Oct. 4, 2006
Q. First off, how is your health?
Tom Zbikowski: Good, real good. On that punt return I just got caught in the right position, but shook it off, and finished the rest of the game. I’m just getting ready for the game right now.
Q. I noticed there was like a scowl on your face after the game last week, was that just kind of residue from the hit or was that something else?
Tom Zbikowski: Yeah, just got shook up. Anytime that ?? just a little upset, you know, more of the way I played during that game. Didn’t have any best performance of the year, but happy about the win. And I was just shook up a little bit. Nothing serious.
Q. What is it Mike Richardson really brings to the secondary?
Tom Zbikowski: He’s physical. He’s a physical guy. He’s always getting in receivers face. A lot of receivers tend to just want to be able to run down the field uncontested and not have to worry about getting jammed. And anytime you have a physical corner, it makes safety play a lot easier.
Q. It’s something that he’s maybe the most improved guy out of anybody on the secondary, because it seems like most people don’t notice him anymore.
Tom Zbikowski: He’s getting better game to game, making plays and I think people are starting to throw away from him. Because anytime ?? they’re throwing to his side he’s either breaking up a pass or it’s a near interception. So I think people don’t definitely like throwing to his side any more.
Q. Does that make your job easier?
Tom Zbikowski: Yeah, definitely.
Q. Tom, opposing teams are obviously trying to keep the ball away from you. Do you find yourself putting more pressure on yourself trying to make something happen when you do get a chance to get the ball?
Tom Zbikowski: Yeah, there’s a fine line. You want to make a play, there’s obviously certain opportunities that you get in the special teams game and in punt returns, where you definitely want to make a big play, and it’s definitely – anytime on special teams it’s usually a game?changing play when you make a big play on special teams. You’ve got to be smart with it. Starting to get a little anxious, when you’re making a big play or big return, and you don’t get too many opportunities for that.
Q. When you look at Stanford, they’ve had a little bit of trouble running the ball, kind of like you guys had coming into this week. What are you expecting out of them? Are you going to be aware of them maybe trying to start a run game?
Tom Zbikowski: I think so, definitely. Walt Harris is one of the best offensive coordinators, play callers in college and in the game. And definitely they had their struggles going into our game last year, and look what type of game that turned out to be. We’ve got to be ready for anything. Definitely, offense is always trying to establish a run game, if you don’t have a run game you become one?dimensional. We know they’re going to try to be salvaging the run game.
Q. You mentioned the game last year, as a safety what can you learn about their teams?
Tom Zbikowski: They’re going to take their shots. They’re great with play action, running the ball. And they sell their fakes real hard. Receivers can make plays, so you’ve got to be smart and you’ve got to be ready for them to take their shots down the field.
Q. Looking at your defense, what exactly – I know Coach Weis has been praising Joe Brockington in his play, and his first start. As a safety looking at that linebacker what did you see out of him?
Tom Zbikowski: Just really stepped up and made the plays that he had to make. He had a couple of nice pass breaks and a lot of plays where he was in coverage that may have gone unnoticed, just because the pass wasn’t thrown to his side. But he made the plays that he had to make and was always in the right position for coverages and run plays, so definitely a good performance for his first start.
Q. Last year you were playing linebacker. Is that something we’ll see again ?? against Purdue?
Tom Zbikowski: I was kind of – we knew it was going to be more a passing situation, I kind of moved into that, what we called the dime position, which pretty much looks like a linebacker, but it is more for just getting a secondary guy, cover guy down on a tight end instead of forcing the linebacker to do something that he may not be comfortable with. That was the reasoning behind that. We knew if we got up they were going to have to be passing a lot and just getting another secondary body down there.
Q. Last year or even this year did you look at any of the tape against Pittsburgh from two years ago, when they won 41?38?
Tom Zbikowski: I’m pretty sure, I think I remember watching a little bit of it last year, just because of who was calling the plays. And I think we took a look – we haven’t yet this year, I don’t think we will. We’ll look at our tape last year and the games that they played this year.
Q. When you were watching tape of Stanford they’ve played also your next two opponents, did you sneak peak at what UCLA is doing, what Navy is doing?
Tom Zbikowski: We’d be watching their – UCLA’s defense and stuff. It really doesn’t help out us too much. But looking at them and they kind of run similar defense as to what we do. So we get a glimpse of what works against them. But we really don’t get a chance to watch the other teams’ offense. We’re watching UCLA’s defense.
Q. How much does emotion play into your particular game? In other words, there’s always talk about being up or down for various games. How much do you allow emotion to enter into play as to how you perform?
Tom Zbikowski: You know, you try to keep an even keel for every game, but obviously when you go to pep rallies and there’s 50,000 people up here, there’s something special about that game, so you’re going to be a little more excited about that.
But at this point in the season – we’ve got this game and a bye next week, so you pretty much can put everything into this game, knowing that you’ve got rest next week. You definitely ?? you’ve got to look at every opponent, because you know they’re going to give us their best. And we’ve got to come out ready for any game. Like I said before, going out there last year, I think there were maybe five hundred when we went out there last year, thinking this will be a pretty easy game and it was a dog fight the entire game. When you’re in our position you really can’t take any game lightly. You have to be up for every game.
Q. Speaking of pep rallies, what impact does this have on you guys? When it’s the night before the game, is that more for the fans or how do you look at that?
Tom Zbikowski: It is – it’s good to get the fans involved and everything like that. Like I was saying before, when there’s 40?some thousand people there, you’re not even playing the game yet and half the stadium is filled up, just to hear some people talk. But the good thing for thing for us, like last week, when those people asked Rocky Bleier to come back to speak, with a story like that, you get a chance to shake his hand when he walks by. It’s great for players, and it definitely brings the tradition and past national champions or past great players to the present players. So you’ve got to love it as a player, just getting a chance just to shake their hand.
Q. Last season with the big plays and everything, a lot of the talk was about communication problems with the defense. Is that kind of thing still ongoing or what do you attribute this year some of the similarities of some of the big plays you guys have?
Tom Zbikowski: I think if you look at pretty much any one defense, a lot of times, yeah, people on the offense are going to make their plays. They’re on scholarship, they’re just as good players as us. But a lot of times when there’s multiple big plays a lot of it has to do with communication. So I think that’s been why there’s been big plays, but I think that’s like that pretty much anywhere. We’ve got to keep cutting them down and keep playing good defense.
Q. How do you address that, I guess, in a different way when you’re in a week to week preparing for an opponent type process, as opposed to the preseason camp or off season when you can do it in a more general sense?
Tom Zbikowski: We always go in there a couple – there will be certain checks to certain formations we’re going to play that defense, and make sure, when we’re on the practice field we practice with our hand signals and everything to make sure – because it’s a lot quieter on the practice field than it is in the stadium. Sometimes you’ll slip and you’ll be talking to someone, whereas in a game you’ll be yelling for 230 seconds, where a person won’t even look over at you. You’ve got to work on pretty much getting down what your hand signals are going to be for the game.
Q. You’re probably still used to hearing about what this defense can’t do, like you did throughout the off season. As you look at the group, what do you feel is kind of your identity? What do you feel like the strength of this defense, what are you going to hang your hat on?
Tom Zbikowski: It’s hard to say. We’ve just been trying to play solid defense all around, I think. We’ve had some good performances, but then again we’ve got to get back to being consistent. We’ve had some very good performances where early on in the year Georgia Tech and Penn State and games like that where we’re shutting big players out. We’ve got to be get back to being consistent and not giving up those big plays.
Q. (Inaudible.) You talked about his improvement from his junior year, where maybe he struggled at times, to now where teams kind of stay away from him?
Tom Zbikowski: I was saying as soon as I that year was over, when you looked at the games like Boston College and Pittsburgh where it looked like he was in perfect coverage, but receivers just made that play on him. And I’ve always been saying, when a defensive back makes a mistake, every single person in the stands is going to know about it. When you go back on films it’s almost flawless fundamentals, but it’s that split second where the offensive player makes the plays and then improving all last year and seeing him this year, where they do try to challenge him, and here’s near pick or passing – breaking the pass up, so I think they’re starting to stay away from him. It’s always good when you have that type of player that you can put on there, their best receiver knows we’re pretty much going to shut him down.
Q. How would you describe his personality, seems like a pretty reserved guy?
Tom Zbikowski: He’s pretty quiet. But no doubt about it, when he’s on the field he’s got that mean streak on him. He’s not like a typical corner, he loves to hit.
Q. Just going back to last week, when you get banged up in a game like that, talk about the decision, did you tell the coaching staff about it or just do you get worried they’re going to take you out? How do you make the decision between am I going to hurt the team by staying out ??
Tom Zbikowski: You’ve got to be smart about it, you don’t want to hurt the team in any way, but you know you’re a starter for a reason, you’ve got to be on the field as much as you can. If it’s something you can play through, you’ve got to play through it. And it’s being smart in talking to the trainers, making sure that you’re cleared and you’re going to be fine to play.
Q. You go up and tell them, hey, I got beaten up on this play?
Tom Zbikowski: I try to shy away from it, but they ask me about it so I’ve got to tell them the truth.
Q. You’ve got a lot of praise for a smart team, but when you watch Stanford, can you see just smart players, does that show up on tape or is that not something you see on scouting?
Tom Zbikowski: I think so, just because – like I was saying before, Walt Harris, being a great play caller and seeing what they like to do with their play fakes and just making sure – receivers, you’ve got to be smart with – if it’s a run play carrying out and if the Coach wants you to make it look like you’re going deep, it’s just being smart with – I think a lot of it has to do with discipline more than anything. If you’ve got a smart team they’re going to be more disciplined than a lot teams, but you can definitely see that with Stanford.
Q. When you play a team like this, Coach was saying that looking at last year, it only lasts about a day. Do you as captain have to do anything special to tell the guys, look at the team stats, do you do anything special to keep them on focus?
Tom Zbikowski: Like I said before, you don’t want to overkill it with ?? just keep burying it in people’s heads that we’ve got ?? it’s hard to say. You don’t want to do anything too special, like we say before. You’ve got to take each week as its own game and play every game like it’s its own. They’re going to come out and try to prove a point that they can play. And what better way than to come to our place and beat us. Our team is fully aware of that. Definitely when you have a veteran team, there’s not much to be said with all the starters and all the experience on the team. We know people are going to give it their best shot and we’ve got to be ready to go, so there’s nothing really special you’ve got to do.
Q. Just try to focus more on what you’re doing rather than what you’re doing?
Tom Zbikowski: Definitely. You go back, you watch film from what happened last game and make sure, like we were saying before, you cut down on communication errors, and you cut down on mental errors, and you try to play the best game you can play and not worry about what your opponent is doing.
Q. Lambert has had two good games in a row here, last week he had a force fumble and recovered, and made a lot of tackles. What do you see him doing that allows him to be improving?
Tom Zbikowski: I think the confidence after our Michigan State game. Now he knows he can make plays like that, not just in practice where we see the talent he has, but now going on the field and actually making those plays. I think he’s going to keep getting better from week to week. I don’t know if he’s going to have another two interception games, or another with a go-ahead touchdown, but I think he’s going to have consistent play from here on out.