Senior inside linebacker Michael Okwo
Michael, you were flying all over the field in the first half. Can you talk about that and the way the defense was playing?
"They came out and drove on us a little bit in the drive. We came back pumping on all cylinders, and I definitely think you saw a lot of players step up and fly around. I love playing with the guys on our team. Tim Sims and David Lofton were making plays. Clint was making plays. It felt really good out there."
In the first half you held them to 68 rushing yards. Then Darius Walker comes out so effectively in that first second half drive. Was that a function of weariness?
"Yeah, I think they got a little bit of momentum with that two-minute offense that they ran at the end of the [first] half. I'm sure that probably helped them. They got a little spark. They came out with some new, fresh plays, and I think they did a good job of adjusting to a lot of the stuff we were doing."
Michael, on that hit of Brady Quinn out of bounds, was that frustration or did you not know where you were on the field?
"No one wants to leave the field with the label that he is a 'cheap player' or anything like that. I didn't think it was that close to the boundary, but it was on their [Notre Dame] sideline so they threw the flag. I apologized to him. Hopefully, I will never be in that situation again."
Did you see the replay, and did you feel like you were in the field when the dive and tackle were initiated?
"Well, I didn't see the replay either. It was just the heat of the battle. I expect, like all competitors, that he is going to try to get as many yards as he can. I'm going to try to stop him. You don't remember all of those things: this is the quarterback and a Heisman candidate and on their sideline. I'm sure all the forces were kind of leaning toward that call. It happens."
Michael, I know that you will have to watch the film, but can you sum up what has happened for this defense to turn it around the last two weeks with the UCLA game and today - both so much more effective than the earlier part of the season?
"Man, I don't know. I just think we are really starting to enjoy playing with each other and starting to really be cohesive as a defense. We're talking out there and making sure everybody is on the same page. I think that has improved a lot. Like I said earlier, it's great to play with these guys, and I think we're starting to have a little bit more confidence in each other. And that helps for our communication. We almost know each other a little bit more on the field and are able to communicate and play better as a unit."
Redshirt freshman outside linebacker Clinton Synder
How tough was it at the end of the first half to give up the touchdown?
"Yeah. At the end of the half, we have to hold them and get into halftime. They came out and threw some stuff at us we hadn't seen in the first half, and they capitalized on some of the things we were doing in man coverage."
Clinton, what did you see on film to expect from Notre Dame? They used a lot of short passing and runs that wasn't exactly nickel-and-dime'ing, but it was a lot of high percentage stuff. Did that surprise you, relative to trying for bigger plays?
"Well, we know that they always have one short and one long. We figured they would try to throw short passes because we had the pressures coming, so they needed to get rid of the ball quickly. After the first drive, we knew pretty much that they would try to throw the ball to those check-downs and gain yards from that. They wouldn't want to have him sit back their holding the ball too long."
Clinton, is this as varied an offensive attack as you have seen this year, between Darius Walker, Rhema McKnight and Jeff Samardzija - and Brady Quinn being a pretty talented guy? Is this as talented an offense as you have faced?
"Yeah, I think so. They're just as good as anyone else we have faced."
Clinton, you guys had a couple times there in the fourth quarter when you were down just two scores and the defense had a chance to get off the field. You almost had the stop on third down before the flags at the sideline. You almost had the interception. Did that take the last wind out of your sails?
"It didn't take the wind out, but it would have helped us out a lot. If we would have made those stops, maybe we would have had a little more momentum on our side to help the offense out. But it happens. You can't hope for - well, you can hope for those kinds of plays, but you can't rely upon them."
Can you talk to us about how you are individually growing and this defense is growing? You guys don't look anything these last two weeks like you all did the first four weeks of the season.
"We are a young defense, and we're learning how the defense is working. We're playing to its strengths. We're just building week to week, and hopefully it will continue to get better for us."
Clinton, you guys came in here and knew it would be a tough game, but how hard is it to look at 0-6 on the record?
"It's really hard. No one wants to look at 0-6. We can't really worry about that right now, though. We have to go out and win the next one."
The defense had forced turnovers the last few games, but you were not able to force any turnovers today. Just weren't able to get it done today?
"Yeah, you always want to force turnovers. That would have helped us out a lot if we could have had that first one they ruled an incomplete pass. And there was the other one in the endzone with Nick Sanchez. Those would have been big momentum boosters. We talk about winning the turnover battle but just weren't able to get it done today to help out the offense."
You wouldn't be here playing football if you didn't have confidence in yourself and you weren't competitive, so now that you are 0-6, how frustrating is it?
"It's extremely frustrating. It's one of the most frustrating things I've ever been associated with. But you have to keep playing. You can't let down now. You have to take the next game. We have a home game playing Arizona, and hopefully we can get a good win at home."
Does this keep you up at night? Do you toss and turn about it?
"Yeah, a little bit. It's just how it has gone. I'm just trying to swing with it now and keep going in a positive direction."
Clinton, I know that you are well conditioned, but is it harder when you keep getting left out on the field? Each of these games, you have a strong first half but you wear down in the second.
"I feel like that doesn't affect me too much. I feel like I'm playing pretty much the same through the whole game, with the conditioning. It's more of a mental thing. We have to have the idea that we are better than the offense and pound them in the second half. We can't let them come out in the second half and beat us like they did."
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