Sept. 15, 2010
An interview with:
Manti Te’o: It’s smash mouth football, and Michigan State is really good at that. It’s going to be an exciting game. It’s going to be a running man’s game. And for defense, we’re excited. We’re just excited to get back out there and play.
Q. Do you look at it as less preparation and more just gearing up for a physical game?
Manti Te’o: Oh, no, no, no. When it comes to any opponent, you have to prepare. You have to prepare as best you can. You know, coaches are preparing us well. Individually we’re preparing each other well. Harry (Harrison) and I just came from upstairs from watching film. So, you have to prepare equally for every team. With a team like Michigan State, they’re very dynamic in their running game and they have great receivers, so it should be an exciting game.
Q. Your thoughts?
Harrison Smith: Yeah, kind of the same thing that Manti said. You have to prepare for every opponent equally. But also, because it is more conventional, that is something that you see more in practice. So there’s probably some more familiarity there. But as far as preparation goes, you still have to prepare just as much.
Q. What about the three backs? You really haven’t seen (Larry) Caper yet this year, but obviously he’s in the mix, and you’ve seen him in the past. What about preparing for those three? Do you look at it differently or is it just whoever has the ball, the goal is still the same, to bring him down?
Harrison Smith: Yeah, all three of them are obviously really good backs. They’re all physical, and they can all run, so they all have a little bit of differences about them. But when it comes down to it, it’s about everybody getting to the ball, everybody wrapping up and just getting them to the ground.
Q. If you think about last year’s game against Michigan State, what is the first memory that comes into mind for you?
Manti Te’o: The interception. Hopefully it doesn’t get that close in the end, but we’re ready. Yeah, like Harry said, they have great backs. They all have different features, they all do different things very well, but they’re great athletes, and we just have to hit them right, wrap up and make sure we bring them down.
Q. Manti, where were you at that stage? Did you feel that you were settled in to the college game and a little bit more relaxed by the time you played Michigan State?
Manti Te’o: No, no. I still am, but at that time I was a rookie. I wasn’t used to the college arena yet.
Q. Did you feel that way throughout last season or was there a game where you just felt like you were in a little bit more of a comfort zone?
Manti Te’o: The Washington game. I would say the Washington game was a turning point where I was left in there to correct my mistakes, and I was given the chance and the opportunity to make plays.
Q. Harrison, your memory of last year’s Michigan State game?
Harrison Smith: Yeah, pretty much the same thing. It was a nail biter. There were a lot of mistakes that we made that we could have avoided that definitely would have, you know, tilted the game in our favor a little bit more that we would love to do this year.
Q. What do you like about road night games?
Manti Te’o: A lot of energy, especially since you’re the away team, you’re the visitor. There’s a lot of energy. For the defense, it’s quiet, and you can make calls because the crowd won’t be screaming while their offense is on the field. So it’s a lot easier for us to communicate out there than when we’re at home, so that’s always exciting to be away.
Q. Harrison, do you prefer if you’re on the road, do you prefer night game over day game? Is that a long time to wait, the whole anticipation of it?
Harrison Smith: It is. But at the same time we don’t play a lot of night games, so that is something that I think a lot of guys look forward to kind of getting that primetime time slot. So it’s just kind of fun to go out there when it’s night time and play a game.
Q. How much film did you look at of the Michigan game and what did you see when you did look at it?
Harrison Smith: We went over the whole game, especially went over the mistakes just so we could learn from those. I mean, there is really not a whole lot to say. Some of the mistakes that we made, we know what we did wrong and we know how to correct it now. But at the same time there is nothing we can do about that game, so we have to take that and move forward and apply it to the rest of the season.
Q. Sometimes do you look at tape and say, man, they were really good, and sometimes you can look at tape and say, boy, all the things we did were fixable. Manti, how do you feel when you look at the tape? Do you think the problems are fixable?
Manti Te’o: Definitely. We made a lot of bad mistakes that cost us. We saw those plays and we corrected them. Throughout practice yesterday we were making sure that those mistakes don’t happen so that when game day comes, we aren’t giving away those explosive plays. The teams will have to earn their points instead of us breaking down and giving up those plays.
Q. Manti, you seem like a guy that’s going to learn every day that you play, but kind of where is your learning curve right now in terms of learning this defense, still learning college football? Where do you feel like you’re comfortable with it, and where do you feel like I’ve got to get a handle on this?
Manti Te’o: I still have a long way to go. And I think all of us on the defense can say that. We still have a long way to go. It’s not just an individual effort, it’s a team effort. But for me, I just have to learn more and always try to work hard and better my skill as a linebacker and as a teammate. As practice goes on and as the season goes on, hopefully I’ll get better at the things I need to work on.
Q. Harrison, when you see Theo Riddick running down the field in practice, what have you seen from him in his evolution from a running back to a wide receiver?
Harrison Smith: Well, in training camp we really got to go against those guys a lot. You can just tell Theo was getting a lot more comfortable running routes, getting in and out of breaks, using his hands to catch the ball. Once he gets the ball, he’s a great athlete, and he has a lot of talent to make people miss in the open field. He’s just the guy that’s starting to get very comfortable in his role. I think he’ll be making a lot of plays from that position.
Q. Kind of building on Tim’s question about night games and on the road and all that. Would you guys like to play a night game here? Is that something you guys think about or would want to do?
Manti Te’o: I think it would be cool. Doesn’t really matter. Doesn’t matter what time it is, as long as we get to play. But I’m pretty sure it will be fun. The energy, of course, for some reason is always a lot greater at night time than it is at 2:00 p.m. but that will be pretty interesting.
Harrison Smith: Yeah, I think I’ve heard some students kind of ask why we don’t have one, maybe just one a year or something. But no matter what time it is, we’re going to be ready to play. But I think if they do that, they should probably do it at the beginning of the year, I would say, due to the weather.
Manti Te’o: Yeah, definitely.
Q. One of the things Coach Weis used to say after losses is he would always try to be the same guy after a win as he would be after a loss. I think Coach Kelly hasn’t lost a game in a while. Do you notice anything about him this week from last week?
Manti Te’o: No. He’s a very passionate coach, and he always expects the best from us. So from a player standpoint, we don’t really see the difference. Of course, when you come from a loss, I guess you don’t really see the difference in the coach rather than yourself. You’re very disappointed the way you played and you want to get better. Coach helps facilitate that environment where we’re working to get better. It’s a new week, a new opponent, and we have to focus on our new opponent instead of kind of sulking over the loss.
Q. Harrison, what is it about the nickel defense, something you guys really couldn’t go to last week just based on personnel. How important is it to have that flexibility in the defense to put that fifth defensive back in there to mix and match against an offense?
Harrison Smith: When a team comes out and spreads you out and they get that extra skill guy on the field like a quick receiver that can make people miss, it’s just something that enables the defense to match up against that instead of getting a smaller guy on a bigger guy that can just run around him. It’s just easier to get skill players to match their skill players just so it’s a more comparable match up.
Q. Was that a difficulty last week that you guys just didn’t have healthy personnel to do that?
Harrison Smith: I don’t think so. I really think that the schemes that we had in place would allow us to get the job done. As players we just didn’t execute as well as we should have.
Q. I guess what have you seen from Zeke over the last couple weeks? He’s played more football in the last week and a half than he has back in high school?
Harrison Smith: He’s matured a lot, even since he’s gotten here. In these past couple weeks he’s really matured. Just getting that game experience, knowing how it’s kind of different when it comes to game time being able to block out all the extra stuff. Because when you get your first start, I’m sure all his buddies from home, his family is asking him how it’s going to go and everything. So just kind of going through that experience and knowing what to expect lets you kind of calm down the more and more that you go through it.
Q. Going back to the interception by Kyle last year, off the top of my head, were you on the field that day?
Harrison Smith: Yes.
Q. Just kind of take us through your vision of that play when it happened and what you saw and how exciting it was?
Harrison Smith: I remember being on the opposite side from Kyle, obviously. And I remember watching the quarterback throw it and I broke to go over to see if I could just get involved in the play. As I snapped my vision over, I just saw them break on the ball and catch it. Right then I knew. I think he kind of started to return it, and everybody was screaming to go down. So it was a good feeling just know we had the game when he caught it.
Q. Manti, were you on the field?
Manti Te’o: No, I was on the sideline cheering.
Q. Take us through the play as you were watching it happen from the sideline?
Manti Te’o: Well, couple plays before that, I’m not sure if it was the play before that or like two plays before that, they threw the ball to the left corner of the end zone, and guys wanted it open. Unfortunately, he didn’t catch it. But I remember I was pulled out and I was watching and hoping that we’d come out with the victory. I remember Kyle all I remember is him catching the ball and running. I just started jumping up and down, you know. Just cheering and supporting my teammates.
Q. Kirk Cousins, obviously has made shots from that game. What do you guys see from him in the tapes these last few weeks as opposed to where he was maybe last year when you played?
Manti Te’o: His confidence level has grown. He’s very comfortable in the pocket. He’s very comfortable with his accuracy and the power of his arm. So with that, you have to respect his ability to throw.
Harrison Smith: Yeah, he’s definitely not afraid to throw the ball down field. Not saying he was last year, but he really steps into his throws and puts a lot on them. He’s got a really strong arm. Just he just kind of has that quarterback presence about him. You can tell he’s a leader on the field, and he’s not afraid to go out there and challenge the guys to make big plays.
Q. I believe this is going to be a fifth straight road game that is a night game. So you’re used to night games. But have the seniors explained to you exactly what Michigan State at night is versus any other place because I don’t think anyplace you play last year quite has this environment?
Harrison Smith: Not really. I remember my first road game was actually Michigan State when I was out there playing. I remember the type of environment that it was, and those fans really get after it. So I think as a defense, I think Manti would agree with me, that kind of the more the fans get on you, almost the more fun you have, and just kind of the more loose you play. So I think definitely as a defense we look at that as a challenge. We kind of welcome things like that. So kind of going into an environment at night, that just make it’s more fun for us.
Manti Te’o: I totally agree. Defensively, going into a night game I’ve never been to Michigan State, of course. I’m sure a night game there is a lot of energy, but like Harry said, we’re excited when we hear people screaming and yelling. Defensively it’s exciting. For Dayne, on the other hand, for them, I don’t think it’s so exciting until they score. But for us, it’s pretty fun.
Q. Manti, could you tell me what it’s like a week after a loss, just in class and campus and the dorm, is your mood different during the normal course of the day? Not out here, but back at school?
Manti Te’o: My mood? It’s kind of, I don’t know, it is different. It’s just you feel that kind of anxiety to get back out there. You don’t ever want to leave the field knowing you lost. Until you get back on the field, you don’t really feel the same. You still feel the emptiness inside. I’m sure, Harry, you feel the same way, and everybody feels the same way. Until we get back out there we won’t really feel right.
Q. Dayne, how do you feel? Can you walk us through the first 24 or 36 hours after Saturday, and all the things you did, if any?
Dayne Crist: I’m a hundred percent now. When I was able to return to the game, I felt like I was fine and I could compete at a high level. I just wanted to be out there with the rest of my guys and finishing the game. But afterwards, just kind of slept on everything, just felt fine. It had gotten progressively better.
Q. You had a pretty good couple reads connecting with Kyle Rudolph. How much of that is the rapport that you guys have? How much is it just the reads taking in the offense?
Dayne Crist: I think it’s a combination of both. I think we’ve got a pretty good chemistry. You know, that just comes with repetition and practice, and time spent away from here. But also just by game plan and just by read. He just ended up getting open pretty well.
Q. Wondered, if you had ever had any kind of injury like that in high school or pee wee or anything?
Dayne Crist: Never, never. There was nothing that I thought would ever be able to take me out like by my own will. I would never take myself out of competition. But it was just something that the trainers identified and wanted to take care of. One thing I didn’t want to do was go in and hurt the team by not being able to perform. But, again, if it was up to me, I would have wanted to be out there the entire time. It was just something that they wanted to stop and make sure it was taken care of.
Q. Didn’t you play maybe three or four plays once you got hit? What was that like? What, were you foggy during that period?
Dayne Crist: Yeah, definitely. During that drive, just after I initially took the hit tried to shake it off and just was getting hit and dazed a little bit. But then physically I could not see. After that, we just pushed through it and tried to finish the drive. Then when everything was done, it all kind of hit me. That’s when the trainers identified it and wanted to pull me off for a second.
Q. I know ever since you’ve been on campus you’ve tried to be a leader. When Tommy (Rees) and Nate (Montana) were coming over to the sidelines between drives, were you even able to help them or were you still not quite there yet?
Dayne Crist: As time went on I was trying to help them, but initially they had me kind of removed from everything and just were running tests and continually trying to see where I was at. But when I could offer support and offer council to those guys, I did it. Obviously, I wish I could have done more and helped them in any way that I could. It was just a crazy situation, and hopefully one that we never have to repeat.
Q. Michael, I wonder if you could talk about Theo (Riddick) and what you’ve seen in him from when he first stepped on the field trying to be a wide receiver after being a running back last year to what you’re seeing now in practice?
Michael Floyd: Just basically when he came in he was kind of coming from running back, wide receiver, it’s a lot different. But him being so athletic, he came into the routine really easy. It kind of came to him naturally. It’s just about picking up the little things, making sure you get depth and go full speed all the time, making sure you run a precise route.
Q.I was with somebody with the NCAA officiating recently. And the touchdown that was not a touchdown against Michigan State that you caught was one of 12 plays they looked at very closely during the off season. Could you take us through obviously the play you were injured on but could you take us through the moment that you caught the ball? Did you think it was a touchdown? Even though it’s the rule that you have to maintain possession, do you feel the rules need to be changed? Do you feel that should have been a touchdown?
Michael Floyd: I thought I had full possession of the whole ball the whole time once I hit the floor. But I thought it was a touchdown. I don’t know if it should change or not, but I think whatever they called was good, but I thought it was a touchdown.
Q. Dayne, did that injury because it was involving your head, did that plant any kind of seed in your mind of doubt about injury and the idea of getting hurt again?
Dayne Crist: No, I mean, that’s part of the game. Obviously while it was going on we wanted to identify what it was and make sure that we handled it the right way, making sure that I was in a safe predicament. But, again, you can’t go out there and play thinking about the next time you take a hit or injuries, because any player can tell you that’s part of the game. As soon as you start thinking about those things it seems like that’s what ends up happening. So really you’ve just got to go out there and play and execute what you’re asked to do.
Q. I know Coach Kelly said it was not a concussion, but with all the attention that concussions and head injuries have gotten recently, were your parents concerned in particularly about it or people you know, doctors, whatever, more concerned about your well being because of that incident?
Dayne Crist: Well, those are my parents so of course they are. That’s going to be their first priority all the time. But I didn’t get a chance to talk them till after the game. They weren’t at the game, but of course they’re going to be concerned. Doctors took special care that I was safe to play, everything was okay. I passed multiple tests and then follow ups after that. So, again, I’m not worried about it. I’m just worried about Michigan State right now and just moving on and wanting to get back out on the field and get a W.
Q. I think you had mentioned after the game that you were told in the second quarter that you’d be coming back in the second half. Were you available at all for the final play of the first half?
Dayne Crist: That was, again, their call. Again, they wanted to kind of give me some time to just collect myself and get everything together as opposed to being thrown into everything after sitting for a quarter and a half, not being warm. That’s kind of asking for a lot there. But as soon as they told me I was ready to go, I started warming up and I was excited. I, again, wanted to be out there with the guys.
Q. But before that play you weren’t campaigning to get in or anything like that?
Dayne Crist: They didn’t say it was an option, no. They told me it was not an option, and that I would not return until the second half.
Q. The Lions Bears game, did you see the play with Calvin Johnson?
Michael Floyd: Yes.
Q. What were your thoughts on that one?
Michael Floyd: That was a touchdown, that’s what I thought. I think it was just him putting down the ball. It was just him picking himself off the floor, and I think it was a touchdown.
Q. You did suffer a pretty serious concussion in high school, correct?
Dayne Crist: Correct.
Q. Did you at any point think or make a connection to that situation?
Dayne Crist: They were pretty different. In high school the next thing I remembered was waking up in bed the next morning, so I don’t have a lot of recollection of that one.
Q. It was your right eye, correct?
Dayne Crist: Correct.
Q. It was blurry or you had no vision at all?
Dayne Crist: I mean, it was blurry to the point where I couldn’t see anything out of my right eye.
Q. And that was the case while you were still on the field finishing the drive?
Dayne Crist: Correct.
Q. What do you remember thinking, I think it was your 19 yard run where Kovacs hit you from the side? What are your first recollections after that hit?
Dayne Crist: Just getting up and being a little dazed, but just getting up and trying to shake it off and move on to the next play.
Q. Coach Kelly mentioned something about you, indicating you didn’t remember a play or two. You indicated that to him?
Dayne Crist: He was asking me more so about the conversations that I had with Coach Molnar on the phone after the drive. And you know whether it would be that I couldn’t understand or it was going a little quickly. I think that’s what he was referring to.
Q. I understand you and Kirk Cousins are friends?
Dayne Crist: Yeah, Kirk’s a great guy. I had a chance to work out with him quite a bit this past summer. But real good guy, good quarterback, and a guy that I’ve kept in touch with. So we’ve exchanged some texts this week. Just wishing each other the best and looking forward to seeing each other.
Q. No talking smack, just wishing each other the best?
Dayne Crist: No, it’s tough to talk smack to another offensive guy. So you’re just hoping that they’re doing well. But he’s a good guy, so I’ll always wish him well.
Q. Coach Kelly said that he could see you grow up in the second half. Did you actually feel that hanging in the pocket more often?
Dayne Crist: That’s just again going to come with experience. It’s another situation that I haven’t been presented with. I’ve never been in the game when I’ve been down since I’ve been here. So, you know, that was a challenge. But just being out there, I feel like I’m gaining more experience and I guess growing up. Just every second is equally as valuable. So it’s a situation that we obviously wish we came out on top, but you just have to learn what you can from it and just move on and make sure that we’re getting better the next time we’re in that situation.
Q. In T.J. Jones’ case, in the touchdown where he flipped the ball, I know the coaches have spoken to him about it. As the veteran receiver, did you address that matter with him?
Michael Floyd: I just said like it’s his third or fourth touchdown, doing stuff like that. But it’s always an excitement when you score your first touchdown for Notre Dame. I mean, I was going crazy. I remember my first time. Nothing like that, but I was just really excited. So I didn’t really say too much to him. Just make sure it doesn’t happen again. Just act like you’ve been there before.
Q. Do you always make it a point that you know you’re in the end zone before you drop the ball or do anything at all, or does it all happen so fast you can’t really think much about it?
Michael Floyd: Yeah, it just happens too fast. I don’t really think about it.
Q. I saw you talking on the sidelines with Nate Montana during the first half. Were you talking with Tommy or Nate, what were you saying to them? What advice did you have as far as guiding those inexperienced guys offensively?
Michael Floyd: I was just making sure he stayed calm. Telling him to stay calm out here. Just make the best decisions that you can and you’ll see what’s right. You’ll know what’s right. You can see it. Just coming in there for the first time you just want to make sure you keep your composure.
Q. I know last week Coach Molnar was talking about one of the next steps was just to push the ball deep, be more aggressive with it, which you definitely did against Michigan. Is that a byproduct of just having more experience? Was it just you had to?
Dayne Crist: Yeah, a combination of both of those things. I think those things were addressed all week last week in preparation leading up to the Michigan game. Just based on the looks that they had given us on film. But, again, you go from having a game under your belt so you’re a little more comfortable, you’re willing to take a couple chance here and there. I think that I’ll continue to grow. It wasn’t like I was thinking oh, man, I didn’t do it last week, I should probably do it this week. It was just kind of the opportunity, just familiarity, and overall comfort with the offense and what we’re doing.
Q. Did you see the field in a different way than you did against Purdue?
Dayne Crist: Yeah, I did. But in the same light, it was also a completely different look defensively. They had a much more crowded box, and as a result you’ve got to take some chances down the field and stretch the field vertically.
Q. How much do you guys practice Hail Mary stuff?
Michael Floyd: We mostly practice it every week before the game.
Dayne Crist: Yeah, we go every week. Just different situations. We have a whole session situationally and we do our walk throughs and our throws at practice. It’s practice, but obviously there are things we work on.
Q. Do people think, oh, just throw the ball up? But I would imagine it’s a little more technical than just Chuck it?
Dayne Crist: That and knowing your range as a quarterback of how far you can throw the ball, knowing down and distance obviously, where the ball’s spotted. Hashes make a big difference, whether it’s a far hash, close. There are a lot of things you have to take into account. At the end of the day, play makers need to make plays and there are some things that go into that definitely.
Q. What are you trying to do on an end of game, Hail Mary type situation? Are you trying to get down there as fast as you can, or is it a little more complicated?
Michael Floyd: It depends on what yard line you’re on. Sometimes it’s just trying on get down the field on some of the plays that they call. If it’s a last second play, you’re just trying to get down there and get a good position in the end zone and hopefully make a play.
Q. Coach Weis used to say a lot that he would be the same guy after a win or after a loss. Obviously Coach Kelly hasn’t lost a game in about a year and a half. Is he the same guy this week as last week or did you notice a different vibe or energy from him?
Michael Floyd: I think he hasn’t lost a lot, but after you lose you always want the team to be up and up and energized the next week. So I think it’s just a little bit more urgency this week just because we lost. I think he’s doing a pretty good job at that and making sure we sustain our energy.
Dayne Crist: Mike basically covered it. That’s kind of what I’m seeing too. But just as a competitor, Coach Kelly is a very competitive person, so obviously that loss hurt him as much as it hurt any of us. So we definitely share that. I think we grew together. But he does a great job. He uses his 24 hour mantra. You have 24 hours to get it out of your system or be upset or be happy, whether it’s a win or a loss. But after that it’s about moving on. If you dwelled on one game during the season, win or loss, you’re asking for trouble the rest of the way through the season.
Q. Did either of you watch the 2006 night game with Michigan State on television? Do you remember having any recollection of it?
Dayne Crist: Yeah, we were both in high school, but, yeah. I remember seeing that game and seeing some clips.
Q. Anything that comes to mind right away?
Dayne Crist: When they stuck the flag in the field. I remember that because they’ve shown us that clip multiple times. But it’s a rivalry. No matter who wants to call it one or not. It’s always a game. It’s a marquis game in college football. Both teams always give each other a game that they take very seriously.
Michael Floyd: It being a night game that just makes the whole thing, the whole game happen. Just more energy, more excitement. Knowing that you’re on national television at 8:00 o’clock at night. Everybody’s watching you, so it’s just excitement.
Q. Everyone in this room has seen you play, Michael, and everyone knows how spectacular you are. Could you talk about what you want in the coming weeks to get to what you know you can do productionwise?
Michael Floyd: I think the whole thing is just making this team win. We haven’t had a very successful season so far since we’ve been here. So just getting on to wins. Getting as much wins as we can, can help this whole program.