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December 2, 2018

Sam Mustipher

Ian Book

South Bend, Indiana

Q. I guess both of you guys, how does it feel to finally be officially into the College Football Playoff year?
IAN BOOK: It feels great. There was a really good vibe today in here. I think our whole entire team is extremely excited and ready to head down and go to Dallas.

SAM MUSTIPHER: Yeah, feels good. Obviously, this is one of our goals at the beginning of the season, and we accomplished it.

Q. Were either of you guys nervous this past week? You guys didn't play. You didn't really know what was going to happen out there. Were you guys feeling pretty confident, or were you nervous that maybe you wouldn't be going to the playoff there?
IAN BOOK: No, I don't think anyone on the team was nervous. The whole team was really confident. Yeah, we feel like we deserved a spot in the playoffs. To see that work out is something that we wanted to do and accomplish all year.

SAM MUSTIPHER: Coach Kelly talks about controlling the controllables. We won all 12 of our games and every game that was put in front of us. So we felt like we were in a good spot.

Q. For both of you, what did you learn maybe from last year's Bowl prep that will help you in this Playoff prep this season?
IAN BOOK: You know, just taking it day by day, sticking to our process. I don't think anything's got to change dramatically -- or drastically. Did I say dramatically? Same thing. So, yeah, just taking the practice. I think that's the main thing this team has done such a good job of doing is just taking it day by day and not thinking too far ahead. I think that's what we're going to take away for this Bowl prep.

SAM MUSTIPHER: Yeah, I agree with Ian.


Q. Good answer. Sam, what do you remember about the Clemson game in 2015? And, Ian, did you watch that game even though you weren't at Notre Dame? Did you take in the hurricane game, hurricane/monsoon game?
SAM MUSTIPHER: I remember it being loud. I remember they have a great defense. Coach Venables -- I'm familiar with them. One of my high school teammates, Dorian O'Daniel, won a National Championship there. I know what type of program they are. They're a physical team, very talented. I remember that. I remember running outside zone down on the goal line and trying to get it in for a score and not getting the job done. So, yeah, we remember what happened.

IAN BOOK: I'm pretty sure I was home. I remember watching it with my family.

Q. Did you watch the game last night?
SAM MUSTIPHER: Yeah, I got a chance to watch the game last night. They're good, very talented. They can move the ball and score. Great rushing attack. Their defense is a physical front, probably one of the best fronts in college football. It's going to be a great challenge for us.

IAN BOOK: Yeah, same as Sam. Just got to watch the game last night and then briefly watched a little bit of film with Coach Rees. Obviously, their season has worked out the way that they want it.

They're a great team. Like you said, they're up front, they've really got some good guys. It's going to be a good challenge for us, and I think our whole entire team is extremely excited for that challenge.

Q. How excited are you to play in a stadium like AT&T Stadium, Jerry World, one of the biggest stadiums in the NFL, in the world. What is that going to be like?
IAN BOOK: I'm extremely excited. It's a stadium I've always wanted to play at. To go down to Dallas and get a win is something our whole entire team is extremely excited about.

SAM MUSTIPHER: That's what Notre Dame is all about. You think about some of the venues kids dream about -- Cowboy Stadium, you think about Fenway Park, you think about Yankee Stadium, and I've had an opportunity to play in all three now. So it's very exciting.

Q. This is for both you guys. I'll start with Sam. I was curious how you sort of balance the, I guess, feeling of accomplishment from making the College Football Playoff with the desire to keep working. Can you savor sort of today without it being a distraction from the next month?
SAM MUSTIPHER: You savor it because this is what you work for and you earn this. But our initial goal is to win the National Championship, and we haven't done that. So I don't think there should be too much rejoicing right now.

IAN BOOK: We're all excited with how far we've come, but our main goal, as Sam said, is to graduate and win a National Championship. So there's still work that has to be done.

Q. Ian, can you put in perspective just maybe beginning of the season to this point for you. I mean, could you have ever imagined being in a position where not only are you the quarterback, but you're here as one of the few chosen to speak on behalf of the team as you guys head to the playoff? I imagine this is maybe not something you anticipated at the beginning of the year when you're the backup quarterback.
IAN BOOK: Right. Yeah, it's gone by so fast when you think about it and kind of take a step back and see how far we've come. I'm just extremely, extremely excited for this whole team. I know everyone is really confident. We're excited to go play Clemson. Like he was saying, you kind of take a step back and realize how fast this season has gone by and where we are all now, we're very fortunate to be in this spot.

Q. Sam, coming back for a fifth year, I imagine these are the reasons you came back for.
SAM MUSTIPHER: Yeah. I mean, when you talk to all the fifth year guys, I'm sure they'd all agree we came back because we realized the type of family and the type of unit we had on this football team. For this to happen for us is pretty awesome. We've had our ups and downs throughout our time here, but you couldn't write a better script than this.

Q. And then how much have you seen Ian's growth, and how much has he meant to this team being here today in this spot, playing in the playoff?
SAM MUSTIPHER: He's meant everything to this team. He's calm all the time, level headed guy no matter what's happening out there on the football field. That's a testament to the preparation he put in well beyond the time his name was called to go in the game this year. He's a great kid on and off the field. We love having a guy back there like that.

Q. And you guys mentioned, obviously, the goal, graduate, win a National Championship. Obviously, you mentioned being here is so great, but how important do you feel it is for you guys as a team and for your fans to go out there and win that game to kind of re-cement where Notre Dame is at considering the history that's been for the last 30 years?
SAM MUSTIPHER: I mean, honestly, I think we'll just take it one day at a time and go out there. You know, we're going to prepare the same way we have all year, and we might even up it a notch, but we're not going to change anything drastically, like Ian said earlier.

So we're really just focused on what we can do to put ourselves in the best position to win the game.

Q. What was it like to have a week off last week? In continuity, you've been doing this since last August. Now it's a change in continuity and getting to a different mindset. Is that something you embrace, concentrating nothing on football now?
IAN BOOK: Definitely. Just having the week off for our whole entire team to rest a little bit and kind of regroup. It was kind of weird to watch a bunch of games on Saturday and not play. But I think it was good just for everyone to, like I said earlier, take a step back and rest up and get ready for this big game.

Q. Sam, you said you watched the game. Can you just watch the game like a typical observer, or are you observing what's going on with their obviously very talented defensive line?
SAM MUSTIPHER: Yeah, I really don't watch football the same way I used to. I mean, I watch the ball when there's obviously a big play, but I'm always watching fronts and stuff like that. So it wouldn't have changed no matter which game I was watching. Yeah, I was tuned in to Northwestern-Ohio State, and I'd flip back and forth between commercials.

They're a good team, a physical team, kind of a run the football type of game with the weather that they had. So it was awesome to see.

Q. Other than the general -- I mean, everybody understands that Clemson's D-line is pretty good and you saw that, but what are maybe some of the nuances that you observed watching it last night?
SAM MUSTIPHER: Big, fast, physical. They're athletic. Great D-ends. Great interior D-linemen, great linebackers. And Coach Venables has those guys with their ears pinned back at all times. Looking forward to it.

Q. Ian, I know you don't want to get into the specifics of your injury, but how important was it for you to be able to have this break and let things heal a little bit?
IAN BOOK: I'm feeling great, so, obviously, another week of rest definitely helped. But, yeah, I'm feeling good. Got no problems right now.

Q. Would you say that you played the last two games injured?
IAN BOOK: No, I think I was fine, obviously. Once I was cleared by the doctors, everything was good.

Q. And then kind of along the lines of what I was asking Sam and what he was observing, you said you sat down with Coach Rees. What kind of things did you go over and look at?
IAN BOOK: We briefly just were going over some of the fronts and watching some of Clemson's defense, just a game or so. So we're obviously going to dive into that a lot more, but, yeah, we were just going through a couple games from their season.

Q. What do they do with their secondary? Do they press a lot? Specific coverages that maybe they run more than others.
IAN BOOK: It's a lot of stuff that we've seen throughout the year, but like Sam was saying earlier, I think just in terms of their whole entire defense, very big, very fast, athletic. So it's going to be a great challenge that we're all extremely excited for.

Q. There's four common opponents, and I guess the Pittsburgh coach was asked about comparing you guys to Clemson, and he said, there is no comparison. Clemson is the best football team we've played. And I'm sure today in Ohio State and Georgia they're complaining. What's your response to that from a common opponent's coach to say that flat out? And how much do you think you guys can use as a group the national doubt that might be out there about you guys and the schedule you faced?
SAM MUSTIPHER: I mean, I don't really care about anybody's opinion outside of this building, and I don't think the rest of this team does either. That's how we've done it all year. We've prepared the exact same way, and we've kept our nose focused on what we needed to be focused on. We did what we've had to do when there are opponents in front of us, and I've voiced that to the rest of the team as well. They understand that, and they know what we've done all year.

IAN BOOK: Just to piggy-back on that, there's always going to be doubters, and that's something our team doesn't focus on. The people in this building, you know, we play for each other, and there's going to be doubters every day. So you just use it to -- use it to feel yourselves.

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