Nov. 13, 2010
Notre Dame vs. Utah
November 13, 2010
Notre Dame Player Quotes
An interview with: COACH KELLY
COACH KELLY: Today, obviously, for our football team was a moment that you really can’t explain unless you’re with us all the time, and that moment is shared between players and coaches. We were able to do that in the locker room after the game. I bring that up only because as you know, and it’s been talked about quite a bit, you know, our seniors were playing in their last game. Through the last three weeks we certainly have had a great deal of adversity that we’ve had to overcome together as a group. In those times to steal a quote from Coach Parseghian, adversity elicits traits sometimes that we didn’t think we ever had. I think for our guys they saw themselves in a different light. I don’t want to get too philosophical other than to say that our seniors really provided great leadership over the past few weeks, and it was evident even in our bye week. That’s a time where generally at 4 and 5, seniors check out. They are thinking about graduate school or their next job. We had a drill that we did on Thursday that told me that our football team had moved to that next phase in its development. And we just played. We were excited about competing, and that’s what happened today. You saw it today was a football team that didn’t have on their shoulders the traditions and reputations and all the things that you have to worry about sometimes being a football player at Notre Dame, and they just flat out played. We’ll continue to build on that to play the game. Because it is just a game. And today you saw a team and Utah is physically and mentally a tough football team and today we were able to beat them at their game. Physically on the line of scrimmage we were able to run the football in crucial times. We were able to control the line of scrimmage against a team that runs the ball very well, our defensive line in particular played very well against the run. And that’s the kind of football that you have to have as a winning program. You have to out physical your opponent and be mentally tougher, and today. Questions?
Q. Tough as you said it was to describe that moment, would catharsis be a good word for it, relief? What adjectives would you use to describe it?
COACH KELLY: I think our kids were just the consistency of our approach since we got here is starting to obviously move through the entire program. That message that is consistent on a day to day basis. I could feel it. I could feel it last week that finally we were I don’t know what it was. It’s hard for me to describe. We were taking a huge load off our shoulders and going back and just being college students and football players. And not carrying all the burdens of everything that goes along with being a Notre Dame football player and the great tradition and championships. I could see it coming in practice. We were just playing. We’re back to playing the game of football the way it needs to be played. I think that’s probably closer to that definition.
Q. That drill on Thursday, what did it entail, if you can give us details?
COACH KELLY: Generally what happens on a Thursday the kids want practice as quick as possible to get to the weekend. They want Friday, Saturday, Sunday off. Thursday was a three on three drill. In that three on three drill you had a quarterback, you had a running back, and you had three offensive players and three defensive players. Skill, big skill and power. So you had three wide receivers against three DBs with a quarterback and running back, and you’ve got to get ten yards. It was competition at its best. We had seniors in there. We had guys that were injured that we had to pull out of there that wanted to go. Harrison Smith and Mike Floyd were banged up and injured, I had to pull them out of the drill twice. That’s why they were captains today. Just that toughness, that physical and mental toughness that you need to be a champion, and that was on display.
Q. I don’t know if you gave Tommy any pregame words of encourage, given this was his first career start, if so, what were they? And how much are you and the team looking forward to the experience of playing Army at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx next week?
COACH KELLY: There is a lot of dialogue between me and Tom and all the quarterbacks, obviously there’s got to be a lot of dialogue. Just, Tommy is a young man that really understands the game of football. Whether you’re in the spread and five wides or you’re running tackle pull or power, which we ran probably more times than I think we’ve run power here in a long time, he can handle the adjustments that are made. We felt the game plan was such that he could handle what we gave them, so there was a lot of conversation. Certainly, we’re looking forward to the match up against Army. Yankee Stadium, all of those things are great, but it’s another opportunity for us to get closer to six wins as well.
Q. You ran a lot of two tights today, and you mentioned about running more power than you have. Why did you go that direction? What got you to be thinking in that direction?
COACH KELLY: Well, we wanted to get the game in the fourth quarter. That was the most important. Our theme this week was get it to the fourth quarter and let’s put this nonsense to bed that you can’t win games in the fourth quarter, so let’s get to the fourth quarter. So everything in our game plan was you’ve got to run the football, we’ve got to shorten the game, we’ve got to be high percentage in our throws and not put Tommy in too many positions where we could turn the football over. Felt if we didn’t turn the ball over and play clean, we’re physical on defense, and then win special teams. Obviously, we did with the fumble on the kickoff that was caused by a great hit by Austin Collinsworth, and then obviously the blocked punt. Win special teams. That was really the game plan coming in.
Q. How do you turn this from just a moment to a building block?
COACH KELLY: Because you missed the point. It’s not a moment. It’s the culmination of what we’ve been working on since December. You don’t just pull these out of a hat. You don’t just wake up one day and say oh, let’s rise up today. It’s the consistency of approach from a day to day basis and how we go to work every day. We’re not a finished product by any means, but we’re starting to develop the mental and physical toughness the way that you need to go and approach this game on a day to day basis. I think I said it a couple of times in the press conference last week is that we’re moving in the right direction. I know 4 5 is how we’re evaluated. 5 5 now, and I get that. But what I see inside the walls is a little bit different, and the direction we’re moving will continue to make progress.
Q. Did you know that it was going to be going outside the walls today?
COACH KELLY: Well, I come in expecting to win each week. I thought we had a great chance to win the football game if we didn’t turn it over on offense. That’s why you didn’t see us spreading the field as much and relied more on a run game, play action, high percentage throws.
Q. The validation that today shows that the approach is clicking in had, you’ve been around a lot of football teams. Have you ever been around a team that needed a day like today because of this one and because of all the things that you just talked about?
COACH KELLY: Certainly winning obviously helps them feel better about the commitment that they make. Whatever we do, their commitment has been extraordinary. They’ve done everything we’ve asked them to do from day one. So clearly a win helps with that psyche. But we probably wouldn’t have won today unless we had in our own minds as players and coaches believed that we were on the right path anyway. So, yes, to your question. But in the other regard, they had arrived. They were on the same page the whole time.
Q. There were two plays, one Michael Floyd’s block on the corner for Jonas Graves. And the other was an incomplete pass that Gary Gray had perfect position on and the guy just stopped because he didn’t want to get hit. Where did that kind of intimidation come from that you see that brewing over the week?
COACH KELLY: I just can tell you that it’s been moving in that direction. I would have to do the same thing that I’m telling you. Guys, it’s going to happen. They’re going to breakthrough. Just let’s stay the course. And that’s hard to do today in a society that wants instant information and gratification. It’s hard to paint that picture to anybody, and sometimes to 18 to 21 year olds. I believed in what we’re doing, and obviously a great deal of our kids did too or they wouldn’t have played with the kind of physical presence they played with in this football game against a team that has really, I think, of all the teams that I’ve seen other than maybe Stanford, played with this kind of physical presence. That is a physical football team.
Q. How will you describe the work done by the offensive line today and what would you expect from them in the future?
COACH KELLY: I told them we had talked all week about there has to be a time and place where you win the game up front. It can’t be finesse football and fast break, and 30, 40 throws. There’s got to be time and place. This was a game where it had to be won up front. I think just putting it on their shoulders from that perspective, and committing to it and staying with it. They knew that they were going to be central to the success today and our defensive line. This game was won up front.
Q. Duval’s a guy that’s kind of had to wait for a long time to evaluate his day. Talk about what it was like to see him score two touchdowns?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, the formation grouping that we had today put two tight ends on the field. Our two big guys. We were going to get a lot of cover one, a lot of man to man, and we told Duval for the last ten days, this is your game. You’re going to get matched up. You’re 6’4″, you’ve got to help us. You’ve got to be there for us. And he was there huge. He got the matchups that we were looking for in one on one, and Tommy put the ball where it needed to be. We were expecting a lot of opportunities to Duval in one on one coverage, and obviously he got the job done.
Q. TJ, where’s he at?
COACH KELLY: He got injured during the week. It was pretty physical the last ten days of practice. He’s a tough kid, but he got banged up a little bit. We just didn’t think he could go. We wanted to make sure that he’s healthy moving forward. So we knew that coming in, and that’s why our game plan we were a little bit short on some of our play makers that we’ve had. So we had to adjust some things even during the week when we found out that it didn’t look like he was going to be able to answer the bell.
Q. You say your game plan has been more conservative in that you didn’t put the air in the ball as much. When you got in the end zone there were three quick touchdown passes, was it something you saw? Was it the Duval match up?
COACH KELLY: No, it was just the way they played. They either brought all pressure, zero pressure or played seven match. So it’s simply what Utah does as a defense when they get backed up. So you’re not going to run the football down there when there are eight or nine guys stacking the box. So we’re always going to do what we can do to score points.
Q. The package was obviously a bit different. Is there anything in particular that is in the package with Tommy that wasn’t in the package with Dayne?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, two tight ends and we ran power, I think 18 times. I don’t think we ran it 18 times, I think we ran it five times the entire year. Again, we were short some guys that are pretty good play makers. I think you guys all know that. So we had to set a game plan that I wasn’t going to put this game on Tommy Rees. I was going to take shots when we had opportunities because he’s an accurate thrower of the football. But it was all going to be predicated on our ability to get this thing into the fourth quarter and have a presence on defense as well. And those things came together with, as you know, key plays in special teams.
Q. You touched on it briefly at the start, but with everything this university has been through the last three weeks, can you talk about what the performance today meant and means to the university?
COACH KELLY: It started with our students on Friday night at the pep rally. They were unbelievable. They were all there. Here’s a team that’s probably not where they want to be, but our students were there in great support. Heck, we even had fireworks here at Notre Dame, go figure. It was really, I think for us as a team, we felt really good about that support. Then today was terrific. The crowd was as into it as any game that we’ve been involved all year. So to have that support that we had today and the students being here and our crowd and our support was it was really not unexpected, but it was a pleasant surprise.
Q. You’ve emphasized traditions since the day you came in here. You’ve had players learn about former great other former great players on the cover of your media guide. You said they played unburdened by the tradition. Are you changing the approach in regard to that?
COACH KELLY: I think that was the tradition we were pointing towards and that was leather helmets running out of the tunnel, toughness, the Fighting Irish, and getting back to that kind of football. And you can do it in many different ways. Doesn’t have to be two backs and powers and you can do it in four wides as well. But you have to do it on both sides of the ball. So I don’t think I’d back away from that as much as we’re still trying to lay the foundation of how you play this game. You play it hard for four quarters. You get it to the fourth quarter and you close. My career has been built on closing games out and building the mentality of that football team. That’s what we had to make sure we got done.
Q. Can you talk about how big Blanton block was?
COACH KELLY: It’s interesting. I just said to Coach Elston, I said, you know what, we’ve just been on our heels too much in punt. You know, we just seemed to always, you know, concern ourselves with the return game and not wanting to get after it. And we worked really hard this week on getting the punt. That was something we talked about, let’s get one. And Blanton’s an exceptional athlete who can bend off the edge as good as anybody can. And we set it up pretty good and it was a huge momentum maker. Any time you block a punt in the game, I think we’ve seen enough games, they generally lead to real good things for you down the road. So that was a big play for us, but it was a point of emphasis as well.
Q. And Jonas broke off a long run. Did that kind of light a fire under Cierre? And did you think of going back to Jonas after that?
COACH KELLY: No, Cierre is coming along. He misses some things out there, but he runs hard. Probably wants a couple of plays back. Probably thinking about that throw off the sideline, but he’s a tough kid. He’s getting better each and every week. We’ve changed the pace a little bit with Jonas and it was obviously late in the game. But no, he’s our number one back. He’s going to get better, he’s not there yet, but he’s going to be better each week. Thank you.
An interview with: TOMMY REES
Q. How does it feel to get a win in your first standard?
Tommy Rees: Awesome giving the seniors one last win here at Notre Dame Stadium.
Q. How important was that as a freshman to send the seniors off like this?
Tommy Rees: That was our number one goal. Seniors have done an unbelievable job all year. Whether it be preparing us, keeping us focused, especially in the past two weeks. You know, to send them off with a win is truly special.
Q. Tell us about the approach to the game? What was your mindset during the game?
Tommy Rees: Just prepare, you work hard in the week coming up, and you just want to make plays for your team and not put your teams in costly situations.
Tommy Rees: Yeah, you know in the beginning running out there you get some, but all positive butterflies. You’re anxious to play, and once the first series comes, they’re all gone.
Q. Did the bye week help to give you more preparation?
Tommy Rees: Absolutely. Having that extra week to watch film, study, and just trying to get some rapport with the receivers helped tremendously.
Q. Talk about the senior leadership in the bye week coming in, because coach talked about they set the foundation. Behind the walls they knew something good was going to happen. Talk about what they’ve done to make this moment happen?
Tommy Rees: Absolutely. They stayed positive throughout the two weeks. They kept pushing us and pushing everyone to work hard and stay focused and stay locked in, and I think that showed today.
Q. Any one particular senior or some of them that can you share with us how they helped?
Tommy Rees: Practices were physical. The guy that stands out to me is Chris Stewart. He’s been here a long time, and he keeps pushing. Me being a freshman, he really took me under his arm and really supported me a lot, especially the O lineman protecting me, so he’s really stood out.
Q. Coach said it seemed like you guys were able to go out and just play today. Have you kind of lifted that burden off your shoulder. Has it been a feeling of pressure or stress and how does it feel now?
Tommy Rees: Not too much. Everyone on the team has your back, and everyone’s there to support you. So you don’t really feel it all that much. Obviously, you put expectations on yourself and you want to meet those goals, but not too bad now.
Q. Well, like you said, it felt like you guys were able to go out there and play and get back to that. Do you feel like that’s how you played today?
Tommy Rees: Oh, yeah, absolutely. It was a blast out there.
Q. That blocked punt started a 28 0 run, basically. Can you talk about the emotional swing when that happened?
Tommy Rees: Yeah, the offense wasn’t exactly clicking early on. To get some help from our special teams, you know, Blanton made a great play. He got 7 points, really jump started us. From that point on things started clicking, and it really energized the team.
Q. How much did the package that you guys ran help at all?
Tommy Rees: That was great. We knew we could run the ball, and we did a lot of that today between the line and the backs. Tyler played great. It was great having a nice running game like that. They did a great job.
Q. Talk about the game over two weeks you were over 400 yards and now you’re over 100 to get the win?
Tommy Rees: Yeah, absolutely. You’ll take a win over stats any day. Taking what the defense gives you and not trying to force anything, just being patient and staying within the game plan.
Q. Did you feel the pressure this being your first start at all?
Tommy Rees: I would be lying if I said a little bit. But everyone supports you when you go out there and it starts to go away.
Q. When did you start to feel comfortable? I think you had a tipped pass early.
Tommy Rees: Yeah, probably right around after the second drive Coach Kelly talked to me and he was reassuring me.
Q. How do you keep this going? You have such a big win today, how do you turn this into a streak rather than kind of an event?
Tommy Rees: You just do what you’ve been doing all year. Keep working hard and keep pushing forward, just enjoy this week for the next 24 hours.
Q. Can you put into words how big of a win this is for your team? When you factor everything together?
Tommy Rees: Probably not. Put the seniors out with a win, to be a ranked opponent for the first time in a while and being here at Notre Dame, it’s just really special.
Q. Did the game plan help relax you a little bit? Coach said at some point we’re going to have to run the football, did that help you? You knew what the game plan was going to be, did that help you settle in?
Tommy Rees: Yeah, having that running game there and like I said before, they did a great job. Really took some of the pressure off the quarterback. Yeah, absolutely.
Q. What was more pressure today, from Utah or trying to get out from underneath all the student when’s they came out on the field?
Tommy Rees: Utah did a great job and brought pressure and all that. But once the fans storm the field you see how special Notre Dame is and how great the fans are. It really shows a lot.
Q. Anything you want to work on for next week that you saw in this game?
Tommy Rees: There are always things to work on. Once I watch the film and dissect it, we’ll go from there. But absolutely, there’s always something.
Q. Did you need to ease into it?
Tommy Rees: Obviously the first couple of drives weren’t that great for us offensively, so kind of just happened that way. Just going with the pace of the game, and things started clicking there. After that it was good.
Q. Were you surprised to go for it on fourth down in the first series?
Tommy Rees: Not really, you know. Coach is aggressive and he has a lot of confidence in us, so, no, I wasn’t too surprised. The whole offense wanted to. We wanted to keep going.
Q. How did your captains kind of as the game went on it seemed like you got momentum. Can you talk about your perspective how the game went in that regard for you personally?
Tommy Rees: Yeah, starting off slow and then things started rolling. Threw a first touchdown and you’re feeling pretty good from there on. From there on out you just keep working and everybody is supporting you and has your back. Things start going well.
Q. Was there a play you made in this game that really just kind of told you that you’re getting the hang of the offense? That the things are starting to click?
Tommy Rees: Probably the first touchdown to Duval. It was a great play call, and all the receivers and the line did a great job. Little bit of a different readout there and to get him open and make the throw from that point on, I felt pretty confident.
Q. You’ve got to tell me about those signs?
Tommy Rees: You know it’s something that we put in this week.
Q. What are they, are they like defensive personnel?
Tommy Rees: I don’t know if I’m going to get into that, but they help us a lot. They’re fun, but also very helpful.
Q. What are they? We can’t really see them from the press box?
Tommy Rees: It’s a basic sign with about four different pictures on it. It will be anything from a six pack of Coke to Doublemint gum, I think there is a picture of Rex Ryan on there, some funny things, a turkey. Yeah, there are some pretty random stuff. Alex Flanagan’s on there, so, yeah.
Tommy Rees: Throughout the bulk of the season I’ve been working with the ball. So we have a good chemistry and connection, and he’s worked extremely hard to put himself in this position. As a senior he deserves everything he’s got today. I kind even put into words how great he played.
Q. Did you get a sense that you can kind of crescendoed into it?
Tommy Rees: I don’t know if I went that far thinking about it. But, for me, just keep working hard and keep building rapport with receivers.
Q. Just overall when you look at the game, how do you feel about the way the whole day went for you?
Tommy Rees: I couldn’t be happier. Getting the win is the most important thing. To send the seniors off I’m ecstatic.
Q. Can you talk about your offensive line? It seemed that you had plenty of time?
Tommy Rees: Absolutely. They did a great job up there. They get a lot less credit than they should. They deserve everything and more that they get said about them, and they did a great job out there.
Q. One thing I’m curious about, the offense seemed to be clicking until the defense is absent. So basically did you feel it on the sidelines saying I need to
Tommy Rees: Yeah, that blocked punt for touchdown really helped the offense out because we were struggling, and jump started the whole sideline and the team. From that point on we started rolling, so…
Q. How important was it to get the extra win?
Tommy Rees: Tremendous. Watching the film, being with coach and all the guys, just working on timing and all that it was extremely helpful.
Q. Is there any particular part of this game where you know that kickoff really shows it?
Tommy Rees: There are a lot of different situations in the red zone especially, we had a good idea what they were going to do and we looked to exploit that and things like that down there.
Q. Can you prepare for something all week?
Tommy Rees: Absolutely. You do that all year. The bonus week is good to get your legs back and a little relaxation time and to stay focused on football. Now we’ve got to come ready to work on Monday and prepare.
Q. Key block, Michael Floyd, is that what really got your offense going?
Tommy Rees: Yeah, that long run by Jonas set us up for that touchdown pass. Mike threw a block for him. And that just shows he’s willing to do the little things to help your team. And that goes a long way when one of your best players is making his best plays.
Q. Up to that point, the way the game was designed, very low risk game. Is that how a guy makes it, right?
Tommy Rees: Yeah, he can influence the game in so many different ways, and that block showed his versatility and play making ability.
Tommy Rees: I don’t think we had any turnovers, as long as you take care of the ball like that, you put yourself in a position to win.
Q. From your perspective, why is a day like this not a surprise?
Tommy Rees: Everything goes on behind closed doors. The guys’ morale never went down. People stayed positive and kept working hard. And you see everyone out there every day at practice, and seeing everything they’re giving, a win like this doesn’t come as a surprise.
Q. Is it important to show it off he though?
Tommy Rees: Yeah, absolutely. You know, we all knew we could do it. And to come out here and make plays and continue to work puts a lot of confidence back into us.
Q. A huge difference throwing 54 times as opposed to throwing 20 times, that was really the game plan? Did it limit some of the pressure on you?
Tommy Rees: Yeah, we wanted to run the ball, and we did that. And throwing was effective down there towards the second half but the tight ends and running backs did a great job within the game plan. We didn’t turn the ball over and that was one of our goals, so that was great.
Manti Te’o – So. – Linebacker
On the team’s confidence going into the game…
“We were definitely confident, we had a great week of practice. Especially since it was the senior’s last night under the lights, which was extra motivation. We came into (the game) confident and were well prepared. It was up to us to execute, and we did that.”
On the scene of the field after the victory…
“It was crazy, and that’s how it should be. We should give our fans what they want, and show them that we appreciate their support. I ran up into the stands to go see my family.”
On being unencumbered by tradition…
“We believe that all that matters are the guys on our team. Which is all that matters. No matter what everyone else says, it is the guys in the locker room (that matter). We play for each other and play the whole game, all four quarters, the best we can.”
Brian Smith – Sr. – Linebacker
On winning his final game in Notre Dame Stadium…
“It feels great. I’ve been a part of senior days where we lost, and the seniors went out with a look on their faces; it just broke my heart. I’m glad that (our senior class) didn’t go out that way. It was a collective effort from the seniors all the way down to the freshman. It just feels great to get a win today.”
On importance of win…
“First, it was important because it gets us one game win closer to a bowl game. Second, that is a top 15 program in Utah, who has great accolades and is a great football team. We were able to go out there today, let up only 3 points on defense, get the offense going and make plays on special teams. It goes to show for the future that we got some things rolling here.”
Michael Floyd – Jr. – Wide Receiver
On his excitement after catching a touchdown pass…
“It always is exciting (to catch a touchdown pass). Just to be able to screen someone out, then get a big play and energy back on our level while making a touchdown out of it is just great.”
On having fun with the block…
“It’s great knowing you got the team hyped up and ready to go for the next play. You have a guy in there who usually doesn’t spring out big plays; to get them out there is very good.”
On matching Utah’s physicality…
“Coach (Kelly) just leaned on the seniors. He brought a new drill out during practice that tested people’s strength and their will to compete. Just him bringing that drill out really paid off this game.”
Cierre Wood – So. – Tailback
On the game plan today…
“The game plan was to just come out and out physical them. Beat Utah physically and mentally. I think we did that very well. From their body language throughout the first half and midway through the third quarter, it seemed like they did not want a part of us anymore. We just had to go for the kill at that point. That was our game plan going into this week.”
On the confidence it brings to beat a ranked team…
“Coach Kelly pushes the same thing every day. He says that every day he is not going to change and I that is instilled in everyone’s mind. It is all a mindset; you have to keep fighting to finish and that is what we did in this game.”
Gary Gray – Sr. – Cornerback
On the need for a win today…
“The team needed it badly, but mostly for the seniors because it is our last chance playing in (Notre Dame Stadium). Since I’ve been here we haven’t beaten a ranked team. Just for the seniors to go out with a win is great.”
On the bye week preparation…
“During the bye week, none of our coaches were really there. It was just Coach Kelly and the coordinators. We had competition during the whole practice, one on one, seven on seven, eleven on eleven. We also had a three on three drill that helped us jump out there. Receivers were blocking corners, offensive linemen were blocking defensive lineman, offensive linemen were blocking linebackers. Everyone was out there competing, even the seniors. Everyone was intense and no one wanted Utah’s offense to score.”
Duval Kamara – Sr. – Wide Receiver
On Coach Kelly telling him Saturday’s game would be “his game”…
“(Coach Kelly) told me it was going to be my game and that I’d have to step up for us to win. Being a wide receiver means you have to have a great game. This whole year I’ve been playing. Even when I was down at times, I would come out and give 110%.”
On not getting many opportunities…
“It’s frustrating at times (to not get much playing time) waiting to get your chance. You just have to be patient, that’s part of life. Sometimes things aren’t going to go your way, but today things went my way.”
On closing his home career with a win…
“It’s great. The last few years seniors haven’t gone out as they wanted to. All of the seniors this year, we said, ‘We have to go out with a win. We have to beat Utah.’ We were definitely successful in doing so.”
On pulling in two touchdown passes…
“It felt amazing (to catch two TD passes). I haven’t been in the end zone in a while in this stadium.”
Harrison Smith – Sr. – Safety
On Saturday’s great performance…
“We knew that we’re capable of a performance like that all year. It’s just doing it play, after play, after play. Before we would do it for a while and then take a play off. Once we start being consistent every single snap we’re going to be really good, just like we were today.”
On the feelings during senior day…
“Throughout the past four years, playing with those guys and a couple of the fifth years, everyone has become close and have grown so much. We’ve been through a lot of adversity together. Leaving (Notre Dame Stadium) with a win is like turning the page.”
Robert Blanton – Jr. – Defensive Back
On what Coach Kelly did differently during the bye week…
“Coach Kelly reminded us that what happens in the past, is in the past. We can only control today. We can’t change what happened on the past couple of senior days. We can only fight and change the outcome of today.”
On the ability for this win to turn the season around…
“Definitely (it can turn things around). In order to get to a bowl game we’re going to have to win the next two games. And we get ready for that tomorrow.”
An interview with: COACH WHITTINGHAM
COACH WHITTINGHAM: Okay, tough loss. Notre Dame deserves a great deal of credit. They had a great game plan going in, they knew what they had to do and did what they needed to do to win the football game. They made the plays when they were there to be made. We weren’t able to do that. Came out minus two on the turnover margin. Again, against a team like Notre Dame, that is the same issue we had last week. We were minus three last week, and minus two this week. Had a punt blocked. Entirely too many penalties. So a lot of things on our part that we did very poorly. But, again, Notre Dame did a nice job. They were obviously had the time off in between, and did a great job of retooling a few things and being prepared for this football game. Credit goes to them. Questions?
Q. How do you think their freshman quarterback held up today?
COACH WHITTINGHAM: Very well. They did a great job of putting him in situations to succeed. They didn’t ask a bunch of throws of him down the field. When they did, they did a nice job. Defensively gave up 250 something yards which is usually good enough to win most weeks. But when you’re struggling on offense like we are right now. That’s two games in a row that we’ve struggled, and scored one touchdown in eight quarters of football now in the last two weeks. Like I said, turned the ball over twice and had a punt blocked. You combine that with a nice game plan, solid game plan by Notre Dame on offense to, you know, make the most of what they have available to them right now, that was the outcome.
Q. How has your team’s confidence level changed over the last two weeks?
COACH WHITTINGHAM: Yeah, we were riding high. Had eight in a row, and now we’ve dropped the last two ballgames and right now not feeling real good about ourselves. I can tell you that. But nobody feels sorry for us. We’ve got two games left. We’ve got to rebound. Everybody’s got to search and decide what they can do to make us a better football team as individuals. Take care of what they’re able to control and then move forward. But right now we’re reeling a little bit right now.
Q. You mentioned Notre Dame’s use of the bye. Can you point to things that were indicative of a team having a an a week off?
COACH WHITTINGHAM: Yeah, I think they did a nice job with the freshman quarterback. That was the thing offensively that they did, like I said. Gave him not too much on his plate. Enough to move the football and get the points they needed to win the football game. But they didn’t stress him, which was, you know, very smart, obviously. Then the biggest, the single biggest factor of the game, if you ask what the single biggest factor of the game was our ineptness on offense. That was the biggest factor as far as a single factor.
Q. What happened on the blocked punt?
COACH WHITTINGHAM: Yeah, it looked like by the way, there is no replay board in there. I don’t know if you noticed that. So usually I can go to the replay board and get an idea of what happened and what the break down was. But I think it came from the far edge. We were in the scheme where we were punting to our right. So we let the end guy on the far left go, and I think our splits might have been a little bit too tight and little bit too short of a corner there. We held the ball too long getting it out, and great athletic play by the Notre Dame defender. But until I see the film, I can’t tell you for certain. But I think after talking to the players on that side, I think that’s what happened.
Q. Then to start the second half, how deflating was the fumble?
COACH WHITTINGHAM: That was the exact opposite of what we had hoped to accomplish in the second half. We talked about 14 3. We came out and put one on the board, it’s 14 10 and it’s a ballgame. We proceed to fumble the opening kickoff and one play later they’re in the end zone. That was very deflating right there. But we were able to rally up a little bit on defense. We only gave up one touchdown the rest of the way and played decently. Like I said, the numbers are pretty good. Got a little soft there in the end on defense, particularly the run game in the late third and fourth quarter.
Q. Can you talk more about the run game you’re typically a pretty solid one two punch for you?
COACH WHITTINGHAM: Yeah, running 100 yards for a second week in a row. And we have 70 something yards and it’s tough to win games. If you can’t establish balance in your offense and run efficiently, it makes everything difficult. That’s two weeks in a row now we were not able to do that. Credit Notre Dame’s front seven. They’ve got a big, physical front seven. Manti Te’o’s a heck of a ballplayer. Those four down guys, three down guys do a nice job. The kid next to Manti is a physical kid as well. And they’ve got a very stout front seven on defense.
Q. What did they do defensively to kind of throw you guys off track?
COACH WHITTINGHAM: Nothing really different. I’d have to watch the tape to give you specifics. But at face value there were no wholesale changes. They’ve been playing pretty good defense this year. I don’t know what the situation was for us and what the issue was. But like you said, that’s two weeks in a row now that we’ve had very, very subpar performances. So they were just playing sound, getting off blocks. You know, the backers were filling holes. We had a counter game that had been very good to us the first eight ballgames and couldn’t get any of that in the way because of the front seven. Just their play. The fundamentals and techniques of the front seven.
Q. Coach, you touched on it earlier when you said their physicalness up front. What did you see in their physical play and how did that impact your team on your execution?
COACH WHITTINGHAM: Our offense and defensive front? Yeah, I don’t think we ever had control on the line of scrimmage. Like I said, they’re big physical guys and they’ve got 245 pound inside linebackers linebackers that will come up and smack you. The front does a nice job with their technique and staying square. Same things we saw on tape. We just weren’t productive today. They did a nice job.
Q. Coach, Jordan struggled a little bit in the last couple of games. Were you thinking of making a change earlier?
COACH WHITTINGHAM: Yeah, you know, the thought crossed my mind. It crossed my minds last week, and crossed my mind this week. That’s something we’ve got to evaluate. We’ve got to dissect that fill and take a look at where we’re at in that position. It’s not that position though. Last week was a myriad of things, and this week was not as problematic across the board. But that’s some place that we have to perform. I don’t care what level of football you’re at, that is a key position. And you’ve got to have performance and production. And that’s a couple weeks in a row now we haven’t been able to get as much as we needed to.
Q. I noticed Jordan took a hard hit. Was it cramps there at the end?
COACH WHITTINGHAM: He should be okay. Hopefully there’s no residual effects there.
Q. Your program has gone to incredible heights and you’ve had few bumps in the road. At this point based on where you were a couple of weeks ago, how surprised are you? I know the level of competition went up, but you had to have a level of confidence going into last week and this week?
COACH WHITTINGHAM: Well, we did. But we were fully aware that the degree of difficulty got higher as the season went on. We weren’t tooting our own horn. I think we had all the answers, at least tried not to portray that. We knew that TCU followed by Notre Dame on the road was going to be a tough stretch, and we’re going to San Diego next week. We have no feeling or attitude. We had all the answers that, hey, we’re a dominant team. We had beaten a lot of teams that we should have beaten and that a tough stretch was coming up, and we haven’t played well in successive weeks. Like I said, that’s where we’re at. We have two ballgames to go. One on the road and one at home. Still could can turn out to be a very good season, but we have our issues to work through right now.
Q. Coach, you had a lot of early penalties. Talk about how that set the table?
COACH WHITTINGHAM: Yeah, that was another big factor that led to our demise. I think we had nine penalties in the first quarter. And that was, you know, we kept taking a step forward and two steps back kind of situation, false starts, a pass interference. We had a lot of penalties. You know, we started the season a little bit sloppy with penalties and then we had a stretch of about six games where we were 40 yards or less, I think. Then today it resurfaced, so that was a factor. We’ve got to play more disciplined football.
Q. Sean sell win had a very uncharacteristic game punting wise. What were the factors in that?
COACH WHITTINGHAM: Good question. We had one blocked early, I don’t know if that rattled him the rest of the way. But typically he’s been very consistent and a solid punter for us. He has a lot of ability. We haven’t given up on him by any means. But it was a game where the field position battle, we did not win the field position battle in the punt game. We just have to keep working at it, and I’m sure he’ll rebound.
Q. What can you do or what would you have to do to help Jordan win right now?
COACH WHITTINGHAM: Well, we’ve got to dissect the entire film, obviously. Hasn’t just been Jordan. I talked last week about if a quarterback has nowhere to go with the ball, what’s he supposed to do? So it’s a team effort. We have to do a better job in protection and getting open. But as far as Jordan specifically, we have to dissect the tape, go through it play by play. Is he going through his reprogressing correctly? Is he making the right decisions? And make a determination on the best course of action is.
Q. Can you talk about being at Notre Dame, most of the guys this is their one and only time they’ve been here. Maybe at halftime in the locker room did you galvanize that either beforehand or at halftime?
COACH WHITTINGHAM: First of all, I’ll say this is a fantastic place. For my first time here and I’m walking away completely impressed with how this crowd and everybody here handles themselves. It’s a first class program, it’s a first class university. I’ve got nothing but positive things to say about my experience here. Did we talk a lot about Notre Dame tradition and so forth? No. We’re playing those 11 guys on the field right there. We’re not playing Joe Montana or Joe Theismann or all these great players that have been through here. We’re focused on the 11 that are out there, and the 11 out there ended up being pretty good. Thank you.
Utah Player Quotes
Jereme Brooks o Sr. o Wide Receiver
On how to fix putting themselves in bad situations…
“We’re putting our D in bad situations. We can’t keep putting our team in short fields. Offensively, we have to score points to take pressure off of the defense, and we haven’t been doing that the last few games.”
On coming into Notre Dame Stadium…
“We’re not playing tradition; we’re playing the eleven guys on the field.”
On losing two in a row…
“We’ve been doing the same thing every week. We haven’t changed anything. But what we’re doing right now isn’t working.”
On whether it’s a mental or a physical block…
“I would say it’s more mental than physical. We go out and practice every day. We’re doing the same things we’ve been doing during the first eight wins. I can’t say that it’s physical, it’s more on our preparation and what we do before the games.”
Shaky Smithson o Sr. o Wide Receiver
On scoring only three points today…
“Each and every week we have to come out and perform. You don’t know if you’re going to score 45 or 3. It’s not like basketball where you can bring your “A” game every game. You have to work hard in practice and go out and try and score 45 points.”
On moving forward…
“We have to go in on Monday, watch film and correct our mistakes so we can go back out there. We want to go out to San Diego State and have a good game.”
On the games leading up to today…
“Each and every game is different. We play every game like it’s a different game. The last two weeks our opponents just had the momentum and won the game.”
On the second half kickoff…
“I went through the hole and the helmet hit the ball. That was a great play. You can’t avoid that if a helmet hits the ball. It was a great play on their behalf.”
On Notre Dame’s momentum once they scored their third touchdown…
“Every time we made a play, there was a penalty or something else. No excuses, that’s a great team over there. They came to play. We just have to get back to work Monday.”
On feelings of frustration…
“I wouldn’t say frustration; I would say we have to rededicate ourselves and get back to basics. We need to get back to practice, work hard and get back in that winning pattern.”
On the short punt returns…
“Each and every team for the past few weeks has been doing that, so I’m more used to it. I just have to man up and make sure we can get some good plays on punt return.”
Derrick Shelby o Jr. o Defensive End
On Tommy Rees…
“He threw a couple 20-yard passes on me, short-field, and that’s about it.”
On Notre Dame’s injuries and surprising Utah…
“I don’t think we were surprised at all. We just got put in a bunch of bad situations. We had a good game plan going forward and we just didn’t execute.”
On how Utah will rebound from this game…
“I’m just a player, I just go out and do what my coaches say. We have to fix everything I guess.”
Jordan Wynn o So. o Quarterback
On the issues of the game…
“I don’t really know what the issues are. Something has to be done; we have to change something and start heading in the right direction.”
On Notre Dame surprising Utah…
“They didn’t surprise us. We watched film. They’ve done everything they did on film.”
On how to prepare for next week…
“We just have to work harder. Everyone just has to take it upon themselves. We’ve got to watch more film. We have to get this right.”
On thoughts at halftime…
“We were fine. We needed to make a play and get back in the game. We weren’t down by a lot. It wasn’t some huge margin. We just didn’t do it.”
On not scoring a touchdown…
“I can’t [remember the last time that happened]. It’s really frustrating.”
“The opportunities were there. They didn’t do anything to surprise us. We just didn’t play good. I think we just need to play better. Today was definitely a lack of execution on our part. There’s nothing else to it; we’ve got to make plays.”
Tony Bergstrom o Jr. o Offensive Lineman
On Notre Dame…
“They’re a good team. We can’t take anything away from Notre Dame. I mean, they’re Notre Dame. They have their tradition for a reason, we just didn’t execute and we needed to.”
On losing two games after eight straight wins…
“It has to do with the caliber of our opposing teams. In times like this, there aren’t a lot of answers. It’s easy when things are high and you’re winning eight games in a row, but now it’s just kind of time to dig deep and figure it out.”
On expectations of Notre Dame…
“We see every game as an opportunity [for a win], especially this week. But we just didn’t get it done.”
On getting their confidence back…
“When our offense is playing with swagger, you’ve seen what happens. It’s dangerous. We just don’t have that right now.”
“We killed ourselves. We had so many penalties in the first half. We killed ourselves with illegal procedures and offsides. It was not good; we just shot ourselves in the foot.”