Sept. 8, 2015
THE MODERATOR: Just a couple of announcements before we get started. Kickoff on Saturday, it is an ABC national game. As of right now, it’s scheduled for 3:36 p.m. coaches poll just came out. Notre Dame moved up to No. 8. The AP poll will come out at 2:00.
Couple of announcements of awards. Malik Zaire was named College Football Performance Awards national player of the week.
We’ll get started with Coach Kelly.
COACH KELLY: Good afternoon. Tim was talking about our opponent this weekend, Virginia. Just watching them on film, it is very apparent that it is a well-coached football team, both sides of the ball. And a team that plays with a lot of energy and intensity.
As I mentioned, on the offensive side of the ball, the scheme was well put together, all parts working together. And defensively, a group that I think plays extremely hard. We saw a very athletic group this week in Texas. I think we see a group this week that plays with a great deal of passion and intensity.
We know that Virginia plays extremely well at home as well. So our guys, what I talked to them yesterday about in particular, that this still comes down to our preparation and then meeting and exceeding our opponent’s will to win.
I think that first home game for Virginia, playing Notre Dame, they will have a high, high will to win, and we’re going to have to match and exceed that if we want to come out of Charlottesville with a victory. So that was a lot of the talking points yesterday for our team.
On offense, obviously, Mizzell is the center point of what they’re trying to accomplish. They’re getting him the football in a number of different ways. So we’ve got to have a plan for him.
Matt Johns is a solid quarterback. Throws the ball well, manages the offense extremely well, can run it if he needs to. But I think he just — you could see that he’s very comfortable in running the offense that Coach London and Coach Fairchild have for him.
Big receivers. They can cause you some problems with their size and length. And a coordinated offensive line. You can tell they played a lot of football together. You don’t see a lot of missed assignments. A group that works very well together.
Defensively, you’ve got Coach Archer and Coach Tenuta, who have been around the game of football a long time, and they know defense. They’ve got an answer for everything that you’re doing offensively. They like to mix things up, play some man, some zone, single pressures. Last year they had some very, very good players on defense that graduated to the NFL.
They’ve got three returning starters on the defensive line, Quin Blanding is an outstanding player. I think he was one of the better players in the conference last year. Accomplished corners. So a defense that can cause you some problems with some very, very good coaching, very sound fundamentally and can really get after you with a lot of different schemes and a lot of different looks. One of the best place kickers in the country in Frye.
So, again, another challenge for us going on the road for the first time with our football team. And then we know that Virginia is going to play extremely well at home. They’ve shown that under Coach London. Again, I think we’re going to have to really amp up our intensity and be ready to play against a team that’s well coached.
With that, we’ll open it up to questions and get it rolling.
Q. Coach, biggest question I talked about after the game was whether Notre Dame’s defense was that good or Texas’ offense was that bad. After watching the tape and going over it, how good do you think the defense can be?
COACH KELLY: Well, I think that we did some really good things. Certainly, the measurement of a great defense will be in its longevity. I think we saw some good things last year and then some injuries, obviously, derailed us. I think that will certainly be the case again this year. We’re going to need to keep some key players on the field.
When you have a KeiVarae Russell back and Joe Schmidt back, and Sheldon Day played at a higher level than he’s ever played at, that bodes well for us. Keeping him healthy is absolutely crucial. And Jaylon Smith. I think all of our key players played at a higher level than they did last year.
So I think, first and foremost, I would say that our defense is so much more comfortable with the communication. We didn’t have any issues with tempo. We actually drove them out at tempo, which is a first for our defense in a sense that, obviously, that was a problem for us last year.
I would err on the fact that — moving towards saying that our defense is much improved from last year, but it is a small sample. It’s one game.
Q. Knowing the talent you have, do you think there’s a possibility of becoming a dominant team like 2012’s defense was?
COACH KELLY: I think, if we stay injury free and if we can stay away from, obviously, losing key personnel, I think we can continue to grow as a defense and continue to get better and play the kind of defense necessary to compete nationally. That’s what we’re going to need. We certainly couldn’t do that at the end of last year. I think it’s predicated on keeping these guys on the field.
Q. You talked about the physical play of C.J. Prosise. Do you think it’s part of the natural personality, or do you think he used to be a defensive player and used to doing some hitting, that that helps adjust?
COACH KELLY: You know, it’s an interesting question. He has — certainly came in as a defensive player, but we moved him from defense because he wasn’t a big hitter. So he may argue with that. He just plays the game fast and physical. He doesn’t think about it. So I just think that he’s not afraid of contact. He’s somebody that, whether he’s running the ball or he’s catching the ball, he’s always played that fearless kind of game. I just it’s probably more about the way he competes more than anything else.
Q. It appears to me a couple times he runs a little upright. Is that one of the concerns is getting him to lower his pads?
COACH KELLY: No question. I think we’ve got to do a lot more work in practice and getting him to finish off his runs with a lower pad level. We don’t want to turn every run into a rugby scrum at the end. So that’s certainly something that he’s aware of and that we’re aware of, that he’s got to finish off his runs.
Q. You talked about Josh Adams last week and how he’s a really quick learner. I was wondering if you could go a little bit more specific into pass protection and why it’s so difficult for freshmen who come in to be able to pick that up.
COACH KELLY: It’s the post-snap reads. It’s not necessarily what happens prior to the snap. If you could use this analogy, it’s just seeing the birds lined up, and then all of a sudden they move. And it’s being able to pick them up after the snap.
Josh does a pretty good job of recognizing the movement after the snap. That’s generally the learning curve for the younger players. They’re good on the board. They can see it and draw it up, but then they move. They weren’t in that position after the snap. So some take a little more time with that concept of pre-snap, post-snap. Josh seems to pick that up, and it’s just his ability to learn quicker than others. Consequently, it helps them in pass protection.
Q. What do you think Coach VanGorder learned last year from the defense that helped them maybe adjust in year two?
COACH KELLY: I think the first thing was communication through our tempo and making sure that we could get our calls in. Obviously, working with the personnel that we have and developing our personnel to get to that end. It doesn’t matter what we know, it’s what our players know. So the coach and his staff on the defensive side of the ball, we’ve done a great job of making sure that they know what we know.
And then communicating that, that’s been — I think that’s been, obviously, something that we’ve focused on. And then expectations within the unit. What is expected of them on a day-to-day basis?
And then finally, playing this defense is a little different than the defense that a lot of these guys were part of earlier in their career. So driving home what the key elements are to be successful in this defense, and that was just a process. It took time.
Q. Coach, other than being the only offensive lineman not blamed for a false start, what was your evaluation of Mike McGlinchey?
COACH KELLY: I thought Mike did some really good things. He can make up for some things because of his length and athleticism. For example, he picked up a corner blitz late. He was engaged on a defensive lineman, picked it up late, and he was so long he was able to get out of that block, get a hand on the corner. Malik was able to step up and complete a big play for us.
So Mike’s athletic ability can really help him out at times, but I thought his steps were really good. I thought — you know, it’s not really his first start, but getting in there from start to finish, I thought he did very well.
I think Harry’s comments were we’ve got to continue to work together as a unit. I think sometimes we get caught up on doing just our job, but that group has to work together. And I think that’s where Mike will continue to get better.
Q. And with Will, on the scouting report, everybody’s looking at him. Yet he was able to have the day he had. What is it, why can he still break out that have and still have that sort of a day when defenses are now keyed on him?
COACH KELLY: It’s kind of one of those things where it’s hard to double cover him where he is. If he’s to the wide field, if you roll the coverage to him, you have to play double zone, which is going to open up a lot of things in the running game. So we kind of took our shots when we got them, and we’ll continue to do that.
He’s also a really good route runner and can find himself open. I think I said this in the press conference after the game, we’re not afraid to throw the ball to wide field and maybe push it over there, where other teams are hesitant at times. We’re going to find him. We’re going to target him. He’s going to get the football each and every week, and he’s in a position where he’s difficult to double.
Q. Now, with C.J. making the switch to running back, what were the — what was the evolution? What were the hardest things for him? I mean, in terms of learning how to pass protect, learning how to — I know he says he still has to run low, but what’s the evolution of that?
COACH KELLY: I think the fundamentals really of the position — stance, pocket for taking handoffs, the right steps. I think really — why he’s been able to move into the position that he is in is because of his physical ability, his maturity, and understanding the offense.
But it’s certainly a work in progress as it related to the fundamentals. You’re not seeing some of the things that I’m seeing fundamentally that need to continue to grow for him because they could end up hurting us down the road if we don’t get better at them. And he knows that too.
So it’s the work that we have to do every day in practice on the fundamentals of the position that are really centered to his development.
Q. Coach, Jaylon Smith, obviously, a very special talent. I think during one drive he lined up as a drop-in, covered the guy in the slot, played mike linebacker. In terms of a lot of the guys you coached, where does he compare? And is he maybe the greatest or most versatile defensive player that you’ve had to coach?
COACH KELLY: Short answer, I haven’t coached a player like him before, period. Yeah, I don’t have a lot to say. Your statement about what he can do is why he is a unique talent. He can line up with his hand on the ground. He can cover the inside receiver. He can play in the box. He can tackle in open space. There’s not much he can’t do. He’s a rare, rare defensive player. It’s just fun watching him play.
Q. Brian, following up on Jaylon, have you not had a need at weak side linebacker, would you have necessarily moved him there, or did you really want to make sure that he was more of the action and you didn’t like teams running away from him when he was outside?
COACH KELLY: Well, the development of the defense and where he is, it puts him in a position on those run-downs where we can get him into the center of the action. If he was — you can displace him as the sam linebacker, and we didn’t want that.
We quite frankly found that James Onwualu is one of the best cover down linebackers that we have. It really was about getting him in the center of action, and that will linebacker position keeps him around the action as much as we can. We can even dictate terms in the sense that, even if you want to go two by two and try to get him out of the box, we can even dictate that and keep him in there. So it was really more about keeping him in the center of our defense than anything else.
Q. When you talk to scouts that come and watch your practices and so forth, do they talk about him as an inside or outside linebacker in his future?
COACH KELLY: I think that they are very similar in their evaluation in that he has great versatility for him. He’s almost — he’s 250 pounds. So he can play inside. He can play outside. He provides a unique opportunity, even for those at the next level, that because he can run and rush the passer, he can play both inside and outside. That’s very unique for a defensive player.
Q. I know that he — there’s all kinds of projections about what he would be in the 2016 draft, and he sees those, and yet he seems so focused on what’s going on with this particular team. Is that unusual for a kid? Do you think that that’s authentic, that he really is — has put that stuff kind of on the back burner?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I think he has. I think he understands that the more success we have as a team, he’ll gain that leverage individually moving forward, and all the players will. The more success you have as a team is going to garner you more interest individually. So they’ve all focused on the team and how they play as a team.
Certainly, what they do out there is going to be evaluated certainly by every NFL team, but they’re committed to the football team first because they know the success that the team has is going to bring on success for them individually later.
Q. We in this room have seen a lot of Jon Tenuta defense, obviously. I’m curious, do you feel like he’s a different scheme at all than he was when he was here, or is he conceptually pretty similar? Also, is he similar at all to what you guys saw against Arizona State last year?
COACH KELLY: Well, he has a long resume of different defensive schemes, and he certainly is not a bend but don’t break defensive coordinator. He likes to be controlling tempo, and he’s aggressive. But all defensive coaches, all offensive coaches are going to be beholden to the players that they have and the personnel.
So I think — I don’t want to speak for Jon. I’ve got my own problems, but I’m certain that he’s probably running his defense based upon the personnel that they have this year. We can only go by what we’ve seen this year and a little bit of last year and formulate a game plan based upon what we’ve seen over the last couple of years.
Q. Last one for me. Torii both last year and a little bit this year, he seems to have a comfort level with being able to carry the football beyond being a receiver. Is that something you saw of him when he was in high school? Can we just talk about that?
COACH KELLY: Yeah. He’s just very natural with the football. I think we felt comfortable with him very early on in his career that he was somebody that some guys don’t look quite as comfortable with the ball in their hand, and he just always had a knack for run after the catch and jet sweeps and things of that nature. That’s why he’s always been targeted as somebody to play inside, and he’ll continue to do that.
Q. From a running back standpoint, I’m curious how you divide up your reps now. Obviously, Prosise has been getting a large amount of reps. Does he get more, or does Adams pick up more or Williams? I’m just curious how you prepare them going forward.
COACH KELLY: Well, certainly without Tarean in the mix, the trickle down will be that Dexter gets more reps, and he now is included in the rotation. We like to rotate three backs. But first team reps would go to C.J., and then we like to make certain that all three of them run with the first group at some time. Now, C.J. would get more of those reps, but all three of them would run with the first group. C.J. would not run with the second group. Josh and Dexter would take all of those. But we do like to get all three of them to run with the first group.
Q. C.J. had 19 carries, is that right, on Saturday?
COACH KELLY: I believe you’re right, yeah.
Q. Is that something you’re comfortable doing with him every week or possibly more?
COACH KELLY: I think, given the circumstances of the game, that seems to be about right, 15 carries, upwards of 20 carries for your running backs. Certainly, the other two backs are going to be involved as well, including Malik. We had over 50 on Saturday. So I don’t know if we’ll average 50 each week.
But, no, we don’t feel like we’re putting him in a position of taxing him at that number.
Q. What were your impressions of Malik overall, having gone through all the film now in terms of his opening night? From our seats, obviously, it looks perfect, but not only what did you like but where does he need to improve?
COACH KELLY: Well, there’s a lot of things we like, but I would probably default back to the old adage that, when you watch film with us, it’s never as good as you think, and it’s never quite as bad.
So the days that he’s getting heaps and heaps of praise, there’s a lot of things we’ve got to work on. And the days where he’s getting a lot of blame, it probably wasn’t all on him. I think it falls more towards he did a lot of really good things, but there’s a lot of room for growth and improvement there.
I think what I like the most was his accuracy in throwing the football. I think that was probably the best. The thing that we need to work on is some fundamentals in the running game need to improve, and some communication things with protection and obviously with cadence.
Q. You mentioned Malik working on fundamentals in the running game. I think it was nine carries for 16 yards. Is that like not indicative of his performance necessarily, or where does he need to fundamentally improve there?
COACH KELLY: He should have been nine carries for 60, 70 yards, maybe more. There’s a lot of room for improvement in there. He’s very capable. He knows where he needs to get better in that. So the fundamentals of working in his reads, and it’s all very correctible and things that we’ll get straightened out this week.
Q. Just reading defensive ends, reading fronts, deciding to bounce it outside, keep it inside?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, all of those things. Secondary players — a little bit of all of those. Again, maybe a little too anxious at times, and some of it has to do with C.J. got a lot of work in there and not quite as comfortable with C.J., got to get a little bit more comfortable with him. So other factors in there, but all very correctible.
Q. You mentioned on Saturday that Josh is a guy who flew under the radar when you were recruiting him. What did you see from him on tape and his visits when you were deciding to bring him in?
COACH KELLY: We loved his makeup, and his makeup was extremely competitive. Really loved the way he competed. Just had no fear. And we saw that on Saturday when he was called, there was no hesitation when he went into the game. It was let’s go. It wasn’t — there’s sometimes when a freshman’s called, he kind of looks like, “Me?” He was anxious to get in there and expecting to succeed.
So I think, first and foremost, we really liked his makeup. When we met with him on a couple of occasions, we felt like he was going to be a really good fit for us. And then we really liked his size, his length, at that position in particular. You don’t find a lot of running backs with that kind of length. We thought it was kind of a unique find for us. So those things stood out for us.
Q. I’ll kind of finish with a pretty basic question, but how important is it to have an offensive line like you have to break in three running backs who don’t really have any collegiate experience at that position?
COACH KELLY: Well, we’d be in a different position if we were young on the offensive line with young running backs. We wouldn’t — we certainly would be at a different place, that’s for sure. We probably would be relying heavily on veteran wide receivers.
Q. You mentioned protections with quarterbacks. I was going to ask you whether that’s one of the toughest things for a young quarterback. Secondly, I would imagine, when you send a play in, you establish the protection. What is the communication process from that point when it is changed? Is?
COACH KELLY: Well, there’s a lot going on there, Tim. I know you understand it. I don’t want to get too specific because we do some things that I think I would be giving away a little bit too much. But to answer it in a general sense, the protections come in, and we’re quarterback driven with our protection check. Some offenses put it on the center to make those checks. So we put a lot on the quarterback to answer that question in the best way.
So if they can’t protect themselves, they can’t get on the field. So that’s why it’s so crucial that the quarterback understands the protection first and foremost. Once they do, they can accelerate in the program.
Q. And you choose for the quarterback to do that over the center because specifically —
COACH KELLY: They can see rotation. They can see things that are a little bit more difficult. In a spread offense, it’s a lot more difficult for the center to see maybe a corner firing or a safety might be tipping it. If we were more of a pro style and we weren’t as spread, you could put a lot more of that on the center, but because we’re sideline to sideline, it makes it a little bit more difficult for the center to see that.
It doesn’t mean we don’t do it in some instances. But as a general rule, it falls on the quarterback.
Q. There aren’t too many Notre Dame players that go under the radar, but I think maybe Amir Carlisle probably qualified for that coming out of the preseason.
COACH KELLY: Yeah.
Q. Obviously, he’s pretty quick to the corner. You can do some things with him up the seam. Why do you like him so much? What makes him a weapon for you guys?
COACH KELLY: Well, he’s — the first thing is his strength. He’s added so much more strength. He was — if you remember, when we had him at running back, we felt like he was a good back, but we didn’t get the production inside the tackles at times from him. And he really — he really transformed himself physically this past year. He is so much stronger.
If you just watch some of his runs and catches, he ran through defenders, and I think that that was his dedication and desire to want to be that kind of breakaway runner.
So what we saw in the summer and preseason camp, when we pushed the ball out on the perimeter to him, he was running through tacklers. And that’s what really got our attention and wanting to focus on getting him the ball in those situations.
Q. I kind of got the impression, when you ran Justin Yoon out there for his first field goal, I think Malik ran for six yards on third and seven, and you didn’t hesitate sending Yoon out there. Did you just think, you were up 14-0 at the time, you’re right in the middle of the field, did you think that was a good time to get his feet wet for field goals? Or did that not have anything to do with it?
COACH KELLY: No, I would probably agree with your assessment in that situation. Going up three scores was really the overriding factor, more so than wanting to give him an easy kick, but that did definitely play a part in that as well.
Q. All things being equal, who’s a more aggressive defensive coordinator, VanGorder or Tenuta?
COACH KELLY: I think they both probably drink from the same well. But you know, it’s like anything else. It’s so much about personnel that allows you to do the things you want to do defensively, but I think Brian and Jon would definitely both tell you they’d much rather be exotic and bring pressures if they could. Sometimes you’re limited by certain situations, but I would say they’re very similar from that respect.
Q. What went into the decision to use Tyler Newsome on kickoffs instead of Justin Yoon? Because you wanted Tyler to concentrate solely on punting and maybe you wanted Justin to concentrate solely on kicking? What prompted that decision?
COACH KELLY: We had a competition for it, and in our competition in preseason camp, we felt like Tyler was able to get the ball specifically where we wanted it, and that was pinning it inside the hash consistently, which he did. So it was ball placement more than anything else and where we wanted the ball. So that’s what really ultimately won the job for him.
We feel we could go to Yoon at any time as well, but we just liked his hang time a little bit better and his ball placement.
Q. Malik did have nine carries against Texas there, and it seemed most of the time he used pretty good judgment as far as just not getting the big hit, just going up out. Is that kind of a conscious effort that you instilled in him, or is that just the way the game went?
COACH KELLY: We had a conversation about it as a staff, and we — since he’s been here, he’s been able to avoid getting hit head on. He has good vision, good sense of not taking hits square. So I would say that we’re less concerned with him taking that big hit. We know that in certain run situations it’s going to be physical for him.
We want him to get the first down and get out of bounds, but we want him to get a first down. So there was actually one run that we didn’t want him to get out of bounds on. So I think we feel comfortable that he’s smart enough and has got good enough vision that he’ll know when to get down and when to get out of bounds to avoid the kind of hits that are really needless.
Q. He had 22 carries against LSU. Sort of like we addressed earlier with C.J. Prosise, but 15 to 20, is that something you had in mind for Malik there?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I don’t see us getting higher than 15 with him. I would say that’s probably a comfort level. You’ve got to do what you got to do. If we’ve got to come out and red line him some games to win, we will. But I would say, if it averages out, 9, 12, 15 at the max is probably where our comfort level is.
Q. And James Onwualu always seems to be kind of an overshadowed figure. He came out in nickel situations last year. He seemed to be very active against Texas.
COACH KELLY: I’ll tell you what, that guy is one of the best cover down linebackers that I’ve seen. Look, I pay attention to that stuff. He reroutes the heck out of people. I mean, he’s just really got a great knack at rerouting receivers. He does a great job.
Now, he misses some opportunities that we’d like him to make on some pressures and things of that nature, and I think Brian does a great job of utilizing him and his skill set, but he is one fine cover down linebacker now.
Q. Could he have played safety? Originally, you moved him from receiver to safety before moving him to outside linebacker. What prompted the decision to move him to linebacker?
COACH KELLY: No, I don’t — he cannot cover the ground that we would need at the safety position. He’s somebody that needs to get hands on somebody and reroute and move and run, but I would not want to see him playing an inside receiver all day man-to-man.
Q. Following on that, last year, I think, until the defense got injured, you were in nickel quite a bit more than you were in base. Is James’ improvement and sort of looking at you’re in base much more on Saturday, is that indicative of where you think the defense is, or is that maybe just more of a matchup with Texas?
COACH KELLY: Well, it was a little bit of both. We were down and distance predicated on some of those calls. We were in some really good situations first and second down with him on the field. So we didn’t have to get into a lot of our speed sets and calls. So James consequently was on the field a lot in those first and second down situations. And a lot, I think, the most snaps we had any one starting defensive player have was 40, 41. So that’s pretty good.
But I think it was more about situations and circumstances than it was — you know, hey, James is going to get more playing time. I think we’re going to be pretty balanced.
Q. Spent time talking about Max and Elijah and the communication and improvement. When you went back and looked at the tape, how did they sort of grade out pre-snap getting everybody where they needed to be?
COACH KELLY: Very good. There was really good communication. We’ve got to get a little better with the corners. Sometimes we got into a couple of situations where we lost a little bit of communication with our corner here and there. But so much better. I mean, really, we were able to do a lot of things. As I said, we were set in a lot of different looks during tempo that we weren’t able to do last year. So we were very pleased at the end of the day where we were after this game.
Q. Kind of back on Josh Adams a little bit, his improvement, he tore his ACL as a junior in high school. How did you sort of revisit the process of, okay, this is a guy we can still take. We feel comfortable with where he was because he ended up committing before he played another game.
COACH KELLY: We were just really confident in a lot of the things that we had seen prior to, and then we were just sold on him as a person and knew that the surgery had gone well. We just felt like all the boxes were checked and it wasn’t a real big gamble for us with him. Request.
Just the way he took care of himself all the way down to his family, his mom, his siblings. There were just so many other factors there that we — I never felt like we were taking a risk.
There have been other times where there’s been somebody with a knee injury, and you don’t know some of these other factors, that you kind of back off a bit. But in this case, because of all the other circumstances, we never felt that way.
Q. I guess a semi-similar question on Prosise. When you took him, did you sort of see him as an athlete and we’ll know what we have three years from now?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, and look where we are, right? I saw him dunking a basketball at his high school, and I saw this athlete, and I said, I don’t know where he’s going to play, but we’ve got to take him. He’s just that good of an athlete. Loved his personality. Again, his makeup, great fit from a great school. We’ve just got to find a place for him to play.
And now we’re seeing where he can help us, and he’s helping us at a position of great need.
Q. Follow up, does he make you want to go after more athletes like that? I know that in Cincy you kind of had to recruit athletes and move them around. Does a success like Prosise make you want to go after more players like that?
COACH KELLY: I get a head coach take or two that I kind of hold for myself. I let our coaches — we’re evaluating and profiling and trying to be specific in the process, but I’m always looking for those guys that don’t fit and have compelling reasons. That just probably goes back to being a Division II head coach at the start of my career, that we always leave some room for a couple of those guys.
But by and large, we’re sticking with the plan, you know what I mean? We’re not taking 5’11” guards, even if they’re the greatest kid in the world. So we keep an eye on that, and I’m okay doing that because I’ve had great success doing it, but I would say, by and large, we’re sticking with the plan.
Q. Beating the true home team situation, back in 2012 you probably had the best run through a road schedule you could have with this program. But since then, there’s been some struggles going into these true road game atmospheres. Do you feel this team is more prepared for it than the past two have been?
COACH KELLY: I don’t know there was ever — there’s only one game that comes to mind in my time here that we just, we were flat on the road. We’ve lost some tough games on the road. But it’s a mature team. There’s great leadership. They recognize what it’s going to take, and we’ll prepare them accordingly in the fashion that we have. But I can really only recall one time where we didn’t play up to the level that we were capable of playing.
So we’ll make sure that our guys are prepared because they’ll have to be against Virginia.
Q. Brian, in the development of the stadium expansion, any plans for air conditioning?
COACH KELLY: I’ll tell you what, if you bring that up, it was loud, and we were all a little bit taken aback by the loud noise that was on that stadium floor. I think the construction had something to do with that. So we have to kind of change our approach in terms of cadence. We had never used nonverbal at home before. We’re going to put that in this week. Obviously, we’re on the road, so we’re doing it anyway.
But I think the new construction in the stadium has definitely attributed to the noise factor on the field.
Q. The thing I wanted to point out is the fact in the first half, you probably had plans for rotation with the defense because of some conditions with the heat, and you go throw four three and outs at them. A lot of guys coming off fresh. It was a good situation to have obviously. But was there more rotation in the second half?
COACH KELLY: Yeah. Like I said, I think the max for our guys, including special teams, was 44 plays. Total for a defense. You had guys like — I think Joe Schmidt had 32 plays total. So really, we were able to get a lot of players into the game and had a pretty good rotation across the board. So it worked out very well.
Q. Last week you made a statement that was interesting and right on about Malik, you needed him to do ordinary things in an extraordinary way. I’m sure, as the season goes along, instead of painting a hallway, you might want to be looking for him to paint a Rembrandt, but right now you’re looking at things he needs to be successful. I thought he did a great job. Did you feel that was the result?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, it’s distribute. Distribute the football, make good decisions, take care of the football. You’re surrounded with an outstanding offensive line, talented wide receivers. I think by the time it’s all said and done, you’re really going to like the running back situation, even with two young players and an inexperienced back. He just doesn’t have to win the game. As I said, he can’t be the reason why we lose it.
So distribute, take care of the offense, manage it, and good things will happen.
Q. I want to ask you one thing about recruiting. I know I talked to a couple of other sports that had recruits in that their reaction was what a phenomenal weekend. A lot of football recruits were there. You had to feel great about being part of that.
COACH KELLY: Game day at Notre Dame is second to none. It’s just an incredible atmosphere, and the stadium was electric. Our students were phenomenal. So when you get a chance to show off game day at Notre Dame, it can only help you in the recruiting process.