Senior Offensive Lineman Ryan Harris
What do you think about going up against a defense that has given up 31 points a game?"You have to look at the competition they have played. Obviously they have played some good teams and they are in a good conference. Any player on this team will tell you that we were very lucky to get out of there with a win last year and it was a dogfight."
What do you think of this week's opponent after viewing film of them?"You look at a team that has now had a chance to get used to the system that Walt Harris has over there; similar players; some of the same players that last year people said they were not a good team either. So you can't fall for that trap; they are a very good team and we definitely have to do things inside our camp to get better and come out with a victory this weekend."
You have played against Coach Walt Harris's teams throughout your career. Do you see a trademark?"Yes, they play hard and they play you well. I don't know what the record is or whatever, but they have beaten us and they have had close games like the Stanford game; he gets his players ready and they are up for every game that I have played a team of his and we expect nothing less."
Do you guys feel like you put it together for four quarters against Purdue?"No, we came out of the gate well but we don't feel as an offense that we finished the game four quarters."
Is that a point of emphasis and focus for you guys this week?"Absolutely, today and all week we will be emphasizing finishing the game; finishing up plays and doing the little things that help you finish out games."
Stanford hasn't had much success stopping the run. How does that enter into your preparation for this week?"They give us a different look than other teams that we have played. So we have to get used to that. You can say whatever stat you want against them, but the bottom line is they are gong to come in there with nothing to lose and everything to gain by beating Notre Dame. We expect the unexpected and we expect a great team to come out and play us."
What is the biggest adjustment the offensive line will have to make against their style of defense?"They have a lot of different blitzes they can run with a lot of different looks; and that affects the run-and-pass games. We expect them to do that. Pressure has worked in the past and we expect them to come with pressure and do some different things to confuse us offensively."
Were you on the field when the trick plays were run this season?"I wasn't on the field but seeing that happen is a lot of fun. Playing football with those kind of plays; why not. And doing it at this level just makes it that much more fun."
How much time do you guys work on that kind of stuff?"It's minimal. We don't go in there saying, hey, we're going to run this play and win the game. If the opportunity presents itself, we do it. It's very minimal. The majority of the time we won't run anything that we have prepared."
Senior Wide Receiver Jeff Samardzija
You have played teams that have been undefeated at the time and now you are facing an 0-5 team, is this unique?"I can't really picture myself in this situation where that has happened before. But records aside, as everyone says, when you play Notre Dame, you play your best especially when you come into Notre Dame. It's a great place to play and teams get excited to play there and you have to be ready to play your best game."
Because they played you tough last year, will it be easier not to overlook them this year?"Obviously, you look at last year and take a lot out of it. I don't think you overlook them, you look at it practically that you went out there to their place last year and they gave you a heck of a game for all 60 minutes. You've got to take it how it is and the fact that they played you real hard shows they have a lot of players that can make plays too. You have to be ready to play your best game."
Do you think you guys didn't take them seriously last year or did they just come out and play a great game?"It was just one of those games. It's kind of a blur right now because it was sort of that time when you were looking toward the BCS and stuff. So I wouldn't say we overlooked them but we went out there for the last game of the season and they played tough. And you can't take anything away from them for the way they played last year. It's something we have to learn from."
If you get the win on Saturday, how will that affect the team going into the bye week?"If you talk to anybody who plays football, it's a whole lot easier 14 days coming off a win than a loss. Obviously, every game is important, but team psyche-wise, it has been a long stretch going through these games so we're going to go out and play hard and see if we can end it on the right note."
Why do you think the gadget plays have been successful?"It comes from all over but it obviously comes from the coaches breaking down film early; maybe just looking at something that catches their eye; something that the defense or return team does; something you can take advantage of. Week to week is something to look for but you might go into a week and there might not be anything. They might have a pretty solid team up front so you just have to play it straight up. Who knows, it changes so much from week to week; and year to year for that matter. It's something that just fell into place and you have to have your head on a swivel and be ready to make a play or not."
These plays are sort of a roll-of-the-dice attitude. Do you like to be a part of this attitude?"I love the gamble personally. I think it is something that is exciting and keeps the team in the game, especially when you go through it and you do it correctly and it works out. It kind of perks up everyone and gets everyone going. It is something, but it can have the same opposite effect if it doesn't work. I guess it is a gamble but we have a lot of smart guys on this team that can make plays and good decisions so you can come out and take those risks."
On the trick plays, do you have to keep a poker face so to speak so you don't give away the play?"I don't know, I think I have a poker face on all the time. I think it is more mental than anything else because anything can happen. We don't really base our offense or defense around trick plays. It's a scheming type of thing, if you can take advantage of it, you do it."
Senior Running Back Ashley McConnell
You have played in three games; do you feel different emotionally going into a game now than you did the first time?"The first time I knew I was going to start, it was hard not to get overly excited. But now you can take it as a business approach. The game has actually slowed down for me a lot so that's important."
Last year was hard for you and Chase Anastasio, how did you handle it?"Me and Chase were roommates last year. We were both going through the same struggles at the same time. He was always there for me and told me to keep my head up and I did the same for him. It's kind of odd that we are both getting a chance because of other players' injuries but at the same time I told him you always have to stay persistent in practice and keep working and the same thing goes for myself. And we just have to be ready."
You've had some adversity during your time here. What were some of the things that got you through these situations?"You look at things like that and a lot of things go through your mind, but I came here for a reason and I didn't want to turn it around. When obstacles came through my path, I just had to stick with it. Finally I came back with the right attitude and the right mind frame. It's one of life's lessons."
How tough was that time for you?"My Mom always tells me that things happen for a reason. But again you look back on it and you say I don't know about that. It was one of the bumps in the road and I had to overcome it."
When will you get your degree and what is your major?"High school graduation is one of the things that everyone talks about, but I am sitting here talking about graduating from the University of Notre Dame. Graduating will be a blessing and I can't fathom it and get it through my head yet. My degree will be in graphic design."
Junior Running Back Darius Walker
Do you have a good feeling about the running game for this week?"It feels good that I was able to be productive but this is a whole new week and a whole new game. We have a whole new team coming in that really has a lot to prove and who is really going to be gunning for us. I think we all understand we have to bring our A game Saturday."
You have to be a little excited after last week's performance and then going against a defense this week that hasn't been effective against the run."I would love to touch the ball 40 or 50 times every game. It doesn't matter what's going on. You really never know how these games are going to fold out and that's really the game of football. We had the game with Stanford last year and we know how they can play. They weren't supposed to be good last year and we practically had a dogfight and had to win it at the last minute. So you don't know how this game is going to go down."
What do you guys think when you see a team on paper that has given up over 30 points a game?"We want to put up the 31 points that people have been putting up against them (laughter). We really want to go out there and play well, but we know in order to do that we have to get ourselves ready."
You take a lot of hits during a game. How are you feeling and are you able to spread out those hits throughout the game?"I'm really feeling good right now; I'm healthy and everything. Man, I don't know what it is but whenever I get the ball, for some reason everyone wants to tackle me but I don't know why (laughter). I have no idea what it is (laughter). Being able to pace yourself during a game isn't something you think about; it's not something that really goes through your mind. You just try to give it your all and after the game somehow try to find a way to get it back."
On your touchdown run, have you ever seen such a big hole like Ryan gave you?"Ryan always does a great job and that is something I know I can expect when I go to his side or when I go to any of the linemen's side. I play well because they play well."
What came out of the scuffle that you and Coach Haywood had? Was that just part of football?"It's definitely a part of football. I don't know if anybody has been out there for the full practice, but a lot of those sorts of things go down. That's just the game of football. Me and Coach Haywood are very close and that is just one of those things that happen."
Coach said that he doesn't like the running back to have 40 touches. Do you ever worry about getting too many touches?"Not at all; I'm definitely the kind of guy that says okay. I never worry about getting too many touches. And I'm the kind of guy that says give it to me until I tell you to stop giving it to me or something like that. So that's definitely something that's not on my mind but at the same time, it is the game of football that is a contact sport and you have to be able to take the pounding."