Jan. 1, 2016

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Glendale, Arizona

Ohio State 44, Notre Dame 28

Notre Dame Quotes

Coach Kelly: I’ll begin by congratulating Ohio State. Very good football team. Deserving of their ranking. You know, just a well-coached team. I think they executed better than we did today, obviously.

I told our football team that it was going to be a physical game today. I thought that we handled ourselves well relative to the physicality of the game, but we didn’t execute as well as we needed to to win the game. Couldn’t get off the field on third-down situations and had some opportunities offensively that we couldn’t capitalize on.

But couldn’t be more proud of the football team. An honor to coach them, honor to be around them. The way they competed this year, regardless of the circumstances, they just kept playing.

I think the best illustration of that was the first five minutes of the third quarter, I challenged them and told them, it was a bit risky as a head coach that you tell your football team that the game is going to be decided in the first five minutes of the third quarter, because obviously if Ohio State goes down and scores, it probably takes the wind out of our sales.

We came up with a big turnover, we consequently scored there. Made it 28-21. Just loved the resiliency of our group and very, very proud of them.

Q. Coach, do you have any status update on Jaylon Smith?

Coach Kelly: Significant knee injury.

Q. Brian, you said earlier in the week this would be a measuring stick for you guys. How do you feel you measured up today, big picture?

Coach Kelly: Feel pretty good about where we’re going. We certainly needed to execute better, but didn’t feel like we were out-manned. We were shorthanded today, but we weren’t out-manned.

Q. Did martini have something on his hand?

Coach Kelly: Yeah, but he was able to continue to play.

Q. Coach, talk about Jaylon’s injury. He’s meant so much to this team. To see him go off the field like that, it must have been heartbreaking.

Coach Kelly: It is. Certainly the guy that is so impactful, I guess. I mean, Joe is a leader on our defense, but he would tell you that Jaylon impacts what we do defensively significantly.

Then Te’von obviously goes out right away. We’re putting Jarrett Grace in a very difficult position. Jarrett is unbelievable. He’s a Mike linebacker, a rush end, he’s a Will linebacker. He’s whatever you ask him to do, he comes in there and competes.

You lose a guy like that early on, it significantly affects what you’re doing defensively.

Q. Brian, I believe you were trailing by double-digits for 48 minutes. You cut it to 10. Did you consider an on-side kick at that point or were you just concerned about giving them the short field?

Coach Kelly: Well, I mean, I think you saw the way the game was going. We felt like there was enough time, we still had three timeouts. We felt like we just needed one more stop.

I didn’t feel like giving them any field advantage at that time in the game. We have quick-strike capabilities of scoring, that it wasn’t at the forefront of the tactical decisions I would have made at that point.

Q. I don’t know if you want to answer this, or we ask Sheldon, at what point did he get hurt during the week? What did you expect you could get out of him today?

Coach Kelly: Well, we thought Sheldon broke his foot the other day. I was very confident that he didn’t because there was no way we could break another foot. I think I was the only one.

He went and got an x-ray on Thursday. It came out clean. He got treatment round the clock. That’s the kind of guy he is. Here’s a senior playing in his last game, got treatment all day, got himself ready to play, then got deathly ill last night, right, Sheldon?

Sheldon Day: Yeah.

Coach Kelly: We had to have him on medicine and IVs to make it through the game. That’s the kind of captain he is. He’s unbelievable. He gave us everything he had today. He was on IVs all morning.

Q. Coach, when Bosa got ejected in the first quarter, did you have any message for your team to take advantage as the momentum swung in your favor?

Coach Kelly: Well, I mean, certainly you recognize when one of the top players is out of the game. I mean, we didn’t change anything in the game plan. We got a little bit of a lift because we had a play that went for 15 yards, plus we had 15 tacked on. We had a little bit of momentum because of the play.

But you’re not really thinking, Oh, Bosa is out of the game, until a little bit later.

You know, I think the play, then the 15 yards is a significant chunk play. That’s where you get most of the momentum.

Q. Starts for the two teams pretty much polar opposites before evening out after that. What do you think that was a function of with OSU getting out to that start?

Coach Kelly: I thought they ran the ball effectively. Obviously their first series was outstanding. They ran the ball effectively right down the field. So I just think that they executed very well early on. It was the difference in the game really, those 14 points early. We had to play catch-up from there.

Q. Joe and Sheldon, could you talk about Ohio State’s rushing game, what made it so difficult to slow down.

Sheldon Day: I would say Ezekiel Elliott. He makes it challenging. He’s a physical back. He makes his presence known. He did some special things with his feet today. I would say that was the most difficult thing about it.

Joe Schmidt I would say schematically they do a great job of creating challenging situations with changing numbers and unique plays. You combine that with Ezekiel Elliott and J.T. Barrett’s ability to run the football, then their offensive line doing a great job all day.

So I would say their back is very talented. But they did a great job scheming, especially early on. They had some good plays.

Q. Coach, just how proud are you of the defense, so depleted, their effort, make a microcosm of the whole season? For the seniors, same question really.

Coach Kelly: Yeah, I’ll reiterate what I said to them in our mental edge meeting. I felt like, you know, this game would ultimately be decided on who was tougher and who was more physical. We didn’t get out-toughed. They ran the ball effectively. I’m not taking anything away from their ability to do so.

But we didn’t flinch. That’s the mark of this team this year, that they played hard and physical. Regardless of who was out there, they gave us everything they had. We were a little shorthanded, but they didn’t make any excuses for it. They battled. We were missing a rotation inside defensively at the tackle position, but they didn’t complain. They took extra reps.

That’s the mark of a group that just has bought in to do whatever is necessary to win.

Q. Coach, was it a continuance of the injury with C.J. Prosise?

Coach Kelly: Yeah, just felt like he couldn’t go.

Q. For the seniors, what has your time at Notre Dame meant to you?

Nick Martin: It’s been very special. Went above and beyond expectations coming in. These four years have been unbelievable.

This team, I couldn’t be more proud or honored to be part of this team. Selfless guys that really care about everyone else more than themselves.

Joe Schmidt Yeah, you know, I kind of echo that sentiment from Nick. There’s no guys I’d rather play this game with. It didn’t matter if it was practice, a game, doing the program in the off-season. I’ve never had more fun. This last five years has been just a remarkable experience. I wouldn’t trade it for absolutely anything in the world.

Sheldon Day: I would definitely say I would reiterate what everybody said. It’s been a special year for everybody. Just going through these four years with these guys, it’s been fun grinding with them. Most people can’t say that. We definitely enjoyed the process. Wouldn’t change it for the world.

Q. Brian, it’s been 22 years since Notre Dame won a major bowl. If there was an easy answer, you would have implemented it. What do you do to stop that streak or do you stay on course where you’re headed right now?

Coach Kelly: I like where we are. We’re going to keep banging at the door. Keep playing Ohio State, keep playing Florida State, keep playing Alabama, keep playing these teams in these kinds of venues, in these kinds of games.

We don’t want to be playing directional teams with no profile to them.

Big names, great traditions, New Year’s six games. Keep playing them, get in them. Keep building your program, keep recruiting, keep doing it the way you’re doing it, and we’re going to win these games.

We’ve made significant progress since where we were in 2012. We’ll get there. Hopefully we won’t have as many injuries. We’ll get back here again. We’ll win ’em.

I had a similar process in my career earlier when I was in Division II. Took us about six years to win a playoff game. Then we won three national championships.

Look, I’m not saying we’re ready to win three national championships. But stay the course, keep doing what we’re doing, keep recruiting, keep bringing in great guys like this, and we’ll get there.

Q. Michigan State, you saw how they loaded up. They only had five first downs. They come back the next week with a different approach, basically were unstoppable. Were you wondering which offense you might see today?

Coach Kelly: I thought they did a very good job of spreading it out a little bit more. Clearly you could tell early on that they were going to ask J.T. to throw the ball if he had free-access throws. It was clearly a different offensive structure.

They still went to what their strength was, and that’s running the ball 54 times. They just did it with a bit of a different look. It tends to spread you out a little bit more, creates a little bit more space. I thought it was effective today.

We would have welcomed the game to be a little bit like Michigan State, but I think it was a very good, well planned-out game plan.

Q. DeShone, could you talk about team 127, what you’re going to take away from these guys, what they’ve taught you.

DeShone Kizer: Being kind of thrown into a situation that I wasn’t expecting this year, to have these guys around me and other seniors out there, to help me become the leader that I am now, it’s been awesome.

Team 127 is going to be one that everyone is going to remember. Obviously there are some things that we would like to have back, guys playing alongside of us. To have guys like Joe, Sheldon and Nick, pick me up right away, teach me how to be a guy to lead an offense, it’s been awesome. I’ve learned quite a bit.

It’s obviously a very disappointing situation to have guys like this who are so impactful in my life not go out with a victory.

Q. Coach, Devin’s injury forced Nick Watkins into the game, and I wanted to get your thoughts on him. And I wanted to ask about Andrew Trambetti, was that always a plan to get his more plan or something that happened on the defensive line this last week?

Coach Kelly: I thought Nick competed well. We knew he was going to be a target. But here is what we asked him to do. They’re going to throw it out there, make the tackle. He was holding on for dear life most of the time.

I love the fact that he was out there and he was not afraid of the moment.

Joe, what did you think?

Joe Schmidt Yeah, Nick is the kind of guy, he’s not going to flinch. I think he competes against our receivers every day.

Coach Kelly: They like him. I thought he did a nice job. He didn’t give up any big plays. We just asked him to play top down and keep it in front of you, make the tackles, let the front seven handle what they can handle.

As for Andrew, he was slated to get most of the work out there. He made some good plays. He made the athletic plays.

The one thing with Andrew is, he just has to let it go. At times, Sheldon knows this better than anybody because he runs that room, he can go. Sometimes it’s just a matter of letting it go. When the light goes on and he goes all the time, I think he’s going to be a really, really good player for us.

Ohio State Quotes

Coach Meyer: Well, great appreciation to BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl. This is not my first time. I told our players the moment we were selected that this is one of the truly great bowls because of the hospitality and the location. They were outstanding.

Our team just won their 50th game. That’s incredible when I sit and think about it, in the history of college football. I’ve heard conflicting, where I think Boise had won, too, and then we…

Regardless, it’s an incredible achievement for a group of players that I love as much as I’ve ever loved a group of players. Appreciate ’em.

With that said, we’ll answer any questions.

Q. Urban, Joey Bosa goes out early in the game. How does that affect what you have?

Coach Meyer: Doh.

Q. How much of an impact does that have?

Coach Meyer: Oh, my goodness, that was a kidney shot.

I guess it was a proper call. Hit him below. But it was leading with the crown of the helmet.

I looked out, we were down another lineman, Adolphus Washington didn’t make the trip. We were playing with some cats out there I didn’t know were going to play.

But they played hard and did fine against a very good team.

This team has a way of fighting through adversity, and that’s a great example.

Q. Urban, I know you’re excited about this game, but the way the offense played the last two games, if they would have played that way against Michigan State, do you think you would have played for the national championship?

Coach Meyer: Thanks for coming (laughter).

Those who know me, I can’t let go of things. I’ve let go of that. We just won the Fiesta Bowl.

Q. J.T., can you talk about the offense, imposing your will against Notre Dame today.

J.T. Barrett That’s what we do as far as an offensive line. That’s what we strive to do, is definitely dominate the line of scrimmage, those guys definitely did that, which opens up our whole offense when you’re able to do that.

Zeke being able to run, me being able to run then play-action pass, and then drop-back pass when you have control of the line of scrimmage. Offensive line did a great job today.

Q. Coach, Brian Kelly was saying he thought you spread out your offense a little bit more to get it going. Was that something you did the last couple games?

Coach Meyer: No, last game against our rivals, we’re going to adapt our offense here a little bit in the off-season, I want to make some adjustments. I want more of a balance, like we were in 2014.

We need to throw the ball. J.T. threw it 31 times. That’s more what I’m looking for.

We did 500 yards of offense, very balanced. Nowadays, you have to do that. We have too good of skilled athletes. Today’s game was a little more conducive of what we’re trying to be.

Q. Coach, has Zeke or any of your other players officially said this will be their last game?

Coach Meyer: Zeke, Joey and Cardale.

Q. Urban, back to Ezekiel Elliott. Curious what you saw from him today and if it was indicative of what you have gotten from him in his career?

Coach Meyer: I think Zeke, all due respect to all the great runningbacks in Ohio State history, my first-round draft pick, I’d pick Zeke Elliott. What he does without the ball, his work ethic in practice, just his attitude every day, the way he shows up, bounces around with us. I love him.

He’s as good a runningback as I’ve ever been around.

Q. Coach, I know getting out to fast starts in games like this is so important. What were you able to do to impose your will on both sides of the ball early?

Coach Meyer: That was kind of our challenge. I tucked every guy in last night. I just remember looking them all right in the eye and saying, We need a fast start. Not that that is the reason we did it.

We were more open in the offense. We were throwing it around a little bit in the first drive, getting good spacing, spreading the defense out. That was a very good drive to start the game.

Q. Coach, you come in here without two starters and you lose one pretty early. Talk about how proud you are with your guys’ effort to stop an excellent team.

Coach Meyer: Yeah, you’re right. That’s one of those ones we didn’t exactly stop them. They had some yardage. But we did what we had to do to nail it down. We did stop the run, 120.

The area that we were probably shortest is the defensive line as we go forward. Larry Johnson has his hands full to develop. We got some people that we got to develop into very good players.

Today was a very good start. Like you said, to slow down that offense, they did a nice job.

Q. Eli, talk about how you guys were able to take away Notre Dame’s deep threat. You dominated the deep pass.

Eli Apple Just being aware of it and playing fundamentally sound. Just doing well with our technique, especially in the backfield as well.

It was a team effort. We knew our linemen were going to do what they had to do. As a secondary, we knew we just had to stay on top of everything, make sure we play aggressive, but at the same time be aware of their deep threats.

Q. J.T., the way you’ve dominated the last two games, maybe I’m putting words in your mouth, do you think you’re one of the best four teams and belonged in that playoff?

J.T. Barrett Yeah, I mean, I always feel like that, that we’re one of the top teams in the country.

But like I said after we lost to Michigan State, that was something that we could have controlled. Losing kind of put our destiny in somebody else’s hands. We put that on ourselves and used it as a growing opportunity.

I definitely feel like we grew for the better of this organization. Going up to Ann Arbor, playing a good game, then coming here to the Fiesta Bowl, great atmosphere on New Year’s, putting a good game together as well.

With that, we just live and we learn. I feel like we’re better as a team for what happened.

Q. You kicked a couple of balls out of bounds early. I thought your kick coverage was very good today.

Coach Meyer: Kick coverage and punt return, looking at our yards, we had 73 returned yards in the punt return game. Jalin was outstanding. They had zero kick return. We did a nice job.

Yeah, we had two inexcusable balls kicked out of bounds. I told him not to do that and he did it anyway. We got to get that worked out (laughter).

I thought our coverage units, I think we’re number one into the country. Going into the game, we were number two. Somehow our whole goal, we wanted to find a way to be number one. With our performance, I think we might have moved up there.

Q. When they lost Jaylon Smith, how much difference did that make?

Coach Meyer: He’s a monster. He’s a dude. He’s a guy that is going to be playing in the NFL for a long time. I wish I had the chance to shake his hand. I know his family.

I hope he’s fine. High ankle sprain?

Q. Significant knee injury is what Brian said.

Coach Meyer: Knee? Oh, shoot. I didn’t know that. I know he’s a wonderful player, but I know him more than that, too.

Q. J.T., what did you see from Notre Dame’s defense.

J.T. Barrett Being able to spread them out. I think what they try to do is not let us take deep shots, find windows underneath. When they did get depth in their drops, just being able to scramble from there.

I mean, that’s a good defense over there. Like coach said. Unfortunately, No. 9, he went down. Other than that, that was the main thing, they tried to make sure they took away our shots. We was able to try to hit things underneath. Did a good job of that.

Q. Urban, knowing Michigan State as well as you do, now you know Alabama pretty well, too, were you shocked by last night’s 38-0 score?

Coach Meyer: I was. I didn’t stay up because we had to get up early, but I saw the game start. It kind of started the first half the way I thought it would. Two great defenses going against each other. But Alabama’s skill level is very good.

Q. Eli, obviously you lose a lot of star players on defense for next year. You’ll reload with lots of talent as usual. What do you want to work on specifically to contribute to this team in 2016?

Eli Apple I feel like I just have to make sure I fine tune some things with my technique, especially my press, make sure I don’t get too high, too low, stay more even-keeled out there. Just work with the guys around me, just become a better team player.

Q. Eli, last spring you were looked at as now someone who is going to have to be the anchor of the secondary. It ends with you winning defensive MVP. Talk about the journey for you in the last 10 months.

Eli Apple It’s been a wild journey just with this team, something that I couldn’t even imagine, couldn’t dream of, the stuff that we’ve been through.

It’s just a blessing to be a part of this team, part of this great university. I mean, it will bring a tear to my eye thinking about everything I’ve been through, everything we’ve been through as a team.

Just got to keep it going and I see great things in the future for us.

Q. When it was 28-21, Ezekiel broke off the great touchdown run, was that a case of great blocking that opened that up?

Coach Meyer: Of course. Our job, the offensive line, one of the best lines in the country, whether it be J.T. or Zeke, get them to the second level. He’s such a fantastic player, once he hits the second level.

The first level blocking gets him to the second level, then Zeke hit the third gear, whatever, took off, so…