q. As one of the leaders on the team, how much of a role do you play in working with those young guys and keeping them excited but at the same time keeping them humble and ready to go in there and put their nose to the grind stone?
Manti Te’o: Yeah, for me and the rest of the leaders on our team it’s important for us to stress the importance to our younger guys of remembering what brought us here, and I think a lot of teams stumble because they forget what brought them to this point. What brought us to 7 0. It was hard work, it was focusing on the daily tasks, just focusing on the little things. As we progress through the season we start to think big picture, we’re 7 0, and now we have the chance to be 12 0, and now we have a good team coming up. We can’t look past that and we have to just look at Oklahoma, what they do and work on being 8 0.