Nov. 8, 2007
Q: Making the adjustment — the carryover, does that help you hit the ground running a little bit better?
Maurice Crum Jr.: I’d say so. Again, I mean, week in, week out the biggest adjustment into the game is getting used to the speed, because you can’t simulate that in practice, especially when it comes around to the option (offense). That’s what those guys do and they do it fast and they do it well.
So again, the biggest adjustment is getting used to that and I think playing against it will help us.
Tom Zbikowski: Air Force does something different because they have a lot of different personnel groups that they use and a little more of a no huddle type scheme. So definitely get a chance to get used to that in the first series.
We’ve been doing it in practices, trying to simulate that and get ready for it. It’s hard (because) you have to give cards to the guys on the scouts teams because they don’t really know the plays when the offense knows what they are doing.
Q: You guys taking chances, getting aggressive in the backfield and creating the negative play, do you feel like you need to do more of that to prevent an option team from chewing you up three and a half yards at a time?
Maurice Crum Jr.: I mean, that’s just part of playing option football. You have to do things to change it up, and they have to do the same thing and that’s what makes it so unique.
Tom Zbikowski: You keep sending somebody like that, obviously they are going to have something off that. You know, there’s always — you’ve got to keep — I guess keep them guessing a little bit with maybe sending someone once in awhile so they don’t get in the comfort zone.
Q: The chance to come back next year, when you look at this program and take a step back, what do you see that gives you hope that next year is going to be better and that you’re not just going to be stuck in this?
Maurice Crum Jr.: I think it’s just the kind of guys that are here and just the progress that we’ve made week in and week out. We’ve shown some improvement on a consistent basis, and just the idea that if we can be consistent, that we could go forward.
Q: And the hope that that consistency comes, or do you see any reason why it will or you can expect it?
Maurice Crum Jr.: I think it just comes with time. And again, having a young team and the guys just grew up with each game, you seen guys kind of grow up and evolve and you just kind of see it. And being a competitor, you don’t want a repeat, and once you get that bad taste in your mouth, that’s something that you want to get rid of.
Q: Do you see things that make you believe that next year is going to be better even if you’re not here?
Tom Zbikowski: Yeah, you definitely see the younger guys that have a lot of talent starting to become more of a college football player and not just somebody with some talent, doing the little things right and definitely going through a season like this, makes them grow up pretty fast where spring ball will probably be pretty intense. There’s going to be a lot of competition to get into the season next year but there’s definitely been a lot of progress.
Q: Would you guys comment on the differences that you see in Air Force’s offense with the new head coach?
Maurice Crum Jr.: Yeah, they do a lot of different things and they do a lot of different things to give their playmakers the ball.
Tom Zbikowski: Yeah, they are trying to get No. 1 (Chad Hall) the ball a lot and with this no huddle kind of look, it’s really not a hurry up offense. But they are keeping everyone pretty much really not allowing you to get much substitution on the field and get you some different personnel groups where it’s not just — running the option, doing a lot of things off different personnel groups.
Q: How good is Chad Hall; is he No. 1?
Tom Zbikowski: Yeah, he’s very productive. He’s their go to guy and they are having a lot of success this year with their offense and you know, he’s pretty much the main person in it.
Q: What do you guys think it’s going to take to get the edge back at home in Notre Dame Stadium?
Maurice Crum Jr.: I think we just have to generate the energy just to get the crowd back into the game because they probably really don’t know what to expect, and unless we show up and I think they will follow right behind us.
Q: You have been in imposing stadiums and seen students leave and fans leave; how much solace do you take in the fact that regardless of the score, the USC game or whatever, you guys can turn to the student body and know that those people are still there supporting you?
Maurice Crum Jr.: Yeah, there’s definitely a plus, and it’s part of Notre Dame. That’s just how we are and that’s just the way it’s going to be. It’s great to know that no matter what happened that you’re going to have fans behind you.
Q: You may only have two more, but Tommy, you definitely only have two more appearances in that stadium. What will it be like going in there the last couple of times?
Tom Zbikowski: Hopefully, you know, we’ll keep playing and get those last two wins at home. You know, it’s always tough when you leave a group of guys that you’ve been with for quite some time and got some relationships with. That’s the toughest part is, you know, the relationships you build up.
Q: We couldn’t let the whole season go by without asking you a boxing question. Wondering if there was anything on the horizon, has that been discussed at all?
Tom Zbikowski: No, not that I know of. Nothing really. Just talking to everybody about the Senior Bowl and (NFL) Combine after the season and stuff like that. I haven’t heard of any fights but something will maybe come up but I don’t think so.
Q: What is it that makes Chad (Hall) such a difficult matchup as their go to guy?
Tom Zbikowski: He doesn’t have, I wouldn’t say, a break away speed that we haven’t seen before. He’s real shifty. He’s quick. He just makes plays all the time. They get him the ball and he makes plays.
Q: The Senior Bowl, have you officially been invited to that?
Tom Zbikowski: Yeah.
Q: So I’m guessing you’re going then?
Tom Zbikowski: Yeah.
Q: Having only a few games left in the season, how frustrating is it, just how much maybe more difficult is it so fathom each week?
Tom Zbikowski: Whether we’re winning or losing, you’ve just got to get ready for the next week all the time. But it’s difficult sometimes. You’ve got to give yourself up personally. You can’t wait for anybody, coaches to help you out or just you know be down all the time about losing. You’ve got to be up, especially as an older person getting the younger guys up and making sure they are getting ready for each week. And you win some, you lose some, and you’ve got to keep playing and it’s another day and keep giving it your all every week.
Q: Charlie at one point said that he felt it was there as far as physical practices go; do you feel like the team let up a little bit after the practices weren’t as physical as they were in that few week stretch?
Tom Zbikowski: No, I don’t think so. I mean, there comes a point where you know you get into a couple weeks in the season where during the week, it’s kind of hard to be hitting because you’re so sore from the earlier parts but I don’t think there’s any letdown from a physical standpoint.
Q: Can you talk about Chad Hall, obviously you have to deal with him a lot.
Maurice Crum Jr.: Yeah, he’s definitely a make you miss kind of guy, and you can’t take him for granted, because one minute it looks like he’s going one direction and he’ll cut on a dime. I think that’s what makes him the kind of player that he is, is his ability to go sideways and just make people miss.
Q: And for both you guys, is it his versatility that makes him such a threat, too; that at one play he’s at running back and another he’s wide receiver and you have to keep your eye on him?
Maurice Crum Jr.: Yeah, and other players, it steps up their offense, because you get too focused on one guy and then another guy hurts you.
Tom Zbikowski: Definitely he’s never going to be in one spot play after a play. So he’s moving around and you have to be ready for that, and you know, just be aware of where he’s at all the time.
Q: Around the country, especially Colorado, people are eventually amazed at what happened, especially the way you played at Air Force; what happens in one of these seasons? Can you put it into words or summarize it?
Maurice Crum Jr.: For me I would just say it’s inconsistency. We’ve shown flashes, but then we’ve gone down and it’s tough to play college football inconsistent.
Tom Zbikowski: I think there was some high expectations early on in the year and just from us that we really didn’t live up to. You know, like what Mo was saying, the inconsistency, a lot of talent and a lot of plays were made, but a lot of plays that were given up for the reason why we’ve lost those games.
Q: How much less talented are you this year than you were, say, two years ago?
Maurice Crum Jr.: I wouldn’t say less talented. I would just say we have young talent. You know, again from going to high school to college and even guys who haven’t really played a lot in games, that’s a big transition and it takes time to get adjusted to.
Q: What kind of reaction have you guys gotten around campus or around town? Have you got any negative comments or heard anything?
Maurice Crum Jr.: I think that’s part of going to Notre Dame. Everybody around here, they are sad, they hurt just like us, but they are still behind us.
Tom Zbikowski: Yeah, I think it’s been probably more supportive than anything. You know, people telling us to keep our head up and keep playing hard; and they have a lot of respect for us that the season has gone for us the way it’s gone, but we are still playing hard every week.
Q: Just to follow up, are you guys surprised at all that you have not heard many negative comments, because I’m sure you’re fans of teams and those teams are doing well; I’m sure you guys get angry.
Maurice Crum Jr.: No, I wouldn’t say surprised. I kind of expect it. Everyone here wants just to be behind us, that’s just the way they are, and I expected that.
Tom Zbikowski: Definitely. That’s what makes this place special; you know, other people being supportive like that.
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