Sept. 27, 2007
Q. Tom, now that you’ve had a chance to go back and look at the (Michigan State) tape, can you talk about that interception that David (Bruton) made?
Tom Zbikowski: It was a tremendous play. He did all the things you need to do to get an interception. Looking at the quarterback, pretty much broke on his throw motion, made a phenomenal catch. Definitely helps the defense any time — gets the emotion up on defense any time something like that happens.
Q. Can you talk about how much you and David especially have to be on top of your games this weekend with how good their offense has been?
Tom Zbikowski: Any time you have receivers that can make plays and a quarterback that can get them the ball, any time they have a successful passing game, you definitely got to have the secondary up and safeties ready to be making plays and bringing up balls.
Q. Do you think this is the toughest offense going into a game that you’ll be facing this year?
Tom Zbikowski: We faced some talented guys. There hasn’t been the production that this team has, putting up the type of points they put up, the type of yardage they put up. A lot of people are forgetting that they’re averaging like 200 yards rushing a game, too. It’s not just all passing.
Q. Mo, talk about the 200 yards rushing, talk about that end of the game, what you need to do to stop them?
Maurice Crum Jr.: It definitely brings an added dimension to their offense because most people think they just throw it, throw it, throw it. But you also have to have the run to set that up. With that being successful, we have to make sure we tackle well and fit where we’re supposed to fit.
Q. Tom, talking to Trevor (Laws) yesterday, he said even though this is his last year, the season is not going how he wants, he did take solace in the fact he’s helping prepare some guys for the year after that. As a fifth year guy, do you take any comfort in the fact you’re helping the program, even if it’s not as immediate as on a week to week basis this year?
Tom Zbikowski: It’s good to see guys that came in as freshmen into training camp, starting to see the talent they have, starting to see the plays they can make. They can definitely help us out this year. But you see a lot of talent that’s going to be there in the future, that’s going to be making plays for quite some time. Whether you’re winning or losing, you always want to help out younger guys because you were in that same situation where you were trying to get used to the academic system, what college football’s all about. They’re away from home really for the first time. You always want to try to help out any of the younger guys any time they need help.
Q. What did you think of the penny package last week where you come off? Probably you want to be out there every snap possible. But as a leader, you have to accept the role there and move on?
Tom Zbikowski: Yeah, there’s nothing really much you can do. You want to be on the field as much as possible. That was a package that we felt could help us win. Any time there’s something that coaches may feel may help us win, you want to be behind it 100 percent.
Q. Do you like the dime set where you can drop down closer to the line of scrimmage, be a linebacker type of player?
Tom Zbikowski: Yeah, it’s something different. You blitz a couple times. You get to go into coverage, get to move around a little bit. It’s something different. It’s fun to be down there.
Q. Mo, talk about some of the younger running backs. (James) Aldridge had a good game. Robert Hughes. Armando (Allen). What are those guys like to practice against? How would you evaluate them?
Maurice Crum Jr.: As you can see, they all have their own different style. For me personally, trying to see a different back each time in the backfield is definitely tough ’cause you have to shift mind frames. You have Armando, who is a little bit shiftier, James, who runs with power, and Rob, who runs with that patience and that power. It’s kind of hard to adjust to each one of them. As you can see, all three of them have talent.
Q. Who is the hardest one to bring down?
Maurice Crum Jr.: That’s tough. Rob’s pretty big. If you don’t get your head across him, run that route hard, Rob might get you.
Q. Coach (Corwin) Brown was talking yesterday about how encouraged he is by how the attitude has stayed good. He credited it to Coach Weis, but also the character of the players. Have you seen that? How has Coach Brown himself contributed to that cause?
Maurice Crum Jr.: For the most part, I think it’s just with us having a young team, a lot of the young players kind of lost and not knowing where to go, I think guys like myself and Tommy set a good example. No matter what happens, you know, coming in ready to work, putting the stuff behind us. I also think with the high character guys, the guys that we recruit here, they really buy into what it is that Coach Weis is saying, and they’re all in for the program.
Q. He said a lot of places would be chaotic in this situation. Your team, the atmosphere, isn’t. Have you seen that, Tom? What is your opinion on that?
Tom Zbikowski: You never really get to see aspects of what happens at other schools really. We know pretty much one way, and that’s playing week to week, trying to look forward to the next game that we’re playing, trying to get a win regardless of what’s happened in the past. For some of the older guys, we’ve been through a bit with coaching changes and things like that, ups and downs. You’re going to win some games; you’re going to lose some games. That’s a part of being a competitor. You’ve got to live for another day that you’re going to be able to fight and keep competing and try and get a win.
Q. Good preparation for the next level? Obviously you’ve got to go from game to game. In the NFL, you could lose six, seven games in a year and still make the playoffs.
Tom Zbikowski: Yeah, I mean, I think coaches do a good job. Some guys might have the opportunity to play in the NFL. Some guys are going to go straight into the real world. You’re going to have ups and downs, but you’re going to be able to wake up the next day and keep fighting and keep doing what you got to do to survive or to do what you got to do.
Q. Mo, I’m sure you’re not ready to make a declaration, but you do have another year of eligibility. What are your thoughts with regard to that fifth year? How does an 0 4 start in this season play into that decision?
Maurice Crum Jr.: I haven’t really thought about it yet. I’m really just focused on the team right now, trying to get us where we need to be now. When I have time to reflect, that time comes, I’ll factor everything in.
Q. What would some of the factors be at the forefront of that decision?
Maurice Crum Jr.: Probably the biggest thing, I’d have to sit down with my family and see where my family is, what my family feels, then talk about the coaches, see what they want, just go from there.
Q. Do you feel you have gotten enough preparation on this level to go to the next level upon the conclusion of this season?
Maurice Crum Jr.: I think I have some abilities. Me being the person that I am, I see a lot of flaws in my game, stuff that I want to work on or get better at. A chance to get better is not a bad thing.
Q. Tom, you don’t want a sixth year?
Tom Zbikowski: No. I’m all right. (laughter)
Q. Tommy, last year, Darrin Walls got pulled. Essentially, he said that was kind of the end of his season as far as playing goes. How much did you see him change from that point?
Tom Zbikowski: I just think all through spring ball he was getting better all the time. I think he was getting more and more confidence. You saw him just waiting for that opportunity to make a play. It finally happened for him against Penn State. Obviously took it back all the way to house. You’ve just seen him always being around the ball, trying to make plays, trying to make picks. If he does have a bad play, he’s been able to shrug it off and get ready for the next play. I think any football player, but especially in the defensive backfield, you got to be able to shrug stuff off and go on to the next play. You go against a lot of good players and teams that can score points. It’s going to happen sooner or later. Someone’s going to score a touchdown. You have to just shake it off, get ready for the next play and try to make a play.
Q. How concerned are you with your draft stock, considering you’re on a team that hasn’t won a game yet?
Tom Zbikowski: I’ll worry about that after the season. It really doesn’t matter right now. We’re just trying to play, trying to get a win, worry about this team. Not really worried about individual until after the season.
Q. Coach Weis has talked about how, after a game, there’s some guys in the locker room, you can see it really affects them. Are you one of those guys? How hard are these losses for you?
Maurice Crum Jr.: For me, it’s always tough, just to lose. I hate losing with a passion. I’m a guy who goes out and I feel like I put my all into something. It hurts when you put your all into something and you don’t get the outcome that you wanted. For me personally, it hurts sometimes.
Q. What are some of the things you do to deal with it?
Maurice Crum Jr.: For the most part, I don’t do a lot of talking. I kind of stay to myself. The only person I’m really around after a loss is my dad, ’cause he kind of understands and he can kind of give me some words of encouragement just to help me relax and get over it.
Q. As veterans, Coach Weis said on Sunday either you’re all in or you’re all out. There have been a couple of guys that have decided to be all out. Would you rather those guys transfer and it can just be the guys that really want to be here? Does it make a difference to you either way?
Maurice Crum Jr.: Well, for me, I agree with Coach Weis. If you don’t feel like this is the best fit for you and you’re not going to put your all in, then I think you shouldn’t be here. I only want the guys around that are going to compete 100 percent, regardless of the situation.
Q. Tom, how do you feel about that?
Tom Zbikowski: I think it’s one of the things that makes Notre Dame special. It’s not for everyone. There’s going to be a lot of people that are going to be bad mouthing you; there’s going to be a lot of people that love you. You got to be able to deal with both of them if you can. In those situations, obviously what’s best for the team, if you’re not going to have all your heart into it, it’s best that you leave. It’s best for the individual if they don’t feel they can make it here, if this is the right place for them. It’s tough to see somebody go obviously because you’ve been with them through training camp, through summer conditioning, through winter conditioning. But, you know, if that’s what’s best for the individual, that’s what’s best for the individual. We’ve got to have everyone behind us on this team.
Q. Is coming to Notre Dame, a place like this, culture shock? Can you really be prepared for the Notre Dame environment if you’ve never actually lived in the Notre Dame environment?
Tom Zbikowski: No, I don’t think so. I mean, it’s definitely — I think that’s why, you know, like we were saying earlier, you got to help out the younger guys because for me at least, I went to public school my entire life. Then to come to a Catholic school, got a couple rules I really wasn’t used to. Then, you know, the media attention. I mean, after a high school game, you just got dressed, you went home, you did what you did with your friends. There’s a lot of different — there’s a lot of stuff, you know, talked about you whether it’s good or bad that you’ve got to shield off.
Q. You would get that media attention wherever you were playing major college football. I’m talking more about the Notre Dame culture and environment in itself. Did you have difficulty adapting to that?
Tom Zbikowski: Yeah, I did my first semester. Really wasn’t used to, you know, I guess all the rules. It’s kind of hard to explain. I mean, it’ll take you a month or so, month or two or semester to get used to the way things work, the type of rules, the things you have to follow.
Q. What was it like for you, Mo?
Maurice Crum Jr.: Yeah, it was a big adjustment for me. It’s just a whole different environment totally. I mean, the people, just getting used to it, it does take some time getting used to. It’s definitely different.
Q. Maurice, what types of things has your dad told you? What kind of advice has he given you through the tough times?
Maurice Crum Jr.: For the most part he’s just told me to make sure that I don’t get too down because if I’m down then, again, having a young team, those guys will see that, then those guys may start to tank it. Just make sure that I get whatever behind me so I’m ready to go for the next week.
Q. How difficult has that been to kind of keep a positive attitude, a positive outlook for those guys and yourself so far this year?
Maurice Crum Jr.: Yeah, it’s definitely tough. Again, like when you put your all into something, you don’t get what you want back, it’s hard for you. Then just to realize that you got so many other people who are watching you and seeing how you’re going to respond to it, it’s definitely tough. But that’s why you become a leader or that’s why your teammates select you as a leader. It’s because they look to you to do those kind of things.
Q. Coach Weis talked a little bit about the job Mo has done as a leader, kind of his growth. How have you seen his development? How would you assess his development since he arrived?
Tom Zbikowski: I definitely think he’s become a lot more vocal. You know, any time that you’re calling the plays on the defensive side, you got to do a lot more than just call a play. He does a good job of making sure everyone’s running the ball and making sure that, you know, we’re staying crisp and worrying about all the little things. I think that’s one of his best attributes. That’s also what makes him a good player, is that he’s worried about all the little things that in time will make a good ball player.
Q. So many of the teams you faced thus far have been run oriented teams. Can you talk about the difference this week, the different challenge of facing Purdue, how they’re going to throw it all over?
Maurice Crum Jr.: They run it pretty well also. We cannot overlook the fact they can run the ball also. That’s definitely an added dimension, the way they can throw the ball, the talent that they have once they catch the ball, what they can do with it. It’s definitely a challenge. But we’ve just got to make sure we’re sound and we’ll be okay.
Tom Zbikowski: I think it’s gonna be getting 11 guys to the ball because, you know, the way they spread you out, there’s going to be a lot of plays in space that are going to have to be made, but also a lot of pursuit. Keeping the ball in front of us really.
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