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December 2, 2018

Drue Tranquill

Julian Love

South Bend, Indiana

Q. Drue, the 2015 game against Clemson, obviously, it was a monsoon. You won't have that in Dallas in the dome. But how much is that game motivation for you guys, how close it was, and that type of a game you played against Clemson? Is that motivating you guys, do you think, for this next couple of weeks?
DRUE TRANQUILL: I mean, any time you lose to a team and get a chance to avenge that loss, obviously, I think it adds a little bit to it. I'm not sure too many guys actually played in that game. I know I didn't play in that game due to injury, but, yeah, we're hungry to get after them and get on with our preparation.

Q. For both you guys, how was this past week for you guys not having a game to prepare and just kind of hoping that your resume spoke for itself?
JULIAN LOVE: It was nice. I mean, just relaxing, handling some schoolwork. Finals are coming up. I wasn't too stressed about us being in. I thought we deserved to be in, and you've just got to be confident in that.

DRUE TRANQUILL: I think our resume speaks for itself. We played teams from across all different conferences, and we won every game. I think that's important in college football. It's tough to win games on any given Saturday. You know we came out and did that this year, and I'm very proud of our guys. Got some rest this week. Guys are able to spend time together outside of football activity, which I think is important for team development as well. So we really enjoyed it.

Q. And for both of you guys as well, how much will this preparation -- you get four weeks here. How much will this mirror that preparation you guys had for the first game against Michigan, a big opponent, tons of time to kind of get ready? How much do you think those two build-ups and preps will mirror each other?
JULIAN LOVE: Coach Kelly kind of laid it out for us right after we found out where we were, and it's going to be similar in some ways. Obviously, we've got to really grind on the fundamentals in the initial parts of our practice, but then we're just going to get after it and just really build that hunger to play in Dallas and against Clemson. All of our mindsets are shaping right now. We're ready to attack. We're ready to go. It's just working on our game until then.

Q. Julian, you talked about working on your game there. How much better can the defense get over this practice period? It almost seems like it's a spring practice in terms of how many practices you get.
JULIAN LOVE: Right. I think our defense could get better in a lot of ways. I think the main component to that is rest and recovery. I think we've been grinding all season, and a lot of guys have been playing a lot of snaps. I know Drue and Te'von for the linebackers have played the most snaps on our defense, and that takes a toll on the body. So allowing -- this week and the other weeks going forward allows a little bit more rest, but then we're ready to go and really ground the fundamentals of tackling and develop our game plan and really be able to execute it to the best of our abilities. And not just execute it, but know it.

The players knowing the game plan and why we're doing certain things, I think is huge, and Coach Lea stresses that, and he relays that message very well. That's what this whole month, basically, before the game will be.

Q. Drue, I see you don't have the cast on your hand. Are you done playing and even practicing with the cast? And then also, is there a chance that by the time you play in your next game, your ankle's going to be 100 percent?
DRUE TRANQUILL: Yeah, I don't really know regarding the ankle. I mean, it's kind of just day to day. After playing on it for a few weeks, there's going to be some soreness and tightness, and we're going to have to work on the mobility piece of it. I have no answer on that, but my hand's good to go, fully healed and cleared by the doctor.

Q. Does it almost feel weird to be able to have all that mobility and so forth with that? I know you did a really good job of getting used to it, but now that you have, does it change things for you at all?
DRUE TRANQUILL: I mean, I haven't really been able to play without it, so I guess we'll see. And obviously, this first game of the playoffs and practices, see how it feels to actually have my hand back and be able to shock and escape and use my other hand for block destruction. It will be nice to have for sure.

Q. And, Drue, I know that part of the reason you come back is because you want an opportunity like this, but when did you really feel like this was realistic. I mean, did you think that in the off-season this was this kind of team, or was it into the season where you said, okay, wait a second, we may be a playoff team?
DRUE TRANQUILL: Well, I made the decision to come back knowing we had the pieces. It was just a matter of execution. In '16, we failed to execute in the fourth quarter and lost a lot of close games. In college football, it really just comes down to technique and fundamentals and executing the game plan. At Notre Dame, you're always going to have talented athletes, like this guy (indicating Love).

So it's just a matter of guys going out on defense, 11 as 1, and executing, when you do so, you have a pretty good chance to win some ball games.

Q. How does it feel to be one of the last four teams competing for the National Championship?
JULIAN LOVE: It's pretty fun. It's a great time. To be with the guys we're with and to be going through this with anyone, I mean, it's just a special moment. Seeing No. 3 up there earlier today, it was awesome. We know that that was one of our goals in the beginning of the season, and now it's just checked off the list. Now going forward, we've got a few more boxes to check, but it's a fun time in South Bend.

Q. What about for both of you, playing in a stadium like AT&T Stadium, one of the biggest stadiums in the country, what's that going to be like, a moment like that?
DRUE TRANQUILL: It will be cool. I feel like we've played in a lot of big stadiums, and I think, if you focus too much on the atmosphere on the arena and what you're playing, you'll kind of lose focus of the game. Obviously, this is why you come to Notre Dame. You come to play in the playoffs. Like this is all we have to play for. We don't have to play for conference championships, we play for National Championships. So to be in a position on the big stage with everybody watching, it obviously adds a little flavor to that.

But we're kind of used to that here at Notre Dame. Our fan base is great, and they follow us no matter what game we're playing in. For us, it's just going to be about getting down to the Xs and Os and getting after them.

Q. And then Julian, seeing you wear the Weish Fest shirt, were you there yesterday? What was that like -- just you're not focusing on the other things, you're focusing on your teammates and your bond with your teammates.
JULIAN LOVE: Yeah, that's what it's all about. I was at Weish Fest. A lot of us were. I live with Nic Weishar, so it's great to be supporting my friend. It was great to be going through that with him. That's what it's about. It's a bond we're making here that's special. Don't worry, we were watching the games. They had some games on TVs there. Everybody was kind of huddled around different games, but we were enjoying the experience and supporting Nic.

Q. Julian, what was it like for this whole campaign around you for the Jim Thorpe Award? Did you embrace that, or was it kind of uncomfortable at first to get used to everyone pulling for you like that?
JULIAN LOVE: Yeah, it kind of was uncomfortable for me at first to really openly campaign for votes, for the fan vote aspect. It was definitely weird, and it was my mom calling me, and my girlfriend telling me like, why not go all out? You're in it for a reason. Why not do all that you can, text everybody that you can to see if everybody can spread the word?

So day two I kind of switched my mindset around from being like it's cool and like that to let's get after it. So trying to be as interactive with as many fans as I can, and everyone was sending it out. Between my godmother, my mom, my sister, and girlfriend, they probably alone had like 20,000 votes, constantly refreshing trying to vote, which is special, a lot of loved ones. To see that nearly 100,000 people voted, it's amazing. It's crazy the reach that that got, and it's pretty cool.

Q. Drue, just your general impressions of -- you watched Clemson last night. Just your general impressions of their offense.
DRUE TRANQUILL: Yeah, they've got a talented quarterback, obviously, who can get the ball out, and talented skill. I think their running back went 80 yards to the house the first play of the game. So obviously, explosive, dynamic, a lot of RPO game. We're going to have to be disciplined. We're going to have to be on our assignments. Great challenge, but we're looking forward to it.

Q. What are your thoughts when -- obviously, their quarterback is a very talented kid, but he is a freshman. What are your thoughts when you go against a younger quarterback compared to somebody that's a real veteran?
DRUE TRANQUILL: We always talk about just making them line up and snap it as many times as possible. The freshman's got problems too. He's got girlfriend problems. He's got school problems. And it just takes one snap of him thinking about that to throw us one or make a mental error.

So we just talk about, if an offense is going to get going on us, we don't want to give up explosive plays, and guys like Julian make that possible for us. I think you've seen many times this year on offense, we'll take on water but they'll get down and end up missing a field goal or something, and we'll get our offense back down on the field. We just talk about making him snap as many times as possible to get it into the end zone.

Q. Julian, you said you watched the game, and I asked Mustipher this too. Can you watch the game like a fan? I know the TV version doesn't give you the clearest view of the routes and stuff, but you're looking at it differently than the rest of the world?
JULIAN LOVE: I'm going to be honest. I was mainly watching the Northwestern-Ohio State game. I wasn't really paying too much attention to the Clemson-Pitt game, just purely being a fan of the game and having friends on the Northwestern team, being from Chicago.

So TV copies, you don't really get the full picture. Also, what the commentators say, it gets in your mind too, but obviously, going forward, now that we know what's ahead of us, a lot of film prep will be made.

Q. Have you seen Trevor Lawrence play?
JULIAN LOVE: Yeah, I've seen a couple of their games this year throughout. Sometimes they might play before us, a couple of hours before us. So me and Troy like to watch them play. Troy is a South Carolina guy, so that's kind of his bread and butter.

Q. Kind of along the lines of what I asked Drue, in terms of is your mindset any different when you know you're going against a young quarterback as opposed to a veteran quarterback?
JULIAN LOVE: Yeah, that's part of it for sure, knowing who the quarterback is. You will see a lot of attention being aimed at the quarterback. For me, I like to look at personnel in all aspects of it, what the line is doing, how the receivers play, what they like, what they don't like. Then kind of for me, I then will look at the tendencies of the quarterback.

So I think Trevor Lawrence, he's done a great job for them this whole year, and he has things that he does well, maybe some things that he doesn't do well, but I like to look at offenses as a whole rather than aiming at the quarterback. He is young, but he's shown this year that he is very talented.

Q. Drue, just wanted to know, when did you have the cast removed?
DRUE TRANQUILL: I mean, I've had the cast off for probably three or four weeks, but I've had to practice and play in it. I mean, I had the cast on against USC for playing, but I've kind of been cleared.

Q. When you got back from USC, was there a morning that you decided, eh, I think I'll just skip rehab today, or have you stayed with it since you've been back?
DRUE TRANQUILL: I had to skip it one morning because I pushed my entire end of semester project and in one of my classes off so I could be in the rehab room, so I had to spend about 48 hours to knock out that, but then I was right back on the trail, man.

Q. Now, when are you headed for New York?
DRUE TRANQUILL: I leave tomorrow morning.

Q. Julian, talk a little bit about what you guys have seen him accomplish this year, just to play in games and what he's done.
JULIAN LOVE: Drue is as tough as they get. That goes to show, I think, he got hurt. We were preparing for Northwestern, and Drue kind of was getting reps, but we were still trying to figure out if he was 100 percent. And I don't know what it was, like second, maybe third quarter, I'm lining up, getting a call, and I look over at who's relaying the call to me, and it's Drue. The whole game it was Drue, and no one informed me.

I think Drue just exits right onto the field. I don't know if he told anybody. And I see Drue, and I like froze. I was like, can you -- should I call this? Should I call this? But Drue made the call, and I was like all right. I'm with it. We're going to go to battle.

And that's just kind of the mindset that Drue has and how he's kind of shaped the mindset of this team, that we're in it together. He's not out there for himself, but for the betterment of this team. That's why he came back for his fifth year because he realized how special this was as a unit. No individual is better than the next, and Drue epitomizes that.

Q. Obviously, you guys have earned tremendous respect getting to the College Football Playoff, yet whenever there is discussion of Notre Dame, it always seems, well, Georgia, we'd favor them on a neutral field, we'd favor Oklahoma, we'd favor Ohio State. I think you're 11-1/2 point underdogs against Clemson. Does that in any way affect you the way people think it does, or do you just kind of let it slide?
JULIAN LOVE: I mean, I don't really care about what the spread is or anything like that. I know what this team's capable of, to be honest with you, and people can compare us to the teams who didn't get in all they want. We're in. We're No. 3, and we're going to show the world what we're about.

Q. Do you guys ever feel slighted in a way?
JULIAN LOVE: I mean, not really. All that matters is the people in this room, and that's what Coach Kelly has stressed since day one. That's what I've been focused on. It's what we've been focused on is the opinions of our brothers, the guys next to us, the guys who are actually on the field, and that's all that matters. So I don't feel slighted by it. We don't feel slighted by it by any means, but we're just happy to be in this moment.

DRUE TRANQUILL: I mean, nobody likes Notre Dame. That's just the reality of it. If you're not Notre Dame, you don't like Notre Dame. They can -- all the experts have to pull from in their recent experience is what's happened over the last ten years and how we got blown out by Alabama in '12 and lost to Ohio State in '15 in the Fiesta Bowl. Every time we go against a school with seemingly superior athletes on paper, we haven't fared well. This team is different. This team is not the '12 team. This team isn't '15. Look at our athletes on paper. I think we've got a pretty good spread as well, and I'd take us.

Who cares what the spread has to say? I guess we'll find out on December 29.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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