Oct. 18, 2015
COACH KELLY: Well, just your normal USC Notre Dame football game I guess.
Outstanding football game. Exciting. Great atmosphere here tonight. Everything that you would expect between the two teams. If you like offensive football, certainly had that tonight. Special teams, a little bit of everything.
But in the end, you know, really proud of the way our football team persevered and found a way to make a couple plays in the second half.
I think some of the things that stand out in particular: You know, in the second half, I’d say the second quarter, being up two scores and then USC rallying back, I really liked our temperament as a football team. They didn’t show any kind of crack at all. They were confident. They believed that they were going to win.
Even when we got down in the second half, you know, fighting back and eventually going up by ten points, I thought that was, for me, I just never sensed that our football team didn’t believe that they were going to win today. I thought those were big things for me to see from our team today. It turned some question marks into exclamation points relative to their mental toughness today.
Big plays that stood out — two things that stood out. I thought KeiVarae Russell’s interception was a big play. Earlier, he got beat by Juju. He didn’t play the ball in the air and I went to him and said, listen, you’re in great position, you’re in phase, you have to play the ball in the air. I thought he played the ball in the air on that play. I thought that interception was a big play for us, a momentum swing.
And then I think the two 90-yard drives were big plays for us, and those things kind of stood out for us. And making a couple plays late defensively.
So let’s get to some questions.
Q. In addition to the two 90-yard drives, you’re down 31-24 and it third and five at the 15 and DeShone looked like he was going to get sacked that, 23-yard scramble but his overall running today with the read option —
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I thought — he’s very capable. He’s still learning. He had run into a sack earlier. They had rushed three, dropped eight, and you have to attack the pocket inside out in a three-man rush, and he kept escaping outside the pocket where we can’t help him there.
And that time, he attacked the pocket inside out and had some running room, and I thought — that’s the one thing with Kizer that I really like is that you tell them one time, and he gets it. And he’s going to come back the next time and he’s not going to make the same mistake twice.
Q. And then last week, maybe you struggled in the first half defensively, limited them to three points and this week, USC, just seven points in the second half. Anything specific that you were able to do in the second half that led to that?
COACH KELLY: You know, we missed — look, that is as talented — those two kids that had the big plays, Brown, Juju, Adoree’ Jackson; if you miss a tackle, those kids are gone. They make you pay, dearly, and we missed some tackles. We had them in our sights a couple of times. Now, I think the screen to Adoree’ was well executed. They caught us in a blitz. We kind of tipped it, gave it away. They checked it from the sidelines. I thought it was well executed on their part.
But the other two plays, we are in position. Isaac Rochell has the back wrapped up in the backfield and we missed the tackle. Missed a couple tackles. And they are extremely talented and they make you pay if you don’t take them down.
Q. You’ve talked since you’ve been here about how important special teams is, third phase in the game. It looked like you were a lot more aggressive tonight, attacking the punt with the returns, the fake. What made you think could you go after them and how important was it to be able to generate some big plays from the special teams tonight?
COACH KELLY: I think we feel like we have got some guys that are scared; like Equanimeous St. Brown on that team is long and athletic, and we just felt like this week as a week that we wanted to be aggressive when we got the opportunity.
You know, we’ve shown some coverages more than we have attacking the punt and we felt like this was a week that we wanted to do it. We got the right circumstances in situations for it where they were backed up.
And I just think we have got good players on that team and we wanted to let them go. I think that C.J. did a great job on kickoff returns and gave us really good field position. And obviously the big downing of the punts where we went pooch punt (ph) we were able to down the No. 1 yard and really change field position. So we made some good plays. They are a very difficult team obviously with their skilled return men.
And Justin Yoon has been money for us. He’s been so consistent.
Q. Early in the game, they went down, scored right off the bat. You were able to answer. They went up 31-24; you were able to answer. How important was it for you guys to be able to respond to USC early?
COACH KELLY: Well, I think that’s the big picture that — our theme all week was the mental toughness that we wanted to exhibit today. That was the one question that we wanted to answer. And I didn’t see anything on the sideline that resembled our guys not believing that they were going to come back.
Every time we’ve huddled up on the sideline, when we’re backed up on the ten-yard line, it was a positive conversation about us moving the ball down the field. It was really good.
Q. You talked about Adoree’ and Juju being able to rip off the big plays, Jones; you were able to find that in your own offense. How important is it for you in this offense to be able to have those big plays, speed guys, that you can counter with your own?
COACH KELLY: Well, obviously we’re starting to see that when you have the ability — when you have a back like C.J. Prosise, now you have to put another guy down to defend against the run. You’re going to get one-on-one coverage with Will Fuller and in my estimation, there’s nobody that can cover him in the country one-on-one.
That’s the balance that we have now within this offensive structure that at times we haven’t had. So we’re very difficult to defend because of that.
Q. Your secondary allowed 440 yards, but I think 450 of those probably came on two plays, and they made two big plays at the end. Can you just assess the secondary and how they played?
COACH KELLY: You know, we want to be better each and every week. But I think when you look at it, we are who we are. We played both Max and Matthias. I thought Shu is playing well at one safety position. I think KeiVarae is coming on. He’s playing the ball better. He’s playing more aggressive. I thought he had a great week of practice this week. Cole gets a little nosy. We’ve got to keep him disciplined. He wants to do a little too much.
And so we are who we are. We’ve just got to keep working with them. They are our kids. They are our players. And you know, Todd is coaching them every single day and we are just going to keep working with them to get them better each and every week.
Q. You put Max in in the second and third quarter for Matthias. Can you talk about that decision?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, we’re going to play them all. They are all good players. They are all — I don’t think there’s one guy that separates themselves to take that over. The backups for the two corners are young guys and then you’ve got some veterans at that position with Matthias.
So we feel like we want to get them all in the game.
Q. Do you have an update on Alex Bars?
COACH KELLY: I don’t have one right now. I didn’t get a chance to see him. It was an ankle and I did not get a follow-up with Rob Hunt.
Q. In answering the mental toughness question, how important can that be to the team going into the month of November and the final five games?
COACH KELLY: I think for me, it was — you know, now we have to take that and be road Warriors. That’s the next question. You know, we have to beat Virginia late on the road and we lost to Clemson. That’s yet to be determined about how we’re playing on the road.
So that’s the next challenge for this football team. And you’ve got to be mentally tough to handle the crowd. You’ve got to be mentally tough to be disciplined to go on the road and beat somebody.
And that’s the next thing that we need to continue to cultivate and develop with this group.
Q. With Will, getting back to the play making, the two pass interference calls back-to-back that he was able to beat Jackson and force those two ones, just what did that do for the overall flow of the offense after Kizer’s run?
COACH KELLY: Well, certainly, you’re trying to get them off you a little bit because we want to run the football. I think both of those were, you know, messages that you need to probably double zone and give us an opportunity, which it did, to run the football a little bit more effectively.
Q. You mentioned the mental toughness sort of when the offense slipped out of gear but at the same time your staff had to find some new buttons to push. Where did you go and where did you feel like the offense could get a flow back after really stalling out?
COACH KELLY: Well, we went back to try to find a way to run the football. C.J. Prosise provided some tough running for us.
Because you don’t want to throw it back on DeShone Kizer. My feeling is, this is not about throwing it on his shoulders. It’s C.J.; it’s Chris Brown; it’s Corey Robinson; it’s Torii Hunter. It’s that cast and it’s that offensive line.
So it’s going back to those cards, if you will, and making sure that we use those assets, instead of, just dropping back and whipping it all over the place and say, hey, DeShone, win us the football game. We had two third-and-two situations where he didn’t complete a couple passes.
I said: That’s enough. We are not going to put him in this situation where he has to pick up all these third down situations. We have to do something and call on some of those other playmakers that we have.
Q. He’s a developmental guy now. Do you think USC did some things to not trust what he was seeing; hold on to the ball?
COACH KELLY: There was only probably one or two occasions. He’s experiencing some new things that every time he goes out there. Like when he took the sack to pull us out of field goal range, he knew before I even said something.
And that’s what’s great about coaching him is he knows it before I even say anything. He’s like, “I can’t believe I did that. I mean, I’ve got to throw that ball away.” So he’s learning and he saw some things and things occur out there that are learning pieces for him every single game.
Q. What was the vibe on the sideline after Torii’s fumble, you could have gone up 28-10 —
COACH KELLY: Go make a play. We are going to get back down there again. I went over to Torii and said, “Hey, listen, you can’t fumble the football down there. You have to take care of the football.” There’s always accountability with mistakes.
Then, all right, they were all sitting together, the receivers. I went over and said, “Hey, listen, we are going to get back down there again. Let’s go make a play.” They were all positive, and they did.
Q. Did you feel like at that point in time that you really let USC stay in the game?
COACH KELLY: No. You know, those are always missed opportunities. I didn’t feel like, oh, you know, we’re not going to win this game because we fumbled. I just felt like, there was too much confidence on our sideline. Our guys believed that they were going to win today. That’s how I felt.
Q. You said a couple times already, you had never really felt like you were going to lose this game. How much comes back to the confidence in a guy like Kizer and how surprising is that, given where he was just a couple months ago?
COACH KELLY: He definitely has a confident demeanor. When he threw in the fourth quarter late there when we threw the ball down the field to Will, he told Will, “I’ll meet you in the end zone.”
I said, that’s north of — that’s north of confidence, south of cocky. That was pretty good. That’s the kind of kid he is. It shows a lot about his confidence.
Q. Did you know you had that in him before the season?
COACH KELLY: I knew he was a confident kid. But he carries it all the time, and people on this football team respect him because of it.
Q. Talk about how important was that first play.
DeShone Kizer: Yeah, that was a huge. As a team we always talk about starting strong. That being said, Coach Kelly puts a lot of emphasis on making sure we come out on the first play and making sure that we play with some heart. And being able to start off with a long touchdown was huge for us.
Q. Was that a specific play or did you guys —
DeShone Kizer: There was multiple aspects of that play, but that was a look that they have given us. And they brought a strong safety down, and Will was able to go one-on-one on the outside and I was able to put the ball out there for him.
Q. How does it feel to beat USC?
DeShone Kizer: It’s huge. It’s huge. For our offense, we are just trying to get our rhythm going, trying to get ourselves back on track to show the world how good and how versatile we are. And to come out here and get a signature win like that against USC is big for us and for this season moving forward.
Q. Talk about Will Fuller.
DeShone Kizer: He’s unreal. The guy, he’ll make any plays for you. He’s the fastest guy on the field. He’s one of the smartest guys on the field. He runs great routes. On my end, it makes it a lot easier to know that there’s always going to be that threat; whether it makes him a adjust so he can run some other stuff, or for us, we use him ourselves and putting the ball out there for him.
Q. There was a point in the game where the offense was a little lackluster and struggling a little bit. What is the communication like?
DeShone Kizer: We are just talking about the way we see the game. As a quarterback group, we have a really good relationship with being able to communicate and Coach Sanford and I, we just talked about it and the different looks that they give us: Why are we doing what we’re doing. Why are we not executing the plays that we’re executing.
When you’re able to talk it out and feel confident after each phone call, it makes it a lot easier for us on the mental end of things. You don’t get as flustered when you’re able to talk through the situations that were so bad. There’s a lot of guys out there who they see the bad play and that’s sitting in the back of their minds and they are not able to understand why it was so bad and it ends up bringing them down. But we do a good job with being able to communicate through and push through the negatives that we go through.
Q. The punt, was that something you’re planning on doing?
DeShone Kizer: Yes, so I was a pretty good punter in high school. I wasn’t able to really show it today. We were just trying to get some taps in and get the ball rolling down the field and not too much time to allow them to make a play. Something we talked about all year with Adoree’ Jackson being as good as he is in the return game, we thought we would bring it out and try to keep the ball out of his hands and keep the ball inside the 20.
Q. Coach Kelly talked that your confidence is north of confident and south of cocky; where does that come from?
DeShone Kizer: There’s just a swagger about our offense. It’s something that we need. We’ve got to be able to be out there and be confident. We went into that Texas game, the first game of the year, and you could feel how confident we are in our game plan and in our ability.
To be honest, it kind of slacked off here and there from game-to-game but today I truly felt that we had that, and you could see it in the first quarter how successful we were with our game. You know, we hit a wall but we brought it right back and the fourth quarter is a testament to us having that same confidence, as well. Hopefully we can develop and carry that mind-set and those abilities over throughout a whole game, and once we get there, we’ll be pretty well — there’s not going to be many defenses out there that can stop us.
Q. How hard is it to get over that wall?
DeShone Kizer: You know, each game brings a different set of challenges. This game was more of a — it’s not like they gave us anything too special. It was more of our own internal issues; that we were not completing our assignments. I’m not reading blocks right in my run game and stuff like that.
So when it’s all internal, it’s all about just finding that switch and turning it back on and getting yourself back into gamer mode. In other games, it’s more about game plan situations where the defense gives you something that you don’t necessarily know how to go about where this game it wasn’t the case. It was more long the lines of ourselves, and once we were able to get over that wall, we got ourselves rolling.
Q. Mental toughness?
DeShone Kizer: Exactly. As a team he really preaches that on us and I believe with the seniors leading us the way they are and with our mind-set that we have in our preparation on a week-to-week basis, that toughness is exactly what the Irish team has.
Q. Are you the kind of guy that’s able to go into a pressure situation with a cool head and that kind of confidence, or is that something you developed over time?
DeShone Kizer: I feel like I’m always developing with that. I have been a guy back in high school where I was able to take the pressure situations and become pretty successful with them.
But as we move on, there’s always going to be a new experience, a new situation in which I’m going to have to up my game and be able to up that part of my mental end of things to bring the offense up and keep us all calm. I think this game no different in the sense that we — pretty much — inaudible — two-minute drive at the end of the game or something spectacular. We just needed to put together two pretty long drives and then touchdowns and that was huge for us. I think that will help us out big time in our confidence and our game moving forward.
Q. Coach Kelly also mentioned that you’re still seeing new things every game. How hard is it to keep mentally one step ahead and try to know what’s coming and anticipate?
DeShone Kizer: You know, as a quarterback, it’s all about preparation. As long as you’re able to be great at the simple things, then the things that come at you late in the game are a little, you know — indiscernible — on defense, it makes it a lot simpler to get through. If you’re able to just complete the basics, then the extra stuff becomes a little easier.
As a young quarterback, I’m not seeing a lot from some — those West Coast styles of defensive coordinators; or ACC likes to bring seven in the box. So I’m still learning those end of things what to expect and how to prepare myself in that way. But I think I’ve done a good job with being able to adjust on the fly and making game adjustments moving forward. As long as we continue to do that as an offense, I think we’ll continue to get better.
Q. The defense didn’t give up any points for 25 minutes. Do you feel especially with your offensive line, that there are times where you and the offense you can out-score —
DeShone Kizer: Yeah, as an offense, we have always had the mind-set that if the ball is in our hands, then we need points up on the board. We pride ourselves on being a team who can score in any situation, whether it be backed up in our own two or if we get the ball in great field position and able to just make one big play. But when the defense is playing as well as they do, in spurts of times, we have to be able to execute and be able to put up points on the board when they are doing well.
Our biggest issue right now is our rhythm and the way that our team is working on offense and defense, isn’t really going together. When the defense is doing well, we are going out there and having three-and-outs. When the offense is doing well, other teams are putting up points with us. If we can come to a little bit of a balance and be able to ride each other’s waves, it will make the game a lot easier because now teams are starting to lose their confidence and lose their momentum because we are going for it on all cylinders.
DeShone Kizer: Love them. When you are able to eat up the clock the way we do — and as a spectator, it’s beautiful to watch C.J. go out there and get two great runs, see a couple pass plays end up the way we do and then have the ball end up in 88’s hands the way it did on third down. It’s amazing to be able to watch a team click at every position.
Q. Speaking of those long drives, late in the third quarter down by seven, third-and-long, you rally off with a 23-yard run, get flipped at the end. What was going through your head?
DeShone Kizer: It was time to make a play. As a quarterback, I had a lapse in the middle of the game. I missed the easy five-yard out and threw it into C.J.’s legs. And I took two sacks, one where there is an open guy on the back side and I’m keeping my eyes to the field. Just small stuff like that.
When you hit a lurch (ph) like that, you need something to get yourself going. And it was set up in the way that it was with my feet in that play. Maybe it wasn’t the smartest thing, for me to try to jump over a guy, I need to learn how to slide and just take what I get. But it was definitely the spark that we needed as an offense and that I needed as a quarterback to get myself rolling.
Q. How big was this win, at this point in the season, heading into the bye week?
DeShone Kizer: It’s huge for us. The way that the season is set up for us, I believe that the coaches and the athletic directors do a great job with setting up when the bye week is and when the big games are.
To take a loss in the middle of that stretch, it allowed us to revalue vamp and get us going into the bye week but we have a lot of confidence now. It’s the perfect time of the year for us to get some guys that are injured back in the field, get ourselves — and clean up our bumps and bruises and really go back and evaluate how we were in the first six weeks and be able to keep ourselves rolling going into the second half of the season.
Q. A lot can happen in Tallahassee. Do you feel like the big picture goal is still attainable this year?
DeShone Kizer: 100 percent. I see those types of teams playing against each other all over the country. Kind of like cannibalism across the different conferences. So that being said, we just want to make sure we are a one-loss team going into the final week, and hopefully we can accomplish that and play in the Big 10.
Q. How did you win this game?
DeShone Kizer: The defense was unbelievable. They had a great spurt where they didn’t let up points for I think 25 minutes and we put together two big drives of offense at the end of the game that really helped us out. When you have playmakers like we have with C.J. Prosise and Will Fuller, it’s really tough for a defense to hold us off for all four quarters. They had a good break there in the middle with the second and third quarter but the great start and great finish we had, we ended up coming out on top.
Q. Coach Kelly said in the beginning week, beware of the wounded warrior. Can you empathize with the way they played?
DeShone Kizer: Yeah, they came into Notre Dame, rah-rah, and they had the whole rivalry thing down pat. They were talking a little less on the side and things like that.
We did a good job with letting those– just playing our style of ball. They hit us in the mouth early; we struck back. We got ourselves rolling a little bit and then we hit a lull and they hit a high. We just did a good job I think of staying within ourselves, figuring out our own issues, cleaning up those issues and eventually being able to compete at the right time in the game and that happened to be in the fourth quarter.
Q. Should you be ranked on top now?
DeShone Kizer: I believe we should. I believe this offense took — this team took itself off (ph) to Clemson. Clemson is a very good football team. I believe that moving forward, we’ll have a couple more tests that can prove ourselves as a Top-10 team and I believe that we do deserve a spot to hopefully compete in the big game.
USC HEAD COACH CLAY HELTON:
Very proud of our football team from their preparation standpoint through the week and getting to this game, facing some adversity early. Coming back to tie it at half-time really felt like we had great momentum going into the second half. And then at the end of the day, mistakes hurt us, whether it was penalties, special teams, some missed tackles and some turnovers on offense.
At the end of the day, you can’t have those mistakes. It is not for a lack of effort and I’m extremely proud of how the kids fought, especially through adversity, and the mistakes got us. And that’s my job as a head coach to relieve those and correct those.
Q. Did you have enough time this week?
CLAY HELTON: I tell you, we don’t make excuses. It’s our job as coaches to find answers, and that’s why they pay us. We have a talented football team that was very hungry to come prove something in this game. We just didn’t get it done tonight. Did we have enough time? Yes, sir. Everybody else has the same amount of time in the country. We had the same amount.
CLAY HELTON: I commend them. I think their skill is phenomenal. No. 20 and No. 7, C.J. and Fuller, they are tremendous football players. At the end of the day, they did a great job of winning their one-on-one matchups, especially in the deep ball; and commend the quarterback. I thought he did a terrific job of putting the ball in a position that let his kids make plays. And they did.
And then we had some opportunities to get the ball on the ground and sometimes we made it, sometimes we didn’t. I don’t think it was for a lack of fatigue. They had 60 total offensive plays. We’ve just got some corrections that we need to fix before we go play a good Utah team.
CLAY HELTON: We came in and said we were going to follow every bullet — we drew it against the wrong coverage and then what a great job by Jalen Green in that situation, former quarterback, to come in and make a really big play that I thought gave us some momentum going into the second quarter.
Q. The guys in the second half — that motivated them?
CLAY HELTON: I told them with every fiber of my being, every fiber, that I truly believe this is a good football team that can be great. But we have to eliminate the mistakes. There’s no reason that we can’t go win the Pac 12 south. We play a great Utah team this week. We have to make those corrections, all right, before we get there.
But this team, I look forward to seeing the rest of this season, add them up at the end; but this could be a good football team.
Q. Seemed like you had —
CLAY HELTON: Yes, definitely. Something that we worked all week, and commend Kizer. He did a tremendous job of executing. Really hurt us in the run game, yes.
Q. The offense —
CLAY HELTON: Say one more time.
Q. The offensive line —
CLAY HELTON: I look up and it’s 590 yards of offense. They protected Cody pretty well to be able to get the ball down the field some. It’s still a work-in-progress. We are not perfect but I thought they did some nice things tonight. There were some mistakes that were evident, and we’ve got to get them corrected.
Any time that you go out there and you get almost 600 yards, something is going right. At the end of the day, I really thought the difference in the game was you have the two turnovers in the fourth quarter which you can’t have. We get a blocked kick for a touchdown and we miss a field goal. That’s a ten-point differential. You take the blocked kick away from the touchdown, you make the field goal before the half; the game could be different.
CLAY HELTON: I tell you, just two kids trying to make a play. They saw one-on-one coverage and signaled to each other to try to hit a deep ball shot, which we allow. We want our quarterbacks and wide-outs to be able to do that if they see it. But tried to put the ball in a position to make one and their corner made a great play on it.
CLAY HELTON: You know, we’ve got to continue — we made a huge point of emphasis this week with the past rush. I think the kids really bought into it. Again, it is a work-in-progress. I know Coach Wilson and that defensive line takes a lot of pride in it and we’ll continue to get it better.
CLAY HELTON: Yeah, I thought they played — when it was crunch time, I thought they did a really good job to come up with the two turnovers there at the end. Those were critical. They won the game when it was time.
Notre Dame Player Quotes
Amir Carlisle – Graduate Student – WR
On answering USC’s big plays…
“Coach [Brian] Kelly always teaches us to start fast. That’s a big thing — especially since they came and drove on us and put points on the board — that we can respond. To score a touchdown was huge for us.”
On preparing for this week…
“We really just preached `attack.’ Having an attacking mindset to attack whatever play you’re in. Your personnel matchups, special teams, on offense, on defense — attack. It was a word we really just focused on this week. It really showed in our game plan, our aggressiveness on special teams, taking it in deep.”
Jaylon Smith – Junior – LB
On stepping up and making plays…
“It was very important. Ebbs and flows of the game. When you’re playing talented players like USC it’s something where you’re not going to win every battle. It’s all about persevering and that’s something that we did tonight.”
On knowing the offense could answer back…
“It was important for us to stay together through the ups and downs of the game.”
KeiVarae Russell – Senior – CB
On the adjustments made in the fourth quarter…
“We started playing for each other. We realized how important that game was. We wanted to win. We were on the sidelines yelling it. We [the defense] want to win this game for the team. We wanted to know that we were the last people on the field that could seal the deal. We changed it up. “
On how badly he wanted an interception this game…
“Really bad. My interception, like freshman year, was against No. 9 again. I definitely needed one, especially going into the bye week. I couldn’t go into the first half of the season without an interception. I knew I had to make a play against USC.”
Joe Schmidt – Graduate Student – LB
On what it was like to win his final USC game…
“This is a game that I have imagined since I was five. Playing catch with dad in the front yard, the lights are on; it’s a nighttime game. You imagine what the crowd looked like, what the little cardinal and gold helmets looked like, and it’s even better in person than it was in the dream. To get a victory like this over an incredibly talented USC team with so much firepower and so many reasons to fight right now — it feels so good to come out with a victory. It might not have been the cleanest, it might not have been the prettiest, but, dang, we were gritty and passionate and we played with love for each other. I’m proud of this team.”
Nick Martin – Graduate Student – C
On the dynamics and “odd” flow of the game…
“Yeah, well there was no one thing. Coach talked about mental toughness and it was defined when they came back, and we stuck with them and came out a favorite.”
On Kizer’s performance…
“He did what he needed to do to win. With all my mistakes, especially up front, we could have done some stuff better, but in the end we got it done.”
On Coach Brian Kelly’s message of not blaming Kizer when the team fails to make plays…
“It’s a season message. He’s a young guy, and he needs to know we’re all around him. And also when you got guys like Chris Brown, C.J. [Prosise], and [Will] Fuller surrounding him, you’ve got to let him know: we’re here for him”
Will Fuller – Junior – WR
On mental toughness in today’s game…
“This year we just stuck to the thing that we did. That was good enough to win. We showed a lot of mental toughness today. Going up and facing a little adversity, being down a little bit, and having mental toughness to pick it back up.”
On being 6-1…
“It feels great. I wish we could be 7-0, but we’ll keep grinding to get to our goal.”
On Kizer’s performance…
“He played great. Like you said, he put balls spot on and made it easy for me to catch them, so it’s always great when he’s dropping them in like that.”
Isaac Rochell – Junior – DL
On USC’s resolve to stay in the game…
“It was really frustrating and, you know, whenever you play teams, the goal is to kind of kill their momentum early and that’s what we wanted to do, so we felt like we were doing that and then they came back and it was really frustrating for us.”
On being 6-1 headed into the bye…
“I feel really good, I think our team has done a really good job of improving on the things that we need to improve upon and it’s always first off good to go into a bye week with a win, that’s the overarching theme, and then we feel like we’ve improved, so that’s been big.”
On the big-picture goals still being on the table…
“Yeah, I just think we have to win out and keep playing well, and leave no doubt.”
On trick plays working against the defense this year…
“I think with any team that works, it’s just weird stuff that you don’t really plan for and if you do, you might talk about it a couple times during the week, but you’re not going to focus on a trick play or like a gadget play like you’re talking about, so it’s just complicated in general no matter what team you are.”
CJ Prosise – Senior – RB
On if the Irish played any different in the fourth quarter…
“No, we didn’t do anything different, we did the same thing we had been doing all game, and you know, we just had to come out and execute what we were doing.”
On if the urgency of the team changed after losing the lead…
“Yeah, it definitely did, the offense knew we had to come out and score. We can’t be stalling on another drive. We had to execute what we were doing and we got it done.”
On how it felt to win a game where they had the lead, then lost the lead, and then won…
“It just speaks to the resilience of this team, you know, we went up 24-10 or something like that, and then they came back and they got the lead, and we rallied as a team and just came together and got back up on offense and then the defense got some stops and some picks and it turned out great.”
Corey Robinson – Junior – WR
On having teammates support him through a tough time on the field…
“The team was great these past couple weeks. All of them showed they had the utmost confidence in me. You know, as a player, that means a lot, to know that all of your teammates, you know even from the defensive side, you know, quarterbacks, coaching staff, everyone has confidence in you.”
On how one play can make the difference in the game…
“It was crazy. But that’s how the game goes, you know, that’s the style of football. One play makes everything, it’s a decisive moment, so I’m just happy that we came up on top tonight.”
USC Player Quotes
Cody Kessler – Senior – QB
On loss to Notre Dame…
“It is tough. Those turnovers late were crucial, especially when you play a good football team like that. Our guys dealt with so much this week, everything you can possibly think of. I am so proud of them; they put everything they had in that game. When no one gave us a fighting chance these guys came out here and showed up. They fought hard and were competitive. In the end it was too many mistakes. That was a very good football team, though, cannot take anything away from them.”
On emotions going through the week…
“It was very difficult but it was our job to keep our team focused and keep our team into it. It was a combination of things. With [the coaching change] and injuries, it was tough. But, at the same time it is our job to go out and play football. That is what we did tonight. Like I said, not taking anything away from them, our team played very hard and left everything on the field.”
On amassing 590 yards total offense and still losing…
“It is disappointing. It is not like the effort was not there. It was just when it got down to the end of the game, during crucial points, we did not finish and execute. Whether it was me or anything going on with us making plays, we have to make those plays.”
On Notre Dame’s clutch plays…
“They did a great job. Their offense is very efficient. They had a lot of great plays and that built a lot of momentum. Momentum is the biggest thing; you want to get the crowd out of it. But it seemed like whenever they went away for a little bit they would make a big play or something would happen to get the crowd right back into it. They are a very good football team and I do not want to take anything away from them. They played very well.”
On moving forward…
“We have to go back to work. It is a long flight back home. These guys are awesome and I love this team. I would not want to be playing for anyone else in the country. With everything we have gone through in the last four to five years and for them to fight as hard as they did tonight is amazing to see. The effort and everything was so cool to see. Obviously, it hurts but I could not be prouder of this team.”
On Coach Clay Helton’s postgame message…
“The effort was there. The guys played so hard and played so well. That is a very good football team. We have to regroup and get back to it. He is not going to stop coaching us and believing in us. It has not gone our way but that is no excuse for us. We go out to compete every time we play.”
This year’s Notre Dame team compared to last year…
“They are a lot healthier this year. They have a very good defense. Their offense played well but their defense was very physical and played very strong. They did a great job from their front seven to their defensive backs. It was a hard-fought game. Our guys, down 14, could have easily put their heads down and shut down but we fought back. We had a couple of big plays there and fought and clawed our way to the end. Like I said, I am so proud of them.”
Antwuan Woods – RS Senior – DT
On what interim head coach Clay Helton said to the players in the locker room…
“He said that he loved us, that he liked the way we fought, and that there are some positives to take away from this game. We’re going to fix the corrections and look forward to playing Utah next week.”
On what motivated USC this week…
“Just the type of coach that Coach Helton is. I’ve been with him for four or five years and we know he really cares about us as a team. He’s just a great man and we really love him so we’re just really motivated to play for him.”
On the Notre Dame vs. USC rivalry…
“That’s big, when you come to USC, you come for games like this. Unfortunately, we didn’t win but you know we’ve got games left this season. We will be all right.”
On last year’s game versus Notre Dame compared to this year’s…
“We really don’t look at last year, we just control this year. We came into this game with a great mindset, and we still have a great mindset. We just want to get better for next week.”
Tre Madden – RS Senior – TB
On USC’s struggles in the fourth quarter…
“We couldn’t convert on key third downs. We didn’t make as many plays as they did.”
On interim head coach Clay Helton…
“He’s been awesome getting us focused on the game and avoiding distractions, like I said. Getting us keyed in on our assignments. We just didn’t pull it out. We definitely want to keep him here. We talk to the young guys, and they love him. We all love him. We want to keep him here.”
On what to play for through the rest of the season…
“We play for our season. We definitely still have a chance, and the PAC-12 South is wide open. We’ll focus on the Utah game next week.”
Su’a Cravens – Junior – OLB
On leading against Notre Dame in the third quarter…
“I felt like we had the momentum, but we couldn’t stop the inside zone. They ran the ball and then threw the ball down the field; that got them out of that field position. A lot of their scores came off of big plays.”
On problems defending the inside zone…
“Just not executing. We’re jumping in and out of gaps, and we’re missing tackles.”
On the coaching change this past week…
“At this point in my career, personally, I’m used to something like this. It’s unfortunate, but it didn’t affect the way we prepared or the way we played. We came into this game with the same mindset, and just didn’t get it done.”
On the Notre Dame vs. USC rivalry…
“This is probably the greatest college football rivalry of all time. It’s pretty important. We got them last year, but they got us this year.”