Oct. 14, 2015
Q. Sheldon, I think you've already eclipsed your tackle for a loss total this year from what you had last year, so what sort of has gone right for you just big picture so far in the first half of this year?
Sheldon Day: Just the way Coach VanGorder is using me this year, just kind of moving me around all over the field, getting me to do stunts and things like that and just putting me in the best situation to make plays.
Q. How much of it, too, is that this is maybe the first year where you've been completely healthy in the last couple years?
Sheldon Day: I feel like that's a big part of it. Rob and Coach Longo are doing a great job with me in the training room and in the weight room, so all praises go to them.
Q. When you say like moving around, is this something that you could have been able to do your sophomore year, your junior year as effectively?
Sheldon Day: I would definitely say it took me time to kind of grow into the position I'm in today. I could probably do it last year, but I wouldn't have been as confident in my ability last year.
Q. Is it a matter of just different vision when you move inside, outside to the different techniques?
Sheldon Day: I would say it's more responsibility and the freedom I have moving to certain positions.
Q. How good did it feel as a fellow defensive guy to see Jarrett Grace running around there making plays that he hasn't been able to in a couple years?
Sheldon Day: It's great, you know, to see the Wild Man. That's what we call him, just to see him just run around, have fun, and just enjoy the game again.
Q. Why is he called the Wild Man?
Sheldon Day: I mean, it's locker room talk, so I don't think you want to know.
Q. Fair enough. Matthias was in here a little bit earlier, and he did a pretty good impression of your mother. Is that something else that goes around?
Sheldon Day: Oh, yeah, everybody always gives me a hard time for my mom, but everybody loves her. She's a great spirit to have, and every time you see her, you can't do anything but smile.
Q. Coach Kelly was talking about the USC game last year and you guys were banged up and weren't in the right plate mentally, emotionally, physically. He said he's never seen that with this year's team. What makes this team mentally and physically strong?
Sheldon Day: I would definitely say the brotherhood we have and the leadership we have on this team. Seems like we have so much chemistry because we're always together hanging out, doing just the little things together, like go get something to eat, just talking about life, checking in on each other's family. Seems like we're more of a family this year.
Sheldon Day: It makes you want to just kind of do everything you possibly can for your brother because you know that pretty much you do everything together and you don't want to let him down, so you're kind of coming together, which makes you grow stronger.
Q. How much of your success, like J.J. mentioned about having as many tackles for loss now as you did the entire season last year, how much of that do you attribute to Coach Gilmore and what he's brought?
Sheldon Day: Oh, man, Coach Mo, he's done a lot for us. The hand drills that we do every day, the emphasis he puts on get-off and just explosion. It's just the little things that he keeps reinforcing in us that's making us a good D-line.
Q. Has he helped you at all off the field, as well? How has he coached you just in general?
Sheldon Day: Oh, he's helped me mature just so much, just having me grow my role as a leader and just kind of making me the true leader of the D-line and making sure that I'm comfortable with the plays and everything like that, just growing my understanding of the game.
Q. Last year Coach Kelly said you were maybe a little bit hesitant to speak up as a captain. This year obviously that's the big difference. For you what helped you make that transition?
Sheldon Day: Just being comfortable with the guys and knowing what I can say and what I can't say to them.
Q. Is that something the coaches had to push you to do a little bit?
Sheldon Day: Last year he tried to, but this year I kind of took it upon myself to do that.
Q. Sheldon, USC is obviously missing their starting center for this game. Does that change your approach at all when you see an injury or see an inexperienced player that's going to be playing?
Sheldon Day: I wouldn't say that. We approach each game knowing that they're going to give their best, so I don't think anything is going to change.
Q. Going back to your mom, when you first heard her during maybe a Notre Dame game, what was that like? Were you cringing in comparison to now when you hear it and obviously you're probably embracing it?
Sheldon Day: Yeah, so I thought I was going to get in trouble the first time I heard it because we were actually warming up, and she said, "Boy, if you don't look at me." So it was kind of like, do I look at her? What do I do? What do I do? So now I give her like a little hand sign so that she knows that I heard her. But the first time, definitely it was scary.
Q. Who were you worried about the most, her or Coach Kelly?
Sheldon Day: I don't know, that's a tough one. I would definitely say her. She definitely knows how to get under my skin and make me do the right things for sure.
Q. What is your relationship like with your mom?
Sheldon Day: It's probably the best relationship I have. I tell her pretty much everything that I'm going through, and she's like my best friend. We kind of shoot ideas back and forth about just the little things in life. She's always there for me and supporting me with 100 percent.
Q. And then with your leadership this year, you've touched on it even before the season about how you realized you've now stepped up that role. Why did it take a period of time for that to happen for you, and maybe how much have you even grown as a leader from even the beginning of the season to this point?
Sheldon Day: I've definitely grown a lot because of how comfortable I've got with the guys and how much we hang out and just how many things I understand about them and just my role last year to this year. It was more I didn't really feel like I was able to kind of speak out because I was a junior and I had seniors above and I had to listen to them but also give my views, so it wasn't like I was a true leader of the defense or the true captain.
Q. Sheldon, I know you're really big into the 24-hour rule, but a loss to USC in that fashion last season, the way they beat you guys, it has to stick with you. How much does that add to this game this weekend?
Sheldon Day: Well, USC is always a big game for us. It's a rivalry game, so just last year is just bad taste in our mouth. It's kind of what we had to go into and kind of deal with leading up into the bowl game. We had that taste in our mouth for about a month until we actually could play somebody else, but it's always in the back of our minds how bad they did beat us.
Q. Joe and Matthias both said that when teams go through adversity like USC is going through, it brings everyone together. Do you expect that to maybe manifest on the field, for them to come out with a little extra energy?
Sheldon Day: I would definitely say, or at least think that they would. They're going to get behind their guys and kind of rally the troops and give us their best shot.
Q. And then talk about just their quarterback and what he kind of presents as far as challenges. Obviously statistically he's tearing it up, but what kind of challenges does he present on the field?
Sheldon Day: It seems like he's reading defenses. He knows where to go with the ball. He doesn't make many mistakes, and it seems like he's trying to be perfect every game, so we're definitely going to try to affect him.
Q. Just in terms of coming off the Navy game and being banged up, do you guys feel better this year than past games after Navy just in terms of the overall health of the team, or is it similar?
Sheldon Day: I would definitely say it's been similar. I don't think we had any injuries or anything like that or any guys banged up. It's definitely a good thing to come off a Navy game and a physical game like that with no injuries.
Q. Is there anything you could point to about starting slow the week after Navy or why that lingers a little bit?
Sheldon Day: I would definitely say sometimes you're so used to running that different type of defense for Navy and things like that, so it takes you time to get adjusted to kind of traditional defense again. We've definitely been working on it this week and making sure we get back to fundamentals of football.
Q. I was curious on your mom in the stands, having seen you play in high school, were you thinking when you got to Notre Dame, well, there's 80,000 people, no one is going to hear her?
Sheldon Day: Yeah, I definitely thought that, but it only got worse.
Q. Just curious, when you talk about rivalry, what makes this such a big rivalry? Is it the past, because obviously geographically you guys aren't close, but is it just because you know the tradition so much?
Sheldon Day: I think it comes down to recruits. USC always tries to get the best guys, Notre Dame always tries to get the best guys, so it's all about bragging rights and pretty much who has the edge over it any specific year. It's always Notre Dame, USC, what can we do better than those guys. I feel like it's a lot of things that go into it, so a rivalry game is just a rivalry game. You just don't like them. You don't have to have a reason, you just don't.
Q. Coach said because of their unique circumstances coming in this week that they would obviously be motivated. Do you guys have to find new motivation or is there just enough?
Sheldon Day: It's always the end-of-the-tunnel vision for us. That's all the motivation we need, and we know we have a slow margin of error, so we have to focus on that.
Q. Coach Kelly was commenting on last year's game against USC and he basically said that that team wasn't mentally and physically tough enough at that point of the season in order to play well in that game, but he assured that this year's team is mentally and physically tough enough. What has changed? Why is this team in that position?
Matthias Farley: Well, I think we have a lot of guys, obviously going into last year's game against SC we were real banged up, a lot of guys were out. We had a lot of true freshmen playing that had never played in that environment, never played in that game before. I think this year everyone is more prepared and you've got guys that have a lot more experience and guys who are healthy.
Q. What about in terms of every team has its own identity and leadership; is the identity and leadership of this team a cut above?
Matthias Farley: I think it is from last year, and I think that guys have bought in from freshmen to fifth years, and everyone has a common goal and everyone is striving to achieve it.
Q. Going back to the game on Saturday, I don't know if you heard about this, one of the announcers, I believe he called you the champion trash talker of the secondary. I had a feeling he was mixing you up with somebody else, or was that accurate?
Matthias Farley: I mean, I didn't hear that. I don't know.
Q. I know, but are you a guy that normally engages --
Matthias Farley: I like to have friendly conversations from time to time. (Laughter.)
Q. And then last thing, and correct me if I'm wrong on this, as well, the two long runs by Ezell, their big fullback, from watching I got the sense that you had difficulty finding him behind their line of scrimmage, you personally.
Matthias Farley: Right, yeah.
Q. Was that true, because he's kind of squat?
Matthias Farley: He would get lost in the wash there, and you're coming down to key in the A-back, and if nobody touches the fullback by the time you get over there, he's going to be out.
Q. Matthias, Coach Kelly has talked about he'd like to see the secondary be more aggressive. What does more aggressive mean to you guys?
Matthias Farley: Well, it's just coming down, making hits, and tackles for loss. You know, playing the ball very aggressively in the air, really going after receivers, going after the ball when it's in the air, and just attacking in all phases.
Q. And from a defensive standpoint, after you play Navy, there's been talk about a Navy hangover. How tough is it to play the next game after that physical contest against Navy?
Matthias Farley: There's always a recovery factor, but I think having gone through that earlier this year with Georgia Tech, guys are a little bit more used to it, I guess you could say, or kind of accustomed to that transition after an option week. So I think having played Georgia Tech earlier has definitely been beneficial moving forward to this week.
Q. Coach Kelly talked about how last year Sheldon maybe was a little more hesitant to speak up in his captain role, and this year that's kind of been the big difference with him is now he's really being vocal as a leader. What have you seen between last year and this year and the differences?
Matthias Farley: I think it's just being comfortable in the leadership role. I don't know this, but I mean, I think being a junior, he might have felt like he couldn't speak up because there were guys older than him potentially. I don't know that, so don't quote me or anything like that, but I think it's just being more comfortable and understanding that guys, the way we look to him last year we look to him this year but even more so, and just really growing and becoming more comfortable himself and speaking up, and he's done an incredible job with the D-line and with the entire team. Everyone looks to him, and I think he's embraced that role of leadership.
Q. Is it something where he's speaking more on the field, on the practice field or in the locker room or both?
Matthias Farley: I think it's across the board. Sheldon is always going to be heard. If he has something to say, he'll say it. He picks people out, he'll call you out, he'll do everything you expect a great leader to do, whether it be on the field or off of it.
Q. Matthias, I assume the revenge factor for anything is overblown and it's a fan and media thing. Do you get a little of it this week, not that that's the key point of the game for you, but do you get a little of it, considering how the game went last year against USC?
Matthias Farley: I don't know if it's revenge, I think it's just getting that -- not letting last year affect this year more than anything and focusing on this is an entirely different team, this is an entirely different season, and just -- we don't like USC, USC doesn't like us. There's no secret about that whatsoever. I think it's just being ready and being prepared for a 15-round fight.
Q. Was it basically brought up once by Brian Kelly, remember what happened last year but that's not this year so you move on?
Matthias Farley: Absolutely. I mean, last year was something nobody wants to look back on, and no one looks back on fondly, so I think it's just taking that step and moving forward.
Q. How do you help a player, especially at your position, that struggles a little bit when you kind of expect more from him, or a player -- like Max Redfield had a great game against Clemson and then he was removed from the game against Navy. Obviously the wrist has impacted his season a little. How do you help a guy like that or in general a position mate kind of through tough times?
Matthias Farley: Max is one of my good friends, and there's other guys, too, but it's really just trying to take it one step at a time and not get too up or not get too down, whether you play well or play poorly. It's just a process, and to really buy into the process and not let one performance change you too much, kind of stay even keel, and then you see the potential you do have after playing incredible games, and you just kind of build on that consistency and try and be more consistent.
Q. Does it kind of change it that a player like that has had success in the past? If you're lacking depth you may have to bring along a guy that hasn't had success, but Max obviously has. Is it more of a challenge almost that he has had success and you've got to bring him back to that level?
Matthias Farley: I don't know if it's more of a challenge. I think it's just an understanding that he does have that potential, and then once you do show you have potential, especially that much potential that you need to play to it, and I think he's been very, very locked in. He was locked in all last week. He's locked in all this week. So I think he's just becoming -- it's not just Max, it's all of us need to get more consistent in our play.
Q. Matthias, in terms of just that Navy hangover effect, the fact that you were so prepared this year as a defense, do you think that lessens that at all, that you didn't have an offensive tackle hitting a safety in an ear hole because he didn't see him coming, you guys had a better handle on it this year so you come out healthier?
Matthias Farley: I think so, maybe to an extent, but at the same time we play Navy every year and it's one of those things you have to deal with. It's a very physical game every time you play a triple option team because of the way it's played, so I don't know if it's a hangover. I don't necessarily agree with it being a hangover, but I think it's definitely something that guys have to recover from and then just keep on keeping on.
Q. You've been getting some questions about USC last year, but in some ways is Clemson more relevant to this team in terms of the response, adversity, playing against a really talented team in terms of how you handle that, how you sort of keep it together?
Matthias Farley: I think it's just focusing on one opponent at a time. We can't sit and look at SC from last year because they're different team, we're a different team, and then also Clemson; we can't let Clemson have a huge effect on us at all moving forward.
Q. I guess I just mean that more in terms of learning what didn't go well there and making sure that you guys are --
Matthias Farley: I mean, as a defense we have to start faster, obviously, and can't have mistakes in any phase of the ballgame. Got to protect the ball, can't turn the ball over on special teams. There's a lot of things we could do better, but I think we could have learned that from any opponent; we've just got to start faster across the board.
Q. How would you sort of evaluate KeiVarae's comeback here, getting up to speed? BK has mentioned a couple times that it's not easy to just not play for a year and then pick up exactly where you left off; there's a little bit of a rebuilding process. How do you think he's sort of managed that in terms of his own expectations, which are obviously really high?
Matthias Farley: I think he's managed it well. It's hard to speak to it because I've never taken that amount of time off, but even just coming back from injury or something small, you come back and you rest a year going from the season to spring ball, the rust has to get knocked off. Especially with that in mind, I think he's done an incredible job of refocusing and really buying in and taking extra time to watch film, or he's always there after practice doing extra drills.
It's no secret KeiVarae wants to be great and is great and has the potential to, and he's going to work his tail off to achieve that.
Q. Matthias, what makes Cody Kessler a really good quarterback?
Matthias Farley: His level of experience. That's big. He has a lot of weapons around him. He has an incredible arm. He's smart. He protects the ball. He fits the ball in tight windows and he really commands and understands that offense. It's that and just him having a lot of comfortability and experience.
Q. And going back to Sheldon, can you just -- his on-the-field performance this year, how integral has that been for you guys and the amount of plays he's making for you guys right now?
Matthias Farley: I think it's huge. I think Sheldon is probably playing his best football. I think Coach alluded to that probably. You know, he's playing with his hair on fire, and I think that's infectious for the D-line. It's infectious for the front seven. I think it's something that our defense really pulls a lot of energy from because Sheldon has been balling. I think it's big for him, obviously, but I think it's really, really big for us.
Q. And can you ever hear his mom from the stands?
Matthias Farley: Yeah, you can. You absolutely can. "That's my baby." You can hear her. "Go, Baby." It's no secret when she's here.
Q. There's been a lot of questions as far as the secondary goes. Coach Kelly said you guys need to be more consistent. When you're taking on a team with guys like Cody Kessler and Ju-Ju Smith, do you feel like this is maybe a week where you guys can silence some of those questions and maybe give some answers, I guess?
Matthias Farley: Yeah, absolutely. I think that each week is an opportunity to play more consistently as a secondary, and what better way to do it than go against some incredible competition in USC or whoever it may be, but it really is just becoming more consistent week in and week out no matter who we're playing and trusting each other that you're going to do your job because everything does fit when everything is doing the right thing in the secondary. So I think it's a great opportunity for us.
Q. And I know you probably don't pay attention to any of the stuff they're going through right now, but as a player when adversity hits, how much juice do you get from just being able to focus on football and maybe tuning all the other stuff, all the other questions out?
Matthias Farley: I think it definitely draws you closer. I mean, when a lot of noise or anything is going on outside of you, it's important that you really draw close to each other and pull together. I don't know if it's a bunch of juice, but it's definitely an added dose of focus.
Q. You talked about fast starts. Against Texas, Virginia and Georgia Tech, you guys came out and dominated the first two series with a couple three-and-outs. Clemson and Navy kind of got you for touchdowns. I know your focus isn't different going into any of these games. Do you notice a common theme when you guys have a fast start versus when another team hits first?
Matthias Farley: I can't pinpoint one thing specifically. I think everyone goes in the game focused and with the right mindset, but I think it just goes to show that you can't have any lapse whatsoever, even if it's tiny, because all these teams we're going to play, they're incredibly talented, and if you let your guard down, they're going to move the ball on you.
Q. Coach has sometimes talked about adjusting to the speed of a game. Do you notice that when -- did Clemson seem faster until you settled in, or obviously Navy is a different animal than other teams, but did Clemson all of a sudden seem faster and then you just settled in and you're adjusted to their speed?
Matthias Farley: I honestly can't answer that. Yeah. Sorry.
Q. I was curious with Elijah, he was talking about how because he's not naturally a vocal guy, it took him some time to be more vocal in the back of the secondary. Have you seen a change from him compared to when he started as a starter?
Matthias Farley: Yeah, absolutely. He's a lot more confident. He's a lot more demonstrative in his communication. I think he understands the game a lot more and his defense really, really well, so I think it obviously helps to speak up when you know you're 100 percent right, you're not second-guessing yourself, and I think also he's just been playing really well, so that gives him more confidence. He sees things and reacts faster and makes checks quicker now, especially from when he started. It's just like an awesome thing to watch and a great development of him in the last couple years of just settling in and becoming more comfortable.
Q. Do you think that's the biggest key for him in being able to settle down and be so steady?
Matthias Farley: Yeah. I mean, he's just comfortable. I think when you're comfortable and confident it allows you to play a lot faster and not second-guess yourself.
Q. Regarding the field goal kicking and extra points with you as the holder, I was curious about the chemistry between you and Justin and Scott and how that's developed.
DeShone Kizer: Developed really well over the off-season into the season. We spent quite a bit of time in the off-season making sure that the issues that we had in last year's season didn't come back. It was a regular occurrence for us after practice for us to get 20, 30 holds just to make sure that we're staying perfect with it and that it'll never be a factor to get the ball down and get it up into the uprights when we need it in a game.
Q. Now that you're obviously starting getting more first-team reps, do you find it more difficult to find the time to carve out with those guys at practice?
DeShone Kizer: No, we go after practice every day. It's something that we'll never -- we never want to run into the issue that we're not getting enough reps with it, that we're not on top of our game. Those guys obviously go all practice with doing their different drills for it, and I just join them after practice for as many reps as I can get before we've got to get in for our training table.
Q. And the celebratory bow after a made kick, whose idea was that?
DeShone Kizer: It was Scott and Justin's cool little handshake, but obviously I've got to involved with it. Something that cool definitely needs me to step in it and join them.
Q. DeShone, being a classmate with Alex, how did you feel like he did last week, and was there anything you said to him? You're not exactly in a similar situation, but coming off of injury, coming after a redshirt year, how did you feel like he did?
DeShone Kizer: Alex competed his butt off all off-season with Q for that spot and had a really good off-season and was completely, as we can see, fit for playing starting left guard, and he came in just as expected and held his own. Never once did we ever see it as a weakness. We ran our offense the same way that we always had and just as every other position out on the field, we live by that next-man-in motto, and he stepped up and played really good ball for us.
Q. How well do you know him off the field? I mean, the offensive line sort of stick together, but you guys came in together, redshirted together. What's his personality like?
DeShone Kizer: Alex is a typical southern gentleman who is very smart, and he's just like every other offensive lineman that Coach Elston recruits. He's very smart, he's very strong, really good with his technique and fundamentals, and got to spend a little time with him, a little extra over the summer. He roomed with me in the dorms and he's a really good kid and he's really success driven as well as most of the rest of the team that we have.
Q. On the sort of topic of designed quarterback runs, are you all the way comfortable with that now? Are you growing into that aspect of your game, and what are sort of the keys to making that work, because your running style is certainly a lot different than Malik's.
DeShone Kizer: Yeah, you know, as a pocket passer in my head, I never really saw myself as a run-first guy, but we're quickly learning that when you add an extra threat to the offense and essentially add an extra hat in a blocking scheme by getting the running back as a lead block, it's something that we have to do as a team, and I feel like I'm becoming more comfortable with the quarterback-called runs as the season goes on.
You know, being a running back style of mindset, I don't necessarily have it, and I'm learning as I go when it comes to, you know, setting up blocks and reading blocks and being able to get the extra yards that we need. But as of now I think I'm doing a pretty good job with understanding the reasoning behind the quarterback runs and how to be successful with them, and as we move forward, hopefully I'll become a better runner.
Q. Did the coaching staff ever remind you, hey, you're 230 pounds, you're bigger than some linebackers out there?
DeShone Kizer: When you meet a middle linebacker in the hole against Navy last week and get knocked back seven yards after scoring a touchdown, they let me know quite a bit that I'm 230 pounds and that should never happen.
Q. Coach Kelly said after the game Saturday that he has a pretty good idea of what you can do at the quarterback position. After four starts, do you kind of feel like you have a better sense of like what you're actually able to do on Saturdays now?
DeShone Kizer: Yeah, you know, it's all a learning process. When you get a guy who steps in for a start that we've prepared for all season, and we're -- from coach to player, we're really learning how to go about each week in preparing for games and the things I can do and the things that may be my weaknesses. We have a great communication line of what our go-to plays are, what are my strengths, and I still believe that there's much room for improvement in that I haven't come near my peak in my performances yet. Obviously I'm very new to this, and I'm at the very beginning of my college career, so I hope that as we continue to move forward, not only with the season but with my career, that I can start reaching a peak and fulfilling the potential that I have with my size and mental capacity when it comes to football.
Q. How different is it when -- to understand those strengths and weaknesses from preseason camp where you're taking second-team reps to now where you're starting games, you have, what is it, 14 quarters of film basically to work on?
DeShone Kizer: You know, games are a lot different than practices. When you can get yourself out there in the different environments and feel the pressures and see the defenses that you've been preparing for all week, it allows you to evaluate your play a little easier. When you're in practice when you're going against scout guys, you don't necessarily get the game-like reps and really see how you're going to be able to perform when it carries over to a game.
So as I continue to get film out there and continue to play in quarters and get that game-time experience, we learn more and more about my style of play and where I can improve and what are my strengths and weaknesses again with my performances.
Q. Just kind of off topic, last year how much scout team work did you do? Was it any?
DeShone Kizer: Yeah, I spent normally a period or two of the practice down there, whether -- it was normally in the throwing game, just to make sure I was keeping reps and perfecting my mechanics. For some weeks it was a little more than others. When we played Florida State I went down there a little more because that was a Jameis Winston style of guy, but other than that it was only a couple periods here and there. I'd rather be taking mental reps with our own offense and learning how our game plan was for that week rather than being down looking at a card.
Q. They never asked you to run the triple option leading up to Navy week?
DeShone Kizer: No, Malik actually stepped over and ran the triple option for that since he came from a triple option offense in high school.
Q. With Rob Regan running the swag team offense, did you get a look at how they ran that against the defense during practice leading up to both Navy and Georgia Tech?
DeShone Kizer: Never really got a look at it. I'm good friends with Rob, so we talk about it all the time and how it can be frustrating at times running a quarterback-driven offense like the triple option is and getting knocked over by some of the biggest and baddest defensive guys in the country right now, and it can be frustrating for him, but from what I understand they did a really good job, and obviously we're 2-0 against triple option teams, so hats off to Rob and the swag team for preparing the defense for the triple option.
Q. You know him well; what allows him to have that kind of toughness to go and practice and get hit so much and still get up and still run it and still run it effectively?
DeShone Kizer: He has this mindset of doing whatever the team needs on any given week, and with the teamwork and the go-getter mentality that he has, he doesn't really allow those hits to affect him too much. That's the type of teammate that everyone loves and that we really appreciate, and he has the physical size and the arm talent to be a college quarterback. It just gives a good look for our defense and allows us to prepare at a higher level than we have in the past.
Q. How much has the run game between CJ and the O-line really helped you out in terms of what they've been able to do to open things up?
DeShone Kizer: Football is a game where in order to be able to throw the ball, you've got to be able to run the ball. In order to be able to run the ball, you've got to be able to throw the ball. So with the success of CJ and this offensive line and our run game, it really opens up passing lanes for myself to be able to have a little more time to be able to hit open receivers a little easier.
I believe that CJ's ability to extend the play after the first contact is second to none. He's amazing with that, and he is able to put us above the chains when it comes to our drives. A typical four-yard run on the 1st down isn't what we normally have. CJ is bouncing off that four-yard tackle and making it a six- to eight-yard run, which puts us above the chains and allows us to extend the ball down the field on 2nd down and 3rd down, and it just makes the game a little more manageable and allows us to move the ball a little quicker with the successful running game that CJ gives us.
Q. Are you able to notice what he's doing right there when you're making that handoff, or is it more after the game when you go back and watch the film that you're able to say, wow, what did he just do?
DeShone Kizer: Yeah, it's always after the game. There was a couple runs where after I carry out my fake, I can peek over and see him doing what he does, but I spend a lot of time trying to distract the secondary by carrying out fakes, so I don't necessarily get to see how great he is until we evaluate the film afterwards.
Q. And then what stands out when you see that -- you've known that he can make those plays, but do you still find yourself going, wow, at times?
DeShone Kizer: It's honestly crazy to think that this is his first year playing running back for the Irish because he's out there like a vet, spinning off of tackles, running through guys, outrunning guys. He's really good at what he does, and it's honestly amazing to have him beside me in the backfield.
Q. What do you expect the atmosphere to be like on Saturday night?
DeShone Kizer: You know, I've never been a huge Notre Dame fan growing up, so I never really got into the whole USC-Notre Dame rivalry, but with last year's experiences at USC and now understanding how our fans are here playing in front of them all season, I believe that it's going to be really electric. It's going to be a cold one, and it's definitely going to be Notre Dame football style of play, and I'm excited to participate in my first rivalry game against USC.
Q. Joe kind of talked about his was obviously for other reasons, but it was kind of a helpless feeling last year to watch what went down. Did you kind of have that same feeling, and does that maybe add to your tenacity to play in this game?
DeShone Kizer: Yeah, being on the sideline not being able to participate in that felt like a bad dream. An offense as talented as ours and a defense as talented as ours was last year, you just don't see that typically. We weren't able to get anything rolling, weren't able to get a pattern going and create a rhythm. It was just disheartening. Those vibes and those feelings from last year's game definitely are sparking up a new energy for this week which will hopefully allow us to play at a higher level than we did last year in this game.
Q. How much pride do you have in still being the holder for Justin Yoon? Obviously that's where you got your start.
DeShone Kizer: Yeah, as a holder I take pride in every snap that I get. Those are guaranteed points, and as an offense, obviously our goal is to put up points on the board. Last year we got to see how important special teams is, losing a couple games off of special teams situations, and I just take pride in making sure that we don't run into a situation where a messed-up hold or a dropped hold is going to cost us a game. I take it as serious as playing quarterback, and like I said, it's guaranteed points, and if we can't get those points on the board, then it's going to eventually be put on me, and that's a pressure I don't want to feel when I'm worried about playing quarterback.
Q. Coach has made you the guy as the quarterback. The team has embraced that, as well. Is there any of that staying hungry because you know there's a guy right there working just as hard? There's going to be a guy next year coming back who's going to be very talented, as well. I mean, this is kind of a résumé for you to keep building as the starting quarterback.
DeShone Kizer: Yeah, you know, the whole situation with next year is we're not going to worry about that until next year. When it comes to complacency, I don't believe that I can have any here. Brandon behind me has one of the livest arms in college football as a true freshman, and he's pushing me every day. It's always good to feel comfortable in your shoes and when it comes to your preparation so you don't put any extra pressure for the week by worrying about a guy behind you, but Brandon is right there. He's improving week to week, and it's -- it makes it fun. It makes it competitive, and it allows me to make sure that my performance isn't only good for winning a game that week but to solidify my spot each week as QB1.
Q. So it's not the competition between the quarterbacks but it's making the team better.
DeShone Kizer: Exactly, exactly. Any time there's a competitive nature, it allows us as players and as athletes to compete at a higher level, and the harder you practice, the better you practice, the better you're going to play on Saturday.
Q. Nick, how much did you use last year's loss to USC as motivation for that bowl game, and how much did you touch on it this week, if at all?
Nick Martin: You know, you touch on it a little bit. You don't want to dwell on the past, but obviously people have a chip on their shoulder after that game.
Q. What is your kind of -- what was your first assimilation to the rivalry? I know the first time you played was in that 2012 game, which makes it kind of fun for you, but did you replace Zach in that game, or did you play next to him at all at the end?
Nick Martin: I believe that game I went in for him.
Q. What was your kind of first assimilation to this rivalry, and did it come from -- obviously you knew about it beforehand because you came up to watch your brother, but what were your early thoughts on the rivalry?
Nick Martin: It's a great game. There's no doubt about it. It's one of the games you look forward to. It's why you play college football, for those big games, big moments.
Q. Nick, Coach Kelly was talking about last year the USC game that with injuries and everything that happened by the end of the year you guys weren't mentally and emotionally prepared to play great football. He also said that this year's team, that's not even a concern. What makes this team, this current team, mentally and physically tough?
Nick Martin: We stick together. We've had some tough times, but we're a very together, tight-knit group.
Q. I mean, you talk about those tough times; how have those contributed to the development of that mental and physical toughness?
Nick Martin: That's when you're defined, in terms of adversity, and I thought we've handled it very well this year.
Q. How did you feel like Alex came through last week as you were able to sit down and watch tape and get into the finer points about how he played?
Nick Martin: He played well. He's a good football player, keeps his feet moving in the run game. Pass pro, stayed in front. He's an athletic, bigger guy. I mean, he's a good football player.
Q. We're always asking BK how is Alex different from Quenton, but are they really that different once you get out on the field?
Nick Martin: I mean, everyone is different in their own ways, but they both get the job done, that's for sure.
Q. When it comes to DeShone and the run game, do you feel like he's growing into that over the last few weeks, that he's sort of learning how to make that a little bit more natural part of his game?
Nick Martin: Yeah, I think so. I think I would tell you he was kind of sneaky athletic when it came to it. A little different physique, bigger guy, but he can still get it done.
Q. Is that a different style of blocking for you guys on the offensive line because they're, I guess, a little more slower developing sometimes and just it's a different scheme?
Nick Martin: Still a grind in the trenches.
Q. Just as an offensive line, how much pride do you guys take when you can have such a good run game, and especially last week when CJ was able to do off again?
Nick Martin: A tremendous amount. That's what we want to do as an offensive line. We love to run the ball, especially in obvious run situations. That's the way we're defined.
Q. What has allowed the offensive line to play so well this season?
Nick Martin: Physical play, just fighting to the end whether you're in good position or not, and other than that, playing together.
Q. And when you look at what CJ is doing behind you guys, when you go back and watch it, how special are some of the plays that he makes?
Nick Martin: He's a ballplayer. I mean, some of the stuff he does is amazing.
Q. Do you ever get a moment where you're at the end of a play able to look up and still see what he's doing, or is it almost always done by the time you're able to see him?
Nick Martin: One play this game, that touchdown where he rolled over a couple guys, I ended up seeing that, but a lot of times it's already done.
Q. What was your impression on that one?
Nick Martin: I guess I was in awe. Not too surprised after what he's done.
Q. With Alex stepping in for Quenton, how much confidence do you kind of take that this offensive line has so much depth and cohesiveness that you can kind of plug in and play?
Nick Martin: A ton of confidence. That's what you want. That's the first thing I told him, hey, we trust you, we're confident in you, we know you can get it done, making it known that we're comfortable with him being in there.
Q. How do you feel you're developing as a leader so far this year? Are you still learning things about yourself and your leadership style?
Nick Martin: Oh, absolutely. You never stop. When you think you've made it, that's when bad things happen. You always try to be better.
Q. And then this is kind of the part of the season where I'm sure some bumps and bruises can come up, especially for you guys in the trenches. How do you get some of the younger guys to kind of deal with those and just make sure you guys stay healthy?
Nick Martin: Yeah, you know, you've got to get in the training room for any little thing, especially this time of year. Other than that, you've got to fight through it. You've got to let them know everyone has it, not just us. Everyone is going through the same thing.
Q. Coach Kelly said last year Sheldon was a little bit hesitant at times to speak up in his leadership role, and now this year it's kind of the big difference with him. Can you speak to the development you've seen over the last year with Sheldon and how he's kind of grown into that role?
Nick Martin: Yeah. You know, he does talk more, more stern voice, and people look up to him.
Q. Is that something you noticed the coaches were pushing him to do a little bit more or is it something he picked up on his own in practice or off the field in workouts?
Nick Martin: I think it's a little bit of both, probably feels more comfortable being in that leadership role, and does a great job.
Q. What is it like to go against him in practice?
Nick Martin: It's awesome. You want to face the best. We're not going to see a better 3 technique all year, and it helps us.
Q. Have you noticed a difference between this year and last year? Right now he's already, I think, eclipsed his tackles for loss total that he had all of last year. He seems to be getting into the backfield a lot more. Is that something you can notice in practice?
Nick Martin: You know, Sheldon is a great consistent player. I know he's gotten better, but I haven't noticed it from this year to last year. You face him every day, so that's the kind of thing that takes place over time.
Q. Joe, I think you had said your family was at the Bush game but you weren't. Can you take me back to the memories from your perspective of that 10 years ago?
Joe Schmidt: Yeah, it was an unfortunate game. I was -- I actually had a game myself. I was playing left guard for the Orange Chiefs at that point in time, and my sister was a senior here, and my brother-in-law, actually that was the weekend that my brother-in-law proposed to my sister, so my family was on the way out here.
And so they got out here, watched the game, I ended up watching the game. I think on like a -- like I recorded it and watched it, so I didn't know, like, live, but I knew afterwards. I couldn't have been more depressed about it, and actually, no, I guess I could have. I could have been on the team. But it hit me pretty hard as a little kid, and then I watched it over and over and over again. I watched that 4th and 9 play however many times. Funny now being able to talk to Coach Crum or McCarthy about the game, and it really was one of the instant classics, one of the best games I've ever seen.
Q. Were there any future USC guys in that pee-wee game you were playing in?
Joe Schmidt: I think -- I don't think Troy was on my team at that point. He was on another Pop Warner team. Troy and I started playing together in eighth grade. I'm pretty sure that was my -- I don't remember, sixth grade year, seventh grade year. I think I could be wrong, though. The Chiefs are a powerhouse.
Q. Joe, the level of play Sheldon has been at this year, what does it do for the entire defense as a whole when you have the defensive tackle at that position playing at such a high level?
Joe Schmidt: Well, I think great defense starts with defensive line play, and Sheldon has really been doing a great job, both in production and leadership. I think it really kind of allows for Jaylon and I and whoever else might be playing inside, if James is inside there, too, to kind of move around and make plays easier, and when he's disruptive, it just makes our defense so much better.
So a lot of good things to say about how he's playing, and I know him, and I know that he always is talking about how he needs to be better, but it's always fun knowing Sheldon's in front of you, and going into a game with him kind of as the initial line of defense makes me feel good.
Q. The leadership aspect of it, I know Coach Kelly has said previously that he understands a little bit more what it means to be a leader on this team. How have you seen that kind of manifest itself so far this year?
Joe Schmidt: Sheldon has always been a guy that people easily relate to and connect with, so I think he's just more aware of that now. He's like -- and that self-awareness has allowed him to be more consistent in his approach, and I think it's been really good for our defensive line room, but then that's for our team in general.
Q. I was wondering what the USC game last year was like for you.
Joe Schmidt: Well, it was weird because I flew down there with the team, and then I'm like -- I'm in the hotel -- I think it was the first game I traveled to after my surgery. So I think I'm still on pain medication at the time, and it's a weird thing, so everybody -- I just remember at the game not knowing what to do and how to coach the guys once we were down I think 21-0 in the first quarter, and I just remember the looks on their faces and the way that I felt, and it was a feeling that I never want to replicate -- duplicate rather, and then it just kind of got away from us a little bit. I'd say it's one of my least fond memories of my football career.
Q. Coach Kelly was commenting yesterday that at that point of the season, due largely to injuries, just not being mentally and physically tough enough for the moment. He says this team has no -- doesn't reflect that in any way. How has it changed? What makes this team more mentally and physically tough?
Joe Schmidt: You know, I don't want to get too much into that team or this team with regards to toughness. I think we are healthier. During that game, you know, some guys, some young guys had to play, guys that hadn't played all year or had to play positions that they never played before, and we lost a bunch of guys in that game. It was hard.
Q. I guess I'm more interested in -- forget that I even mentioned last year. What makes this current team mentally and physically tough?
Joe Schmidt: I'd say the way we practice, the way we prepare, and how much we want to be successful. I think that everybody holds each other accountable, and really we're just -- we're extremely driven to get to our -- to attain our goal. I think that's what I see in this team, and I saw it yesterday in practice, and I'm going to see it again this afternoon. It's almost like a -- like I know it's going to be there, and it's great to be around a group of guys that are like that.
Q. I believe Saturday after the Navy game was the first time you didn't come out and talk to us after a game.
Joe Schmidt: I don't know, you'll have to ask my guy here, Bertsch.
Q. That was actually my question, whether that was your choice or Notre Dame's choice.
Joe Schmidt: Oh, did you guys want me?
Q. Well, Joe, you're the quote of the day. What can I say?
Joe Schmidt: (Singing) Anyone know the '80s song I was just doing there?
Q. I know how upset you were after the Clemson game and how important it is to represent your team, as well. You wanted to come out and talk, you wanted to represent your team?
Joe Schmidt: For me, I really don't -- it doesn't matter to me. I love hanging out with you guys if that's what you're looking to get.
Q. No, that's not --
Joe Schmidt: We have so many guys on this team that can provide unique insights, especially against a Navy team like that. Like did Greer go out and do media? Greer Martini, he hardly ever talks to the media, but he had a great game and he's able to provide maybe some insight that I wouldn't be able to provide, and I think it's good that we have guys doing that.
Q. Are you disappointed individually in the way you played the last two games? I guess that's kind of what I'm getting to, why you did or didn't come out.
Joe Schmidt: No, I mean, I was disappointed with how I played against Clemson. I think I tried to make that point clear. I felt good about how I played against -- how I played against Navy. I felt -- other than one play, I played an extremely clean game, so I was happy with that, and that's really where I was at mentally was I knew, and I had a lot of conversations with Coach and we were working on getting through some issues, and that was a game that I needed to make sure that I was clean in, and I felt that we did that together as a team.
Q. I talked to Matthias about this, too, he talked about having to start faster defensively. Your first three games you were three-and-out, three-and-out, three-and-out a couple series in a row. Clemson hit you and Navy hit you. Do you notice a difference?
Joe Schmidt: No, but it's funny that you ask that because I've been thinking a lot about that. It's not like we're not emotionally ready or physically ready, especially at the start of this Navy game. Like if you watch that first play, just maybe we weren't -- we didn't anticipate what they were going to do on that particular play blocking scheme wise, but like guys were flying around. So I don't know if it's -- and I'm trying to figure out what we can do better in prep, and that's kind of what I'm thinking about this week. But it's kind of tough to like put your finger on what it was exactly. But it was a big play, and we knew exactly how to fix it, so that's why we were on the sideline. We immediately circled the wagons and were like, all right, how did they get us on that play, and called upstairs and they saw what we saw, and they fixed it. That's what's great about our coaching staff and our players. We identify problems and fix them quickly, which is maybe why we're doing better as the game unfolds.
Q. Sometimes a coach will say they had to adjust to the speed of the game. Let's throw Navy out of it because that's something you don't normally see. Does it ever seem faster to you? Was Clemson fast and then they adjust -- obviously they're a fast team but is that something you have to adjust for at times?
Joe Schmidt: You know, sometimes. I think maybe there's a particular player or players that just have unique traits, and you have to -- you kind of have to try to watch them on film. But absorbing the move in real time is always different. Yeah, I guess maybe. That's a good assumption.
Q. This game two years ago was kind of your coming-out party as Joe Schmidt the player. You were on special teams, but that was one of the big game-changing plays. Have you thought about that recently?
Joe Schmidt: Yeah, I think about that day when I have a bad day. Yeah, I still to this day have no idea why I was in the game, and I thank Coach Diaco and God for the opportunity, and then just thankful that I was able to make a play that helped the team.
Q. Do you remember being nervous postgame interview at the time because now it's a little different.
Joe Schmidt: Is it? Honestly I don't remember -- I don't know if I remember the media. I just remember the feeling of my parents.
Q. I don't think Ryan Kessler would ever sing at the podium.
Joe Schmidt: You don't think so? I don't know, he's a good -- he's a character.
Q. Not many teams have slowed down this USC offense the last couple years. Can you take anything away from what Washington did?
Joe Schmidt: Yeah, I think that they had a pretty good game plan. They were able to hold them to a decent amount of points, but at the same time, USC will have figured out what they did wrong against Washington and they're going to be prepared to play us. They're extremely well-coached, and they're going to be ready to play this football game. I guess so there are some takeaways, but at the same time they have a lot of guys that can make plays. A lot of guys.
Q. What's your scouting report on the quarterback?
Joe Schmidt: He's a dang good player. What has he thrown for 15 touchdowns and three picks? It's really, really good. He's completing like 70 some percent of his passes. He's a very good player, and we have a lot of respect for him.
Q. Obviously you know a lot of guys on that team.
Joe Schmidt: Yeah.
Q. How much do you feel for them right now, what they're going through, obviously?
Joe Schmidt: It's -- you know, it's extremely difficult to comment on. I really don't know -- I haven't talked to anyone in their locker room or any of the guys on that team since that news broke. As a human, I feel for them and I just pray for them, and that's really all I kind of have to say about it. It's a very tough situation.
Q. When you're going through adversity as a team, how does the team overcome that?
Joe Schmidt: You know, with adversity, I think it's a time where you guys have to come together and play for each other, and that's what we do as a team and that's what I think everyone as a group -- every group in general kind of tries to do is just kind of come together and play for each other and just kind of fight it with everything you have.
You know, very tough -- adversity is never easy. I think it's part of the definition. But I think it's about just responding to it and working through it.