Sept. 29, 2010
An interview with:
Q. Kyle, what can you tell us about not being quite 100% coming in for Saturday?
Kyle Rudolph: As far as me and my percentage (no microphone). Playing at Michigan State and coming right back, and at practice all week and then (no microphone). Staying on the sidelines when it’s a little chilly takes a toll on a hamstring. But I feel very comfortable. And the thing that’s we’ve done leading up until now and today and still got a couple more days to get better every day. (No microphone) I’m getting very comfortable (no microphone).
Q. Dayne, whoever starts for B.C. this week at quarterback will be making his first start. Just wondered what are some of the things that that guy will have to go through in what will be his first home start? How would you relate it to your experience in your first home start?
Dayne Crist: It will definitely be a situation where he’ll have to have a great week of practice. Definitely have a different sense of urgency in practice. Definitely try and protect the ball and he’s protecting the ball at all cost and taking what the defense gives you. Obviously, there are a lot of emotions going into that type of situation. I’m sure their coaches are talking them through it just like ours are kind of walking me through mine.
Q. Do you feel like it’s information overload? I mean, you’re trying to protect the football and trying to do all the right things and trying to understand everything that’s running. Does it just get to the point where it’s like how in the world can I keep everything straight and keep my head about me?
Dayne Crist: I think it’s different for every person. It was unique to me, and it will be unique to whoever they decide to start. But it’s one of those situations where you just have to keep an even keel and just do your best to make sure that you’re making plays. You can’t go out there and play scared, because when you start doing that is when you start making mistakes and doing things that you don’t want to do. More than anything, you want to go out there and just play with the confidence and play with a swagger, and do what you do all week in practice.
Q. What was your experience last week like with them dropping eight in the coverage? It must have been difficult looking at the coverage and not seeing what you want or what you feel you could work against?
Dayne Crist: Yeah, I mean, it’s frustrating. Any time that you’re doing that. Just by nature of the scheme and by nature of the situation in the game with that happening to the point where you need to make up some points and it’s frustrating as a quarterback. Now that we’ve worked this week and even the couple day that’s we’ve spent looking at that we’ve got answers for it. We’ve got more answers than we did on Saturday, and it’s something that we’ll continue to improve upon and get better at.
Q. I asked Coach Kelly this, and he concurred that that’s probably the most valuable tape that you could ever look at, at least up to this point in your career.
Dayne Crist: I would agree. Because at the end of the day, teams can do so much with coverage and everything else like that. But at the end of the day that is really one of the more exotic looks you’re going to get with the quarterback, with the exception of a few other things. Teams aren’t going in playing predominantly drop 8, most teams would be crazy to do that. It’s one of those things that I said we’ll continue to have answers for when teams go to it in the middle of the game or go to it in the middle of a play that it’s not shaking everybody up, and we can continue to move the ball and be efficient on offense.
Q. How prepared were you for that based upon what you had practiced against? That isn’t something you normally practice against, I take it.
Dayne Crist: Right, and like I said, teams don’t live in that world, really. You’re not getting a great majority of those snaps unless, like I said, the situation calls for it within the game and within the score and everything like that. So if a team wants to go out and start the game and drop 8, we’re going to run for 300 yards. It’s one of those things where it’s more a situational thing and something I think I was able to mature with a little bit and understanding that situation. Now coming back after talking with Coach Kelly and watching tape with him and doing what we need to do to correct our problems that we had with it, now it will be one of the situations where like I said we’ve got answers.
Q. For both of you, starting with you, Kyle, you guys have played number nine, all of your three last opponents are ranked Stanford 9th, and Michigan 19th, and Michigan State 24th. Most guys say they like playing that schedule, but is there any degree of envy when you see some of the other teams opening two of the first three games against Division I AA or some lesser teams in the conference?
Kyle Rudolph: Not really. That’s why we come here. We come here to play the best teams in the country. You know, three or four weeks before conference play, and you play 1AA teams and MAC teams and stuff like that that some of these other schools are playing against. With us, we’re going to play the best week in and week out. And we’re going to get the best from the people that we play week in and week out simply because we’re Notre Dame. And that is something that is the reason we came here, and what we look forward to our schedule.
Dayne Crist: A lot of people look at that and are skeptical especially with the timing and the things on the schedule and that. As a team, we try to use that to our advantage. That’s got to be something that we look to just thrive in in those type of games and situations. We need to use that to our advantage to make sure that we’re having a successful season the rest of the way, and we’re getting up for every game we play. Like Kyle said, no matter what the team’s ranked, regardless of the situation, we’re going to get a team’s best every week. And that’s how it’s been since we’ve been here, and guys are well aware of that. So that’s something that we need to exploit and make sure we take into account every game.
Q. Do you think that when you open with teams from the major conferences, that it accelerates your progress?
Dayne Crist: Yeah, I think so because you don’t get great progress playing against lesser opponents. You get better when you’re playing at your best against the best. That’s how it seems to be, and that’s what it will continue to be. Like I said, more than anything, we just need to use the whole scheduling deal to our advantage and make the most of it.
Q. Talking to Coach Molnar yesterday he said there were some opportunities for you to run instead of hanging in the pocket but it was against your natural instinct. How do you break that and look to take advantage of those opportunities?
Dayne Crist: That’s something that you incorporate in practice. Again, there is a lot more that goes into it. There is so much on your mind on any given play and within a play it’s not like there was any point where I was fighting against it. It’s just I needed to do a better job of identifying when it presents itself and things like that. But I think that will come with experience and through game plan and everything like that.
Q. Sunday, Coach Kelly said that he didn’t think that you looked very comfortable running the ball against Michigan State. Did you feel uncomfortable at all against Michigan State?
Dayne Crist: No, I didn’t have a whole lot of runs dialed up in that game. So, no, I wasn’t uncomfortable. Again, I’ll do what I’m asked to do. It’s one of those situations where, again, I have no problem doing whatever is asked of me.
Q. Kyle, being on the line, this is more for you. But it’s something that Dayne commented on. Guys are going to drop so many guys back in coverage, and then you’re going to run for 300 yards. But last week you guys ran for 44 against that. What was the problem in running the ball last week?
Kyle Rudolph: I feel like when Dayne was talking about running for 300 yards and he mentioned a team coming out and dropping eight at the beginning of the game. Last week we put ourselves in a situation where we were playing catch up and running the ball wasn’t really an option for us. We needed to score points, and we needed to score quick to get back in the game. For me, personally, I feel like our running game is the best it’s been since I’ve been here. I feel like we have great running backs and we have great guys up front that are able to make holds. Like Dayne said before, if we convert on the red zone on our first two trips and it’s 14 3 or 14 7, then they can’t drop eight and they have to respect our run game because we’ve showed it in the three weeks prior to that we can run the football.
Q. I know you guys aren’t trainers, but Armando (Allen) and Jonas (Gray) were nicked up in the game the other day. Have they looked okay in practice so far?
Kyle Rudolph: Yeah, I think that’s part of being a running back. They’re the ones taking the majority of the hits. And you’re going to get nicks here and there. That is something that those guys deal with on a weekly basis.
Q. Lastly for you, Kyle. You had one catch for one yard, which is mind boggling for somebody of your stature and ability. You’re regarded as one of the best tight ends in the country. What was the problem last week?
Dayne Crist: Like we said before, they were able to drop eight guys. When you can have eight guys covering, at the most, five wide receivers, it creates a lot of problems for us down the field. And they had a great scheme and they executed it very well.
Q. John Goodman became more involved in the offense. And Coach said last week in practice things started to click more and he was able to finish more. What changes have you seen in John?
Dayne Crist: Not so much any changes in particular. He’s just making steady improvement. He’s a guy that you can count on as a quarterback. He’s very reliable. He gets the proper depth on all of his routes. He knows what he’s doing. So there was no drastic change or light bulb that clicked. He’s just making steady improvement. I’m not surprised by it, but I’m happy he’s out there and contributing, and we’ll just continue to expect more out of him. But I think that’s what he wants as well, so it’s a good situation for him.
Q. Kyle, how far off 100% were you last week? Was it a play or something that just flared up in practice?
Kyle Rudolph: Kind of a little bit on my one catch. Just trying to break the tackle, I pulled my leg through. It was just something I couldn’t get going. Whether it was reaggravating it, the weather, we did everything we could from a medicine standpoint with the trainers to get it warmed up and get it loosened up. And it was something that just nagged for the whole day.
Q. How off 100% were you, do you think?
Kyle Rudolph: I don’t know. I don’t have a percentage. I wasn’t myself, I’ll tell you that.
Q. Dayne, B.C. has made a living defensively. Talk about their scheme and the looks they gave you and how important it is to be patient and just take the short stuff when it’s there again?
Dayne Crist: B.C.’s defense is a very disciplined defense similar in discipline to how Stanford played. They have smart guys on defense, and they’re all very aware of where the holes are in the defense and what the strengths and weaknesses of their defense are. If they’re going to go, we don’t know what they’re going to play against us, because we present a little bit different match up problem than some of the teams they’ve played. So it’s very important to take what they give you in this game. If they’re going to play a lot of coverage and play often, we have to live underneath the coverage. If they want to come up and be a little more aggressive in their coverage, we have to exploit those areas, too. But it will be a you check, we check type deal throughout the course of the game. Again, with how games go and as I’m learning more and more each week, there are so many adjustments made throughout the course of the game. That really if you’re going with the game plan, you practice it all week, it could be nothing like what you see in the game or dead on. So we could go either way on this one. But we just have to be prepared for everything and be patient as an offense in general and just go and play our game and play aggressively.
Q. In regards to you run the ball a little bit more, Coach Kelly said there’s going to come a time we’re not going to protect Dayne from hits. We’ve got to put him out there and run. In the last few weeks has there been a mandate to, hey, let’s make sure running is the third or fourth option, not the first or second?
Dayne Crist: It was never a conversation that we had. But, I did notice that some of the play calls in which I’d be asked to run went down substantially in the past couple games. Again, I understand if that’s the reasoning for it. But we’ve never had that conversation, and I’m 100% comfortable doing whatever I’m asked to do in the run game or in the pass game for that matter. So if it presents a situation where I need to pull the ball down and run on a box play, I have no problem doing that either. Just, again, the situation really hasn’t presented itself a whole bunch in the last couple games.
Q. Lastly, watching the tape of Stanford, when you pop that in, do you see receivers running open that you didn’t see at the time? How valuable is that, and how frustrating is that?
Dayne Crist: Well, every game you’re going to look back and there are always two to three throws that you say, man, I wish I had that one back. And that’s just how it is every game since I’ve played, and even in high school it was the same way. But it’s frustrating watching some film and then particular plays where on the flip side you’re watching it and it’s like wow, there is literally no one open. Or, okay, man, I see that guy now. But that is a valuable tape that we’ll continue to study. But that will actually be more so or more valuable in the off season because right now we’ve got to focus on B.C. and what they do. In years past, they’ve dropped in on us too. So we know they have it in their arsenal. But, again, we’ve got to focus what they do for the most part and what they major in as opposed to certain situations in the game that could arise.
Q. Just in game situation last week when a defense is throwing, you use the term exotic or something a little bit different. When you get into a flow, do you almost kind of stop trusting what you’re seeing? You’re not completely sure what’s happening down field? Do you just get a little uncertain?
Dayne Crist: Well, it’s something they do because it’s going to surprise you a little bit. But the key there is just the communication that I have with Coach Kelly, and Coach Kelly has with Coach Molnar, and I have with Coach Molnar because we’re all seeing it from three different angles. So it’s important to have that communication with the coaches and the receivers. As we’re coming off the field, what are you seeing, what am I seeing? Making sure everyone’s on the same page. The quicker that gets identified and the better we get at that, the less effective that stuff becomes.
Q. Just a follow up, talking about reviewing the tape of last game. Coach Kelly said it was a great learning experience beyond the completions and incompletions, but also in terms of learning leadership and body language. When you watched the tape, what did you see of your body language? And did you talk to him about that?
Dayne Crist: Yeah, we’ve had that conversation. From what I gathered from the conversation we just talked about being able to wear stuff on my sleeve a little bit more. Not so much like, oh, that was bad body language, but I do a pretty I like to say I do a pretty good job of keeping an even keel throughout the course of the game and not getting too high with the highs and too low with the lows. He explained to me there are certain times when you’ve got to wear stuff on your sleeve a little bit more. And it’s okay to respond negatively and be upset about certain things. So that is something that I’ll definitely try to incorporate as well. You know, it’s one of those things where he said 99% of the game we want you to be cool and calm like you’ve been doing. And there are certain times when you can go out and wear it on your sleeve a little bit more. So that will come. I’m not real worried about that. And then, again, with the leadership thing we just talked that it’s really easy to lead when things are going well and you’re winning and the offense is clicking. But making sure that you’re continuing to be a leader when things aren’t going so well. But we talked about it. There was no negativity going into the conversation. We just talked and that’s what we do, and we’ll move forward from it.
Q. (No microphone)?
Dayne Crist: No, not necessarily that. But if things aren’t going well, showing guys that I’m upset and letting guys see that I’m upset. Again, it just goes back to leading by example and showing guy that’s it’s not okay. Not necessarily saying it, but showing it through body language.
Q. I don’t know if you were in the room when Harrison was kind of expounding on the whole winning losing, feeling like life and death thing before. But he said it sort of feels like you guys are dying with every loss. That is not necessarily something that’s been at least vocalized here over the past few years. Is that a new feeling that’s kind of settled in, amplified from where it was in years past in terms of how you take losses and go from there?
Kyle Rudolph: For me, personally, I hate losing. I’ve hated losing since I started playing sports. I was the kind of kid that wouldn’t talk to my parents after I lost when I was a little kid. It’s just the way I am. It’s the way I’ve been raised. That’s continued on to here. I feel like that’s something that kind of has resonated throughout our team. Losing is not okay by any means. When you are in the locker room after a loss, you can really see on people’s faces. Just looking around, the disappointment and the distress that they have, because you put so much time and effort into this and it’s something that we’ve been working towards all off season and then through fall camp and each week. We’ve put so much time and effort in together to go out there and play the best we can and win. And when you come up on the short end, it doesn’t feel very good.
Dayne Crist: I’ll never question anyone that’s ever played here or guys that have played here before. But all I know is I can speak for the guys now and just know how much it means to the people in the locker room. Like Kyle was saying, you can see it on guys’ faces. You can see the hurt that lingers after a game, and all the guys are like that, really. But by the same token, guys are also we realize that we’re right there. You know, it’s one of those things where guys aren’t coming back to practice on Tuesday still drooping over a loss. Guys are coming back battling on a Tuesday. We had a great day of practice yesterday. As soon as you’re done with a loss, the first thing you want to do is go play. As soon as the clock hits zero, it’s when do I get to play next? It’s the first thing you want to do is get it out of you and go get a win. I think that’s how guys are responding. I’m definitely proud of how guys are responding, but we need to make sure that we understand what that feels like, and we don’t want to feel like that anymore.
Q. Could you testify for the seniors? Just they’ve gone through so much, and a guy like Jimmy and Golden, they move on and they’re having great times. But the guys that have stayed the course, and even some of the guys that aren’t playing so much, but just their leadership and what they’ve shown to you guys as underclassmen?
Dayne Crist: Well, as seniors you’re always going to see a great sense of urgency from those guys. They realize their time is limited here. Again, it comes down to just how much it means to everybody. Like I said a whole bunch before, everyone cares greatly for what they’re doing. Guys come to work every day and just really just go as hard as they can. They’re able to lead because they’ve got the experience of being here and understanding sometimes where things didn’t go so well, and they understand the pain of losing and they don’t want to feel that. That’s kind of where it resonates throughout the rest of the team, and that’s kind of where we’re at right now.
Q. Manti (Te’o), Coach Kelly and Coach Diaco both essentially said, like it or not, you’re going to have to be the guy that sets the tone and brings the rest of the defense along with you. How do you assume that responsibility? Does anything change in how you approach things then?
Manti Te’o: No, not really. Just keep going out there, working hard, help motivate my teammates. It’s great to have the teammates I have, like the man sitting to my right. I’m not the only guy out there doing well. Like I said in the interviews after last week’s game, it takes ten other guys on the field to help me put up the numbers that I did, and so it’s a team effort. But I understand that everybody has a role, and whatever my role is if it’s that kind of role, then whatever it takes to win.
Q. I know you talked a little bit about it after the game, but what clicked with you that you brought that ‘will’ everyone’s talking about, and how do you think you can possibly translate that to everybody else?
Manti Te’o: I don’t think I did anything different. I just made the corrections to the mistakes I did in the past games. And throughout practice we all just worked hard to make sure that when Stanford came along, we were ready. And through film study and all that preparation, I was able to do that.
Q. Harrison, sort of along those lines, you’ve been here a while. Can other guys follow another guy’s lead? As much as everyone wants to say Manti can bring somebody else along, you can’t just decide to be a better football player. Just the intangibles, the approach, and that sort of thing?
Harrison Smith: I actually think you can just decide to be a better football player. I think for a lot of the guys it’s mostly mental with everybody who plays football. There is a point where you say I am going to be a better football player, and I think when that happens is when you start paying closer attention to all of the details and when you become a better football player.
Q. For both of you, you’re obviously going to be facing a first time starter this week or very inexperienced quarterback. What are the things you look for when you’re lining up against a guy that doesn’t have the experience in a major college competition?
Manti Te’o: I think we take it personally for the defense. We treat any quarterback the same. We approach any quarterback the same. But, of course, whether it’s a quarterback, an O lineman, a linebacker, your first appearance in a college football game is going to be very different than the last time you stepped on the field which would have been in high school. So that quarterback will probably be a little shocked, a little anxious and of course excited. So we’d try and take advantage of that too.
Q. Harrison, what are some of the common mistakes that a young quarterback might make?
Harrison Smith: I think sometimes just, like Manti said, being anxious and a little overexcited. Maybe thinking that you can make a play doing this where you probably could have in high school, but in college everybody else is faster and reads things quicker. Might not be able to make that play. But, at the same time, I think they’ll still run their offense no matter who is in the quarterback position. It’s really watching what they’ve done up to this point is what we need to focus on.
Q. So you guys would expect, obviously they always emphasize the running game, but maybe a little bit more under these circumstances?
Manti Te’o: I mean, Boston College is a running team, and we don’t expect them to change that part just because they’re switching the quarterback position. So we’re very aware of what they do and just working to stop what they do.
Q. Do you disguise things a little bit more from a young quarterback?
Manti Te’o: No, I think the main goal for the defense is to execute whether you disguise the defense or whatever. You just have to execute that play.
Q. This week Stanford’s ranked ninth, Michigan’s ranked 19th, Michigan State’s ranked 24th, so three of your four opponents are ranked. You see these other schools across the country, with Boston College for example, you see Weber State and you see that throughout. Would you rather have it this way or are you envious of some of these teams that can rack up wins early in the season?
Harrison Smith: I think we would rather have it this way. Obviously, we’d rather have more wins than we have right now. But when you play big time teams week to week, that is how you become better and better, and that’s how you stay sharp. So, I mean, there is no question that we like the schedule that we play.
Manti Te’o: Definitely. We wouldn’t have wanted our schedule to be formed any other way. Definitely how Harrison said, we’d like a better outcome from those games. But for the teams and the competition that there was in our first games, and we’re looking forward to the next one.
Q. Do you think playing that level of competition that you have, three Big Ten schools and a Pac 10 school that it actually does accelerate the progress on your side of the ball?
Manti Te’o: Definitely thankful when you play a good team, and you see the competition out there you see where you need to be of course, to be ranked in the top 25, you’d want to be among them. So you see what you have to do and the corrections you have to make in order to be part of an elite team. So it’s a good experience for our team to go against those Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue, and Stanford. So we see where we have to be, where we have to go, and the work we have to put into it.
Q. And you?
Harrison Smith: He pretty much said it all. There is no other way to play the game than against other teams that they’re a little better than you or you’re around the same. Because that’s how you keep getting better and better.
Q. So what do you guys say to each other when you’re sitting around and you see scores flashing up against Alabama playing whoever? You don’t have thoughts on that?
Manti Te’o: Like?
Q. Like a highly ranked team playing a Division I AA team, and these scores pop up and they win 69 10. Nobody makes a snide remark then?
Manti Te’o: No. If you’re a ranked team, I think it’s kind of expected.
Q. Manti, talk about Coach Diaco. He said as well as you played on Saturday, it’s still about cleaning up mistakes and not losing plays. Are there a couple plays you could point to where you did make mistakes but still had 21 tackles?
Manti Te’o: Yeah, nobody plays a perfect game. There are a lot of opportunities or a lot of times where I got stuck up on blocks. You know, Stanford had a great O line. Got up on blocks. Lucky for my team, you know, they made those plays. I think that’s where the whole mentality of a team comes in. You won’t make every play, but you trust that your teammates will still be there to make that play. Yeah, I got held up on blocks. On that one interception I had that clip, and then I had a face mask, too. On that face mask I was going down, and I felt the guy’s face mask, and I didn’t know if the ref saw it, so I immediately looked at him. I shouldn’t have looked at him, because right when I looked at him, he looked at me and he pulled his flag. I was like, dang it, you got me. So I know now not to look at the ref when I accidentally grab a face mask.
Q. Do people sort of, I guess, overlook the play of the defensive line in a situation like that where you’re able to run around free and make these stops because of Ethan and Kapron?
Manti Te’o: Definitely. When it comes to a linebacker, you’re only as good as your D line. A quarterback is only as good as his O line. It’s the same thing. If you don’t have a great group of D linemen that are strong, that’s quick, that can occupy a lot of offensive linemen and still make plays, you won’t make any plays yourself. So thanks to them, Ian, all of them, Ethan, you know, Kap, Sean Cwynar, Hafis, they did a great job.
Q. Harrison, I’m curious, as a defensive back what kind of pressure an offense puts on to you when you have to worry about the threat of the quarterback running? I don’t mean like Denard. I mean just like a quarterback that can scramble a little bit? How much pressure does that put on you?
Harrison Smith: Obviously still we’re pass first when it’s a pass play. So probably the hardest thing and the thing we’ve had to work on most in the off season is when a quarterback has the ability to run and he breaks the pocket and it looks like he’s going to run, not to come up and play the run. We need to stay deep and we need to cover all the men that are down field. Because a guy like Luck will stop and just throw it up. So that’s something we did well in the game. When he started moving around, we all stayed in coverage. But it’s definitely against your natural instincts to back up when the quarterback looks like he’s going to run. Because everybody just wants to run downhill and hit the quarterback. That’s one of the hardest things to do.
Q. The quarterback draw, is that particularly hard to defend?
Harrison Smith: The quarterback draw is usually not something that defensive backs kind of are responsible for so when we read pass, we play pass. And that’s what we rely on Manti and the front seven guys to take care of. When the quarterback draw comes, they recognize it, and see how the linemen move a little different, and how the quarterback might hold the ball a little different or something like that. So we count on then to make that play.
Q. Is it difficult to defend, and what does that do to you as a defender when you have to respect that?
Manti Te’o: I mean, it’s different for different teams. Certain teams won’t run the quarterback draw for the simple fact that it’s their quarterback. But those teams that do run quarterback draw, it’s harder. But you kind of expect it the whole game. You have in the back of your mind watch the quarterback draw, because any time the quarterback came around and pass. Like Harrison said, everybody has their job. Harrison was right. So they rely on us, the front seven to read those things. They want us to rely on them to read those things.
Q. Harrison, talk about your senior class and just what you guys have gone through, and maybe how close you are. Even during recruiting, a few guys backed out and you guy his to stick together through a lot of it?
Harrison Smith: Yeah, starting out recruiting, we had some guys commit and decommit. And when we came in, we were all close. We already all knew each other. We met each other at the spring game and kind of got to know each other well. You know, things haven’t gone exactly the way we’ve wanted them to since we came in. We haven’t had as many wins as we wanted. We had a coaching change. But at the same time, we’ve all learned a lot and we’ve all grown a lot from when we came in. Now I think we are working towards where we’ve always wanted to get as far as football, even though we’re not there yet, we are definitely making strides in that area. You know, I mean, it’s hard to say that where we are now is where we want to be, but we’re definitely working towards where it needs to go and where we wanted to take Notre Dame. So, in that regard, things are going in the right direction.
Q. Are you proud of the guys, a guy like Robert (Hughes) that gets bumped up to number two in the depth chart this week? Are you proud of somebody like him who stays the course? And here he gets an opportunity this week, and you’ve seen firsthand just how hard he works, and now he gets another opportunity.
Harrison Smith: Yeah, that’s hard. He played as a freshman. I think he had over 100 yards against Stanford when he was a freshman. And not playing a little bit, and now getting bumped back just shows the resilience that he has, and that hard work that he puts into the game. So that’s something that’s definitely something.
Q. Do you gain maturity and leadership through some of the other guys that are getting playing time? Just that experience, I mean, being here four years, you do so much.
Harrison Smith: Yeah, definitely. Because when you all come in, you’re all the man at your high school and you think you’re the best. And it kind of goes through your different phases and you grow up and become the team player that you need to become and you buy into what the coaches are teaching you and you show up on time and you do your work. Everybody has bought into that. So that is something that you don’t see a lot, so that’s just kind of a testament to just kind of the will of all the guys on this team.
Q. You haven’t started the way you want to, but with the teams you’ve played now, can you see the future and say, hey, we’ve got a great opportunity here the rest of the season?
Harrison Smith: Yeah, we’ve gone through stages like this before, but it feels different this time. I know 1-3 is not where you want to be. No matter how you put it, that’s where we are. But just kind of the mentality of all these guys and just wait we’re dealing with it now is different than it has been. Where everybody’s excited and ready to come out to practice, because we have to win. We want to win. That is the only reason we’re here. It’s kind of like life or death when it comes to winning, and that’s just how it has to be.
Q. About the anatomy of a run defense, are you guys going to be challenged this week by containing their run? Why do things work, and why has there been some struggles statistically this season? What is the break down of the run defense itself?
Manti Te’o: Well, whenever it comes to run defense it’s important that everybody does their job. Nobody tries to overcompensate for anything, because when you do that, the gap that you’re supposed to be in then opens. And a great running back like the running back that Boston College has will see that and find those holes that you leave. The time we were successful in stopping the run, everybody did their job. Everybody was in their gap and everybody was running. And the times that we didn’t, whether it be somebody who would try to overcompensate for somebody else or somebody fell or somebody wasn’t running. You know, those are the times where offenses were successful in the running game against our defense.
Harrison Smith: Yeah, I think we’ve made progress. I think the one thing that’s been hurting us the most is stopping it, stopping it, stopping it, and then giving up a long play. And in the past week that’s something that we got corrected. But we really didn’t do well on third down. So it’s really, if we were doing well on third down but giving up those plays and then we kind of switched it. So you’ve got to bring it all together. You can’t forget about what you’ve done well to improve on something else. You have to hold what you have and improve on that. So really just bringing everything together is what we need.
Q. What is the frustration factor when you say, okay, we’ve got this solved, then this happens? It’s like you plug one hole in the dike and another hole starts.
Harrison Smith: I think it’s something where you see your weaknesses and you want to work on them. You just have to stay focused on what you have been able to do well and make sure you retain that. That is something that’s hard to do, but at the same time, that is the only way to be great. So that’s what we have to do.
Q. Harrison, I want to take you back to that life or death statement. That’s not something that I think you’ve heard much around here the past few years, and I think that’s a mentality a lot of people would like to see Notre Dame take. Is that a new feeling? Is that something that’s kind of dawned on you guys this year? That approach, that attitude, that sort of urgency?
Harrison Smith: I don’t want to say it’s new. I think some guys have always had that. But that’s what it’s like to compete because losing feels like the worst thing in the world, and you don’t want to do anything after a loss. You just want to play the next game as soon as possible to move on. So I think I don’t want to say it’s new, but maybe there’s just a lot more of it right now. After some of the losses that we’ve had, you can see it in everyone’s face not that we’re actually dying, but that’s what it’s like. So the next week instead of giving up and backing off and just taking it easy, everyone has ramped it up. It’s gotten more intense every week because we’re sick of it and we have to start winning.
Q. You guys do what you’re supposed to do when you meet with the press. You’re very calm and collected and rational, and Brian Kelly’s the same way. Behind closed doors is there a fire, especially from some of the older guys? You guys have lost 25 of the last 42 games. Behind closed doors is there an anger and fire that the fans would have an appreciation of that you guys are as frustrated as much as they are?
Manti Te’o: I don’t think anybody’s more frustrated about our record and how we’ve done as ourselves. As players, we take it upon ourselves to get out there and really do something different. You know, that’s part of football. But we just behind closed doors we are, and if you were in our locker room especially this past week, we talked (no microphone), and it does not feel good. It does not feel good at all. We’re pumped when can come back to practice. We’re more than motivated to go out there and come out with a W.
Q. Harrison, you talked about, and it’s a great quote, that you can actually decide to become a better football player. I’m curious in the Stanford game last Saturday was a moment that helped that. You played these guys just five games ago. And it seemed that they were a much improved team than the team you saw out in Palo Alto. Is there some truth to that?
Harrison Smith: There is. They’ve kind of changed their whole persona of what people think of when they think of Stanford, I guess. They’re a hard nosed team. And I think that is their coach came in and said we’re just going to change it. And guys can change. It’s not like he brought in a bunch of new recruits and all new guys. He just said this is how we’re going to be and those guys bought into that and that’s how they are now. I mean, that’s just an example of choosing what you want to be.
Q. Sometimes even us weekend warriors, you get humiliated by someone much stronger or something, and all of a sudden that inspires you to go to the gym. I’m not saying Stanford humiliated you guys, but I’m guessing that is the most physical team you played this season. Does a moment like that say to you I need to get more physical, I need to get stronger, in your view?
Manti Te’o: I think Stanford was definitely the most physical team that we’ve played so far. They had a great O line. A physical O line, a very experienced O line. It was a different team Saturday than it was back in November. After that game, I’m sure is saying we have to get better. We have to get more physical. We have to get faster. We have to get stronger. All of those things. There’s always room for improvement. Especially after Stanford, we all realized, you know, we have to get better.