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UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME MEDIA CONFERENCE
September 16, 2009
Q. I think the general feeling around here is that you guys were better prepared and ready to bounce back compared to previous years, can you comment about that and if that is the case, why that is so?
KYLE McCARTHY: I believe that's correct. I think that we have a much more mature team this year. You know, last year we were a little young, but this year, those guys have really stepped into more of a leadership role.
It's important to this team not to let last week affect us this week. As competitors and football players, we know that we need to put last week behind us no matter how hard it is and move on. You know, there's a whole lot of football to be played, and we are excited for the rest of the season.
SCOTT SMITH: I have to agree with Kyle, just the fact of the leadership that we have on this team and obviously we can't do anything about last Saturday. So all we have to put our focus towards is what happened this coming Saturday against Michigan State, and that's the focus, doing everything you can in practice on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday to get yourself ready to go.
Q. There was a lot of talk from the offense about -- did you hear any feedback?
KYLE McCARTHY: I think you could always do better in practice. You know, it wasn't our best practice, not to make excuses obviously, but you know, as a team we are going to take care of that and just make sure that this week we are going to have a good week of practice.
You know, last week was last week. It wasn't our worst week of practice but I would definitely say it wasn't our best. So obviously the leaders and the coaches are going to take care of that, and we'll get it right this week.
Q. Specifically, what things did the people on the outside maybe don't recognize as to what is so difficult about playing against an offense --
SCOTT SMITH: Well, I mean, you know, that's in the past and obviously you know we are facing a different offense this week, one that's really good. One that you're going to need buckle up your chin straps for and kind of a conventional offense. As a defensive player that's exciting because that's what you practice against all fall, all fall camp, so we'll be ready for this week.
Q. For both of you guys, what is your perspective on, everybody says that Michigan State is always the most physical, or one of, if not the most physical team; have you found that? And has that been the case in the past? And why do you suppose that is?
SCOTT SMITH: I think looking at their offense, defense, special teams, they like to play physical and the challenge for us this week is to try to match that physicality. We are a pretty good football team, too. The goal is to go out and hit somebody and just keep hitting them all game.
It's going tough and it's going to be physical, but that's what we are looking forward to.
KYLE McCARTHY: Michigan State is one of the more physical teams we play all year. It's just their mentality. It's just kind of something they have in their program. They get hard-nosed kids and they are a tough team to play and we are definitely going to be sore on Sunday. But we are pretty confident in ourselves and we think we can strap it up and hit, too. So it's going to be a battle on Saturday. I'm excited for it.
Q. Thinking back to last week, I apologize, I have to go back to Scott again with regards to the --
SCOTT SMITH: Obviously on that play, there's a bunch of guys that would like to have that play and maybe be in a better position to make a play or do something along those lines. But that play is done with. There's nothing that we can do about going back and trying to fix a mistake or anything like that. So just have to learn from it.
You know, we are past it. We were past it the next kickoff we had, that game. So this week is all about just making sure we get those things corrected and just get back to what we do well.
Q. And from that point on, you played all the kickoffs very well.
SCOTT SMITH: It's just our mentality. Like we can't focus on what happened last week. The only thing you can do is move forward. There's no chance of getting those plays back. You have to focus on what's in your control and that's practicing this week to get better and see better looks on maybe what they do and going out there and playing well on Saturday.
Q. In a situation like that when you probably spend the last 13, 14 days -- at the highest level in the country -- inaudible -- is that what happened when they get a kick return touchdown, you just realize that's just one break down?
SCOTT SMITH: That's pretty much it. There's things that happen during the course of the game that you're forced to adjust to. And obviously the goal for our kickoff team is to not let that happen again, especially this Saturday and moving forward.
Q. So it's not a situation in practice where you're overreacting to one play?
SCOTT SMITH: There really hasn't been a change. Guys could put themselves in a better position to maybe make a play. And everybody knows that. Everybody on the kickoff team wants to have that play back, but we know we are not going to get that play back.
We just have to focus on Michigan State and trying to help our defense out by hopefully keeping them inside the 20.
Q. In regards to the defense cleaning up some of the stuff from last week, how relevant is that because there's such a shift in the opposing offense, the things that maybe you guys didn't do great last week, to correct that, would that even be applicable this week?
KYLE McCARTHY: Yes and no. Obviously it's a completely different offense, so we have a completely different game plan. But you know, then again, there's fundamental things that we can correct that we see on film, you know, tackling, staying in your lane, trying not to do too much.
Obviously there's fundamental things we can always improve on, but you know, obviously this is a different offense this week. So you know, we have to put last week behind us and just continue to look at the tape and just try and improve and hopefully that shows on Saturday.
Q. The fact that you have been practicing against a conventional offense for months, does that kind of help you guys turn it around pretty quickly?
KYLE McCARTHY: Yeah, absolutely. Even yesterday in practice, we came right back and as a player, it was nice to see a normal offense and line up against it and go back to what you learned on day one.
So you know, I think our defense is excited. I think our team is excited to put last week behind us and use it as motivation and continue to work hard for this week.
Q. Coach Weis had mentioned yesterday that you guys were going to do some kind of full-speed run plays, just to kind of work that out a little bit. How did that go and what was your evaluation of that period?
KYLE McCARTHY: It went well. You know I think that was a good move by Coach Weis, because you know, we are not used to seeing the offense that we saw, or will see tomorrow, or Saturday. So we had to get ready to be able to go full speed and get used to guards pooling and fullbacks going to take your head off.
It was good to get used to the speed of the game and you don't always get that in practice, so I think it was a smart move by Coach.
Q. For both you guys, you both have talked about the maturity of the team and that being a reason why you are able to bounce back in a different way than last year; how does that maturity show itself when you're going about your business? How does that maturity show up that gives you confidence that, yes, you're going to respond differently?
SCOTT SMITH: I think it's just pretty much what you said, the way guys handle themselves and conduct themselves during the lifting and the meetings, and also when we get out to practice. There's not a feeling of feeling sorry for yourself and somehow like letting what happened on Saturday linger.
Just the fact that the guys recognize that we have another opportunity this Saturday to try to get a win, and that's the most important thing for this football team right now. And the more guys, especially from captains and leadership committee can kind of exude that during practice and our team activities, that's going to start to trickle down to those younger guys who have not had to deal with the situation before.
Q. Kyle, as a center, you obviously had to prepare for ringer, what he could do. What do you see in Michigan State's offense that you really need to key on in?
KYLE McCARTHY: They do a lot of the same things they did last year. You know, just different guys. You know, obviously the guys are more than capable of running that offense.
You know, I think this year, something they didn't have in years past, they have a really good receiving core. You know, their receivers are more than capable of hitting the home run ball and making a big play.
So I think that's something that we need to key on is that, you know, obviously we need to be ready to come to the line of scrimmage and stop the run, but this year, they have the ability to really play play-action pass and go for the big play. As leaders in the secondary, we are going to need to be ready for that.
Q. Blair White has been a factor before, but had a pretty good first two games.
SCOTT SMITH: Yeah, definitely, a very polished receiver. You know, you could tell that he's an excellent athlete, has good size, great hands. And you no we are going to need to be ready for him. We are watching him. We are well aware of him and he's going to be a big part of this game.
Q. How important is it to get out there the first quarter of this game? How important is that first quarter to take control of this game?
KYLE McCARTHY: Well, last week hurt. It hurt. But you know, like we have been saying all along, this team, I feel has a different chemistry, different feeling. We have some mature guys and you know I think we are all mature enough and well aware that we need to put last week behind us.
You know, we have done that. I saw really no lay over effect in it yesterday. I thought yesterday was a good practice. You know, we are not concerned if we don't score in the opening drive or we don't get a three out of the opening drive. We know Michigan State is a good football team, and you guys are all aware of the history that they have in this place.
So we are going to be ready for them. They are going to be ready to come here and for a good ballgame and you know, we are not really concerned about last week right now.
Q. Kyle, you mentioned the history and unusual nature of a team winning that many straight games in the stadium.
KYLE McCARTHY: Yeah, you know, we are aware of the streak they have here. Scott and myself were here two years ago. That was a pretty disheartening loss. Obviously the last time they were here it was tough. You know -- we know that they are more than capable of coming in here and winning but you know that's why we are out there practicing and listing and that's what we worked hard in the off-season for is to hopefully end that streak this week.
Q. Your thoughts on trying to end that streak?
SCOTT SMITH: Obviously I've only been here since 2005. Same thing with Kyle. Really the only thing that's been somewhat within our control is what's happened since we've been here. From my perspective, I don't really look back to what happened in 1993 or anything like that. So for me it's just focusing on since I've been here and what I can do and our team can do to hopefully switch that in the other direction.
Q. You guys are obviously hungry to bounce back but you know they are obviously hungry to bounce back as well. You guys come off a demoralizing loss and theirs is arguably worse how they went down; talk about that hunger.
KYLE McCARTHY: Both teams are hungry. You know, Notre Dame/Michigan State has been playing for a long time. We know they are going to be up for us. We are Notre Dame. Every team gets up for us.
So you know, there's definitely a history between the two teams. It's a tough rivalry. Both teams are hard-nosed. I'm not really concerned about last week. I don't think they are really concerned about last week. This is a whole new ballgame, it's Michigan State and Notre Dame for them. They know it and we know they are going to be up for the challenge, too.
SCOTT SMITH: Every game is a big game, so Saturday just whether we are coming off a loss or a big win, the most important play is the next one that you have and the next opportunity that you have to make an impact on the game. So from our perspective we are just trying to look to make an impact on Saturday and just take the next step.
Q. Kyle, you had the big interception last week and looked like you were thinking about lateraling it; what was going through your mind?
KYLE McCARTHY: I was going to take it to the house but I got tackled.
But lateraling it did cross my mind, but then I decided against it.
Q. Scott, can you talk about your approach to leadership given your special teams' expertise and your versatility at linebacker, and not necessarily being a starter in your career, how do you approach being a captain and a leader?
SCOTT SMITH: I think the biggest thing about being a captain is making myself available to my teammates and just understanding that guys on this team, you know, operate different ways, have more quiet guys than you have guys like Brian Smith who, you know, more vocal and kind of act in certain ways.
I think being a leader is about managing different types of personalities that you have.
For me, it's a great honor to be a captain of this team just knowing my teammates look to me for guidance and something I take a great deal of pride in.
So whether it's trying to get the team up and excited to get going for a Tuesday practice, or you know, making sure we are trying to stay up on the sideline during the game; it's all about just making sure that our team, you know, is constantly working together and working together to improve.
Q. And coming from the Chicago area, did you pattern yourself or keep an eye on guys like Urlacher or any of the former great Bear linebackers?
SCOTT SMITH: Yeah, definitely just being from north Chicago, I've always been a Bears fan, especially since Brian Urlacher has been there I'm not sure how many years now. Just kind of the way he plays and the way he conducts himself and you look at the quality of linebackers that the Bears have had in the past. It's something that I've definitely been aware of, just understanding how they operate both kind of on and off the field.
Q. There's obviously a lot of high expectations that you guys have for yourselves this year, to get to those high expectations, the margin for error is already a little slim. How do you manage that?
KYLE McCARTHY: I don't think we can be concerned with week 13 right now. I think we are concerned with week three and just taking it one game at a time, and the rest will take care of itself.
End of FastScripts