Player Comments from Weekly U-M Football Media Luncheon

Victor Hobson | Bennie Joppru | John Navarre
Tony Pape | Chris Perry | Dan Rumishek

Senior Outside Linebacker Victor Hobson

On Notre Dame winning without an offensive touchdown ... "We try not to focus on that. We have a lot of respect for Notre Dame. They may not have scored a lot, but they're winning so they must be doing something right. They have a lot of talent on offense and we have to prepare for them just like we would prepare for any other team."

On Irish quarterback Carlyle Holiday ... "He is a real good athlete and that is something we have to be ready for and prepare for. He can run just as well as he can throw so both our defensive line and cornerbacks have to be ready to execute."

On mobile quarterbacks traditionally hurting the Michigan defense ... "Coach (Jim) Herrmann and the rest of coaches have developed a good defensive scheme to help contain those types of quarterbacks. We just have to go out and execute. I am sure we will have the right defenses called at the right time in the game."

On the game ... "There is a lot of tradition between these two schools. It is a big game no matter what our records are. It is one of the biggest games on our schedule this year, one that you can't help but get excited about."

On the defense scoring a touchdown ... "It's a big accomplishment. It is something every defender wants to do. It helps out the offense and it's a big momentum builder. They have been able to do it the past two weeks and it is something we have to respect them for."

On playing in Notre Dame Stadium ... "Truthfully I get excited for every game. The only time I played in Notre Dame Stadium was as a redshirt freshman and there aren't many good memories from that game. So, I am pretty excited to play in this game."

On being recruited by Notre Dame ... "I took a visit to Notre Dame. They were one of my final choices. But when it came down to it I came to Michigan. The whole recruiting process comes down to where you feel most comfortable. Michigan was where I felt most comfortable. It actually came down to Notre Dame and Michigan. I don't have anything negative to say about the school, Michigan just fit me better."

On winning on the road ... "It is something that Coach (Lloyd) Carr always preaches to us. It's the difference-maker between an average team and great teams. A great team can go into a hostile environment and win. An average team can only win when the crowd is cheering for them. That is something we are going try to take pride in doing this year."

On stopping the run on all but one play ... "It all comes down to execution. We just to try and not give up on any play. Both times it was just a matter of one guy missing an assignment. One mistake can make for a big play. That is what happened on both instances."

On feeling comfortable on the road as a senior ... "I guess you could say that it makes you a little more comfortable going into the game because I have done it before. Notre Dame Stadium is a great place to play in. It's going to be very loud and the fans will be cheering against us. I guess I feel more comfortable playing in them, but it still remains that it will be a hostile environment."

On September 11, 2001 ... "It was a very tragic event and something that really touched everybody around the country. I just remember we had the decision to play or not and it was split down the middle. Some people wanted to play and some people thought this was a whole lot bigger than football. It was a tragic event, something that touched everybody's heart and something that we will never forget. It is something we haven't forgot and something that will be a reminder for us when we take the field. We are just going to go out there and concentrate on playing football."

Senior Tight End Bennie Joppru

On the best Michigan-Notre Dame moment ... "Desmond Howard's catch in the back of the end zone in 1991. I followed both schools growing up, those were the two teams that you watched on Saturdays. You can't beat that catch. I think it was the clutch play in Michigan history."

On his touchdown catch against Western Michigan ... "It was a perfect throw by John (Navarre). I ran kind of a leggy route, but John put it to the only place where I could have caught it. Luckily I came down with it, otherwise I would have never let myself forget about it."

On John Navarre's throw ... "I don't know how you can take three things into account on one throw. It's unbelievable, but John makes those types of throws every day in practice and I think he will continue to make those throws."

On Navarre's growth this season ... "I think he started doing that in the summer. He started developing in the summer as everyone has said earlier. He is coming around. I have had confidence since he got here and took over for Drew Henson in 2000. He is playing with more confidence now, and I think that is a very dangerous."

On the Notre Dame game being a defining moment ... "You couldn't ask for anything better. You look at the schedule before the season started and college football wanted both teams to be 2-0 heading into this game. We both have a chance to make a statement on national TV and both teams are in a great position to gain some national exposure."

On this game being a rivalry ... "Absolutely, the game was taken off the schedule when I was a sophomore. As a player you want to play in this game every year. Michigan vs. Notre Dame, you can't ask for anything more."

On the game ... "I haven't actually played in the game yet. My freshman year I was hurt for the game and I can't wait on the side again this year. As far as tradition goes, there is nothing bigger than Michigan-Notre Dame."

On not turning the ball over against Notre Dame ... "We talk about that every week no matter who you play. If you turn the ball over, you put the defense in tough situations like we did in the Washington game. If you give the defense the short side of field or give up a defensive touchdown, you are setting yourself up for disaster. So I think we prepare for that every week."

Senior/Junior Quarterback John Navarre

On how this game is a defining moment for the team ... "It is. You come across a few of those defining moments each season and this is definitely one of them. We had one on opening day and we face another one this Saturday against Notre Dame."

On how important taking care of the ball is this week ... "It is a big premium every game but especially against a team that is dangerous. With the speed that they have and what they have done in the past couple of games, you have to be especially careful. I do not think that you have to do anything extra special this week. Just emphasize the fact that you need to control the football and take care of it. You cannot give it to the defense. It just shows you what can happen when you do that, especially against a good defense like Notre Dame."

On Notre Dame's defensive backs ... "The two corners and safeties they have are very fast, very athletic and intelligent. They are good football players and good athletes. You have to know where they are on every play and we have to practice with that in mind all week."

On what he thinks about when he thinks of Notre Dame ... "I think of them along the same lines as Michigan with the tradition. They have the helmet, the stadium and we are very similar in those regards. I think that is why the tradition and the battle between the two teams is so rich. We have a lot of the same values, traditions, ideas and beliefs. The type of smash-mouth football on both sides is the same and both teams are among the top in the country and that is how it is every year. I think we are very similar."

On if he watched Notre Dame growing up ... "I watched a lot of Notre Dame football as well as Michigan. Notre Dame is on TV every week on a nationally televised game. You see all of the movies like Rudy and you learn more and more about the Notre Dame tradition because it is in front of you every day, especially during the football season."

On if he buys into the Notre Dame mystique ... "I buy into it because there is a mystique in Michigan football. I believe that there is the same mystique in Notre Dame. You have to have that aura about your program if you're going to be successful. The players that are there have to buy into it as do the players that come into the program as freshmen. It is a cycle and I believe in it. That is why I believe the Michigans, the Notre Dames, Florida, Florida State, Miami and all the top schools are there every year, because of the mystique."

On what he will say to the younger players about being in a hostile environment ... "I do not think that anything that I say can be any different than what Coach Carr of any of the other coaches can say because they have been in that situation a lot more that I have. As far as from a player's standpoint I could probably say some things. I have been in some hostile situations on the road and one thing that you want to stress is the crowd noise, how important communication is, how important it is to take care of the football and how you have to focus on what you are doing and taking care of what you can control."

On what the offense has done to prepare for the crowd ... "We have communicated well. We practice with crowd noise all the time; we even did it yesterday. We do it for home and road games so we should be ready for a noise crowd."

On the challenge of winning on the road ... "Winning on the road really defines your team. Coach Carr always says it is more difficult to win on the road because at home the fans are cheering for you, but on the road they are cheering against you. If a team can win on the road it defines how good that team is. Once we go into that situation we will have a stronger identity and be much more confident. This will be a test for us and I think we are up for the challenge."

On if he feels he is more comfortable about pushing the distractions out ... "That goes back to what I said earlier. You cannot look at the big picture and all the surroundings and the noise. You have to focus on what you are doing and what your offense is doing. No matter what the situation is, there is going to be a pivotal third down in the third or fourth quarter. You cannot say that that one play is the game. You have to treat it as just converting another third down, keep the drive going, execute and score. I think that if you stick to that everything else fades out and it becomes a lot easier to play and operate on offense. Looking back on last year's Washington and Michigan State games and the year before at UCLA, it is easy to say what were you thinking during those pivotal moments. Then it makes it easier to focus on the important things when that time comes again."

On the significance of the game ... "Winning on the road will solidify our confidence. If we play like we did on Saturday, if we control the ball and stop the defense like we did last week, things will take care of themselves."

On both teams being undefeated ... "I don't think it would matter if our records were different. It's a great game and both teams will play hard. It's an exciting week. It always comes down to the last kick or a two-minute drill because it's Michigan vs. Notre Dame."

On not letting it get to a last-second kick ... "You would rather not have that. The reason I say that it could come down to that is the teams play so hard. You do not want to wait until the two-minute drill to win the game. We want to win every series and every play. The way these teams are and the way that they compete is if we are up by a touchdown or two or if they are up by a touchdown or two, the guys on that field are going to fight and not give up. It is a different game than a normal game. They are just going to go in there and give it all that they have and win whenever they get a chance."

On September 11, 2001 ... "It was tough and a very weird week. You start looking at the importance of life and the importance of football. There was a lot of talk about whether we wanted to play the game or not. (Stephen) Baker, whose father worked at the Twin Towers, said we have to play. The terriorists don't want us to so it is our duty to play."

Senior/Junior Offensive Lineman Tony Pape

On if he has ever been in Notre Dame Stadium ... "I have never been in the stadium. I cannot wait to go in there and play. The tradition there is great and it is an exciting place to be. It is a great football town and a great atmosphere. I cannot wait to go play there."

On if he is a Notre Dame fan ... "I have a lot of friends and family who are Irish fans but I think I have converted most of them to Michigan."

On both teams being undefeated ... "No matter what either of our records are, it is still going to be a huge game. Both teams will always come out and play their hearts out because it is the Notre Dame-Michigan game."

On if he feels pressure to make the running game succeed ... "It is exciting. We want to run the ball. We are Michigan and that is what we do. We want to prove to everybody that we can run the ball and if we can do that against Notre Dame, they have a great defense down there. They do a great job down there and we will have to work hard to get the job done. If we can do it against them it will prove to us and a lot of people that we have a great running game."

On if he sees this game as a milestone for John Navarre ... "You have to ask John that question. He prepares every game like any other game. I do not think that since it is a non-conference game it will be any different."

On how important turnovers are this game ... "The basis of our offense is not to turn the ball over. Every day our coaches are on us to not turn the ball over, protect the ball because a turnover is just like a touchdown for the other team. It seems to count as seven points."

On if he has watched film on Notre Dame yet ... "I have watched a little bit of film on their defense and they are quick, fast and athletic. Their defensive linemen are some of the best that we are going to see all year. I am really excited."

On if he will watch film from last season or focus on this year ... "I am going to watch as much film as possible. In two games you can only watch so much so we are going to have to go back a little bit."

On what comes to mind when he thinks about playing Notre Dame ... "Tradition. That game goes down in history every time we play. It is a fun game to play. People come out of the woodwork for that game. It is on national television and it is always one of the biggest games of the year."

On the feeling on offense ... "We are really excited about our offense. We have been moving the ball but there is always room for improvement. There are still a lot of things that we can do better and a lot of things that we can improve on. We worked hard in the off-season to get where we are today and I think we are where we expected to be."

On what enabled Dave Pearson to make the transition from defensive line to offensive line ... "Dave Pearson is one of the smartest kids I have ever met. He came into this offense and picked up immediately. He knew more about schemes and defenses than any of us did already and he has only been on the offensive line for half a year. He is very intelligent and dedicated to studying film and learning everything."

On special teams ... "Notre Dame has a great special teams unit and that is going to be a big focus of this week's practice. We want to win the special teams battle. They might very well be the best special teams unit in the country."

On the mentality of the offensive line ... "On the line everyone is great and we all communicate well. It's just fun to be able to play on Michigan's offensive line. It doesn't matter where I play as long as I can help the team win."

On Notre Dame's defense ... "They have a bunch of great athletes and they have great team speed on defense. That is the one thing that we are going to try to combat is handling their speed on defense. They are great playmakers so we just want to get out there and be able to run the ball against a great speed team like that. The most important thing that we have to do is control the ball, not turn it over and gain yards on first down. We will be a lot more successful in second-and-short and third-and-short situations instead of third-and-long."

Junior Running Back Chris Perry

On this Saturday's game ... "When you think of Notre Dame, you think of tradition. There is great tradition at that school like there is at Michigan. They are a tough football team; they're very talented on defense. Their offense is getting it together. They're about to be a great team. When you think about teams like that, you think about preparing and coming out to play."

On the defensive strength of Notre Dame ... "We have to think about taking care of the football at all times. They're going to take a chance to try to strip the ball, so you have to take that chance to break and make a big play."

On the significance of playing Notre Dame ... "It's a dream game for any player. Playing Notre Dame is something you think about when you're little."

On Notre Dame's special teams ... "Their special teams are very good. They've broken some games open with a punt return and we've had some blocked field goals. Special teams can turn the tide. We need to focus on that this week."

On playing on the road ... "You have to win on the road to win a championship. You're not going to play every game at home. I love to play on the road. It's motivation when people are booing and talking trash."

On Notre Dame's defense ... "Their defensive line is strong and powerful. Their secondary is real good. Our offense is up to the challenge. Our offensive line is a lot stronger and has more experience."

On the changes he has seen in John Navarre ... "I think he has a lot more confidence. Last year he took a lot of heat that he didn't deserve. But the supporting cast didn't help him out too much either. Everyone is a lot stronger and we know our assignments, which in turn makes everyone look a lot better. The offense as a whole is looking a lot better."

On playing in South Bend ... "Ohio State and Illinois were two of the loudest stadiums I've ever been in. I've never been to Notre Dame. I've heard it is a real hostile place, but I'm looking forward to it."

On the play of David Underwood and Tim Bracken last weekend ... "It makes the team better to have three running backs rotate. It was real nice to see Tim go out there and perform well. He's had some bad luck in his years here, so it was really nice to see him get his quickness back. Dave is a real powerful kid and it was nice to see him go out there and get some carries. It can only help the team. If they're able to go in there and get a few carries and give me a breather, it's nice. The next time I get in there I can run even harder."

Fifth-Year Senior Defensive End Dan Rumishek

On preparing for Notre Dame's offense ... "You just have to look at the personnel. They are playing hard every down. They have big linemen that are aggressive and they want to get after people. They are fighting every down and they ware going to fight until the whistle. I think that you just have to be able to react. Football is really just about blocking and tackling. As long as we are reacting to our proper reads, we will be okay."

On Notre Dame quarterback Carlyle Holiday and his ability to run the football ... "Any time that anyone touches the ball you have to have two, three, four people around it to be successful on every play. Especially with Holiday back there at quarterback. He is going to be dangerous and he is going to make plays. We just have to contain him as best as we can."

On playing Notre Dame ... "I think it is one of the biggest games that I will ever play in. I grew up in a Chicago, Catholic boy and Notre Dame was my favorite team. It's ironic now that I am playing for Michigan against Notre Dame."

On if he has been to Notre Dame before ... "As a player just once. I have been there two or three times as a kid when I used to go to their spring games."

On winning on the road ... "If you can win on the road and if you can win at Notre Dame, then I think you can win anywhere. That is probably one of the toughest places to play in the country. One game will never define a team. You have to go through a whole season. It will give us a lot of confidence though if we can win there."

On if his family is Notre Dame fans ... "My uncle has a tattoo of the Fighting Irish on his shoulder."

On September 11, 2001 ... "I think just as a person you just appreciate what we have here. Football is just a game and it will always be a game, nothing more and nothing less. As a person I appreciate my family more and I just feel lucky to live in this great country of ours."

On giving up so many passing yards ... "It is a dissapointment. We are always looking for a perfect game. We're not getting pressure on the quarterbacks, which is leaving more time for the receivers to break away from our secondary. It's all intertwined and we have to do a better job to shut the pass down."

Contact: David Ablauf, Jim Schneider (734) 763-4423

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