Irish Offense Had to Settle Down

The Irish returned to practice today to prep for Saturday's game at Michigan. Irish Eyes spoke with starting quarterback Carlyle Holiday about his performance against Washington State and the challenges that the Michigan defense will have for him. Holiday says that the offense didn't play well at times against Washington State but their play wasn't as bad as many think.

The Offense didn't seem in sync on Saturday but Holiday says it wasn't all bad. "Saturday, I think we did a lot of good things," Holiday said. "I mean the first half was a little shaky, but overall I thought we really started to pick up blitzes a little bit better."

"The second half, we still had some mistakes that may have cost us the game in the first half, but the second half we adjusted," Holiday continued. "So I thought, that especially in the second half, things moved a little bit slower for everybody. The way we played the fourth quarter is the way we¹ve got to play this whole season."

Holiday said he need to settle down out there and did later in the game. "Once you get settled in there, you just start to let things slow down. I think in the second half that¹s what exactly happened to me and probably the rest of everybody on the offense. They just kind of calmed down at halftime and let things work and get their pad level down and everything went smoothly from there."

Holiday says that he wasn't satisfied with his performance and has room for improvement. "I don't know what kind of grade I would give myself for the first game. I don't grade myself - the coaches really grade me, but I really didn't accomplish some of the things I wanted to, but I think overall I started to improve as the game went on."

Many Irish fans have complained about Holiday's lack of pocket presence. Holiday says practice is going to make him more aware of the blitz and he's got to keep working on it. "You've just got to keep on seeing repetitions of it. It's got to be shown in practice daily and once that shows up in the game it has to transcend into the game from practice and the only thing to do is work on it in practice as much as you can and do those things to try to fix it."

Some suggest that pocket awareness is a natural thing, either you have it or you don't. Holiday believes experience will help him feel comfortable in the pocket. "It starts to come natural. It may be hard some times because if the pocket breaks down one time then you always have it in the back of your mind what happens if it happens again. It should come natural as you become more comfortable with a game situation."

Holiday had never been asked to be a pocket passer before Bill Diedrick became his quarterback coach and offensive coordinator. Holiday says the adjustment hasn't been easy for him. "It's difficult, but at same time you have to be unselfish and realize what opportunities you have once you just take that extra second to stay in the pocket. You can spread the field around like that and that just allows defenses to back up a little bit so it's difficult. But at the same time, you¹ve got to have that sacrifice as a quarterback so that other things should open up for you."

Holiday has taken some pounding on his body last year and this year. Holiday was asked if there was anything he could do to limit the kind of pounding his body has taken. "I think sliding would be a good thing but just getting rid of the ball, period, would be even better. I mean just getting that count in your head going and once that¹s over just throwing that ball away. I think Saturday I didn¹t really get that until the second half because I was a little bit anxious, but I think that would be the main thing, just getting the ball out of your hands."

As bad as the offense looked, Holiday was actually pretty accurate on his throws completing 62 percent of his passes. Holiday says the hard work is starting to pay off. "I mean we worked on that ever since last year ended so I felt that was a strong part of the game Saturday. Sometimes I'd rush the long ball. So we've got to go back to work on that and try to fix everything and get everything on the same page for Saturday."

During the Washington State game, Holiday got banged up a bit but he says the injury was nothing serious. "I kind of got cut in the knee when the ball was released so I think I just twisted my knee a little bit. So I just ran it off, but everything is fine."

Holiday says that Washington State game taught him he needed to be more aware out there. "For me, I think I should be aware on every play, not just certain plays. You've got to be aware every time you step on the field. It caught me a couple of times, so for me I've just got to make sure I see all parts of the field and all areas of the field and concentrate on that."

The Irish face Michigan in Ann Arbor on Saturday. Holiday knows Michigan will be coming hard after him just like Washington State did. "We know they¹re going to bring the kitchen sink. I think every team from now on is probably going to bring the kitchen sink, and I think we¹ve just got to continue what we did last week and the week before and just prepare for blitzes and do it as much as we can in practice and make them pay any time they do that. I think we hit Washington State a couple of big plays on blitzes both in the run and pass game so any time you can make a defense pay like that they¹ll start to back off a little bit."

The offensive line didn't play their best game against Washington State but Holiday says he has confidence in them. "I'm fine with them. They do their best and I think they really improved in the second half, so I think they realize when we pick up blitzes what can happen and it should be a momentum factor for us and a big booster for them to look forward to."

The offense didn't make any big plays in the passing game against Washington State and that is one area they have been focusing on this week according to Holiday. "I don't think we went vertically enough, or connected vertically enough, for that percentage that the whole overall passing game was working out and I think this week we need to work all that out. I've been working on the long ball today; being able to stretch the field more and allowing big plays to happen in the passing game."

One of the wide receivers will have to step up and fill the role left by Arnaz Battle. Holiday says his receiving corps is full of guys who can take his place. "I think all the receivers on the team right now feel like they can be that guy. That's what¹s so great right now that you have 7-8 guys out there competing to be that top guy that Arnaz was last year so they all have the same attitude. They all want to accomplish one thing, which is to score touchdowns and do whatever to help the team win."

Holiday thinks he and his receivers just need to hook up for a big play and then the offense will start to take off. "Just seeing Rhema - he caught that touchdown pass right there and he was hyped up for the rest of the game. Whenever you see a guy like that catch a touchdown you want to get him the ball a little bit more."

The offense certainly struggled early but Holiday is correct, the offense did settle down and they moved the ball and scored touchdowns on a very good Washington State defense. Holiday will enter a volatile environment in Ann Arbor on Saturday and hopefully he and the offense will have that calmness when they start the game and not have to find it at halftime.


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