Oct. 4, 2007
(Transcription started after conference call had already begun…)
Tom Zbikowski: It felt good getting back on the field and playing. I know as a team I think that’s what made us last year, almost that game, is just that it’s pretty much a defensive battle throughout the whole game. We knew as long as there was time left on the clock that our offense would be able to do something, and then a play like that happens there’s excitement all along the bench. You know, it was a great win for us.
Q. At that point, are you guys up on the sideline watching the game a little bit more than you normally do?
Tom Zbikowski: Yeah, definitely.
Maurice Crum Jr.: Yeah, definitely, just with the anticipation of what’s going to happen, and once the offense made some of the plays that they made, for me personally kind of that Notre Dame magic thought came into my mind, and kind of like that “specialness” about Notre Dame.
Q. They’re going to have the revenge motive. They’re upset about losing that game. People talk about revenge in college football. How real is that? How much do you use that as motivation, or is that another one of those things that after a couple plays all that is behind you and you’re just playing the game again?
Tom Zbikowski: Yeah, especially when it’s mid season. Maybe if it’s the home opener you have pretty much all season, or all off season you’re only looking at one team that in previous years as a home opener you can use that as revenge. Once you’re five, six games in, you go week to week, and you’ve got to play the best ball no matter who you’re playing and not worry about revenge. There’s always the first couple plays that you’re probably thinking about it, but you’ve got to play the whole game to win.
Q. That’s what I’m saying. You’ve got so many other things on your mind and so many things to worry about.
Maurice Crum Jr.: Yeah, definitely. You kind of lose this thought just going through the normal routine of preparing for the game every week, and the more games into this we get, for us at least, the more we put that out of our minds.
Q. Is that more of a during the week type motivation?
Tom Zbikowski: I wouldn’t say so.
Maurice Crum Jr.: I know for us we respect every opponent the same, regardless. We don’t really focus on what happened last year or 12 years ago. We’re focused on now and the team that’s there now to play.
Q. Talking to (defensive coordinator) Corwin (Brown) yesterday about the run defense, he said the biggest thing is just tackling better, just better positions, bringing guys down with every opportunity. When you watch the tape of how you guys defended the run, is that what you see, that tackling is kind of the biggest stumbling block you’ve had to far?
Maurice Crum Jr.: Yeah, I’d say that’s the main focal point of what we need to improve upon, just getting guys to the ground. When you miss tackles then that’s definitely something you need to improve upon.
Q. Do you take tackling for granted? It seems like such a basic skill and you’re working on so many other things that it would almost be easy to overlook those fundamentals and techniques.
Tom Zbikowski: Yeah, I think that’s why (Head) Coach (Charlie) Weis and Coach Brown and them have been doing it early in the week where we’ve been going full speed where we’re not forgetting about the basics and bringing people down. You know, there’s a different approach when you’re going just to form somebody up than when you know you can take them all the way down. You know, I think that’s just what they wanted us to get back to is bringing that person down, so we’re doing it in the game, too.
Q. And Coach Weis mentioned that Golden Tate had made a lot of plays as a show team guy. Obviously that means against you guys. What jumps out to you guys about some plays that he’s made? Do you remember anything he did in training camp that made you sit there and say, “wow, this guy is going to be a player for us”?
Maurice Crum Jr.: The biggest thing that sticks out in my mind is just his burst. He’s a competitor, so if the ball is in the air he’s going to do whatever it takes. Show team, first team, whatever it is — if he’s on the field and the ball is in the air he’ll do everything in his power to get it. He’s one of those guys that no matter what the coaches ask from him, again, he’s a competitor so he wants to do it full speed. He just knows one speed.
Q. What have you seen from him, his ability to adjust the balance in the air?
Tom Zbikowski: I think the biggest thing in one on ones, just taking it deep. A lot of times their corner or safety or whoever would cover would be in good position, but he just finds a way to make a play.
Q. Do you think that’s just a gift that he has as opposed to something that he’s learned along the way?
Tom Zbikowski: I think when it just keeps happening over and over again, you know it’s obviously got to be something that he’s doing right. You know, I don’t know his background, if there’s receivers, coaches taught him to do that, but I’ve got to believe that’s probably natural talent.
Q. Talk a little bit about the play of Trevor (Laws), moving from the inside to the outside. Seems like he hasn’t had much trouble adjusting.
Tom Zbikowski: Honestly, I think he could play pretty much anywhere on the D-line and be successful. He’s that type of player where he has that type of talent, and he’ll make plays regardless of where he’s at.
Maurice Crum Jr.: Definitely. Trevor is a special kind of player. He has talent and just knows how to make plays. That’s the kind of stuff you just can’t coach.
Q. I don’t know if you guys have looked at the stats, but he’s leading the team in tackles, which is unusual for a lineman. Does that bother you, or do you enjoy seeing him up there?
Maurice Crum Jr.: Not for me personally, because if Trevor is making tackles then it’s at the point of attack. So it’s always good when you have a D-lineman making those plays. For me it’s kind of a win lose. I’d rather make the tackles, but I’m happy that Trevor is making tackles.
Q. For both of you guys, your first few years here you were in trouble some. Is the atmosphere for this team similar to those years? Is it a different atmosphere, just the attitude of the team?
Tom Zbikowski: I think it’s a little different situation. When I got here, there was a couple wins in between, but the character on this team, honestly, is probably the best I’ve ever seen. Being in the situation that we’re in, and still — I really don’t hear complaining all around, even when we’re going live and stuff. Obviously no one is happy with an 0-5 start, but I see people fighting and playing hard no matter what the situation is, no matter what the score is. I mean, I see guys that look into each other’s eyes and know that we’re playing for one another and we’re going to play hard no matter what the outcome is until the fourth quarter is over. I mean, from my perspective I just think this is a different team, regardless of record.
Q. Following up on that, Tommy, what role does Coach Weis play in that, the fact that you stay together, you need to fight?
Tom Zbikowski: You know, I think a team is always going to take on a personality of a head coach, and I think that’s just who Coach Weis is, and I think that he’s rubbed off on us. That’s the way he’s recruited with the younger guys, and that’s the type of people that when we lost the head coach that he came in and were kind of looking for someone, for leadership, and that’s who we got, and I think that’s what Coach Weis has rubbed off on his team.
Q. What about Coach Brown’s role, being the new guy to the equation?
Maurice Crum Jr.: I think Coach Brown, he just has that extra “oomph” of to it. Coach Weis is kind of the voice and Coach Brown is a lot of times a hammer, just getting in guys’ faces. He just demands that excellence. He’s kind of a reflection of Coach Weis. You can tell that they have some similar mentalities?
Q. Is he the hammer at halftime?
Maurice Crum Jr.: Yeah, but that’s regardless. Again, he always just wants us to play at a very high level, and if he doesn’t like our level, he’s going to let us know.
Q. Coach Weis mentioned that — he said Tuesday was the most physical practice that he’s had. I guess he meant since he’s been here, or maybe he said just the season, but he said it was very physical. Did you anticipate that going in, and what was your perspective on Tuesday?
Maurice Crum Jr.: I mean, again, it’s kind of the team starting to realize — young guys really realizing what Coach Weis wants, and everybody is really starting to buy in. He’s telling us what he wants, but at the same time we’re understanding what needs to be done, and I think we’re responding.
Q. How strange is that, being this physical at this stage of the season on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Sundays?
Tom Zbikowski: It feels good sometimes. You’re pretty frustrated after a loss, but when you’re making tackles and confidence is being gained by younger guys, even us still when you’re making plays and making tackles, you know there’s evidence that you can do it.
Q. Apparently you made a hit Tuesday that nobody got excited about that Coach Weis mentioned to us. What happened there?
Maurice Crum Jr.: It wasn’t nobody (laughter). But it was just one of those things that the coaches want us to pick up on, just play with forward motion. Not necessarily like being excited when a guy on your team does something well, not just going over and patting him on the head, but get excited so we can kind of build more energy. It’s just kind of guys kind of knowing. That’s how much you’ve got to know. You’ve got to play with more emotion regardless of how you feel, because some guys are like, “okay, good play.” But when you see the emotion and the effect that it has on the team, then that’s kind of what they want us to see.
Tom Zbikowski: I was at a bad angle. I came over a little late. I really didn’t see it, but I tried to get over there. I knew Mo made the tackle, because when I got over there his chin strap was already messed up. So I was pretty positive he made the hit.
Q. Coach Weis seems that he’s pretty open to bending the practice schedule and Sundays hitting for half a practice. How much variance was there the last two years in practice, or was it really the same every single day of every single week?
Tom Zbikowski: Yeah, I can’t really remember two years ago. I’m pretty sure it was…
Q. For the most part…
Tom Zbikowski: Two weeks ago is long for us.
Maurice Crum Jr.: We’re really consistent with what we did every day. Having, again, an older team, you don’t have to alter as much because guys know what it takes and guys know what to do, and you kind of know what to expect from your guys.
Q. Does that make it easier for guys to stay with it right now when times are tough, because you kind of try to find different ways to push buttons as opposed to doing the same thing you did last week?
Maurice Crum Jr.: Right. That definitely lets you know that the coaching staff is all there and doing everything in their power to make us better, and it’s not just because they’re mad but you know it’s because they want us to be better.
FastScripts by ASAP Sports…