Do you address the team about senior day and what it means?"What we do is make sure the young guys are aware of the importance of sending these guys out on a good note. Playing your best game, I guess, if there is such a thing we try to do that anyway. But there is a little more importance as this is their last game in the stadium. So you want to send them out on a good note and make it fun."
Personally for you, what was it like playing your last game?"You definitely remember the last game. It's the last time you're going to play with a lot of your buddies and the last time your family gets to see you play in the stadium. For some guys, it's the last time playing football period. So you have that good memory in your mind and it's important."
What do you know about Syracuse?"A good team. A good team that maybe hasn't gotten the results that they wanted, but they have good players. They have receivers that are good. They have a couple good running backs. I mean they're college kids and, you know, at the end of the day everybody's not going to have an undefeated season. Everybody's not going to make all the touchdowns, but they have kids like other schools that make good plays. They've had long runs and they've had long passes, so I mean they have good players."
There's always talk about players following their rules. Is that what happened in last week's game?"Well, what we try to do, no matter who we are playing against and sometimes it works well and sometimes it doesn't work as well, but you always try to do the things that the coaches are asking you to do no matter who you are playing against; no matter what the competition level is; no matter what you personally think about your opponent or about how easy or difficult it will be; you play your rules and that will give you a chance. And once you do that, things work out for you when you do it the right way."
How would you assess the defense the past couple of weeks?"We have done some things well and there are some other things where we would like to be more consistent. I think we are getting decent production from some guys and it's been good. Overall it's been good. You know, you still want to keep the points down and you want to finish strong. But for the most part, it's been relatively okay. I'll say that."
The defense has played well the last four weeks statistic-wise. What did you hone in on during the bye week?"Well, we tried to zero in on what we were calling and you know exactly what we were doing. We looked at our problem areas and tried to decide if it was something we were doing coaching-wise. We looked at different guys and different match-ups and just tried to make our kids aware - okay, this is what is happening to us; these are the things that are getting us beat; and these are the things that are causing us trouble/problems. We tried to address those issues."
Is Syracuse a good match-up for Toryan as Navy was last week?"Yeah, yeah, because it's like this, if you are a football player, which Toryan is, you know just like we talked about your rules and keys and your run fits, it's still the same at the end of the day. Now, of course, some teams are going to pass it a little bit more and teams that may throw it a little bit more that may not be his quote/unquote strong suite, you know. But at the end of the day there are things that he has to do in pass coverage, playing man-to-man and, you know, when he's blitzing, so I really believe and deep down in my heart feel, no matter who we would have played that he would have played along the same lines because he's prepared so when this guy goes down, when we call this coverage, this is what I'm going to do in this situation. So he's done a good job."
Did you talk to him about celebrating?"That was all Coach Polian. That was all Coach Polian."
Will Scott Smith play inside this week?"You know Scott is a versatile guy and that has allowed us to move him around. So you know he'll play a couple different positions for us and he gives us some versatility."
With Toryan getting playing time now, does that help him in the mix for next year?"Well, it gives you, as a coach, a boost of confidence and a vote of confidence that if something happens or if you put him out there, that he can go out there and execute. That's something you always like to see from your players, especially it was early in the game. That's a pretty big game for us. It will help him down the road, I think. It will help his confidence more than anything else and a lot of times, it's more the kids than us. Because as a player, if you are confident and you think you can get the job done, we kind of feel that, you know. So that's a good thing."
Do you think the defense up-tick has been helped by the players understanding the system better?"That always helps, you know. Longer is always better. As a young guy, when you come in and are first exposed to something, there's going to be a growing process. There are going to be some things you may or may not understand as well. Then as you grow and as you develop, you become better, you know. I think you execute better and I think you feel more comfortable and anytime you feel comfortable, you are able to execute. We try to teach our guys that as quick as you can, try to get back to play like you did as a senior in high school. Because as a senior in high school, you know, you felt pretty good about yourself and you felt comfortable. You weren't hesitant at all. You believed that you could make plays. So we try to get them in that mode as quick as possible. Now, at a place like this, we play a lot of young guys, so it's like accelerated, I guess. So here you get a chance to play and you feel good. You know you are going to struggle a little bit sometimes and once you learn, especially if you learn early, then down the road it's pretty good."
Ethan Johnson didn't play much against Navy. Was that due to it not being a freshman type of game?"We don't really look at guys as freshmen, sophomores, we look at guys more like, okay, when you're out there, you are playing for the Irish; this is what you've got to do. And sometimes, you go with a hot hand, you know. And for whatever reason, some guys are hotter than others, I guess."
Justin Brown has played in this type of game before. Does that make him better equipped to play against the option?"No, because you look at a guy like R.J. (Robert Blanton), you know, he hasn't really played well and he went out there and he played well and he tackled pretty well. Toryan hadn't played a lot but he went out and played relatively well. So…."