Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Talk is cheap for Irish leaders
By Matt Fortuna
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- As if the circus surrounding an 0-2 start could make the collected 19-year-old lose his head.
For Tommy Rees, the noise that has come with two winless weeks have been just that -- noise.
"For me, the way I go about my day, everyone on the outside has their opinions, but what I'm concerned about is whatever is going on in this facility," the sophomore quarterback said. "I don't let any of the outside opinions or voices affect what I'm thinking or how I'm preparing this week for Michigan State."
Manti Te'o and the Fighting Irish remain focused on Saturday's game against Michigan State.
Preparing for the Spartans was the prevailing theme Wednesday afternoon when Rees, Michael Floyd, Harrison Smith and Manti Te'o met with the media.
None wished to re-live the past, and they wouldn't re-define a successful season for a team that had BCS aspirations two short weeks ago.
The Fighting Irish would likely need to win their 10 remaining games -- and at the very least nine of their last 10 -- to reach a BCS game.
"What's left is Michigan State," Te'o said. "Can't worry about anybody else. It's when you worry about other things that things start to fall about. All that matters is Michigan State, and they are coming in on Saturday. And they are the returning Big Ten champs, and it's going to be a good game. It's going to be a good atmosphere. It's going to be good to be back home, but that's all that matters, Game 3."
Smith, who was on the field when MSU executed its game-winning fake field goal last season, chose to move forward when asked about the play.
"Like I said earlier, we're not thinking in the past," the fifth-year senior said. "When that happened, we went over that last year, we are done with that. We've made changes. We've moved on. So right now it's about Wednesday practice for Michigan State, period."
Smith, the lone season captain, has chosen a walk-the-walk approach in rallying his teammates from a rough start.
"We're not about talking," Smith said. "Talking doesn't mean anything. So for me and to the rest of the team, it's about what we do from this point on. It's about action. So leading through my actions, Manti leading through his actions, just what we do day-to-day. We're gonna watch more film than we have. We're gonna to go harder in practice than we ever have; things like that. And just get the message across to the players through action instead of just talking about it."
Not a problem for Rees, who in the fourth quarter Saturday showed his ability to bounce back from bad breaks by following a red zone fumble by leading a go-ahead touchdown drive.
"As the quarterback, you're kind of the default leader, especially on the offense, and that's something that I embrace and that is exciting for me," Rees said. "I feel like I can be more vocal at times, but one of the ways I try to lead is I try to keep a pretty calm demeanor and not, if you show your emotions getting the best of that you can affect the people around you negatively. So as long as I can keep a level head and pick up guys that need to be picked up, that's something that I like doing and something comes pretty natural as a quarterback."