Oct. 5, 2011

Q. Much do you have to prepare for

Tommy Rees: I think it’s been advertised every week and depending on how the game goes, I think the biggest thing is getting the turnovers that come from mental mistakes more than physical. Physical play, you can throw an interception and it’s just a bad throw, those happen but making sure you know where you’re throwing the ball, that’s more of the mental aspect of the game. The biggest thing to do week in and week out is prepare mentally.

Q. Inaudible.

Tommy Rees: When you play a team like Air Force, they come to play every game, and they are going to be out there playing hard and playing to the whistle and the biggest thing with them is making sure you’re knowing what they are doing. They do a couple of different things and move around on defense so. You just have to stay focused and know that they are going to give you their best shot and you have to be ready for that.

Q. Coach talks about the offense are you at a point now where you’re seeing things, can you just talk about that and where you hope to be with that?

Tommy Rees: Yeah, as the season goes on and progresses, you get more and more comfortable, and just being able to recognize what defenses are trying to do and understand what works within our offense and take advantage of those. The more comfortable everybody gets within the offense and taking advantage of the defense, they will play faster and play to whatever speed they face on defense.

Q. Looking back, how fast everything is, is the offense moving as fast as you thought it was, the tempo, is it the pace where you thought it was?

Tommy Rees: Going back to those first days, you didn’t know what to expect; so the tempo of it overwhelmed everyone. Now we understand the offense, and our second year in it, I think that makes it slow down. And I think we play to the speed that we think it needs to be played at to help us win a game and I think so far, we’re doing a good job of going fast and tempo ing it down depending how the game has been going.

Q. Is it a case of, not forcing the ball to Michael (Floyd), but getting it to him as much as possible, how do you balance getting the ball out or if they are double teaming you there might be a better option out there?

Michael Floyd:: I tell Tommy all the time, it doesn’t really matter. As long as we win, I don’t mind it at all. Just we stand on the sideline and we see what we can do and holler, give me the ball, if there’s anyway possible in the game, but it’s just about setting down and making sure that we are doing everything right.

Q. What’s your perspective on forcing it but not

Tommy Rees: The bottom line is we are a better team when Mike is involved and he’s a strong part of our offense. There’s a fine line, of course, so we just have to stay within the offense and make sure we recognize how the defense is trying to take him away and take advantage of all of the opportunities we can.

Q. Can you just talk about your role we talk to the offensive linemen and running backs, what’s your role in making sure that they go the right way?

Tommy Rees: The good thing is with such an experienced offensive line, they are able to see a lot of the same things I do and we communicate back and forth on what protections we want to be in. A lot of it is making sure we are sliding the right direction or in the right protection for a specific play. You know, that’s something I continue to strive to improve on and get better at, and like you said, the offensive line has done a really good job all year of protecting me, and the running back has done a good job at pass protection. You can’t ask for much more out of them.

Q. Is it pretty easy to figure out where they are coming?

Tommy Rees: Not always but it’s something you do every week and it’s part of playing quarterback. It’s a pretty big focus of ours, because if they are protecting well, you have time to make plays. So it all kind of starts up front.

Q. What percentage of time for your right, like 99% of the time?

Tommy Rees: I would like to make it 100% but sometimes it’s not always as good. But we have done a good job of it so far, so I just need to continue to get better there.

Q. Michael, obviously you guys started off strong against Purdue, but you didn’t let up this time. Just talk about putting that complete effort in, starting strong and finishing strong the whole way through.

Michael Floyd:: Yeah, I think it was a positive thing for the whole team to see. We have not done that a lot in the past and just start out strong and end strong was a great thing for our team to see. And it’s a good thing I think for Coach (Kelly) to know that we have that will to keep going and not stop doing what we are doing and playing good football.

Q. Tommy, how important was that for this team to have that great effort?

Tommy Rees: I think it shows that we have been building on the past weeks and finally put a full game effort and close off a team, I think just helps everyone and shows everyone what we are capable of doing. We left some points out on there the field, and there’s ways we can continue to get better, but it’s a good place to start on and build off of.

Q. We have harped on turnovers throughout the year, but how more important is it this week where you have a team that has possessions of eight minutes at a time and you can’t afford to give the ball up?

Tommy Rees: Right. You have to make the most of every possession that you have and turnovers kill possessions, kill drives, that’s can’t happen. When you play a team like Air Force that’s offensively very good and takes a lot of time possession away, you have to make sure that you are making the most of your offense.

Q. You’ve obviously improved in that area. Just talk about how you avoid I guess those mental breakdowns on the offensive side.

Michael Floyd:: Just have composure and be mentally in on what’s going on on the field. If there’s a lot of false starts, so mentally we have to communicate to each other and make sure that everybody is on the same page.

Tommy Rees: Yeah, going off him I think it starts with leadership and making sure that everyone is communicating. You can’t let the emotion of the game get the best of you, and you have to stay locked in for four quarters. You have to limit those penalties, because a lot of time, they them come on a big play where you can’t afford them. And like I said, those can be drive killers.

Q. Coach Kelly had a quote yesterday that you are developing scar tissue playing quarterback; how much scar tissue do you need as a quarterback for Brian Kelly?

Tommy Rees: To be honest, I don’t even know what that means. (Laughter) I’m just going to continue to

Q. I think he’s talking about how thick of skin.

Tommy Rees: He can get after you a little bit. But he’s just a competitive guy and all of us are competitors and we want to win. You’ve just got to understand what his intentions are, regardless of how the message gets across. As a quarterback, you can’t let that get to you. You have to go back out there ready to play.

Q. The over throws was that by design that we are seeing

Tommy Rees: Those are things that we have got to continue to work on. There were some opportunities where I missed Mike (Floyd) and Tyler (Eifert) in the corner. But more than anything, those are just plays in the game that you want to have back and those are plays you want to hit. But you have guys like Mike and Tyler that are big enough, you probably need to put the ball up there a little more for them, let them go up and jump and take it down over a defender. That’s something we continue to work on and continue to get better at.

Q. It’s been a couple of weeks since you’ve played at home.

Tommy Rees: We are really excited to comeback and play at home with our fans and especially having some momentum coming back. It’s a great place to play and we are looking forward to it.

Q. How special will it be?

Michael Floyd:: It will feel special to get back here. It is always feels good to get back here, everybody likes you and praises and you loves and you wants to get a victory, so it feels.

Q. How much do people talk to you about that

Michael Floyd:: Just random text messages, I don’t know who they are. And you guys, of course. That’s it. My mom doesn’t even know.

Q. Have you heard anything from Golden (Tate) or anybody like that?

Michael Floyd:: I talk to Jimmy (Clausen) every day, so always indiscernible.

Q. What kind of conversations are those?

Michael Floyd:: Just advice and what’s going on and stuff that he sees on TV that he tells me, you know, how he thinks it should be ran, just advice I just keep it to myself.

Q. Just wanted to ask you what you see from Air Force quarterback Anthony Wright, an all conference guy, No. 5, just wanted to know your impressions of Anthony Wright.

Michael Floyd:: Real aggressive. He’s quick, strong, and you know, he goes all the way to the whistle. He doesn’t stop at all, and you’ve just got to make sure you can get a hand on him and do whatever you can to slow him down?

Q. You’ve faced some great, great cornerbacks obviously in your career, how does he measure up to some of the guys you’ve faced?

Michael Floyd:: I put him as one of the head guys that I’ve played before. He’s just strong and very quick and he has a good reaction to the ball.

Q. Does he strike you as a guy, as most Air Force players are, they are overlooked in recruiting but does he strike you as a guy who could have played in maybe the Big Ten or BCS conference?

Michael Floyd:: Oh, yes, I really believe that he could play somewhere else, like you said, Big Ten. He’s just a real competitive guy and you want those guys on defense, guys that don’t stop.

Q. Tommy, last week Navy’s offense ran 105 offensive plays against Air Force. Does that give you something to shoot at this week against that same defense?

Tommy Rees: To be honest, 105 plays is kind of a lot. We are just going to try to make the most of all of the opportunities we get on offense, and whether it’s a lot of plays or a little, as long as we are putting points up on the board, we are going to try to focus not too much on play counts. Our focus is trying to score, limit our mistakes and make the most of our opportunities.

Q. What have you brought to the Notre Dame team since you’ve taken over as the quarterback?

Tommy Rees: There’s different things every player brings to a team. I try to bring some leadership and some confident out there on the field. I think that the guys, we are all starting to get comfortable with one another and they are starting to react to how I play. I think just being another leader out there and whether that needs to be vocal or by example, we are starting to respond to each other real well.

Q. Do you consider this to be your team now?

Tommy Rees: As selfish as it sounds, I guess considering it a one person team, as a quarterback, you want to be the leader and you want to be the guy other players can go to, but this is still a team came, and not to call it one person’s team, but I definitely try to take a strong leadership role.

Q. Coach Kelly was talking about changing the culture defensively when he got here. How has that changed, and what are the differences in how he approaches defense than in the past?

Harrison Smith: I mean, like speaking about the culture, I would say there’s certain points that starting with Coach Diaco and each other member of the staff does the same thing, just drives home every day. Certain things that a lot of we talk get talked about in the off season or once every now and again, that are discussed single day in our meetings and on the field before practice, during games. It’s just a constant kind of a constant action of what’s expected instead of just like every once now and again.

Q. What are those points?

Harrison Smith: They are just a bunch of different points that the staff came up with that create winning, and that’s about it.

Q. So in your mind why have you been doing well against the run?

Harrison Smith: Everybody doing their job. I mean, I’ve played up front, so I kind of know how you dig dash and how you stop the run. And when you have a defense like ours where everybody is expected to fit in a certain spot and stay in that spot, it is hard to do that. I mean, it sounds easy, but when you’re out there and the ball carrier is running inside of you and you see him, you want to jump in there. But you have to stay outside, because the guy behind you is counting on you staying outside. So it’s little things like that, like trusting your teammates and then just being aggressive and tackling well as a full team are things that just come with playing with each other and counting on one another.

Q. The run last year from, a couple of changes. Is it just mainly everyone kind of knowing what they are doing more?

Harrison Smith: Yeah, I think that definitely has a part in it. And then ultimately, it’s just trusting everyone around you and trusting your role in defense.

Q. Harrison talked to you about confidence and how important it is, how have you kind of helped Gary (Gray) a little bit over the last few weeks after the Michigan game and putting things back together again?

Harrison Smith: Gary is one of those guys that you really don’t he doesn’t need a lot of outside, like, pushing and prodding to get the job done. He just has that within himself, and being an older guy, he’s kind of seen it all, too. He’s been through ups and downs and especially playing defensive back, if you play defensive back for any amount of time, people are going to get on you; the coaches, the fans, whatever. That’s just part of the job. So you either deal with that or you switch positions. Gary is not a guy that’s ever going to stay down on himself. I mean, there’s nobody that cares more about it, and you can just tell by his play.

Q. As a captain, are you tempted to say something to him?

Harrison Smith: No, he’s not I mean, me and him have been through a lot together, on the same side of the ball, same side of the field. You know, me and him are always pretty much paired up together. We depend on one another and count on one another, and you know, we don’t do a whole lot of like rah rah speeches. We just both know that we can count on one another and that each one of us is going to get the job done. And if something goes wrong, we are not we are not going to get on each other and say, oh, you’re messing up for me or this and that, pointing fingers. You know, we are going to say: We let that one go, but we are going to get it back at some point.

Q. Switching gears, their passing game is really efficient, and teams are playing for the run majority of the time but what do you see from them on tape? What do they do well beside setting up the expectation of the run?

Harrison Smith: I think it all starts with their quarterback. He’s a great athlete. He really runs the option well, and on top of that, he can throw the ball well, which you don’t see when you face a team that runs predominately the option type offense. So when you have that, that’s just an added weapon. I think that shows their coaches do a really good job of putting him in situations where he can exploit defenses for coming up on the run and having their eyes down. It’s kind of a combination of their coaches using what they have very well and then the players doing a good job of executing.

Q. How would you describe your responsibilities this weekend against a team that you’ve never faced anything quite like this offense?

Harrison Smith: It’s going to be hard. That’s the No. 1 word I can think of is hard. I mean, to me, I like that. I think it’s going to be fun. And it’s going to be it’s going to have to be a lot of concentration for the whole defense, a lot of discipline. And then at the same time, we have to be who we have been up to this point, not forgetting who we are even, if we face a different type of offense. It will be fun, but at the same time, it’s going to be a very hard challenge.

Q. Is there any way to avoid confusion and second guessing yourself when they come at you in so many different ways, not just running and passing game?

Harrison Smith: To me it just depends on how well you prepare for the game, and then once the game comes around, are you actually going to do that, or are you going to panic because it’s game time. I think that’s probably something that other teams might have had a problem with; just because you can practice against it all you want, but when the game comes around, it’s a lot faster than you think it is. We know from experience, so that’s something that I’ve been trying to tell the younger guys that every practice this week, we have got to treat it like a game.

Q. How have you seen from Manti Te’o this year compared to last year?

Harrison Smith: I think it starts with his understanding of the game and how much film he watches and how much he anticipates what offenses are going to do now. There was some of that last year, but I think he’s gotten even a better feel for it and putting in more time. I mean, he’s always had the instincts and the physical ability at linebacker. That’s never anything he’s been lacking. So I think his extra time off the field watching the game and studying the game has really shown up.

Q. Harder on film

Harrison Smith: Definitely. I would say a lot of the guys are like that, where if you make a mistake, you know the coaches are going to get on you. But that’s secondary, because you already know you’ve messed up, and you’re already more mad at yourself than they could possibly be.

Q. Inaudible.

Harrison Smith: It just shows what type of drive it takes to be successful at this level of football. I think sometimes that gets lost when kids come in here, you’re highly recruited, you’re the man, whatever, and you think you’ve made it. But really, there’s a whole you never make it. You have to keep going and you have to keep pushing yourself to get better than anything that’s been.

Q. Can you talk about the lead you had against Purdue, and then you never give it up, and that hasn’t necessarily happened this year; how important was that?

Harrison Smith: It was good to start out fast and finish it through the game. But there was still a lot of mistakes out there, which people say after every game, but there really was. There was a lot to get corrected. But at the same time we did do a good job of jumping on them and staying on them early, which I don’t think we have done a whole lot.

Q. So is that not lacking confidence, but is that an extra element that helps in the growth of this team as a whole?

Harrison Smith: I think it is. Any time you can get up on a team to where you can get some of the guys who don’t play as much playing time is something that’s going to help build the program and give more guys experience.

Q. Air Force said yesterday that a game like on the other side can you appreciate what the Air Force kids are doing?

Harrison Smith: Yeah, starting with Air Force, any other academy that we play, you know, we have a ton of respect for those guys. Even just their we know how hard it is with our weekly schedule, and then we try to think about what those guys go through; I can’t even imagine how much more they have on their plate than we do. So even for them just to get through the week, is amazing to me, and then you know, as far as playing in front of such an audience at Notre Dame, I think it really does prepare you for the future. Because you definitely deal with pressure you’re probably not going to face from many other places and it kind of helps you find out who you are, how much you can count on yourself, and kind of find out your strengths and weaknesses.

Q. When you think about their offense, is it a trick offense or inaudible the pass?

Harrison Smith: I wouldn’t call it a trick offense. There’s misdirection, and they do a lot of things. They have a lot of formations. So I think it’s a very intelligent offense. I wouldn’t call it a trick offense, but they have a job on every play and they do a great job executing it.

Q. You struggled against Navy obviously last year in that loss; what did you guys learn from that, and can you take anything from that game, just because Air Force is a different offense than Navy?

Harrison Smith: I don’t really want to take anything from that game into this game. We are playing Air Force this week and we have been studying them and know how we want to defend them, and now it’s just up to the players to get the job done.

Q. Is it two totally different offenses? You can’t say: We did this wrong against Navy and we have to do this against Air Force, is it because it’s two different offenses?

Harrison Smith: There’s definitely some similarities to things they do, but Air Force has a lot more formations and kind of do more things, I would say, so there’s even more to prepare for.

Q. What did you guys what was the problem against Navy? What have you corrected since then?

Harrison Smith: Nothing really. We just kind of I mean, that was one game and it’s over and then we moved on to the next one.