Sept. 17, 2013
COACH Brian Kelly: Well, for the third consecutive week, a Big Ten opponent. It has been for us, you know, very physical three weeks with Michigan, Purdue, now Michigan State and playing the No. 1 defense in the country. Mark Dantonio’s teams, obviously a hallmark of their teams, are physical, and certainly well prepared in all phases of the game. They have been great football games. So, another one here at Notre Dame this weekend.
Number of returning players on defense. You know, guys that we’ve seen over the years; Max Bullough inside has just been a stalwart for them defensively. Denicos Allen, their will linebacker, a guy that can put pressure on all offenses. And certainly where they are able to do so many good things is in the back end of their defense, experience at the corner position where they can play so much man to man coverage.
But outstanding defensive schemes. You know, make it very difficult to run the football. Again, you have to find ways to manufacture runs. You’ve got to be able to protect your quarterback. Again, you’ve got to play tough, physical football for four quarters. You’ve got to take care of the football. All of the little things matter in matchups like this.
And, you know, again, from our perspective, we’ll have to prepare to play a team now that has settled on a quarterback on offense. It looks to us that Connor Cook now is the guy after hearing Coach Dantonio’s comments this week. And what he does for them obviously is gives them the ability to run the quarterback and that has not been something that has been part of their offense in the past.
Now they have the ability to run some schemes in particular situations, down and distance, that force you to consider how you’re defending them. They are going to be a team up front that has a veteran offensive line, a lot of experience, and you know, we know the kind of offense that Coach wants to run and he wants to be physical and run the football first, and they have got talented receivers and big, physical tight ends.
So it’s the Michigan State teams that we’ve come to know and respect, and again, it’s going to be one of those typical Big Ten games where last man standing through four quarters comes out victorious. With that, I’ll open up to any questions.
Q. When you look at your guys’ running back situation, has it come to the point maybe for you and for teams almost anywhere where having the guy is not necessarily the way it is, period; you’re going to go through two, three, four guys per game, per year?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, and I think if you look across the country, you know, last year, obviously two backs at Alabama, two backs at Georgia, some of the SEC schools have shown that they are playing multiple backs.
I think across the country, that singular back, that one guy, has not been able to fit all the things that you want to do offensively. I think the position has now required a guy that is multi dimensional and it’s better to find that maybe in two or three different backs.
For us, we think we’ve got five. We haven’t been able to get five on the field. I think we’ve gotten three on the field. We’re still I think in the process of trying to evaluate our freshmen, as well, and we have not been able to get into the ideal situation to do that, primarily because we have had to deal with so many pressure fronts and so many times where we are calling our backs back in to protect. It has not been the best proving ground for some freshmen running backs. Hopefully as time moves on, we’ll be able to do that.
Q. I know we’ve talked about it ad nauseam, but what’s important in managing guys in keeping them ready, keeping them believing they have roles, and where you can just drop a guy in every now and then and he’s that guy that week, maybe.
COACH KELLY: Yeah, well, I think that’s a very good question. Those are the things that we have to manage from day to day, whether it be Cam McDaniel who didn’t get much playing time the week before, to, you know, obviously carrying a great load in the game.
I think the believability is in the fact that that’s exactly what happens within our structure of offense and defense. You’ve got to be ready, because you’re going to get called upon. We trust that you can do the job. Sometimes that’s easier said than done, but that’s what’s required of us; that the guys trust us and believe us, that we are just not saying that; that when we believe the circumstances are right for you to play, you’ll be in the game and we trust that you’ll get the job done.
Q. You appear to be putting quite a bit more pressure or attempting to put more pressure on the quarterback with linebackers, as opposed to last year. When you do that, what does that do to your secondary? What are the responsibilities of your corners, in particular, when you’re putting more pressure up front and leaving them more exposed on the back end?
COACH KELLY: Well, I would say that if you track where we are, we’re probably getting back to finding more about the personnel that we have on the field and what we can and can’t do, more than percentage wise. You know, the personnel groupings we have on the field will dictate where we go defensively and as I said the first couple of weeks, we are still trying to find what those groupings are to maximize their potential.
I wouldn’t necessarily draw any conclusions as to whether we are going to bring more pressure or not; it’s still we are trying to evolve. The simple answer is, obviously if you bring more pressure, you’re giving up some zones. So you either have to play some three under, three deep, which vacates some zones and you’d better get there, or you have to play simply some more man coverage; and within that man coverage there’s a lot more technique that goes in, because it’s not simply you line up wide. It’s bunched formations; it’s picks; it’s fighting through all those complexities of playing man to man coverage.
So the easy answer is, probably what you already know; that when you bring pressure, you’re either giving up some zones and zone pressure or you’ve got to play man to man. I guess what I was saying is that I still think we are not where we want to be defensively in terms of what that structure is going to be yet.
Q. I’m sure every coach would like their team to be or their defense to be a better tackling defense, and there’s been a lot of running backs, receivers, that have spun out of potential tackles by your defense. Are you finding just in general, not just you, but across the board, that there’s less contract in practice? That’s the nature of the game today; is that impacting the way you guys and most defenses are tackling?
COACH KELLY: No, we really have not changed. That’s one of our absolute core principles that we start our practices with the tackling circuit. We have every year that I’ve been a head coach. We’ll continue to do that.
I think performance, and your ability to stay on the field, has a lot to do with your ability to tackle. So we will not budge on that element. We are not going to tack it up to, oh, you know, we can’t we can’t tackle as much anymore because of NCAA rules. I think that’s a bunch of bologna. We have no tackle better.
Q. I’m not asking whether you’re changing your technique. I’m just saying, is it more difficult to be a good tackling team if you don’t have as much contact in practice?
COACH KELLY: No, and I think the question’s fair, and I think I’m answering it. No, I believe you still can demand good tackling from your players. And if you don’t tackle well, you can’t be a great defense.
Q. Sheldon Day, his status for this week?
COACH KELLY: He has an ankle sprain, as many of you know. He’s made really good progress. He’s going to stay in a walking boot today, and we’ll take it off tomorrow. Pretty encouraging that he’ll be able to practice tomorrow, and then we’ll see how he goes from day to day.
Q. What kind of mention does the offense get when DaVaris Daniels is playing the way he did Saturday?
COACH KELLY: Well, certainly it gives us another big play receiver. I think T.J. has shown his ability to be that guy, as well now you have Daniels that can certainly get down the field and make big plays. It definitely stretches the field for us. Certainly our ability now to vertically push the ball enhances what we want to do now with both of those guys.
Troy Niklas, our tight end and then our running back by committee and inside slot receivers give us a lot of balance. But obviously having two guys that have proven themselves already to make big plays is key for our offense.
Q. Switching to a guy on the other side of the ball, how has Bennett Jackson changed or not changed that he has a C on his chest this year?
COACH KELLY: I don’t know, I think sometimes when you’re put into that position, it has a tendency, and I’ve tried to let him grow into the position. It has a tendency to put a little bit more pressure on you. You don’t want to let anybody down. You want to live up to the incredible history and tradition of being a captain here at Notre Dame.
You know, I think he was pretty hard on himself. It was nice to see him have some success on Saturday and I hope that that continues to build, but you know, as a person, who he is, the kind of kid he is and how he’s respected by his teammates hasn’t changed. I think maybe there was a little bit of, you know, pressure that he put on himself that maybe we could kind of help him with moving forward, and I think a little success this weekend helped him.
Q. Can you just talk about your pass protections in general, three sacks, I think 110 plus attempts so far this year. How would you sort of evaluate that aspect of your offense right now?
COACH KELLY: It’s been really good. I think we’ve been able to maintain a consistency obviously at that end of things with the development of our tight end and try in this case laws’s ability; as you know, last year he struggled at times. I think the Stanford game was one where he got beat a couple times. I think that has helped us a lot.
know, Ronnie coming in as a first time starter, and you know, Nick, you don’t know what you’re going to get, but we had a glimpse towards how good they could be in pre season camp and the way they handled Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt; so we were hopeful, but you don’t know until it happens. And then Tommy gets us into the right protections nine out of ten times. Whereas last year, Everett was still learning and sometimes he wasn’t able to slide the right way and give us the best look possible.
So I think it’s a combination of having some veterans there, a guy stepping up in Troy Niklas and two freshmen have really blended into a group there, and then finally Tommy’s ability to get us into some really good looks.
Q. The last drive, you run out seven and a half minutes, is there anything that you can take from that that can apply to the run game moving forward, or is that just such a specific instance of what you’re running, that what worked there might not work in the middle of the first quarter?
COACH KELLY: Well, you know, it’s a fair question, but it’s hard to take that timing in the game and place it in the down and distance and what you’re trying to do, you know what I mean. You’re trying to score points I don’t know that we’re trying to score points. We were trying to take time off the clock, so there’s a different mind set in terms of what you’re doing.
But the fairness in the question is, well, if you can beat the heck out of them on the line of scrimmage then, what’s going on earlier, right.
So I think settling into the game, getting into some checks that our guys really now knew how they were lining up; Purdue did a very good job in the first half of giving us multiple looks that we hadn’t really seen and it took us some time to really get our bearings.
But we have to do a better job early, there’s no question about that. But I think to say, well, you did it late, you should be able to do it early, I think the circumstances are a little bit different there.
Q. Does also the kind of physical accumulation of plays work in your benefit at the end, just the way your offensive line is conditioned?
COACH KELLY: I think it definitely helps and then I think that there was only at that time formationally, we stayed in one static formation, so the looks that we were getting were really consistent; whereas, earlier in the game, we’re in, I don’t know, as many as eight or nine different formation looks, so you’re getting a lot of different looks. So I think all of those go to that.
Q. Just a personnel question, you mentioned you’re finding guys, different roles. Collinsworth, what have you seen from him in coverage, as a guy that you can send to bring pressure; what have you learned about him the last three weeks?
COACH KELLY: I think the word that I would use the most is trustworthy; words like consistency. He’s not going to wow you with a physical presence; but yet those two words are so important at that position that he’s really settled us down in that sense.
He’s really smart, communicates well, and as you can see by the number of reps that he’s picked up over the last, you know, game and a half, you could probably know what my answer was going to be relative to Austin Collinsworth. It’s been, you know, trustworthy and consistency.
Q. When Stanford came in here last year, you really put a lot on the offensive line and challenged them, that you have to match their physicality; with a team like Michigan State and not to take anything away from the first three opponents, is it a greater challenge this week, a similar one, where the physicality has to emerge?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, we know that. And we have a ton of respect for Michigan State. Our kids have played in the game and a lot of them have played in it; they know the kind of game it is.
So it’s not like I have to stand in front of them and get them ready for this fight. They know what kind of fight it’s going to be. This isn’t, you know, hey, guys, please listen to me this week. They know what they are going to get from Michigan State.
So from that standpoint, it’s really for us about preparing them for the multiple looks and the pressures and the things that they are going to do offensively that are a bit different from what we’ve seen in the past. I think we have got to do a really good job of preparing our players for their schemes and game plan.
But they now know, especially a lot of our veterans, they know the kind of game it’s going to be; the physical kind of presence that Michigan State brings week in and week out.
Q. Following up on the final seven minutes there where it was different circumstances, how much did it also, the circumstances, play the two deep balls, one to Chris Brown, the 40 yarder and obviously the touchdown to DaVaris. Did that really enable you to perhaps those circumstances be different defensively, because early on, it was more just a short passing game.
COACH KELLY: Well, relative to what they were doing, it didn’t change. They were still they were still outnumbering us in the box. We were just finding ways to eek out three and four yards inside, and then they brought pressures. Tommy was able to get into some good checks and get the ball outside. It was a combination of an inside/outside running game.
It wasn’t, in that particular instance, because we got them off us, they were not playing their safeties very deep. Their corner was in the box. They are at that point, had to gamble that we would throw the football, and so although it gave us point, it didn’t impact that last seven and a half minutes.
Q. How much do you think it helped, Cam last year against Miami, he had those 11 straight touches, and just to be able to get into a rhythm for a running back, how much does that facilitate a ground game when you get those three, four, five straight kicks?
COACH KELLY: I think if you ask a running back, they would all say they would love to get into the rhythm. They see things I mean, because when you are in there for two or three plays, just the nuances of how the block gets set up: The guard pulls, do I stay on his inside hip or am I going to be on his outside hip based upon how this particular guard blocks. All those nuances come into play when you are four, five, six, seven, eight yards or eight carries into a drive. So there’s no mistaking that that helps.
So, you know, he got better, he saw things as he got more carries. But circumstances change from week to week, and you know, we are not just going to use one back.
Q. And I wanted to ask, the first two games, you gave up a number of yards to quarterbacks breaking containment or going through the middle, and last week you were able to shut that down a little bit more. As a coach, defensive coordinator, everything, do you prefer playing just straight, drop back type quarterbacks or do you find it much more challenging to face the dual?
COACH KELLY: There’s a lot more to the dual quarterback obviously; his ability to make something happen obviously on the run is a lot more difficult, and it changes some of your calls considerably. You know, with his ability to run the football, you have to protect your defensive linemen, too. You can’t let them just be by themselves. So it definitely adds a dimension to the offense.
Q. We’ve only seen a little bit of Cam so far. What in your mind can he do better to get on the field more, because from what we’ve seen in the limited games, he’s been pretty good. But clearly, you’ve talked about circumstances dictating who plays one. What can he do to get on the field more?
COACH KELLY: You know, he just needs to continue to do what he’s doing. I think in terms of carries, I know we’ve got a lot of carries on Saturday, but I think he’s one carry away from I don’t have the numbers, isn’t he one carry away from having the most carries or tied for having the most carries on the team? I think George is third on the team in carries.
So I think when it’s all said and done is where we can probably get a better sense and feel for that answer. They are all contributing. I think we’ll continue to see it week to week. Next week, maybe we’ll talk about somebody else. We just think we have got a lot of guys that can contribute, and they are all going to have roles.
I don’t know that we are going to have one guy that we put up there and say, he’s the guy. You know, I think they are all going to contribute in some fashion.
Q. What do you like about him in particular in terms of the way he runs?
COACH KELLY: Well, certainly, I think we all love the way he attacks the line of scrimmage. You know, he’s a kid that plays with a great deal of passion, loves the game. Love him off the field. He’s a football player. And when I say he’s a football player, he just loves the game. He loves everything about it. So you really enjoy watching him and pull for a kid like that.
Q. A little bit ago, you were talking about the necessity to start quicker. Is that something that does that come down to preparation, or is it execution? Is it play calling? Where have you identified the needs to improve in that area?
COACH KELLY: I would say, you know, that’s a little bit of each one of those. You know, I think we all have to take accountability for not starting well. I think at Michigan, we had a couple of third down situations early on that we didn’t execute very well, and then we didn’t punt the football again.
Same thing in Purdue. We didn’t handle some fronts and some movements up front. Didn’t throw the ball effectively. Didn’t get into some checks early on and then settled down and got into it.
Here’s what I don’t want is, we’re not going to use it as, well, that’s just the way it is. That’s not the way we’re going to play. We need to play better out of the gates, and we need to play better early. We can’t rely on having, you know, a great second half comeback. That’s just going to wear out here.
Q. Not to turn this into the Cam McDaniel press conference, but you mentioned the fact that this is a physical game this Saturday. Does that play into his strengths?
COACH KELLY: You know, it can in certain instances certainly. You know, we do so many other things as you know. Pass receiving is important for the running back, right. Amir Carlisle did a tremendous job in pass protection for us on Saturday.
Here’s a guy that we were all talking about. What’s the first thing that came to your mind when we talked about Amir Carlisle? His speed, right. He’s tremendous in pass protection, stuck his nose in there; was as physical as Cam McDaniel in pass protection.
I just think that, you know, all five of the guys, and I don’t want to and let’s not write off our two freshmen. I know they haven’t played as much but we are really high on those two guys. I think it’s still evolving at that position. And I know I sound like a broken record on this. We like them all, and they all have talents or they wouldn’t be out there for us.
Q. Defensively, Michigan State, you talked about their linebackers and their secondary, but Calhoun has emerged as a big play guy for them. Is he the kind of player that somewhat you have to game plan around?
COACH KELLY: Well, you’d better know where he is. Obviously he’s had a couple fumble recoveries. He’s tall, he’s long, extremely athletic. You’ve got a guy like Marcus Rush who seems to have been there forever who is a tenacious, physical player. It’s just a really good football team across the front.
You know, they lost some veterans up front, but it looks like they have, you know, just reloaded up front with the same kind of guys.
Q. In terms of your defense, you said you’re still trying to find pieces, and you talked about Bennett and the pressure that he faced coming off the Michigan game. Is it tough for a guy like Bennett as the captain who is on defense, to kind of get into his buddies and get into the players and when he’s coming off a bad game like Michigan; is it easier this week now coming off some success after Purdue?
COACH KELLY: Well, theoretically, I think it could be. I think it’s a body of work. I think it’s the respect that you earn over a period of time. I think I don’t think there’s anybody on our defense that, you know, if Bennett said something to them, regardless of how he played, that they would look at him and say, well, hold on, who are you to talk; or you wouldn’t get to where you are today.
You know, I think obviously it’s more likely that somebody is going to speak up after a game like that, but I think where we are defensively is that all of our guys are really paying attention to their own business right now. I think that’s where we are.
Q. And to quote Eric Hanson, Louis Nix, how frustrated is he?
COACH KELLY: He’s so quotable, isn’t he.
Q. He is; he should change his name to Babatunde. But Louis Nix, how frustrated is he with the double teams that he’s facing game in and game out?
COACH KELLY: Well, look, he’s at a position that is going to get double teamed and Louis knows that he’s not, you know, he’s not a defensive end. He’s in a position where he’s getting double teamed.
But he’s played really good football and he’s done everything we’ve asked him to do. He continues to battle and fight and play really good rush defense, where we held a Big Ten opponent to I think one rushing first down. I think that’s the best mark since 1969 here at Notre Dame, so he’s doing a lot of good things.
See how I threw that out this there? You guys didn’t even blink at that 1969 thing. Did you guys have that? Did you have it? Okay. Just so want to make sure you guys are paying attention and not falling asleep.
Q. Going back to the slow starts and getting into the checks and seeing things a little bit clearly, is part of that a function of having a first year center, recognizing those defensive looks that are different.
COACH KELLY: Oh, no, no. In terms of the function of the checks not being correct early on, is that what you’re saying?
Q. Or just the slow starts in general and going back to the running game, taking some time to figure out the looks that Purdue is throwing at you and adjusting to those.
COACH KELLY: No, not really. No. Nick doesn’t have the full authority to it’s all five of those guys really working together. I guess you could make the case if you had a veteran in there that, you know, some of those mistakes could get cleaned up, but I would not put it on the center.
We’re not center driven in that sense. We have to recognize linebackers. We get a little too, sometimes technical, instead of just recognizing they are just a bunch of birds in there. We sometimes well, that’s the Mike. Well, it’s not really the Mike. And I don’t want to get into too much detail.
But I think what we learned this week is maybe sometimes we get a little bit too technical in there, and we are learning in there with a couple new guys in there, but I would not put it on the center.
Q. DaVaris Daniels, you guys thought he had a very high ceiling of who he could become; how far along that path is he and how much more space does he have to reach that?
COACH KELLY: Well, he’s two quarters of the way. He needs to be four quarters of the way. He can obviously impact a football game. We want him to impact it four quarters, and he’s capable of doing that.
It just requires, you know, that mental approach, which is coming, you know. And you can see it. I mean, you can see it in practice. You can see it in the way he’s maturing off the field. He’s doing all the little things.
You know, to be that great player, you’ve got to have it all going for you in everything that you do, and he’s growing up and he’s getting better. But there’s definitely more there for him to grow into.
Q. A year ago, I think you guys had a lot of success containing mobile quarterbacks. What was the recipe and what does this defense need to do to get that same type of success?
COACH KELLY: Well, I felt last week we did a great job against a very athletic Rob Henry; threw the ball away a number of times, we kept him in the pocket. I think we need to continue on that vein this week. Cook is somebody that’s elusive; he’s a big kid that can run the football.
Look, when it gets down to playing quarterbacks that can make plays, it also comes down to the ability to stay in coverage, too. Because if they are elusive, they are going to make some of these big guys miss. We’ve got to do a great job with secondary contain, which we have and we will, and we’ve got to do a good job of staying on body and coverage.
Q. One guy specifically, looked like the past couple of weeks I noticed Ishaq Williams has been playing middle linebacker and the nickel. Does his athleticism help new trying to keep a guy locked in?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, we do that, we mess around with that a little bit. That’s one of our schemes, one of our packages, that he can be in a position for secondary contain, to go to your point, relative to athletic quarterbacks. So it’s definitely within our package.
Q. You mentioned the freshmen quarterbacks, Bryant and Folston; for those of us, we haven’t seen a lot of reps of them in the game, what do they bring to the table and what do you like about those two guys?
COACH KELLY: I like the way Greg runs. He’s just really a physical, hard runner. He’s just downhill. There’s not a lot of wasted movement. He gets it and goes. When he first got here, there was a lot of dancing, and now it’s Point A to Point B. I like the way he hits things, very good acceleration.
Folston is very smooth. Just looks like everything he does is very smooth. Gets out of his breaks very, very well. Puts his foot in the ground and can accelerate. Catches the ball extremely well. Both those guys really catch my attention. Even in pregame against Purdue, we were watching our young kids warm up and they catch your eye.
Q. When you jump up to play the No. 1 defense in the country, do you want your players mind set to change? Does it change your mind set as a game planner? Does it change the offensive play callers mind set?
COACH KELLY: Well, you’re dealing certainly when you’re talking about the No. 1 defense, there’s a reason for it. It’s personnel driven and certainly there’s scheme. So you have to be aware of both.
And so this week, we make sure that our kids are prepared for their schemes that they are going to see against Michigan State, and understand their personnel. Now, after that, it’s up to us to execute what we do. We are not going to go into the game and hope; we have to execute.
So after we have handled this week’s preparation on what they are doing from a scheme wise and then their personnel and how we need to play, it’s going to ultimately, week in and week out, it’s going to come down to how we execute.
You know, question was asked earlier; it’s going to be how we tackle. It’s going to be how we protect. It’s, Daniels is going to have to make big plays. Our backs are going to have to run and our lines are going to have to identify the schemes.
Yeah, you’d better recognize Michigan State’s personnel and their schemes, but you’re going to have to execute to beat this team.
Q. Defensively, KeiVarae Russell, how would you evaluate him through three games this year, and how do you help a guy kind of push along his confidence I guess, or regain his confidence?
COACH KELLY: I don’t think he’s lost his confidence. I thought he graded out better this past weekend. Matter of fact, I know he did. He graded out better, much better this week, than he did against Michigan.
He’s a young player that is still growing; a kid that played running back and wide receiver in high school that we moved over last year to corner, and is still developing at that position. But I thought he took a step up from week two to week three. He’s a very conscientious kid, and wants to do well.
And if you have those two things; if you have that, and the athletic ability, we’re going to continue to work with you.
Q. Is Malik in good standing with the doctors and with yourself?
COACH KELLY: He’s in good standing with the doctors, very good standing (laughter).
Q. Can you elaborate on the second part? And I wanted to ask, since he has missed a lot of time, is there any thought to bouncing him down to the scout team to give them a good look, or is that the fact that he’s maybe still No. 3, does that keep you from wanting to do that?
COACH KELLY: No, it’s a fair question. You know, we’re considering it. He learned his lesson relative to what is information that needs to stay within the program. He learned his lesson. He touched the stove and we’ve we’ve managed that, gotten through it.
But it’s a good question, and to be honest with you, I think we are probably going to look at doing both.
Q. I talked to Coach Holtz the other day and he talked about the one major regret he had as a coach at Notre Dame was not enjoying the journey. How difficult is it day to day, you’re worried about Michigan State and then you’re worried about the next week; how difficult is it to enjoy the journey?
COACH KELLY: Well, I think once and I’ve kind of passed through that in a sense, is that once you understand why you’re doing this job at Notre Dame, it’s easier to enjoy it. And I’m doing it because I get a chance to coach incredible kids, kids that we got home at 3:00 a.m. You asked the question so I’m going to answer it.
We got home at 3:00 a.m. for the second consecutive week. These kids are tired. And they have to check in at noon and then they had study table from 2:00 to 4:00 and then they had dinner and then they had study groups from 7:00 to 9:00. You know and that’s their lifestyle and that’s how they do it here at Notre Dame and that’s great.
So once you really get your hands around the fact that it’s truly college football at Notre Dame and that’s the way they handle things, then you can enjoy it. Because if you get caught up in the noise of everything else, there’s no way you could enjoy it.
So I enjoy being with my guys. I’m going to defend them. I’m going to back them up. I’m also going to point out to them when they don’t make the decisions that they need to make, the good decisions. But I think that’s how you can enjoy it more than anything else is that you’ve got to understand at Notre Dame, what our mission is. We want to win a BCS Championship, no question about it. But all those other things are really important to us, as well.
Q. You got off to at home here, the first season half, it wasn’t you were barely above .500; nine straight wins now. What has led to that mentality that you’ve been able to create in this team?
COACH KELLY: Well, I think there’s a lot of things. There’s a lot of levels. We’ve learned how to play the game. We play the game, for me, I’ve always wanted our teams to play hard for four quarters and just fight really hard and we’ll figure out a way to win the games. We’ve managed to do that by and large in terms of the way we play.
I’d like to play better football at times, mistake free. I think we’ve learned how to play the game. We prepare very well. I think that’s the second thing. And I think we’ve been able to manage game week at Notre Dame very well. That’s a big, big part of that, as well. There’s a lot that goes into game week at Notre Dame.
So if I could highlight those three things, maybe in reverse order, right, handling all that goes into game week at Notre Dame; the preparation I think our guys really understand how to prepare, and then playing the game the right way, hard and physical for four quarters.
Q. I know one of the getting ready for the game, you changed the service time Friday. What other changes did you make that you think helped out in that area?
COACH KELLY: I just think the way we’ve spaced out the day, Friday and Saturday, has really helped our kids a lot. It’s given them the opportunity to regroup a little bit, focus in on the game and not all the other things that are going on around the campus. And it’s Friday and Saturday; it’s the luncheon and the pep rally and those things.
We’ve really been able to get our guys Friday has been more of a focus day and it’s allowed us now to really embrace the pep rally. You know, go over there and have some fun. We even used a swear word, okay, though it’s in the Bible; but we used a swear word. So we are going to be cleaner the next pep rally.
But we’ve been able to have fun, and we want to have fun at the pep rally because it’s a great event. So I think we are really seeing it in the right way as embrace it and have fun with it, and I think that’s helped us a lot.
Q. The change at the stadium as far as piped in music playing, that began before the game before streak began, did you notice a difference in the atmosphere, any difference in the crowd reaction or noise or anything?
COACH KELLY: Those are all little things that have been worked through the team, and they enjoy it and they like it. They like that extra energy of the music, and then we added a little bit more when we had the bagpipes and then they played music before.
All those little things, the kids see that and they like that. Those are all little pieces where they feel like they are part of that, and part of the tradition is great, and then having a little bit of say in that, they really take some ownership in it.
Q. You’ve talked a couple times about the identity of this team evolving. A quarter of the way through the season, is that unusual to be this far in and still searching for identity, and what do you think it’s going to take for this team to start formulating that identity?
COACH KELLY: Well, I think the identity that we want versus what we have is consistency. Some of it is our guys have their own identity; I want my identity to be imposed on them, and that is, we need to just be more of a consistent group in terms of how we play the game.
They have been really good in practice. They have figured out a couple of things that we were short on and we’ve gotten those taken care of, and now we’ve got to play with a little bit more consistency for four quarters. That will be the next step up for this football team.