Oct. 12, 2014
Q. Any update on Austin Collinsworth’s status?
COACH KELLY: He’s getting his MRI today. That will kind of determine what the severity of the injury is and then predict what kind of direction we take. Is this something that requires surgery? Is this something that we can harness and work with? Hopefully we’ll get those results today and then kind of put a plan together. But that’s really kind of the next step.
Q. It didn’t come to our attention until yesterday, but I guess it’s been going on for a couple of weeks. A couple of players had written numbers of the suspended five guys on their towels. Do you worry about that being a distraction or anything like that or do you think they’re just being good teammates and looking after those guys?
COACH KELLY: I think they’re being good teammates and just recognizing their teammates in that situation. I’m generally not big on that, but they’ve handled themselves very well through social media. They have not formed opinions of such, and so I did see a towel, I did not make a big deal of it because I thought that our team as a whole has handled the situation very well and felt that I was okay with it.
Q. When you faced Florida State at the end of the 2011 season, I think you guys were 8 5 and obviously you’ve gotten a lot better since, but day to day just being around your program, did you sense that you guys were a lot closer to being where you are now than probably most of us on the outside did?
COACH KELLY: Oh, yeah. I mean, when we both played, you could tell that both teams were definitely ascending, and then better things were definitely in front of us. It was definitely going to be what’s next for these programs moving forward in a positive way. That’s kind of how I saw it after that game. I remember meeting with Te’o and talking to him about the next step, and of course we played for the National Championship a year later, and Florida State won one.
Q. Yesterday you mentioned you thought there were going to be games like yesterday where you had to outscore people. What specifically in your defense, I guess, or North Carolina’s offensive scheme did you get that feeling that this was going to be one of those games? Was it the quarterback?
COACH KELLY: Oh, no, if we look, we’re inexperienced in a number of areas, and if the circumstances played out, we could be put into that kind of situation. Here are the ingredients for that. A team that runs an up tempo offense that can run up to 100 plays. I think they had 91. We’re very thin on the back end, as evidenced late in the game. We were tired and tackled poorly. That’s something that concerns us. Playing very fast with some young kids, not being able to get off the field on 3rd down with our base personnel. We weren’t able to situational substitute, so we weren’t as good on 3rd down, another key ingredient with playing a team like North Carolina. And then turning the football over on offense, which happens.
I knew if those things happened, there could be a day where we needed to outscore because we’re inexperienced in a number of areas on defense. We’ve been able to overcome some of those things. This was one of those days that all those things came together.
Q. And I know that you haven’t practiced yet, but just from maybe talking to the players after the game if you’ve had meetings today, do you feel like they get that? Do you feel like there was a learning experience that they were able to take from this, or are they still a little bit heads spinning and need some time to take that in and digest what you just said there?
COACH KELLY: Well, there’s a lot of things that we’ll take from the game. First of all, you know, I think it still starts with how we managed this game because we know where our inexperience is, and what you can’t do is put our defense in a hole like we did. I think I started off this year talking specifically about protecting our defense. We did not protect our defense yesterday by putting them down 14 0. We really put ourselves in a hole, and so that exposed them, exposed them to more plays, exposed them to more challenging situations. It’s not as much about what they learned, it’s about how we play the game, and we can’t continue to do that on offense.
I put more of it on the offense and what we do than necessarily what we learned on defense. What we learned on defense is still there. We’re young and inexperienced, and if we put ourselves in bad situations as a team, we can have some tough moments out there.
Q. And do you feel like that let’s say you play another team that has North Carolina qualities later in the season. Do you think perhaps that the experience by then will have caught up, or just like yesterday if you get behind, it’s going to be a long day?
COACH KELLY: No, there’s no question that the guys experienced something yesterday that’s going to have a carryover effect. Even in some of our situational substitutions, they got us a couple times when we were flipping nickel into base defense. That’s some coaching things that we’ll obviously improve on with limited personnel. There’s no question there will be some carryover that will help us, but I think the overriding point here is that we still have to do a better job of not putting our defense in vulnerable positions like we did on Saturday. We can’t put them out there for 91 plays. We don’t have the depth. We don’t have the ability to have a number of players get a breather. We were dead tired late in the game, and then when Joe Schmidt has to go out and he’s missing tackles because he’s playing 91 plays, that’s just not managing the game effectively, and that’s the overriding fact here.
Yes, we’ll learn. We’ve experienced this tempo and we’ll be better for it across the board, but we’ve got to do a better job on the offensive side of the ball to protect our defense in these kinds of situations.
Q. And your offensive line play, how would you evaluate that?
COACH KELLY: You know, it seems to be the topic of conversation. I really don’t know where that’s coming from. I mean, we were down, we had to throw quite a bit. There’s going to be some pressure. You know, they didn’t grade out that bad. I don’t know we missed a couple of protections here and there, but in my five years here, it seems like the chatter out there is that this is not a very good offensive line. They’re doing some pretty good things, and we’re getting better. There are things that we’ve got to get better at, a couple of protection misses that didn’t get communicated across the board, but by and large, we’re getting better each week.
Q. And Everett had a lot of contact yesterday, both in the passing game and running it and so forth. How do you think he came out of this game physically?
COACH KELLY: Oh, he’s fine. Yeah, there’s no bumps, no bruises, just got to take care of the football.
Q. Going back to that 2011 game, I know Rashad Greene was a freshman then, he’s still on the team now, five catches and 99 yards and a touchdown. Seems like it was kind of a coming out game for him. What were your impressions of him back then and is there anything you can take away from that with a completely different set of players going into the game on Saturday?
COACH KELLY: My impressions were that he was skinny and fast, now he’s thicker and fast. Obviously a guy that can stretch the field vertically, and they’re not afraid to throw it against anybody. Just a great, great weapon. We think that Will Fuller has that ability, as well. A couple good ones will be on display on Saturday.
Q. We talked to a couple of players after the game who talked about KeiVarae’s speech to the team. Just out of curiosity, did KeiVarae come to you and say, hey, I want to address the team about this or was that kind of a natural thing to happen?
COACH KELLY: KeiVarae and I had a discussion about it, yes.
Q. Going into this game, you haven’t been in a true road setting. The game at Syracuse was in New Jersey. Concern about playing such a good team on the road for the first time, that it might cause a problem?
COACH KELLY: You know, we’ve got some guys that have been on the road before. I mean, I think if you look at a number of the offensive players, they’ve been in that kind of environment before. There are some young players certainly out there that have not experienced that, but I wouldn’t say that this team is so inexperienced that they haven’t had that kind of on the road hostile environment. We’ll prepare them for it. Obviously we’ll talk about it. But I think that that’s one of the things that Notre Dame, they get an opportunity to play in a lot of different environments, and they usually acclimatize themselves pretty good to it.
Q. And I assume you’re not worried about Florida State’s up tempo? They average 70 plays a game, so they’re not the type of team that will cause a problem?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, and you know, we’ve played some fast tempo teams. Rice moves it pretty good. Our biggest issue really was the tempo was fast. We weren’t as good on 3rd down. That’s really what happened is we couldn’t get off the field on 3rd down, and we’ve been so good on 3rd down that it changed the dynamics of the game for us with the way we played. We run fast tempo in practice. I don’t think it’s going to be something that we can’t get better at and we won’t get better at. We just have to do a better job of managing the offense and not turning it over and putting our defense in a tough situation, and we’ve got to get off the field on 3rd down.
Q. Is one of the advantages of I asked you about the problem of playing on the road, but is one of the advantages of playing a big game on the road is that maybe there’s a little bit less chatter on campus? I know there will be attention paid, but just the fact that there might be a little bit less attention paid than if everyone was coming into South Bend?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I think sometimes that has some merit to it. If GameDay is here, and I look back to last year at Stanford was here when GameDay was here, there’s a lot going on, and it has a tendency two years ago I should say, excuse me. You know, there’s a lot going on. But you know, I think it can work both ways. One way is you’re at home and it’s great to be at home. Being away there can be a lot of noise. It just depends on your team. This team, the great thing about it is that they love to play and they believe they’re going to win. I really don’t know if it matters one way or the other.
Q. You weren’t asked yesterday, I assume you already knew of the five (phonetic), but anything new there?
COACH KELLY: No, the only one that actually said anything to me is KeiVarae, so that’s really it.
Q. Doubling back to the question on Austin, regardless of the MRI, do you expect him to miss this week’s game?
COACH KELLY: Yes.
Q. And with the speed of North Carolina, sort of talk about that a little bit already, how unique is that, or is it something you look at and say, well, is this something maybe more teams are going to experiment with against us?
COACH KELLY: There’s a bit of a uniqueness to it. Their offense has to be structured around it, but it wasn’t the speed didn’t cause all of the problems. The amount of plays late, and we gave them three touchdowns on offense. If you take the three touchdowns that we gave them off the board, it’s 50 20 whatever, and everyone is going, wow, that’s a pretty nice game, wow, nice job, North Carolina has got a pretty good offense. I think if you really critically look at it, we just gave them too many plays, and our 3rd down was not what it has been up to this point. We just weren’t locked in defensively like we had been the previous weeks. It wasn’t our best effort. We’ll go back to work, and we’ll have to be better, and I’m sure we will be.
And then the accumulation of plays and because of their pace, we got tired late, and you could see it in our tackling.
Q. I’m just curious with the turnovers, what’s your perspective on that now? Is it a trend? Is it a one off, a two off type thing? How do you see that as something that is an issue for Everett or is it just something that is sort of randomly happening?
COACH KELLY: Well, let’s look at each one of them. The first one he’s stepping up in the pocket and it’s a little bit of everything. The route is too deep. The route should be broke at 12, it broke at 15, so he has to hitch again. He hitches again, he gets the ball batted, it’s a fumble, turnover.
The second one, the box is emptied out, it’s probably a mistake that Everett doesn’t normally make, pick six.
Third one he’s going down, ball gets batted out, hand on the ball. I mean, each one of them every single one of them is analyzed, overanalyzed, and we look at them and we go back to work and find ways to secure the football and do a better job. We don’t take any of them for granted. We look at ways to improve each time and look at each one of them as opportunities to eradicate them.
Q. Early on as you were building your program, 2010, 2011, games like yesterday where you weren’t at your best, sometimes they ended in defeat with greater frequency. What about where your program is now five years in that allows your team to win games like yesterday and win games against Stanford where maybe you’re not at your best, but like you said after the game, your kids know how to win?
COACH KELLY: Well, I mean, I think where we’re at right now is that we’ve won 35 of our last 43 games. You know, I don’t know I think that just says it right there. I mean, these guys believe they’re going to win. When you have that built into your program, guys believe they’re going to find ways to win we were down 14 points, there’s no panic. We’re down late. I think these last two games we were down in the fourth quarter, and we won the football game. We don’t want that to happen, but I think the difference is they believe they’re going to win, and that’s something that you build into your program.
Q. You talk a lot about the one game focus, whether it’s Michigan, Stanford or a game like North Carolina. Is that something that’s been specific to your time at Notre Dame, or is that sort of built over your 20 years as a head coach?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I’ve always felt like that single minded focus is the way to approach each and every week. The problem is it’s really good for coaches. It doesn’t work so well all the time for 18 to 21 year olds. We try to work on that every single day about staying focused in the present and having it rub off on it being your very best effort week to week.
You know, obviously we didn’t play our best this past weekend, but I’ve always felt like that single minded focus and staying in the present is the only way to do it.
Q. How does your background at Grand Valley at the Division II level where to win it you’ve got to go through the playoffs, to survive and advance? How does your tenure at that level really prepare you for that mindset and coming to Notre Dame now that there is a playoff at this level?
COACH KELLY: It’s a journey. You know, this one is such that you have to persevere, and it’s a long, long schedule to get there. For us, Florida State is an important game, but we’ve got to get the rest of the games are equally as important. I think just pacing our football team through a long season when I was in Division II you’re playing 15 games, and here it’s a long season. You just have to make sure that your calendar is stretched out so you’re pacing your football team through the season.
Q. After the Alabama game, the national title game, you said you guys would use that as a measuring stick for what a National Championship team looks like. What is this opportunity like for you guys playing a team that has won the National Championship last year and has won more than 21 or 22 games in a row?
COACH KELLY: I don’t know that there’s any significance as it relates to our destination from that point after the Alabama game. I just think that these are the kind of teams that we want to challenge ourselves against, whether it’s Alabama, Florida State. We want to be challenged nationally against the very, very best. I think that that’s probably more significant than anything else is that these are the games that we want to play. We want to be relevant, playing the very best at this time of the season.
Q. How much to this point have you been able to I’m sure you’ve seen them play, but really scout Jameis Winston, and what have you seen?
COACH KELLY: Oh, I’ve seen him quite a bit. He’s a very accurate thrower of the football, doesn’t rattle, is an extremely confident player. You can see that he’s the leader of that offense, and he makes it happen. He’s very gifted, and he’s a very, very accomplished quarterback in a very, very short period of time.
Q. With the suspended guys, who specifically deserves credit for moving on and concentrating? Why are you here in this position despite the loss of those guys?
COACH KELLY: Well, I think it’s everybody. You know, it’s I think you said a standard, and everybody knows what the standard here is at Notre Dame. You know, Everett went through it. I think maybe that has a little bit to do with it, that Everett had to go through it and was held accountable. Maybe that has a little bit to do with it. I don’t know. But our guys want to play football, too, and they know that there are standards at Notre Dame that are higher and that they’re held to, and they care about their teammates, they love their teammates, but they also need to move on and continue. I think everybody is focused on the present, and that is they have to move forward.
Q. Also with Everett, I guess you really didn’t have control of him last year, but what is your feeling in general about these quarterback gurus? He worked out with George Whitfield a couple of years.
COACH KELLY: I think that there’s a number of different quarterback skills that can be developed, but I still think it comes down to fitting into your system and developing within your own system. I think it was great for Everett to be able to work out, and George kept a very close eye on him around the people that he was around. I thought it was a good situation for him.
But at the end of the day, it’s still about the system that you’re in and the development that you make while you’re in that particular university’s offensive system.
Q. Is that something in general that coaches just kind of accept these days, that these guys are going to go do this, and whether you like it or not, it’s probably not best to just get involved, and like you said, just try to indoctrinate them in the system?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I think it really is, for me when you decide on who that quarterback is, you just want the right fit, the right person, somebody that you can communicate, somebody that’s coachable, and as long as you have good dialogue, I don’t really get too worked up about that other stuff. If they have another relationship, as long as at the end of the day, we have great communication and one on one communication during the season within our system, then I’m fine with it.