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Weekly Q & A With Tom O'Brien

Nov. 23, 1999

Q: What are your thoughts following your victory over Notre Dame?
A: We had a tremendous effort out of our team in South Bend. Knowing that we lived for a year with a very devastating loss for this football program, this team went to South Bend ready. It was a big, big game for Notre Dame - their last home game, their senior day, and a victory was needed for them to have any bowl aspirations or to have a winning season. They came out ready to play. It was a credit to our football team that, after they got down 14-0, they turned the game around. They scored 31 unanswered points and then hung on to win at the end of the football game. Our team is on cloud nine right now. They have to get back down and focus on Virginia Tech. It's a short week. Obviously we are preparing to play a tremendous football team in Virginia Tech. They have a great pressure defense, great special teams, and the factor they have this year is a tremendous quarterback in Michael Vick. We have our work cut out for us, but we look forward to heading to Blacksburg and playing them on Friday.

Q: Will your challenge be to get your team to focus now on Virginia Tech?
A: Yes, I think it has to be. You understand what a big game Notre Dame is for this school. You can't say enough about our students. They were up and down the street as we came in on the bus, they made a tunnel for us as we entered the stadium, they stayed after the game, and they were all over the place. Such was the magnitude of this game for this school, which makes it difficult for us right now. That's my job, to get them focused. We have to get them focused, because if we're not, we'll get destroyed in Blacksburg.

Q: What will your preparation be like this week, with the shortened week?
A: We practiced Sunday, starting an hour later to give the coaching staff more time to focus. We'll practice every day until we leave on Thursday. I don't even know if we'll be in pads this week, because we're a little sore and banged up. We have to make sure we're as quick as we can be and as physical as we can be on Friday.

Q: You talked after the fifth game about your team having nothing to lose, is that still your attitude?
A: That's the way we approached it, and I think it has been the perfect tonic for us, and we'll continue to play that way. I think we'll be huge underdogs going into Blacksburg, but that's the way life is. These kids understand that, but our intent is to go play as hard as we can for 60 minutes, to try and force the game into the fourth quarter, and give ourselves a chance to win. I think a perfect example was against Notre Dame. We could have folded our tents and gone home, but we don't look at the scoreboard, we don't look at the score, we just keep playing. They believe in that, and we'll do that Friday in Blacksburg.

Q: How did the experience, in that type of environment at Notre Dame, help you prepare for Blacksburg?
A: It's the same type of environment - great fans, a lot of noise, a big-time college football environment. It's what kids come to Boston College to be part of, that type of football game. It's a great opportunity for this team to play the best football team we've played all year. It has taken us 10 games to prepare for it, and hopefully we'll be ready on Friday.

Q: Do you think your team has overachieved?
A: Absolutely. But it goes back to what we talked about earlier in the year. You can't look at a schedule at the beginning of the year and pick the games you should win and the games you should lose. We focused and played one game at a time. It didn't matter where it was. I still think the hardest part of our schedule was the first part, with our team being so young on offense, and with all the new parts we added in. That was the real strain of the schedule. Once we got to these last couple of weeks, we have been able to relax. We gained confidence through the first part of the schedule, and we've just gone out and played hard. I can't underestimate, either, the influence our coaching staff has had on our team. We had four coaching staff changes heading into this year. I'm positive that we have tremendous coaches at this program now. I think they have done a tremendous job this year getting this team ready to play and getting them into a position to win. The kids have taken it from there, with their hearts. I said after the Syracuse game that our kids have hearts as big as oceans. They're going to play hard, and that's all we can ask for them. Then you go out there, and either you're good enough or you're not. Fortunately, we've found ways to win.

Q: Are you concerned with Virginia Tech scoring touchdowns on defense or special teams?
A: Yes. You have to make them work for their touchdowns. They have been able to get easy scores, and they've done it for years that way. That's the way they play. It's a great way to play. We got a touchdown off a fumble against West Virginia that turned the game around. You get an easy touchdown that way and it's a great psychological boost for the team that gets it, and it's a downer for the team that gives it up. One thing I've stressed this year is mental toughness. You have to be mentally tough to play Virginia Tech, because of the constant pressure they put on you in the kicking game and on defense.

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