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UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 21, 2007
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon. We have John Sullivan, John Carlson and Travis Thomas. We'll take questions from media in attendance here first.
Q. John Sullivan, how do you feel? You were out there doing a little running yesterday.
JOHN SULLIVAN: Yeah, you know, I'm feeling pretty good. There's been no decision made as of now for this weekend. Just going to see how things go the next few days and we'll see on Saturday.
Q. Coach Weis said a lot of the protection breakdowns in recent games cannot be attributed to the offensive line. What have you seen that's made the progress in that group, where obviously at the beginning of the season there were breakdowns?
JOHN SULLIVAN: I think it's a combination of a few things. It always starts with hard work. From there it goes to great coaching. I think those two go hand-in-hand. I think Coach Latina has done a good job. He's a big reason why our offensive line has progressed throughout the year.
The last factor is experience. You know, things happen fast in games. You can can't always get full speed in practice. It's just not the way it works. There's a different level of intensity in the game. I think experience has helped everybody a lot. That's why we've come along.
Q. Yesterday he was talking about confidence. Does that sort of go hand-in-hand with experience?
JOHN SULLIVAN: Definitely.
Q. How does confidence make you a better lineman?
JOHN SULLIVAN: You know, it allows you to work your technique. You're not worried, you're not hesitant. You can just go out there and play fast basically and play fluid. You're not too robotic when you're confident. You trust your technique. You trust the guys next to you are doing what they're supposed to do. If you have confidence in yourself and the guys you're playing next to, you're going to play better as a unit.
Q. How bad do you want to play versus thinking about your future in terms of making this decision?
JOHN SULLIVAN: I'm still focused on this season and the fact I'm a football player here at Notre Dame. I got to tell you, I'm dying to play. Hopefully I'll be able to do so on Saturday.
Q. What does this game mean to you, knowing it's your last chance? Regardless of what happens, there's no Bowl game. Talk about that.
TRAVIS THOMAS: I just want to go out and play well in my last game. Not only play well but get a win. You always want to go out with a good taste in your mouth. We found out that in the last 15 years we haven't won two games in a row. That's obviously something that we would like to accomplish and help to move this program forward because we still have a duty to do so.
JOHN CARLSON: You know, I think obviously we want to go out and play well. We want to go and win the game. I think if we do those things, we're going to have a lot of fun. It might sound stupid, but we haven't had much fun this year. It would be nice to go out, play well, just have a lot of fun in our last opportunity to compete as a team.
JOHN SULLIVAN: I agree with these guys. I'd just like to go out on a high note. Obviously you can't do that unless you win the game. I'd like to enjoy that, that last game, that last win with my teammates. I think that would be something really special.
Q. John Sullivan, what kind of things were you helping Wenger with during the game?
JOHN SULLIVAN: You know, basically everything I see I'm just pointing out to him. If I notice certain things with the defensive linemen, I'm trying help him with that. Certain ways that people are lined up. Let him know possibly if line stunts are coming.
Dan has done a great job with everything, especially with Mike IDs, determining what front is out there in front of the entire offense. The whole offense relies on him. He's done a great job with that. If there are any nuances that possibly my experience allows me to know, I make sure I share them with him, technique things, just everything that goes on in the game.
Q. When is the last time you stood on a sideline and watched a game?
JOHN SULLIVAN: I don't think I've ever missed a game besides last week as long as I've played football, from youth league all the way through high school, through college. I mean, I missed a spring game before, but never missed a game.
Q. What were you emotions Saturday?
JOHN SULLIVAN: It was strange. You know, obviously I was disappointed because I wanted to play, but at the same time going out there and getting a win, I felt as much a part of that standing on the sidelines as I think I would have if I played in the game. That was a great moment for this team, for the seniors and younger guys.
You know, instead of letting disappointment overtake all the emotions of the day, I just tried to focus on doing what I could to help the team. That was pointing out things that I saw along the offensive line.
Q. Travis, obviously you've played different positions. Zibby was playing quarterback last weekend. Is there any position that you guys want to play, little bit different?
TRAVIS THOMAS: I think I kind of tapped out all my positions that I could play (laughter). I don't think I'll try anything else.
JOHN CARLSON: I think I'd like to try to kick or punt. If you have the pleasure of watching them in practice, they don't do anything. They practice kicking and snapping and all that stuff, but then they lean on their helmet and kneel down on one knee. I'd like to try that for a day, then I think I'd be bored with it.
Q. John Sullivan, you want to line up at wideout?
JOHN SULLIVAN: No, I'm an O lineman. I'll just stay there (laughter).
Q. Coach Weis said this is going to be a blitzathon. What have you seen on tape?
TRAVIS THOMAS: We've seen exactly what he says. We saw a lot of variety of looks. From what I've seen, they're a big, physical team that plays hard. We're going to have to match that physicality and intensity coming into Saturday.
JOHN CARLSON: Travis said it pretty well. They're big, physical. They like to move up front. They're going to bring a lot of pressure.
Q. Are their blitzes different than anything you've seen this year?
JOHN CARLSON: Well, we've seen a lot of blitzes this year, and they've shown some things on tape that we've already experienced. But you never know what they're going to do come Saturday. What they've shown, we've seen some of it. Obviously we're studying them on tape. But they could bring something that we maybe haven't seen very much this year.
Q. Charlie talked yesterday about that when Jimmy plays well, it just doesn't give him confidence, it gives the whole team confidence, that you can look to your quarterback, make the plays, throws, that elevates everybody. Talk about that team-wide effect.
JOHN CARLSON: I'll say that even though we've got some fifth-year guys on this team that serve us in leadership roles, the quarterback ultimately is the leader of the offense. It starts with him. If the quarterback goes out there and makes plays, he's confident in his ability, it's kind of a trickle-down effect. People are going to feed off that. Like I said, he's the leader of the offense. When he plays well, most likely the offense is going to play well.
Q. Coach Weis also said when he's playing well, it kind of lets other guys get out of trying to do too much, where you feel you need to go above and beyond. Do you see that as well, that guys are just more comfortable doing their job, they don't feel like they have to do more than that?
JOHN CARLSON: I guess I'm left to this one, too.
You know, I can't speak for every position. I'm sure Coach Weis notices more than I notice. From my perspective, my position is limited in its scope. I can do my job and I can't really do much more than that. So no matter who's in there at quarterback, no matter how they're playing, my job really doesn't change. Even if I want to do more than my position is kind of allowed to do, I can't really do that.
Like I said, Coach Weis has a broader perspective. He knows more of what's going on all over the field. But from my position, no matter who's at quarterback, how he's playing, my job doesn't change.
Q. Travis, as a runningback, the quarterback isn't playing well, do you feel you need to break every run for a touchdown because the passing game is not working? Anything that runs through your head there?
TRAVIS THOMAS: No. I would agree with John. Regardless who is back there taking the snap, we still have the same duties week in, week out, whether it's pick up a blitz, run, make the right read, catch a ball when it's thrown your way. That's not going to change regardless.
Obviously you want to do as much as you can. I think when guys start to do more than they need to do, I think that's when things may tend to break down and they may not be playing as well. I think doing your job, regardless of who is back there, is what needs to be done.
Q. For a runningback on blitz pickup, something that's been a little up and down the last few weeks, just talk about the keys, what you need to do to improve in that area, especially this week with Stanford.
TRAVIS THOMAS: Well, obviously you need to pay attention to who the Mike call is. From there, everything goes on. You obviously need to know whether it's an odd front or even front. Things change according to that. You need to be in sync with your offensive line as far as what type of calls they make.
You just have to be aware of what you see and then just be patient from there, go by what you see.
Q. When things don't work with the blitz pickup as a runningback, you see one thing, the offensive line sees another?
TRAVIS THOMAS: I mean, you know, sometimes people react differently. Not everything is going to be perfect. But you just have to be out there and react and be a football player.
Q. Talk about how Notre Dame is better now than it was early in the season, beginning of the season.
JOHN SULLIVAN: You know, I think we've just made improvements because of a few things actually. We played against some really good teams throughout the entire season, kind of trial by fire. I think that experience has helped us a lot. I think it's forced the growing process as football players to take place a little faster.
We won a game this past weekend. This team is going to be playing with a little more confidence, I'd assume. I think we just have better football players now than we did at the beginning of the year.
Q. Can you tell me how big a deal that was, to beat Duke?
JOHN SULLIVAN: I think that was a huge deal. There were a lot of reasons. Most basic reason is our football team needed some confidence. To get a win, that's the only way to do that. For other reasons, it was Senior Day here. I think it was important for the seniors to win their last home game, home game this season. I think that meant a lot to the entire team. I think that win will help the younger guys that haven't been here through the past couple successful seasons to get rolling in the right direction.
Q. Come Monday things are going to be different. Your career is moving in another direction. What are you going to miss about playing football at Notre Dame?
TRAVIS THOMAS: I think the thing I'm going to miss most is the relationships I've built with my teammates. The fun we have not only on the field but off the field, in the locker room, being with each other day in, day out. Been with some guys for four or five years. Our friendships will continue to go beyond football. I'm just going to miss the camaraderie we've had and the fun we've had.
JOHN CARLSON: I completely agree with what Travis said. We spend a lot of time together. The guys on this team, we're together in meetings, lifting workouts, running workouts, in the off-season, in practice, film. We're together for many hours every day. It's a special relationship that we have with each other. I'm really going to miss that camaraderie.
JOHN SULLIVAN: I agree with these guys. There have been so many relationships built up here over the last half a decade, which seems crazy to say, but that's how long we've been here really. I couldn't talk about anything specifically. Obviously, the ones with teammates are special, your coaches. Everybody at the school, your friends, certain professors. Lots of different people.
The other thing is I'm going to miss my hard work being for the University of Notre Dame and for my team. I think we all take great pride in working hard here. To not be able to work hard for something like the university, coming up, we'll be working for ourselves basically, it changes things a little bit. I'll just miss this place.
Q. Can you talk about what your plans are for Thanksgiving.
TRAVIS THOMAS: Eat as much as I can. That's my plan. We obviously don't get to go home. We're going to Stanford. Wrap up the week pretty much on Thursday, enjoy a good meal, get ready to head out west.
JOHN CARLSON: I plan on starting my Thanksgiving with meetings, watching some film, getting to know Stanford a little better, going over the game plan. We're going to have good practice, the last practice of the season. It's going to go well. Then after that I'm going to go eat a lot of food, probably lay around and watch some professional football.
JOHN SULLIVAN: I'm just focused on eating. Plan on eating a lot.
Q. With as rough as the season has been, can you talk about what you are thankful for this Thanksgiving.
TRAVIS THOMAS: I'm thankful to be a part of this family. I'm thankful for the people I've come across in my five years here at Notre Dame. I'm thankful that things are moving in the right direction. I'm thankful that everyone, for the most part, is healthy and in the right state of mind. I'm thankful for my family. Thankful for a lot of things that I can go on and on about. I'm just thankful that I made a decision to come here.
JOHN CARLSON: Once again, I think Travis said it pretty well. I'm thankful for my family and friends, first and foremost. I'm really thankful to have this opportunity to spend five years here and to meet all the wonderful people that are involved in this program and this university. I'm thankful to have the opportunity to compete at Division I level in football. We've got one game left. I'm thankful for that opportunity as well.
JOHN SULLIVAN: Basically just second what these guys said. Friends and family first and foremost. That includes teammates, coaches, the entire Notre Dame community. The opportunity to be a Notre Dame football player.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, everyone.
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