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September 19, 2015

Brian Kelly

South Bend, Indiana

Georgia Tech - 22
Notre Dame - 30

COACH KELLY: Obviously my staff, coaches, I thought we had a very good plan. Our players executed it and beat a very good football team in Georgia Tech.

All those things have to come together when you're playing a team like Georgia Tech, in particular a team that is prolific offensively.

I think our defensive plan was outstanding. I think our team executed it up until maybe the last couple of minutes where we probably lost a little bit of our focus. But all in all, just a tremendous performance by our football team.

Overcoming a lot offensively with a freshman quarterback going in there, playing well, DeShone, opportunistic offensively. Running the football effectively when it was difficult at times to run the football.

It was a program win today. Having to overcome injuries, playing a very good football team in Georgia Tech this early after two very difficult teams.

Really pleased with the way our kids executed in all areas.

So with that I'll open it up to questions.

Q. I know you mentioned the players executed the game plan. Can you revisit Bob Elliott's role in getting you ready for this?
COACH KELLY: Again, I think we talked about researching it. But a lot of the work was on the field. I'd be remiss without mentioning our swag team. Our swag team was really important. Our swag team is known as students with, what is it, attitude and game. That is our triple option team. They named themselves swag.

It's been kind of this thing that's gone on since camp started. They wanted their own identity. They did such a great job of preparing our defense from when we started running triple option. They got a good sense of where they needed to be and where they sit.

Coach Elliott did a good job of researching. Coach VanGorder did a great job of coaching, coaching the coaches, then our players did a great job of executing.

Q. Matthias Farley strips the ball first play in. Update us on what you know of Drue Tranquill's injury.
COACH KELLY: It's a knee injury. Doesn't look very good right now. We'll get an MRI here. We only have a manual exam to go on right now. The manual exam was not a good one. But we'll get an MRI tomorrow morning and then we'll have definitive results. But we're not optimistic at this point.

Matthias went in there and was the next man in again. Unfortunately losing Drue, Drue played very well in the first half, very well. He was on point with his keys, fighting off blocks, making tackles. They wanted to run counter option based upon what we were doing. We did a great job of stringing it out, fighting off the extra hat.

Matthias was then put into that position, early on in the third quarter made a big play getting the ball out. Obviously he needed to continue to do that the rest of the game.

Q. Your evaluation of Kizer's first start?
COACH KELLY: I thought it was good. There's a lot to get better. He was a little off with his platform at times. The ball came out low. We got to get better there. We changed his footwork during the week, trying to get accustomed to that. I wanted the ball out quicker today.

Consequently it changed his platform a little bit. But I thought he threw the deep ball very well, did some really good things in managing the offense for us. Cadence was a little off. That's why we had some false start penalties. We got to clean that up.

We're operating with a new signal caller in there, so there were some first-time issues we got to clean up going into next week. All in all, I love his presence. I love his confidence. He's very sure of himself. Our guys like playing with him out there. There's really a good group of guys that believe in him out there.

Q. What was your game plan to stop and contain Justin Thomas today?
COACH KELLY: Well, we wanted to be very aggressive. I think we were probably as aggressive as any defense that we had watched on film. Being very aggressive was an important element within the plan itself. We wanted to show different looks. They had to use a number of timeouts as you obviously saw. Giving him different looks he had not seen before. Moving the fronts around, giving him different edge looks. We needed to mix it up. We didn't believe we could line up in one or two fronts and give him vanilla looks. That was not going to work for us. So moving around a little bit and, again, being aggressive with our defense.

Q. With Kizer, it seemed like every time he was coming off the field, he came straight to you. What was that communication like? What were trying to emphasize with him between possessions?
COACH KELLY: Little details of the management of the offense. It could be little things like footwork. There were a couple things relative to cadence where he was not consistent with his cadence, so it was drawing some of our guys into those penalties.

Then just reminding him of doing the ordinary things well. He didn't have to do extraordinarily big things for us. So it's just constant communication, making sure he was locked in on the things we needed him to do. I thought he was doing a very nice job. Just keeping him calm, too.

Q. Seemed like they were throwing a lot of different edge pressures on you early on. How important was it for your offensive line to continue to chop away at them? How did DeShone handle those different looks?
COACH KELLY: I thought he did a pretty good job. We tried to get in as many different formation looks to try to find ways to run the football without putting DeShone in too many situations where he had to hold on to the football and run himself. Didn't want to get him out there and put him into high-contact situations.

I think where it changed is when they tried to press Will on the perimeter and we hit the big pass down the sideline. That seemed to get them off us a little bit and put them more in quarter coverage this allowed us a little bit more breathing room relative to running the football.

I think it was probably then where we felt like, you know, we could start to run the football with more effectiveness. That's when we stayed really more towards a run game philosophy.

Q. With the exception of the turnover, you seemed to hit behind the pressure. How important was it to get that stuff out there?
COACH KELLY: It was. Their backers are so aggressive, we wanted to get right behind them. We felt we had some space in there. If DeShone hits Torii Hunter in stride, maybe he's still running to Elkhart now.

We felt like those are the areas we wanted to get the ball into. We felt like there were some areas that were vulnerable. We were going to pick our spots because we still felt like defensively we were doing some good things.

I did not want to put us in a situation where we were going to give a short field up to Georgia Tech.

Q. Big picture for you and Coach VanGorder, what does a chess match like this mean to you guys?
COACH KELLY: Oh, we enjoy this. This is what we do this for. We love playing a great team in Georgia Tech, spending the time during the week to put in the game plan with a freshman quarterback. I mean, we live for this stuff (laughter).

For us, the plan and developing the plan and then the execution of the plan is really the fun part of it for us. I don't think it's fun when you don't see the execution part work as well. But seeing it come to fruition, seeing it come together, seeing your kids really play with confidence. That's what we asked them to do, to play with some confidence today. I think that was the fun part today.

Q. I know it's early in his career, we haven't seen much yet, what are your thoughts on Justin's play so far?
COACH KELLY: He's solid. He's a freshman kicker that is going to go through some ups and downs. But I like his demeanor. He doesn't get rattled. He's still working the big jump from AAA to the big boy league. There's some nerves there. I really like his makeup. He's a great worker. His attention to detail is excellent. I only see him getting better and better as a kicker.

Q. Brian, DeShone, after he threw the interception, we heard so much about his poise from his teammates after the Virginia game. He throws the interception, comes down the next drive, gets the touchdown. Is that kind of where it really showed itself?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I think so. What I liked about him is he immediately takes ownership. He's not a guy that's looking to say, Well, it's his fault, or, I didn't know this. He clearly knew they bracketed him. He got duped. We saw the press on Corey, his eyes got big, on the goal line. I'm throwing that one up there. It was a presnap, postsnap decision. He didn't take his time to see that they bracketed him.

A great learning experience for him. As I was coming in, Malik had this big smile on his face. He goes, Coach, they got him, didn't they?

What are you talking about?

They got him on the bracket. Remember, they got me earlier?

They see the same things. He immediately said, I got it, and moved on to the next thing. That's what I mentioned earlier. I love the way he is able to move on and process it and get back to playing the game.

Q. What do you think a win like this says about your team and how good they can be?
COACH KELLY: Well, I wasn't worried about where we were going to be win or lose. I mean, I want to win and these kids want to win. What I like about it is it's a program win because it says that you can overcome injuries, you can overcome adversity and still be a team that's beaten two SEC teams in the last few games, has had a great run here. Top 15 team in the country. All the experts picked Georgia Tech to win this game. Didn't faze our team at all.

So I think it's more about where the program is. You can sustain some injuries, some key injuries, and still play at a high level. I think that's what is for me most revealing.

Q. I know you said you couldn't be vanilla, you had to move things around a little bit defensively. In terms of assignments, what didn't work previously that you didn't want to use again?
COACH KELLY: Well, we couldn't stay in one high. We had to play two safeties. We had to play single safety. We got exposed a little bit against Navy playing just single safety. So playing two safeties.

Then I don't want to give up too much because we've got Navy coming up. But really what was most important was making sure that the quarterback had different reads each time that he came down. He needed to be a bit tentative in what he may or may not get, if he was sure of what he was getting. He's a very difficult player to defend.

Q. In terms of the battle of the interior linemen.
COACH KELLY: We won that. We won that. So we were able to get out backers over the top. We were able to do some things to string it out a little bit and buy some time to get through those A back blocks which are so crucial.

Jerry and Isaac, in particular, played very well inside.

Q. Did you have a specific plan? In the first half, Thomas carried six times for minus one. Were you willing to concede the pitch and maybe force them to go along the perimeter more so than anything it's tough to defend everything.
COACH KELLY: The structure was to run the alley and get the ball out certainly. But you're put in a position where you've got to fight through some blocks.

We felt like we were going to put a little bit more pressure on Isaac and Jerry inside so we could get out to the quarterback. We needed to get to the quarterback.

He's a game wrecker. So I don't know if that answers your question. But the quarterback needed to be both inside-out. We needed to be inside-out and outside-in on the quarterback.

Q. Was it more difficult in the second half because they ran a reverse pivot?
COACH KELLY: It was counter option in the second half. They wanted to run counter option because our inside-out player takes longer for him to get there.

Thank you.

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