Sept. 23, 2012
Q. Just wanted to talk a little more about yesterday, the quarterback situation. Can you live with– have you had success before using two quarterbacks like that?
Brian Kelly: Well, certainly we’re 4-0, so I’d say that having Tommy in there the two times that he did play, if you measure it from that standpoint, it’s worked out okay.
You know, I’ve made this pretty clear every time that this has been brought up: You want to go with one quarterback, but we have a freshman quarterback who’s experiencing being a young quarterback. The only time I can prop him up with a veteran to win a football game because we’re in this to win it, then we’ll do that.
Characterize it any way you want, that it’s two quarterbacks. I look at it as supporting Everett with Tommy, and if we need to do that, we’ll continue to go that way because it’s been pretty successful.
Q. You mentioned yesterday about class schedule getting on him a little bit. Was it more off the field stuff do you think on him or was it a combination of things? What do you think got him rattled or unsettled?
Brian Kelly: He just had a lot on his plate, Notre Dame has got our student athletes they’ve got to go to class, and they have to work hard, and other schools experience this, too. All I was saying was that he had a lot on his plate this week. It may have been a little bit too much for him, so that’s why I think if you look back on it, those things are going to occur, and we just have to continue to monitor him on a week to week basis as it relates to his academics because these guys are challenged each and every week.
Q. Can Notre Dame have the type of season it hopes to have depending on a defense and an offense that maybe is just efficient but doesn’t turn the ball over much, or do you need more than that?
Brian Kelly: Well, I mean, we need to continue to get better on offense, there’s no question. But we just played in Ireland, played Purdue, who’s pretty good, played Michigan State at Michigan State and Michigan and beat two top 20 teams. Yeah, we need to get better, there’s no question. But we’re 4 0, and our guys are going to continue to get better. We’ll be better in November than we are now, and if we continue with that mindset, we should be fine.
Q. And finally, No. 10 ranking today came out. With the bye week, lots of pats on the back, you’ll be hearing about it. Do you let them enjoy it for a little bit or what do you do with the team?
Brian Kelly: We go back to work. We’ll watch the Michigan game tomorrow, same routine that we’ve had each and every week. We’ll practice Tuesday and Wednesday, weight train on Thursday, and they’ve got a lot to do in the classroom, a lot of exams coming up. We’ll be really busy. We’ll be focused on that and work right into Miami.
Q. I wondered if you could talk about what your priorities are during the bye week, what you’d like to get accomplished?
Brian Kelly: I think first and foremost, we want to be able to clean up some things on both sides of the ball. We’ll do a practice on Tuesday, will be some things that have been areas that we want to address and clean up on both sides of the ball and in the kicking game. Wednesday we’ll do some Miami and get our first look at a game plan. We’ll issue scouting reports on Wednesday. Thursday will be a weight training day, so we’re going to build some rest with some self scout, if you will, and an eye towards Miami, and we’ll try to get that accomplished through Thursday.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about the chemistry between Everett and Tommy? They both talked about having been roommates and just seems like there’s a lot of support between the two of them.
Brian Kelly: Yeah, I think it even transcends both of them. It’s throughout the entire team. Each one of these guys has been a supporter, and it’s not just the quarterbacks. It’s the receivers, offensive line, defensive backs, so on and so forth. But that relationship uniquely is that Everett has a lot of respect for Tommy, and particularly his knowledge of the offense, and so any time Tommy can help him with that, you know, it makes for a very, very good relationship.
And then on the other hand, Tommy has a lot of respect for Everett’s skill set, and so I think it’s more about a respect for each other, and that’s really been key for us moving forward.
Q. It looked at times you were trying to build depth in your secondary, Josh Atkinson, you had Nicky Baratti in there on a big interception. Baratti in particular, what was it about this high school quarterback that you saw that you felt would be such a good fit at a safety?
Brian Kelly: Well, certainly his athleticism, savvy for the game, really a when you talk about where he came from and the football program in Texas, a very good program, well coached, had all of those things going for him. And any time that you can play quarterback, tight end, can play defense, he just has a real good sense for the game, and what he showed us was a very solid tackler, and against Michigan and Robinson, we wanted to put a guy in the game after we gave him we didn’t put him in until after the third series. We wanted him to see the game first. We felt really good that he would be in the right place.
Q. Anybody that came out of the game with a new injury or you just kind of nursing through the ones that you’ve had?
Brian Kelly: Yeah, it was our best medical report that we’ve had over the last four weeks. Nobody regressed. We’ll be able to build off of this week. This was the best medical report that we’ve gotten this year.
Q. Last one from me: You mentioned that you felt like this is going to be a better team in November. As you look at your offense, what is it in that offense that you’re seeing now that you feel we’re going to be better in November, this is going to be a better offense?
Brian Kelly: Quarterback. It’s going to really center around the quarterback play. Everett is going to continue to work hard and get better. Our young receivers that are getting a lot of playing time are going to get a lot better. Troy Niklas, you know, a young tight end. I could probably give you 10 or 12 guys that will continue to progress for us.
Q. I’m sorry if this is sort of a version of that almost, but what areas do you want to hone in on offensively? Are there specific areas you want to get at to start that progress of getting better as you move forward?
Brian Kelly: Yeah, consistency. I think if you look at us, we’ll have 10 guys do the right thing and one guy not. I think all of the things that go to putting points on the board. We’ve left a lot of points out there that are there for the taking, and it’s not just the quarterback. It’s the right tackle or the left guard, it’s the wide receiver. We just need to gain a sense of consistency on the offensive side of the ball. I don’t think it’s a particular scheme as much as it is we just have to continue to practice and hone in on everybody doing their job. It’s one guy here, one guy there.
Q. You mentioned real briefly during the postgame remarks yesterday this team is starting to understand it can do something big. What do you think it can do? What are the big things you think this team is understanding it can do?
Brian Kelly: Win consistently, win week in and week out. We can win in many different ways. But I think more importantly, they understand that with the kind of schedule that we’ve already played, I don’t know if anybody has played four tougher opponents out of the gates as we’re trying to develop at the same time with the young group in the back end and some receivers and quarterbacks. The team is 4 0 and has beaten two top 20 teams. That’s enough for them to know that if they continue to work hard and do the right things, they can be a really, really good football team.
Q. Just I guess on the defensive side of things, it seemed like even in year one towards the end of the season your guys were kind of grasping what Bob wanted and kind of moving in the direction. Has the evolution of that defense, did you catch wind of what you wanted to see early on, and this is just was it already there a long time ago, and this is maybe just a crescendo of it so far?
Brian Kelly: Well, I think it’s always been predicated about the keeping the points down, and we’ve seen that there’s been that increase each and every year. We’re keeping the points down, and we’re also now taking the football away. I think we’re close to as many turnovers as we had last year after week four.
The combination of keeping the points down and not having, okay, you’re a bend but don’t break defense, now we’re a stingy defense and we’re a defense that can take the football away. That’s the next level of championship defense.
Q. To follow up, last year during one of the four game winning streaks, you said we haven’t arrived yet, we’ll know when we’ve arrived. Is there a specific thing you need to see to know what you have in this football game?
Brian Kelly: I think we’ve got to be able to complement the play that our defense has had on the offensive side of the ball, and there’s no reason we can’t get to that end. That’s why I keep saying as we progress through the season that I just want to be better in November than we are in September. We’ve played very good defense, we haven’t played as well offensively yet. I think that’s going to come, and again, I think we have to be able to continue to progress on offense and continue what we’re doing on defense. That’s ultimately what I’m looking for from our football team.
Q. Ben is a guy who has four starts in his career under his belt, but he’s obviously had to take on a bigger role because of injuries. How have you seen him mature as a player on and off the field since the spring?
Brian Kelly: Well, I think it’s been knowledge for him more than anything else, knowledge of defense. He came in as a wide receiver. So I think every experience for him and each start over the last four weeks has been a learning experience for him, being in a good position to tackle, playing the ball in the air. We saw his interception late and learning to get down when the game is over. I just think all those things are what he’s gaining each and every week out there. We knew his athletic ability would put him in a position to be successful, now he’s learning the defense and he’s learning how to be a corner.
Q. A couple weeks ago you said the environment will take care of itself if you guys win football games. Was last night kind of the ideal situation you envisioned?
Brian Kelly: Yeah, I think it’s getting there. No question, it’s a very loud atmosphere. I’m tuned into the game, so I don’t recognize it as much, but in talking to a number of recruits that we had here on campus and talking to fans, they thought it was as loud and as exciting an atmosphere as they’ve seen. When you play good football and you win games like this against top 20 opponents, the fans are going to be in it. Next step for us is to continue to do this at home.
Q. When you made a decision to go to Tommy when Everett comes off the field, was it just the pick in the end zone or did you see something in his body language that made you think the moment was a little too big for him?
Brian Kelly: It was carelessness. There’s going to be jitters, and you can play through those. He had five series. I think he had five I’ll look at my notes here. Yeah, I took him out on the fifth series, and I think it was a careless mistake, one that was uncharacteristic of how he had practiced and how he performed. I felt like I needed to make a decision for the best interest of our team in winning that game, and it was at that fifth series.
Q. And I was just kind of curious, do you think he would benefit by rotating at all with Tommy? Is that something that would be beneficial for a young guy to be able to work with him on the sideline during the game and show him what Tommy is seeing, so on and so forth?
Brian Kelly: I don’t think so. I think that that dialogue should take place during practice and film study. And I don’t know that that can be something that is better than the alternative that I’ve come up with in terms of practice and film study.
I’d like to have a starter there and gain the knowledge that he needs and how to prepare each and every week. I would move towards wanting that dialogue during the week of practice, and then on Saturday go out there, play, start it and finish it. Our goal is for him to start it and finish it.
Q. You mentioned Tyler Eifert last night, that he’s a tight end, he’s not a receiver. I was just curious, are teams playing him differently where it’s harder to get him involved? Is it similar at all to what teams tried to do with Mike last year where he saw all sorts of funky coverages and you really had to work to get him open more than before the season started?
Brian Kelly: Yeah, I think we’ve missed some opportunities quite frankly in terms of having an opportunity to get him the football. I think you saw early in the first quarter we had him running down the middle of the field, we overthrew him. We had him on a six cut that we didn’t get the ball to him. I think there’s been a number of opportunities where he’s part of the route package, and we’re not getting him the ball. We’ve got to find him. We’ve also got to get him more touches and continue to build on that.
Having said that, trust me, they know where he is. He’s getting disrupted off the line of scrimmage, he’s got hands on him wherever he is, and that makes it equally more difficult. But he’s still being extremely effective for us. He effectively closed out the game for us on a big reception. But we need to continue to work in getting him the football.
Q. Lastly from me, there have been a bunch of questions about the defense and Bob’s scheme and guys getting comfortable and all that, and as somebody who covers recruiting, how much of it is just you have better talent with guys like Stephon and Louis, Manti being a senior, Zeke being a senior, things like that? Do you feel like you have more talent on defense right now than you have the last couple years?
Brian Kelly: We’re all much better coaches with better players (laughing).
Q. Big difference in the reception Tommy got coming on the field last night compared to a couple of weeks ago. Did you kind of pick up on that?
Brian Kelly: I did. I did. I wasn’t bracing for anything or had expectations one way or the other, but I did I will be honest with you: That was something that was, I don’t know, for some reason audible to me that he wasn’t I don’t know if he was cascaded with a standing ovation, but it seemed to be a normal occurrence of a quarterback coming in in a relief appearance.
Q. Well, he kind of tried to downplay it a little after the game. Do you think maybe that will help settle him in a little bit right away?
Brian Kelly: He’s a pretty tough minded kid. I mean, I’m sure it’s better than getting booed, but certainly he’s a tough minded kid. He handled it pretty good when he didn’t receive a warm reception.
Yeah, I’m sure it didn’t work against him.
Q. A lot of talk obviously about the defense and a lot of different facets, and the key like you talked about all week was limiting the big plays by Robinson. It was night and day different last night compared to the last couple years. What in your mind, when you boil it down, is the ultimate reason for that?
Brian Kelly: Well, I think Bob did a great job mixing things up. I think we looked at our game plan last year and really liked the components of it, and so the meat of our game plan had really stayed effectively the same. I think what changed was the looks in the back end of the defense, and Zeke Motta doing a terrific job of managing the other three DBs, so on pre snap we had some different looks.
I think that was really big, and we did a really good job of setting the edge on both sides of the ball. As you know, he’s a pretty dynamic guy, and we didn’t want him outside. I thought Danny Spond, Prince Shembo did a great job on each side of the edge in terms of keeping Denard into a shorter space.
Q. Cierre is a pretty emotional, confident guy. Did he handle the fact that he didn’t play as much in the fourth quarter well?
Brian Kelly: Yeah, he seemed fine. He seemed fine to me. He knows his role, and he accepts his role as one of three very good running backs. They all want to be out there. It’s just in this instance it was Theo’s opportunity, and he did a nice job. They’re very supportive of each other. He’s a competitor. He wants to be out there every time he can, but he’s also a good teammate.
Q. And you’ve been in the opposite of this situation before where you’ve turned the ball over and the game has been close regardless. Did you have any message for your guys going into halftime that you had created so many turnovers but with only a 10 0 lead?
Brian Kelly: No, I told them we’d been in this position before with Michigan and we hadn’t closed the deal, and to win this game, we have to continue with the same thought process. Offensively do not turn it over. Consequently we did not turn it over. And then in the second half do not give up any big plays. We did not give up any big plays. I went back to the original game plan at halftime. That was over, 10 0, it is what it is, there’s nothing you can do to change that. That part of the game is over. What do we need to do to win this game and close it, and I went back to what we had talked about and take care of the football, which we did, and limit Robinson as it relates to big plays.
Q. And last from me, how long have you been waiting to dial up the Tommy Rees designed middle drop for a touchdown?
Brian Kelly: You know, interesting, our game plan was packed for Everett. I mean, we probably had very little in there that reflected a lot of Tommy Rees’s strengths. We’ll do a better job of balancing that next time. But the best opportunity for him to affect the game was to do something that they weren’t prepared for, and that was to run him. We were able to get a touchdown on it, and then when we called the same play on 3rd down and 4, they went cover zero, Tommy maxed it out and threw one on one to Eifert. In a less than designed manner, both those plays, quarterback runs, turned out to be the difference in the game for Tommy Rees.