Defensive Thoughts on BYU and Michigan

A number of Irish players were made available to the media on Monday to discuss last week's loss to BYU, and to talk about their rival game this weekend against Michigan. The Irish players have been pointing to this game after their disappointing loss in Ann Arbor. Here are some thoughts from some defensive players on both last week's disappointing loss, and this week's big game against Michigan.

Senior linebacker Derek Curry finished Saturday's game with six tackles, a sack and 1.5 tackles for loss. Curry is one of the emotional leaders on this Irish team and the squad will have to look to him and others for motivation heading into this weekend's rival game against Michigan.

Derek Curry on his feelings going into Michigan.

"I think this game does have a little bit more excitement especially coming off a loss. We are so excited just to go out and play again this week. It's not that we were not excited this week going into BYU but this week is Michigan and we are looking forward to the challenge."

On how to get over Saturday's loss and get up for this weekend.

"Pretty much overnight, that is why we practice on Sundays and come in and watch film, because you want to make sure that you get things corrected. You need to emphasize the positive things you did and get the negative things corrected. That way you get out the next week, especially starting Tuesday and get ready for the team you are playing."

On the negatives about the game this past Saturday.

"We gave up too many big plays. When it comes down right to it, we have to score more points than they do and we have to step up when we are needed. There in the fourth quarter and especially in the first quarter, our offense needed to step and our team as well and we didn't get it done."

On the meaning of 38.

"Basically, it came from the game last year, something to keep in our minds as worked all summer. When you are working for a goal, it is easy to let things slip by if you don't have anything to focus on and that was just something to focus on after last year."

On what they did with 38.

"We did 38 reps of a particular exercise, a 38 second run, 38 sprints or something like that.

On how they attack the quarterback this week.

"From a defensive standpoint, it is kind of hard to attack, but one thing we can definitely do is be aggressive. With a young quarterback, when you put pressure on them, you really bring out their true characters. So, the one thing we are going to try to do is put some pressure on him and play the game plan that our coaches are going to have set. Our defensive coaches do a great job of getting us prepared to play the game plan.

On how to avoid the negativity.

"The main thing that you have to do as a captain is stay positive and you have to keep the guys around you positive. The way you do that is just with enthusiasm, it's contagious. When others see you excited about the challenge and not being disappointed by the loss they will be the same way. That is one thing I try to do for the team as well as Coach Willingham and our other coaches."

On the positives from the BYU game.

"We saw that we can do some really good things when we play together. When we play together this team has unbelievable potential but when we don't play together it can get us hurt."

On what the Irish need to do to beat Michigan.

"Definitely, the first thing you have to do is stop the run. Anytime you go out into to a game like this with really good receiver then you have to stop the run so the only option they have is to pass and that is what we are going to try to do this week. It definitely starts with the front seven and them on the back end we have to disseminate big plays."

On the game this Saturday being a defensive struggle and field position being the key.

"I really don't know, it's hard to say. We just started watching film yesterday so maybe later in the week I will be able to say more. Field position obviously plays a role with how many points they score, being able to kick a field goal. That is always an issue but I don't know how much of a factor it will play."

On how much field position factored into the game against BYU.

"Well, that is kind of the way it goes, you roll with the punches. As a defense you are called to step up, if we had made a few more plays, got a few more fumbles that were on the ground that could have changed all that."

On if the Michigan game is a must win for the Irish.

"Every game is a must win especially the way the BCS is, every game tests as a must win game."

On if the team fears another season like last season if they start 0-2 on the year.

"Not at all, there is no fear with this team. We don't think about the possibilities of losing this game. Our man focus is to win this game. We don't even focus on that."

Senior defensive end Kyle Budinscak returned to the field Saturday after sitting out all of spring practice recovering from knee surgery. Budinscak remembers the 25-23 victory in Notre Dame stadium in 2002, and the 38-0 blowout in Michigan Stadium in 2003. He's hoping for a similar game to 2002 this Saturday.

Kyle Budinscak on getting ready to play Michigan.

"It is always our biggest game of the year, especially early on and after last year, the embarrassment that we had and this past Saturday, us coming out and not getting a victory, our backs are against the wall. This game means everything, we are going to come out like nobodies business I can promise you that."

On how the defense can improve from the BYU game.

"We played pretty well but we ran up big plays. On those big throws we didn't get to the quarterback, we obviously didn't make plays on the ball. As a defense we played solid, we know what we have to do to fly around and make big plays and I think we do that this week."

On what gave the Irish trouble in Ann Arbor last season.

"Last year was a combination of so many things, us not having our run gaps, not getting enough pressure, having missed assignments. We were all over the place and we beat ourselves as much as they beat us. People are going to listen to me say that and shrug and say you got beat 38-0 and you can say that all you want. This year I think we're going to eliminate a lot of the things we did wrong last year. It's going to be a much different game."

On his feelings after the Michigan game last year.

"Indescribable. It's an embarrassment. A letdown you can't even explain. There's people to you don't even want to talk to. It's hard to talk to even people close to you."

Defensive end Justin Tuck picked up where he left off in 2003 by chipping in with five tackles and two sacks in the BYU game. Tuck says this team is going to be ready heading into the game this weekend.

Tuck on Henne playing his first road game at Notre Dame Stadium.

"I think our crowd is going to be rowdy. Hopefully we can get to him early and put a little doubt in his mind about reading his keys. Especially him being a true freshman in a hostile crowd--that can really work to our advantage."

On how they can overcome a confident Michigan team after last year's loss and last weekend.

"Just the All-American underdog role--I like being underdogs. A lot of people are not giving us a chance and we're going to surprise a lot of people next week. Michigan is going to be a great test. If we play our football, we can play with anybody in the country, and we didn't do that last week. We'll try to redeem ourselves against Michigan this week, and their in our house so that's a benefit."

On if this team had their confidence rattled last weekend.

"You can say we were a little rattled knowing that we lost to a team we feel we were better than. I don't that's going to affect us because of what we owe Michigan. It's going to be a different story this weekend."

On forgetting this past weekend.

"I don't think you forget what happened this weekend. You definitely can't forget what happened last year against Michigan. We've got to find a way to take both of those and put them to our advantage."

On how the 38-0 loss affected this team.

"Has it affected us in the long term? I don't think so. In a way, it could've made us a better team as far as how we approach it this weekend."

Linebacker Brandon Hoyte returned from an injury he suffered early in fall camp with a bang on Saturday night. Hoyte was credited with six tackles, one sack, two tackles for loss and two forced fumbles on the evening, oh, and one injured quarterback. Hoyte says that's just the way he plays the game.

On playing physical against BYU despite a sore shoulder.

"That's just the nature of the game, and that's the way that I've always played the game. That's the way I've been taught to play the game. I think that's the way it's supposed to be done."

On taking out the BYU quarterback in Saturday's game.

"Like I said, some things are supposed to be done."

On why ND can win on Saturday.

I've always believed that it doesn't matter who we play, it's how we play. I think who's ever there on Saturday, as long as Notre Dame steps up and plays the style of offense and defense that we have the ability to do, then there shouldn't be a problem."

On why they haven't played Notre Dame football so far this season.

"As far as the off-season, I think we put in the time and the effort. I don't think it's a question of effort or ability. I think it's just a question of getting the job done."

On how to beat Michigan.

"I think you look inside your inner person. You fall down, you get up and you keep going. I think if you can't do this on this level, then you shouldn't be on this level. I'm very fortunate to be around a group of guys that have that ability to get up, and keep working hard until it's done."


IrishIllustrated.com Top Stories