Sept. 11, 2010

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COACH Brian Kelly

COACH KELLY: Any loss is a disappointing loss. This is certainly a disappointment, not to be able to hold Michigan out of the end zone at the end. Hard fought game. Again, I think more than anything else, from my perspective, we challenged our football team at halftime to make sure that everybody knew the kind of football that we were going to play and create our own identity and personality. And that was pretty clear. We battled down 21 7. Come back and get the lead there. But, again, disappointing in the last drive that we weren’t able to hold Michigan out.

Q. Could you just walk us through Dayne’s situation today in terms of what was wrong with him and how you treated it, and what you saw once he came back?
COACH KELLY: The hit I did not see. It was more of his head hit the ground on a run. And he had some blurry vision. He was fairly lucid. We didn’t consider it to be a concussion at all or we wouldn’t have brought him back in the game. He was not clear. When we were in the huddle to go back out for that next series, I could tell that he was not focused. So we thought it was best until he really got his bearings back, which obviously took until the third quarter, we weren’t going to play him under those circumstances.

Q. Talk about him coming back, being able to work through the stuff, and a corollary to that, what did you want in that last play coming out of the timeout, were you looking for something else other than the jump ball into the end zone? You only had six seconds left.
COACH KELLY: No, we would have liked to have thrown it up and keep it in play. We felt with six seconds maybe we could have gotten a little bit closer if we threw a speed out into the boundary or something like that. But at that point, with six seconds, we felt like our best opportunity there was to throw Rudolph and Floyd into a shorter field. Just would have liked to have had a chance to at least bang it around in there.

Q. Seemed like when Dayne went out, that the defense let down a little bit, at least there were some mistakes in defense. Could you talk about that and them regathering themselves?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, you know, I don’t know that I really felt that. I would have to watch the film to see if there were some things structurally that guys just weren’t following through with their assignments. But I think anytime your starting quarterback goes, there’s always that first sense of: Oh, my gosh, our starting quarterback’s out. Our defense really kept us in the ball game, even while we were mucking it around on offense there. And other than the last drive, I thought our defense competed.

Q. Could you evaluate the two back up quarterbacks, their games today?
COACH KELLY: I did a poor job preparing them.

Q. And Coach Elston wasn’t here today. Could you let us know what’s up with him?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, he just has had a viral infection that he hasn’t been able to kick. And we’re hoping that we get some resolution here in the next 24, 48 hours for him.

Q. The end of the first half, the field goal roll through your mind, or did you say we really need a touchdown here with Montana at the 3, after the first down?
COACH KELLY: I thought where we were, score, two scores down, I thought that was an opportunity. We had the right look. We just read it out wrong.

Q. Was it the touchdown by Crist that he was injured on or was he, did he get injured
COACH KELLY: No, it was a previous play where he ran I think he had 20 yard run something like that. And when he was hit, he was hit from the side. He struck his head on the ground. And we think that that’s what triggered some blurriness.

Q. You went with Rees to begin with, and then he threw the interception; you didn’t go back to him, what was your thinking there?
COACH KELLY: You know, on the sideline you’re just trying to assess body language, who is looking you in the eye, not that he wasn’t. I just we were just trying to put something together. I guess at the end of the day, Nate gives us a little more running than maybe Tom does. And I didn’t want to throw it all over the yard with Tom given the circumstances of the game. I needed to eat some clock. And Nate gave us a better option where he could run the football, too.

Q. Can you or will you accelerate the development of the other two freshmen quarterbacks? Can you do that? Can you force that issue?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I gotta do a better job to put both those guys in there. We know who our back up quarterbacks in terms of the candidacy, who they are. I just have to do a better job getting them ready.

Q. What could you have done differently to get them better prepared?
COACH KELLY: Maybe created a package that was just for them and had that been the case, maybe they could have managed the game a little bit better.

Q. You saw a tape of Denard this week. Was there something different seeing him in person? Did you see anything you didn’t expect out of him?
COACH KELLY: No, I think he’s a tough kid. I think that’s one thing that stands out. He’s obviously a very explosive player. Throws it as well as I think I talked about it in the press conference, but he’s a tough kid. When you run a quarterback 25 times, you’ve got to have toughness. I’ll let Coach figure out whether that’s the case for 10 games. Coach Rodriguez knows his team better than I do. But we hit him pretty hard today. He’s a good, tough kid.

Q. Talked about running the clock when Dayne got injured, was it a thing of let’s get to the half, see if we can get Dayne back, or were you trying to shorten the game?
COACH KELLY: There might have been a little bit of that in there. I wasn’t anxious to put our defense back on the field with a guy that had just gone 80 something yards. So clearly there’s a little bit of that. But you can’t just sit there and not try to score points either. So we were trying to find some ways to move the football and give ourselves a chance to put some points on the ball because we got behind 21 7. I thought we did that from the point we got it down to a position and we just couldn’t handle being in that formation with the different things that could occur. That’s really it’s not the kids as much as I just gotta get them into a better play.

Q. You talked last week about you had a conversation with Dayne about telling him you don’t need to go out and win the Heisman today. Going in there two scores down to start the second half, what was that conversation like today knowing that maybe you would need a little bit more out of him than just
COACH KELLY: I didn’t try to force anything on Dayne. He’s learning on the job. This is all on the job training for him. Being injured, coming back. It’s the first time he got nicked up obviously, other than the knee that put him out for the year. These are the battle scars of a quarterback. And he’s learning every day. He showed some signs of being a very good quarterback. And there’s some things that we’ve got some things to work on with him. But he’s a great kid to coach. And we just gotta continue in the evolution of a starting quarterback at the University of Notre Dame.

Q. Your defense again on the field a lot today, can you assess how much gas they had there in the tank at the end of the game?
COACH KELLY: Obviously they didn’t have much left. That had a lot to do with the way we played offensively. You know, we obviously would have liked to have tackled better in that last drive. We had some missed assignments that we had not had. So we obviously were fatigued and it might have been just being on the field a little bit too long. That’s a great excuse. We didn’t give them that excuse in the locker room. We told them we’ve got to blow up in those situations and we’ve got to make a play.

Q. Earlier in the week you said blitzing would not be the best way to attack Michigan and their offense. Today, did the fatigue or any situation that could change that later in the game?
COACH KELLY: Well, we brought some edge pressures and felt like the bubble slant combination zone is a tough play to defend, when it happens so far out on the perimeter, because the safety’s engaged. So we had to play a little bit more man to man to take away really the passing game, to be quite honest with you. So it really had less to do with adding another hat relative to the run game, is that we needed to get body on body in the pass game.

Q. Dayne last week had three overthrows, two to Floyd one to Rudolph in the end zone. And then obviously today he had the last overthrow. Is that something that’s been a problem all through training camp, and what can you do to rectify that?
COACH KELLY: Again, I think you’re seeing and you’re all going to be part of this, if you follow Notre Dame every week, you’re going to see the development of a quarterback. Yeah, he missed some throws. He made some great throws. The great part about it is that he’s going to get better and better as he gets more time. So, no, there’s nothing systemic wrong with his ability to throw the football. I don’t have to work on anything other than repetition, repetition and just continue the growth process. He almost did enough today being hurt, missing a couple of throws, put our football team in a great position to come back with a great victory that obviously we didn’t have. So he’s not that far from where we need him to be.

Q. Two fairly easy ones on the team to set up a touchdown and similar play last week down the post. Is it blown coverage in those situations, or is it just Robinson put a lot of pressure up front?
COACH KELLY: I can give you the specifics if you really want to know. I think I’ll bore everybody in this room. But the safety is in a position where he’s coming off the hash. And he’s trying to fill that voided area because we’re dropping a player down to leverage Denard Robinson. So this is still about an individual who you’re trying to defend and forcing a safety now to be in a can’t miss situation. If he’s a second off, if he’s not on his key, they’re going to hit it. So that’s why, as the question was asked earlier, we had to play a little bit more man, not necessarily for the run game, but because of those kinds of quick strikes that we couldn’t give up anymore. We just couldn’t put ourselves in a position where they could get a quick strike like that.

Dayne Crist

Q. How do you feel now?
Dayne Crist: Obviously incredibly disappointed. You can’t ever feel good about a loss. Proud of the way the guys battled back, but at the end of the day never happy with a loss.

Q. What play was it that you got dinged up on and what happened?
Dayne Crist: Just running the ball, just took a hit kind of on the side of the helmet. I had trouble seeing out of my right eye after that. Tried to get back into focus.

Q. Were you talking them into letting you back in?
Dayne Crist: Yeah, I wanted to play but wanted to make sure I was all right as well. Trainers and staff were doing tests on this eye to make sure I was okay to play. And they decided I was okay to play after that.

Q. Was it your vision?
Dayne Crist: Just kind of dazed a little bit and couldn’t really see out of my right eye. But that was really it.

Q. When did you know that you could go back in?
Dayne Crist: In like the second quarter. They were doing tests and everything to make sure I was all right. And at that point they said just be ready to go in in the second half.

Q. What are your emotions of 95 yard pass to Rudy and everything seemed so great, and then having, trying to lead them down the field at the end there and coming up a little bit short?
Dayne Crist: It’s just part of the game. The offense, ready to score, you get in the moment. Kyle made an incredible catch and got open and the read took me there. But we have to be able to score on every given series. And even early in the game, we could have done a better job of scoring. But obviously, again, like I said, glad how the guys competed but didn’t have enough to win.

Q. (Off microphone)
Dayne Crist: I mean, in terms of what?

Q. In terms of what were you looking for?
Dayne Crist: In front of the ball. Just trying to throw the ball and give the guy a chance. I didn’t give him a chance. Poor throw, and that’s what it really comes down to.

Q. What were you thinking when you have vision problems, have you ever experienced anything like that? And how long did that take to clear?
Dayne Crist: That cleared up throughout the course of the game. But never experienced anything like that.

Q. Always say in the middle of the game, you don’t want an interception, just let your guy get it. On the last play like that, you have to have the player, so just keep it in, give the guy a shot?
Dayne Crist: Last play of the game, it’s really your only option at that point. Just I would have loved to have been able to break the pocket and get a little bit closer. But it happened. I felt it was a little bit further than it was, and I just made a bad read on the ball.

Q. How tough is it to sit on the sideline and not be able to get in?
Dayne Crist: Incredibly tough. You want to be out there competing with your guys. And it’s awful anytime you’re on the sideline. That’s not where you want to be. It was definitely a tough situation. It’s what the doctors thought was best.

Q. (Off microphone)
Dayne Crist: To be honest, I didn’t get a real opportunity to see them out there, because they were busy doing tests and things like that. But kudos to those guys being able to go in there and manage the offense. It’s a tough situation anytime it’s the middle of the game and it’s a drastic change like that. So I’m proud of those guys, I always am, and we’ll talk about kind of the play as a whole and what we’ll do better specifically.

Q. Can you take anything away positive in terms of your development?
Dayne Crist: Not right now. It’s tough to kind of sit and look at things right now. Obviously everyone is just upset we didn’t come out on top. That will come again with film study and reviewing the game.

Q. What did you think of Denard?
Dayne Crist: Great player. Clearly a guy that’s already on the top. He’s very critical in making that offense run.

Q. Coach says that he’s looking each week to see what this team’s identity is, what the identity is. Do you think your team’s closer to finding what that is?
Dayne Crist: Like I’m not sure if we know 100 percent. But I know our guys compete. I’m proud the way the guys battled back. They didn’t get down when we were down. I think as part of our identity we know we can get things going at any point in time, and we’ve just got a lot of tough guys on offense.

Q. Coach say anything to you specifically after the game was over about your performance, about moving forward?
Dayne Crist: Not in particular. I mean, obviously you need to work on some things to get better for next week, and it will come in film study.

Q. Two years in a row, great games for college football fans, it’s a great game. For Irish fans, it’s tough. Talk about playing in the rival.
Dayne Crist: That’s how rivalry games go. You never really see them blowouts, rivalry games. Both teams know how important the game is. Both teams want to come out on top and it’s a tough situation.

Q. What’s going through your mind, Michigan’s emotions after you gave them the lead?
Dayne Crist: Got to be ready to score and getting the offense ready. You can’t control what the defense is doing. We don’t really know what the defense is doing from a scheme standpoint. So it’s tough to watch. All we know is we just want to control what we can control. And just be ready to score at a moment’s notice.

Q. Can you talk about the defense, how they kept in the game?
Dayne Crist: They did a superb job. Anytime you’re down and you’re playing behind, a game like that, you’re down two scores, you definitely have to lean on your defense. And without them we wouldn’t have even been in the game. So they did a great job.

Q. Coach Kelly said it was probably the 19 yard run where you got hurt. Talk about what happened.
Dayne Crist: Got hit on the head. I guess coming down, I hit my head, something like that. I got up, was dazed, blurry out of my right eye. They were doing tests on the sideline to analyze that and see what was going on.

Q. Talk a little bit about the play, about T.J. Jones. What did you see out of him?
Dayne Crist: T.J., it’s really not anything that surprises me at this point. I mean, he’s a playmaker. A guy you can definitely count on. He’s a competitor. You love having guys out there like that. T.J. does a great job doing his job every week. He’s just a very mature player, especially when you take into consideration how young the guy is.

Q. What was going through your mind with your completed pass, breaking to the open field?
Dayne Crist: A lot of excitement. Obviously with a big run like that, you’re proud of the guys. Did a great job getting open. The read took me there late in the down and did a great job making the play.

Q. Can you break down that pass to T.J., how did that read go?
Dayne Crist: Just breaking down what they were doing all game. Football is a game of confidence, changes and checks and things like that. We’re constantly doing things to adapt to what they’re doing. They’re checking; we’re checking. So it’s a very evolving game plan as the game goes on. And just great call for that situation.

Q. Coach said it’s going to be a process for you as a quarterback. Where do you rank yourself in that process right now?
Dayne Crist: Continuing to develop. Obviously didn’t do enough things to win today. It’s unfortunate. It’s disheartening. But you just have to make sure you’re continuing to execute to the best of your ability and just keeping your team in the game.

Q. Anything specific that you have to work on?
Dayne Crist: Obviously want to protect the ball. Threw a pick early in the quarter. That’s always tough. The team that’s turning the ball over the most normally has a tough time winning the game. Just continuing to protect the ball and stay sharp on our reads and based on what the defense is doing, just taking us to the throw.

Q. Brian was talking about what you need most. Is it frustrating to keep patient with the threats?
Dayne Crist: Yeah, we don’t have a lot of time. I try to hold myself to a high standard and just mature and get better as fast a pace as possible. Obviously disheartening that we didn’t come out on top today. But just gotta continue to make better plays and better decisions and hopefully that will help the offense be more successful.

Q. You had a concussion in high school. Did it feel similar today, what happened?
Dayne Crist: I mean, certain dynamics of it. But the one I had in high school, I don’t even remember anything after the kick off. So I woke up the next morning and didn’t know what happened. So it’s definitely different.

Q. But you didn’t think: I have a concussion?
Dayne Crist: No, they did the tests on the sideline.

Q. Your teammates were saying, one thing you wanted to accomplish after halftime was to show you could still be competitive and compete for the most part there. Did you think you guys were successful?
Dayne Crist: Our guys competed a great deal. Definitely have to be proud of that. And as the quarterback of this offense, I’m happy knowing that the guys are competing until the final whistle. But, again, we just didn’t make enough plays to come out on top.

TJ Jones o Fr. o Wide Receiver

On being the first freshman to score a receiving touchdown in each of his first two games…
“It was a good start for me. It felt good to score twice in my first two collegiate games, but ultimately, it was a loss. We have to learn (from it) and be ready to come back on Monday ready to go.”

On the difference the injury to starting quarterback Dayne Crist made on the game…
“Our back-ups (Tommy Rees and Nate Montana) play a lot in practice. They get reps and we have a pretty good sense of their timing and style, so having (Dayne) Crist out in the first half didn’t impact us too much.”

Harrison Smith o Sr. o Safety

On the defense…
“We obviously made some mistakes. All we can do is watch the tape and learn from our mistakes in order to move forward.”

On Coach Kelly’s post-game talk to the team…
“He was proud of our efforts in the second half, but at the end of the day, a loss is a loss.”

Manti Te’o o So. o Linebacker

On Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson…
“He’s a great player. He’s very fast, very athletic and he’s just a playmaker.”

On the last drive…
“We were just trying to stop them. Things just didn’t happen the way we wanted them to.”

On the resiliency of the team…
“(I found out) we will always fight; we will fight for four quarters.”

Armando Allen o Sr o Running Back

On what Coach Kelly said to the team at halftime…
“His message was to just play for four quarters. He talked about not worrying about the scoreboard and to just play hard. He wanted us to remember there were still two quarters left.”

On the team’s psyche when starting quarterback Dayne Crist was sidelined with injury…
“It didn’t bother us that much. Coach Kelly always emphasizes ‘the next man in,’ we do it all the time at practice and we knew we still had to go out and play the football game.”

On dealing with the loss…
“Personally, being a senior, it’s important for me to keep walking with my head held high, and instill into the younger players that when things like this happen you have to keep pushing.”

Kyle Rudolph o Junior o TE

On the resiliency of the team in the second half…
“We know what to expect from our team, as we proved today, we’re never going to stop fighting. Whether it’s with four minutes left in the game or we get the ball with 20 seconds left in the game, we’re going to keep ‘swinging’ as an offense, and we’re going to do everything we can to win the football game.”

On the mentality of the team at halftime…
“We just challenged ourselves, we wanted to see what kind of team we were. Are we going to be the kind of team that’s going to shut it down? Or are we going to come out fighting? That’s something we’ve been talking about all year long. I think it’s something that we proved. We came out fighting in the second half, being down 21 to 7, going up to 24-21, we’re never going to stop fighting”

On the quarterback changes…
“Dayne (Crist) is a great player, and when he’s not on the field, the offense is definitely going to miss him. At the same time, Nate (Montana) came in and did a great job, and same with Tommy (Rees). They filled the void to the best of their ability, but when you get the starting quarterback back, it’s a lift in emotion for everyone.”

Ethan Johnson o Jr. o Defensive End

On preparing for Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson…
“It’s unfair to replicate (his ability) in practice, because it’s not possible. It’s more challenging with what he does than just somebody trying to imitate him. He (Robinson) did enough to win the game; they made enough plays to win.”

On the loss…
“It’s tough. I had set goals for myself. I didn’t meet them today. I mean, we lost. That’s always the main goal.”

On the goals of the team…
“We’re a bunch of guys that just want to win every time we step on the field. We want to do everything it takes, on and off of the field (to win).”

On starting quarterback Dayne Crist leaving the game due to injury…
“You’re looking to get a three and out every time you step on the field. That just gave us more fuel for the fire. Anytime your starting quarterback goes down, you want the next guy to be just as good. I feel like we just didn’t do enough, as a team, to win.

Jordan Kovacs o Jr. o Safety

On if it made a difference that Crist was not in the game…
“The other quarterback is good but when Dayne Crist was in there they seemed to rally around him and they seemed to get a lot of momentum. He’s a good quarterback and they’re going to win their games but I’m excited about this win.”

On how concerned he was about the coverage in the last twenty seconds…
“I was a little concerned but we’ve practiced that play over and over. It was kind of scary that they made it that far but they threw it out of the end zone.”

On overall feeling about the defense…
“Defensively I thought we played well; there’s always room for improvement. I think we made some freshmen mistakes but at the same time we held them for most of the game. We gave up a few big plays but those are things we are going to correct to get better and better defensively.”

Perry Dorrestein o Sr. o Offensive Line

On the elusiveness of quarterback Denard Robinson…
“He’s extremely slippery back there. Every time you think you’ve got him lined up he’ll make a move and get past you.”

On Denard Robinson’s performance…
“He’s a tremendous athlete. He’s going to lower his shoulder on you. He’s going to get his nose bloody for you. He makes you want to work hard.”

On the 87-yard play by Robinson…
“I was blocking and trying to get in a guy’s way and I heard all the Notre Dame fans go quiet and I knew something happened. That’s what a guy like that can do for you.”

Brendan Gibbons o So. o Place Kicker

On his punting/play during the game…
“I was pretty disappointed after a few punts but it’s all about getting comfortable with everything. I need to convert my practice play into game play. The more I get out there the more comfortable I will be.”

On how the team will be this year…
“I definitely think we are showing people we came to play this year and we are going to keep going and do some great things. We all are extremely excited; you can’t do better than 2-0.”

Martavious Odoms o Jr. o Wide Receiver

On whether or not the team was surprised about the win…
“No, that didn’t surprise us at all. We know what type of players we are and what we can do, and that’s what we did. We went out and executed our plays and came out with a win.”

On the demeanor in huddle before the last touchdown…
“Everyone was pumping each other up and listening to Coach (Rodriguez); we knew we were going to get that touchdown.”

On the physical toll of the game…
“I think we will all be hurting. It’s the game of football; we know we’re going to take some hits and expect to be sore all the time.”

Roy Roundtree o Jr. o Wide Receiver

On missing the touchdown towards the end of the game…
“At the end of the game after we missed the touchdown, Coach called that play and looked at me and I winked at him and he smiled because he knew I had it. I told him in the huddle, ‘big players make big plays.’ We count on each other so much that when it’s time to make that big play, we do it.”

On when he was told that he would play today…
“I realized on Wednesday, but I knew even before that I couldn’t be out for this game; it’s Notre Dame so I had to play.

On being cleared by the doctor to play…
“The doctor did clear me, but I didn’t start practicing until Wednesday. I ran on my own and made sure I stayed healthy so I could run routes, but it’s crazy that I was able to come out and play my hardest.”