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August 30, 2014

Brian Kelly

RICE – 17

COACH KELLY:  Pleased with our performance today.  Our kids in particular, the way they went out and played fast.  We didn't play with a lot of hesitancy and that was really what we were looking for today is play to their athletic abilities and not let thinking get involved, too involved in what they were doing today.
And I know that sounds counterintuitive of what the game is with, but I wanted our guys to play fast today, don't get out there and try to think too much.  Rely on their instincts and rely on their techniques and to play fast and I thought they did that.   I was really proud of their performance in that respect.
It was pretty clean, too.  Only two penalties on the offensive side of the ball and defensively, very clean as a team, only two penalties and an opener.  Didn't turn the football over.  Pretty good balance.  There's things that we've got to get better at obviously.  Our communication in the back end of our defense was at times a problem which resulted in some big plays.
But, you know, we had great communication.  Joe Schmidt does a great job of communicating.  He's an extension of Coach VanGorder on the field and it was great to see Joe.  He did a great job there.
Obviously the story of Golson was electric.  He kept his eyes downfield.  Knew when to run, knew when to throw it, and those are things we really talked about.  We didn't want to over‑coach him in that we were going to allow him today to get outside the pocket and be a football player, and just naturally go play the game.  And I thought he did that today extraordinarily well.  He came back today and I think really showed the kind of player that he can be.
So, with that, open up to questions.

Q.  Did your defense surprise you at all, or is this the kind of thing that you expected from them?
COACH KELLY:  No, I thought as we progressed into camp and had settled into the past week or so, I like the physical play of our front four, Romeo, Trumbetti, Isaac Rochell has been extremely physical and difficult to move with our offensive line and of course we know Sheldon Day and Jarron Jones.
I just really thought that we were going to be able to hold up very well, and Joe Schmidt with Jaylon were outstanding.   You've got those six guys; if they can hold up against the run, we're going to be from pretty good shape, and I thought that was going to be the case and it ended up being it today.

Q.  What ended up happening with Collinsworth and how long is he out, do you expect?
COACH KELLY:  We were in a two‑minute drill on Thursday, and we threw a ball in the end zone and two guys went up for it and he came down awkwardly.  He played the next play and it just tightened up on him.  He's got a grade two ligament‑‑

Q.  MCL?
COACH KELLY:  MCL.  So those are usually two to four weeks depending on how guys respond.  So we don't expect to have him this week.  There's a chance we could have him for week three, but again, he had a PRP treatment on the weekend, so we'll see what happens.
But you know, we're hopeful three weeks, but it could be‑‑ it could be Purdue; it could be bye week and then we get the bye week and so we'll definitely get him back for the Syracuse game.

Q.  May not be something you're thinking about in the heat of battle but how did you feel about the way the field turf played today, especially when you got a little burst of moisture?
COACH KELLY:  Yeah, you could see us make some defensive cuts out there today.  Especially on punt return and our special teams game.  Cody Riggs was able to stick his foot in the ground and get north and south.  Greg Bryant was able to do that.
I thought that made some significant moves for our guys; the ability to cut.  I thought it was, for us, you know, a really good surface to play on.

Q.  Freshman Drue Tranquill got a good number of reps both on special teams and regular.  Talk about what you'd seen from him in camp and why you felt so confident in using him today?
COACH KELLY:  Well, he's a physically strong, conditioned athlete.  So he's physically beyond his years condition‑wise and he carries himself not like a freshman.  He's just a highly‑conditioned athlete and physically strong that he can compete.  His is just a learning curve of the game and the speed of the game.  But we'll get him ready and he'll continue to play more and more football.  Solid tackler.
I thought we did a really good job tackling today, too, because that's one of the things that with all the concerns with head injuries, you don't tackle quite as much.  And I thought our guys did a great job tackling today and he's a very good tackler.

Q.  You mentioned "electric" with Everett.  How impressed were you to see him perform the way he did today after missing all of last season?
COACH KELLY:  Oh, I was just happy to see him have success.  You know, he had a great confidence about him.  For the last four or five days, he carried himself with a great deal of confidence; confidence with his teammates, and directing, really, the offense in a number of ways.
There's a lot of things that he will tell you that he's got to continue to improve on, but there's a confidence that he carries with him that is starting to emanate, and that's going to only get better and better as he gains more confidence.

Q.  And on the hand off for what was supposed to have been a handoff to Bryant, what kind of happened there; do you know?
COACH KELLY:  Yeah, I'm sure ‑‑ (laughter) ‑‑ I'd rather not tell you who went the wrong way.  We're going to say that's a trick play.  (Laughter).

Q.  Obviously the atmosphere was great today, home opener, fans were even wild during the pouring down rain.  But next week, Michigan.  What do you expect it to be like, or how much are your guys maybe already gearing up for that one?
COACH KELLY:  Well, it counts the same as the Rice game.  So we've already talked about, avoid the noise.
We've got a good locker room.  The guys are focused on getting better.  They know who they are playing.  But it's not going to get them any more ready by being distracted.  They have got to focus on getting better and we'll stick to our routine and our preparation and we'll let y'all get excited about that game.  But our guys, they want to play and it doesn't matter who they are playing.  It's a pretty big group.

Q.  You mentioned wanting to not over‑coach Everett; is that easy to do?  And did he show you something to earn that in the last month that you could just let him go?
COACH KELLY:  Yes, he knows how to protect himself relative to in‑the‑pocket.  I think once I knew that he was not going to just take off and run, and that had to be earned.
He didn't do a very good job in the spring game.  I thought he showed a lack of discipline, and he's earned it through camp that just said, let you go play.  I think he earned that right for us to give him that opportunity to get out there and make plays on the perimeter.

Q.  You touched on it a little bit, but how much was on Joe Schmidt today without Austin at the back?  How much did that amplify what he had to do?
COACH KELLY:  You know, he can't make the checks back on the back end.  So it just put more on Elijah Shumate and Max.  But Joe can't do anything really back there.  He's really taking care of the front and the calls.

Q.  You were adamant your team was not going to be distracted by having the four guys here today‑‑

Q.  Five guys.  What did they show you today in that regard?  What is sort of their resolve that that wouldn't be a distraction to not‑‑
COACH KELLY:  It wasn't just today.  They have shown this; they care about their teammates.  That's clear.
But they also know that they are here at NotreDame to get a degree and to play for NotreDame and represent NotreDame on the football field.
So they have been really focused on their job and going out there.  They have been really purposeful every single day.  They have not been a distracted group and that says a lot about them.  I've got good leaders, and I've got young guys that have really followed the lead here.
And like I told them, I was really proud of them today.  I said before we get into talking about the win, I just want to tell you that I'm proud of the way you've handled yourself.  And that means a lot moving forward.  When your locker room has got that kind of resolve, good things are going to happen to you.

Q.  You and the coaching staff have worked so hard during the off‑season on punt return and kickoff return.  It certainly paid off today.  Can you talk about that?
COACH KELLY:  Yeah, you know, it was driven by personnel and it was driven by‑‑ you know, again, wanting to improve in that area.  I think we had 70‑something yards in punt returns, and I think we only had 100‑some the entire year last year.  I think we've improved there.  We need to do it consistently.
Cody Riggs was gassed and we had to take him out.  He had not played that much football at Florida I think in a couple years.  But Greg Bryant is fearless and does not know what a fair catch is (laughter).  So all those people wondering why he was catching the ball, he came up with the, "I can't hear you, my earplug is in."  
So we have got guys back there that are fearless, that will catch the football and stick their foot in the ground and get north and south, and that is absolutely crucial.  And we have guys that are committed to covering people up.  So we have got the want to and the resolve to do and we have to continue to do it.

Q.  In that same vein, how much does that help your offense‑‑
COACH KELLY:  You saw the starting position vis‑a‑vis special teams and starting position over the last couple years was absolutely miserable.  I mean, we were dealing with average starting field position somewhere in the 20s.
Now when you're at the 40‑, 45‑yard line, it makes it a whole lot easier to control the flow of the football game.  Special teams is going to be key in that and that will help us in ‑‑ yardage‑wise, help us win football games.  We'll continue to work on that.  We think we have some good young players on those teams and we think we have a balance with veterans, as well.

Q.  How well did Jarron Jones hold up and Daniel Cage in terms of spelling him?
COACH KELLY:  We played Cage quite a bit.  I'll have to look at the film but we were pretty solid inside, so my guess is we‑‑ I didn't hear a lot when I was in talking with the defensive coaches, in particular, Coach Elston.  Felt like the rotation inside was pretty good.

Q.  You talked about wanting to let the guys play a little bit and not overthink things.  Is that the message throughout the year or is that the game plan for a team that you match up pretty well with?
COACH KELLY:  No, I think we are going to have to bring our brain.  I mean, we can't just run around.  We are going to have to be better mentally.  We'll have to bring both.
Today was more of a message of, first game, let's not be out here and feeling our way through it.  Let's go play.  But no, we'll have to bring a complete game and that is attention to detail.  We have to know our game plan.  We can't make some of the mistakes that we made today.  And I think we will.
But we needed to get some confidence today and I think we got some confidence from our younger players that need to do a better job relative to communication.

Q.  You mentioned the two penalties and no interceptions, pretty clean game for you guys, is that maybe even cleaner than you might have expected for a season opener?
COACH KELLY:  You always go in wanting to be clean and not be sloppy.  I can't remember a game that I only had two penalties for ten yards.
So I don't think I went in here with the expectations that we only have two false‑start penalties and both of them were contributed by the quarterback not snapping the ball when he was supposed to.
So really, I just didn't want it to be sloppy.  I expected a few penalties.  It was pretty clean.

Q.  A quick personnel question.  I think you had Hanratty at guard instead of Hegarty.  Was Hegarty injured?
COACH KELLY:  No.  Just that was a game time decision Harry made and I felt like he earned the start.

Q.  You alternated your running backs every series there, but kept them in throughout the series.  Is that kind of the best of both worlds, where you allow them to get in a rhythm and also get their rest?
COACH KELLY:  Yeah, we are trying to figure that out, as well.  We don't have an exact science.  I wish I could be that smart.  But we are really trying to figure out how to get them the carries that they all deserve, and also keep them in the flow of the game.
So we're really trying to sort that and figure that out, as well, because they are all deserving of carries.  We all believe that they bring something to the game and that's what we kind of felt like that was the best way to start this game and that process that you've just outlined.

Q.  And the evolution of Everett Golson, a couple years ago, it seemed there wasn't a confidence throwing over the middle, in addition to the touchdown to Fuller, there was three pass plays that gained 30 yards or so.  How has that developed in his game, too?
COACH KELLY:  Just understanding his moving keys; understanding what he's looking at.  And when you start to understand defenses and your movement keys, you can start to rip the ball into areas where you're not normally throwing the football with that great deal of comfort.  And you can see when the ball hits he threw to Corey, he was the third receiver on that play, and that was a progression check that he normally, a few years ago, he would never have thrown.

Q.  You talked already about the balance that you showed on offense and you also spread the ball all around.  Is that something you were want to go establish or is that a by‑product of how they played?
COACH KELLY:  No, I think that, and I kind of alluded to it:  I don't think we are going to have one particular guy that's going to eat up all the catches.
I think that that's what you're going to see, is that the identity, if you will, of this team, is there's not one guy.  It's going to spread all the way across the board.  Everybody is going to get touches.  You're going to have three running backs; you're going to a couple of tight ends; you're going to have four or five wide receivers all catching footballs for us.
We have got guys that have speed.  We have got guys that can catch the football.  Will Fuller is going to take the top off of any defensive secondary.  He's got elite speed.  You know, you've got Chris Brown who will catch the ball.  Corey Robinson is a great match‑up.  They all have different skills but they all can help us in so many ways.  So I think you'll see that as a consistent pattern across the board each and every week.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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