Sept. 6, 2016
THE MODERATOR: We can get started, Coach Kelly.
Brian Kelly: Thanks, Mike. You know, excited about being home, certainly, and we will be for the next three weeks. Something that has been important to us has been playing well at home and we’ve been able to do that. Again, getting our football team to bounce back after a difficult loss, one which was hard fought and certainly proud of the resiliency and the effort that was displayed on Sunday night.
Coming back from a 17-point deficit and putting ourselves in a position to win the game. We were up late in the game. We asked our team to get us to the fourth quarter and find a way to win.
Now it’s really about finishing, and finishing was not something that we did well on Sunday. We competed. We played hard. We put ourselves in a position. We made some plays, but if you really look at it in a microcosm, offensively we had a chance to finish out well or put us in a good position on the last couple of drives, and we came up with nothing. And defensively we couldn’t come up with a stop and special teams we weren’t able to flip the field like we thought we could. This game is about all three phases and all three phases had a chance to impact the game late.
So the message to the team yesterday was about closing and finishing, and hard-fought games on the road against quality opposition you gotta finish. That’s what we did not do in this game, we didn’t finish and that will be a “watch word” for this group as we move forward. Again, I like their effort, I like their fight.
A lot of young players out there getting their first time in a game experience like that, and so it bodes well for us moving forward and moving forward to a Nevada team that is a bowl team last year. Had a nice win against Colorado State in the bowl game. Brian Polian is very familiar with Notre Dame and Power Five football, and he’s got some players on offense that could play for a number of Power Five teams, and he’s got a great wide receiving core, deep in balance and great size. Butler at running back does a really good job running downhill, and Stewart is extremely efficient at the quarterback position. Last week he threw for 72%.
New offensive coordinator who is extremely creative, you know, coming over from Montana State, I think in two games we saw, we saw about 15 to 18 different formation groupings and very creative mind. Again, it will be a challenge for our football team, making sure that we do a very good job.
Defensively, fundamentally sound defense. There is no holes or real areas that you could take advantage of. They’re just a solid, fundamentally-coached defense, which you would expect from a Coach Polian team. They’re sound in special teams. They got two veteran kickers. Again, a team that went to a bowl game last year and certainly one that was picked to finish in the top of their league and we will have to play well against them. With that, open it up for questions.
Q. Brian, how is Torii Hunter doing right now?
Brian Kelly: He’s in our protocol working through his — he will get into an exercise regimen today. That will be the next step, and we’ll see where we go from there.
Q. Is there a timeline with him? How late could he be cleared to where you still feel like you could use him Saturday?
Brian Kelly: I think with a guy like Torii, anything up to, you know, game time is — you know, concussion symptoms come and go, you just — there’s no real timeline, you know? When you start to expect somebody to clear. It’s so individual and you just let it take it’s course and we will prepare accordingly.
Q. How important is he to what you guys want to be able to do on offense?
Brian Kelly: He’s important, but, you know, we’ve got other guys that will step in and be able to provide the kind of production necessary. Certainly we would love to have Torii available. If he’s not then the next man in. We will get him ready this week.
Q. With a different result on Sunday, I think one of the big story lines Sunday would have been the game that Equanimeous St. Brown had and how he broke out in his first opportunity, I’m curious, how do you evaluate the way he played and what sort of big play potential do you see him having on a regular basis?
Brian Kelly: I thought what he did for us is make the catches that we asked the “W” receive to make. He’s a guy that is going to be in a position to make some plays for us, when called upon. I thought he made the catches necessary. I think there is still come some work in his game, obviously we want him to be an effective run blocker as well. He’s got to continue to work that that area as well, but obviously he made some big catches for us. He’s a part of what we do offensively. It’s not going to revolve around him, but I think he gained some great confidence in his first game and it’s what we recruited him for, a long, athletic kid that can make plays for us at that “W” position.
Q. Where are you with your quarterback position?
Brian Kelly: We still have two very good quarterbacks.
Q. Do you plan on keeping it two throughout this week or at some point do you —
Brian Kelly: We plan on having two really good quarterbacks the rest of the year. I haven’t sat down and talked with to either one of them, so before we do that we don’t have any plans to make any decisions.
Q. Is that something you will do this week?
Brian Kelly: Yeah, we will make that decision this week.
Q. Brian, if you get to the point where you do separate the quarterbacks when there is a 1 and 2, how do you go about as a coach keeping that No. 2 engaged? Obviously there would be some disappointment.
Brian Kelly: Well, I mean, look, we all watch college football. We all watch NFL football. Petty Bridgewater was on a drop back noncontact and he’s got a knee injury that’s going to keep him out for the year. First of all, it’s about your attitude and your attitude has to be such that whoever the No. 2 is, whether he’s the No. 2 quarterback or the No. 2 running back, you’re one play away from being in there. So you can’t let your teammates down and you can’t let yourself down. You have got in the way of yourself from preparing the way you need to to lead your football team. That’s really 99% attitude and accepting the role that you have. If you can’t accept the role then you need to move out of the way and let somebody go into that role that can accept it and prepare themselves accordingly, so when they are called upon they’re ready to play. So to me it’s really — it’s all about the attitude.
Q. Julian Love looked like he gave you some good reps in the second half. Curious about his evolution and what you have seen from him and what you expect from him moving forward?
Brian Kelly: We like Julian. Certainly, we are looking for the right mix back there and he got a chance to play some nickel for us, and we like his confidence. We like his ability to go out there without much concern, you know. He doesn’t play with a lot of angst, if you will, and we like that about his demeanor and personality. He’s athletic. He’s a winner, and we’re still figuring that out on the back end. But it was nice to see him get in there and get some meaningful reps.
Q. I would imagine as a coach it’s difficult when a guy like Drue Tranquill struggles a little bit. What are your hopes for this week for getting him on track?
Brian Kelly: Yeah, we gotta get him back out there and, you know, again, it’s a learning process. Some of the mistakes out there were ones that he’s aware of that, again, we just have to be better. We’ve got to communicate and teach better. We’ve got to make sure that he’s clearly understanding what we’re asking of him and making sure that we get that on game day. So we come back out and make sure that Drue understands what is expected and he needs to come through for us.
Q. In terms of the short week what did you do creatively to condense or remove something from the schedule so that you’re on schedule?
Brian Kelly: Yeah, we’re trying to really back off a little bit today and really, you know, makeup for it a little bit as the week unfolds. I think rest, sleep, treatment is really important and has been over the last 24, you know, going on the next 36 hours.
We’ve had optional weight training. We’ve had some optional things that we normally have mandatory. As well as today will be a lighter load in practice and we will makeup for that as the week unfolds, as we get ourselves back into what would be the traditional days.
So you may see us, you know, push it back a little bit that we do a little bit more maybe on a Friday than we normally would.
Q. Ashton White and Dexter Williams and that group all played on Saturday, but are we assuming too much that it’s behind them at this point?
Brian Kelly: Community standards has a way of handling all matters. They’ll handle the matters in the time frame that they see fit. They do not consult with me. I’ve been through this before, if you remember, a couple years ago? So I just don’t concern myself with those matters. I focus on the team and what I can control. I can’t control any of that.
So I don’t wring my hands. I don’t wait around for the phone calls. I go to work every day with our roster and if I’m informed of anything, I react accordingly.
Q. With the receiver situation, obviously when you’re in the middle of the game you’ve get the next man in, but with a week to prepare if Torii can’t go do you move Equanimeous around, get the other Ws going? What’s your plan for that?
Brian Kelly: I prefer not to move E.Q. I think he’s established himself in a position that I would like continuity and consistency there. It’s a position that I think more than anything else requires somebody to really build a relationship and a rapport with the quarterback, and if you start to move him around now, it begins to erode some of the things that we have built on over the last few weeks.
So that’s not an option right now. We’ll look at options from Corey Holmes who has been working at the “Z” but has been cross-trained at the “X”. Obviously K.J. and Javon McKinley, those would be the places to look right now at the “X.”
Q. You have had a chance to look at the film. What was your assessment of this group together?
Brian Kelly: Mixed bag. Mixed bag. I think our right side played better than I thought and our left side didn’t play as well as I thought. In particular, in the later parts of the game when we relied on going left, we weren’t as effective. That side has got to play better for us, and they know it. Overall, Colin and Alex, I was pleased with their play. Sam was in there, you know, holding his own. He had a tough — look, anytime you’ve got a 310-pound guy on you and you’re one-on-one a lot you’re going to win some and lose some. So I’m fine with Sam, really. He gave us the kind of production you need to run for over 200 yards, but, again, as a group, kind of answering your question from where it started originally, we have to play better as a group.
Q. The 3-3-5 you guys went with on Sunday you mentioned that was what you felt got you the best players on the field. Was that a Texas-specific situation or something you guys plan on doing as awe move forward?
Brian Kelly: No, it was Texas-specific to put guys in position that we felt were our best players to go against a hurry-uptempoed offensive set. So clearly when you’re in that set there are some pluses and minuses to it.
James Onwualu playing “Sam” linebacker. He’s not a big, physical guy in there, but he played his butt off and was a plus-production guy for us in there. Nyles Morgan was a plus-production guy. Our defensive line held their own, but we had some other issues that because of that personnel grouping on the field made it difficult in some other areas.
Q. You talked about finishing earlier and that was probably one of the strengths of last year’s team, Virginia Tech and USC. How do you instill that mind-set in this team and what does this team need to have to be one of those teams?
Brian Kelly: The mind-set is there. The mind-set is there when you’re down 17 and there is no quit. That resiliency that you look for is there. It’s execution in those times that you need it. You know, it’s that attention to detail, doing your job in those crucial times when you’re called upon. We had some really good looks late offensively and we didn’t execute at the level necessary to continue drives to score and so it’s execution in those critical times that requires you to be the best at those times. We’ve got the other factors there. That’s the one that we didn’t have enough of on Sunday.
Q. The execution, that’s something that would probably improve with experience with a younger team?
Brian Kelly: Yeah, and it’s not just younger players. DeShone has to execute. Mike McGlinchey has to execute. Quenton Nelson has to execute. Veterans and young players alike. This is want a young player mantra here. Everybody across the board is responsible for executing late in the game and being the best they can.
Q. Jay Hayes status, how close was he Sunday?
Brian Kelly: Again, it was a personnel kinda game for us in terms of running Jay Hayes in and out of the game there, it was going to be difficult and not at 100%. He should be closer this week to being able to give us reps.
Q. At the safety position with studs if he would do you feel like sometimes you have to roll the dice with a better athlete back there, with all respect to Tranquill and Sebastian and —
Brian Kelly: He will see a lot of playing time this week. Yes, we will have to continue to, you know, give him the opportunity to get out there and play and experience the scenarios that you can’t really duplicate in practice. But, yeah, you’ll see a lot more of him on Saturday.
Q. From whoever is your No. 2 when they’re not in the game what did you want to see from them, whether that it’s Kizer or Zaire on the sidelines? Did you want them up listening to play calls, off the side, out of the way, interacting with your receivers, what did you want in that situation from that guy?
Brian Kelly: I think my comments, Pete, would be similar to what I said — look, they’re both really good players. I think we could all agree in this room. Now it’s not about anything else but how you accept your role and whether he has his helmet on or off, you know what I mean? He’s gotta be engaged and ready to go at a moment’s notice. He’s got to prepare himself as if he’s the starter.
So I think all of that is about your attitude and how you accept that role and how it’s embraced. That to me is the most important element of this.
Q. I meant that from a practical standpoint as opposed to the body language standpoint. Did you want them involved in the calls and listening to everything that’s happening?
Brian Kelly: Yeah, and I think the practical answer to me would be that’s a discussion that I would have — if my No. 2 is fully engaged, if he wants to be on the headset, I got him on the headset. If he’s signaling, he’s signaling. It depends. Each one of the two’s that I’ve had have a different way of feeling that as those they’re engaged in the game and part of it. That would be a conversation that I would have with DeShone or Malik depending on who the 2 is.
Q. On DeShone’s game he was quick to nitpick about things. Could you give us a couple of examples of things that are minute that you feel like he can clean up?
Brian Kelly: Yeah, we missed a couple of throws, poor balance on a couple of throws on the perimeter that are cupcake throws that we missed and two protection situations where we late in the game, where we got sacked that he never misses. For some reason he missed. He checked out of a pass play into a run game late in the game where we had a pass on, and just tried to do a little too much.
So a lot of it is, you know, I think probably late in the game trying to do a little bit too much and just let the offense run itself and you being the player that you are, you’re going to make something good happen instead of trying to manufacture something.
Q. And we didn’t see a lot of Josh Adams in camp because of the pulled hamstring. How is he a better player this year than last year?
Brian Kelly: There’s two areas, a real good understanding of our pass protections, which takes time and knowledge, which we didn’t have a ton of time with him on it last year, and, two, we worked a lot in the spring in particular with him catching the football out of backfield.
Q. You mentioned yesterday about tapping the breaks on the defense, not a lot of games call for ball one when you get up 37 points. What did you see that makes you think things will be getting better?
Brian Kelly: I know you’re personnel and our defensive line was pretty solid and Nyles Morgan our middle linebacker was solid. I think moving Crawford out to corner is going to solidify things for us, and I think the safeties we knew were going to be young and inexperienced. I think it’s a matter of they need more time and they’re going to get better each and every week because I’m looking at the personnel that we have and we will evolve to putting those guys into a position that best fits their abilities and that’s what we have to do as coaches.
We have to say, okay, what can these guys do and what can’t they do? Let’s maximize what their strengths are. Instead of saying, hey, we love this, we want to do this, we want to do that, we can’t do those things in certain situations. So knowing our personnel, moving forward and accentuating things defensively that they do well.
Q. Was there any part of the defense that you thought — that you came away feeling confident that you feel will be a strength of the defense?
Brian Kelly: Yeah, again, I think we have the personnel there. Look, if we just play cover three, we were in cover three on long balls. Balls that got thrown over our head we were in cover three, except for the one that we were in latch coverage the one time we got beat in the seam because our safety was obviously way too wide.
Primarily if we just do the ordinary things ordinarily well we’re in good shape. We have to do those better. We have to coach better. If we’re not playing cover three well we’re not coaching well enough, so we’ve got to do those things better. I know if we’re coaching better and getting that from our players we will be a better defense moving forward.
Q. Going off of the defensive aspect last week you said you felt you guys were at a good place structurally defensively. You said you had things figured out it was just a matter of execution. Do you think it was a matter of execution on Sunday? Or was it a matter of not having structure exactly that you needed based on the personnel?
Brian Kelly: I think if we had to do anything differently we probably would have added a little bit more personnel to the two tight end run game packages with Swoopes, in retrospect.
Other than that, we had the right defensive structure out there. We couldn’t get off the field on a couple of situations where couple of fourth downs, we had a stop where we missed the tackle, you know, some opportunities for us to get off the field. I thought we settled in in the second half. But, again, I think the run game, two tight end package, you know, if we’re going to look back on it, we probably needed to add some bigger personnel to that.
Q. Obviously there has been criticism of the defense the last 36 hours or so. Do you believe Brian VanGorder is the right man for the job moving forward long term?
Brian Kelly: Absolutely. Like I said, it’s great conversation for everybody to have, but it’s so short-sighted of what really happened in the Texas game. What really happened in the Texas game was you had the offense that had a chance to win the game — you’re going to have to play some games where you outscore people. If we’re 10 or 11 games into the season and we have to outscore everybody, I’ll take the questions, you know? And I would say fair enough. We’re in game one of a brand new offense that we saw for the first time, and we gotten guys that went on the NFL off this team.
So I just think we’re jumping the gun. If we’re ten games into this and we’re giving up 50 points a game, I’ll have to answer your questions, right now. As I said yesterday, I think y’all should relax a little bit. I think our defense is going to be fine. And quite frankly, as a head coach, I never think of it as one side of the ball. Our defense settled in in the second half enough for our offense to extend itself and score some more points and we didn’t execute well enough in that phase.
Q. Pete’s question about what DeShone didn’t do right but one of the throws he did do right he scrambled out of the pocket, went through his progression, scrambled out of his pocket and then found Torii in the end zone for that touchdown. Is that part of his overall position as a quarterback, that he’s able to go through that and find a guy there?
Brian Kelly: Last year he would have tried to drill it into the primary receiver in red coverage, that was bracket coverage. I think he probably would have you had rushed the throw and it would have been incomplete. We’ve worked hard on bracket coverage with him, being more patient. You’re not getting a great pass rush down there because they’re doubling out, keep working toward the line of scrimmage. Be patient. Guys will find openings on the back end line and the pylons. He was patient, and I think that that was, you know, a step in the right direction for him.
Q. And then the throw Adams that put you guys ahead where I think he got hit on the throw and was able to make the throw is that another one that maybe he has developed into being able to do that?
Brian Kelly: Yes and no. He missed that protection, he usually gets that protection right. He had been seeing that nickel fire all day and for some reason he missed that nickel pressure. But he’s a guy that will stand in there as well and make the big throws. It was a great throw, but I think it was an even better catch.
Q. Adams and Folston both left the field at times with a little bit of hobble. They would both come back, but what is their status coming into this week?
Brian Kelly: They’re both fine. Just typical bumps and bruises of running backs going through the course of the game.
Q. As for Folston, what were your impressions of him in his first game back?
Brian Kelly: I thought he did a great job. He’s just really slow. I told him that. He got caught by a linebacker! No, I thought he did a great job. His pass protection was outstanding. He’s got such a great feel for the slow screen that we run, really, savvy. I thought his running was excellent, kept his feet moving all the time. Just a really, really good game for him!
Q. You mentioned earlier the inability to flip the field and part of that was struggles in the punting game.
Brian Kelly: Yeah.
Q. Were those coachable things? What happened there?
Brian Kelly: You know, I just think Tyler rushed a couple of kicks as if there was an 11-man rush. As we watched the film and broke down his operation time his operation time was two tenths of a second quicker than normal and that’s just — settle down. We’re in good position. Everybody is doing their job. Just go through your routine and punt the football. He got a little bit rushed back there where he didn’t have to! He felt a little pressure earlier. We were soft on the right side. Maybe he felt that, but he’s gotta trust his protection and go through his normal operation time. He rushed a couple kicks.
Q. Obviously Texas went with a very quick-tempo offense. Do you expect that to be something teams will try to do against your team on a regular basis now?
Brian Kelly: I thought we were in pretty good shape. Tempo was not a factor this the game for us. Our guys played a lot of plays in very humid conditions. It wasn’t an issue in terms of communication. Our mistakes were one where we weren’t in the wrong coverage or the fronts — maybe once or twice we didn’t have the shade the right way. But, you know, that’s going to happen. It wasn’t a matter of not having communication and getting guys in a good position, you know, it was just — we’ve got to execute better, tackle better.
Q. With that thing of tackle better, how do you improve tackling within a week?
Brian Kelly: Well, I mean, everything that we do we expect from week one to week two to see big improvements. You’re going through camp and there’s not a lot of live tackling. You’re trying to tackle as much as you can on objects that are not 250 pounds running at you. So we’ll spend more time on tackling, but we expect that the tackling will get better and better as our guys settle into it defensively.
Q. Sunday was an emotional game for everyone. How do you get your team to move forward and get going toward Nevada and block it out like it happened, it’s over?
Brian Kelly: It’s what they’re programmed really to do. I mean, we’re — when does a fan get over it, right? Wednesday? Thursday? Our guys gotta get back to work! You know, they’re going to be practicing today. So a lot of that kind of — we get 24 hours, you know, to kind of think about it, watch the film, grade it and then we move on.
Last night we started watching Nevada, so it’s a quick turnaround. Whether it’s a high or a low, there is a routine amongst football programs and this team in particular that we move on pretty quickly.
Q. When you have a secondary at the safety position that’s young, who do you look to to be a mentor or leader for potentially two freshmen back there?
Brian Kelly: I don’t know that there is a particular mentor. We’re not in the business right now of searching for that. What we’re searching for is consistency of performance and putting our guys in a position to maximize their talents and what they can do for us. That’s our job as coaches to put them in a good position to succeed.
THE MODERATOR: I think we’re good! Thanks, everybody.