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November 16, 2014

Brian Kelly

Q.  Brian, two quick ones from me.  First of all, any injury update on Sheldon, Everett and Daniel Cage?
BRIAN KELLY:  Let's see.  Sheldon and Cage are getting an MRI right now.  They both have knee sprains.  We just need to find out what the level, what degree.  Golson has an AC sprain.  He felt like he could throw today if he needed to throw today.  Let's see what else I've got.  That's really it.  Some bumps and bruises but those are the main guys.

Q.  When it came to Everett yesterday, in your mind did it affect him much in the second half?
BRIAN KELLY:  I don't know.  I haven't gotten a chance to talk to him about it.  There were certainly a couple of throws when he first did it where he put the ball into the ground.  You could see that it affected him then.  He said he was fine after that, but obviously we missed some throws, especially in overtime.  But he said it didn't affect him.

Q.  And then I wanted to ask you, you went for a PAT in the third quarter, and then there was no kick between that and the two‑point conversion attempt in the fourth.  What changed, or what did you see that led you to lose the confidence in the kicking game in that period of time?
BRIAN KELLY:  I don't think there was a particular‑‑ that wasn't the first thought.  You know, I think probably more than anything else, chasing the points, and that was probably the first thought, and then the kicking game.  I don't think the kicking game was the first thing that came into my mind.

Q.  Going with Drew over Max at safety, is that something you expect to be a one‑game deal, and would you expect Max to get back into his regular rotation next week?
BRIAN KELLY:  No, we made a switch there.  We thought that Drew gave us a better chance at that position.  But we'll evaluate it from week to week, but no, we felt like we weren't getting the kind of production we wanted there, and that's why we went with Drew.

Q.  What kind of response do you want to see out of Max now that you've made the switch?
BRIAN KELLY:  Well, I don't know that we were trying to elicit a response from him as much as that he's obviously a young player that needs to continue to grow and continue to learn.  He's really just a freshman.  But we felt like he needed to see the game from the sideline, and hopefully he'll be able to learn more and understand what's going on and take that to the practice field, and hopefully we see more and more development.  I know we will.  He's just a young player.

Q.  Is part of it from a communication standpoint that you need to see an improvement from him still?
BRIAN KELLY:  Yeah, I mean, I think that's part of it.  I mean, he's got a trait, obviously, a physical trait.  The football part is still coming, and just recognition of formations and understanding alignments and assignments, that's where we're still working with a young player.  We're in the process of still developing a lot of young guys, so nobody has made yet themselves into that consistent player, and Max is not the only one.  There's a number of guys in that similar boat.  We just don't have any other answers at other positions.

Q.  What does Drew give you instead of Max at that position, and what has he showed you in practice to force that switch?
BRIAN KELLY:  A little bit better football, a little bit more of an understanding.  The game comes a little bit easier at times.  Max is learning the game still.  Drew has a little bit better feel for the game.  It doesn't mean he's there.  He certainly made a lot of mistakes in his first start.  But we just felt like tackling and football knowledge, he may have been a guy that we wanted to give a shot, and we gave him a shot at starting, and now we'll evaluate where we are at that position today and tomorrow.

Q.  How did Austin Collinsworth come out of that game?  Obviously he gave you something there, but he's playing through some pain.  How physically was he today after playing?
BRIAN KELLY:  Yeah, no problems at all.  He checked in with no issues physically at all.

Q.  And as you talk to your team this week, what's your message to them?
BRIAN KELLY:  Well, I mean, obviously everybody has the same feelings.  We're giving ballgames away, and that obviously is why we're ending up on the wrong end of the win‑loss column.  What I like is that everybody is accountable, coaches and players alike.  We all have to understand that we've got to coach better and play better.  But it's pretty clear what our problems are.  It's not like it's a mystery.
We've got to get lined up, we've got to be more efficient defensively, we've got to grow up, and then we've got to take care of the football.  I expected us to be in a couple of shootouts this year where we would have to overcome offensively.  I just didn't expect to have nine turnovers in the last two weeks because I thought our offense would be able to bail out our defense, and that hasn't been the case.  It's pretty clear what our issues are.  All our guys know it.  Our coaches know what they are.  We've just got to go back to work and make sure we clean them up on Saturdays.

Q.  Without giving away trade secrets, what's fixable on defense?  What do you feel like this year you can fix youth‑wise, scheme‑wise, cohesiveness‑wise?
BRIAN KELLY:  I don't know if it's a matter of fixing as much as you're hoping to gain a little bit more.  I thought we got more out of our corners.  Butler I thought did a nice job.  I thought we got better play from Butler and Luke, and I think you're probably looking for incrementally just a little bit better performance from the younger guys because that's really where we're at.  We're playing freshmen and sophomores out there, and so we're just looking for ways for these guys to understand what we're doing, and we kept it very simple in the second half.  I think that's important to do, but we can't just line up like ducks, either.
I think incrementally looking for our younger players to make some progress from week to week is essentially what we're hoping for, and we're going to get a chance to practice after the season.  That's going to be extremely helpful for these guys, as well.

Q.  Do you feel like Nyles made incremental improvements Saturday?
BRIAN KELLY:  A little bit, yeah.  You know, I'll talk to Brian a little bit more.  We talked last night and a little bit this morning.  There were some things that he did better.  I would say that there was some slight improvement there, yes.

Q.  And then it seems like when you look at the statistics anyways, just a couple of quarterback hurries, you did have a couple of sacks, there haven't been a lot of sacks from your front seven the past few weeks until yesterday.  Is it the tempo and not being able to get the right personnel on the field do you feel like that's causing that?  Do you feel like you have to be less creative now that you're playing young players?  What do you think the pass rush challenge is at this point?
BRIAN KELLY:  Well, the way they were playing their offense, I mean, the ball was coming out on quick screens and bubbles.  It wasn't a game where we were going to mount a huge pass rush.  It was game plan relative to Northwestern.  We weren't bringing a lot of pressure against them.  It was really not part of what we felt would be an effective way to attack them.
As you saw, a lot of their stuff was quick screens and quick game and getting the ball out of their hands even if we brought pressure.  Simeon is just good at getting the ball out of his hands.  Our best pass rusher went down, too, in Sheldon Day, so we expected in our three‑man rush maybe he could get a couple of sacks, and then when he went down, our best sack guy went down.

Q.  I asked you about Malik on Thursday, and it sounds like if Everett is injured to the point, if his shoulder stiffens up and he can't play effectively this Saturday, is Malik kind of an unknown to you, or if you put him in the game, do you know what you're getting out of a guy that hasn't thrown a pass in a college game?
BRIAN KELLY:  No, I think he's‑‑ I think we kind of know.  I think there is a little bit of an uncertainty there until you really get out there and get into the rhythm of the game.  He's never really done that other than being in a spring game, which I think is totally different.  We know a lot about Malik and what he can and can't do based upon what we see every day in practice, but I will grant you that it's hard to really get a full evaluation until you get into the flow of the game.  We'll call a game based upon what we think he can execute and then kind of go from there.

Q.  Last one from me, you mentioned players got to play better, coaches got to coach better.  Are you the kind of guy that beats yourself up after a game like that, or do you clearly see what you want to do better moving forward?
BRIAN KELLY:  Oh, you know, I feel terrible about the loss because obviously we're all part of it.  If we go and kick the extra point, who knows how the game ends, right, so that's on me.  If we hold on to the ball at the end of the game or we take care of the football or make one more stop, those are all part of it.  You know, we'll talk about it, and we'll go over all the things that we've got to do better as coaches and players, and then we'll go back to work, because the reality of it is we're seven points away from being 9‑1, and very easily can correct that to get this team to two more wins.  You know, we feel terrible about it.  It's a game that we let get away from us.  Shouldn't have happened, but we also know that we can win our last two games.

Q.  Earlier in the season you talked about not rising to the level of the opponent, seeking your level of preparation.  Why do you think that's been such a difficult message for the team to embrace, or do you feel like they have embraced it and it's just not showing on Saturday?
BRIAN KELLY:  No, I haven't had any problem with their preparation.  This week was our best week of preparation.  I mean, Everett was outstanding.  Our receivers caught the ball outside in the cold.  You know, we thudded up the backs this week to prepare for it, and hadn't done that before.  Our defense had a great week of preparation.  We're just‑‑ you know, we're inexperienced on defense, and we're prone to making mistakes on offense, and we've got to eliminate those things on Saturdays.  I really don't see it as a matter of effort.  The effort has been great.  The want‑to, the responsibility has all been there.  We just have to understand that everything that we do during the week of our preparation will have a direct influence on Saturdays, and it starts with taking care of the football for me.  And then understanding we're inexperienced on defense and we're going to battle the best that we can.  We've just got to eliminate the mental mistakes on defense, and that's the hard part with a bunch of young guys.

Q.  Austin talked about this a little bit yesterday, just about how not having him, Joe, live and sort of in the film room with these guys and in an active role has sort of hurt the defense a little bit.  Do you feel like that's been the case, that this was a young defense anyway and then not having its two most experienced, sort of film study ready guys around has really affected you?
BRIAN KELLY:  Well, I mean, I would say that in particular those two guys had‑‑ at the start of camp, and then as camp went through, they had really solidified the communication on our defense, and then we lose Collinsworth before the Rice game and then we lose Joe, and it's been a struggle ever since.  You know, we tried hard to overcome those things, but the reality is that we're struggling with our communication with the loss of those two guys because we've put it on Drue Tranquill who's a true freshman and Nyles Morgan who's a true freshman.

Q.  I wanted to ask you a question about Florida State but in the context of Notre Dame.  I don't want you to necessarily have to comment on them.  Your team a couple of years ago, and even‑‑ now, this is in 2012, won a lot of close games, come back, very resilient team.  This season may be missing a little bit of that resiliency or having a hard time figuring out how to win these close games.  Is that something that can be taught, resiliency, character, toughness, whatever you want to call it, maybe being fortunate and turning your good fortune into wins?  How does that develop in a team?
BRIAN KELLY:  I think you have to go through it.  This is a young group.  Our 12‑0 team was veterans, and they had to go through a rough patch the year before to get to where they were resilient and they were able to overcome.  With such a young football team without a lot of experience, it makes it a lot more difficult at times to fight through those kinds of rough spots.  You know, that's kind of what we're going through right now.

Q.  Just for clarification, you said Everett with the AC sprain, would it be accurate to say it's a shoulder sprain?
BRIAN KELLY:  That's correct.  That is a shoulder sprain.

Q.  I assume it's his throwing shoulder?
BRIAN KELLY:  Yes, it is.

Q.  Just to follow up on talking about losing Austin and Joe, it seems that in the past couple weeks the defense has back split a little bit.  Is that because of communication, or are there other factors going into it?
BRIAN KELLY:  I'm sorry, I missed what you said relative to the defense.

Q.  It seems like they've regressed a little bit.  This was a struggling Northwestern team that hadn't scored more than 29 points all season and hadn't scored 16 points the previous two.  Aside from the leadership, is there any other reason that maybe they're not progressing?
BRIAN KELLY:  I would say that we're not getting the kind of play from some of our players that we needed to, that are now in prominent roles.  So yeah, I would say that that's true.  In some instances we have some players that are not playing at their very best, and add to that the loss of Sheldon Day in the second half, Joe Schmidt I think has something to do with it, as well.

Q.  You were up 40‑29 with four minutes to go in the fourth quarter.  What happened that made you guys not score again and let them come back in the ballgame?
BRIAN KELLY:  I can't‑‑ what happened in terms of‑‑

Q.  Yeah, what happened?  It seemed like everything was going well for you.
BRIAN KELLY:  We turned the ball over.  We turned the ball over twice.  That's what happens.  Yeah, two turnovers.

Q.  What do you see from Louisville this week?  What do you see getting ready for that game?
BRIAN KELLY:  Great defensive team, well coached.  Coach Petrino does a great job on offense.  The defense has been one of the best in the country, top 10.  It's going to be a great battle.  They've had the week off to get ready for us, so we're going to have to be at our best.

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