Notre Dame running back Armando Allen Jr.

Wednesday Player Press Conference Transcripts

Sept. 22, 2010

Dayne Crist
Armando Allen

THE MODERATOR: We have Armando Allen and Dayne Crist. We’ll start with questions.

Q. Dayne, obviously, you’re going to be working out in this new offense for a while. Coach Kelly talked yesterday, the last thing you really need to get is the ball control throws. Do you feel that’s the last thing you really need to get to match the offense?

Dayne Crist: I think so. I think that was one of the areas that I was the most poor at this past weekend. But, you know, overall I feel a definite comfort level within the offense. I feel that I’m getting better every week. That’s something that I’m obviously going to try to improve as we progress through the season, not be content with where I’m at. Coach and I definitely talked about that area of my game, that area of the offense. That’s something we’re working on this week.

Q. Was it more of a mental or physical thing with those throws?

Dayne Crist: It was more of an experience thing. Again, just going out there and getting live reps. You can talk about it in practice, you get a certain look in practice. Then in the game, you know, when it’s a live bullet, it’s a little bit different. Not something either one of us are very worried about. The most important thing as an offense is scoring points, enough points to win. We haven’t done that the last two weeks, so it’s something we want to improve on.

Q. Any reason when you watch the film that you didn’t see it this time?

Dayne Crist: It just becomes more of a glaring thing when you pass up a throw that is open to try and fit it into a tighter window. But just going back and reviewing some of those throws, it’s something that’s very correctible, something that we hope to improve drastically before Saturday.

Q. Dayne, continuing on that, with the turnovers, how frustrating was that aspect for you to have two turnovers?

Dayne Crist: It’s very frustrating. It’s something you pride yourself as an offensive player trying to err away from. But it’s part of the game, it happens. At that point you’re just really trying to progress through the game and move on. You just realize the penalties hurt you. Anytime you’re giving the ball away, it’s a chance for points you’re giving away. It’s something we need to correct.

Q. When you look at your stats, you set a bunch of records for a first time starting quarterback on the road in terms of touchdowns and yards. As I look at you right now, you don’t really care about that because you didn’t get the win.

Dayne Crist: That’s dead on, yup.

Q. Talk about that mentality that you must have as a quarterback, that’s the only part that really matters is getting the victory in the end.

Dayne Crist: That’s the only stat, like you say, at the end of the day that matters to me, honestly, is wins. If we’re not winning, nothing else is important. We obviously have a lot of work to do to correct that and make sure we’re getting the win on Saturday.

Q. Armando, obviously this is a spread offense. Can you talk about your role in it and how it differs maybe a little bit this year from what it was last year. And, Dayne, how important is it for you to know you do have a back leg, Armando, with this offense?

Armando Allen: Me personally, I kind of take on this role as if I was playing in the offense I played in last year. I think when it all comes down to it, it’s about making plays, going out there, protect the quarterback, just going out there and having fun. I think that’s the most important part for me being a running back in the spread offense, is knowing that we have great quarterbacks and great receivers. Just when the opportunity presents itself, do the best that I can.

Dayne Crist: It’s definitely very comforting having a back like Armando. One, a guy who has been here, is a great leader to the rest of the running backs, doing a good job of pushing the rest of the guys. Two, his talent speaks for itself. He’s able to be an explosive player on any given play. Anytime we get him the ball, we know it’s a chance for a big play. That’s very comforting knowing as a quarterback you have that big play ability with a guy behind you or the guy next to you.

Q. Dayne, what are the throws that constitute ball control throws?

Dayne Crist: Check downs, swing routes, stuff to the flat. Just shorter throws. Typically when you’re talking about high low on a defender, a lot of times just taking what the defense gives you instead of trying to force a tight throw.

Q. Are those footwork issues that are a problem?

Dayne Crist: I mean, I guess that’s part of it. It’s not the pressing issue with those. Really it’s just decision making, I would say, taking some off those. Also just, you know, making sure that we’re as accurate as possible in some of the quick games and shorter throws.

Q. People in our business always bring up first road starts for quarterbacks. How did you feel the other night with that? You looked comfortable. Were you comfortable?

Dayne Crist: Yeah, I definitely felt very comfortable. Throughout my entire career, in high school and in some of the limited action I had in college so far, personally I just love playing on the road. I think that’s a pretty special environment. I mean, granted, I love playing in front of your home fans, but there’s something pretty cool about going into a place where everyone hates you, everyone is screaming at you, is against you. All you really have is the guys you traveled with. I think that’s an exciting opportunity. Some people would say that’s overwhelming, but I really enjoy that. It adds a different element to the game. It’s fun. It’s exciting and it just kind of adds to the competition. I just was comfortable being with the rest of the guys out there and just kind of doing what we do.

Q. Armando, they reported that you dislocated a finger during the game. There were some throws you had some difficulty holding onto. Was that the issue with those?

Armando Allen: Yes, I did dislocate my finger. But I think what it all boils down to, I don’t think it played a role in my catching abilities during the game.

Q. And the decision for Goodman to come in to return punts, did you say you were having problems with it or that was a decision the coaches made?

Armando Allen: That was a decision the coaches made. Just having a dislocated finger, catching a punt pretty high in the air, is pretty difficult.

Q. Is your approach now, because you’re not that big of a guy, you did get nicked up quite a bit last year, is your approach to be as aggressive as possible and try to be the guy that initiates contact as opposed to allow the defender to do that?

Armando Allen: Yeah, I would say that’s pretty much my approach. I mean, me not winning too much, I think in reality I’m going to get hit anyway. In my eyes I might as well buck up the most that I can.

Q. Do you worry about injuries? Do you think about that?

Armando Allen: Not at all. I think the way I look at it, the way you think about it, the more prone it’s going to happen to you. My biggest thing is just to go out there and play hard, play football, have fun with it.

Q. There’s kind of a cliché about learning to win. Does that carry any weight with this team? Do you feel like this team has already learned how to win even though the wins haven’t come or is that a lesson you still need to learn?

Dayne Crist: I think this team knows how to win. I think the team knows how to compete, which I think is what we’re most proud of most now. There’s no quit in the guys right now. This isn’t a team that’s down. We’re not in the locker room hanging our heads. We’re doing what we need to do to beat Stanford. That’s really what it comes down to. It’s relieving having guys in the locker room and on the field that want to go out there and play the game. As soon as the game was over, guys were upset. That’s a given. But more than anything, guys want to get back on the field, compete, prove we’re a team to contend with and a team that is going to have a successful season this year.

Armando Allen: I agree with Dayne. You look at this team, you have a whole bunch of guys that’s eager to win, eager to go out there and play football. Like Dayne said, after every game we always look at each other and say, We still got a lot of work to do. We have that mentality on a football team, it’s great to know you’re going to go out there and play hard, give it everything you had. Eventually the wins will come through.

Q. Dayne, I don’t know how much time you spend watching tape of Andrew Luck. What are your thoughts on him as a quarterback? Big, athletic guy, can run, strong arm, similar characteristics to you.

Dayne Crist: Andrew is a great guy. He’s a pretty good friend as well. We had a chance to get to know each other through high school recruiting, playing the All American game together. Still keep in touch. He’s a great quarterback. He really has all the physical tools that you can look for. You know, he’s a great leader. He’s a very, very bright kid. So you know he’s spending a lot of time with the X’s and O’s, everything like that. I think it’s one of those situations where I think our defense has accepted the challenges of playing one of the better quarterbacks we’ll see this entire year. I know they’re ready to go, that they’re going to embrace that challenge, do their part to limit their scoring as much as possible.

Q. How much do you stay in touch with him? Is his performance, the hype it’s getting, is that what you expected from him?

Dayne Crist: Yeah. We text here and there. Obviously we both live pretty busy lives. Try to text as much as possible. I think the hype is well deserved. He’s playing great. It’s just one of those situations where you’re happy for him. That’s a guy that deserves it.

Q. When is the last time you texted him?

Dayne Crist: A couple months ago.

Q. Dayne, plays like a running back, picking up a blitzer is not going to end up in the box score. With the job that Armando does on a week in, week out basis picking up that blitzer, how impressed are you with what he does in that area and does it allow you to be more relaxed in the pocket?

Dayne Crist: That last part was dead on. That’s exactly why I feel comfortable being able to hang in there in the pocket. Anytime you’re looking around in the pocket as a quarterback, that’s not a good thing. So I feel very comfortable in all of our protections. Armando knows exactly what he’s doing. There’s even times where I’ll ask him his role as a back, he’s spot on. We’re constantly doing work to improve and make each other better. But he’s a huge reason this offense has been able to be so successful through the year. The offensive line has done a great job, but so has our backs. Armando has spearheaded that area from the back.

Q. Armando, as a record setting pass catcher now, I’d like your thoughts on the development of Theo (Riddick) going from a running back to being a guy with 10 pass catches against Michigan State?

Armando Allen: You know, I’m very, very impressed by Theo. It just shows how much talent he has, how much maturity he has growing over the year, being able to step aside from running back and play receiver, not only just go over there and play it but live up to his high expectations and work hard at his craft. When you look at things like that, it also show you how much of a team we are.

Q. Obviously it’s early, but there’s going to be some hang wringing over the start among people on campus, off campus, watching Notre Dame football. You have been around. Have you learned to insulate yourself from that stuff better over the past couple years? Any tricks of the trade to ignore whatever is out there, get you through the weeks?

Dayne Crist: Really, the only guys we can worry about are people in this building. Everything else, that stuff is going to exist whether we’re playing well or not playing so well, whether we’re 3 0 right now or whether we’re 1 2. Really it comes down to our belief in the team, belief in the coaching staff, the way we carry ourselves every day. All that other stuff, you can’t really pay attention to it or you’ll go crazy.

Armando Allen: I agree with Dayne. When you look at our team, I think we understand we’re a big family. I think with that being said, you also understand that and you’re going to hear a lot of things from outsiders. The biggest focus is to take care of what’s going on around you, come together and get better as a team every day.

Q. I think Armando caught six passes the other night. Was there a conscious effort to get him the football more through the air?

Dayne Crist: I think you’re definitely paying attention to where he is on the field, especially as you get later into the game. A defense forms an identity of really playing coverage or bringing pressure. But, again, sometimes you forget a simple thing that goes overlooked. If you can get a ball in a running back’s hands, that’s what he does best, running after the catch. Getting him the ball in space is something that I will continue to try to do knowing that the end result coming from it is an explosive play. So that’s definitely something I’m cognizant of.

Q. Is that part of the evolution of a quarterback? I can remember Charlie Weis emphasizing that with Jimmy Clausen: You need to check down more and get the ball to the running back. Is that the normal progression of a young quarterback maturing?

Dayne Crist: I think so. But the sooner we can do that, obviously the better. We don’t want to wait around and have this conversation week after week. That’s something that we’ll definitely spend a lot more time doing. Armando does a great job of being open and being in the right place at the right time. That’s something we’re definitely taking notes of.

Q. Like Notre Dame, Stanford has switched to a 3 4 front. Have you had a chance to see them in that or have they just been blowing people out to the extent that you haven’t gotten a full view of what they’re trying to do defensively now?

Dayne Crist: We’ve got some good film. But at the same time, you know, they haven’t played a team really running the spread. UCLA ran a little pistol, so you can relate that a little bit. We’ll definitely watch some of that film. You really don’t know what they’re going to do with us. Truly we can kind of prepare for it, but they’ve been very successful obviously in their first three games. You really could get anything from them. We’re going to go in with an open mind and be ready for anything.

Q. Armando, you played against Stanford. Dayne really hasn’t had that opportunity yet. When you think of Notre Dame versus Stanford, what do you expect from a Stanford football team coached by Jim Harbaugh?

Armando Allen: I think the most important thing, they’re going to come here and play very, very aggressive. I think it will be one of those games where you have to buck up and know every play, they’re going to give it all they have, and we just have to do the same.

Q. Do they talk a lot?

Armando Allen: I really couldn’t answer that question for you. I think when I’m on the field, I kind of zone myself out to a lot of things.

Q. Armando, at this point in your development, what do you take the most pride in? Is it the fact you can block as well as you do, the fact you can catch passes? Is it more just being a typical running back?

Armando Allen: I think for me personally it would definitely have to be pass protection. I think when you look at any offense, the quarterback is really the key to every operation. I think he’s the guy that’s going to touch the ball almost every play. It’s just something that I take pride in, especially being a senior, understanding that Dayne is a new quarterback, just try to make him as comfortable as possible.

Q. Is there any one thing you did in particular that helped you develop that aspect of your game?

Armando Allen: I watched a lot of film of my previous games, looking at plays of where I got beat, what I could have done to make it a lot better. I think just watching film overall helped me out a lot.

Q. Armando, coming in here today I heard a national radio show on ESPN. His prediction was that Stanford was going to roll on Notre Dame because Notre Dame has young guys, college age guys that can’t put a loss like Michigan State behind them. I know when you’re on campus you have a 24 hour rule. But the kids on campus don’t have a 24 hour rule. You still have to hear about Michigan State and here we are on Wednesday. Is it difficult to put a game like that behind you?

Armando Allen: Not at all. Like we said earlier, I think when you understand these guys we’re on the football team with 90% of the day, we understand we’re a family. Can’t nobody from the outside change our perspective. We also know that no matter what, we have to play a game. We might as well prepare for it and go out there and give it all you have.

Q. Dayne, is it hard for you to put Michigan State behind you, any loss like that?

Dayne Crist: No. Again, I think we hold pretty true to the 24 hour rule. Like Armando was saying, we lead such busy lives, you don’t have time to sit and think about Michigan State. We’re worrying about Stanford. We’re worrying about figuring out what we need to do to beat them. We need all week of mental and physical preparation to do so. We can’t waste time being idle, worrying about Michigan State, things like that. While you said there’s people on campus still talking about it, we can’t get involved in that. We’re truly focused on one opponent, and that’s Stanford right now.

Q. I know you’re not going to personally go up against Andrew Luck, but there’s going to be a lot of attention to him, will he go to the NFL, be a No. 1 or No. 3 pick. There has to be a competitor in you that wants to go out Saturday and show America you’re a pretty good quarterback, too.

Dayne Crist: I just want to go and compete every week. It’s one of those situations where, again, there’s so much to think about in the course of the game that adding all those kind of outside factors just make it that much more difficult. I just want to go and execute. I want to make the right reads, right decisions, go out and make plays for our team and give ourselves a chance to win. That’s really my focus right now. Like I said earlier, the only stat that matters to me is wins and losses. Right now this team needs to win. We need to go out and win.

THE MODERATOR: All right. Thanks, everyone.

Darrin Walls

THE MODERATOR: We have Darrin Walls and Kapron Lewis Moore up here at the table. We’ll start with questions.

Q. When you play Stanford, a team coached by Jim Harbaugh, is there a certain personality that comes across in the way they come across, the way they carry themselves in your experience?

KAPRON LEWIS MOORE: I would say they’re a tough team. They’re well coached by Jim Harbaugh, obviously. Past couple of years they had some success with Andrew Luck on the offense. What we really need to worry about is us and how we can get better from day to day.

Darrin Walls: Going along with that, I think they are coached by a quarterback. They execute well. They run multiple personnel groups. They execute their game plan. They’re pretty good at what they do.

Q. Darrin, can you talk about what you’ve seen from Andrew Luck on tape.

Darrin Walls: I think he’s a great decision maker. I don’t know his stats, but I don’t think he’s had an interception all season. I don’t know if that’s correct or not. He’s very precise in making reads. He puts the ball in his receivers’ hands. We have a challenge ahead. He’s going to challenge us.

Q. Kapron, when you think about last year, Toby Gerhart running the football for Stanford, how different is this Stanford offense compared to what you had with Gerhart last year and the way they do things?

KAPRON LEWIS MOORE: That’s a great question. Obviously, everybody here knows how excellent Toby was as a football player. This year they don’t have Toby, but they’re still putting up numbers, still being successful. Can’t really worry about last year. Like I said earlier, we got to focus on stopping Andrew Luck on offense.

Q. Darrin, I wanted to ask you what does it do for the defense to have Jamoris (Slaughter) back this week?

Darrin Walls: I think Zeke (Motta) has played well filling in, stepping up to the plate. It is big having Jamoris back as a starter. He’s been a big player for us through the spring and the first game against Purdue. It’s great to have him as a guy back there that’s experienced.

Q. In what ways do you feel like you are better defensively now than maybe you were before the season started? Does anything jump out?

Darrin Walls: I think the guys are starting to understand how to play as a defense, not just as an individual. I think we understand each other’s roles more than we have in the past. Just going against our offense, I think is one of the biggest things I’ve noticed in the secondary, at least. KAPRON LEWIS MOORE: Darrin is right there. We’re playing together really well, I feel like. Everybody knows their role on the team. Next man in philosophy. We’re just playing that philosophy.

Q. Talking to Coach Diaco yesterday, seems like a guy that is going to mix positive stuff on film with stuff you need to improve on on film instead of being one of those coaches that harps on the negative. What does that do for you as players? Do you like that approach? Does that keep you motivated?

KAPRON LEWIS MOORE: I like that approach. With the good, there’s always some bad. I thought we did make some good plays lately. Obviously we got to correct our mistakes. A coach that does that, I feel like that gives confidence to the defense because it lets us know that we’re a couple of plays away from doing this right or that right, some technique assignments and stuff.

Q. Does it also prevent you from playing afraid, like you’re not playing not to make a mistake?

KAPRON LEWIS MOORE: I’ve never really felt like the defense was playing like that. I feel like we’re playing hard every minute of the game. I don’t think we’re thinking about making a mistake. Even if we are making a mistake, you have to play the next play.

Q. Like on the pass, you would be afraid to make a mistake. Now you can go out and make a play. Is that kind of a difference this year?

KAPRON LEWIS MOORE: I feel like it’s a difference.

Darrin Walls: I mean, going along with that, they tell us the good and the bad, which is always I think a positive for us, lets us know what we’re doing wrong, what we’re doing right, continue to make those plays that we’re doing right and eradicate those negative plays from our game. That’s just a confidence boost I think for the team. It does create a sense of playing, not playing to make a mistake in that sense.

Q. Darrin, the corners seem to be playing a more physical brand of football this year. You’re throwing your bodies around. Is that part of this defensive scheme because you’re recruiting larger cornerbacks? Is that part of what is taught in this defense?

Darrin Walls: I think Coach Martin is an aggressive coach. If we’re going to make a mistake, he wants to make an aggressive mistake. I think the corners are understanding that, to go out there and just fly around. With our defense, we practice that way. We go out there and fly around. If we make a mistake, someone is there to correct it. As far as the rest of the defense, I think we’re just more fearless in what we do.

Q. Do you ever think about how far you’ve come in that area?

Darrin Walls: Yeah. I’ve come a long way, I believe. It’s been a process. But I think it’s going the right way.

Q. Kapron, what was it like without Coach Elston around, now him being back this week?

KAPRON LEWIS MOORE: It’s great having Coach Elston back and everything. Obviously we had Coach Denbrock coaching us for a little bit. He’s a great coach and everything. But nothing really changed. We were still doing the same exact periods, hitting the sled every day, key steps. Glad to have Coach Elston back. Glad he’s healthy.

Q. Did you have any contact with him when he was gone?


Q. The question about Stanford, their play under Jim Harbaugh. In terms of the physical nature of their offensive line, how did they compare to a Michigan, Michigan State, which normally is considered one of the most physical teams that you guys play?

KAPRON LEWIS MOORE: Well, my opinion, I feel like Stanford is a mix of Michigan State and Michigan, the way the offensive line plays. The offensive line, they’re moving in space. Michigan State is coming straight at you. Stanford, they can do a combination of the both. They’re fast, quick, have good pad level. They’re going to try to knock us off the ball. I think it’s going to be a great challenge for us.

Q. Luck is not similar to (Denard) Robinson in the way he’s built. In terms of his mobility, the fact is a threat running and passing, what are the differences you do see in him? Having faced somebody like Robinson, how does that help?

Darrin Walls: He’s probably one of the best quarterbacks we’ll see this year. He has a strong arm, can make every throw. Against Wake Forest, he had a 52 yard touchdown run, which didn’t surprise me but it opened my eyes to know he can run, get north and south pretty quick. So, I mean, just knowing that, I know he’s an overall quarterback who is pretty good at what he does, what their system allows him to do.

KAPRON LEWIS MOORE: Going along with what Darrin said, Andrew is a great quarterback. Everybody knows that. He does make plays on his feet, though. That’s something for the defensive line, we got to help stop that this week.

Q. Darrin, did you guys feel after the run, the long run Michigan State had in the third quarter, that after that play you turned a corner defensively? You obviously had a great second half after that play.

Darrin Walls: Yeah, I think we understood the fact we couldn’t give up any more points. It was a close game. Their defense was playing well. We know the defense, we had to step up at one point and make a stop. After that run, we just knew three couldn’t be any more of that. I think we understood the terms of the game, where it was going.

Q. Darrin, you had your freshman year one of the better plays that anyone has seen in a long time against Penn State, touchdown return. Did you think maybe there would be more of that in the coming years? How important is it for a defense to have a mentality that they need to score as well?

Darrin Walls: I mean, for me, yeah, I thought I would see more of those. I mean, I practiced it every day. As a defense, we practice making plays and scoring. So it’s very important for us to score as a defense. However, we haven’t. I think that’s a goal that we’re trying to reach this year, is turnovers, amount of turnovers. We have a set goal. We’re working towards that. We do a good job at it at practice, we just have to translate it onto the field.

Q. Darrin, I just wanted to ask you a little bit about what you think of Chris Owusu. He came back for Stanford this week, played very well. What do you think of the challenge of covering him and how does he compare with some of the other wide receivers that you’ve seen?

Darrin Walls: Yeah, he’s probably one of the fastest receivers we’ll see this year. He’s got great speed. I mean, he’s become a great receiver. I mean, we’re very aware of him and where he is on the field. It will be a challenge for me and other corners to guard him. I’m up for the challenge and I think other guys are, as well.