Oct. 28, 2012
Q. How did the big game go, and by the big game, I mean the one today?
COACH KELLY: We’re up 20 0 going into the third quarter. That’s my son. He made sure he got some rest for this game, because he went to the game and didn’t get back till 4:30 like everybody else.
Q. I wondered how Everett (Golson) emerged from this game both physically and maybe from a mental and competence standpoint?
COACH KELLY: Well, I can just comment on how he was after the game. He was certainly a young man that was full of excitement and confidence, got a chance to spend some time with him on the bus ride to the airport. I think what we were most pleased with was he was smart and he was disciplined. Some of the things that we were talking about between the art and science of the position. He threw the ball away when he was under duress made good decisions. So I think he’s feeling pretty good today.
Q. As far as George Atkinson, when did that kind of come on? Is he over it? Did it affect anybody else on the team?
COACH KELLY: We had battled during the week. We had six players at certain times during the week that battled a stomach flu, and he was weak and dehydrated. It didn’t make sense for us to put him on a plane. But he is cleared and feeling pretty good today.
Q. Was Gunner (Kiel) one of those players that was sick?
COACH KELLY: No, we just felt like in this situation where we had a number of administrators on the plane, we just didn’t we had to look at pairing back our travel squad a little bit. Gunner wasn’t going to get on the field. You hate to see the opportunity to miss a game day, but we had to make some tough decisions on leaving some guys home.
Q. What is the challenge of getting a guy like Chris Brown ready for a moment like he had in that game?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, you have to keep calling the plays that put him in those positions. During the weeks in practice leading up, there are calls that Chris had during the practice, and he knows what he’s doing. It’s just you’re waiting for that opportunity. You can’t call it for the first time. That’s a play we’ve run, 50, 60, 70 times over the past eight weeks of repping that particular play. So it’s not for us as coaches as much of a gamble as you would think putting a true freshman up there because we’ve repped it so much.
Q. From somebody that had to kind of struggle with differentiating teams, two, three, and four in the polls. How was that process for you?
COACH KELLY: I think it was pretty easy one for me. I think I kept the pole pretty much where it was, and we moved up one based upon the Florida loss.
Q. Looking at Pittsburgh, they’re arguably the most erratic Division 1 team this year. How do you put together what they’ve done through the season? What is your message going into this week?
COACH KELLY: Well, a team that is starting to find themselves. Another head coach, three head coaches now, a lot of turnover, but they’re clearly starting to find who they are. Coach (Paul) Chryst has done a very good job of a consistent message. (Tino) Sunseri is playing the best football of his career at the quarterback position. They have arguably two of the better running backs that we’ll see. (Ray) Graham is an established player. So I think it’s more about they’re starting to find out a little bit about who they are and a little more consistency now that they have a head coach that is getting his message across.
Q. You talked a little in the locker room after the game how you wanted them to be a little more excited. I imagine that wasn’t a problem last night. But can you just describe the players’ response to a win like that?
COACH KELLY: They were very excited about the win, but they felt really good about how they won the game. So it wasn’t a giddy group. It was a group that felt like they had earned the win and celebrated accordingly. We got on the bus and we got on the plane, and you could barely hear a pin drop the guys were out sleeping. So you know when you gauge a win how your team reacts. I think it was an appropriate reaction after the game.
Q. Going back to Everett (Golson) a little bit. You never want to assume too much with the first year quarterback. But assuming he can play at that level, near that level or even exceed it, how much does that open up this offense and how aggressive you can be and how varied you can be?
COACH KELLY: Well, I think what it allows us to do is to continue to be more balanced as an offense. I think we talked with some of the weaknesses we had on throwing the football, particularly on third down. We were much better in this game. Again, I will tell you that some of the progress has been derailed by some injuries along the way. But the mental development has been really good. If we continue to go that way, it’s going to give us an offense that’s going to be difficult to defend because we’ll have great balance. That’s what we’re trying to get with Everett in there. Not an offense that throws it 50 times, nor an offense that runs it 50 times. One that is really balanced and more difficult to defend.
Q. How much are you adding to his plate at this point? I mean, I know you said the injuries kind of get in the way. But how much are you adding to his plate week by week by week here? Are you trying to keep it kind of level?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I would say that we’re not adding very much at all. We’re just trying to get better at what we feel is his top play. There is a lot more dialogue on, hey, Everett, what do you like here from a menu of plays. We’re trying to keep it at a minimum in terms of adding plays.
Q. You’ve been through sort of the BCS beauty pageant rodeo before when you’ve had multiple undefeated teams. You said win, and let the rest take care of itself. But in a way, do you have to think about putting your team in the best position in that beauty pageant to win as emphatically as possible to make it almost more esthetically emphatic in ways week to week?
COACH KELLY: I mean, I think in an ideal world, yeah. All of your games, if they were blowouts, that is the way you’d want them to be designed. But I don’t think that there’s any actual conversation or the way we practice or prepare that would get that to be something that we even talk about. So the reality of it is it’s clear that you want to win your games and you want to win them in convincing fashion. But there is nothing that we’ll do practically that will emphasize that in any way. It kind of becomes a moot point for us to even discuss it.
Q. I was kind of curious on the Everett (Golson) point, Chuck Martin mentioned about the menu a little bit earlier in the year. Everett wasn’t getting a whole lot of feedback about what he liked, what he didn’t like. When did you start to see that pick up that it was more of a two way conversation with him?
COACH KELLY: We’ve kind of forced it on him a little bit more in practice, and as we’ve been repping plays out in practice, we’re having more dialogue with him as he’s running the plays. They’re not conversations that are based upon, hey, look at this sheet. What plays do you like? We’re going to run plays in practice, we’re going to pair ones down that don’t fit him, and we’re going to accentuate the things that he really likes. So it’s more about how we tweak our practice with our play calls with him.
Q. I would imagine last night, there is always something you’re going to see on tape that you didn’t like. Was this as hard as you’ve had to look to find that kind of stuff? Overall since you’ve been here, is this the best performance by Notre Dame since you’ve arrived?
COACH KELLY: It was in the four areas that we’ve asked our kids to play this game, it was on point. We wanted to be smart, disciplined physically, and mentally we wanted to be tougher than our opponent, and we hit all four of those. As it relates to what the message was and what we wanted to accomplish, it hit all four points for us.
Q. Just last week injurywise, how did you come out of last night? Specifically from Bennett Jackson, I know his shoulder got hit pretty good. On that touchdown run, he came back to play, but overall, where is he today?
COACH KELLY: That wasn’t a concern with Bennett. We had a hand injury with (Matthias) Farley. It will not cause him to miss any practice time. That’s really is. We came out of it very clean.
Q. Everett (Golson) was talking after the game how during the off week when he sat out with that concussion that he kind of saw what was going wrong with his play, and he kind of fixed his mechanics. You talked about how he’s a better communicator with his teammates. I was just wondering, you looked at the 50 yard passes and the out routes, what did he change with his mechanics and specifically, how is he communicating better with his teammates? How did that show a result?
COACH KELLY: I think this is more about the realization that you have to have some discipline, and some real solid mechanics to move your play at the quarterback position. I just think he’s beginning to realize those detailed things that we’ve been banging him on the head with will actually make him a better quarterback. I think by getting a chance to step back and see it and watching it, I think he realized more and more how important it is to be disciplined in those areas. I think he just flat out made a decision that I know that this coaching is going to help me, and I’m going to take it to heart.
Q. Was there a mechanical thing? Something with his foot work or the way he was throwing the ball? I mean, when you say take the coaching, what kind of coaching are you trying to get across to him?
COACH KELLY: Most of it was the fundamentals of his drop. The kind of ball that he was throwing. There were more technical things that he really had never been coached in those fashions. They kind of let him do what he wanted to do out there. Now we’re getting a guy that has to be a lot more refined because of the talent he’s going against. I think he just realized how important it is to be on time, and to have a good base, and to throw the proper ball away from the defense. I think he’s picking up on those things as we continue to develop him.
Q. The communicating with his teammates, what wasn’t he doing before? What had he changed? It sounds like you’re communicating more in practice, talking about what he likes, what he doesn’t like. It’s him and his teammates what’s different?
COACH KELLY: Assertiveness, taking control, the quarterback position, especially in the no huddle, voice inflexion, all of those things where they were never really part of his make up. He understands how important it is. His O line has done a great job saying, listen, Everett, you need to communicate with us if you want us to help you here. I think it’s been Everett understanding again when he got a chance to sit back and look at it how important. Because Tommy Rees does a great job of communicating. The time he had to sit back and look at it, he picked up how important that communication is.
Q. There was a lot of three down on defense last night on defense where you featured four down linemen. Kind of wonder what goes into a strategy like that versus Oklahoma and their type of offense?
COACH KELLY: Play calls, coverages, the way we wanted to keep the points down. We dropped 8 quite a bit in the coverage, so that’s going to match more with our three down. Our four down is our base nickel package, so we run coverages out of that front. So it’s really matching some fronts with some coverages that we wanted to run. That’s why you saw both three down and four down.
Q. Prince (Shembo) wasn’t in three down as much in the last couple of weeks. He seemed to be more comfortable there in coverage this time.
COACH KELLY: Yeah, Prince doesn’t like playing out there. He wants his hand on his guy and go get the quarterback. But he definitely helped our football team in accepting a role that is not one that is what he likes to do. But he understands how important it was to drop eight and to be in the short field and take away some throwing angles. He did a nice job for us.
Q. Lastly for me, DaVaris (Daniels) has bounced back with some competitive catches yesterday. Just wanted to get your thoughts on him after last week and kind of the interception play last week?
COACH KELLY: I think you really hit the right word. He competed. That’s what we look for from DD is competing every single play. He’s a young guy starting to figure it out. You’ve got to compete at the highest level every single play. We’re demanding that from him. I think in terms of competing, you’re right on. He competed against Oklahoma. Now the challenge is to compete the same way against Pittsburgh.
Q. A couple impressive defensive statistics yesterday. I don’t know if there’s one more impressive than the longest run that you gave up, which is just seven yards. When you have a defense that you know is unlikely to give up a big play like that, how does that impact what you do up front, pass rush, et cetera?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, it allows us to do a lot of things in terms of coverage. Now you get a guy like Manti Te’o who can get his eyes on the quarterback and jump some things. Then on the other hand, we can get into some coverages that make it really difficult to throw the football. You’re vulnerable to the run, but we’ve seen that even in the three down look, that we can hold up against the run. It’s what I talked about last week. We needed to make Oklahoma one dimensional. If we can make them one dimensional, we can do a lot of things in the secondary and with our linebackers to keep the points down.
Q. Have you ever had a defense that you’re aware of that went a whole game with the longest run 7 yards?
COACH KELLY: No, I can’t remember one that would have a stat like that. You would think the quarterback sometimes is going to scramble for 7 yards. So, again, I think when you look at what we’re doing defensively, it starts up front. And the ability to control the line of scrimmage, and it just allows us to do so many things in the back end.
Q. I know Bob Elliott has a fairly extensive background in the Big 12 playing against Oklahoma. Are there any insights he was able to provide with his experience playing their offense?
COACH KELLY: No, we’ve got a dynamic staff. They were doing some things that were pretty amazing on the sideline. They had a smash concept into the short field that gave us a little bit of trouble. Our kids were making some adjustments, Bobby (Elliott) and Kerry Cooks and Mike Elston were doing a great job. We were able to make some adjustments. When you have a veteran like Bobby (Elliott) and somebody that you can rely on that can help make those adjustments, it’s huge for our defense. He makes a big impact.
Q. Did his background relationship with Bob Diaco, it I’m sure that played a role in your decision to pursue him and bring him on board?
COACH KELLY: It was primary. It was primary. We wanted the make up of that staff, we were looking for a veteran coach who wanted to come in and not be the guy. Not be the coordinator, but be an asset with a great deal of experience. Of course, they also have strong personal relationships. It’s a very dynamic staff. It’s the best group of guys that I’ve ever had in terms of how they work together on a day to day basis.
Q. Coach, all season long you’ve been talking about tuning out the noise. Did that noise give you any louder after last night’s game? If so, how do you keep the guys focused on what they’ve got coming up?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, it will continue to get louder and louder, but I think we’ve already addressed it and we’ll continue to address it. If they fall trap to that, they’ll lose. And I know this group does not want to lose any football games. They’ve adhered to all of the things that we’ve asked them to do. We will continue to do that. But I think it’s important that you have to mention it every week, and you have to keep talking about it or you’re going to fall victim to that.
Q. So many things went well last night, and you’ve touched on a few of them from the four areas to 4 for 14 with them on third down. Is there any one thing that really stands out from you where you just go, wow, I’m so impressed with we were able to do that?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, three true freshmen making an impact: Chris Brown, Elijah Shumate and KeiVarae Russell. I think the tackling of our secondary against a very skilled group. We were going to give them the ball in space and we were going to have to make tackles. I was very, very impressed with a guy like KeiVarae Russell who is a true freshman that moved over there just a couple months ago, and the way he tackled in space. Then Elijah Shumate, a guy that, again, is just a true freshman playing in a very big environment. The way they handled themselves in that kind of environment, I wouldn’t say surprised me. But those are the things that we’re talking about in terms of guys really impressing us.
Q. Then you had just the one penalty last night. Do you feel like those communication issues specifically on the offensive side, do you think those are a thing of the past now?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, obviously we’re very pleased with the discipline that we’ve played with. That was a focal point during the week. As you know, Oklahoma went fast and their tempo. At no time did we have guys not in position. We didn’t have ten guys on the field. We didn’t get caught with 12 guys on the field. I think that to me is the discipline that you need when you play a very good team on the road.
Q. Have you got any updates on the big game since we’ve started this? Have you been able to look away? COACH KELLY: Yeah, I got a text from the wife. We’re in pretty good shape. Looks like St. Pius is going to come away victorious here.