Nov. 11, 2014
COACH KELLY: It’s important for our guys to get back to work, and focus on, you know, playing better football. We did some good things certainly on Saturday. I love the way our guys competed and fought to get back in the game, but as I told them, we’re in this to win games.
Are you kidding me? (Laughter.) Would you normally come in late for a press conference if it was Mike Brey or somebody else?
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Not for Mike Brey.
COACH KELLY: That’s what I thought. For me it’s just okay. All right. Getting back to, obviously the way our guys played, at times, you know, you’re really proud of the way your guys compete, but we’re in it to win it, and there is no patting on the back and saying nice effort. It just wasn’t good enough. Our guys understand that. We’re back to work and focus on playing better football against Northwestern. We’ll have to do that. I know Pat, and he’s got a disciplined football team. They’ve played everybody right down to the wire. They’re down to a single possession on five or six games, and they’ve had a nice win against Wisconsin, dominated the game at Penn State, so a team that can beat you.
They have shown that. Again, veteran coaches, Mike Hankwitz on defense, very disciplined group on defense, well structured, fundamentally sound and I have a lot of respect for mic and what he does offensively, very versatile, can run it, throw it. Trevor Siemian I don’t know has been played a lot of football for them, experienced, and they got a good, young back in Jackson and some nice receivers. Obviously Kyle Prater we know a lot about him, big, athletic receiver, and defensively some veteran players. Campbell is an extremely talented safety, VanHoose is an aggressive corner. They’ve got some really good football players and we will have to play well.
The focus for us is about playing better football. You know we’re disappointed in the way we played last week, now we got an opportunity to do something about that, and we got a chance to do something at home against Northwestern.
Q. Brian, what do you do now?
Anything left to try to figure out what to do with Everett and turnovers?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, we’ve evaluated the film, gone through it. You know, I think what’s been talked about, the buck stops with the quarterback, right? I think Everett made that pretty clear. I think he took full responsibility for what needs to happen at that position. I think that’s really the most important thing. The kid has taken full responsibility, and it is fact of the matter is, when you look at it, he’s not to blame. There is 11 other guys or 10 other guys that have a lot to do with those turnovers, but he took full responsibility.
And rightly so. The quarterback is the distributor, right? The ball is in his hands. He’s accountable for the football, and he took full accountability for it. He didn’t shirk away from that. But the fact of the matter is, we have guys that are responsible for doing things on particular plays when there are turnovers that don’t get their job done. He doesn’t point a finger. He doesn’t say that this guy didn’t do his job or this guy didn’t do his job. That’s why he’s a leader on our football team.
He’s responsible for the football. Every one of those turnovers, he’s responsible for. Because he’s the leader, and he took full responsibility, and that’s why I’m proud of him.
But he’s got 10 other players that have to do their job, and they gotta do their job better, and that’s what we went to work on this week.
Q. I believe 7 of the 17 turnovers was made and two fumbles that Notre Dame recovered, were made in the first quarter. Does the team need to settle into the game more?
COACH KELLY: A lot of those mistakes happened in the first 32 plays. The next 48 plays, you know, we had great play. You know, we just got to get into the game and make good decision and play better. Again, it’s not just Everett, it’s all 11 players across the board have got to play better football. It’s not just him, as it relates to the turnovers.
Certainly you could look at every single one of those turnovers and there is an action that causes that turnover.
Q. A lot of them have come on blitz. Is that and I know it’s not the whole team but maybe his teammates need to give him another second or so to get the play off?
COACH KELLY: Well, interesting enough we’re in max protection on the first turnover and we have more blockers than they have blitzers and we have two guys that get whipped, flat out get whipped. He doesn’t expect to have any pressure on that play.
The next play, it’s one of those plays where we’re trying to get the hands down of a defensive end and we whiff on a block. I could go over every one of them. What I like about where we are, I hate the turnovers. It’s certainly not what we want, because it causes us to obviously it puts us in a bad position. But we got a quarterback taking responsibility, wanting to get better at it and 10 other players that have got to play better, it’s not just Everett Golson there are 10 other players that have to play better football for our quarterback to be successful.
Q. Northeastern has 11 turnovers, top 20 in the country, now what have then been doing to be successful in gettin’ turnovers?
COACH KELLY: They have a sound scheme. They do a very good job of, you know, just being in good position. They’re never really out of position. I think they’re, again, well coached, fundamentally sound, and they do a really good job of attacking the football. They play the ball very well.
Their guys on the back end, their corners and safeties have very good ball skills, so they play the ball very well in the air. Will.
Q. On the other side of the ball on defense, four straight games now they’ve given up 30 or more points. Through the first five games you were allowing 12 points per game. Seems like the biggest change is teams have been able to run on you more. Why do you think they have been able to run better on Notre Dame?
COACH KELLY: If we go back to the Florida State game, I thought we shut their running game down, so let’s start there. Florida State, I thought our defensive line was outstanding. They were in the backfield all day, they were physical, they were aggressive.
They you get into the Navy game, it’s kind of a whole different animal. Then this past weekend, we had our poorest performance on the defensive line. It showed. So we will be looking to get more out of our defensive line and get a better performance this weekend.
Q. You can delay the answers if you want! (Laughter.) Curious, though, with the offensive line, do you feel like you can get them better, that they can handle things better? Do you feel like there are personnel decisions that you need to look at with them?
COACH KELLY: You know, Eric, in terms of the game itself, you know, we had 470 something yards in total offense. It was going to be a hard day to run the football. There was eight guys on the line of scrimmage and when you’re running the kind of offense we’re running and then getting down, it was going to be difficult to get back to an established run game.
They knew we were going to throw it, and after we made some mistakes and not just on the offensive line, we picked up everything that they brought. So when we evaluate our offensive line, we don’t look toward them as being central to the issues of turnovers. I think I just kind of described, our first turnover was our tight end, and our running back. Our second turnover, I’ll put it on the coaching staff. Our third turnover, Everett got hit from behind on a roll out. He was trying to get that ball in the back corner to Corey, he got hit from behind.
Those had nothing to do with the offensive line. There’s three turnovers right there! So when we look at it, it’s easy to say, all right, it’s the offensive line that’s, you know, breaking down. We don’t see that. Are there areas that we’ve got to get better in?
Absolutely. But it’s not point to go one specific group. It’s our tight end, our running back, our five guys up front, all those guys are part of protection, and in particular, in certain situations, they are very important to our protection as well.
Q. How difficult is it to get Tarean Folston and Greg Bryant up to speed with blitz protection if you want to maintain a three running back rotation?
COACH KELLY: Some of it’s “want to” you know, those guys have got to want to do it. They’ve got to be able to stick their face in there and pick up a guy that’s coming offer the edge. Some of it’s technique, which we’re working on with them. But if you want to be in there the whole game, against a team that’s going to bring it 8 out of 10 snaps, that’s what you have to step up and be able to take care of. Cam is better at it. Cam’s got that mentality to go in there and stone you. Until those guys reach that level, Cam will get a little more playing time in those kinds of situations.
Q. I’m not sure that you’ll necessarily see it this week, but do you feel like you have the resources to fix the all out pressure, the things that they did in the first half of the Arizona State game?
COACH KELLY: Again, I’ll go back to the pressures that they brought in the game and I think I’ve said this three or four times, our first turnover was off a max protection
Q. I’m talking about the sacks, too, though, the seven sacks.
COACH KELLY: Yeah, well, one of the sacks was counted as Everett running out of bounds so it’s really six sacks, right? The fifth sack was at the end of the game, right? He’s trying to make a play. So now we’re talking about, there were two sacks that we feel that were related to pressures and the rest were Everett’s got to be in his progression. The ball’s got to come out of his hand. We could probably have an hour long conversation about this, it’s not about simply the offensive lines inability to pick up the blitz. This is all synced into, the ball has to come out of your hand on time when they bring the pressure. There was a four man pressure where when we stepped up in the pocket we’re not stepping up in that situation and we stepped into a sack. So it’s not just on an offensive line’s inability to pick up pressure. There is more to it than that, so that’s why we’re not pressing the alarm button on our offensive line in this instance. There are so many factors that have to get better across the board.
Q. Earlier this season you mentioned how much Elijah Shumate benefited by being thrown in the pool and having that play. You thought he got more out of that than what he would have got in practice. Is there a possible parallel with Nyles or is it just a different position with more responsibility that not necessarily can you see that growth that fast?
COACH KELLY: Oh, no, there is no question there is a great positive. He was just hesitant in his first start, you know?
He’s got so much on his plate) ^ progression, back there) (it’s the ‘ol, you when you think you stink. He was thinking way too much, and that’s not going to happen each and every week. As he gets more accustomed to what’s going on out there, he will be able to react. Way too much thinking I think put him in a position where he wasn’t able to fire in the manner that he’s capable of because it was a lot for him to handle in his first start.
Q. Collin Hill was a guy you got a lot of mileage out of earlier in the year, he wasn’t listed as playin’ in Arizona State, I don’t think he played Florida State. Did he kinda hit a wall or is it tempo or situation that’s keeping him out or is he fully healthy?
COACH KELLY: He’s fully healthy, it’s more of a situation that coaches felt like we’re getting some pass rush in different manners from different players that have picked up the slack in that position.
Q. And, again, the tempo in the North Carolina and also in this game seemed to bother the defense a little bit, played better when Arizona State slowed it down. Do you feel like that was a function of having different people in there against Arizona State, having Nyles making the plays than it was the tempo itself?
COACH KELLY: No, I think that clearly, having young players on the field, when you’ve got Nyles and Max and you’ve got even Elijah on the field, your two safeties and Nyles, there is a lot going on out there for those guys, and they’re trying to communicate as quickly and as effectively as possible and that’s an area that we have to continue to grow at.
Q. Brian, to build on the question of the sack, on the first sack I think C.J. and Corey are running free underneath.
COACH KELLY: Wide open.
Q. Is that a challenge that Everett is still growing into or is that a challenge that all quarterbacks have?
COACH KELLY: Well, we were in a max protection with the tight end and the back. He was waiting for Corey to come across on the play and he was surprised that somebody came loose because that’s a longer developing route because we’ve got time. So as he saw him come loose, that’s what he kind of reversed out and put the ball on the ground.
So, again, when we go into that kind of route development, Everett is taking a seven step drop on that, he’s not expecting any kind of pressure in that situation.
Q. You mentioned him taking responsibility. I think this was in the third quarter but I don’t know if it was a miscommunication with Will but he threw deep and Will ran short and you jumped on Will on the sideline and Everett seemed to motion to you, “No, that’s on me.”
COACH KELLY: Yes.
Q. Can you take us through that?
COACH KELLY: We have a read on the outside that takes place on that route, and the read is essentially and there is a little bit more, but if I’m even with you, I’m leavin’, and I think in that instance, Everett thought that Will was even with the defender and that he was leavin’, he was going to run a “go” route and Will clearly felt like he wasn’t even with him, the defender was over the top of him. That’s happened once this year. It just was untimely in that situation.
Q. And in the context
COACH KELLY: That happens once in a while.
Q. Is that a positive for you to see Everett being, “no, no, that’s on me.”
COACH KELLY: I’m telling you what, I’m proud of the way he’s handled the scrutiny of being under the bright lights of the turnovers. He’s in my office yesterday, you know, talking about what can we do to continue to move forward. And there’s a lot of scrutiny on the quarterback position at Notre Dame, especially if there’s turnovers. The fact of the matter is he’s accountable for all of them. I said that in the press conference he’s responsible for all the turnovers, but that’s not to mean that he’s to be blamed for all of the turnovers, there’s ten other players on this football team, but we don’t go around in this program blaming people. That’s not how we do business. We talk about personal accountability and everybody is accountable and that’s why I feel so good about, he will continue to grow and get better at that position.
Q. You mentioned the defensive line not playing that well. What kind of correlation is there between that and Joe not being out there?
COACH KELLY: I don’t think there is any correlation to the defensive line not playing well with Joe not being out there. Joe helps get in the front set. We could have got the edge set a couple of times on that last drive, would have been extremely helpful to us. We had a soft edge a couple of times Joe would have if I remembered that up for us.
But, no, the defensive line in terms of not playing at the level we think they’re capable of playing, nothing to do with that.
Q. Lastly, sort of big picture. You’ve been at this for a while, you’ve had seasons where you had the big picture goals on the table. When they get taken off in November relative to the playoffs this year, maybe a conference championship in your previous spots, does juror message change during those weeks?
Are those weeks particularly difficult for a head coach to sort of like keep guys as active as you need them to be?
COACH KELLY: Look, we haven’t talked about playoffs since day one. So there is no change from that standpoint. There is not one day where I went in front of them during the year and we said, All right, need to keep winning if you want to go to the playoffs, guys, come on now.”
Look, we didn’t come back from 31 0, because the guys had an epiphany if I have any because we thought, hey, if we don’t come back, we’re not going to the playoffs. They came back because they’re winners. And they’re competitors. All we do is talk about what we need to do this week to win so we’re all in it to win. Our focus is about what do we need to do to win the weekend because they want to sing the fight song at the end of the day and whatever happens at the end, we weren’t going to be able to control whether or not we went to the playoffs, so we focus on things we know we can control and what we know we can control is what we do during the week. That’s really been the message.
Q. It was mentioned in a broadcast that you don’t use hot reads on blitz, you stay with the progression.
COACH KELLY: No.
Q. Can you clarify that accuracy?
COACH KELLY: That’s not true, that’s not true. We have hot reads. So if we’re in five man protection, and you bring six, that’s a hot read. I don’t know where that came from.
Q. That was a top week’s comment, I don’t know, if you had discussions with them on Friday night?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I don’t know where that comes from. If we have an overload to a protection, the ball’s gotta come out.
Q. In terms of technique, and when you’re talking about a running back, a guy like Tarean who is 5 9, 209, he’s giving away 8 inches and 100 pounds to a guy he has to block. What are the techniques he has to use in order to win that one sided battle?
COACH KELLY: Well, Tim, we go big on big, right? So our protections for the most part, we match up big on big, so Cam was only blocking a safety. Tarean was blocking a corner. So very rarely do we match up our guys unless you’re putting us in a very difficult position do we ever try to put our guys on that kind of mismatch.
If you’re going to send a backer, we got caught one time at the end of the game where we missed the protection and Cam got caught on the middle linebacker and that flushed Everett at the end of the game. That she had have been picked up by the offensive line.
So by and large, we’re matching up size with size.
Q. So what’s the technique that Tarean doesn’t have down?
COACH KELLY: Well, sometimes it’s just you know, you gotta want to go in there and just dig it out. Get after it.
Q. He was making progress in that area, was he not, up until this game?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, not this game! Not this game! Florida State, we weren’t happy with his performance against Florida State and, of course, there was nothing at Navy that he really needed to concern himself with, there was not much protection issues there, but we weren’t happy with him at Florida State and he knows that. What I say here right now is something we’ve already talked about, so you’re not getting the news the first time. He’s gotta get better at that time, he knows it, he wants to stay on the field the whole time and Greg Bryant does, too, they both want to be on the field all the time and they gotta continue to get better there.
Q. We saw Durham Smythe catch a pass.
COACH KELLY: Yeah.
Q. As we look to the future how would you describe this guy’s game?
COACH KELLY: I think he’s got really good ball skills. I think he’s he fell behind a little bit with his injuries. He had two injuries. He had a hamstring injury, then, you know, he had some back issues, so he fell behind a little bit. He’s starting to catch back up. I think he’s got a big upside. I think he’s got size, he’s willing to block, I think he’s got soft hands, he can catch the football, and quite frankly, I think he’s got to play a little bit more. We’re putting way too many snaps on Ben Koyack. Ben Koyack has the most snaps than anybody else in the program.
Q. So was it more injuries that are holding him back or was it more the difference between a senior and a redshirt freshman?
COACH KELLY: I think it was probably more the senior than the redshirt freshman, but having said that I think we’re seeing a lot of wear and tear on Ben with all the snaps, and we probably should have been a little more proactive in getting him some more snaps.
Q. Last thing in terms of the “Mike” linebacker, Martini, how did he play against Navy. Long term do you look at him as a “Will”, or does he have an opportunity to mix in here with Morgan?
COACH KELLY: I think that’s a good question. I think we’re right now in an evaluation we’ll be in an evaluation mode with Greer. He’s come on the scene so quickly and has grown physically so quickly, I think we will have to use the off season to figure out where is he, is he a “Will” or a “Mike” that’s what we will have to do.
Q. Could you see him sharing time this weekend?
COACH KELLY: He’s still going to be in a back up position. We hope to continue to get Nyles more and more up to what we need from him. So Nyles would be our starter.
Q. Coach, you talked about Northwestern and the 3 6 record can be deceiving. They’ve had some injuries, guys filling in are getting more experience and you talked about their win over Wisconsin, battled other close teams. Defensively especially in the pass game they seem to be stout?
COACH KELLY: They are.
Q. Barely 200 yards per game, more picks than touchdowns allowed but they don’t pressure the quarterback. How are they able to be so successful?
COACH KELLY: They’re a lot like we were defensively, where they don’t give up the big play.
They are okay with you taking short hitches and short and they think they’re okay with you screwing it up way before they do. You know what I mean? You’re not going to be patient enough and take what you get, and you’re going to make a mistake. They’re very patient. They keep the ball in front, they stay over the top, and do a very good job of corralling things and rallying to the football. Very similar scheme, what we ran in the last couple of years and not giving up the big play defensively and banking on the fact that you won’t be patient enough.
Q. Coach, you said Saturday after the game that Everett was your guy to win it. Can you talk about what went into your decision to put Malik in at the end?
COACH KELLY: The game was out of hand and no sense in getting your starter injured handing off the football. We were going to hand off the football two times to get your starter injured as you’re just running out the clock, you should get fired for that, in that situation.
COACH KELLY: Or I would fire myself!
Q. You mentioned Patrick Fitzgerald a little bit. How do you know him and could you characterize the way he coaches?
COACH KELLY: Well, I think he’s, first of all, you know, for a coach that, you know, really if you look at his career coming out as a player and going right into the coaching ranks, and ascending so quickly to be a head coach, I think it’s it just speaks so much about his ability to relate to staff, administration, alumni and players alike. That’s hard to do at such a young age. He’s done such a great job of it. I think he’s you know, he’s got great energy, very smart football coach, but he’s also, you know, somebody that creates great moral within his group. He’s been able to do it through a lot of injuries and adversity this year. Got a lot of respect for him.
Q. Do you notice any similarities to the way he coaches compared to the way he played when he was a player?
COACH KELLY: Certainly there is a lot of pride in the way they play defensively, but, you know, I think when you talk about their offense, he does not hold back offensively because he’s a defensive coach, if you will.
You know, Mick McCall can run anything from five wides to split back options. They can do anything on offense. I just think it says a lot about his ability to diversify as a coach and not just kinda say, well, I’m a defensive minded head coach, so I’m going to run, you know, power I football. I think that says a lot about who he is as a coach.
Q. We’ve been talking some about it’s more than one player on offense that has to take responsibility, and I think on
COACH KELLY: They all do, yes.
Q. And I think on Sunday you talked about where with the absence of Joe, more people need to do emerge and that did not happen. Who specifically might you be looking for defensively to fill that leadership void?
COACH KELLY: I don’t know if I was it wasn’t necessarily that we wanted more leaders to step up, we just need to communicate better. You know, we just need better communication on the defensive side of the ball. That’s what I was referring to.
Q. Who do you look to?
COACH KELLY: Our safeties have got to continue to grow. We’ve said that from day one and I think we’ve had that conversation here probably every week. Each and every week we’ve got to get those guys to communicate better and effectively communicate on a day to day basis in practice and on Saturdays.
Q. How comfortable are you with putting more on Jaylon Smith’s plate as far as communication there or is his role maybe not as vital there?
COACH KELLY: Jaylon is still sorting out his own position. He played his best game of the year. You saw the play he made on that trick play. That was unbelievable. He was outstanding on Saturday. Yeah, we were going to continue to push to get him to be more vocal and to do more, but he’s still trying to get comfortable at a new position, too.
Q. This is a curiosity thing and it’s not to blame my one player here. With the holding situation on field goal and all, it always used to be, there would be nonscholarship players snapping or maybe a back uptight end. Like a Joe Montana would be holding in the pros for Ray Wersching, Jeff Samardzija a few years ago. Has it become so specialized that you have to have specific people for specific roles?
COACH KELLY: No, no, I don’t think so. I think that what happens in those situations is that the that battery, those long snappers and kickers spend so much time together outside of the practice, like, for example, you know, this week Malik Zaire will take over that responsibility. He will be our starting holder. He’s with me the whole practice, whereas Hunter is taking snaps for two hours. While Malik is taking practice, right? He’s with that battery. So just by virtue of the reps, you know, you feel comfortable that by repetition, that you’re getting that kind of comfort level, those guys are with each other, they’re working with each other during the summer. Those guys live together. They’re out there every single day perfecting that craft.
Now, we’ve had three drops. Three’s too many. Can’t take a fourth, so we’re going to make a switch at that position.
Q. Have you had a chance to see Malik yet in that role?
COACH KELLY: No, it will be the first time. Oh as a back up, I have, yes, he’s been our back up all year, he’s been our back up all year.
Q. Brian, we finally got to see Torii Hunter in extended action this last week. What did you see from him that you like?
COACH KELLY: It’s what we have known, it’s a matter of getting him on the field because you gotta take Fuller off the field to get him on the field. We’re going to cross train him in all three positions this week.
COACH KELLY: Torii, yes, we’re going to try to give him even more work at “Z” and “W” because we like what we see. We don’t necessarily want to take Will off the field to get him on the field.
Q. Was it nice to get Will a few snaps on the sideline, catch his breath?
COACH KELLY: Yes and no. (Chuckles.) He didn’t want to come out! I thought those kids I love the look in their eye in the second half, man, they were competin’ and, man, he didn’t want to come off the field. But you gotta get a guy like Hunter on the field, too, so that’s why we did it.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, everybody.