Oct. 18, 2006

BRIAN HARDIN: Right now we have Tom Zbikowski at the table. We’ll start with questions for Tom.

Q. Coach Weis said he didn’t ask you before the Stanford game if you could play because you probably would have lied to him. Could you have played? Would you have lied to him?

Tom Zbikowski: Definitely probably could have played, but it was a smart decision looking back on it, just making sure, being cautious. Any reinjury would probably set me back much farther.

Feeling good now. Getting ready to get back on the field is always tough. When you get in the rhythm of playing all the time, you have to sit and watch a game. It was good watching Ray be successful and have a solid game, but it’s always tough watching from the sideline.

Q. Did Coach Weis a avoid you that day?

Tom Zbikowski: No, he didn’t. I stayed close to the coach just to try to get as much of what they were seeing on the field so I could pass it on to Ray and Ndu and the rest of the guys in the secondary.

Q. What is Ray Herring like? What kind of ball player is he?

Tom Zbikowski: He’s got a good nose for the ball. I think he’s a solid tackler, hits hard. He’s going to be a good player in the future. He’s been playing solid now when he gets his opportunities. I think he’s a lot like me, pretty much not playing much my freshman year. He’s looking for his chance to play. Once he does get a chance, he’s going to be successful.

Q. Did you see the fight between Miami and Florida International? What were your thoughts when you see something like that?

Tom Zbikowski: It’s tough to say. It’s an emotional game. That just got out of hand. I wasn’t down there. We just got replays from ESPN yesterday, news, stuff like that. It’s hard to say what was really going on. They just had that fight.

There’s not really much room for that in football. You got to understand football is a very emotional sport. Any time you have schools that close, I’m sure probably some bad blood either from maybe high school or just being around town.

Q. Are there many instances where it does get close to being a fight?

Tom Zbikowski: Throughout games, there’s always ?? I mean, it always comes close to where you’re ready to get in a fistfight. You try and stay within the rules of the game.

There’s a lot of times throughout the game you’d love to start a fight, but you got to keep the team in mind.

Q. Following up on the injury. Was there a point where you were worried it might be a long?term thing?

Tom Zbikowski: Not really because just after the game, seeing my progress throughout the week, seeing I was getting close to being ready to play, I didn’t really think it would be too long?term. I think if there were a reinjury, it would probably be a lot longer.

To see my progress, talking with the trainers and doctors on the team, I’ll be ready to play. Just got to be smart and let it heal.

Q. I know you have had some extra time off. Did you have a chance to read Coach Weis’ book?

Tom Zbikowski: No, I didn’t get a chance.

Q. Do you have any plans to?

Tom Zbikowski: I don’t know. Maybe down the road. I got to worry about this game, trying to graduate on time and everything. I’ll wait till later to read it.

Q. What do you see in this defense? What have you seen in practice in the first half that leads you to believe this is a good enough defense to get Notre Dame into a BCS game?

Tom Zbikowski: I think pretty much going against the weapons. There’s some pretty explosive offenses that we played against through the first half of the season, pretty much contained them, except you look at that Michigan, Michigan State game. Looking back, there were a lot of good plays, a lot of speed on the field that people are making plays all the time. Just get this week, get that bye week over. Everyone is healthy, everyone is refreshed, take it from here.

Q. Talk about Ray Herring’s plays against Stanford.

Tom Zbikowski: As I said before, he’s a solid tackler. Watching him since he first got here, that’s one of his strengths. Once you got a nose for the ball, you can use those tackling abilities, you have a feel for where the play is heading.

Q. If Patrick is not able to use his voice so much on Saturday, how will that affect how you can expect for them, what you can do on defense?

Tom Zbikowski: There’s really not that much. You may look if they’re going to go in shotgun just to be able to use a sideline count where he really doesn’t have to use his voice that much in the cadence, but also probably you’re going to have to use a little more hand signals if they’re going to try to audible.

It really isn’t going to change much what we’re trying to do and get ready for.

Q. You’re clear to play Saturday, ready to play, healthy?

Tom Zbikowski: Yeah, ready to go. Been practicing, been hitting people, so I feel good.

Q. Given the fact that you sat out the last couple weeks, are you itching to get back even more than normal after a bye week?

Tom Zbikowski: Yeah, definitely. Like I said before, you get to go home, get refreshed, relax a little bit. But when you have two weeks where you haven’t played, you’re ready to get back on the field. I’ve been practicing that way, getting ready for Saturday.

Q. Is this almost kind of like the start of the season all over for you again?

Tom Zbikowski: Yeah, pretty much. Just been practicing without getting a chance to play.

Q. Six games left, regular?season games left in your career. Do you start to appreciate it more or start thinking there’s only a few more times you get to run down the tunnel?

Tom Zbikowski: You definitely kind of see the light at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes you look back and see what you’ve gone through. But this is a very important game. It’s no time to be looking ahead to the end of the season. We got to make sure we get this win.

Q. What did you do over your break?

Tom Zbikowski: Went home, laid on my couch, didn’t get up.

Q. Watch any football?

Tom Zbikowski: I switched back and forth. I told myself I was just going to watch some movies. I ended up watching some games.

Q. Any chance the Mohawk comes back this week?

Tom Zbikowski: Yeah, I’ll probably trim it up. I’m undecided. I’m not sure yet.

Q. How much do you look at the UCLA wide receiving core as it’s struggled this year? How much does that concern you?

Tom Zbikowski: It’s tough to see whether they’re struggling, or looking at their runningbacks, I know their runningback was averaging seven, eight yards last game. They just fell a little behind. Didn’t get much of a chance to give him the ball. I look at it kind of like Tennessee last year, they had very athletic receivers, but it didn’t seem like their offense was clicking.

You never know when that offense is going to hit stride. Got to be ready. Maybe a new quarterback change is what is going to help boost their offense. You got to be ready for anything.

Q. You mentioned they’re very athletic. How much does it concern you considering you guys have in the past been susceptible to the big play? They might be like this is their week to break out.

Tom Zbikowski: We’ve been playing pretty good receiver last couple weeks. I think we’re going to be ready for this. I know we’ve had some trick plays and some gadget plays that have hit us. I don’t know if they’re going to be looking trying to get their offense rolling with that. We’ve been practicing with that, getting ready for it.

Q. We’re intrigued by the boxing angle here. Could you talk about the difference, the thrill you get from one sport compared to the other, and what you’re thinking about boxing in the future.

Tom Zbikowski: Really I haven’t thought much of my future in boxing just because I’ve been wrapped up and so focused on the season right now.

It is a little different adrenaline because you have to be a little more composed in boxing. It’s a longer fight. It’s pretty much only you and another guy. Just a different type of rush, that it’s basically. You and him in the ring, no one else is around.

There’s nothing like a team atmosphere. When you get a team win, you get to celebrate with other people.

Q. Can you talk about Brady Quinn, what he was like after that Michigan game, if you saw anything different in him that you’d never seen before in his career, how he responded.

Tom Zbikowski: I know he was disappointed just like the rest of our team. But he bounced back pretty well with five touchdowns the next week, so I didn’t think ?? it really didn’t affect him too much.

Q. Can you talk about Patrick, the quarterback at UCLA, he didn’t have as good a game against Oregon as he had against Arizona. What did Oregon do that made them so effective against him?

Tom Zbikowski: They just got some pressure on him. I know just watching tape, there were some pretty big hits on him. I know they roughed him up, tried to make him feel a little uncomfortable in the pocket.

He’s athletic. He’s a competitor because he got up every single time after even getting hit on the throat where he could barely talk. He’s a competitor. He’s going to be ready to go. We got to be prepared for that.

Q. Talk about their running game. Last week they weren’t able to run as much because they got behind early. Do you expect them to come out and start by running the ball?

Tom Zbikowski: I think they’re definitely going to establish the running game. I mentioned that before. He averaged I think seven or eight yards a carry last game against a solid Oregon defense. They just fell behind where they really couldn’t get them the carries that they wanted to. I think they’re going to try and establish a run game just to control the ball and keep our offense off the field.

Q. Last week Coach Weis compared last year’s team to this year’s team. As players, where do you think you are compared with last year? Ahead of schedule, on pace, still something to prove?

Tom Zbikowski: There’s definitely always things to of prove when you got six games left in the year. 5?1 is a better mark than we had last year. Obviously we’re disappointed about that loss.

I think we’re on schedule. We’re taking every game just as important as the next game and the previous game. I think that just kind of shows the maturity of our team.

BRIAN HARDIN: Thanks, Tom.

We’ll start with questions for Brady Quinn at this point.

Q. Charlie talked Monday about the first practice back after a bye. I think he used the term “crummy.” You didn’t show a whole lot of rust yesterday. How did you avoid falling into that trap of maybe backsliding in that first workout?

Brady Quinn: Honestly, I’d say our team was excited to get back out there and play again. It’s been a little bit of time, especially when you take a break from football for three or four days, you’re going to be excited about getting back out on the field, getting ready for a game and opponent.

I don’t know about the other guys. I watched a lot of college football this weekend. It kind of stunk being at home, not being a part of that, seeing different highlights, different things going on. I think definitely that played a part in guys really not allowing themselves to seem rusty and really focusing in, coming out and having a decent practice.

Q. What games did you watch? What did you take away from that? What did you learn about teams in the same mix as you or what?

Brady Quinn: Yeah. I think when you watch, for example, the Florida?Auburn game, it really goes to show how much parity there really is in college football today. You can’t allow yourself to get down for certain games, not bring your best game every time you play an opponent. That obviously gives a chance of you slipping up and having a team that’s supposedly not as good as you coming in and beating you.

Q. With this offense, Darius is leading the way in catches. How much of that is a compliment to his ability as a receiver and how much is that how defenses are playing you now?

Brady Quinn: Yeah, I would say that has a lot to do with how defenses are playing us, really trying to take away some of our threats on the outside.

Again, that says a lot about Darius. I think he’s definitely more than just a runningback. The things that he does for our team are greater than just running the ball for us. I think he’s great when he’s catching the ball in screens or if he’s catching out of the backfield. Sometimes something that is overlooked, his ability to pick up, blitz, and pass protection.

Q. The average yards per catch of Jeff, does that fit into how defenses are playing you?

Brady Quinn: Again, Jeff is no secret any more. I think last year some people may have not noticed him right away or maybe they thought I guess he was maybe underrated at some points in time. This year everyone knows who he is. Everyone is trying to scheme, take away his ability to do something with the ball after he catches it.

Some of that also has to do with the way the offense is playing. We can be more consistent. We can do a lot of different things as an offense to allow him to somewhat flourish once he gets the ball in his hands.

Q. After the Stanford game Charlie was talking about your play. He said taking what the defense gives you, that’s not an easy thing for a quarterback to do. It would seem like that would be very easy to take what the defense gives you and keep doing that. Why is that difficult for a quarterback to do?

Brady Quinn: It can be hard at times because you’re used to having these big games. Especially when you’re throwing the ball 30 some times upwards to almost 40 passes a game, you almost feel as if you should have more yardage or you should be taking bigger chunks out of a defense.

Again, that goes back to how defenses are playing us. They’re almost playing a bend?but?don’t?break mentality, take what’s underneath, don’t allow the big play.

That’s just the style of offense we have to adjust to. As a quarterback, it’s something you have to really kind of mature and gradually understand that this is how you’re going to have to end up scoring. It’s not going to be these one to four, five?play drives, maybe 10 to 15?play drives.

Q. Does that get frustrating when defenses are playing you like that?

Brady Quinn: It’s funny, defenses line up to play that way. I think it almost has the reverse effect. Eventually it wears them down. They’re out there on the field for 10 to 15 plays. It keeps giving us a feeling of success when you keep moving those chains again and again and again. It gives you a sense of confidence in your ability to move the ball on them.

After a while, I think that really wears down on the defense. Defenses can try to play that game, but at the same point in time, when there’s success there, I think it starts to become a problem for them.

Q. How often during a game do you communicate with Coach Vaas when you get on the phone?

Brady Quinn: Pretty much after every drive.

Q. What kind of things are you trying to communicate to him and vice versa?

Brady Quinn: A lot of the conversations revolve around questions he’ll have of what I see on the field, maybe him tipping me off on different things they’re trying to do, making sure I’m seeing the same thing out there on the field.

Again, some of it’s just maybe talking about what’s going to happen on the next drive, trying to get in the right mindset to take on the field the next drive.

Q. Is there a common denominator every time in those conversations? I know Coach Weis was talking about identifying the middle linebacker. Does that come into play with those conversations?

Brady Quinn: It can. Seldom comes into play, but it can at times.

Q. When you sat home Saturday, watched games, as somebody who doesn’t get to do that every weekend, are you amazed ?? did you watch College Game Day? When you’re in it so close, do you get a sense how crazy it is on a Saturday?

Brady Quinn: I didn’t have the opportunity to watch College Game Day. Think I was working out at that point in the morning. After I really just wanted to watch the games, not try to look at all the hoopla around it. It honestly just kind of takes a lot away from the game.

When you have a match?up like Florida?Auburn, whoever you’re watching, Ohio State, Michigan State, something of that nature, I think it’s fun to watch the game for what it is, and not all the different stories on the side, what different critics have to say, what they predict. It doesn’t really matter when it comes down to the actual game itself.

Q. If you were an analyst on the game, how much more do you see, what percentage would you be able to tell us if you were doing it and could be candid about coverages and stuff?

Brady Quinn: What exactly are you asking? Are you asking more or less reading defenses out there?

Q. Yes.

Brady Quinn: I don’t know. Obviously I’m confident in my ability. At the same point in time, they have been around football for a long time so they know what they’re seeing out there. Again, I think it’s a little different from a player’s perspective. You can almost see some of the similarities between offenses and even defenses, what they’re trying to run.

I’m not saying I could do their job, but I think I could definitely help as far as understanding different concepts that defenses are trying to run scheme?wise or even what offenses are trying to do.

Q. Coach Weis after the Stanford game explained why Darius had so many catches said if they can keep playing two Tampa and bring the middle linebacker, we’ll keep throwing underneath. Now that teams have had a chance to see how much Darius can affect them, do you anticipate people still playing that against you that much?

Brady Quinn: Honestly, I think a lot of teams when they look at the different weapons we have on offense, they’re going to have to try to take away certain things. In order to do that, they might have to keep putting themselves in a situation where they force one guy to beat you or a couple guys to beat you. If that’s the direction that defense wants to run, they’re going to have to go with it.

Again, you’re not exactly sure how they’re going to try to come out and play us. Whatever it is, I think we’re going to be prepared for it.

Q. With the BCS standings coming out, I know you always take one game at a time, talk about that. Is there a point in the season like maybe now where you do start to look down the road at what might be out there for this team?

Brady Quinn: No. We’re only halfway through the season. We got six games left. It’s a long ways. So you really ?? so those polls (indiscernible) matter to us at least.

Q. Do you even look at the BCS standings at all?

Brady Quinn: No. I couldn’t tell what you we’re ranked right now, to be honest with you.

Q. You couldn’t?

Brady Quinn: No.

Q. Have you had a chance to read any of Coach Weis’ book?

Brady Quinn: I have not. Someone actually called and told me, You want me to pick this up for you? I said, No, I think I can probably get a copy on my own. I’ll go out and buy one. I haven’t had the opportunity yet to read it.

Q. Will you make a point of reading it?

Brady Quinn: Without a doubt. I mean, it’s something that I think would be pretty ?? I mean, I don’t know. I think it’s important any time your coach writes a book, obviously you want to try to read it and get some insight on different things he’s thinking, the different aspects of his life, how he’s portrayed in the book.

Q. Is this different this week or is it maybe a little tougher to keep the edge that you had because you had the off week with not as many students?

Brady Quinn: As far as the edge goes, I think we’re always going to have that edge. We have a game this Saturday. No one is looking away from that. If anything, I think this week allows us to focus purely on football. We’ve got all day to watch film, work out, prepare ourselves to have a good practice, to practice well, you know, to eat right, really get some rest. If anything, I think this week really allows us to do what maybe other teams do that are on a quarter system and start their school year later on into the season. I think it really allows us to almost kind of get fresh again and come into this game, you know, without any distractions.

Q. Could you see that in practice yesterday? Was the intensity at a different level? Sometimes fresh can be more relaxed.

Brady Quinn: Yeah, I think the thing we’re talking about here is more or less the factor of rust or I guess coming in, having a mediocre practice based on the fact that we haven’t been together for the past three or four days.

There was no evidence of that. I think when you look at us, people were flying around. A lot of people were feeling good physically, I’d imagine.

Q. UCLA’s defense is pretty good. What do they do that makes them so tough this year?

Brady Quinn: I think there’s a lot of different things they do that make them tough. The one thing they all possess is speed. If you go across the board, their entire team from the defensive front to the secondary, you notice they have a lot of speed. They move the ball well. They definitely make plays when there’s an opportunity to do so. They have that ability I think when you do allow them to get the ball in their hands. I think the biggest thing for us is obviously turnovers, not allowing that to sway any momentum in the game.

Q. Can you talk about all the passing records that you have at Notre Dame, that you might have when it’s all said and done, what those mean to you, if you would have ever thought that was something you would have been able to do.

Brady Quinn: Obviously those different records, those accomplishments are nice. Again, we’re in the middle of the season right now. Those sorts of things are something that I think you have to look back on once you’re finished playing, especially when you have six games left, hopefully another big game after that.

Really right now it’s kind of nice to think about, but hopefully we’ll save that thought for after the season.

Q. When people talk about you, I know you have six games left, how do you hope people see you?

Brady Quinn: Hopefully a competitor and a good leader. Those are both things you don’t have to be blessed with physically. That says more about you as a person than anything else, is the way you’re able to go out there and compete and lead a group of guys who maybe at times aren’t feeling too good about themselves or maybe at times are feeling too good about themselves, allowing yourself to kind of manage the game and be the type of leader this team needs.

Hopefully those two things are what people take out of this.

Q. You and a lot of teammates went to Madison Square Garden to watch Tom fight. Could you comment briefly on that experience?

Brady Quinn: It was a fun experience. Anytime you get to go out and see one of your teammates go out and live a childhood dream, I think you’re going to be excited about it. I think a lot of us were feeling as if we could be in that ring with him or at least right next to him fighting in there.

It was just exciting to see him go out there and do his thing, especially being at Madison Square Garden, such a historical arena. I think a lot of the guys that went had fun, almost got to kind of get an idea of what the season was going to be about in terms of how much hype was going to be around this team, all the different things that we were going to face in regards to the media.

Q. The Michigan State game, obviously you don’t want to be behind like that. What did you learn about yourself in that game, maybe about your team, how that might help you if you’re in that situation again?

Brady Quinn: First off, when you look back at that sort of game, it gives you a sense of confidence in being down like that, being able to come back from such a margin. I think if we ever are in that situation again, which we hope we’re not, I think our offense ?? I guess I should say our team should be having a bunch of confidence in our ability to come back even with a little bit of time left on the clock.

It just says a lot about the leadership on this team. It extends more than just the captains ’cause I know we have a lot of seniors on the offensive line and definitely a lot of leadership in guys like Darius who have been playing for a few years, our wide receivers who have been playing for years, a tight end who has really stepped up with his role this year. Offensively I know we’ve got a lot of guys who have kind of kept the faith, allowed themselves to keep plugging away, eventually we knew we would put some points on the board and it ended up being enough for us to win.

Q. As a quarterback it sort of all falls on you. The guys are looking to you. What was going on in your head? Did you have to think about keeping everything together, if they see fear in your eyes, doubt in your eyes, you weren’t going to be able to do it?

Brady Quinn: The thing with that is there was no doubt. I truly believe every game I enter into that we’re going to win. That’s just how I’ve always grown up playing in sports. That’s a competitive nature. I think a lot of us here have that.

Really going into that game, until the zeros are across the board, we’re not going to lose the game. Even at that point, maybe we just ran out of time. Really you have to have that sort of mentality, I think with any type of competition you go into, not just football.

Q. You have gone ones against ones in practice sometimes in the past?

Brady Quinn: Yeah.

Q. Has Victor ever gotten to you, ever sacked you?

Brady Quinn: Yeah, he’s got to me before.

Q. How many times, would you say?

Brady Quinn: I couldn’t count for you how many times. He’s definitely been there a good amount.

Q. Does he talk trash to you after that? Does he get in your face at all?

Brady Quinn: Sometimes. I can’t think of an exact quote. He’ll come by and utter something. I talk more trash to him than I think he does to me. Those days when he’s not getting any pressure, usually I’m kind of in his ear saying, What is up with that? Trying to get on him. I think a lot of us realize he’s a freak athlete, somebody who should be around the quarterback a lot.

Q. How would you compare him to some of the ends that you have faced?

Brady Quinn: Physically, he’s by far the best. I don’t know of any other that we have faced that I’ve kind of looked at and say, this guy is pretty close. I don’t know anybody with his ability as far as size, speed and strength all wrapped into one.