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UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME MEDIA CONFERENCE
September 15, 2010
MANTI TE'O: It's smash-mouth football, and Michigan State is really good at that. It's going to be an exciting game. It's going to be a running man's game. And for defense, we're excited. We're just excited to get back out there and play.
Q. Do you look at it as less preparation and more just gearing up for a physical game?
MANTI TE'O: Oh, no, no, no. When it comes to any opponent, you have to prepare. You have to prepare as best you can. You know, coaches are preparing us well. Individually we're preparing each other well.
Harry and I just came from upstairs from watching film. So, you know, you have to prepare equally for every team. With a team like Michigan State, they're very dynamic in their running game and they have great receivers, so it should be an exciting game.
Q. Your thoughts?
HARRISON SMITH: Yeah, kind of the same thing that Manti said. You have to prepare for every opponent equally. But also, because it is conventional, that is something that you see more in practice. So there's probably some more familiarity there. But as far as preparation goes, you still have to prepare just as much.
Q. What about the three backs? You really haven't seen Caper yet this year, but obviously he's in the mix, and you've seen him in the past. What about preparing for those three? Do you look at it differently or is it just whoever has the ball, the goal is still the same, to bring him down?
HARRISON SMITH: Yeah, all three of them are obviously really good backs. They're all physical, and they can all run, so they all have a little bit of differences about them. But when it comes down to it, it's about everybody getting to the ball, everybody wrapping up and just getting them to the ground.
Q. If you think about last year's game against Michigan State, what is the first memory that comes into mind for you?
MANTI TE'O: The interception. Hopefully it doesn't get that close in the end, but we're ready.
Yeah, like Harry said, they have great backs. They all have different features, they all do different things very well, but they're great athletes, and we just have to hit right, we have to wrap up and make sure we bring them down.
Q. Manti, were you at that stage? Did you feel that you were settled in to the college game and a little bit more relaxed by the time you played Michigan State?
MANTI TE'O: No, no. I still am, but at that time I was a rookie. I wasn't used to the college arena yet.
Q. Did you feel that way throughout last season or was there a game where you just felt like you were in a little bit more of a comfort zone?
MANTI TE'O: The Washington game. I would say the Washington game was a turning point where I was left in there to correct my mistakes, and I was given the chance and the opportunity to make plays.
Q. Harrison, your memory of last year's Michigan State game?
HARRISON SMITH: Yeah, pretty much the same thing. It was a nail biter. There were a lot of mistakes that we made that we could have avoided that definitely would have, you know, tilted the game in our favor a little bit more that we would love to do this year.
Q. What do you like about road night games?
MANTI TE'O: A lot of energy, especially since you're the away team, you're the visitor. There's a lot of energy. For the defense, it's quiet, and you can make calls because the crowd won't be screaming while the offense is on the field. So it's a lot easier for us to communicate out there than when we're at home, so that's always exciting to be away.
Q. Harrison, do you prefer if you're on the road, do you prefer night game over day game? Is that a long time to wait, the whole anticipation of it?
HARRISON SMITH: It is. But at the same time we don't play a lot of night games, so that is something that I think a lot of guys look forward to kind of getting that primetime time slot. So it's just kind of fun to go out there when it's night time and play a game.
Q. How much film did you look at of the Michigan game and what did you see when you did look at it?
HARRISON SMITH: We went over the whole game, especially went over the mistakes just so we could learn from those.
I mean, there is really not a whole lot to say. Some of the mistakes that we made, we know what we did wrong and we know how to correct it now.
But at the same time there is nothing we can do about that game, so we have to take that and move forward and apply it to the rest of the season.
Q. Sometimes do you look at tape and say, man, they were really good, and sometimes you can look at tape and say, boy, all the things we did were fixable. Manti, how do you feel when you look at the tape? Do you think the problems are fixable?
MANTI TE'O: Definitely. We made a lot of bad mistakes that cost us. We saw those plays and we corrected them. Throughout practice yesterday we were making sure that those mistakes don't happen so that when game day comes, we aren't giving away those explosive plays. The teams will have to earn their points instead of us breaking down and giving up those plays.
Q. Manti, you seem like a guy that's going to learn every day that you play, but kind of where is your learning curve right now in terms of learning this defense, still learning college football? Where do you feel like you're comfortable with it, and where do you feel like I've got to get a handle on this?
MANTI TE'O: I still have a long way to go. And I think all of us on the defense can say that. We still have a long way to go. It's not just an individual effort, it's a team effort. But for me, I just have to learn more and always try to work hard and better my skill as a linebacker and as a teammate.
As practice goes on and as the season goes on, hopefully I'll get better at the things I need to work on.
Q. Harrison, when you see Theo Riddick running down the field in practice, what have you seen from him in his evolution from a running back to a wide receiver?
HARRISON SMITH: Well, in training camp we really got to go against those guys a lot. You can just tell Theo was getting a lot more comfortable running routes, getting in and out of breaks, using his hands to catch the ball.
Once he gets the ball, he's a great athlete, and he has a lot of talent to make people miss in the open field. He's just the guy that's starting to get very comfortable in his role. I think he'll be making a lot of plays from that position.
Q. Kind of building on Tim's question about night games and on the road and all that. Would you guys like to play a night game here? Is that something you guys think about or would want to do?
MANTI TE'O: I think it would be cool. Doesn't really matter. Doesn't matter what time it is, as long as we get to play. But I'm pretty sure it will be fun.
The energy, of course, for some reason is always a lot greater at night time than it is at 2:00 p.m. but that will be pretty interesting.
HARRISON SMITH: Yeah, I think I've heard some students kind of ask why we don't have one, maybe just one a year or something. But no matter what time it is, we're going to be ready to play. But I think if they do that, they should probably do it at the beginning of the year, I would say, due to the weather.
MANTI TE'O: Yeah, definitely.
Q. One of the things Coach Weis used to say after losses is he would always try to be the same guy after a win as he would be after a loss. I think Coach Kelly hasn't lost a game in a while. Do you notice anything about him this week from last week?
MANTI TE'O: No. He's a very passionate coach, and he always expects the best from us. So from a player standpoint, we don't really see the difference.
Of course, when you come from a loss, I guess you don't really see the difference in the coach rather than yourself. You're very disappointed the way you played and you want to get better. Coach helps facilitate that environment where we're working to get better.
It's a new week, a new opponent, and we have to focus on our new opponent instead of kind of sulking over the loss.
Q. Harrison, what is it about the nickel defense, something you guys really couldn't go to last week just based on personnel. How important is it to have that flexibility in the defense to put that fifth defensive back in there to mix and match against an offense?
HARRISON SMITH: When a team comes out and spreads you out and they get that extra skill guy on the field like a quick receiver that can make people miss, it's just something that enables the defense to match up against that instead of getting a smaller guy on a bigger guy that can just run around him. It's just easier to get skill players to match their skill players just so it's a more comparable match-up.
Q. Was that a difficulty last week that you guys just didn't have healthy personnel to do that?
HARRISON SMITH: I don't think so. I really think that the schemes that we had in place would allow us to get the job done. As players we just didn't execute as well as we should have.
Q. I guess what have you seen from Zeke over the last couple weeks? He's played more football in the last week and a half than he has back in high school?
HARRISON SMITH: He's matured a lot, even since he's gotten here. In these past couple weeks he's really matured. Just getting that game experience, knowing how it's kind of different when it comes to game time being able to block out all the extra stuff.
Because when you get your first start, I'm sure all his buddies from home, his family is asking him how it's going to go and everything. So just kind of going through that experience and knowing what to expect lets you kind of calm down the more and more that you go through it.
Q. Going back to the interception by Kyle last year, off the top of my head, were you on the field that day?
HARRISON SMITH: Yes.
Q. Just kind of take us through your vision of that play when it happened and what you saw and how exciting it was?
HARRISON SMITH: I remember being on the opposite side from Kyle, obviously. And I remember watching the quarterback throw it and I broke to go over to see if I could just get involved in the play. As I snapped my vision over, I just saw them break on the ball and catch it. Right then I knew.
I think he kind of started to return it, and everybody was screaming to go down. So it was a good feeling just know we had the game when he caught it.
Q. Manti, were you on the field?
MANTI TE'O: No, I was on the sideline cheering.
Q. Take us through the play as you were watching it happen from the sideline?
MANTI TE'O: Well, couple plays before that, I'm not sure if it was the play before that or like two plays before that, they threw the ball to the left corner of the end zone, and guys wanted it open. Unfortunately, he didn't catch it. But I remember I was pulled out and I was watching and hoping that we'd come out with the victory.
I remember Kyle -- all I remember is him catching the ball and running. I just started jumping up-and-down, you know. Just cheering and supporting my teammates.
Q. Kirk Cousins, obviously has made shots from that game. What do you guys see from him in the tapes these last few weeks as opposed to where he was maybe last year when you played?
MANTI TE'O: His confidence level has grown. He's very comfortable in the pocket. He's very comfortable with his accuracy and the power of his arm. So with that, you have to respect his ability to throw.
HARRISON SMITH: Yeah, he's definitely not afraid to throw the ball down field. Not saying he was last year, but he really steps into his throws and puts a lot on them. He's got a really strong arm. Just he just kind of has that quarterback presence about him. You can tell he's a leader on the field, and he's not afraid to go out there and challenge the guys to make big plays.
Q. I believe this is going to be a fifth straight road game that is a night game. So you're used to night games. But have the seniors explained to you exactly what Michigan State at night is versus any other place because I don't think anyplace you play last year quite has this environment?
HARRISON SMITH: Not really. I remember my first road game was actually Michigan State when I was out there playing. I remember the type of environment that it was, and those fans really get after it.
So I think as a defense, I think Manti would agree with me, that kind of the more the fans get on you, almost the more fun you have, and just kind of the more loose you play. So I think definitely as a defense we look at that as a challenge. We kind of welcome things like that. So kind of going into an environment at night, that just make it's more fun for us.
MANTI TE'O: I totally agree. Defensively, going into a night game -- I've never been to Michigan State, of course. I'm sure a night game there is a lot of energy, but like Harry said, we're excited when we hear people screaming and yelling. Defensively it's exciting.
For Dayne, on the other hand, for them, I don't think it's so exciting until they score. But for us, it's pretty fun.
Q. Manti, could you tell me what it's like a week after a loss, just in class and campus and the dorm, is your mood different during the normal course of the day? Not out here, but back at school?
MANTI TE'O: My mood? It's kind of, I don't know, it is different. It's just you feel that kind of anxiety to get back out there. You don't ever want to leave the field knowing you lost. Until you get back on the field, you don't really feel the same. You still feel the emptiness inside.
I'm sure, Harry, you feel the same way, and everybody feels the same way. Until we get back out there we won't really feel right.
End of FastScripts