Oct. 26, 2016

James Onwualu

Q. James, how did you spend your bye week?

James Onwualu: I got back to Minnesota, went and got to see my high school play for the first time since I’ve been there and just spent some time taking care of my body and relaxing, eating some good food from my mom and hanging out.

Q. How important is that to just be able to get away and mentally recharge?

James Onwualu: Yeah, it’s nice, especially since we have it over fall break. Everybody else is off campus. So sometimes when you’re stuck here, you have to be practicing when everybody else is gone, it kind of breaks routine. It’s been nice they aligned those two events over the past couple of years, just to be able to get out of here and have a couple of days to yourself and fully get your body back and legs back and relax your mind a little bit.

Q. Did you guys need this one more than previous ones because of the way this season has been just mentally?

James Onwualu: Every season has their own twists. Some years guys are more beat up than others. Some years some younger guys need a little bit more of a mental break. I think every year it’s very beneficial.

Q. When you look at where you guys are at, at 2 and 5, a lot of people wonder what you guys are motivated by at this point. What do you feel is the motivation to keep this team going?

James Onwualu: For me, just pushing the defense every week just to get a win. We have a lot of great competitors on that side of the ball and on the team as a whole. And I think it’s important just for everybody to just stay focused on getting a win every single week and focusing on our opponent and continuing to compete at the highest level.

Q. How hungry is this team for a win?

James Onwualu: Extremely. I think we were close to a win last week or two weeks ago and didn’t end the way we wanted it to. But we competed at a high level, and that’s a great team, as well. We have to find a way to pull out I a win here.

Q. Coach Kelly talked about kind of being disappointed that it had gotten to the point where Jack Swarbrick had given an endorsement for his job moving forward. Is there a disappointment that for you guys that it’s gotten to the point where those things also have to be said?

James Onwualu: Yeah, you know, nobody’s happy with where we are at this point including coach and Jack and everybody. It’s tough. But we’re all working together. We all want to do well. We want to do well for coach. And coach wants to coach the best of his ability to make sure we’re in a position to do the best we can. We’re all trying to work together. Although we’re not comfortable with where we are, all we can do did is work harder and like I said, just fight to get that win.

Q. Can you describe Brad Kaaya, the Miami quarterback, what you see from him?

James Onwualu: Yeah, gotten a lot — he’s experienced. One of the most experienced that we’ve seen. Has a pretty good presence in the packet, can work the offense pretty well. As we saw last week, he can get pressured a little bit. And we’ll scramble out of there and try to make some plays inside. He’s a good player.

Q. Not necessarily one of the more mobile quarterbacks that you’re facing this year, would that be accurate?

James Onwualu: No, we’ve seen some speedier guys, some quicker guys, a little bit more mobile, like you said, but again he’s the guy that will try to make some plays and make what he can out of a broken down play.

Q. In comparison, contrasting to DeShone? Do you look at them in any way?

James Onwualu: No, not really. I get to see him every day, he’s picked up — DK is a great quarter back. I don’t know if I can really compare the two.

Q. Not necessarily mobility, but in terms of just throwing the football?

James Onwualu: Throwing the football?

Q. Yeah.

James Onwualu: Again, yeah, I don’t know if I can really compare the two.

Q. The defenses confidence is up now with the success you’ve had the past few weeks?

James Onwualu: Yeah, absolutely. I think every week we’ve just tried to focus on getting better, like I’ve been saying for weeks now. Getting some of these younger guys more and more confident as they continue to get more time on the field. And I think that continues to show. We go out there and try to get as many stops as we can and get the opponent off the field.

Q. What would you say the strength is, what are you confident that you’re able to do most weeks?

James Onwualu: I think we’ve improved on third down. We want to continue to keep that efficiency there and continue to stop these teams on third down. We’ve gotten much better there. And then also just improving first and second down, trying to get teams in a situation that we can be successful on third downs. And then also just continuing to push the guys to get to the ball. Everybody getting to the ball helps on the run game and then gets them in a situation in third down that is beneficial to us.

Q. This series was one time one of those the most heated in the country. Do you the coaches talk to you about that, are you aware that this was one time one of the game everybody looked for?

James Onwualu: Yeah, I mean, I think some of us are aware of that. I’m one of the older guys on the team and last time we played them was the year before I got here. I think a lot of guys have an idea but they haven’t had a the firsthand experience about what the rivalry really, really means to this school and also on their side of things. But, yeah, I think some guys have a good idea, and especially with the coaches in our defensive room who have experienced a little bit of that rivalry, they speak on it a little bit.

Q. As a captain in dealing with adversity, what have you learned?

James Onwualu: That’s a good question. It’s been one of the greatest challenges I’ve faced in my life. I’ve learned a lot from it. I think one thing I’ve learned the most from is how to keep guys motivated and keep them focused on what our goal is, even through the toughest of times, to keep guys to come out and work every day and to keep a smile on my face. I think that has a great impact on what the mood is going into every day’s work and every day’s practice. As long as my energy is high and I have a smile on my face, I think guys around me are willing to work.

Q. Has that translated off the field into the classroom, as well?

James Onwualu: I think so. They go hand in hand. If you’re doing well in school, you’re probably going to play pretty good ball, it just means you’re on top of your stuff. I try to keep that also in the minds of some of the guys in the defensive room, just so that they’re on point in all aspects, making sure that their schoolwork is good and on point, so that they can focus on the ball when it comes time.

Q. DeShone mentioned when he was home he caught the Miami, Virginia Tech game on TV, did you watch that?

James Onwualu: I didn’t catch that. I watched some film.

Q. I was going to ask, I guess maybe other times, then, when you’re watching a game like on TV and from that angle, are you specifically just watching the offense, are you getting the same things you would when you’re breaking down film or do you kind of relax and I guess devolve back into a fan mindset?

James Onwualu: It’s tough since you spend so much time watching film, although it’s different, different commentators, and a different view. It’s still tough to watch a football game from strictly a fan perspective.

I watch the defense and see what they’re doing against — it doesn’t really matter, I watch both sides of the ball. But I watch both defenses to see what they’re doing, see what players are making mistakes, see what went wrong in their plays. And that’s fun to me, as well. You can relax a little bit when you’re on your couch. It’s not the same sitting in the film room and taking notes and really being critical of the film.

But, yeah, you can relax a little bit, but still tough as a player to fully relax.

Q. And then you just mentioned that some of the coaches defensively are sort of trying to impart probably what this rivalry means. Coach, his MO, was bringing energy, he was around here when that was pretty heated. What is his message or has he addressed that at all?

James Onwualu: Yeah, he’s spoken on it little bit. And him and I talked about it a little bit yesterday after practice. But in the beginning of the week his main message has been, the only “U” that matter is “you,” and what you’re going to do to help the University of Notre Dame today. And I think that’s really resonated to me and a lot of guys on the defense. We’re the only guys that can really impact this game. And are the only guys that matter.