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UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 4, 2009
THE MODERATOR: We have Scott and Kyle here. We'll take questions, please.
Q. Watching you practice yesterday, it was interesting going to each position, each position deals with cut blocks. You have to take on a couple waves of it. Is that the most problematic thing or the thing that concerns you the most because of the injury factor?
KYLE McCARTHY: No. I just think that's one of the hardest things to defend. You don't see that every week with the option offense. There's a bunch of misdirection. But you need to stay on your feet in order to make a play. Those cut blocks are tough to get off of. When your face (indiscernible), you know you didn't correctly defend yourself.
Q. I know you never go on the football field worrying about injuries, per se, but that is the kind of play that puts you at risk greater than any other type of activity.
SCOTT SMITH: Yeah, I think so. Just by the nature of what you're trying to do with a cut block, you're going right for the knees, trying to chop people down.
It's something you have to be ready for, be ready to play with your hands. It's pretty similar to what we do. As opposed to just punching outward, you're just punching down to try to keep them off your legs.
Q. Kyle, you have been around long enough to see this offense. What are the keys to stopping it?
KYLE McCARTHY: Pretty generic answer. You just got to follow your keys and play your rules. That's where the option offense is going to kill you, is when you're out of position, trying to do too much, trying to do someone else's job.
I know it's a basic answer, but you just need to play your rules, stay in the gap.
Q. It's a basic answer, but explain what those rules are?
KYLE McCARTHY: Just all the misdirection, motion in the backfield. They're trying to get your eyes in the wrong place. You need to keep your eyes on the man. If you're supposed to be outside the guy in a certain gap, supposed to be in the B gap, you need to stay in that gap. When you get out of your assignment, that's when they exploit you.
Q. Since you have seen it for four years, when you revisit it each year, does it become easier?
KYLE McCARTHY: A little bit. But not really, just because of the time in between. Before this week, we haven't practiced the option since last year at Navy. You get a little rusty. As an older guy, I know Scott and myself, we know what to expect. I think that's what helps us out with preparing for the game.
Q. What's the most asked question by a young player during this week?
SCOTT SMITH: I really don't think it's that much different than any other week. I think at first, when younger guys see the option, you think a lot of those guys probably saw it in high school. One example in the linebacker room is Toryan. When Toryan was in high school, I think he saw that every other week. He still gets probably asked questions about how to defend it, how to run it because that's something he's very familiar with.
I think a lot of guys have some familiarity with it from the high school level, especially those young guys who are a year removed, instead of me and Kyle that are however many years removed from playing in high school. Having the ability to go back, playing against it before, even though the speed of the game and the tempo is going to be cranked up a couple notch, that's probably still an advantage for them.
Q. Can you assist Manti this week?
SCOTT SMITH: I think just going through read, making sure his eyes are in the right place. I don't think it's something he's really seen before. Judging based off yesterday, how he works in general, I don't think he's going to have any problem picking up his assignment, following his read, being productive like he has been.
Q. Looking back to last year's game, Kyle, did you think that game was over before it actually was?
KYLE McCARTHY: Honestly, I did. I learned my lesson. Navy is a team that never quits. That showed last year. We can't take our foot off the gas.
Q. Speaking of looking in the past a little bit, can you reflect back on that '07 game? I'm sure it's one you don't want to remember too much, but probably one that doesn't go away too much in the mind.
KYLE McCARTHY: Yeah, you know, obviously we kind of expected that to be brought up this week. It's something you don't want to look back on, but you need to learn from it. Navy is the type of team that is going to come in here and not be intimidated and play hard and play for 60 minutes and probably more if it needs to be.
You saw what they did to Ohio State this year. Took them down to the wire. Ohio State is one of the best teams in the country. We need to be ready to play.
Q. Scott, can you describe the feeling after that game two years ago?
SCOTT SMITH: I'm not one to get too much back into the past. Same thing after you lose any game: just being dejected, upset, thinking about what you could have done differently, what the team as a whole could have done differently.
I think for some of the older guys, use it as motivation. The last time they were at Notre Dame Stadium they came out with a victory. That's something, especially this year, trying to take the next step towards our goals, we want to make sure that doesn't happen.
Q. You were 3-9 that year. Now you're 6-2. Talk about how far this program has come between the last time they were here.
SCOTT SMITH: I think we've definitely come a long way, especially the types of guys we have that never quit, never give up, believe in themselves, believe in each other. So, you know, where we're at now is a product of all that hard work, coming together as a team, growing together, maturing together, putting the best product we can out there on Saturdays. Like I said, just believing in each other, trusting one another.
KYLE McCARTHY: You know, nothing against those guys that we played with a couple years ago, because we're still good friends with all those guys, but this is definitely just a completely different team. I think our offense has play-makers left and right, especially with Mike coming back this week.
We're happy with our offense. We got a whole new bunch of guys on defense, freshmen and sophomores that are big for us. We're just a completely different team this year.
Q. Is it nice having that feeling again at this point in the season that you still have a ton to play for, maybe that wasn't the case the last couple years? Right now you know you have a ton to play for still going forward.
KYLE McCARTHY: Absolutely, it's exciting. We have a goal as a team, that's to win every time we go out. I know we didn't achieve all that this year, but we still have a whole lot to play for. That's what we're aiming for. We need to take it one week at a time, and Navy is next.
SCOTT SMITH: I just feel the same way. Navy is the next team up. You know, if we look past them, then the goals we have for the rest of this season are going to be shattered. They're definitely a team we're taking very seriously. We realize we have to get past them. We're not worrying whoever is next on our schedule. It's all about Navy and preparing to beat them.
Q. Kyle, I think they attempted six to eight passes in the last two games total. When you're watching film, how do you remind yourself that this is something I can't fall asleep on on game day and that's the time they're going to burn us?
KYLE McCARTHY: Well, coaches have beat it into you're head. Being an older guy, I've seen it, like we said, two years ago. They hit some big passes on us. So, you know, I've seen it firsthand and know the kind of damage they can do through the air. They don't throw it very often, but they kind of lull you to sleep a little bit in the defensive backfield. We're aware of that and we're prepared for that.
Q. It seems it's a horizontal game for you on Saturday as opposed to most teams. You run sideline to sideline. Talk about the difficulties or challenges that brings up versus playing a pro style offense.
KYLE McCARTHY: Well, you know, just like we've been talking about, there's so much misdirection. They try to trick you a little bit, get you out of position. We just need to stay disciplined. If it calls for us running sideline to sideline to make a play, we need to string it out as much as possible, not let them get north and south.
Q. Does this dictate a lot more personnel changes for you if they're going in on fourth and short a lot more or is defense pretty much the same type of defense until you get into the red zone?
KYLE McCARTHY: Well, I mean, it's going to dictate what Navy does. But I don't think Navy is going to change their game plan up too much. They run their offense pretty well and efficiently. We're going to be ready for their basic stuff.
Q. Kyle, who is playing Ricky Dobbs this week?
KYLE McCARTHY: Danny McCarthy is.
Q. How is he doing?
KYLE McCARTHY: He's actually doing very well. Giving us pretty good looks yesterday. He's really going to help this defense out by preparing for us.
Q. The last couple weeks I've been asking you about the secondary, getting that fixed. What do you think the keys were to getting things pointed in the right direction, what clicked?
KYLE McCARTHY: I think the biggest thing that helped us out was the defensive pass-rush we had. I thought our defensive line and linebackers played very well. You know, not to talk about the past, but Washington State has a pretty good pass offense. It felt good to not give up any big plays. I think we contained them pretty well.
Q. We've been asking you about the secondary. It's almost like the questions are what's wrong with the secondary. Is everyone missing the point that getting a better pass-rush, that was going to maybe help you guys more than anything?
KYLE McCARTHY: Oh, sure. I mean, we're a team defense. If the secondary is not playing well, tackling well, we're going to give up big plays in the running game. If the defensive line is not getting a good pass-rush, if the linebackers are not getting a good pass-rush, it's tough for the secondary to hold their line. I thought as a defense as a whole we played well last Saturday.
Q. Coach Weis mentioned yesterday how Navy, they bring a lot of energy. Really that much different than anybody else you play? Do they really play that much harder than every other opponent?
SCOTT SMITH: I think every team plays hard on Saturdays. But always just seems like with Navy, there's always that little something extra. We've talked about how football is the easiest part of their day, things they go through on a daily basis probably are way harder than what we go through here. Just knowing that Saturday is kind of their time to let it all hang out, play with passion, show that emotion. Especially from a special teams perspective, that's kind of the great equalizer, is to just play with a great effort and just play hard. That's something we do every snap, all 11 guys.
The first thing you have to do is match how hard they play. We play hard, too. So we're going to definitely match their level of effort and their level of intensity. But they do bring it as much as any other team we play.
Q. How does that show itself? Is there an example where they would bring it more than another team and you take a step back?
KYLE McCARTHY: They definitely bring it more than other teams. There's no other way around it. I'm not trying to be disrespectful with other teams we play. Navy, I mean, you can just feel it as a player. When you talk about going whistle to whistle, they go from whistle to the end of the whistle.
That's why we respect them so much. Not only do they have good athletes and are more than capable of moving the ball and playing well, they give it everything they have. As a football player, you have to respect them.
Q. Do they talk trash like other teams?
KYLE McCARTHY: Some of them do. But that's just 'cause they're having fun out there, too. They probably don't get to do that when they're at school, so they take it out on us (laughter).
Q. You touched on the front seven improvement a little bit, where they have come from, where they've overall improved from the beginning of the year to this point a little bit.
KYLE McCARTHY: I think they've just matured a little bit, really gelled as a unit. We had some young guys and some new guys at the beginning of the year. We're at the back end of the year. The freshmen that are playing aren't freshmen any more. Everyone is a year older and more experienced. They're just playing more comfortable. As a unit, they're playing pretty well right now.
SCOTT SMITH: Just the same thing Kyle said. I think just guys getting more comfortable and getting more used to being out there with one another. Obviously there's a lot of talented guys on the defensive line and at linebacker. That kind of affords the coaches an opportunity to throw different guys in there in different situations to be productive. That's always going to be a positive when you have more rested guys coming in and making plays.
Especially if you look at defensive ends like Darius and Kap, I think Kap has probably turned into one of our more productive defensive linemen. That's a testament to him, how hard he works, what he brings every day to get himself ready to go.
Q. Probably an interesting guy, special teams plays. Mike Ragone's play down in San Antonio last weekend, your reaction to it, what the guys said to him?
SCOTT SMITH: For me, that's my third play of the year so far. You see Mike, he didn't even know the kick was blocked until it was the corner that picked it up maybe 10 yards in front of him. You just see him, Kyle Rudolph also, just turn around. I mean, there's really no other way to put it. Mike just hawked that guy down. You just see him just gaining yards on him. It was just one of those things to watch. When we were in the meeting, the second you saw him pick up speed, everybody just started going nuts. There's no other way to describe it. That's the ultimate hustle play, saving us two points, showing his athleticism, how fast he is. You got to give credit to Kyle, too. If Mike hadn't made the play, Kyle was right there. Two of our tight ends chasing down a corner is pretty impressive.
Q. Kyle, what did you think?
KYLE McCARTHY: Same thing. We saw the play in meetings. Everyone just kind of went nuts. We were giving Mike high fives and stuff, just congratulating him. That was a heck of a play. I didn't know Mike was that fast. He impressed me.
Q. Do you think he knew he was that fast?
KYLE McCARTHY: He definitely knew he was that fast. He's always been trying to tell us, but now we believe him.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks.
End of FastScripts