Curry says the Irish have been positive all week. "It went really good. Everyone is really excited. There is a lot of excitement out there, a lot of enthusiasm. The tempo picked up a lot through the bye week and carried over to this week."
According to Curry, practice for the defense is focused on the whole defensive effort. "The linebackers think run first, then you react to anything else you see. And that's been a big key so far, to go out and stop the run."
Pitt has a big-time passing game but Derek believes stopping the running game is "first and foremost when you go into a game like this. You have to stop the run before you can do anything else. After you stop the run, that takes care of itself. Obviously that's the first priority. Then the rest of our game plan will take care of the rest of the things we want to do."
The defense has not made many big plays so far this season and Curry says the defense needs to make more big plays. "That's something we haven't really done too much of this year. We've been doing a good job of playing defense, but we need to make more big plays. There is definitely a sense of urgency to get more interceptions, cause more fumbles, and just play the way we like to play."
There are always challenges when a player switches positions. Curry said his biggest challenge this year for him has been shuffling between playing both inside and outside linebacker. "Probably picking up inside linebacker and playing that as well, rather than just practicing it," said Curry when asked what has been the most difficult. "Last year, I never played inside linebacker. This year, I'm playing outside and inside and that's probably one of my biggest challenges; just mastering the defense as a whole at more than one position."
When asked how he has made this change in positions, Derek replied, "I've been working on it all spring and summer. So I've had a lot of experience at it so far. Again, it is only something you get in a game, so you can only practice so much, then you have to go out and perform. Yes, there were a few steps to take this spring and summer to get where I am now."
Curry has set some personal goals for himself this year but not in terms of numbers. "I just said I want to be the player, teammate, and person that this team needs me to be. The player takes place on the field; the teammate in the locker room and stuff like that. The person in general being an enthusiastic guy and being leader. That is something I want to be for this team."
Curry's actions speak volumes when on the field and he says he says a lot on the field. He is an emotional leader for the defense and he says he just loves to play the game. "Yes, for the most part. I like to have fun; I like to have a good time, but I am vocal enough. It definitely helps to win, but we also enjoy the game and we enjoy the opportunity that God has given us to play this game. That makes it fun in itself, but winning also makes it more fun."
Curry has handled both positions well this year, but he believes there are areas he needs to work on to become a more complete player. "I need to work on my speed and strength; that's something any linebacker or defensive player can always work on. I'm actually a little bit smaller this year. Last year I played at about 238/240 lbs and now I'm at 235 lbs. So I'm not actually bigger, but I'm stronger than I was - and quicker and more instinctive, but I'm not necessarily bigger than I was last year. I feel this is my ideal weight. I feel more comfortable. I feel the quickest. I feel the most energy within myself."
When asked about the key to beating Pitt, Derek said, "We have to play a complete game. We have to play Notre Dame football the entire game, and the rest will take care of itself."
Irish Eyes has talked with several players during the last two weeks. There is certainly a determination by these players and the entire Irish team to defeat the Panthers.