Troy Pride Jr. contributes to strong Irish secondary
Hayden Adams | Friday, October 11, 2019
Notre Dame’s secondary is set to take on possibly its toughest test of the season in this week’s matchup against archrival USC. The Trojans receiving corps is putting up 292.2 passing yards per game even with incumbent starting quarterback JT Daniels going down in the first quarter of their season opener with an ACL injury. However, this Irish secondary is talented and has recorded eight of the team’s 14 turnovers on the season, good for No. 3 in the nation, contributing to a +10-turnover margin, ranking No. 2 in the nation.
One of the key contributors in the secondary is senior cornerback Troy Pride Jr.. Pride talked about the emotions of the team heading into the rivalry game.
“[USC is] very talented. Each and every week, every team poses a challenge to us; every team’s coming in to try to take something that we want, and that’s the W,” Pride said. “We’re working hard to do everything we can to prevent that.”
Pride also gave his take on what makes the Trojans receivers so dangerous.
“Playmaking ability. Speed. Catch radius. Intelligence. Route knowledge,” he said. “I mean, they’ve played the position for their entire lives, so — goodness gracious — they’re a talented group.”
He then explained why he personally is excited for this matchup.
“It’s very special. You think about the tradition, you think about so many amazing games they’ve played, so many amazing players that have been in the game,” he said. “I’m very grateful to be able to play in [a game] like this and just to have the opportunity to step out there with my brothers and play some football.”
Pride said he’s just thankful for the opportunity to be playing the game he loves with his teammates.
“I love challenges. I love to rise to the opportunity, rise to the occasion. It’s just fun playing football,” Pride said. “You’re still playing football, so, regardless of what everybody says about us, we’re just lining the ball up and we’re just playing with a group of guys that love to play football.”
Head coach Brian Kelly often talks about giving the team 24 hours after a victory to enjoy it and then get back to work for their next opponent. Even with a 52-0 blowout over Bowling Green this past weekend and the USC game on the horizon, Pride says the team still took the time to enjoy their victory.
“You always want to give that 24 hours. We just think about that; we always want to be consistent and enjoy being on the football field,” he said. “Any win is a good win. Any time that you step on the football field and you step out victorious, it’s great. You’ve got to give some thanks [for] that. But we know that each and every game somebody’s trying to take a W from us, so we’re locked in.”
A key disadvantage for the Irish is the loss of graduate student cornerback Shaun Crawford to an elbow injury against No. 20 Virginia. Despite his departure, Pride is confident in Crawford’s rehabilitation and says the other players will make him proud in his stead.
“It was tough, obviously. But, you know Shaun, and when it wasn’t season-ending, I was like, ‘I know this guy’s coming back. He’s going to come back stronger than ever,’” Pride said. “Shaun is relentless, Shaun is a warrior, and we thank him for being with us.”
With Crawford out, the younger players in the Irish secondary will have to step up, but Pride has confidence in the culture that has been built throughout the program.
“We’ve got a lot of guys that can step in and play. It’s always the next-man-in mentality. We’ve talked, we’ve been through camp, we’ve got a lot of corner[back]s, we’ve got a lot of [defensive backs], we’ve got a lot of linebackers that can cover,” he said. “So with that, it’s the next guys in, they’ve got to play well, and that’s our standard. Any person that steps on the field for Notre Dame has to play to that standard.”
That said, Pride is making sure the younger guys stay focused, and that they don’t fall victim to overconfidence with the Trojans starting a true freshman at quarterback.
“Some inexperienced DBs would [get cocky], but man, when you’re on the football field, anybody is dangerous,” Pride said. “You think for one second that you’ve got somebody, you’ll be sorely mistaken. We don’t even worry about tags and stuff because it’s kind of meaningless, in a sense. He’s out there, he’s playing, so he could be labeled as whatever, but he could play like something else.”
Even so, it can be difficult to put aside emotions in a game that features two teams with so much history. Still, Pride is confident that the team is laser-focused and only has one mission.
“The only statement we’re worried about is that W,” he said. “Whenever we get one of those it’s special, so that’s all we’re worried about is lining the ball up, playing our defense and playing to the best of our ability.”
Regardless, once everything else is thrown out, Pride says they know what these games between the Irish and the Trojans mean, and they want to come away with the Jeweled Shillelagh.
“A lot of the guys in this locker room understand the rivalry, understand who USC is, who we are, and it doesn’t add anything differently,” he said. “It’s just a hard, tenacious football team that wants to play, and we want to get the W against. With that, we take it from preparation to mental performance to game time to execution. That’s always our plan, and we always try to execute that.”