Sept. 13, 2016

Brian Kelly

Brian Kelly: Morning, afternoon. I think we’re right there. First of all, just kind of recap on last week’s game. I think I mentioned this at the postgame, certainly winning is difficult. We saw that this past weekend and I want to reiterate that I was really pleased with the way our guys prepared coming off a short week.

You know, a lot of times when you have a team that is still learning how to prepare, they gloss over some of the most important things and that is what happens on the practice field. They took care of themselves. They made sure that they were prepared in the right way, and they really — they won the game in a fashion that allowed us to get a lot of people into the game pretty early, and that’s sometimes not easy to do against a Division I opponent and a Nevada team that won a bowl game last year and expected to go back to a bowl game.

So sometimes it gets overlooked in the final outcome, but I was pleased with our preparation and it says a lot about where we are as a group and what they need to do to continue to be successful.

So really pleased with that piece. Two things came out of this year so far is that it’s a group that’s resilient, that will battle, and, two, that understands how to prepare for games. Now, I think the next step for this team is to play in all phases of the game at a higher level, and we’re going to get that this week against a very good Michigan State football team, a team that played in the playoffs last year.

I think how we play is now going to be magnified by each and every series, and that means tackling, attention to detail, assignment-oriented football. Offensively we can’t have our ups and downs. We were sloppy at times on the offensive side of the ball, although there are some things that would take away from the offensive side of the ball that we’re a good enough offense that we can sustain drives. We can have 12, 13-play drives, and that says a lot about your offense in that it can sustain long drives.

Most offenses would fizzle out and not be able to sustain drives, and we’ve been very effective in the red zone, two important components. Defensively, tackling much better, assignment-oriented better and playing the ball better, and trending much better. I think the key from our special teams starting field position last week was outstanding.

You know, we were able to hold our opponents — if we did not have a touchback on kickoffs. They started inside the 20 yard line on our kickoff team and kickoff coverage, and when you do that it’s an 83% chance of not scoring. That says a lot about, you know, how our defense was able to play, because we put them in tough field position.

So special teams improving, offense, defense, and, again, we will need that for a Michigan State team that has really good players on both sides of the ball. It’s a program and a team that has had a win and it’s well-coached. So we know the challenge that is in front of us playing Michigan State. With that, we will open up to questions.

Q. Brian, with the somewhat dwindling numbers you have at safety and corner if you don’t get Nick Watkins back would you consider moving somebody from offense over just to boost your numbers?
Brian Kelly: No, I think we’re okay. I think if you look at the guys, we got Donte Vaughn in the game. He was able to get some work. Perry, we activated Perry this week in special teams to get him some more work at the safety position, another freshman. Nicco Fertitta has taken a lot of work there. We think we’ve got enough depth at the positions to not need to make any wholesale changes at that position.

Q. You mentioned a couple of things that you learned about your team through the first couple of games, resiliency and so forth. With an opponent like Michigan State, what do you hope they tell you about your team when you’re through with them?
Brian Kelly: Well, you have to play physical football. They’re a physical team. They’ve got a mind-set of the way they want to play. They’re going to run the football. They’re going to be physical on defense. So you have to be tough minded as a group, you know, on all three phases.

It’s a winning team, so they know how to win. We watched film after film of their games in the Big Ten and there’s a lot of opponents that have ’em on the ropes and they find a way to win whether it’s Ohio State or Indiana who has a great chance to win the game, but they come back and beat them.

So it says that you obviously have that winning attitude that you can close out games. But I think more than anything else is Michigan State is going to play the game with that mental and physical toughness and you have to match it.

Q. In talking with Cole Luke when he was asked about his improvement from last year to this year, brought up a lot of names including Todd Lyght, but guys like Jeff Burris, and Jeff Elliot and so forth. Can you talk about Jeff Burris’ impact on a secondary with a lot of young players?
Brian Kelly: Jeff is able — obviously you can’t teach it on the field, but having him around every day is providing a mentor-like environment for a number of our players. Jeff can pass on a lot of “like” experiences for those guys. Just having Jeff in the building on a day-to-day basis is a bonus for us that he can sit down and have dinner withthem and talk about experiences. Those are invaluable.

So I think when you talk about veteran players, and particularly a guy like Cole Luke who knows all the techniques and knows all the things that we’re talking about, not that he’s mastered everything, a lot of times it’s just reinforcing what he already knows and maybe decluttering sometimes. I think Jeff has really helped clarifying a lot of things that Cole does on a day-to-day basis.

Q. McDowell is a standout for Michigan State, I’m wondering how you feel about your offensive line and how they’ve progressed the first couple games?
Brian Kelly: I think we have done some pretty good things. I would say it’s probably been some technique things here and there, first-time starters, a couple of first-time starters, you know. Really, when you look at it, three first-time starters battling, really well in terms of play after play. But there’s different things that crop up there are first-time experiences for them.

So overall, I think we’re pleased, but there is some inconsistencies that are happening in the first couple of weeks that I think you probably expect because they’re going through it for the first time.

Q. Kind of a follow-up to that: I think it’s easy on the outside looking in to expect an offensive line to gel right away. You guys obviously know better than that. Specifically is it individual mistakes or the inability to play as a unit together that causes problems for you on the offensive line?
Brian Kelly: There is a lot of combination right? So the center has to be working with one of the guards so that combination requires the center to be involved in a lot of things. So I think the best way to answer it is it’s not always just the five. It’s sometimes getting the right play. There were two or three instances where we were in the wrong play and it couldn’t be blocked effectively. When you’re in some of our spread offensive sets and you’re outnumbered in the blocking scheme sometimes the offensive line can be exposed and look silly and they can’t block everybody and you’ve got a free runner to the ball carrier and you’re like, well, why didn’t we block him? Well, why did we run that play?

So there is a little bit of that in there. So I think sometimes to some they look at it and go, what’s wrong with the offensive line? Is it some of it has to do with getting in the right plays? Some of it is combination work that we need to continue to work on and that is two guys, working together, because individually they’re pretty good and they know their assignments. It’s when to come off a block, when to stay on something and that’s where it will continue to get better.

Q. Sometimes the protection that’s called, you mentioned against Texas, Kizer missed a couple, how about against Nevada?
Brian Kelly: No, our protections, we didn’t have much problem with protections in terms of what we had on. There were a couple of times where DeShone one time where he should have been throwing out on a particular play. He did not, and it wasn’t an offensive line. There were no glaring issues with our offensive line relative to protection. DeShone missed one when we had a five-man protection, and they went three to one side and the ball didn’t get out.

Q. Kinda got the sense after the game talking to the players about Michigan State and their physicality, I don’t know if it was — maybe breaking the 24-hour rule that they’re accustom to or unoffensive. Does the whole idea of Michigan State and their physicality, does that resonate with them? Is that a burr under their saddle hearing that especially in the light of they have won three in a row and realistically it could have been four.
Brian Kelly: I just think they clearly recognize it’s a team that is a top-ten team, one that has played in the playoffs. They like the competition because it’s always talked about in terms of a physical contest.

When you tell a football player we’re going to test you mentally and physically and this is going to be a physical contest, they bull up, you know, because they’re football players. So I think the natural reaction is anytime they’re tested about a physical contest, they want to — come on, let’s bring it on. And I think Michigan State has proven to be a winning football program, and they do it by being physical. Our guys are going to have to back that up.

Q. Michigan State’s physicality is a common theme for you and the coaching staff this week. Are you pounding them with that?
Brian Kelly: Yeah, I think they’re more than just, you know, a physical football team. I think that they have athletes. I think that they have very good schemes, you know. So this isn’t some Neanderthal, let’s hit you in the mouth football team. This is a team that went to the playoffs, and, you know, beat Oregon and beat good football teams that do other things.

I think you’re underselling them to say it’s a physical football team. We have to do other things well.

Q. Obviously, with their secondary they are going to press you. They did three years ago. You guys picked up five or six interference calls. What is the message to a young receiver core facing a secondary that does what they like to do?
Brian Kelly: Run! Run! Just keep runnin’! Look, if you look back then we had Smitty running at one receiver. He was part tight end, part wide receiver. We had James Onwualu as the other wide receiver, and I think we were scaring them to death with T.J. Jones. T.J. is a good player. Daniels played a little bit. And Corey was a freshman, right?

So I think we’re in a better position. If they want to press us, we just need to run, run our routes, do what we do and we’ll make enough plays.

Q. Do you have to try to somewhat match their physicality, if they’re pressing and going to make it a hand combat game do you have to match that?
Brian Kelly: I think we have a way to get off the line of scrimmage against anybody. I think that we work hard on it every single day. Look, if you’re — and I’ve said that, I think, you know, in terms of being balanced, if you can’t get off the line of scrimmage, you can’t throw the football. So it’s something we do every single day, and I’m not concerned with releases with our wide receivers. We’re going to get off the ball. What we have to do is we have to throw the ball and we have to catch it. We’re going to be in those positions where we’re going to throw it and catch it. We’re going to have to make some catches against man-to-man coverages and we’re going to have to be accurate throwing it. I’m not concerned about getting off the line.

Q. What are the challenges you might face in facing a coach you’re familiar with and what other ways might it be easier to prepare?
Brian Kelly: Mark is not that tough. He’s only about 190 pounds, so I don’t have much of a challenge with him. But their team is a challenge, if that’s what you mean. Is that what you mean?

Q. Identity, yeah.
Brian Kelly: That’s what I figured. I think anytime you play his teams, they’re similar challenges. You’re getting an aggressive defensive front seven. They’re blanketing you in the back end of the defense and they’re forcing you into mistakes. I mentioned this earlier, one of the things we have done well is sustain drives on offense. They force you out of those long, sustained drives on offense because they keep the pressure on you defensively all the time.

Then, offensively, they’re very methodical. They’re extremely methodical. They’re going to run the football, take their shots. A 4-yard completion in a passing game is just fine with them because it puts them in a very good situation to continue to run the football and stay controlled with the chains. Very good plan, very methodical, and it’s a winning plan. And he’s stuck to it, and rightfully so because it’s put them in championship mode.

Q. On Saturday you talked about playing Coney, Martini and Bilal, more rotating them. Is that specific to subpackages or you looking to get them all in?
Brian Kelly: No, they’ve been in the base defense. They all got pretty good work all in our base and sub, you know, we feel like some guys match-up a little bit better in the sub package, too?

Q. What do each of those guys bring that might be a little different?
Brian Kelly: We like Greer’s ability to work in space and coverage. He’s a pretty smart guy. Asmar and Te’von, obviously are guys that are athletic and can work downhill in the box a little bit, and Greer can do that, too, but Greer has more experience in the passing game.
Q. Tyler O’Connor played in a couple of big games for them last year. What do you see on film that stands out?
Brian Kelly: He’s prototypical in the sense of a Michigan State quarterback in that, you know, they’re coached very similar in a sense that they don’t make a lot of mistakes, they take what the defense gives them. They’re not prone to try to put the game on their shoulders.

They’re not going to be the reason why they lose. They’re going to — and I’m not going to use the word “M” “manage the game” because they do more than that. He can make plays with his feet. He can be involved in the running game and he can throw the ball down the field. They’re just smart quarterbacks. They take care of the football, and they do what they’re asked to do.

Q. Your team has taken care of the football very well this year for the most part and really over the last two years, go back to 2014 and all the trouble you had with turnovers and look at the success you’ve had since. What are the steps you’ve taken to curve that problem?
Brian Kelly: Well, I mean, I think probably we’ve just coached it better.

Q. Congratulations. When you look at Michigan State’s offensive line, especially on the right side, everybody is at least a fifth year senior. I think we have one sixth year senior in there. That kind of experience, you talked about your own problems with offensive line gelling, what do you see from their offensive line? Do you see the chemistry that you’re looking for from your offensive line?
Brian Kelly: Yeah, they’ve been together quite a bit and they clearly work well together. They’re running the same schemes, very similar schemes that they have run over the last few years together so there is definitely consistency and continuity. They do a very good job of working well together. They’re a physical offensive line. They’re big. You have to be able to control the line of scrimmage or they’re going to knock you off the ball. I think what stands out more than anything else is that all of these guys from my eye this year move a lot better.

I think a few years ago they didn’t move quite as well. They’re moving much better, more athletic offensive line, and they’re going to be a challenge.

Q. You have a veteran in Jarron Jones who seemed to step up his game last week. Talk about the improvement he made last week and what you can expect from him?
Brian Kelly: You mean his hands? His hands were improved, yes. I think Jarron is feeling more comfortable coming back from an injury. He’s certainly understanding leverage and understanding what he needs to do to continue to get more work for us and him and Daniel had two really good games and we’re going to need it.

Obviously, playing teams like Michigan State and Stanford and teams that are going to really pound the football, we’re going to need more of that that we got from them this past weekend.

Q. We can look at the stats to evaluate the wide receivers, but for you guys how did they grade out coming out of Nevada?
Brian Kelly: In terms of our technique grades and assignment grades, you know, all of them have some things they need to work on. I would say that the thing that they continue to do well is they’re getting their hands on the football, they’re catching the football.

We don’t have a lot of drops. We’re running routes. There are some things that have to be worked out that are a little bit more part of the development of wide receivers in terms of conversions, blocking, and that’s just going to take time.

We’re not at that point where we’re disappointed with any of our younger wide receivers as much as it’s learning. So all of our film study for the Nevada game was really great teaching.

For example, it’s the first time that we took 35 plays in the game and we actually had a walk-through on Monday of all the plays that there were mistakes in, just from that learning standpoint of, look, this is how you do that. Instead of watching it on film we went out and walked through every single one of them and it was really good because that’s where we are on offense.

We have a lot of young players that are playing really hard. They’re doing the athletic things that we want them to do. They’re just not doing them exactly the way we need them done.

Q. I think you mentioned Saturday that Equanimeous is becoming a guy who is starting to be looked at a little more from DeShone. Where does he need to get on maybe the third and 6 to where he’s maybe Kizer’s first read on that?
Brian Kelly: You know, I think the Texas game built some confidence in him, right? Nevada doubled him up into the short field and DeShone needed to use the wide field and gained a little bit more confidence in Corey Holmes. So it’s one of those things where you can’t in our offense just rely on one guy. You have to spread the ball around, and that’s how important it is to have balance within your offense. If you call on the next guy you gotta get the ball to him.

But I think the Texas game — and then certainly when he was targeted, he’s catching the football. I think it’s like anything else when you throw the ball to somebody and he’s making plays, you’re probably going to choose to go back to that.

Q. The offense stalled after Corey was knocked out in the Texas game. Was the Nevada game maybe a better setting to get some of these younger receivers the kind of confidence that they need going forward?
Brian Kelly: I think getting Chris Finke a couple of catches was absolutely a good thing. We would have liked to have gotten K.J. the ball down the field. He was beating the corner and we were late in getting him the ball, but he’s gaining more was confidence. We’re gaining a little bit more confidence at the quarterback position, seeing what he can do.

I thought Corey Holmes ran a great route on third and 15 and we got him the ball to the wide field. That, to me, was the first time that DeShone said, all right I’m going to let this rip to the wide field like he did with Will Fuller without any hesitation, because it had to be a great throw away from the defender to pick that up.

So we’re starting to see those signs, and, again, those are just small signs. But we’re moving in the right direction to gain that balance with some of those younger receivers.

Q. Daniel Gage, what do you think has led to him playing the best football of his career? Is it just time? Could you revisit his recruitment? It was between you and Michigan State, night cap between Nicco and VanGorder. Why was he maybe not a great fit late?
Brian Kelly: His health is better, and I mentioned this on our Tuesday or Monday radio. He’s getting sleep. He had a sleep pattern problem, which is allowing him to gain the rest. Then it’s a trickle down from there. He’s getting the right nutrition, which is giving him an opportunity to train better at a higher level. So I think all of that is kind of interdefined. Being healthier, all of those things together, he’s in a good place academically.

So all of that’s coming together and just having a handle on his personal life moving forward, stronger in the weight room all those things. In the recruitment process there were mitigating factors there. He had to really push late to elevate himself and his profile in other areas and he did a very good job, and I was quite familiar with him being from Winton Woods High School. But we wanted him, and he did some things late that helped out his candidacy.

Q. To follow up what are realistic expectations for Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson, because I think they’re going to blow everybody off the ball every snap and that’s not realistic. But what do you expect from those two as a combo?
Brian Kelly: To be really anchors in pass protection, right? So we have really no mistakes over there in terms of pass protection and really solid in their assignments. Not that they haven’t been, but, you know, there are things that they can get better at, and they were much better from Texas to Nevada. There was definitely a jump there, and they got better. So I think we expect to see more of the same as we can continue to move forward.

Q. Football IQ with James Onwualu, he seemed to sniff out everything that Nevada was trying to do, whether that was on tape or practice or recognizing, what was that about?
Brian Kelly: A little bit of both. He does a great job in film study, but our plan allows him to be in good position and he takes to it. He’s very in tune to what we do during the week of practice, recognizing formations that have high tendencies and he locks into those things.

Q. Is he sort of — I don’t know if he has an assignment or he’s able to go out there and you decide what your assignment is based on what’s happening, if it’s a read option, somebody takes the quarterback, somebody takes the back all the time, James’ position, does he have a little bit more freedom to decide as the play unfolds?
Brian Kelly: He has an overriding responsibility to keep the ball inside the defense. So sometimes that could allow it to be different players, but he’s pretty good at recognizing formations and the tendencies out of those formations that help him make plays.

Q. You knew you would be younger this year. With the dismissal and the injuries you’ve been even younger. Anything special you do going into a big game like this, try to take the pressure off or relieve some of the stress?
Brian Kelly: You know, I haven’t done that in the past as much as tried to prepare them leading up to their very first college game, and I think Texas is as big of a moment that most of these young kids had, 102,000 on the road. So I’m of the opinion that they’ve already played that game. They’ve already been in that experience. We’re going to be home for the second time. The routine will be what it is. The opponent obviously will be a better opponent, a much better opponent.

So what we will talk about more than anything else is that this will be more about your execution and how you play more so than the environment and the opponent. You know, it’s going to come down to how you play more than anything else.

Q. You played two games now in a condensed period. Michigan State played on Friday night. What position would you rather be in? I know having a week off is always advantageous, but two games in you’ve probably a better sense of where your team is?
Brian Kelly: I would rather be in our position 2-0. No question.

Q. This is the 50th anniversary of the 10-10 tie. Notre Dame has had two pretty famous games known as games of the century. Players today might not be aware, but what would you say to a player as a coach how can a game so great can have ended in a tie?
Brian Kelly: I think there is a perspective that players have when it comes to great games, and they’re not all decided by wins and losses. Players really see it as a battle on the field, because they have aware your’s mentality and a respect that goes with when two great teams get together and they battle. Certainly they want to win every game they play. But I’ll bet that if you poll these guys that great games are ones that are decided on the field between two great opponents and it doesn’t necessarily have to end up with somebody with more points. I think it’s that warrior mentality.

Clearly a lot of our guys do not remember the history of that game, and what I can say from a historical standpoint, Michigan State and Notre Dame, the two coaches, there was a lot of respect for each other, there was a lot of respect for the programs, and I think it almost was fitting that that game ended in a tie from that perspective.

Q. Is it better today to have a winner every time?
Brian Kelly: I think the way everything is set up today in terms of four teams in the playoffs, I think everything has to kind of end up with a winner and a loser today, absolutely.

Q. Curious about the condition, the first game with the new configuration with the new buildings on both sides, getting louder every week?
Brian Kelly: Yeah, I don’t think the noise was — we’ve had louder games, there is no question. But I think what it does is changes the wind pattern for sure. It’s a swirling wind now that changes, and it’s unpredictable. So I think that’s probably the one thing that we kind of have noticed more than anything else is that the wind patterns on the field are much more unpredictable.

Q. When you came to Notre Dame there were concerns early in the season as to are the field and the grass going to be ready. So many things have advanced since you’ve been here. Is there a little more comfort with the known commodities going into the known season at home?
Brian Kelly: I was not worried Friday night when those downpours came. I was extremely pleased that we had turf in that situation. Look, there are many things that that stadium has going for it and certainly tradition is one of them. But we also want to provide a great game-day experience for everybody. I think we’re working out the bugs. I know the press didn’t have the best of situations, but I think what’s going to end up happening is that’s going to be a great environment to watch a game, to be part of a game, and I think by next year, it’s going to be one of those kind of venues that you’re going to really enjoy.

Q. Back in 2012 with all the talk about the secondary being so young and relatively more depleted than exported at the beginning of the season, back in 2012 you lost your top two corners to graduation, lost (indiscernible) to an Achilles in August. (Indiscernible) came over from offense to defense and was a first-time safety but yet you had one of the most successful defenses —
Brian Kelly: Can you stop there, Lou? I feel good already. You don’t have to have a question.

Q. Well, do you take anything from that 2012 experience and apply today as far as the success you were able to achieve collectively despite the massive inexperience on the back end?
Brian Kelly: Well, I really think it’s still about, you know, certainly you’re going to lose key players, every year you’re going to lose key players and you have to be able to prepare for that going into camp and know that somebody is going to be called upon to step up.

Look, Nick Coleman had a poor first game. He would be the first one to admit it, but what we did is went right back to work during the week to get Nick Coleman to be ready to step back in and I think the work we did with Nick Coleman during the week put him in a good position to have a good game against Nevada. And I think that’s coaching and I think that’s teaching, and we did that in 2012 and we’re going to have to do that in ’16 and ’17 and ’18, and that’s what you have to do to prepare for that next man in. Because you’re going to have key injuries and you have to prepare for those scenarios instead of saying, you stunk today you’re on the bench.

No, we’re going to need you, Nick, and we’re going to need you to bounce back and here is how you’re going to do it. Nick now finds himself in the starting position playing against Michigan State in a key game.

Q. Did you do anything specifically collectively on defense to help the overall unit despite all the inexperience with Farley and KeiVarae Russell starting as a true freshman? What were you able to do?
Brian Kelly: If you remember our front, we still were heavily dedicated to the front seven and we will have to be the same way. We’re going to have to stop the run. Now, we were much more of a cover two team so those corners were not locked up in as much man and there will be times we will have to be in less man coverage because of that and that’s just the reality of it. You can’t play as much variety of nickel when you have a true freshman at nickel. That’s just learning the position and starting to be comfortable compared to Shaun Crawford, so we knew we were going to be in a different position moving forward when we had those injuries.

Q. You referenced special teams earlier. You made a change with Justin Yoon doing the kickoff, and it seemed like several of his kickoffs directional kicks put him into a position where the coverage could be more effective. Was that a part in deciding why Justin Yoon was —
Brian Kelly: That was solely the reason, directional kicking, his accuracy of where we wanted the football specifically and his accuracy is why he won the job.

Q. As you look at the success that your programs have had against kind of your traditional top-ten opponents, wins and losses versus Stanford, wins and losses versus USC, similar success against the upper echelon against the ACC, yet against Michigan State you have a good track record over the last five years, is there anything you can put a finger on as to why this particular a-flight opponent seems to end up in your favor more often than not?
Brian Kelly: No, I think we’ve just executed well. I haven’t looked at the history as much as you know we’ve probably done the right things, haven’t given up big plays and have taken care of the football. Those are the things that stand out to me.

Michigan State is known for taking away the football, coming up with big plays, and I think we’ve probably stayed away from that. So I think if I was to look at it and I haven’t looked at it, I would bet that we probably haven’t turned it over given them really good field position and we’ve probably made big plays on defense.

Q. So what degree are you satisfied with the improvement you guys made from week one to week two, and where do you still see the improvements that need to be made?
Brian Kelly: We’re still a work in progress. We’ve just had our first win. We’re not running around here giddy that we’ve arrived. We’ve got a lot of work to do, but we made the progress necessary in terms of our defensive structure, in terms of tackling, assignments, sorting out some things that we needed to defensively. And then offensively, we’re a work in progress with some young players filling in different positions.

So offensive line coming together, you know, it’s — we’re nowhere near where we think we’re going to be. But we need to be good enough just this week, just one day on Saturday, to beat Michigan State. But we’re still in that evolution process of working to get better.

Q. Considering how young your team is what do you think a win this Saturday would do for them against a top-ten team?
Brian Kelly: It would definitely be a confidence builder for a lot of young players, but they’re not a group that — when they choose to come to Notre Dame that’s a pretty bold decision in itself. So they’re not lacking confidence in themselves anyway. So we can manage on that end. That’s not high on the “must” list in terms of building your team up with confidence. If we had lost six, seven in a row, maybe that could be a problem.

It’s really about executing at a high level that this team needs now. That’s the next box that we’ve got to check, and they’re preparing the right way. I like their resolve. They’ll fight for four quarters. Now we’ve got to execute at a higher level on Saturday.

Q. Seems like DeShone is unflappable regardless of the game or the opponent or the stage or anything like that. How encouraging or, how much does that put your mind at ease going into a game like this where you know what you’re going to get from that guy as far as demeanor, poise, all those things?
Brian Kelly: Pretty good. Look, if you’ve got a really good quarterback you’ve got a chance, and he’s a really good quarterback. He knows the offense, you know. He will come to the sidelines. We’ll have a quick conversation. He’s usually wrong. I’m usually right, and then we can move on. That’s how it works. I love that kind of conversation with a quarterback. He knows what he’s doing. He knows how to do it and he’s working to get better at it every single day. He gives you a shot at winning every game you play.

Q. As far as that poise goes it seems like he had that from stepping into Virginia there. Did you know before that game that he was going to be that kind of calm, collected on that stage, or did you have to see that to know that he was that kind of a player in that situation?
Brian Kelly: Which answers did you want? I could tell you that I knew, but you don’t really know. You hope what you saw in high school, and that was a couple of drives that I really liked in the fourth quarter that showed this is the kind of guy I’m looking for that has that kind of, “Give me the ball,” right?

“Hand me the ball late in the game, and I’m gonna get you the win.” He had that, but you’ve still got to be able to do that at the next level. We felt like he had the make-up. Then it’s just a matter of can he go out and do it? Obviously now he’s going out and he’s doing it.