Tuesday Transcript

The Irish wrapped up their first practice today as they prepare for Saturday's game against Penn State. It has been 14 years since these two teams last faced each other. Their last game is known as the Snow Bowl which the Irish won in the closing seconds 17-16.

Offensive Coordinator/Running Backs Coach Mike Haywood

What is the difference between game speed and practice speed?

"I think anytime you are going into a game starting off the season, the speed is a little bit different than what you experienced in practice. The quality of the athletes is a little bit different than the scout team guys in which you go up against, but I think our guys have given us a good look since we divided up the teams and got on the scout team - and the offense versus the scout team has given us a good look."

How much work do you anticipate Travis Thomas getting with the offense as the season progresses?

"The things we do depends upon the game plan we have in. It might be a short yardage or goal-line situation; whatever plays we have in, in those situations, we bring him over and he gets to run it at that certain time. If there are some first and second down things we want him to run, we segment time and practice where he will come over and run plays for five or six minutes."

Going into Game Two, do you know when you are going to use him?

"It's like tonight, we'll go up and work on third downs and we'll work on some short yardage and two-minute stuff. By the time we put in the game plan tomorrow morning, we will specifically say Travis is running these plays and we'll bring him over and segment him in practice for five or ten minutes. He'll be here for that time and then he'll go back over and play defense."

How would you describe him physically as a running back?

"He's as good as any back we have over there and he can run just as good as the other backs. It just depends upon what we're asking of him for that week."

Would you talk about his stamina?

"One of the things that I realized going into the first game, and I think you guys realize it also, is that Ruben and his staff have done a tremendous job with the stamina and conditioning of the entire team. I think he did a tremendous job over the summer and is doing a good job of getting guys in shape so they will have stamina over the year."

Darius finished strong at the end of last year. Has he carried that over into this year and how would you evaluate him now?

"I think that we all have to get better as a unit. I think there are certain guys throughout the game that played up to the speed of the game in the third and fourth quarters but I believe as an entire unit we have to get better and you make your most strides in the season from the first game to the second game. So we are looking for the opportunity to see how much we have improved going into the second game."

Is Darius one of those guys that get better as the game goes on?

"I think all of our players get better as the time goes on. If you take a look at them the guys got better as the game went on and we're looking forward to getting a lot better this upcoming week."

What kind of problems do you think the Penn State defense will pose for you?

"I think Penn State is an outstanding fundamentally sound team. They do an outstanding job in techniques and fundamentals. Their strength coach was with me at Army and we worked together for two years at Army. I think he does a great job. The guys are extremely physical and we're looking forward to the competition. But I think we're going to improve."

What do you think of their defensive scheme?

"I think they do a nice job with the things they do. The DB's are coached extremely sound in techniques and fundamentals. We just have to attack them to the best of our ability and execute."

What is the biggest improvement needed heading into the second game?

"I think it is about us. We need to get better as an offensive unit. We need to execute better. We worked on a lot of techniques and fundamentals today, making proper steps and hand placements. We need to do the little things right. We need to understand the blocking schemes and understand who the pre-defenders are and just execute as a unit. Anything that happens in a game is correctible. The most important thing is we have young men who are intelligent and understand the mistakes which they have made and we correct them and we move forward."

Did you think about giving Darius one more carry to get one hundred yards?

"I don't look at stats. I couldn't tell you what a young man has at one point in the game, or not. The only thing we're looking forward to is getting a win in the column."

Offensive Line Coach John Latina

People say that teams progress the most between games one and two. Why do you think that happens?

"It's just getting back into game speed. The first game you're not sure how your team is going to react to game speed. You have new players here, new players there. You have new players sprinkled throughout your team. Some guys have a lot of experience, but you're only as good as your weakest link. And until you get your whole team ready for the speed of the game and game experience, I think that's why they progress from one to two and two to three."

What started to come together for the line in the second half?

"Maybe there was a sense of urgency; you certainly wanted to feel that. I know I felt that. You saw the game not progressing the way we wanted it to progress. So hopefully our kids felt the sense of urgency and hopefully that helped that. I think that's what contributed to it."

It seemed like some of the veteran guys were having problems. Do you agree with that?

"There were some pressures, there's no doubt about it. I have always thought as a line coach that sacks and pressures are team oriented. There are so many things that are involved in protecting the quarterback and obviously that starts with your line. Sometimes your tight ends protect; sometimes your running backs protect; you sometimes hear on TV commentators saying it was a coverage sack. So there are a lot of things that contribute to those things. Obviously, we have to do better at that. We gave up two sacks in the game and too many pressures and that's not what we are looking for."

Are line of scrimmage penalties something that, once you get the timing down after a game, can be eliminated pretty easily?

"They'd better be. They need to be. You don't want to do anything to beat yourself, whether it's a missed assignment or a line of scrimmage penalty because you have total control over that situation. Sometimes you get your arm caught in a jersey and you get a holding call and that's part of the game. You don't want it to happen but you know those things happen. Things that you have total control over like line of scrimmage penalties, you want to do those things fairly well and you have to eliminate them."

Do you think it was timing and first game jitters that caused some of the problems?

"I think it was a little bit of everything; first game jitters; you had an extensive blitz package where you're focusing on the peripheral instead of focusing on the snap count. So there are a lot of things that contribute to that, but hopefully we will learn and gain from those things."

Were you happy last year with the overall performance in regards to mistakes?

"No, not really, as coaches never think we reach your potential. We always think we should be playing better than what we are playing and I certainly feel that right now and I certainly thought that all last year. The only thing about last year, you knew your kids were going through a system for the first time and you had to be more realistic. Now that you have gone through the system a second time, we have higher expectations and we expect our players to have higher expectations of themselves and you're not as forgiving with those kind of situations."

How would you evaluate Same Young's performance?

"I thought he did a solid job. When you throw everything involved in the mix, learning a new complex system, an NFL system, playing on the road and in front of a hostile crowd; all those things considered, I really felt he held his own. Obviously, he wasn't perfect but I thought it was a good starting point for him and us. And I think we can build on it."

What is his demeanor like before a game?

"It was really kind of neat. I wanted to pay attention to that because he is a freshman and a young kid. He had a real calmness and a real confidence about him and I didn't sense any nervousness or jitteriness. I think it goes back to a tribute to his high school program which is a big-time program in the state of Florida. He's been in big games before and I don't think it fazed him."

Do the veteran players try to assist him in that situation or do they leave that in your hands?

"I think it's human nature to try to do those things and we try to coach against that because when you try to compensate and do things beyond your responsibility, you sometimes don't handle your own responsibilities well enough."

You did some shifting of the linemen in the second quarter, was that to change things up a little bit or were guys getting tired?

"It's the first game and you're never in good enough shape and the kids had a lot of adrenaline going. You had a feeling at that point in the game that it was going to be a close game, a fourth quarter game, and you wanted to have some freshness in the second half so I felt it was the right thing to do and I thought those kids went in and did a nice job, an okay job, but I really sensed it was going to come down to the wire. I felt that way midway through the second quarter and I felt we had to have enough freshness in the fourth quarter to hopefully win the game."

Did having back-to-back 14-play drives affect your players?

"Especially early in the season, the first game, we try to do that at practice but it is never at the speed of the game; never at the intensity of the game nor the adrenaline; all of those things combined. So when you have two long drives like that, you really have to watch your kids and plan for the rest of the game. Sometimes as coaches, you have to go with your gut feeling and I felt it was going to be a close game to the end, the way the game was being played out and I felt we had to do that with some of our kids."

What were Sam's thoughts after the game?

"I think he was relieved to get his first game under his belt. I think he was relieved we won the game and he had his first taste of big-time college football. I think it was a very, very good experience for him in terms of learning and going out and battling and competing. And I think he will grow and just get better and better as the weeks go on."

"How would you evaluate the Penn State defensive line?

"Penn State's been a really good program for a long time and they have good players. They have some guys returning from last year and some guys who didn't start, because they lost some good players. So you see some talented players; you see some youth at some positions. And you know they're going to be good players. They're probably playing a little early in their career too. I think their D-line is good, they're quick, they're talented, especially the two inside guys. They're really good players and it will be a good test and challenge for our inside guys especially."

Is there a comparison between the Georgia Tech defense and the Penn State defense?

"I thought Georgia Tech had a good front seven and then you add their scheme to it. Penn State is a very good football program; they have very good players. They got a win in their first game and this is their first road game and I'm sure they'll be excited about playing in this arena on Saturday. It's going to be a great challenge for both teams."

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