After Notre Dame’s 17-13 victory over Michigan State on Saturday, the media spoke with Irish linebacker Jarrett Grace, receiver Corey Robinson, cornerback KeiVarae Russell and offensive lineman Zack Martin.
Here are portions of those interviews:
Do you feel that the defense played better this week?
“Yes, definitely, it was an improvement, especially facing a tough Big 10 opponent. At the same time, there are things we have to work on. I don’t know if you guys saw it out there, but there is a lot of room for improvement still. That’s just going to motivate us to prepare for next week.”
What would you attribute the improvement to exactly?
“I think we just had a little more discipline this week compared to previous weeks. Also, this was a challenge this week, playing Michigan State. We know what they were going to do and we faced that challenge.”
TJ Jones said they were very demanding on you guys defensively, about this is your job, do it. What was the practice like this week? What was the message?
“We responded strongly and got the win. It’s really important to do your job. We didn’t want anybody playing outside of themselves to feel like they had to spark the defense and do something out of their position. So we really emphasized that and we really drilled down tight. In practice, if guys didn’t do the job correctly, we repeated that.”
What are some of the biggest things you have had to learn this year?
“It’s more physical and trying to learn the routes and getting open. That sounds easy, trying to get open, but it’s so much harder at this level.”
Tell us about the man-to-man coverage they had on you on the edge. There seemed to be a lot of tugging and pulling. Talk about that challenge Michigan State presented.
“They were really physical and number 15 was very tall so I knew it was going to be a more vertical battle. I was just trying to keep him off of me and hold my line. I knew they were coming to me because it was a man-to-man coverage and I’m 6’5” and that’s what they recruited me for. I knew I had to make plays and help my team out any way I could.”
How do you prepare for that?
“You have to think of it like a battle. Going into today, I was just trying to focus on what I had to do and prepare myself physically for the tough match-up that was to come.”
How does it feel to be a workhorse?
“It’s every day. I have to keep grinding, you know. Just trying to get better every day. It’s a fun process and these guys make it a lot more fun than it seems. It’s definitely a journey.”
What do you know now that you didn’t know at the start of the season?
“The season goes by too quickly. I can’t believe it’s already week four. We have a lot to learn and I have to get a lot better to help this team every day. Life just goes by so quickly.”
How do you build on this win today?
“We have to go out on Monday and see how much better we can get.”
Tell us about the interception you almost had?
“That should have been mine. I was in man-to-man and I knew the way the receiver was coming off it was going to be a double pass. I turned my head and looked at Matthias (Farley) and I just went up with the receiver and I knew I could knock it down but I knew Matthias was right there. If I would have gone for the pick, one of us was going to drop it so I said, ‘Catch it.’ It should have been mine but I helped Matthias get it (laughing).”
You said you could see it was going to be a double pass by the way they lined up. What did you see and what went through your head?
“When they handed it off, I looked back because my receiver was coming off really slow. He never came off slow, and I watched how 14 was running. He wasn’t running like he was trying to get up field either. I saw 14 slowing down and I thought he’s going to pass and I guessed right.”
Last year about the fifth or sixth game, you kind of turned a corner with the running game. Do you remember what it was that set you guys in the right direction?
“Once we figured out how to play as a unit, which we are still working on, we have to be five guys plus the tight ends and the backs every play. We’re on the same page and definitely picking up.”
What was your impressive of Tarean Folston the little bit that he was in there?
“He ran hard. He had a few carries that one series. He ran hard and he is an example of the freshmen. They really want to do anything to help the team. Corey had a big role today. They’re just trying to help the team any way they can.”
How close do you feel you are to being a solid unit?
“We know we are close, and I know people don’t see that. I think this can be a dynamic and consistent offense. Like I said, we have to get back to work on Monday and get ready for Oklahoma.”