Matt, Barry just said when you got here you might have felt like you knew all the answers and you've admitted as much that you might have had a cockiness when you got here. Can you talk about that transition period when you got here and the adjustment to college football you've gone through?
"I think every star athlete when they're coming to college is going to have a little chip on their shoulder, especially when you come to a place like this who has had a long tradition of being a great football school and a great academic school, and I think that in order to play on this game, especially at the quarterback position you have to have a little bit of that cockiness, but you have to learn kind of what's a good mix between being too big-headed and playing with no confidence. I think it's just a matter of time, there is nothing better than being around, getting experience here, learning your role on the team. It just naturally progresses with age and the more time you spend at a school."
Matt, can you talk about the biggest difference for you preparing this week, weather it's mentally or physically, as opposed to when you're a backup and there's a chance you might play to knowing you're going to be playing this week.
"I think when you know you're going to be the starter right off the bat you put in a little more time, you're a little more focused on the task at hand. I'll admit sometimes I'll be a little lazy while watching film during the week or not put so much time in just knowing that you might not have to go in at all or knowing you might have to come in for an extended role. I think this week there's 10 guys out on the field with me and there's a whole bunch on the sidelines expecting me to play well, come in and make the decisions. So I think that just actually knowing that you're going to be the guy starting out the game will give me a major boost to keeping me focused all week and keep me prepared."
Matt, do you remember many of the details of the last start you had? Obviously I'm assuming your senior year in high school, and also what's going to be your most important task running the offense this week?
"I think Owen Daniels remembers my last start, because we played him when he was at Naperville Central my senior year of high school. We got smoked real bad, so if you're going off my last start results it's not that good, but going into this game its just…Coach (Jeff) Horton always talks about being the guy to let the plays come to you and not try to rush things and try not to pressure yourself into trying to make too good of a play. All we have to do here is be good decision makers, manage the game, make sure you lead everybody out on the field and not turn the ball over and that usually spells success, especially when we have so many skilled athletes on the field, from the receivers to the backs to the linemen. Especially being a first start, I think it's key to make good decisions and not turn the ball over and just get it to where it needs to be."
Matt, growing up did you ever go to Northwestern games in Evanston, and how emotional will you be because it's your home state and it's your first start?
"Yeah, I've been to a couple of Northwestern games when I was little, I remember seeing them upset somebody…Penn State back when they had most of the guys like Bobby Engram and them. They were usually bad around that time, though, so I wasn't really excited to get to them, but I think they were my first big college football atmosphere I'd ever been around and it was really cool just to see what the Big Ten was all about and just as I grew up obviously you watch more football. But it's going to be a great opportunity to get your first start around your hometown. And I'm sure there's going to be a lot of people asking for tickets this week compared to normal weeks, they don't want to drive up here. But it should be good, you're going to have your family there you're going to have friends there to support you and I think that will help big time."
Matt, (Jim) Sorgi would do things like taking the offensive line out to dinner and I know Brooks (Bollinger) would take his receivers out for lunch. Are there things that you plan to do to try and bond with the team before Saturday?
"I already told them…I was asking the guys where they want to go on Wednesday night. I'm not stupid. You've got to keep the guys in front of you happy and I was asking them where they wanted to go and they all pointed me to Dan Buenning so I guess he's the union rep. So whatever he says goes so I'll let you know Wednesday night where we're going for dinner."
Matt, at any point during your career, seeing that Brooks (Bollinger) and Jim (Sorgi) were ahead of you on the depth chart, did you consider that this might not be the best place for you and that you maybe get playing time anywhere else?
"Yeah, that kind of came into perspective. You think, ‘I'm kind of buried behind a couple of guys,' but I also think that's kind of good too because you try to play as hard as you can. It gives you an incentive to come to practice everyday motivated and prepare to try and be the guy somewhere down the road. But those aren't two bad guys to be following, Brooks and Jimmy are really good quarterbacks and I've definitely learned a bunch from them, and having Scott Kavanagh too around, he's also played here he knows the system, he knows the town. I think just being around those guys for so long really helped me learn about what this program is about and how to play well and how to make some plays and help the team win around here."
Matt, I don't know if this has crossed your mind yet, but it has been a long time since you've played four quarters. Is there any concern about conditioning?
"Absolutely not. The strength and conditioning coaches here (John) Dettmann and Brian Bott and all of them, they're really good at keeping you in shape. Four quarters is a long time, I haven't been in, like you said, in a while and played four quarters but you know I think the adrenaline is going to be going. I have played in a game for four quarters, it's been a while, but I can still remember how it is. But I think that that's probably going to be a key is staying focused and staying in the game for 60 minutes."
You haven't played a full game in the past couple of weeks, but how important is the experience both good and bad that you've have in the past couple of weeks being on the field for you going into this week?
"I think that it's huge these last couple of weeks getting in and especially in as big of games as they were, against Purdue and Ohio State, it's definitely going to help. Like you just said, though, it's four quarters and it's going to be a real task to staying in to try and make plays all day long, but I'm ready for it. Coach (Jeff) Horton's done a good job with us in camp and Coach (Barry) Alvarez always has the scrimmages in the preseason where we try to go for two and a half to three hours where we just kind of emulate what it would be like to play in a game, but it shouldn't be a problem. It's going to be a fun opportunity for everyone and we're just trying to look to get back on track and win some more ball games."
Matt, as far as your passing goes, you've seen so show some good touch on your short passing. Is that where your strength is and how do you feel about your deeper throwing?
"I think that I throw the deep ball pretty well. I feel I'm pretty accurate throwing the ball. I don't have a cannon like some of the guys who've come through here have had. But for what we do here, I think that I can get the ball to where it needs to be and like I said try not to make too many mistakes, try not to throw it to a guy that's covered by eight or nine people. In this program I've learned what I can do, what I can't. A lot of the plays that we have, a lot of the balls I can throw. If its not there I won't force it. So I think that's probably a big help for me."
Matt, getting back to your maturation process, you talked about how a lot of guys go throw what you've went through, but not a lot of guys seem to have gone to be able to sit up here and talk about it as freely as you are. What prompted you…what makes it so easy for you to be able to talk about…I mean it can be humbling and its not an easy thing to confront, why are you different?"
"You know what, I can't really tell you that. I think that I kind of realized that I was at the extreme at one point of being maybe too cocky of being maybe too confident and coming in here expecting to get in, trying to fight for some reps and all the sudden you're third or fourth string. It's humbling to do. You kind of have to take a step back and look at what you're doing wrong or what you can do better, but I think that its not really that big of a deal to say that I was wrong. I first came in here I might have had too big of a head but that's probably the big point in helping me mature is realizing where I've been and where I can go."
How and if at all did you act out that extreme?
"Just you rub people the wrong way you say, ‘I could be doing this, I could be doing that,' without actually having done it. It's rough because people can't see you play on a daily basis. You're' playing with the guys on this team and you got to kind of doubt yourself and say, ‘Well, OK I can do this, I can do that,' but you don't really have a chance to show it. I think that after a while people just kind of brush you aside and say, ‘Yeah, whatever,' just kind of assume that you're just kind of talking out of nowhere and bringing things out of nowhere. It's definitely a rough place to be, in a spot where all the sudden you're not playing well. I don't know where it came from, I don't know why I can talk about it like that but it's just something you've got to deal with and move on from."
Did you ever consider transferring?
"Definitely, freshman year you're young and I was still, I think I just turned 18 when I got here. I came here to workout the summer before my freshman year and I was 17. You're really young, you're immature, you kind of start to doubt yourself and I think that after a while you'll say, ‘No, the coaches brought me here for a reason, they know I can do it, they believe in me.' Toward the end of my freshman year I started saying, ‘Screw it, let's go out, let's play some football, let's get back to when I was eight or nine years old playing in a back yard. Just go back to having fun and good things will happen from there.'"
How important is it going to be to get the turnover margin turned around this week, and how critical will you be in that do you think?
"I said before it's my job here as a quarterback and every quarterback here to get the ball where it needs to be and not make mistakes. You'll see, we talk about it every week with Coach Alvarez, one of the big aspects of the game is turnovers. If we win the turnover battle most of the time we're going to play a good game. There is some astounding stat that were like 36-2 or something under Coach Alvarez without interceptions. So for the quarterbacks to not turn the ball over, it's going to be crucial to win the ball game. Like you saw this week, when you're playing a good team and you have a lot more turnovers than they do it's really going to hurt your chances to win."
I know you cant really admit to looking ahead, but have you given any thought to next year when this team could be yours and is this going to be important for that step do you think at all?
"To tell you the truth, right now I'm concentrating on
Northwestern for the next five days. Saturday can't come soon enough, and I'm
sure everybody is going to be excited to get back out and play. Coach Alvarez
always says, ‘You can't play until Saturday, there's no reason to get pressured
up.' Starting later on today when we practice it's going to be getting
everything in for the game plan, getting everything ready so that Saturday you
know what you're doing so you can turn it loose and play well."