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UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME MEDIA CONFERENCE
September 7, 2011
THE MODERATOR: We have Harrison Smith and Manti Te'o.
Q. You know what Denard Robinson can do. What are your thoughts on getting another chance at defending him?
HARRISON SMITH: I think as a defense we're excited to get another crack at him. Because last year we obviously gave up a lot of yards to him throwing and passing. So I think going against him again is kind of a test for us and something that we're excited about.
MANTI TE'O: It's definitely going to be a good challenge. Whenever you have an athlete like Denard, it's going to be a good challenge. So something that we definitely are looking forward to.
Q. They have switched their offense with their new coaching staff who was in a spread last year. He's now more in a pro style. Does that change the keys that you guys have to look at in terms of making sure he doesn't break a big play?
MANTI TE'O: No, I think everybody does their job. We're coached every week the same. Everybody just does their job and just trusts that the guy next to you is doing his and everything should be fine.
Q. In addition to their change in offensive scheme, what other differences do you see when you look at this Michigan offense on tape this year; how dangerous are they?
HARRISON SMITH: I mean, kind of the things that made them dangerous last year I think carry over, just it all starts with Denard, obviously, just the things he can do with the ball.
He's definitely one of the best offensive players in the country. So just having the option to almost use him like a running back, and at the same time he can throw the ball, is something that I think if no matter who the coach is, they're going to utilize that. And so it starts with him. Then they've got guys around him that can make plays, a good offensive line. So they've pretty much got everybody.
Q. How did you guys feel at the end of the first half when you heard the boos coming down from the stands? Was that just disappointing to hear or did you feel like you almost deserved it?
MANTI TE'O: I'm not answering that question.
HARRISON SMITH: I mean, people are going to do what they want, whether it's our fans or whatever. I've been here a while and I've seen things like that before. I mean, you think about it and you don't like it, but at the same time that's not going to change how we play, especially as a defense. That's not what we think about when we go out to play. So they can boo us whenever they want. It's not something that we really, that affects us.
Q. How do you tune that out now going into Michigan, it being their first night game?
MANTI TE'O: I think we just worry about ourselves. You just worry about the team, you just worry about the guys in this building, that's all you can do. You don't worry about what happens out there.
You don't worry about what other people say, what other people may write about you, you just worry about the guys who matter. And that's the guys in this room.
Q. Have the coaches talked to you at all about the atmosphere there, it being the first night game?
MANTI TE'O: Definitely Harrison has played there. I've played there. So we definitely know the energy that comes with The Big House. And it's going to be amplified because it's a night game.
So it's definitely something that's going to be something that's exciting and something that we're looking forward to. And we just have to stay composed and play our game and just focus on doing our job.
Q. Harrison, when you look at the final stats from last year's game, they're a little blown out of proportion. But there was a large segment of the game where you did have success against them. When you look at the film of that, what did you do well defensively during the period where you had success?
HARRISON SMITH: I think keeping the explosive plays down is something that -- like you said, we had stretches of where we did that very well. And then we gave up a couple of plays, which is how they get those yards and how they move the ball so well with this offense. So it's easy to say, well, if we had just taken out that, I think there was a 90-yard run or something at the end of the half, if we had taken that out, it wouldn't have been so bad. But that's part of the game.
You can't have that if you want to win. That's our focus, to keep those plays to a minimum.
Q. Manti, what did you guys do well during that period that you can now build off of as you go into this game?
MANTI TE'O: We fed off of each other, I think, was the most important thing. When the defense is feeding off of each other, when I'm feeding off of Harrison, when I'm feeding off of R.J. and Gary and Ethan, when I'm feeding off of them, that's when the energy builds and that's when the momentum builds, and that's when our defense is playing at its best. So I think we played off of each other, and we fed the energy from ourselves to our teammates.
So I definitely thought that we did a good job in doing our own responsibilities, but also being there for our teammates.
Q. How hard is it just to wait around for night games when you're watching games on TV and you guys gotta wait about eight hours to take the field?
HARRISON SMITH: We haven't played too many night games. But the ones we have played, it is -- it's definitely different. There's a lot of extra time. And I think this coaching staff does a good job like not letting us just sit around all day and just kind of get sluggish.
But not wearing us out at the same time. So they get us up and move us around a little bit. So I think that definitely helps having something before the game.
Q. Indirectly, do you get used to that this past Saturday waiting around for almost three total hours?
HARRISON SMITH: With the delays? That might help, I guess. Hopefully that won't happen again, though.
Q. You've been here a while. Michigan Stadium is obviously the biggest one. But what is the biggest atmosphere you think you've played in; who has the most hostile fans?
HARRISON SMITH: The most hostile fans? There's been a few. Michigan State is already rowdy. Pitt's rowdy. And I didn't play, but when I redshirted, my first year we played at Penn State. They had a whiteout. And that was probably the loudest stadium I've been in.
Q. Manti, at Michigan a couple years ago, your first start, I believe, what do you remember about that experience?
MANTI TE'O: There's a lot of energy. There's a lot of people there. Of course it's The big House. And it was a good atmosphere. It was a real good atmosphere.
Q. Last week was kind of the first opportunity for Nick, Lynch to really get out there. You were working behind them. What was your take on how they did the first game?
MANTI TE'O: I thought they did pretty well. Especially Lewis. Lewis did a real good job there. He was in a lot of plays and he was the first one to the ball in some cases.
So he definitely played it real, real hard and played real well. But the other two did a good job as well. But definitely it was nice to see them out there and get some reps.
Q. What's kind of maybe something different Lewis brings to the defense, what does he do best, do you think, just off one game?
MANTI TE'O: Well, off one game, off this past game, I think Lewis showed some -- on one play he showed some speed. He chased B.J. down. He was out of the pocket and kind of tripped him up a little bit.
That showed some speed. He showed tenacity. And he showed just a desire to make a play. So he did well.
Q. Harrison, I was curious about defending Michigan. There's a play, I don't know how to describe it, but Denard kind of fakes like he's going to run and they hit the seam route. Forces the safety to make a pretty quick decision. Could you talk about defending that play, what's hard about it, what you're looking for, and just kind of the nature of that play. It seems pretty unique.
HARRISON SMITH: I think what helps that play out with this team is just the ability of Robinson to run. And so I think what happens is they line up in that formation and run it and run it. And just like teams will run, run and then play action over safeties' heads, it's the same effect there. Guys just get a little too focused on the run, and then if your eyes are on for a split second, then you'll give one up.
Q. Looks like a play that is really hard to defend. Is it that difficult? Or is it just reading the key the same as everything else?
HARRISON SMITH: At the end of the day it's just reading the key. But when you're in the heat of the game and things like that, is when guys will get caught up and get off their key.
Q. As team leaders, what can you guys do to just get the message across that there just can't be mistakes, whether it's penalties or turnovers or missed tackles or whatever, like there were last week?
MANTI TE'O: I think everybody understands that you can't win games when you make mistakes; you can't win games when you have turnovers and when you have penalties.
And that's something that is common knowledge. Everybody knows that. But Harrison does a great job in leading our defense and getting everybody to realize that, hey, this is a team sport, and not one guy can think of himself and go out on a limb and get penalties or cause the offense to advance on the field. Harrison does a good job on that.
So just gotta keep continuing what we're doing and being aware that we have to reduce the amount of small mistakes we make and focus on the little things and the more we focus on the little things the bigger things will fall into place.
HARRISON SMITH: I had a couple of penalties myself. And that's something as a leader and as an older guy I just can't do. And there's some other things like that. And as veterans and older guys we need to lead by example. So those are things we can't have as we move forward.
Q. The face mask penalties, Harrison, sometimes those can't be avoided. A guy moves his head as you're swinging your arm down to make the tackle, how do you look at penalties like that?
HARRISON SMITH: I mean, to me it's kind of simple, just don't put my hand there.
And if you're tackling a smaller guy, you need to recognize that and reach lower, or just taking better angles where you don't have to fully extend and put yourself in that situation are the things that can help that.
Q. What do you guys think about the throw-back uniforms for this weekend?
MANTI TE'O: I've only seen pictures of them. I think both teams' jerseys are pretty cool. Something new. So I'm definitely excited to see what they look like.
Q. What do you think when you see other schools? Oregon has a different uniform every week. I don't know if you saw the Maryland game Monday night, but those were a little bit out there. Would you like to have an opportunity to wear different uniforms like that or in the grand scheme of it, you're just playing football?
HARRISON SMITH: I think in the grand scheme of it, you're just playing football. But that is, especially for guys our age, I think that's something that guys really like to do. When you see teams like Oregon, they have mismatched uniforms every week. And Boise State has had some pretty cool-looking uniforms. I think that's something that guys really like.
So to me it's not that big of a deal, but it's definitely something that I would say the majority of college football players like.
Q. Manti, do you care which kind of uniform you wear?
MANTI TE'O: I think it's cool. Whenever you introduce something new, definitely it will spark interest as a kind of thing that's cool. But other than that, I think like Harrison, the grand scheme of things, it's all about playing football. I definitely think guys like that.
Personally for me I think it would be cool. I think it would be cool to wear something different, something new just for our game. I definitely like our jerseys. I like the tradition behind our jerseys. But it would be nice one game to have something new.
Q. From a defensive perspective across the ball from Tommy Rees, what do you see from him as his qualities that he brings to the offense?
MANTI TE'O: As far as Tommy, I see a quarterback that's confident. He's very confident what he's looking at. He's not afraid to pull the trigger. I don't see him hesitating a lot. When he sees something, he acts upon it.
I think he has a lot of poise in the pocket. He has a lot of composure in there. He does a good job at managing things. He's very calm.
Q. From a DB's perspective, what do you see from him, Harrison?
HARRISON SMITH: Like Manti said, he's just a cool customer. I don't think he really lets anything get to him. He just plays his game day in and day out. Nothing really rattles him or makes him second-guess himself or anything.
So I really think that's his like best quality as a quarterback.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports