Sept. 18, 2012
COACH KELLY: Afternoon. Met with the team yesterday in our normal fashion. We got out and ran the guys around, weight trained, meetings. Monday for us is a mental day. We put Michigan State behind us, so I’ll talk in terms of what we did yesterday and that was talk about the things that we did very well as a team and that’s first and foremost, we won the football game.
But also, that there’s a lot of things that we’ve got to get to a newer level and a higher level and that’s really what we focused on yesterday was the things that we exhibited as a football team, mental toughness, controlling the line of scrimmage, outstanding special teams, solid tackling, and carry that forward. And that’s all we’re carrying forward.
The rest is back to work. Today will be an intense Tuesday for us. We are excited about the matchup with Michigan. As is the case with each game that we play, it’s a red letter game on everybody’s schedule and certainly a game that we are looking forward to, as well. It’s here at home. You know, nationally televised game on NBC. So all those things are important.
But I’d say the thing that I would, you know, want to talk about more than anything else is just that we have to continue to grow as a football team. And our guys know how they got to this point. They just have to continue to commit themselves to getting better, and we’ll start on that today.
We have got a lot of great individuals. Matter of fact, today, we were informed that Mike Golic Jr. was named to the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team for his work in the community. Great young man. We’ve got a lot of guys that do a lot of great work in the community but he was singled out for his work in particular, and so that says a lot about the guys that we have on our football team.
With that, I’ll open up to questions.
Q. You came here with an offense first reputation but clearly you built this team from the defense out. Can you kind of describe what was the impetus behind that and what led you to that strategy?
COACH KELLY: Well, I think I said it in my opening press conference when I took the job here, was that it was important that if we wanted to compete nationally, we had to have a defense that could control the different teams that we play on a week to week basis.
I don’t think there’s more of a diverse group of opponents that any team in the country plays. When you play in a conference, you get a great understanding of who you’re playing. We’re playing option teams; we’re playing power teams; we’re playing spread teams.
So getting our defense up to that level through recruiting, through player development, through scheme, has been job one. It’s getting better and better each and every year, and we’re lagging a little bit offensively, but we’re making progress there.
Q. Is that an unusual feeling for you to have a team that you’re working with, the offense, that’s relying a little bit on the defense?
COACH KELLY: No, I think there’s different plans in how you’re successful. And I knew when I took the job here at Notre Dame, the blueprint for success here was different than other stops that I had along the way. And so I just think that every opportunity presents different challenges. This one was to get our defense right.
Q. Could you comment on Everett Golson’s play up to this point in terms of his football instincts after the snap; just his ability to see things and make plays after the ball’s been snapped.
COACH KELLY: I would say first of all, I think we all know that he’s very skilled. But he’s also very smart. He just doesn’t have a lot of experience.
So, translating that classroom knowledge on to the football field is the process that we’re in. And sometimes he’s a little bit late in those reactions. Sometimes he’s too much pre snap. Other times we feel like he does some things that you can’t teach. So it’s an evolutionary process of just getting more and more opportunities to play this game.
What we have asked him to do is throw away the football, you know and he’s able to get out of the pocket. Our completion percentage has probably taken a hit but our ability to succeed at the end of the day and win games, has not. And that’s why I think he continues to evolve because he knows now that if he wants to stay in the starting lineup, he has to take care of the football.
So pre snap, very smart; post snap, it’s a process for him, and I think he’ll continue to get better the more games he plays.
Q. Did he improve pre snap this week or was that offset by the way that you had the signals in plays with wristbands?
COACH KELLY: We definitely saw improvement, improvement from Purdue to Michigan State. And again, we don’t want to give him a ton of things. If Tommy (Rees) is out there, you know there’s a lot of different checks and a lot of different things going on.
We don’t ask him to do all those things, either. He’s capable of doing what we ask him to do, but he doesn’t have all the experience that Tommy has yet. He can do some things that Tommy couldn’t do, either, so it’s kind of that trade off that we are in right now.
Q. I’ve heard a couple announcers make comments about receivers being open and missing receivers; I don’t mean over throwing, but not seeing them and finding them. In three games, how has he done in terms of finding open receivers?
COACH KELLY: I would say if you look at the Michigan State game, we feel like he saw the open receivers; he overthrew two of them.
Again, I think if we are really looking at Everett Golson the player, he’s in there for a reason. He’s going to miss some of those things. He’s going to continue to grow.
I’m looking for improvement each week, and I’ve got to see tangible improvement from him. And it’s not just on Saturday. It’s in practice; it’s how he goes to meetings; it’s film study; it’s taking care of himself and we are seeing the kind of improvement that I need to see for him to continue to be the starter.
Q. How did Danny Spond play? Does he give you something that you don’t have there or haven’t gotten from that position?
COACH KELLY: You know, he’s a big, physical kid, almost 250 pounds, so he can anchor the edge. If the ball gets out on the perimeter, he’s a big guy in space. He certainly sets the edge for us and gives us that physical presence at that position. Ben Councell got some more work at Michigan State and continues to improve at that position.
Q. You talked about signature wins after the game Saturday. When you were at Cincinnati, did you have what you felt were signature wins in each of your three seasons?
COACH KELLY: I think Oregon State in that first year, West Virginia in the second year and probably Rutgers in the third year. I think each year you have some of those kinds of wins that set you in a direction. It only means one win. We’re 3-0. We didn’t give out any rings yesterday to anybody. We got a long way to go.
Q. Now that we’re a little more removed from the Ireland trip, do you think that trip to Ireland and back impacted in any way the way you played against Purdue?
COACH KELLY: No, I don’t think so.
Q. Just mentally how has he (Danny Spond) responded to the uncertainty earlier this season; it was painful to go out there.
COACH KELLY: Well, I think he responded to it by the way he came back and practiced after having some of those migraine issues. I think once you make that decision to put the gear on and go back out to practice, you’ve handled it, you know, and he pushed the envelope, he was the one who wanted to get out there.
And so I think we had no hesitation of practicing him and playing him, because of the way he handled it leading up. He wasn’t, ‘oh, I don’t know if I should play;’ it’s always been, ‘once I’m cleared, I’m going to play.’
So I think he handled that before he even got into game week.
Q. With the risk of playing up the revenge angle, how much do guys talk about the way things have ended against Michigan the last couple of years?
COACH KELLY: They don’t talk about it. They don’t talk about it at all. They just want to win. They just want to win games. There’s not much that we reflect on 2011. You know, there’s nothing really to reflect back on other than experiences gained for the positive.
Everything is pretty much focus on getting better individually. And if we do that, there’s no need to reflect back on what happened last year.
Q. A little off topic, to win a night game on the road like that on what was a big home recruiting weekend for Michigan State, what are some of the benefits and future implications for you guys to do that?
COACH KELLY: Haven’t really given that much thought. My Monday was just like every other Monday. I’m making phone calls, I’m breaking down film. Nothing seems to have changed. I don’t want anything to change. I just want to continue to execute on Saturday and continue to play good football.
But I’ve got to tell you, there’s no different feeling other than we’re back to work.
Q. Just talk about Zeke Motta’s leadership, and how you’ve seen him develop, not only against Purdue, getting Elijah (Shumate) lined up, but then moving forward without Jamoris.
COACH KELLY: He gets more than Elijah lined up. You know, I’m glad you brought it up, because it’s probably one of the most remarkable, I think, developments of a player from year one or year two to year three in that sense. He had a hard time getting himself lined up last year. He has been terrific back there. He’s been physical. He’s played the ball well. And his leadership skills have continued to grow.
He was a young man that at times had a hard time speaking in front of a group. This spring, I had him speak at our spring banquet, along with Justin Tuck; handled himself well there, and it’s just been a great evolutionary process to see him continue to grow as a person and as a player. He deserves all the credit for that.
Q. Remember talking to him and Harrison (Smith) and some of the other guys after the Bowl game and that was one of bright spots; I felt like a game that Zeke played against Florida State was something that’s going to snowball, and it sounds Ike you’ve seen that happen. How quickly did you know that, okay, was something that was not just a flash and something that would have staying power?
COACH KELLY: The spring really showed us a lot in terms of his play, and in particular, taking over and being a leader, he’s also on our unity council. We saw that coming. And hopefully that game maybe gave him a little bit more confidence. And it gave him an opportunity with Harrison graduating, and he’s taken great advantage of it.
Q. Tim asked about the wristbands. Is that something that you can continue or is that road/night, some familiarity with Lorenzo Guess being there?
COACH KELLY: It was a lot to do with the signals possibly being compromised.
Q. Is it something that would be beneficial to continue, or no?
COACH KELLY: I mean, if you take away the first two plays of the game where some guys were on line eight and we were calling line seven; I think they settled down. I wouldn’t take it off the table. I don’t know that that’s the way we’re going to operate moving forward but we’ll keep it as a possibility.
Q. This week obviously Denard Robinson has been pretty effective against you guys the last two years. What do you think you guys as a staff have learned there from your experience over the last two years?
COACH KELLY: Well, I thought we did a pretty good job, really, for three quarters. I think if there’s a couple plays we’d like to have back in the passing game maybe; but we liked our plan. We think that we are physically a better football team than we were the previous couple years.
He’s a superior football player. He is he’s a difference maker. So we have to find a way to limit big chunk plays, just like we have the first few weeks. It’s about our defense not giving up those big, chunk plays. We gave them up in the running game in year one and we gave them up in the passing game in year two.
We have to eliminate and control those big plays that are out there. If we do that, we feel pretty good.
Q. This might sound strange, but from year one to year two, do you feel like schematically you have a better handle on it and it just happened to be some bizarre chunk plays at the end of the game
COACH KELLY: Yeah, we’re in double coverage. We have two guys going up for the ball and they come down with it. We got into some one on one matchups that didn’t turn out our way. The numbers are ridiculous in terms of how many great plays we had.
But that’s the game of football. You have got to eliminate those big chunk plays and that’s obviously something we are working hard on this week.
Q. Just a quick injury run down, DaVaris (Daniels) had a setback, do you feel like he’s still on track and Sheldon (Day), as well?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, they are both making progress to play this week. I don’t know how that’s characterized. I think in the NFL they say probable. Those guys are probable.
Q. When Jamoris (Slaughter) goes out and you have to put Matthias (Farley) back in there, how much does that limit your flexibility with bringing a safety down to be the extra linebacker? Does that take it off the board or how do you work around it?
COACH KELLY: I don’t think you can play that way really. If you’re that limited at the safety position, you’ve got to find somebody else. He played close to the ball against Navy and played very well for a first start.
So we feel comfortable that he’s played close to the ball. He’s got really good ball skills. We like him off the hash. He’s just got to play more. He’s just got to continue to gain experience back there. Jamoris was an experienced veteran. We are losing a great piece there.
But I don’t think you can limit yourself in that respect that you can’t spin a guy down from his position or you’re going to get taken advantage of.
Q. There’s a report out there, a couple of reports yesterday, that Notre Dame and UCONN might be talking about a game at Fenway Park.
COACH KELLY: I just saw that. I just saw that. You know me, I love Fenway Park. I just don’t know if it’s big enough, you know. We don’t want to get into that Northwestern/Illinois game where the end zone is not big enough.
As long as they do the due diligence, and I know Jack (Swarbrick) is looking for great venues, and I don’t think they played a game there in a long time; if it’s on the schedule, we’re going to play it. Being a Boston guy, baseball has not been very good there, so maybe we’ll bring some football.
Q. Personally, given that you have a particular affinity for the team that plays there in that venue, would that be an exciting thing for you, that opportunity?
COACH KELLY: I think it would be cool, yeah. I’d like to do it. But I think more than anything else, I don’t know the ramifications of the 2014 schedule as it relates to ACC scheduling and all those kinds of things. I’ve been so focused on getting to the office today.
Q. In the Michigan State game, you mentioned the trouble at the beginning of the game; after the troubles there, you called the time out. What do you say to —
COACH KELLY: I laughed. I was laughing. I know you guys find it hard to believe that I laugh during a game but I was actually laughing, because we called the first play, as a huddle. We were huddled up. It was just jitters. It was jitters.
One guy didn’t — we tagged the first play with the number of the guy that’s supposed to be out there. Didn’t look at his number I guess, or forgot what his number was.
The second one was a veteran player of ours, just got lost in the moment. So we had some jitters and it wasn’t even the quarterback’s fault. So it was just one of those things you’ve just got to take a moment, take a deep breath and after that, we played pretty good.
Q. As you look at film of Michigan, obviously Alabama did a great job against Denard (Robinson), he’s played much better in the last two games; have they changed anything from game one that they are doing schematically or is that more a tribute to Nick’s (Saban) defense?
COACH KELLY: I think it was attributed to getting up on them, too. Got some scores on them. Got them behind the chains a few times. And then they had some opportunistic turnovers.
Alabama is a great football team, I’m not taking anything away from them, but Michigan does what they do and Denard Robinson is still a dual threat and he’ll play his best against us; we’re prepared for that.
Q. As you look at the offense, Cierre (Wood) got 10 carries the other day, 56 yards; how much of a factor was it getting him back? Complicates trying to get everybody touches but how much does it help to have him back in the mix?
COACH KELLY: Well, I think the implications are more about being fresh in the fourth quarter. He had fresh legs. He had not played in a couple of weeks. He didn’t have a lot of carries leading up to the later carries that he got. He was aggressive; he was physical. He played like a guy who had a couple weeks off, and I think that depth at running back is going to allow us to keep turning those guys in and have four quarters of physical play at the running back position.
Q. And finally from me, Robby Toma, John Goodman, both emerging with big plays and emerging as reliable players; would you have he expected that a year or two ago from them?
COACH KELLY: Well, they weren’t. They are becoming much more reliable, much more consistent on a day to day basis. And that credit goes to them. They have really taken to the understanding that they have got to be consistent in practice, because we have got some competition.
We have got some young guys that can fly out there. They are not there yet, but there’s some good competition at those positions and for veterans and seniors, I’m really proud of the way they have taken to it and said, hey, I’m going to do it right all the time and it paid off against Michigan State.
Q. Following up on (Robby) Toma, what did he do to win you over? What did he do to stay up there and win you?
COACH KELLY: Consistency. I think more than anything else, you know, he’s a guy that you can rely on and we have got some young guys out there that sometimes their play is not as consistent as you would like. You know what you’re going to get from Robby. He’s going to compete every snap. He’s a good blocker on the perimeter and he’ll catch the football throwing it to him.
So I think consistency more than anything else is the reason why he’s gotten the kind of catches, because we’ve penciled him in to touch the ball because of what he’s exhibited.
Q. We saw Chris Brown get behind the defense early in that game. What have you seen from him in practice on a day to day basis?
COACH KELLY: That he just continues to develop. He’s got elite speed; he can get behind anybody. There’s a lot of things that go to playing that position. His split, his alignment, who is he blocking, who is he blocking on a particular play, what kind of release; all those things, we are going to live through Chris’s development.
But we know one thing, if we match him up one on one, you’re going to have some favorable outcomes on our end and it’s just going to be a matter of time.
Q. One follow up on the injury situation; how’s Kap (Kapron Lewis-Moore)?
COACH KELLY: He’s fighting through it. He’s at that line of being hurt and being injured. And he’s a tough kid. He fought through it on Saturday and had a big pressure on the quarterback late in the game.
We’ll be careful with him but he’ll answer the bell on Saturday and he’ll be in there starting for us. That calf is one of those things that just is a bit of a nagging injury. We told him, you’ve got four or five days to get through it and then you’ve got a bye week.
So he’ll grind through it and be ready to go on Saturday.
Q. I saw that (Chris) Salvi was on the printed depth chart. Is he the next guy that’s going to be involved in the safety plays?
COACH KELLY: I think you’re going to see Nicky Baratti, C.J. Prosise, and you’re going to see Salvi. You’re going to see those guys begin to get in the rotation. It’s a long year. We can’t count on just having two safeties for the rest of the year.
So you’re going to see a veteran in Salvi that can get guys lined up, that can line up himself, get the calls, be functional out there. He’s a very good tackler. And then get those young guys moving forward.
Q. Going back to the receivers, was that the TJ Jones you saw here when you first got here, a guy you trusted to be in the starting lineup right away?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I think for TJ that was a big game for him and that again we targeted him on those play calls. We wanted the ball in his hands, and I think the one thing that Coach Martin has done a great job is when we are moving personnel in, we are connecting with the right guys in the right situations.
And so that personnel changes that you’ve seen so much of, a lot of that has contributed to these guys, knowing when they are going to get the football and what their play call is.
And in that instance, he’s been a great catcher of the ball in getting yards after the catch. If you look at last year, did a great job against Purdue on a drive route; Michigan last year and so we are really trying to go to his strengths.
Q. You mentioned the various personnel groups you have, kind of Theo Riddick at receiver and now at running back, one of the few triple threats you have; he’s probably the most willing blocker we’ve seen back there in a while. Does he open things up for two running backs at a time with his versatility?
COACH KELLY: Oh, absolutely. It’s a tough matchup group. When you think of some of the formation groupings, if you have two tight ends and two running backs on the field but you’re a no back, it creates some issues. We’ll continue to utilize those multiple groupings. They work well for us.
Q. And Sunday with Jamoris (Slaughter), is a sixth year a possibility for him?
COACH KELLY: Doesn’t appear so. He did have another injury that caused him to miss some time. We are still kind of vetting through all that right now.
The early indication is we couldn’t tell you one way or the other. We’ll do some more work before we are ready to publically comment on it.
Q. Did you know right away–
COACH KELLY: I saw him go down. That’s why I walked out on the field.
Q. Can you talk about the process of Mike Elston is using to develop young guys?
COACH KELLY: Mike has done an incredible job. His focus is strictly on that defensive line room. He was a special teams coordinator as well, last year. And just getting him focused on that room, the personalities that are within that room, and getting them all to understand they have a role requires a great relationship with the players.
It requires a coach that knows their strengths and is not afraid to go into a rotation and those are all really huge dynamics that sometimes don’t get looked at at the a particular position group. I think you have great buy in on those guys in terms of knowing their roles and playing accordingly. Couldn’t be more happy with the progress that we have made there which Coach Elston is the lead of.
Q. Going back to Jamoris (Slaughter), two Achilles in a month’s time for this time, kind of a rare injury I guess; is that something you look into, if there’s a pattern there?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I think if it was the same ankle that he had the issues with, maybe we could have said, hey, there was some structural issues there. It was the other foot that has been healthy. And the way he went down, he took three steps and went down
Q. The Lo Wood injury, two guys beat up in a month, is there a problem with the way they are stretching them or anything like that?
COACH KELLY: No. I think it’s definitely unusual to get two of them in one year. I just think that fate played a hand in this one because we do all the things necessary to have those guys ready to go.
Q. Chase Hounshell was not with you in East Lansing, is he a guy you’re trying to preserve a year for? Is he banged up at all?
COACH KELLY: He’s played with a little bit of a shoulder. We think he’s going to be ready to go this week. We want to kind of protect him a little bit. But he’ll be getting reps this week and we’ll see where that goes.
Q. And lastly just following up on the questions about Zeke (Motta), is his development as a leader more just because he had a place to step in when Harrison (Smith) was gone or did you have to force him into that role?
COACH KELLY: I think there was a little bit of that; it was definitely that I wanted to push him out front because I saw a young man that the way he practiced, the dedication he has to the game, the kind of young man he is, you want him representing your program.
We pushed him out there a little bit and he got outside of that comfort zone a little bit, but he’s a lot more comfortable with it. I think opportunity has helped him, as well. And then he knows this is his last year and it’s time for him. I think all those things combined.
Q. You talked Sunday about how right after the game you talked about you have to focus on Michigan, and you started the news conference talking about that, too. There’s a lot of buzz around campus, I’m sure. What do you do this week to make sure that that message stays with them the entire week; that they are not getting too high on themselves?
COACH KELLY: Well, we have a sign that is pretty visible for our guys to see when they walk in and walk out of the building. And it starts with, don’t believe or fuel the hype. That’s No. 1. No. 2, manage expectations. No. 3, avoid the noise. And 4, speak for yourself. And they see that every single day.
I put that up last year. I put that up last year; expecting that that was going to be something that we were going to have to deal with. And we’re dealing with it right now, and they have seen that now for over a year and a half. They know what that sign means. And they know if they want to continue to be successful, they need to continue to do the things they are doing.
Q. You ran into the same thing at Cincinnati, slightly different, because that was a program that had never been to this height before. Is there a difference between managing the players there and here or do you do anything different or is it the same group of not the same group, but the same mentality for kids that age?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, they are exactly similar in that neither one of these guys have been to those places before. Nobody in this room knows what it looks like.
So I’m handling it exactly the same way. And I don’t know of any other way to do it. You know and that is, work on getting better, and we’ll work on that this week.
Q. You talked about Cierre (Wood); seemed like fresh or not, he came off some key runs, clutch runs when you needed it the most. Is that just what he does best or do you think it was just taking advantage of the opportunity?
COACH KELLY: No, I think he would tell you that he missed a couple of reads that should have been some bigger runs. And he’s happy we won. I would tell you that across the board if I had Tyler Eifert in here, if I had any of the O line men, they would say the first thing and we asked them this, tell us about this weekend.
They all said: We are happy we won, but here is what I’ve got to do better. If we can continue with that kind of mentality, we’re going to be fine. When we start talking about, well, you know, that’s me, that’s how I roll; I’m that kind of player; you know, if it’s all about them, we have some issues. Cierre is now at that point where he understands it’s about the team, and when he gets his opportunity, he’s got to help the team.
Q. Jack (Swarbrick) has been talking about getting the noise up at Notre Dame; can you talk about the difference that a loud crowd can make?
COACH KELLY: This is coming from you, Eric? You just feed it, right? (Laughter).
I continue to believe that if we play great football, if we do the things we did against Michigan State, then it’s going to be plenty loud enough in that stadium. That’s really low on my priorities as to what I’ve got to do each and every week worrying about that.
Q. With Denard Robinson, do you have to treat him — do you try to stop the pass first? Is that the biggest concern? How do you go about doing that?
COACH KELLY: If there was a secret out there, we would have probably gotten it way before anybody else. We’ve got great alumni out there.
It’s a difficult proposition, because you can’t sellout on either one of those. You have to be balanced. You have to be able to manage it and you’ve got to keep him from making big plays.
So there isn’t an easy answer to that. He’s a superior football player. He’s not a great player; he’s the best player on the field.
Q. Kind of building on what Tom was saying about the hype and lead up to this game, do you tell your players to try and avoid the noise and don’t fuel it, but at the same time there’s a positive to having that atmosphere on your side; so where is the line to allowing the guys to use that to their advantage without getting on the wrong side of it?
COACH KELLY: I think you’re absolutely right. My first comments were, how did it feel getting patted on the back all day, wasn’t that nice, a nice change to go to class and not hear how bad you are or what you should have done or what you didn’t do; they told you a lot of good things.
Now, having said that, that’s a good place to be, but here is what you want to do if you want to be there next week. Because let me tell you what, if you don’t do that next week, you’ll be back where you were a few weeks ago.
So let’s understand this. It feels good to be there, but how we got there, we need to continue to do these things. So I agree, you can’t just say, don’t listen to those things. You want those things. You work for those. But you have to be able to keep it in balance and perspective.
Q. The other thing, when you think about the Notre Dame/Michigan rivalry, just what comes to mind in terms of the type of football game, the type of atmosphere and everything surrounding it?
COACH KELLY: The only thing that comes to mind is we have not beaten them the last two years, for me. I wasn’t part of the other games. I know it’s a great clash. It’s Notre Dame, it’s Michigan, it’s great college football. But for me, we have not beaten them. That’s what I remember about this series.
Q. You’ve talked about the liberal rotation you have along the defensive front line there, but you also seem to have it at outside linebacker, even at corner. How much of that do you attribute to the defense giving up only four first downs in the fourth quarter just not seeming to wear down and finishing strong?
COACH KELLY: It’s central. It’s central to being able to play that kind of football for four quarters. It’s having coaches that trust in their guys, that they are doing the work during the week to get that opportunity. Because I will tell you this: If they don’t practice right, Coach Diaco is not playing them. They are not playing, period.
So they have got to practice the right way and if they are in the rotation, he’s going to play them. And I think that that’s been a hallmark of how Bob has managed personnel on each side of the ball and how each position group has developed accordingly to that overall plan.
Q. In the last year, R.J. (Robert Blanton) and Gary (Gray) took it seemed almost every snap at corner. The development at the depth there like with (Josh) Atkinson and (Elijah) Shumate and others, when did that trust really start to develop so much?
COACH KELLY: It’s not just that. Let’s be honest. Manti (Te’o) doesn’t come off the field. Jarrett Grace is a good player.
There’s a little bit of a separation there in terms of the talent level that Harrison Smith had, making it hard to get Zeke Motta on the field and he with all see how good Zeke is. Some of it has to do with who was at that position.
But I think as a general theme, we are much more committed to getting all those players valuable time because of the length and the depth of the schedule that we play and we know we are going to need them at some time during the year.
Q. You talked in the preseason about emphasizing to the quarterbacks that sometimes zero yardage is a good play; would you have preferred he take the sack on the play where he was about to be sacked and kind of let it go?
COACH KELLY: The one that was ruled a non interception or the one that we caught on the sideline?
Q. The sideline.
COACH KELLY: Yeah, that one we had more of a problem with relative to decision making. The one we had a problem with on the ball that he threw over the middle was he didn’t have a good clock in his head on that play. The pocket was going to break down on that type of protection about a second ago.
So yeah, they were two different plays. That one, he’s got to make sure that that ball gets out of bounds.
Q. And just last one from me, you’re one of 14 on third downs and Tyler (Eifert) didn’t catch a pass; do you sense a confidence level from the overall team that the All American tight end doesn’t catch a pass, and you didn’t have the success you’re used to on third down, and you can still come out with a pretty hefty win on the road?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, because we didn’t turn the ball over. Third down conversions are great. You want third down conversions. But we were managing the game in a manner that we had a great kicking performance. If we can kick that way, third down conversions is not going to impact the football game. The turnovers. It’s short fields. And it’s the big, chunk plays.
I know you’ve heard this ad nauseam, but the fact of the matter is, the completion percentage will continue to get better. The third downs will continue to get better. We just need to take care of the football and keep our defense on the long field.
Q. I believe this is your fourth time going against Brady Hoke —
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I think it is – two times at Ball State.
Q. Does that make it easier to preparefor a team or is it negated because it’s easier for him, as well?
COACH KELLY: In terms of a wrestling match, he’s as big as he’s ever been so, he’s still going to beat me on that one. (Laughter)
Q. My money’s on him in that one.
COACH KELLY: He’s a good coach. I respect Brady Hoke. We went back and battled out some really close games when I was at Central (Michigan) and he was at Ball State. I think if there’s any history lesson, we’ve had some great contests. He’s a darned good football coach.
But other than that, coordinators take on a personality of your football team, and you know, he’s got a different group of coordinators than he did at Ball State. We are probably a little bit more similar in that I’ve got coaches that are with me that were at Central Michigan with me.
So his has changed, you know, quite a bit.
Q. So you tend to do more of what you did at Central–
COACH KELLY: Yes, I think he would be more familiar and go, yeah, that looks like what Kelly does. Brady has been great at changing coordinators and adapting. But it still comes down to his personality and he wants to play tough, aggressive defense. And you know, he’s going to find a way to run the ball.
Q. Did you before the game last year, as you walked out and talked to him before the game, I don’t know if he did, but a lot of times coaches do that, did you laugh that, hey, we are a long way from Mount Pleasant or Muncie?
COACH KELLY: I can’t remember the conversation. The only thing I do remember is after the game, I think we did an exchange of, we have been down this road before with close game. I can’t remember what we really talked about.