Nov. 23, 2013
An Interview with: Coach Brian Kelly
COACH KELLY: Well, as I told our team, first and foremost, getting a win at home is always extremely satisfying in that we always want to defend our home stadium.
This now puts us at I think 11 1 in our last 12 games, and that’s something that is so important in developing a consistency in your program, is winning at home, and our seniors are so much a part of that in building that consistency at winning at home. And so I thank them for that. Certainly getting a win for them is important. We told them that, you’ll get a chance to kiss your mom again. But you’ll remember winning the game. That’s the most important thing.
So we really focused on understanding that it’s an emotional day, but we needed to play Notre Dame football: Enthusiastic, and physical and I thought we did that today. We made some plays when we needed to.
Again, I think we exhibited defensively a physical presence at the line of scrimmage, stopping except for maybe a long run late in the game, a very, very talented running game and an outstanding quarterback in slowing that offense down.
And then a great balance on offense and running the ball and throwing the ball. So very good win for Notre Dame today and really proud of our football team and the way we competed. With that, I’ll open up for questions.
Q. You talked about along the line of scrimmage defensively, there was so much with Louis Nix being out and then Kona out. Jarron Jones seemed to really – seven tackles, he blocked the kick. Is this a game where he just kicked it up, ratcheted it up more than you thought?
COACH KELLY: Opportunity, right. He got the opportunity, was the next man in situation. Kona tried to answer the bell, but as you saw, he could – and I think I kind of alluded to the fact that when we talked on Thursday, that he could go as long as he could. But had a high ankle sprain and he gave us all he had.
Jarron we felt like was coming on and he played exceedingly well and really happy for him. But we thought this was something that when we recruited him that he was capable of, and he showed that today.
Q. And with the weather conditions today, was there a greater necessity to run more, or was it just the flow of the game dictated it?
COACH KELLY: No. You know, we felt like we could certainly run the football against BYU, but it was part of what we were certainly about offensively as we have defined more our offense.
And what I was most pleased, again, was we talk about Jarron Jones, but Nick Martin went down with a hyperextended knee. Matt Hegarty played almost three quarters of the game at center, and you had, again, a lot of young players in there. As I told our guys, a lot of guys out there with very thin resumÃƒÆ’Â©s and they built them up today. It was really good to see.
Q. The red zone defense tonight, critical field goals; what went right for you guys down deep?
COACH KELLY: We made some plays. And if you look back on some of them, tackling, some individual plays on the quarterback, in particular we paid a great deal of attention on stopping the quarterback.
Jalen, as you know, in the fourth quarter made a huge play, individual play, one on one on Hill, and then we gang tackled. We did a very good job and I thought Coach Diaco hit some very good calls down in that short zone area where we were able to come up with some big stops.
Q. Is this game closer or approximate to the way you want your team to play in November, as opposed to maybe how dissatisfied you were is this pretty close to the formula for you?
COACH KELLY: This is the way we’ve got to play football. This is Notre Dame football. This is the way we need to play. This is what we’re capable of playing. It’s a much more physical brand of football that we are capable of playing, and quite frankly, our team did that and they responded accordingly.
Q. Why do you feel like it fell all into place today that you played Notre Dame football?
COACH KELLY: Because they are capable of playing that way. I think the Pittsburgh game was an anomaly for a number of reasons that I just can’t get into right now, other than the fact it was behind us, and they had a chance to go out and show in their last home game the kind of football team that they really are. I thought they did that today against a very good opponent in BYU.
Q. And how would you assess Tommy’s day today?
COACH KELLY: I thought he played well. I mean, you never want to throw an interception down in the red zone. You know, he had an opportunity, obviously, to get the ball out quicker. But he did some good things for us today.
Again, we are measuring Tommy’s success based upon wins and losses. You know, you want to keep your critical errors down to a minimum. You know, I thought he had, you know – didn’t have, other than the one interception, he didn’t have the critical errors that cost you football games.
Q. Dan Fox, all over the stat sheet. Did he maybe play with a different energy, given it was the last home game for him?
COACH KELLY: I thought he was really locked in. We asked our guys to do something with this game. We asked a single minded focus that they had not shown against Pittsburgh and an attention to detail.
We felt like we didn’t have that against Pittsburgh, and I think all of our players, in particular our seniors, really rallied to those things and I think we saw that with Fox. He was on point in coverage and he played the kind of football that he knows he’s capable of.
Q. With DaVaris, too, that connection with Tommy, is that something you saw develop in the bye week?
COACH KELLY: No, not necessarily. It was more as you saw getting their safeties off of us. They just continued to drop them down, and we were going to get over the top and get one on one matchups.
Q. What were your thoughts on Cam, the way he ran today and what made this a game where he was given the ball, where you wanted to give him the ball so much?
COACH KELLY: Well, it was hard to get to the perimeter. And the way they were playing, you know, our outside zone play, the field was a little bit slick. The ice out there started to develop on the field with the weather conditions and made it harder, and players were getting strung out. And Cam down is more of a downhill, inside the tackle, north and south player.
So the game style fits his – and I don’t want to box him into a particular kind of runner. But he’s a physical inside runner, and so him and Toryan got a lot of carries inside out. And George really helped us out a lot today, too, with some good, physical running, as well. But that was the way the running game was set up and that’s how they were defending us.
Q. You said about two months ago that your special teams would win you a game this year and they played very well today, especially Brindza kicking in the conditions. Could you comment on his play today?
COACH KELLY: I think Mike made a comment relative to his fourth quarter prowess–
Q. 12 for 13 in the fourth quarter.
COACH KELLY: Look, I think that last field goal was huge. Obviously puts us up by ten points, the wind swirling on the field and I don’t know how it felt up there but that winds is swirling. It’s a bit of a gamble at 51 yards and we are going to give them pretty good field position if we don’t make it.
But when you a kid like Kyle Brindza who is – and believe me, he is on the sideline in my face wanting to kick the football. But when you’ve got a guy with that kind of confidence asking to kick the football, it makes it easier for me to make a decision to put him out there. So he’s a great weapon for us.
Q. Last year and this year, you’ve rushed very well against BYU. Have you seen anything specifically in their defense that has allowed you to do that?
COACH KELLY: No, I mean, they are very rangy players on their edge. Van Noy is an outstanding football player. But, you know, he’s – he way they are built in their 3 4 defense, we feel like with our big tight ends, we think we can cover them up and if they are in 3 down, we feel like that’s a better match up for us. I think we just match up a little bit better when they are in their 3 down and when they go to 4 down, not exactly the way they want to play, because they like to drop eight in coverage. They certainly don’t want to be in 4 down.
So I think it’s just, we match up pretty good in the running game when we get into teams that run 3 down.
Q. And then you were able to stop Jamaal, 49 yards, he came in averaging over a hundred. How were you able to do that?
COACH KELLY: Well, you know, I think getting out early helped us get him out of some of the inside run game, where I think the game circumstances were such that I think they have to kind of get Hill out on the perimeter and put the ball in his hands a lot more.
So I don’t know if it was particularly that we did something, but we were really good inside, and I think we have already alluded to the fact that our inside guys played very well.
Q. That single minded focus, when did you feel confident you were going to get that? Is that something you saw today in practice or today in warm-ups that you made that evaluation? When did it become clear that you were going to get what you wanted?
COACH KELLY: I think you always get what you demand, and we were demanding it from our guys in everything they did from the way the locker room looked to every meeting we went to.
We went back to saying, look, you can’t start winning until you stop losing. So you can’t do the little things you’ve got to do them the right way all the time.
And not that there was a major breakdown, but it was more of a focus on making sure that our guys were doing the little things the right way. And we had a great week of practice. I thought our Monday where we went ones versus ones and banged it around, I could just sense right there that we were going to play pretty good today.
Q. Your pass defense tonight, you had a long gain of 15 yards, big receivers – how do you feel like that group performed tonight? Did they attack you the way you thought they would?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, we gave up some things to hold up big plays. We bled a little bit into the boundary, as you know. We gave up some swings and some quick gain into the short field, which I was tempted to get into some real coverage in the boundary but it would have put us in a position where they could possibly get over the top. We weren’t going to let them get over the top. We were double zoning a lot to the field and trying to keep the ball in front of us.
We rallied pretty good to some of their quick gain stuff, it was a game plan decision to give up some swing passes and spot routes into the short field to take away some big plays.
Q. Your seniors will obviously have two games left, the healthy ones. What have they meant to help building this program here?
COACH KELLY: Well, as I’ve said, they set a consistent mark of success, right, in terms of winning at home, which is a big, big deal for us. You know, we’ve really changed so much in terms of our routines here and how our kids prepare to play at home.
The whole week, there’s so much going on, and they have really now shown that they can prepare for all the things that happen and really play a really good brand of football at home with 11 out of 12 wins at home.
You know, getting, what, they won 20 out of their last 23 regular season games as a core group. All those numbers go towards consistency and that’s really what we’re looking for.
An Interview with: Tommy Rees
TOMMY REES: It’s awesome, the young guys did a really great job. Words can’t describe how good it feels to win your last game here. That’s four years in a row for us, which is awesome, and unless you’ve experienced it, it’s a pretty special feeling.
Q. How different is it today than it was two weeks ago?
TOMMY REES: Completely different, and we are going to enjoy it, just like any other game, for about 24 hours. We have got a tough one next week. We’ve got to be ready to go but we are definitely going to enjoy this tonight and share this moment with my family and teammates. Doesn’t happen every day.
Q. How difficult were the weather conditions?
TOMMY REES: Hey, the weather is what it is. I grew up a couple hours from here so I’m used to that type of weather. Thought we did a great job the whole game communicating what was going on with the weather, but the end of the day, you can’t let that effect how you play. You’ve got to just work through it.
Q. And at the end of the game, the student body yelling ‘Tommy,’ what did that mean for you?
TOMMY REES: That was a very special moment. We’ve been through a lot, the entire senior class, not only on the team but everybody here. They could have chanted anyone’s name, the whole senior class – but definitely a memory I’ll hold very closely for a long time.
TOMMY REES: You know, first and foremost, being remembered as a winner has always been important to me. Doesn’t matter how you win games as long as you get that W. Just gave everything they had to this university and this football program, and I’ve built a lot of strong relationships not only with people on this team but off this team and those are going to continue for my whole life.
TOMMY REES: There’s a whole lot. You know, chanting Tommy, that was pretty special, hard not to get choked up with emotion in a moment like that. So proud of this whole team and the senior class and what we were able to accomplish. Like I said, going to enjoy it a little bit and got to move forward.
Q. When you guys lost for the third time in the BCS, a lot of sentiment that you don’t have anything to play for now; why is that not true?
TOMMY REES: When you’re part of the team, you play for one another and you play for the university and you play for the pride that you put in the program and that you have in yourself. You won’t find a better group of guys than we have in that locker room and to be able to share this field with them and play with them, that’s all the motivation that you need.
Q. Did you have to account for the wind because it was swirling?
TOMMY REES: I wore a glove just to get a better grip on the ball and able to spin it through the wind. You know, there was some plays that you want back and you’ve got to adjust a little bit, but for the most part, you kind of just go through you try not to think about it and go through your normal progression and way of throwing the ball and usually it works out fine.
TOMMY REES: They were awesome. They did a great job all game in the run and pass, and we were able to get to our fourth and fifth targets on plays and get some crucial thirds downs and hats off to how they played. They had some guys come in and step up and it was an awesome unit out there.
Q. You threw down to Corey down the middle, throwing to a freshman, and he made a heck of a play.
TOMMY REES: That’s the kinds of kid he is. He catches everything. I tried to put it high up there for him so he could use his length and his ability to catch the ball. Kind of started back side and worked to the front and he did a great job getting open and he finished with a heck of a catch and huge play to convert.
Q. Going north, to the north end zone –
TOMMY REES: Towards the tunnel? Yeah, you know, the wind’s blowing, kind of swirling but it was definitely going that way into us, so made it a little tougher at times, but to be honest the wind died down. In the first half it was blowing, and then started snowing a little bit but the wind it kind of went off and on for us.
Q. Do you like these kind of conditions with the snow and wind?
TOMMY REES: It’s a pretty cool moment, yeah. It’s a pretty cool way to close out a game. I don’t know any of us that have played in a snowy game like this, but it’s pretty special out there, persevere, show the kind of toughness we have as a team through any conditions.
Q. Winning 11 out of your last 12 –
TOMMY REES: It’s something we talked about for a couple years now. Being able to win at home in front of these fans and really having home field advantage, it’s been awesome, and I think we’re 11 1 the last two years, so it’s been an awesome accomplishment.
Q. How much of a calming influence with the play call –
TOMMY REES: Yeah, he doesn’t speak a lot. He’s been great all year, very consistent and level headed. He knows exactly what he’s doing obviously and he’s got a great mentor in his big brother. He’s been awesome for us. Tough to see him go down but Matt Hegarty came in and played well for us and Nick’s been awesome all year.
Q. How about Zach?
TOMMY REES: You can’t say enough about a guy like that, 51 year starts or something, it’s going to be the record in a couple games, and you know, two time captain, a guy like that doesn’t come along every day. And to call him one of my closest friends and to be able to play with him, it’s very special for everyone in the locker room. They don’t come around like him very often.
Q. What’s your mentality after you threw that interception?
TOMMY REES: You’ve got to come right back out and get ready to go. I knew we needed to convert and seal the game away. Just a little late on the throw, and obviously you don’t want those to happen but you know, definitely I came back to the bench and told the guys, hey, that’s something we need to go back out and convert and I took accountability for it. We were able to make some big plays at the end.
Q. It’s been an up and down run for you but this game felt like a lot – there’s some things that go well and some things that go bad, but you held on to get the win. Did you fall back on some things that you had experienced before, when you go to the bench and say, listen, my bad, let’s pick it up and do it again?
TOMMY REES: Not a whole lot. I took accountability for it and I told them, hey, it’s on me, we are going to go back out and convert and win the game. Obviously throughout every game there’s ups and downs, but proud of the way we responded and we were able to close one out.
TOMMY REES: Great, obviously haven’t seen the film but I had a relatively clean game, ran the ball well. I’m sure they played well and were awesome coming in. Hegarty taking the snaps and understanding the counts; we do a lot of checking, and he did a great job of staying calm and communicating well.
TOMMY REES: Right after Pitt, we had two weeks to get prepared and everyone was focused over the last two weeks and we were ready to go. You know, you want to get back out on the field as soon as possible after a loss. I think after Pitt, somebody asked me, is a bye week good or do you want to play. I said I didn’t know but you definitely want to get back out there. You don’t want to be sitting on a loss for two weeks. Coach challenged us to have two great weeks and be prepared and they were tough on us but we responded great and love how the way the team came together.
Q. Was there a little bit of a reminder of things that you had to do to get to where you were before?
TOMMY REES: No, I think we knew what we needed to do. Watching the film we understood where we needed to be and how we need to close out games and we were able to do that tonight.
Q. What was the difference in closing out?
TOMMY REES: We don’t turn the ball over in the fourth quarter. You make stops when you need but for us it’s about maintaining the line of scrimmage and being able to run the ball and being able to make plays in the passing game when we need big first downs and we were able to do that.
TOMMY REES: I think you get him one on one, he’s a great player. He’s really come along nicely for us throughout the year. I think teams, to be honest, he just had an awesome year and focus on him any time you have two guys that can make plays like that, it definitely helps each other out. He did a great job of being in tune and making great plays for us.
Q. Coach Mendenhall talked about the secondary – are you cognizant of who they have got?
TOMMY REES: Yeah, we know some guys that are back there and we know who to prepare for. But we can’t worry too much about the personnel as much as the scheme. We saw some things we knew we could do and we were able to do.
TOMMY REES: Yeah, it helps, any time you can have a strong running game and get some playaction going, it helps those guys up front. Zach’s talking, it’s the offensive line’s dream to have a game like that. But yeah, offensive line has been awesome all year. Critical passing down I was able to get through, back to my fourth progression and make some great plays down the field and it all starts with them. I told them at halftime, keep controlling the line of scrimmage, it starts with you guys and we are going to close this one out.
Q. Talk about Matt.
TOMMY REES: Yeah, he did awesome. For him to be able to come in, understand the snap counts and understand what we are trying to do, it’s awesome to see.
Q. Is it different having him left of center?
TOMMY REES: It is. We work with all the centers and we have experience, but we joke around with him being a southpaw, bring in closer, a lefty. He did a good job and really happy for him.
TOMMY REES: Very similar, aggressive, get down in the box. But they are both very good defenses and we were able to make some plays tonight and get some points on the board.
Q. Has it hit you yet?
TOMMY REES: Being out on the field with my teammates and parents, a pretty special moment. It hasn’t hit me it’s the last time playing here, I’m sure it won’t hit for a while but right now soaking it in.
Q. Standing in the huddle –
TOMMY REES: Oh, man, a lot of emotion, holding in those emotions and just jogging out there and having a moment with my parents, it was awesome.
TOMMY REES: It was cool. Definitely just having a game in that kind of weather and that kind of environment, it was awesome.
Q. Talk about the balance of the offensive week – inaudible.
TOMMY REES: Yeah, you need good balance to get wins. We did that today on the run and some playaction stuff.
Q. Talk about the defensive performance.
TOMMY REES: I don’t watch much defense – but for them to play that way and get stops, that was huge.
Notre Dame Player Quotes
TJ Jones – Sr. – WR
On if playing the last game has hit him yet…
“Not really. It hit me a little bit on the field and when we sang in the locker room. I don’t think it will really hit me until I see the guys back out there in the stadium without me.”
On his thoughts before the game…
“I told myself ‘don’t cry’. I knew it was going to be emotional. I knew my mom was going to tear up and any time she does, it makes me tear up too, so I tried to hold it back and not get too emotional before the game.”
On the precedent he and the seniors have set at Notre Dame…
“I think that is just part of Coach Kelly’s system. We’ve been here as long as he has, and we’ve grown with him, his system and his coaches. They strive for greatness, and I think that’s something that we’ve learned to strive for in being a part of this program.”
Tommy Rees – Sr. – QB
On winning the last home game…
“It’s awesome for a whole group of seniors. Words can’t describe how good it is to win your last game here, and that’s been four years in a row for us now. Unless you’ve experienced it, it’s a really special feeling right now.”
On the difference in today’s game and the Pittsburgh game…
“It’s completely different. We’re going to enjoy it for about the next 24 hours and then we have a tough game next week, and we’ve got to be ready to go. But we’re definitely going to enjoy the win tonight, and I’m going to share this moment with my family and my teammates.”
On the weather conditions…
“The weather is what it is. I grew up a couple of hours away from here, so I’m used to that type of weather. I thought we did a great job communicating throughout the entire game about what was going on with the weather. At the end of the day, you can’t let that affect the way that you play, and you’ve got to work through it.”
Zack Martin – GR – OT
On getting a win after losing the last game…
“I was thinking about how much time and effort goes into this stuff with our players and staff. We spend a ridiculous amount of time and we do too much to give up and let the season go away. We’ve got a good game coming up with a California team, and we’ve got to go out and play.”
On how close the game was to Notre Dame’s ideal offensive line…
“It was kind of an offensive lineman’s dream today with the wind and running the ball, so we wanted to impose our will on them. In the snow it was a nice little ending there.”
Kyle Brindza – Jr. – K/P
On asking to go for the field goal instead of the punt…
“I do that a lot. They said to punt, and I said ‘What are you guys talking about? This is in my field goal range.’ They asked me if I was sure and I said ‘Yeah.’ He [Brian Kelly] has the confidence in me and I have the confidence in myself, so I’m always in his ear, but he doesn’t mind.”
On being conscious of conditions…
“I’m not really conscious of them. The only way that I’m conscious of conditions is when we were going towards the tunnel and that’s where the wind was coming from. I bet a lot of you were wondering why we didn’t kick the field goal in the second quarter. It was going to be a 41 yarder and it would have barely gotten there with as strong as the wind was. I didn’t look like there was a lot on the field, but once that ball gets up in the air, it’s different.”
Cam McDaniel – Jr. – RB
On playing for seniors…
“We were worried about playing for our seniors tonight, but at the same time we knew it was something we needed to do. We weren’t thinking about the conditions; we were focused on playing smart, tough football.”
On running success…
“Our offensive line played phenomenally. Even when Nick [Martin] went down, Mike Hegarty came in and played a heck of game. Connor Hanratty also came in and played amazingly. Steve Elmer, who is a young guy and of course Zach [Martin] and Chris [Watt] on the outside did really well. You couldn’t have asked for more up front.”
Dan Fox – Gr. – ILB
On going out with a win as a senior…
“That’s how I wanted to go out in my last season here. I am just really proud of how the team and how the defense played. I am just really happy. We formed such a strong bond and to go out with a win is truly something I will never forget; it’s special to me.”
On defense making plays…
“We were just reading our keys and running. That is what Coach Diaco said every play; that is what we did. I think being physical down there is the biggest part. It’s about shedding tackles and getting to the ball, playing like I know we can play.”
Sheldon Day – So. – DL
On Jarron Jones’ play…
“He just played with great enthusiasm and intensity on every play using his hands well. He’s been going throughout the season; he got his chance and stepped up.”
On defense’s elevation…
“Our belief was to go out there and make plays when we had to make plays. When it was time to make those plays, we made those plays. Everybody has their shared role; since Louis (Nix) was not out there everybody had to step up a little bit.”
Jaylon Smith – Fr. – LB
On playing in the red zone…
“In the past, we have not been very good so it was something we worked on all week and we were able to be successful.”
On why things came together tonight…
“We had that single mind focus. We were going to do anything to get our seniors a victory. We showed a lot of great things tonight. We are better than what our record shows. On what was demanded of the players tonight…
“We were told to focus on our jobs and not to worry about what anyone else was doing. We were asked to have that single mind out there.”
DaVaris Daniels – Jr. – WR
On the confidence the coaches had in him…
“I think the confidence has always been there, but this is the best I have felt in a while. I had a really good week of practice and that contributed to it.
On feelings of having senior QB, Tommy Rees behind him in Rees’s last home game…
“That’s the way you want your seniors to go out. It’s all about that single-minded focus–what coach talked about all week.
On his particular single-minded focus…
“For all of us, it was getting the seniors a win; this day is all about them. Whatever we had to do for them, that was our goal.”
Carlo Calabrese – Gr. – ILB
On playing in his final game…
“This was it. It was the last time I was going to run out of that tunnel. It definitely hit me seeing my parents out their for the last time. It was great that we finished with a win.”
On the precedent of success as seniors at home…
“We became a dominant home team since all of the coaches put it in our heads that it’s our house and we must protect it.”
On the final drive of the game…
“We always practice that we’re going to be on the field to win the game. We’re always going to be there the last couple of seconds. We train and practice that so we’re prepared for that and know it’s coming.”
Jarron Jones – So. – DL
On red zone performances…
“We always stay together, with words of encouragement from all the seniors and everyone in the secondary. We just play tough and physically. That’s one thing that drives us, having physical and mental toughness.”
Chris Watt – Gr. – Offensive Guard
On the total team win…
“Offense, defense and special teams, all around it was a great job by everyone.”
On running against BYU…
“We had a lot of confidence in our running game. Zack [Martin] and I felt we were really on the same page. There were looks he didn’t have to communicate. Whether it was because of senior night or some magic that happened, it felt great out there.”
An interview with Coach Mendenhall
COACH MENDENHALL: First of all, Notre Dame is a first class program and facility, same with Coach Kelly. It’s a great place to play and a good football team, and it was a good football game. A few opportunities that we didn’t make, and I few that Notre Dame did make, Notre Dame earned the win, and I thought there was some courageous efforts on our part.
And early in the game, Rob Daniel, our field corner, was ill, all kinds of IVs being pumped into him, wasn’t expected to play and then found a way to play about all but the first three or four series in the game, which made a huge difference in us being able to play the pass a little bit more effectively.
Disappointed with the blocked field goal at the end. With that, hopeful to get the ball back one more time and bring it right down to the wire and give Notre Dame credit for blocking the kick.
So, with that, I’ll take any questions anyone has if there are any.
Q. I wondered if you could talk about their running game, your impressions of Cam McDaniel, Folston.
COACH MENDENHALL: I would say their running backs are very physical, tough to tackle. We knew that going into the game. We also thought their offensive line was physical and tough, and that played out really the way we thought. And so I think that gave Notre Dame the ability to control the game.
But yet, when it came down to a manageable number of points to actually win the game, 23 we thought would keep us right in it, which it did.
Q. You missed a lot of tackles today, uncharacteristically, especially Kyle Van Noy. What was going on there?
COACH MENDENHALL: I think maybe not necessarily what Kyle wasn’t doing but Notre Dame was doing: Running really hard, running really physical and maybe the next calibre up of football team.
So it’s really what they do, they do well, and so I think more credit to Notre Dame than maybe what a player or players didn’t do.
Q. Can you talk about your running game?
COACH MENDENHALL: Yeah, I think from the bright side, I was really impressed with Paul Lasike, when he came in, I thought we were physical. I thought we ran downhill. I thought he broke tackles. I thought he gave us a physical presence that was matching what Notre Dame was doing, and that was a real positive.
I think excluding the first series, they did a nice job on Jamaal, especially on inside runs and I thought they did a nice job on Taysom on our designed runs. Taysom did a nice job on quarterback scramble, those weren’t designed. And so probably the effectiveness of our run game was Lasike with Taysom scrambling.
Q. Could you talk about JD coming back, a little sooner than you expected?
COACH MENDENHALL: He’s committed to our program. He always has been. He plays really hard. He’s really tough and it was a nice surprise when I was told at the beginning of the week that he would be able to make it back for this game. He made a few clutch catches, kept a few drives alive and is just a really good player.
I don’t feel like he or the team saved anything. We just didn’t execute quite cleanly enough to make a few more plays.
Q. Your last three red zone chances, they held you to field goals, what were they doing to slow you down in that short end of the field?
COACH MENDENHALL: Maybe not so much what they were doing. Just what happens at that part of the field is the run game that was working pretty effectively to get us down there, safeties are now closer and so the running game is much more difficult to get the kind of yardage we were getting, and I think that’s really what happened.
So more specific to where we were than what Notre Dame was doing. Then I actually was signalling touchdown when I saw the slant and No. 13 for Notre Dame knocked it down. I thought Cody had the guy beat inside. That was a huge play. I thought we had a touchdown there. So they made those plays and we didn’t.
Q. You might have addressed this but the secondary play, particularly Mike Davis coming in?
COACH MENDENHALL: Yeah, so I guess if I just were to – I tried to address it right before the pregame meeting. Rob Daniel became very, very ill, was getting IVs and different things. Received not only medical care but ecclesiastical care right before the game, and man, was just didn’t look like there was much chance that he might play.
We put together a couple different combinations of secondary the first couple of drives and realized that that wasn’t going to be effective. The third scenario we put together in the secondary that we played with the rest of the game, which I think there was maybe ten points total scored on that group, Michael Davis, as a converted wide receiver who is playing field corner came in, and Rob Daniel was able to and wanted to be able to do everything he could.
So those two gave us a lot better chance to play in the secondary.
Q. Craig also made a couple plays on the secondary; what did you see out of him today?
COACH MENDENHALL: Craig is tough, as well as Daniel Sorensen. Safeties weren’t our issues. In fact, we were considering at one point putting Daniel Sorensen at corner if Rob wasn’t going to be able to do it. So we were looking at a number of different scenarios.
Again all that happened right before we got on the bus. And so we made the best adjustments we could through the first two or three series and finally found one that had some effect but Craig and Daniel was a consistent part of that.
Q. Did the weather play a factor at all in the play calling?
COACH MENDENHALL: No, I don’t think it did. Notre Dame called and ran plays that they had run that we saw and I think we did the same. So I don’t think it was a factor.
Q. Last year they kind of wore you down and leaned on you with their rushing attack. How do you think you fared in the trenches?
COACH MENDENHALL: I think we gained momentum as the game went on and I think the point production the second half showed that. I think the momentum of the game kind of started to show that. So I felt different – still hurts and I’m still disappointed. And I was really hopeful and believed we had a great chance to win the game coming out here, and even now after playing.
However, Notre Dame earned the win and they deserve the credit for that. It was a physical game, but I didn’t sense that there was fatigue or any part of it or there was momentum shifting on the ground.
Q. Are you surprised Notre Dame was able to rush a hundred yards over its average?
COACH MENDENHALL: There was a number of plays that were big gainers, probably three. And so when you have big plays against you, it doesn’t take long before averages start to change.
After those big plays, then I thought we played pretty effectively in the blue zone because ultimately what wins or loses games is not rushing yards; it’s points. And 23, you had a great chance to win the game if you’re around 21,22, 23 points and that’s where it was.
Again, congratulations to Coach Kelly and Notre Dame.
BYU Player Quotes
Robert Anae – Offensive Coordinator
On the offensive today…
“From an offensive perspective, we did not live up to what we came here to do. You’d like to have a lot of things back in a game like that, but I do believe the match-up was right on the money and we have the talent on our team to be successful. I’d like to see a better outcome, but it did not turn that way for us.”
Eathyn Manumaleuna – Sr. – NT
On the defense today…
“There were a lot of missed gaps, especially from me. It was a tough game. I think we did well, but we could have done a whole lot better.” On Notre Dame’s physical play… “We like the challenge and they were definitely physical all game and that’s the challenge we like, but we didn’t take it on as much as we’d like to. Obviously we missed assignments and gaps, but yeah, they’re definitely a physical team.” On the loss… “It was tough, but you know, that’s football. That’s the challenge and that’s the love.”
JD Falslev – Sr. – WR
On his return…
“I’ve been blessed. I’ve had a lot of people surround me, keep me in good spirits. Surgery went really well. It’s about staying positive and working through. As long as I know that it’s not going to hurt me in the long run and that its sturdy-that the bone is sturdy at least, I can play through pain. That’s football.”
On being unable to execute in the red zone…
“Their defense clamped down and did a good job. We didn’t execute like we needed to. Coach called great plays again. It’s just a matter of execution stuff. So that’s disappointing.”
On the lack of “ahh” factor…
“We’re not scared to play anybody. That’s said and done because as a team we feel like we could play with anybody on any stage. That’s what Coach Mendenhall and Tom Holmoe have done with this program, they’ve moved it to a new level where we’re playing the best teams on the biggest stage and we’re right there. That’s what’s so frustrating is that we’re right there in all these games and so close to winning them … we’re so blessed to be in these positions and we’ve just got to take advantage of them and execute.”
Craig Bills – Jr. – DB
On the feelings of the team after that game…
“Just really disappointed. It’s definitely a game that we could have won. It’s just really disappointing. I think any big play that they have, it wasn’t anything that was a surprise to us, we were just either off the gap or we just didn’t make the play. Those are things that I think that we need to do to become a great team. We need to really focus on that and work on that.”
On his interception…
“They were setting that up all game. They were throwing to the boundary quickly and getting some yards on it and we were playing a coverage where we had help out there. So when they gave that motion and showed that look, I saw the tight end come up field and I just made a play on the ball when it was thrown.”
On the weather conditions…
“I think it was exciting. It was fun having the snow. That’s football. I think of the Ice Bowl back in the day. It was fun being out there, a great atmosphere.”
Paul Lasike – Jr. – RB
On the familiarity of being out in the space running…
“I don’t have a ton to be honest. I’m usually doing dives and stuff like that. When I got out there it was like ‘Wow, this is kind of weird,’ having corners chase you down. To me I felt kind of slow to be out there. I wish Jamal (William) was out there to get the touchdown, but it was a blast to be out here and help out. I thought it was rugby, but then I had all these pads on and I had a helmet on. I don’t know what I’m doing, I’m just going to try to hold on to the ball and make sure I don’t fumble as I try to get as many yards as possible.” On why drives slowed down in red zone…
“Definitely credit to their defense, but we didn’t execute as well. We missed a few opportunities and some blocks out front that pressure on the quarterback and stuff like that. We weren’t able to get that final connection and definitely credit to the defense they played really well, so it was kind of a bummer.”
On chance to score after long run…
“To be honest I was gassed, but it’s all a mental thing. If the play would have been called for me to get the ball like a dive, I would have given it 100%.”