Dec. 29, 2015
Q. Has it been emotional this week, thinking this being the end of the ride?
Joe Schmidt: That’s a great question. When you’re in this last kind of period of your college career, it’s easy to kind of get caught up in the swirl of thinking about the guys that you played with or the experiences throughout the five years, this is the last time you’ll be able to do this with this team.
You have to kind of subdue that to a certain degree and focus on the job at hand, that’s a great Ohio State football team.
The good news for me is I can’t look back really. I have to look at the game that’s coming, all the challenges that it presents to our defense and to myself.
Yet you’re right, I think after the game it will be an emotional experience. Till that point, I’m not going to let myself even consider that because I want to make sure I’m staying focused on what’s important.
Q. Do you enjoy practice a little bit more?
Joe Schmidt: Yeah. Knowing that they’re limited, I guess kind of gives you a little extra boost. It was crazy, the last practice you’ll ever have. Now you can count them on one hand the amount you have left with this football team.
When you’re exhausted, when you just finished a tough period in practice, it gives you a little extra juice. Obviously so does Ohio State, knowing what they can do on offense, that provides us a little extra juice. I’m looking forward to this weekend.
Q. What makes Elliott so good?
Joe Schmidt: That’s a hard question to answer.
He has unique physical traits. He’s a big, powerful guy. He’s extremely strong. He’s also explosive. He was a high school hurdler. I think he’s flexible enough to do a lot of the things that elite runningbacks only can do. He’s got some really I think signature ways of running the football, things that you don’t see every runningback in the country do.
I really think all those reasons, along with being inside of a system that really fits him, kind of makes him a great player.
Q. (No microphone.)
Joe Schmidt: Obviously putting a running quarterback into any system changes the variables tremendously. You have to account for another guy running the football back there. That’s as basic as I can kind of put it.
He’s so talented at running the football. I don’t think people realize he’s a 6’2″, 225-pound runner back there when he decides to be. Obviously he’s a very capable passer. When he wants to be, he’s another runningback and can do a lot of challenging things.
Q. How would you evaluate the defensive play this season?
Joe Schmidt: I guess maybe I’ll say it in contrast to last season, if that’s all right. I’m not really qualified to say. I can’t speak for the entire defense. I don’t want to. I choose not to. Coach VanGorder can do that.
I’ll say the way which we’ve talked about football this year to last year has been such a huge change, just the amount of mental errors that we have has dropped significantly in the second year inside of VanGorder’s scheme.
That’s guys becoming more mature. We have a more veteran group. We understand football better.
At times we played extremely good football, exceptional football. Really I think in this game we’re trying to be consistent, put together a complete game.
I don’t think any of us want to look back and think, All right, we played great for 70 plays, then we gave up a couple big ones. That’s not what we want to do. We want to make sure we eliminate those big plays and put together a complete effort in this game.
Q. You say you want to be consistent. VanGorder said the best word to describe the play was inconsistent. Is that a fair assessment?
Joe Schmidt: Yeah. Once again, Coach VanGorder is the most qualified person to answer these questions. Company man (laughter).
He hits it on the head. If we can eliminate big plays, I think that makes us such a better defense overall.
I think really if there’s 90 plays in the game on Friday, we want to make sure we play with the same intensity, same attention to detail. That’s what we’re looking to do.
Q. Notre Dame hasn’t won a major bowl game recently. What would it mean to win?
Joe Schmidt: I think that’s an interesting stat. None of the guys that were on the team 20 years ago are on the team now, nor in 2006. The wins in each bowl game, there’s no relationship between the two teams, unless they’re back-to-back areas, in which case there’s carryover.
I think it’s important to us when Notre Dame is on a big stage, for us to kind of represent Notre Dame the right way. I think that’s something we’re doing our best in preparation to make sure we’re ready for. Obviously this Ohio State team is great. They’re the reigning national champions.
Q. What is it going to be like pregame going into your final game?
Joe Schmidt: The senior game kind of prepares you for this, the last game at Notre Dame stadium, your family is there, your mom. That’s the hardest one.
This one is more about you focus on the job at hand. You subdue all the other emotions. You just go out there and play football. You go back to your training. As soon as you’re in that locker room, it’s hard to explain, but you kind of just start to flip the switch. Once you’re out there, you don’t exactly think about it.
Q. Their offensive line against your front seven, how do you see that matchup?
Joe Schmidt: That’s the matchup you cherish, the ones you look forward to. Especially as a linebacker, you really want games like this. You want someone that’s going to come in there, run the football, that prides themselves on being tough and rugged. You go in there, it’s a lot of work for you. That’s kind of fun for us.
We’re doing everything possible in preparation to get ready for that challenge. They also do things to our back end. It’s not just our front seven that are going to be challenged. We’re looking forward to the opportunity that presents.