Comments From the Game

Thoughts from the locker room after Notre Dame's big victory over Penn State on Saturday.

Senior Captain Travis Thomas

After two games, how would you judge how good this team can be?

"I think it's only a taste of what we can really do and how good we really can be. I think the biggest improvement you can make as a team is between week one and week two and I think we made major strides."

Were you guys a little upset because you dropped three or four spots in the polls?

"We pay attention to the polls but not to the point where it upsets us. We just figured they wanted to move Texas up to two so television could get a good rating for the game. So that's just the way we're taking it. If you win games week-in and week-out, the polls will take care of themselves."

Do you think you'll be back at number two next week?

"This is a statement game so hopefully they will see it as we do."

When were you approached about moving to linebacker and what did you think of it?

"It was before the spring game and I was surprised because I was having a productive spring and I had a productive year last year. I just wanted to know what you see as Travis Thomas playing defense. Why is Travis Thomas your guy? I was just a little surprised."

What was your reaction to the fake punt call?

"I called it. I had the option to call the punt or call the fake. It depends on how the defense lines up. If I see something I like, I'm going to call it. I just saw everybody was to the left; it was like parting the Red Sea. You'd be crazy not to make a decision like that."

The last two quarters against Georgia Tech and the first two quarters against Penn State, you shut them out. Were you happy about that?

"That doesn't really count. The scoreboard at the end of the game didn't have zero on the opponent's side. We're happy with the win but a shutout would put icing on the cake."

Senior Captain/Defensive Back Tom Zbikowski

Were you surprised at how intense Travis Thomas was and how well he played?

"He's intense for every game, that's just the way he is. I think he wants to just prove the point that he can play defense and he has been waiting to get his time on the field. But definitely being from Pennsylvania, he wanted to bring his best game against Penn State. I'm glad that punt call was called and was successful."

Travis is usually soft-spoken were you surprised at how outspoken he was at the pep rally last night?

"It caught me off guard a little bit, but it was good. It got me pumped and I was ready for the game then."

Did you expect the defense to be as opportunistic as they were in this game?

"I think so. The last game we did a good job of shutting them down. This week we wanted to create a little more turnovers and I think we did that."

What is the big difference between the defense this year and last year?

"I think it's been what I've been saying for a long time, it's just that confidence week-in and week-out. And the second year in the system and being comfortable with it and going out and making plays and making a point that we're one of the best defenses in the country."

How does it feel to have beaten two solid teams in a row?

"That is two solid teams with a lot of weapons on the offensive side and to be able to hold them to 10 and 17; to hold both those offenses is pretty good."

Was there a particular play where you guys thought you had this game today?

"It was in the fourth quarter but the game is never over until the end. But we came out in the second half and started making plays on the defensive end and the offense was doing their job and that's when we knew the momentum was in our favor."

Senior Kicker Carl Gioia

Did you feel like you had to prove yourself today?

"Not really, I approach every game the same way. And next week we're going to approach Michigan in the exact same way. So hopefully I can help out the team in the same way."

Was it difficult to keep your confidence up this week?

"I wanted to get out there and help the team. It wasn't like, oh my gosh, I put all my eggs in the first kick. It was nice to get it done in the first drive and at the same time, it was the same kick."

Did Coach Weis talk to you much this week about your kicking?

"Ever since last Saturday night, right away he said, you've got to get those out of your mind and it's the next kick that really matters. He has really been great, not only helping myself but the team's psyche in general. It's really good and team-oriented."

Did you work on anything different this week?

"Nothing, I kept a normal routine. I made it a point to do my normal walk-through and footwork and kept everything the same. And just focused on what was ahead of me."

Junior Running Back Darius Walker

Could you talk about the Penn State defense?

"They were very physical guys. Coming into this game, we knew they could really move off of the ball. They are really big strong guys who didn't leave many lanes to run through when we were out there. So we had to get it another way."

What did you think about Notre Dame being dropped in the polls?

"Of course we heard it. I definitely heard it, but the polls are something we try to leave alone. It's something we don't worry about because we are not the ones who are judging the polls or making the polls. So we try to stay away from it, but at the same time we knew this was a big game coming in and it really was a big win for us."

Senior Defensive End Victor Abiamiri

What are your thoughts on how the defense played today?

"I was happy with the defense performance today. We came into the game with the mindset of pressuring the quarterback. We knew he was a young quarterback and we wanted to get into his face and rattle him a little bit; and I think we did that today."

Are you happy with the way you played today?

"I'm my own harshest critic and I always find something that I didn't do well. I didn't play my best game today, but I helped the team win so that was a good thing."

What didn't you do well?

"There were times when I didn't play the right technique or I could have played a little better on a couple of their runs. We'll come in and watch film tomorrow and critique everything."

What has the defense done in these two games to be so successful?

"I think we're working on consistency and that's what we really want to improve upon from last year. Last year we had a couple good games and then gave up some high-scoring games later on in the season. But this year I think we're trying to work on our consistency in every game."

How do you work on consistency?

"It's a mentality you have being meticulous in practice from play-to-play and not stopping until you get it right. And I think that chip on our shoulder attitude from last year going into this year knowing that we are a good defense has brought us together and helped us improve."

That chip on the shoulder attitude, is that something that still drives you guys?

"I think so; we're all definitely motivated to not be second class citizens on this team. I think this team needs offense, defense, and special teams and we're a major part of this team and we want to contribute anyway we can."

Senior Tight End John Carlson

Were you pleased with your performance today?

"It's always nice to catch the ball but there are a lot of things I still need to work on. I don't feel like I blocked that well in the game. But it is nice to catch the ball."

What is your opinion of the Penn State team?

"They are a great team and we knew they were going to be physical. It's Penn State – it was a big win."

How much have you proven to be a weapon, especially across the middle?

"I don't know. We knew the middle would be open this week. And we exploited that."

How much do you hear about Anthony Fasano and the type of player he was?

"I hear about him all the time and that's fine with me. I talked to him last night; he's a good friend of mine. It was just small talk and we wished each other luck. I know he has a big game coming up."

Are you a little disappointed that Brady missed you in the end zone?

"I missed blocks and dropped balls; it happens."

Were their linebackers more active than what you thought they would be?

"No, I don't think so. They were real physical and they play hard. We were just fortunate enough to make the plays."

What made you guys think the middle of the field was going to be open?

"Looking at our team, we have Rhema (McKnight) and (Jeff) Samardzija. I would tend to cover those guys more than me. That's the best part of it."

Did you ever anticipate having a game like you did?

"Yeah, part of that is every week we have a game plan and with the offensive plays we put in, it kind of gives me an idea of what to expect. But you really don't know until you play the game."

Senior Captain Quarterback Brady Quinn

John Carlson had a big game, when did you develop confidence in him?

"We got together and worked together this summer. I wouldn't say I ever had a lack of confidence in him, it's more or less just a communication that you have with one another and that bond that ends up growing through games and stuff together. Anthony and I had a few years to work together and it was kind of easy to develop at the same point with John. We knew we had to close that gap because we would only have one year to work together. He has really stepped up big time in the past couple games and made a couple big catches on third down."

What made that two-minute drill just before half-time so successful?

"Obviously, it's the coverage they are giving you. Zone coverages give up holes here and there and you have to take advantage of it."

What do you expect from next week's game with Michigan?

"Michigan's going to be a tough game. Every year, it's a dogfight and I don't think people can allow themselves for example to get comfortable with a 20-point lead at halftime. Because we know it's Michigan and we know year-in and year-out, they're going to come back and it's going to be a dogfight to the end. So really looking at this game there are a lot of positives we can take from it, but at the same time Michigan is a completely different task. And they have a lot of different weapons we are going to have to take a look at."

Do you single out defensive players to go at or so-called pick on?

"We know their defense is solid across the board so you can't pick out certain guys to pick on or to work on. We just try to find holes in coverages and our guys did a great job of find them and our offensive line gave me enough time to do it."

Senior Receiver Jeff Samardzija

A lot of people say this has become a more complete team. Is that true?

"I think that's what you shoot for; it's kind of your goal on offense. If you base your offense and defense on one or two guys, it's eventually going to catch up with you. What we're trying to do here is make a complete offense with a lot of weapons to go to and kind of keep everybody on their toes."

Can you explain the idea of taking advantage on turnovers?

"Like I said before, the game is about making plays, whether it's after a mistake or a touchback or whatever, everyone's going to have the opportunity to make plays out there on the field and you take advantage of them and you win the game or you don't, and you lose the game. And ultimately that's what it comes down to and that's what we are trying to do and hopefully things turn out right."

What did you think of the atmosphere of this game?

"I think there were two great teams playing on the field today and you have to give a lot of credit to Penn State. They played hard the whole game. And they have a lot of great players. So you knew that coming into the game; you knew that about both programs and you knew about the following of the two programs. And you knew it was going to be a big game no matter what."

Senior Receiver Rhema McKnight

This was a big win. How does it feel?

"It's a great feeling. We worked hard all week. And we felt we could come in and move the ball against a good defense. And I think it showed tonight. Tomorrow we will watch the film and make corrections and we move on and start thinking about Michigan."

With this big win, how much did you guys feed off the fans?

"You definitely have to feed off the fans. They bring a lot of energy and they change the atmosphere. I'm pretty sure a few times Penn State had the ball it was pretty difficult for them to hear the snap count and things like that. So you have to feed off the energy and I'm glad the fans showed up today."

How did it feel to get the first touchdown pass of the season?

"It felt great to get the first one out of the way. Actually it will be a year tomorrow getting it out of the way. And I felt good and hopefully there will be many more to come."

Were you surprised that you were so wide open?

"I was pretty wide open. I don't know if there was a breakdown on the defense. But, hey, I was open and the ball came to me and I made the play."

The defense came in this season with a chip on their shoulder. Did you see this attitude during daily practice?

"Definitely, we've always known our defense had the capabilities to come in a make big plays and I think they are proving that to everybody right now. A lot of guys are fed up with the talk that they're not good and different things like that and they are proving people wrong and hopefully as long as they keep working hard, they are going to show that."

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