Irish Insights

Notre Dame's players discuss Purdue, Navy, nerves, home openers, Tuitt's sprint-and-score, and much more in this new weekly feature.

What happens when one writer has one day of player access and nearly double digit student-athletes accessible in one sitting?

You guessed it, fire up the quotes:

On This Week's Matchup

Two Irish captains have already started in three wins over Purdue, Manti Te'o and Kapron Lewis-Moore. The pair has combined for 38 tackles including six for lost yardage, with five sacks and a pass breakup in those victories.

Te'o on the Boilers: "They spread you out and can run the ball; throw screens, but also attack you deep. They have a combo at quarterback we have to identify, but at the end of the day our film study will make us comfortable. (Caleb) TerBush is a big guy (6'5" 225) who likes to run; (Robert) Marve will run when he has to but he'd rather buy time and throw the ball. We're aware of those things. We're prepared for any circumstance."

Lewis-Moore on Purdue's three QBs: "They all three have mobility. They can move the pocket and extend plays so we have to be disciplined in our pass-rush lanes and bring our game, because we know they're going to bring theirs."

LG Chris Watt on potential All-America Kawaan Short: "He's really physical, a big bodied guy. Short's going to come off the ball really fast and get after us so it's going to be important we take good steps and be really physical in our blocks.

"We're always working to get better individually and as a unit, so we know if we do what we need to do we're going to handle him. But there's going to be times in the back of your mind where we're going to have to be a little more (focused) on him than we would any other guy."

"They return a lot of guys and have a lot of experience on the front. Kawaan's been there starting for 3-4 years and (Bruce) Gaston is in his third year starting. They do a really good job of penetrating gaps."

RT Christian Lombard on the upcoming contest: "I think this is going to be the true test. Navy was Navy, this is Purdue, a legit D-Line and it'll show on Saturday."

Battling Nerves

Turns out not only first-year players or first-time starters have to deal with nerves on a college football game day:

Watt on first-game nerves: "I think everyone on that first series, or first play, especially, you feel like you're never going to be able to breathe again, it's just so much faster than in practice. I thought if we had nerves we didn't show it. Its nice to get that out of the way and then everyone got in their own mode and kept playing."

Lombard on his first start: I felt good. I was nervous as always but I settled down and I think I played pretty good. I think the biggest thing is talking and communicating on the line. That's what coach (Harry) Hiestand emphasizes, seeing everything through one set of eyes. And that definitely settles your nerves."

Asked if he's nervous before every game, Lombard noted, "Absolutely…After the first couple of plays you get your heartbeat down and just play football. It's so much faster (game than practice). We did a good job of preparing for it."

QB Everett Golson on settling down for the home opener: "Playing in Dublin, I guess my nerves were low because you didn't really know anybody in Dublin, or at least I didn't. So playing in front of 81,000 fans that you actually know, the nerves will be there. But I'm just going to stay calm and stay the course."

"One thing about me, I really try not to ride the highs or ride the lows. Just me having that mellow spirit, I don't think I will get too nervous about it. But it's good to have those coaches and veterans around you."

Talking Tuitt

Not surprisingly, the 77-yard touchdown run and athletic prowess of sophomore defensive end Stephon Tuitt was a popular topic at Wednesday's media session:

Lewis-Moore on Tuitt: "He does have a dominating attitude. He does extra runs, extra sprints on Mondays. He's doing everything he can to be a dominant player and I think he'll be one of the dominant defensive linemen in the country. He works really hard. He's still young, but his potential is through the roof."

Te'o on Tuitt: "He has god-given ability and you combine God-given talent with work ethic and you come out with Stephon Tuitt. He's going to continue to dominate game in and game out. He's more comfortable in the scheme and his confidence has grown. He doesn't hesitate, he's more fluid in his moves, and that allows him to be the dynamic player that he is."

Watt on Tuitt's score: "It was great for the offense because they (Navy) had a long drive, and we scored (Tuitt) and they had another long drive and (only got a field goal). Tuitt allowed us to relax a little bit because we got that cushion (27-0).

"It was nice to see someone else score a touchdown on defense."

Tuitt on his summer sprints with the skill position players: "I tried to run with the DBs, just to get faster by a step. I know they're way faster than me, but if I'm running with them every day, I know I'm getting faster myself."

The Irish Discuss Selves, Each Other

Theo Riddick on competition in the unit: "It keeps me motivated and brings that 'want-to' in terms of wanting another touchdown; and that came along.

"They had me going between the tackles, so you need to bring it. (Navy) tackles very hard. They bring it."

George Atkinson on his 56-yard TD run: "You want the game to come to you, not to force anything. My dad tells me that a lot. To play within yourself, don't try to make things happen, be patient, and do what you're coached. Thanks to the coaching staff and O-Line to make that (56-yard run) happen.

"I look at how the D is set up and I try to picture a hole before it happens, and it was there."

Lewis-Moore on his pass-rush focus: "It was something I lacked in my career here. I knew it was something to work on (in the summer) and every day. I have to still play my game, but I need to make my weaknesses into strength.

Its a little bit of everything, but its always good to add some moves to your repertoire and add some elements to your game. We have Tuitt, Sheldon, Ishaq, Prince, those are some electric pass-rushing guys right there. If we get pressure on the quarterback that's going to make the secondary's job much easier."

Lewis-Moore on a sack negated by Prince Shembo's face mask: "I gave him a little bit of a hard time about it, but at the same time, it's on film. You know, stats are stats but the film doesn't lie."

Te'o on his first career fumble recovery and first interception: "For me it was a growing process. That was a focus of mine in the off-season and fall camp. A mentality where I wanted to create turnovers and do what it takes to get the ball in our offense's hands."

Te'o on dropping weight: "I felt that I was closing, that I was moving faster, and that I was changing direction better. I don't know how it looked, but it felt good."

Lombard on how hard Theo Riddick ran and physical football: "I remember on that one play when the kid from Navy went down (concussed), I saw the hit and was like, 'Wow, Theo is running his butt off.' He's going to be running hard for us."

"Right when coach Hiestand came in, he looked down the All-American board for offensive linemen and we hadn't had an All-American in like 12 years. That was the biggest thing, he said, 'We have to get another one of these.' We have to play at an All-American caliber to get back where (the program was). We have to start whipping (backsides)."

Note: (Notre Dame's last consensus All-America on the offensive front was Jeff Faine, 2002. Previously the program earned All-America mention among its offensive linemen in 2000, 1998, 1996, 1995, and every season from 1993 back through 1987.)

Golson when asked for self-evaluation: "I think I did a great job of just managing the offense. I thought we did a great job as a whole of coming together and playing as one. To have a great offense, you have to be in accord with the other players. You have to have that chemistry. So I asked the wide receivers what the cornerbacks were doing and asked the line what they were doing up front, just so we could be (of) one accord.

"But I need to be more decisive in my reads and obviously my footwork. That's one of the things I'm trying to improve this week. I can remember many throws where I was falling off or I was off balance. Coach (Brian) Kelly has been on my mechanics very hard."

Golson on his communication after his interception vs. Navy: "Part of it was them picking me up and part was me. I didn't even have a chance to get off the field before Troy (Niklas) came over to me and said, 'It's good, just move onto the next play.' So I think having chemistry and oneness really helps us out."

(Golson noted he missed an open DaVaris Daniels on the intercepted pass.)

Golson when asked if he's nailed down the starting job: "My job is not set right now. I still have my foot on the gas pedal. I'm just going to keep working and trying to be the best I can be."

Ishaq Williams on the nickel and dime package: In nickel and dime we're both on the field at the same time, but otherwise we're a nice little tandem. We're going to make plays for our team for sure. I feel more comfortable in the boundary (compared to last year) but there's still work to be done."

Te'o on Williams as a freshman: "He was very closed off, very shy. Every freshman is shy in a new environment. He had a year to warm up and he's still warming up."

Williams when asked if he's "chatty" on the field: "Not really."


IrishIllustrated.com Top Stories