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November 4, 2009

Jimmy Clausen

Eric Olsen

Q. We were really impressed with Ragone's play on the blocked kick. What was your perspective of that?
ERIC OLSEN: I was really impressed, also. I mean, you kind of -- I think a lot of people tend to overlook a play like that. It was an extra point, but from the player's perspective sometimes, guys can get kind of relaxed on those plays and not realize the significance of that. But that could have easily been two points for the defense right there. Ragone really -- and Kyle Rudolph, too, he didn't make the tackle, but if you see it he was right there, too, hustling downfield.
But obviously Ragone's effort on that play was unmatched. And he really -- that was a huge play in the game. That saved us two points, and for him to make that kind of a head's up play is really impressive. We saw it on film and Coach Weis pointed that out to everybody, and it was impressive, especially how fast he was running. He was really moving down the field, and to catch a corner like that, it was really something.

Q. Last year's game against Navy, is it just human nature, did you at some point think that that game was over when you were up 27-7 and you were about ready to close it out? Were you even still on the field when Jonas fumbled in that series?
ERIC OLSEN: Yeah, I think I was. Pretty sure I was, actually. I think that as on offense we kind of relaxed a little bit with the lead, and that game was a perfect example of you can't ever do that no matter what the score is or how much time is left because they got a couple of onside kicks and ended up getting possession and ended up making it a close game.
As an offense and as a team you just can't ever let up on an opponent. You see it week after week in college football, teams coming back from large deficits. Just as a player and as an offense you really can't relax in those situations and you've got to be able to close out games. That's the difference between a good team and a great team being able to close out those games.

Q. I was asking the defensive players about having to take on Navy's offense. From their defensive standpoint, do they come at you well the same way their offense does?
ERIC OLSEN: Not necessarily the same way, but I think with the same mindset definitely. They're a little bit undersized for what you'd normally see in a college football defensive line. But their effort is unmatched to anyone else in the country. Those guys, that's their signature. They play hard on every snap from the first quarter all the way through to the fourth quarter, and that's something that as a team we definitely respect about Navy, and we expect going into the game that they're not going to back down and not let us come in and bully them around. They're going to give tremendous effort and play to the best of their ability.
The past few years they've given us a pretty good game, so you can't overlook effort as being something that has a significance in a football game. That's what we're expecting from them this weekend.

Q. With Wanger moving into the starting lineup this week, obviously we were talking to him, and Verducci was very complimentary of him about how he maintained his attitude through what's been a difficult time. What have you seen from him, and just what is your perspective? You unseeded him, took his spot away, and how that affects a relationship between teammates, guys that are friends.
ERIC OLSEN: You know, it's tough, because walking in the door here from day one, Danny and I became best friends, and we've been best friends since then. Everything from going to the dining hall, going to class, living together now, we've spent every minute of every day almost around each other, and being on the football team together it's even more time than the time outside of football.
It was a little bit of a tough situation when Coach Verducci came in and moved me to center, for me to unseat my best friend who I've been playing next to for a whole season and for him to give up his spot. But I think we both understood that it wasn't anything personal from me to him or from him to me, it was more of a thing to help the team. So we kind of got past that and it didn't really affect our relationship.
To his credit, and I don't think that I'd be strong enough of a person to do what he did, he didn't throw in the towel or have a bad attitude or take it out on the team or the coach. He knew what he had to do. He knew he had to get better, and if he wanted his time on the field he'd have to work for it. Danny showed up to work every day, and he never had the mentality, oh, I lost my spot, it's over, I'll wait until next year, at all. Every single day he's with us in the weight room, whether it's running, conditioning in the summer, every day in practice he really worked his butt off, and it was really impressive.
And it didn't go unnoticed, either; the coaches noticed. Even though Danny may not have been one of the five starters, he was always included -- he was always the sixth starter, always included, because Coach V knows he wouldn't lose a step if Danny had to step in. It just speaks volumes for Danny's mindset and his ability to not throw in the towel. He really did a great job of that, and it shows now.
Washington State, ten plays into the game, Trevor got hurt and Danny was able to step in and play the full game like we weren't missing anybody. As an offensive line that's something you need to have because injuries happen all the time in football, and he's done a great job.

Q. It's got to be tough for you, too, because there can't be a good thing or a right thing to say to your best friend.
ERIC OLSEN: Yeah, it's tough. But again, we just kind of understood that it wasn't anything personal and it was the best for the team and not let it affect our relationship.

Q. Can you kind of reflect back on that '07 game, how tough that was once the clock ran out and you guys saw that you had lost?
ERIC OLSEN: No offense to Navy, but that was kind of the low point of my career. I mean, obviously that season wasn't a season that any of us really want to remember at all. But when you have a streak that long against a team, you hate to be the team that gives that streak up. Again, it's nothing personal to them, but just so happened that they were the team that we had that streak against.
It just speaks about our inexperience as a team and how young we were back then and really their effort. I mean, obviously they don't recruit the level of athletes that some schools around the country do, but I'll tell you what, their effort is unmatched, and you definitely can win football games on effort. They're very good at what they do, also. It's not just effort that they're winning on. Their schemes on offense and defense, they're good at what they do, and when you add in the amount of effort that they put into those things, it makes them a pretty good football team.

Q. Obviously a low point of a 3 and 9 season. Two years later now, just talk about how far you guys have kind of come in these two years since that game.
ERIC OLSEN: I mean, I think we've made tremendous strides, obviously. We're not undefeated where we want to be right now, but again, we've made tremendous strides. Every week is another test for us not playing in a conference and our goals being BCS. Every week is a big challenge, and you can't look past any opponent, and you've got to take every game like it's the biggest game of the year, because it is.
Navy gives us a really good challenge this week. Like I said, they're very good at what they do in every aspect of the game, offense and defense, and we're going to have to play a really good football game to beat these guys.

Q. The last two years at this point in the season maybe you guys didn't have as much to play for as you do now. How nice of a feeling is that, that you guys still have a ton to play for this year?
ERIC OLSEN: It's a good feeling. It's definitely a good feeling. But at the same time we're trying to look at these last few games individually and one at a time, and that's kind of a football cliché. You hear everyone across the nation talking give that answer. But it really is the truth, because if you look past one opponent and start looking at the what-ifs and what could happen if we win these games, you risk overlooking an opponent and giving up a cheap one. That's what we don't to do and we can't afford to do that. We have to put everything we can into every day's practice for every week. That's really what we're focusing on right now.

Q. How good is Golden Tate?
ERIC OLSEN: Golden is -- I don't know what words can necessarily describe him. He plays the game like he's a kid in his backyard having fun. He's going out and making ridiculous catches and ridiculous plays and he's the first one to run down to the end zone to start celebrating. He has a lot of fun with it, and he's given tremendous athletic ability to make these plays, and he's really something to watch.

Q. Is there a specific play -- obviously the catch he had last week was amazing. Is there a specific play in your mind that stands out above them all? He's had some tremendous plays, but is there one that you remember going, wow, that's the biggest of them all?
ERIC OLSEN: I think there's two, one being against Washington early in the year when he kind of tried to jump over one of the defensive players and ended up doing a flip and almost landed on his feet, I think that just shows the kind of player he is. He's not going to just run out of bounds, he's going to try to make something happen. I think that separates him from a lot of players in this country. When he has the ball in his hands, it's exciting to watch him.
I think the second play would be against Michigan State when he jumped into the band. I know some people didn't like that, but again, that just speaks about how much fun he has with this game. Obviously it was a big touchdown catch. Golden is the kind of guy that's out there to have fun. He went into the band, whether he meant to or not. It's just something that we kind of laugh at because he's a little bit of a goofball sometimes and he likes to make people laugh, and I think that kind of shows his personality a little bit.

Q. A little bit to what you were just talking about, but talking to Coach Weis yesterday, on the outside there's been like no drama off the field this year. We haven't heard the kind of things -- there's been injuries, but what does that speak to, that all the drama has been on the field?
ERIC OLSEN: We don't really have many drama queens, but seriously, I think that the team -- we were a young team two years ago and now we have a lot of older guys, and I don't want to pat myself on the back, but I think we have really good leadership, and that starts with the captains through the leadership committee through the 50 seniors that aren't necessarily on those things. We have a lot to play for and we put in a lot of work and we've taken our beating the last couple years, and I think guys are really understanding how important our opportunities are, and we're really taking advantage of those opportunities.
Obviously we've lost two games this year, but we still have a lot to play for, and I think it speaks to the maturity of the team and players on the team. The coaches can't really control them. They can punish guys when they do get in trouble, but they're on out on the weekends or going to class and stuff, so the coaches can't really be able to control them.
I think the fact that there hasn't necessarily been any drama, I'm going to knock on wood again so I don't jinx it, it definitely speaks to the maturity of this team and just shows how important it is to all these guys. I think that's something that is a really positive thing for our team.

Q. It's an incredible intangible, but how important is it to have a sense of humor, especially the seniors and the leaders? And is that due to the fact you're winning or is that just in general?
ERIC OLSEN: I think it's part of our personalities to be honest. We're a pretty charismatic group. But at the same time, I think it is that we've had success. It gives guys the opportunity to really open up and be who they are and show their personalities, and I think that when you have an older group that is able to have some fun and joke around and laugh, it's definitely a good thing, because at the same time, we're very serious when we're on the field, too.
And I think that being able to separate those things and being able to be serious when it comes time to be serious is important, but I think that having personalities on the team is also important because it just helps the whole bonding thing and bringing people together and letting teams play with cohesiveness.

Q. How would you describe the difference between the confidence that you guys as an offensive line carry from the off-season to now?
ERIC OLSEN: In the off-season obviously there was a coaching change. We were kind of a little skeptical about how things were going to go and how the new coach was going to be and how much improvement we would make and stuff. But I think that -- I've said this before 100 times, our offensive line as a group, we have a lot of pride, and we weren't just going to let what's happened the past few years be the norm around here, especially the older guys. The guys are stepping up in the weight room and the film room and everything and really trying to change how things have been.
And I think that if Coach Verducci helped us along the way, I think we've definitely seen success in some areas and I think we've used that as momentum to build more and more, and I think that's given us confidence.
Obviously we're not perfect. It's impossible to be perfect as an offensive line or nearly perfect, but I think that, again, some of the success we've had has definitely given us confidence, and I think that's definitely helped us play better this season.

Q. Maybe we make too much of how are the fans treating you or how the people on campus treat you, but is there a discernible difference between how people are looking at you guys as offensive linemen versus say 2007?
ERIC OLSEN: You know, I don't hear any of the negative stuff as much anymore, which is kind of nice. You always try to block that stuff out, but as a college kid it's tough to block that kind of stuff out and you kind of fall victim to listening to all that.
But I think this season especially, we haven't heard all that negativity, which is nice. As an offensive linemen any attention you get is usually negative, so when you get no attention it's usually a good thing, so we're doing pretty well so far.

Q. Kyle McCarthy was in here talking about how Navy plays hard, and Eric mentioned that. Do they really play that much harder than everybody else, and is there an example or two that jumps out that kind of crystallizes that?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: It's tough to say that they really play harder than everyone else, but it's very rare that you see all 11 guys on one play playing all out, and I think in a lot of cases when you watch the Navy film, they do that. A lot of times if you have an outside play to one side, the backside defender, whether it be a defensive end or a corner, might not necessarily worry about trying to make the tackle because in many cases they're not going to. But when you watch Navy you see those guys coming running in one way to the other. These guys really play hard, and you see evidence of that on film.
Playing against them the last few years I've experienced that. That's the truth. They don't necessarily have the size of the nose tackles that are the norm in college football these days, but they have the effort.

Q. Eric, could you give us a PG version of what Coach Weis had to say to you after the second personal foul?
ERIC OLSEN: I knew this was coming. He said something along the lines of, "Eric, that was rude and unnecessary, and please don't let it happen again." And I said, "Yes, sir."

Q. Are you pretty much limited to "yes, sir" in those situations; you don't really have much feedback?
ERIC OLSEN: I tried to play dumb and act I didn't know what they called me for. You kind of see that in the NBC copy, slow motion, and it showed exactly what I did. But he saw right through it and he wasn't having that, kind of put me in my place a little bit. That's his feeling, so no hard feelings.

Q. Jimmy, you were standing next to him. Are you trying to avoid eye contact at all costs?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: I was just standing there trying to play it off like Coach Weis wasn't having that.

Q. Give us the weekly toe update.
JIMMY CLAUSEN: Yeah, it's all right. It's a little sore right now, but I jammed it on that one play when the guy barely clipped my foot and I tripped over myself, but it feels all right. It's going to linger on for the rest of the season. I'm going to have to deal with it. I'm just tolerating the pain right now.

Q. Was this kind of like -- getting a little bit better with the toe, was that kind of a negative swing because it was such an awkward fall?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: To be honest my toe was feeling really good going into the Washington State game, and after that play it kind of set me back to a few weeks ago where I was hurting and dealing with the pain. But hopefully it'll get back to where it was before the Washington State game.

Q. This is for both you guys. When a teammate and a friend like Dayne goes out with a blown knee like that, what kind of goes through your mind in that situation? I think that's pretty high up on the list of really tough injuries to deal with. I guess what goes through your mind when you deal with?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: For me it's kind of different than everyone else because I've known Dayne since elementary school, and just seeing him go down like that was something I don't want anyone to ever have to deal with. I know in the end Dayne is going to -- after he gets the surgery done, he's going to be rehabbing every single day and get back a lot sooner than people expect. Just seeing what happened and having an ACL is something just bad and you never want that to happen to somebody else, and that's just a real tough injury.

Q. What's his kind of demeanor been like this week? What have you tried to say to him?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: He's doing all right. Obviously he's in the quarterback room with us, and his spirits are up. But obviously he wants to be out there playing, but he knows he just has to have the surgery and get back as soon as he can. Like I said, he's a real competitor and he's going to want to get back out there as soon as he can, and he'll be back real fast.

Q. Eric, it seemed like there was kind of a cool moment after he threw that touchdown pass. Every TD that Jimmy throws you kind of hold him up, and Dayne is kind of running up and figuring out, what am I supposed to do. Did you talk about that?
ERIC OLSEN: He tried to run away, but he had to know that's the tradition; I pick up my quarterback after a touchdown pass. It's mainly a celebration out of the end zone that gets you out after a nice sprint there. But I had to remind him that's the thing I do around here, but I got him on the same page, so I got him in the end.

Q. With respect to the Floyd news, can you talk about how you found out and what your reaction was?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: The Floyd news that he's coming back? It was good news. We were doing pretty good without him, so just to have him back is, I guess, a bonus. But no, Floyd is definitely going to help us offensively and just bring back a lot of energy that he brings to the table during practice, especially during the games, as well.

Q. And Coach Weis was saying that you guys have to be patient on offense this week. Is it a different type of patience than it was against say Boston College for you?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: I don't think so at all. You know, I've just got to -- for myself at least, I just have to take what the defense gives me. If everyone going to drop like BC and Washington State did under routes, check downs and just let those guys run around and make some plays, I think that makes my job a lot easier. The faster I can get those guys the ball, the faster they can make plays, so that's what I try to do every day.

Q. Last Saturday when you're throwing the ball in the end zone to Golden, there was three defenders around him. What are you aiming for?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: I'm aiming to get the ball five yards deep in the end zone and just throw it up there and hopefully one of the guys on the team can be there to make a play like Golden did or tip it up and have another guy catch it. That's just one of those things you just throw it up there and hopefully one of the guys on your team will go up there and make a play.

Q. A follow-up on his injury, and I know you've talked about any kind of decisions about your future you'll decide after the season. But when you see something like that happen to a friend and when you see a Bradford at Oklahoma, does it start to hit home a little bit?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: To be honest, I'm not really thinking about anything like that until after the season. I'm just worrying about Navy right now. But to be honest, it's something that when you play the game of football, injuries do happen, so you really can't think about injuries because if someone goes out to practice and has an injury, knock on wood nothing happens like that, but it's just the nature of the sport. If you think about it, then you're not going to be able to play to your potential.
As a competitor like I am and Eric is and everyone else that plays football, you don't think about those type of things because you don't want those to happen, and you're not going to be able to play as fast as you can if you think about it, so you just try to block them out and go play.

Q. I know that some athletes, quarterbacks, take out an insurance policy in case of injury. Have you done anything along those lines?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: No, nothing along those lines.

Q. Coach Weis was asked Sunday night where you were in terms of getting your degree. If you were to follow through with your career in education here, what's your timetable there?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: I have 15 more credits, which is five classes, and those are the only classes. I'm majoring in sociology, and I only have one sociology class, which is a one-credit class every Friday, and the rest are electives. So there's five more classes and then I'll be able to graduate.

Q. Can you just talk about how amazing Golden's been over these last few weeks?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: Golden has played great the last few weeks. When Mike went down, I just went up to Golden and said, it's your time to shine like you got to do last year. He's done a great job. And I think the biggest thing that he's done that no one else sees except for the guys on the team is the way he's prepared himself and handled all the different positions, moving from outside to inside, and different words and different plays.
Just talking to him, he's really taking it to another level with different plays, different routes. You know, some plays he'll line up at X, and some plays he's lined up at Z or lined up in the backfield, and Golden will say this, too, I don't think if he had to do this his freshman year, he wouldn't be able to do it, and I think he's done a really good job of handling that.

Q. He's made some pretty spectacular plays, obviously last Saturday included. Is there a particular play or two that stands out in your mind as kind of your favorite that he's had over the years?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: You know, I think the touchdown in the SC game that he caught was one of the best catches I've ever seen, and I think the one last week was probably one of the best catches. That will go down in history at the University of Notre Dame.
He just makes me laugh sometimes when he makes plays like that. But he does it in practice, and it really doesn't surprise a lot of the guys on the team when he does it in the game.

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