Irish Players Thrilled With Performance at Pitt

The Notre Dame football team was obviously very excited about their win against Pittsburgh on Saturday night. Irish Eyes spoke to a number of players and coaches to get their thoughts on the game. It was refreshing to see the Irish excited and confident once again.

The Irish defense made of number of big plays on Saturday and no unit made more plays than the defensive line. Defensive line coach Greg Mattison was obviously pleased with their effort.

"You had to stop the run," said Mattison of the game plan. "You hear about Fitzgerald and he's a great wide receiver and Rutherford's a very scary quarterback but you still have to bring it back to saying you've got to stop the run and I think our kids did that early."

Mattison said his unit played with pride on Saturday. "When you knew there were passing situations, it's a matter of you've got to beat somebody one-on-one. The defensive lineman has got to take some pride in beating someone one-on-one and I think that happens sometimes."

Darrell Campbell played the entire game on defense and Mattison said he was very pleased with his senior warrior. "Darrell Campbell never came out of the game and when you are playing against a team that threw as much as they did, that is as hard as it gets."

Mattison said the entire Notre Dame team wanted this win and played hard to get it. "They wanted this one bad and we've been so close. You can't say enough about our players and Ty (Willingham) and the job he's done keeping them together and them believing."

Quarterback Brady Quinn said the Irish offense focused all week on running the football and he was excited to see the running of Julius Jones and the Irish offensive line dominate the opposition. "It gave us a great deal of confidence," said Quinn. "Something maybe we were lacking in our running game after our performance at Purdue. It was great to see our o-line that pumped up and that excited about what we've done."

Starting center Bob Morton said the offensive line came out and played like it was their last game. "We just came out and played like there wasn't any tomorrow and that's what we did and we got a lot of yards to show for it," said Morton.

Morton said he did get tired out there playing so much football but it was a good tired. "In a football game, there are two times you get tired. There's one time when you are getting physically dominated and you don't want to go out there for another play. Then there's another time when Julius Jones breaks a 60-yard run and you've got to go catch up to him. In some way, shape or form, you find a way to get up to him."

Defensive lineman Greg Pauly probably played the best game of his career on Saturday. The Irish defense came out and shut down the Pitt offense for three straight series to start the game. "You definitely feel confident once we had that first three-and-out," said Pauly. "Everything was just rolling after that and the offense scored, everything just started falling into place after that. We started playing real well. After the offense scored and we went three-and-out, we were pretty jacked after that."

Linebacker Derek Curry said the Irish coaching staff gave this team a great game plan to beat Pittsburgh. "I have to give credit to our coaches, we had a great game plan going into this week" said Curry. "All we had to do was play within ourselves. The game plan was what kept us on top of them and ahead of them."

Curry also said the game plan confused the Pittsburgh defense and that was the reason Rutherford and the Pitt offense sputtered all night. "That was part of our game plan. Move around a lot, show them some different looks and kind of get them on their heels. Then we could do what we do best, pursuit to the ball and play our game."

Curry said this win this win is the result of hard work and this team's unwillingness to quit. "I can't explain it, I was so overjoyed that everything was falling into place. We worked so hard to get to where we are now and everything was falling into place just as we had planned it."

Offensive lineman Dan Stevenson said the offensive line wanted to dominate in this game and they did do just that. "I think a big goal for us, Pittsburgh's run defense is supposed to be real good," said Stevenson. "It was a big goal for us, come out here and get back to our game. I think we kind of came out here and had a little swagger to us, a little attitude."

"We had a great week of practice," continued Stevenson. "I think a big thing was the bye week. We have more time to prepare and got back to trying to play within ourselves and really trying to focus on the game."

Stevenson found himself playing a new position on Saturday. He moved to offensive guard after playing offensive tackle all year—a move that undoubtedly sparked the Irish offense. Stevenson said he'll play anywhere the Irish coaches want him to. "Wherever the team needs me. It's two different positions, one I think you are a little more aggressive, the other one, you try to be a little more athletic. Whichever one they need me at."

Freshman Ryan Harris moved into the right tackle position vacated by Stevenson. Harris said he didn't know he was starting until Friday. "In practice this week, they put me in with the ones," said Harris. "The coaches said ‘we're going to try some things and we're going to move you in a little bit, we think you're ready' and it wasn't until before the game, yesterday, coach said ‘did you talk to your parents.' I said ‘yeah, I told them I might play a little bit.' He goes ‘you better call them because you're going to start.' So I called them."

Harris said he had been practicing on the left side of the line all year but made the switch this week. "I've practiced mainly on the left side until this week."

Harris said he made some mistakes but he felt comfortable out there. "I made some mistakes, I'm going to get better. Our coaches helped us out real well with an awesome game plan and we just kept plugging away and we knew this was going to be a big game for us offensively."

Corner Vontez Duff played very well in the second half. Duff shut down Pitt receiver Larry Fitzgerald not allowing him a single reception in the second half. Duff said the defense just executed better in the second half. "(We) did the same thing we did the first half," said Duff. "We just made a few mistakes the first half, we came back and we knew they were going to give us the same looks they did the first half and we just played our defense."

Duff said the pass rush by the front four on defense helped out the secondary. "It helps out a lot when they're getting that pass rush. It's all a team effort, they're getting that rush because we're defending those receivers up and down the field and making them hesitate a little bit and messing up that timing."

The senior cornerback said he knew he would be locked onto Fitzgerald going into the game. "I knew coming in the coaches were going to do that. They were going to put me one-on-one and just let everyone else play their responsibilities and I knew that I couldn't give up theme big plays like we did in the first half. The second half we came out and played better technique and it showed."

Duff said this win should open some eyes in the media and around the country. "We gained our respect back. We still had our pride but I feel as though now we have respect from other teams and the nation because of what we did tonight."

The Irish can now take this win and springboard their success into next week against their rival USC according to Duff. "We've got feed off this win and take it into next week. Keep doing what we're doing and make sure we do the things that we do right, make sure we do them every time."

The real story was the running of Irish running back Julius Jones. Jones said he had no idea he had broken the rushing record until after the game. "I wasn't aware of it until after the game," said Duff of breaking the record. "Coach announced it in the locker room but it was a great feeling, getting the win and getting things on track. It's a great feeling right now.

Jones says his offensive line deserves all the credit for the record. "Things opened up for us as a whole team running the ball. We stepped up, the offensive line, I give them all the credit, they gave me some room to run and it's just a great day for us."

The Irish ended the game with the ball and 9:14 left on the clock. The Irish were able to run out the clock and that was a big positive for this Irish offense according to Jones. "That long drive we had, that was just a lot of confidence. I felt confidence in the offensive line and they felt confident in me and Ryan (Grant). It was a great game for us and gave us a lot of confidence going into USC and the rest of the big games we have."

The Irish should be able to take the excitement of this win and channel that into focus against their rival USC. The excitement was electrifying after the game and one could tell this was a new Irish football team. Hopefully that attitude will carry over into next week.


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