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UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME MEDIA CONFERENCE
September 9, 2009
THE MODERATOR: We've got Jimmy Clausen, and Eric Olsen here at the front table. We'll start with the questions from the media first before we take any questions from the callers.
Q. Was this a game that you watched much growing up? Do you remember watching Michigan-Notre Dame?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: Yeah, I watched a little bit. I would say that I watched the Notre Dame-USC more than I did the Notre Dame-Michigan game. But I watched it on TV you know, ever since I was a little kid.
Q. Any memory that stands out in your mind?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: Not really, not really.
Q. Eric, how about you? Did you grow up watching the game?
ERIC OLSEN: I was more of a hockey player growing up. When I was a young kid I was watching the Mighty Ducks and watching the Rangers. But I wasn't much of a college football fan, so I can't say that I have.
Q. You both played in the game, is this something that you feel a little bit there is something extra to the game?
ERIC OLSEN: I mean, definitely. Just being a part of the Notre Dame tradition and being in school, you hear about the Michigan-Notre Dame rivalry all the time. You obviously both of us that have played in this game before in years past, you know, we know that they're going to come out playing their best game plan as hard as they can. And they know the same thing goes for us, so it's exciting for us as a team.
Q. You look at this as a game. You're both 1-0. You've got a good start. Is this a game that can set the tone for the rest of the season for whoever comes out and whoever wins the game, do you think?
ERIC OLSEN: I think so. You know, to be honest, I think the team thinks we're 2-0. We treated that Hawaii game as the first game of the season. But I think this is the next big step for us. You know, going on the road into Michigan, a hostile environment, 110,000 people there. It's going to be a big test for us.
Q. If you guys are 2-0, that is a long break between games. That's a long break. That's longer than waiting for a bowl game. I'm just wondering in watching your perspective, I mean, when you went to Michigan the first time or your first road start which was Penn State. I mean, your head was probably just completely swimming in those situations.
JIMMY CLAUSEN: My first start against Penn State I was just really excited to get out there and play. They had the first wideout and everyone was excited. Especially me being 18 years on old, 19 years old, going in there and playing in front of that crowd was just great.
And going to Michigan was kind of tough, you know Michigan fans are crazy, and it's loud in there. I really didn't know what to expect. But going into that game and getting beat up like I did was not real fun. I think this year's going to be something special for us.
Q. Are you physically different than you were there or more mentally different than you were then?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: Mentally and physically. But I think the biggest thing is physically. I was, you know, 190 pounds or whatever I was when I was a freshman.
ERIC OLSEN: You're welcome for being physically better.
Q. Eric, we were talking to Coach Verducci yesterday, and he said prior to the game on Saturday against Nevada, his only point of reference was the spring game. In the spring game, the offensive linemen kind of reverted back to some old techniques. Do you know what I'm talking about? Can you explain what techniques were changed specifically? What do you do differently now than what you did in your previous blocking techniques?
ERIC OLSEN: There are a ton of things that we do differently now. But we've changed the way we go about blocking a lot of our schemes. I think the biggest thing that we might have reverted back to during the spring game and gotten a little sloppy on was just effort at times. It's kind of tough to play all out in the spring game when you're going against your own guys and you have been the whole spring.
But as far as technique-wise and stuff Coach Verducci has taught us a lot of new things and given us more tools to work with. I think it's just a matter of guys breaking bad habits or old habits that they have. And sometimes that's tough to do, especially early like in the spring game.
Q. I'd asked him if you guys had now learned to play to the whistle, you know, right up through the whistle, play hard the whole play, and he said he wasn't sure yet. He wasn't sure whether that had become a habit for you guys yet. What is your perspective on that? Do you think that's something that you don't have to think about anymore now?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: You know, I think that's something that we're striving for to be able to play every game for the whole game through the whistle. I don't think that we're completely there yet, but, you know, we're trying to mentally as well as physically condition ourselves to be at that point. And, you know, it definitely takes a lot of work, but it's something that we focus on every day in practice and work towards.
Q. Jimmy, if you can maybe explain how much your comfort level would be if the Notre Dame quarterback has, I guess, helped you on the field becoming a better player and more confident player?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: I'm comfortable being the quarterback at Notre Dame. You know, early on in my career, I didn't know what to expect being the quarterback at Notre Dame. But now I do know the ins and outs of different things, you know whether it's on the field or off the field. My confidence level off the field is high right now as well as the rest of the guys on the team. And I think that's just going to help us.
Q. Is it higher than maybe it was at the end of last season, your confidence?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: I say it's the same, you know. Just being confident each and every time you go out there, whether it's practice or the games on Saturdays.
Q. With the whole leadership thing you talked about a lot during the spring. Is a lot of that your increased role in that because of the comfort level you have and just the maturity, do you think?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: Not necessarily, you know. I think I've been confident, you know, when I wasn't in a leadership role like I am now. You know, like last year in the Hawaii game, I was confident going into that as well as the rest of the season. And I really wasn't in a big leadership role like I am right now.
Q. If you could just discuss -- I know we talked about last year, what is your relationship with John Ferrera?
ERIC OLSEN: He's one of my best friends growing up. We went to middle school together. We had a bond right from day one walking in the door. We were both a head taller than everyone else in the class. That just kind of drew us to each other. We kind of parted ways through high school. Then through the recruiting process in college football we kind of met back up. Got back in touch. And we split ways again, and I'm going to say he made a bad mistake and went to the wrong team, but we still keep in touch.
Q. This weekend is the last time you're in reality, probably ever going to face him on opposing teams. Do you think about that at all considering how you guys have come together through since sixth grade?
ERIC OLSEN: Yeah, I just look at it that it's something special. It's something we'll share for plenty of years and tell our kids about down the road. You know, it's just a good experience, it's a great experience for both of us. It's been fun, you know, for both of us at different times. But hopefully it will be fun for me at the end of this one.
Q. You're pretty close with his dad, too, right?
ERIC OLSEN: Yes, I am.
Q. What's that been like? I know he talked to you after the '07 game?
ERIC OLSEN: His father and my father have a lot in common. His father was a police officer, and my father was a firefighter. So their jobs are a little different, but they kind of have the same mindset as far as the occupation. And we were raised the same way. So it was really easy for our families to get close.
Q. Jimmy, it's rare to have one family with a son with a quarterback at the 1A level. Saturday we've got two. Did you have any history with the Fortiers on the field or growing up in Southern California?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: Yeah, I know the Fortiers real well. We both went to Steve Clarkson which was our quarterback coach for a while. When they moved to San Diego, you know, they really didn't workout with Steve too much after that, because they were so far away. But I know the Fortiers pretty well.
Q. Did you ever play in a game against any Fortier high school games?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: No, we didn't. I didn't.
Q. Not to rehash old memories or cause flashbacks or anything. But that '07 game, where would you rank that in terms of toughest, most difficult things you've gone through on the football field?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: That might have been physically the toughest game I've ever played.
Q. Looking back at it, I mean, you probably won't want to let on how much you were beat up. But how beat up were you the next day? Were you in the ice tub 24 hours straight or something or what?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: Yeah, I was pretty banged up after that game. It took me almost three or four, five days to recover from that game. You know, I'm just a totally different person than what I was against Michigan in '07.
Q. Does that play into any -- is there any motivation for you just because of that play and that game, how tough it was, this being the next trip for you? Does that play into this weekend at all?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: To be honest, I really don't think that I'm worried or thinking about that game or a lot of the guys that were on that team that played in the game, whether it was Eric or Armando, who was another true freshman that played in that game. To be honest, I don't think we're even looking at that game or thinking of that anymore.
Q. Maybe just referencing that game a little bit, not thinking about the score. I know it gets loud here, but with the height going into the big house, and the noise and intensity you guys having that experience already, is there anything that you're taking from that experience in terms of that to help you guys?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: I just know from our perspective on offense it's going to be really loud when we go there in the first series. Especially, we're just going to try to take the ball down the field and keep moving the ball throughout the rest of the game.
Q. Is there anything you've told the younger guys?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: Not really. I think they have an idea how loud it can be when there are 110,000 fans screaming and yelling at you from the time you walk on to the field. So I think they have some idea. But I think they have to find out real soon.
Q. The last two games, Hawaii and Nevada, you guys haven't faced a whole lot of adversity from the opponent. You just kind of went out and did your thing and ran away with the game. I would imagine you guys are expecting that to be a little bit different on Saturday. Can you talk about how you feel like this team's maybe better prepared to deal with a team punching back than maybe you were last season?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: Yeah, obviously every team's going to try to fight back. We've just got to keep hammering away. Keep driving the balls on the field and scoring on offense and defense. Just keep getting stops and giving the ball back to the guys on the offense.
Our goal is just to go out there each and every play and convert on that play whatever it is. I think we're going to do the same thing against Michigan or everyone that we play down the road.
Q. You're going to feel like what the opponent is doing. Do you try to make that as irrelevant as possible? Is it more about your job?
ERIC OLSEN: Yeah, personally, it's about my job, and the offensive line's job and the offense as a unit's job. We have faith in our defense. We don't have to worry about what they're going to do on the field, because we trust they're going to do a great job. The biggest thing for us is we've got to score points. As long as we outscore the opponent, doesn't matter how much times they punch back. As long as we outscore them, we'll win the game.
Q. Talk about Armando yesterday and the wildcat a little bit. He insists if the play comes your way, that you'll not hesitate to level a devastating crack back block. Do you ever actually practice that? And do you think about that ever happening?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: No, we don't practice it as quarterbacks. But I think it's just an instinct and natural for when someone's running at you you've got to throw a block for one of your teammates, so you've got to sell out as much as they sell out for you.
Q. What was it like getting into that set on Saturday? Splitting out wide, I'm sure the guys covering you out there didn't think that would be an alignment that he'd be stuck in.
JIMMY CLAUSEN: No, when I was over on their sidelines, the coaches are screaming double-play action. Watch for double-play action, things like that. But that's just one of the packages we have. And I'm willing to do whatever I have to do in that package to help us.
Q. Have you given Armando any tips on passing potentially?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: I'm trying to. He thinks he's a quarterback. He thinks he's Mike Vick, but I'm trying to help him out a little bit.
Q. I'm calling for Eric. Can you tell me where you feel you are after one game of moving from left guard to center?
ERIC OLSEN: You know, I feel like I played decently. I'm not to where I necessarily want or hoped to be. But I feel like it's step one of pretty much a marathon of the season. I think I've taken the first step.
Q. I was talking to John the other day and he mentioned that two years ago when you guys had some struggles, he reached out to you and last year you reached out to him. I was wondering if you could share a little of what he said to you and what you said to him?
ERIC OLSEN: As a friend as far as our relationship off the field, I kind of knew what he felt like and what he was going through. I know how tough it is to go through a season where you don't win nearly as many games as you want to or hope to. And you have to deal with the scrutiny of the fans and the media surrounding the program. And I just kind of gave him a heads up to keep his head on straight because that's what it's going to take.
Q. They said if he wins this weekend, he wants a dozen H and H bagels. What do you want?
ERIC OLSEN: If they win this weekend?
Q. Yeah, he wants a double H and H bagels.
ERIC OLSEN: So if I win, what do I want? A handshake and a hug from one of my best friends, that's all.
End of FastScripts