Seniors Leave Without Victory

On the day when the Notre Dame seniors played their last game at home, it should have been a day filled with excitement, honor, and victory. Unfortunately it turned out to be another disappoing game, and instead of leaving the field in glory, the seniors departed with the memories of another loss in the 2004 season.

Irish Eyes was in the somber interview room following the game and spoke with and number of players and coach Kent Baer.

Senior wide receiver Matt Shelton

Did you have trouble with the snap on the successful field goal?

"Scott Raridon, who has been snapping great all year, snapped a little bit low but still a spiral and manageable. I had a little trouble with it and I got it up luckily and DJ put it right through."

What is that touchdown play and what was it that freed you up?

"Basically Rhema [McKnight]; Rhema always runs those screens, and we just ran it off of that and I got open."

Coming into the game did you have a feeling and specific plan that you were going to go deep?

"We always come in with a lot of deep balls and a lot of deep plays. Right now we use them sometimes. It kind of depends, but we thought we had a good, strong, deep strategy this week."

Senior linebacker Derek Curry

It seems strange the defense plays well one week than the next doesn't do well.

"It's not strange. It's about execution, and if you know anything about the game of football, it's about how you execute every week. If you execute one week and not execute the next, it turns out like this."

Is it possibly a case where the confidence slips because of the success early on?

"No. As a team you have to step up and keep the guys going and keep everybody focused. We just didn't make the plays at the right time."

Defensive coordinator Kent Baer

On the last drive with missed tackles, do you think there was too much of trying to strip the ball?

"We missed an interception. I don't know, I'll have to see it. There were so many things happening in that game, I can't remember all of it. The big one I remember is the missed interception on the sideline, someone being aggressive and trying to make a play."

It didn't seem like the defense played like itself.

"I don't think we played well the first half. I don't think we played with a lot of energy .We looked like we were slow, and we made some changes at half time."

Did Pitt do anything different in the first half that you weren't expecting?

"We just didn't play well. I think their receivers are good players, and their quarterback did a good job. We just didn't play well."

Senior wide receiver Carlyle Holiday

Did you guys have a little different block scheme on punt returns today?

"Yes, we did set up a different return this week. Kind of a left return, and we worked on it this whole week in practice and it was successful in the game today."

The long punt return you had today, how was it set up?

"I knew as soon as I got that first opportunity, I tried to make whatever I could happen. The coach did a good job of calling the right return and setting it up and reading what their punt kick team was doing. I just wanted to get the bal,l and it just happened to be my day to return punts."

Freshman running back Darius Walker

You've been banged up a little bit this season. Has that affected your play?

"I don't really think so, surprisingly, I thought it would be at first, getting out there and banging and stuff early, but my body has held up pretty good and I'm a little excited about that."

Did it feel good getting that 100 yards today?

"Yes, it felt nice."

Do you think you're running the ball better right now than you have all season?

"I'm definitely feeling a lot more comfortable back there in the backfield and kind of running the ball and running through the holes and stuff. I think I have progressed since the beginning of the season, which is good."

What have been the biggest adjustments for you?

"I think the biggest adjustment is college life in general--trying to grasp it all. I didn't know college was going to be so tough. You have to deal with school as well as football and the practices and workouts and stuff. It gets pretty strenuous."

What positives do you see coming out of this game?

"I'm not sure, it just hurts real bad. We played our hearts out and the bad thing is, that it is the seniors' last home game and we didn't get to do what we wanted to do and to send them out right. So that really was the worst part of it, but hey we've got SC coming up in a couple of weeks and I guess the only positive thing is to look forward to that."

Senior defensive back Dwight Ellick

Talk about the first half.

"The first half we didn't play like we wanted to play--just flat out. We came in at halftime and made adjustments and got on each other; picked each other up. And we came out the second half ready to play."

What were the specific changes?

"That's pretty much it--we tried to put ourselves in situations to make plays and shut certain things down they tried to do down. We saw them try to go downfield a lot, tried to hit a lot of curls and underneath things so we got in coverages where we could stop that."

Right after flag was thrown in the secondary, were you guys beginning to feel a little snake-bitten?

"The refs are going to throw flags and we can't do anything about that. The only thing we can do is line up and play again. They can throw a flag every play and like I say, we couldn't do anything about it, whether we agreed with their call or not. I don't think you're going to find any player agree with the call against them. So whether you agree with the call or not, you have to line up and play the next play. Players just worry about playing the game and we know if there is a bad call or something we don't agree with, the coaches will talk to them about that. We say let the coaches talk to the refs about that. We just go on playing."

Senior defensive back Carlos Campbell

How comfortable did you feel back there returning kicks?

"Actually, in the beginning of the year, I was a starting returner and was on every special teams taking a lot of snaps. But to keep me rested, they pulled me off and I have just been on the coach about it. Every week I tell the coach, I want back there, I'm a weapon and I just try to make a play for the team."

How tough is it to walk off the field on senior day and see that scoreboard?

"We wanted to send the seniors out right. It's my last game here. It's our last walk through the tunnel. It will be the last time I'll be in front of this crowd until I'm an alum. We weren't as enthusiastic as we want to be in the first half. We picked it up in the second half and made some plays that we needed, but every time you turned around, there was that little yellow flag. It seemed like every time a play was made, everyone looked to see if there was a flag. I'm not going to put it on the refs, but I think we stepped up and made the plays, but the refs made the calls."


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