Nov. 15, 2007
Q. One of the typical questions, could you comment on some of the emotions you guys will be feeling on Saturday?
Tom Zbikowski: You know, from me, I kind of wasn’t sure where I was going last year, so I thought it might have been my last one against Army last year, and definitely you start looking around and seeing the guys’ faces that you’ve been with for quite some time now, and it definitely gets pretty emotional. I think more when you’re going out, you’re just getting ready for the game, but coming back up is usually where it starts sinking in.
Maurice Crum Jr.: Definitely, I mean, I want to make the most of this opportunity, if it is my last. And again, it really doesn’t start to set in until after the game and after you have a chance to look around and think about your career and what you’ve accomplished.
Q. 20 or 30 years from now, what moment in that stadium will be most vivid to you guys?
Maurice Crum Jr.: Probably the SC game and UCLA game last year for me.
Tom Zbikowski: Yeah, USC was definitely something there was a lot of hype about. It was a battle until the last second.
Q. We talked to the offensive captains and some of the defensive seniors last night about what it means to you guys when you go over to the student body and sing the alma mater and you look up there and 90 percent of the students that were there when the game started are still there. What impact does that have on you?
Maurice Crum Jr.: It’s definitely like — you’re kind of in awe when you see it. You’re like, that’s impressive, that you’ve got a fan base behind you that strong and that you can count on through thick and through thin.
Tom Zbikowski: Yeah, definitely when you’re winning it’s a lot of fun to be able to share that moment with them. There’s a lot of excitement. If you do lose, you always know that they’re always supportive and they’re going to be there regardless.
Q. Do you think the fact that there are not athletic dorms here and early in your academic career you’re living with those people, do you think that forms more of a bond with the student body than there may be say at some other places?
Maurice Crum Jr.: Yeah, I think so. It opens up the door to network and just let the students know here that they can approach you and not that you’re not a part of them. You just become one of them by doing it that way.
Q. Coach also mentioned the fact that years ago the Syracuse game, the last game here, that he was surprised by the emotion of the seniors. Have you thought at all about that fine line, that you’re going to be somewhat emotional but not too emotional in this game?
Maurice Crum Jr.: I think the biggest thing is just realizing that the first task at hand is playing the game, and then after the game you can kind of let your emotions take over. But I mean, the objective is play the game and try to win, and then everything else comes secondary to that.
Q. Playing at home, does that weigh on you in the last game? I know you always want to win, but does not wanting to go a full season without winning at home, does that add anything, or do you not think about that leading up to this game?
Maurice Crum Jr.: I don’t. That doesn’t cross my mind. My goal week in and week out is the win, and I put the previous weeks behind me.
Tom Zbikowski: I definitely just go into every game wanting to win, and this being the last home game, we definitely want to get a win at home.
Q. Would you talk a little bit about what you’ve seen from Duke on film, what you expect from them this weekend?
Tom Zbikowski: I think they’ve got some pretty good receivers that can make some plays. You know, for the secondary, they’re definitely going to take their shots downfield. It’s pretty tough to see what they like to do on 1st, 2nd and 3rd down because it pretty much seems that they’ll do any — they’ll go from two tight ends and two backs to five wides on 1st, 2nd and 3rd down. It doesn’t really matter.
Maurice Crum Jr.: Yeah, I think they’re really balanced, and they know what they want to do and then they just execute.
Q. Trevor Laws is having a great season even though it hasn’t really shown up in terms of the win column. Could you talk about the year that he’s having and what it’s meant to the defense?
Maurice Crum Jr.: I think he’s having a phenomenal year. It’s almost unheard of for a D lineman to make some of the plays that Trevor has made. He makes plays based on his talent and then he makes plays just based on hustle. He’s doing what it takes and doing his part to try to help us win.
Tom Zbikowski: It just seems every time we turn on the tape that no matter what they’re doing, whether they’re trying to cut him or double him or reach him, he can make plays regardless. It just seems like he can’t be blocked.
Q. You guys talked about the students remaining loyal. Does that surprise you, something you’ve noticed week by week wondering if it would go away?
Maurice Crum Jr.: No, for me there was no doubt in my mind. It’s just you know they’re going to be there. But to see it, just to reinforce it, it’s still amazing.
Q. How about some other fans, alumni? Does the team get much sense of their mood out there?
Tom Zbikowski: Yeah, I don’t think we really have much of a chance to see what the mood is with them, but definitely with the students actually we get to see what the students are feeling. They’re hurting just like we are, but they’re still always there for us.
Q. Mo, Joe Brockington was telling us yesterday about his thumb that he injured in week one. Talk about how tough he is, the way he was able to play through that.
Maurice Crum Jr.: Yeah, Joe is a linebacker just flat out. He does whatever it takes. He’ll do whatever just to be on the field and try to help us win. At the same time he’s a competitor, and he takes his job seriously. You’ve got to love having guys like that on your team.
Q. Does that tell you how tough of a guy he is?
Tom Zbikowski: I don’t know really what was with his thumb, but you see other injuries and then — was it this week or last week? This last week he was in the infirmary for a day or two and then probably had one of the best games he’s had all year. If you’ve got to count on someone, Joe is always going to be there for you.
Q. Mo, did you notice he was hurt in that game? He made it sound like he just went back in the huddle and tried to go.
Maurice Crum Jr.: You mean for the thumb? I didn’t know until later when he showed it to me. I was like, “That’s disgusting.” He’s a tough guy and he doesn’t really want to show any weakness, and if he can go, he’ll go.
Q. Was it surprising when you saw it?
Maurice Crum Jr.: Yeah, when I saw the actual injury and what happened, I was wondering how he made tackles like with his bone hanging out or whatever.
Q. Could you guys talk a little bit more about Duke’s quarterback, what he’s able to do and how you guys can stop him?
Maurice Crum Jr.: Yeah, I think he adds that extra dimension because he can also run. He throws the ball pretty well, and he usually hits his targets.
Tom Zbikowski: Yeah, you look at when they’re taking deep shots, he seems to be hitting those guys in stride, which always makes it tough for our corners and safeties, that we’ve got to be in position to make plays.
Q. Tom, overall can you put in perspective what this experience, being part of the Notre Dame family, has meant to you? Have you been able to reflect on it at all?
Tom Zbikowski: A little bit. You know, definitely, like I said before, once the season is over we’ll take a step back and be able to reflect on it. But I think this year has been almost most useful for me just to see what I’m made of and what my teammates are all about. It’s definitely been tough, but definitely you grow and see who you are as a person afterwards.
Q. Tom, you were talking about how you’ve grown this year. Could you expand on that? Has it been humbling, maybe just eating at you, or is it those times when it eats at you that you have to step back and look at the big picture?
Tom Zbikowski: That’s the biggest thing is it is tough, but there’s definitely people that are a lot worse off than somebody that gets a chance to play Division I football every Saturday. I think it’s just given me a chance — I’ve pretty much my whole life been on winning teams. You get on that other side and see what you’re made of, and just know you’ve got to keep working and keep trying to win and keep getting better.
Q. How much would this week mean to you, to walk out and see those fans and see that one more time, and maybe two more times?
Tom Zbikowski: Yeah, it’s definitely — just thinking about the UCLA game, how much fun that was, pretty much celebrating with everyone on our team and then how large of a fan base we had out there at the beginning of this year with them. You know, it would be great to be able to do it at home and then be able to do it the next week, but definitely looking forward this week for a win.
Q. A lot of the guys that have been here walk out of there and say at least one more time. It’s got to be more than special at this point.
Maurice Crum Jr.: Yeah, it’s definitely a true test of character and can help you define yourself and just to fight through and just to keep going and just try to reach your goals week in and week out.
Q. Do you look at yourself and say that’s not me?
Maurice Crum Jr.: I just take it for what it is and just try to take what I can to better myself and do what I can to help better my team.
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