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September 26, 2015

Brian Kelly

South Bend, Indiana

Massachusetts - 27
Notre Dame - 62

BRIAN KELLY: First of all, credit UMass. I thought Mark Whipple and his staff and his players played extremely hard today. They had a great plan coming in. You know, I think they've got a great chance of winning the MAC. Did some really good things offensively, very creative, played hard.

We just -- we were pretty good up front offensively. We're able to control the line of scrimmage around the football today. I think that was the difference in the ballgame.

You know, hats off to UMass and the way they competed. I think that the kind of schedule they played early on bodes well for them.

You know, I think the thing that stands out is we challenged our football team at halftime to play to a higher standard. I think they played to a higher standard in the second half offensively and defensively. Gave up two big plays in the first half that we weren't pleased with, a lead draw that we've got to fit better, and certainly the reverse pass where we just -- we lost our focus on that play. It was well-designed, but we've still got to be in better position.

But all in all, I think when you look at it, we were able to get a lot of players some playing time. The young backs stand out to me; Adams and Williams getting in was very, very important to us. Josh got 13 carries, Dexter got seven. So taking some of those carries away from CJ was important to us. Getting Brandon Wimbush in there I thought was also very important, and we've wanted him to run the offense. That was very important to us.

We really felt like trying to make sure that when he went in there, regardless of what the score was, we had to give him real game experiences and do the things that may happen in a game situation. He is our backup, and he has not played any football, and he's a true freshman. That was very important to us.

I think our special teams were outstanding today. Tyler Newsome, our punter, a 52-yard average. C.J. Sanders returning a punt for a touchdown, stopping a fake. I thought the special teams work was outstanding, as well. So a lot of really good things.

Again, I thought UMass was a tough team to defend offensively. They do so many things.

I think at halftime they had 16 personnel groupings and make it really difficult to match up to. We're pleased with the win, and we'll enjoy it for 24 hours and then we'll get ready for the next opponent.


Q. Brian, just evaluate DeShone Kizer today and a little bit Brandon Wimbush. Did he give you what you wanted?
BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, I thought DeShone missed some throws today. He got a little off balance on some of his throws, especially to his left, where he has a tendency to overstride a little bit and lock out his front leg. But he knows what to do and how to do it. He made the corrections later in the drive. Threw a great ball on a dig route and then came back with a great smash fade throw to Chris Brown. He can self-correct, which is the great thing about that young man, after making a couple of poor throws.

Again, he shows great poise, great presence out there, and again, throws for a high completion percentage. I thought he was a little late on the interception, although that's probably a ball that Will normally catches. He was a little late on the throw. But again, high percentage at 15 for 22. That's where we'd like him to be, in that high completion percentage.

And then Brandon I thought did some good things today and got a little out of his realm, a little bit later with some misreads in our run game where he thought he was supposed to throw the ball out and he's supposed to actually run the football. But those were great learning experiences for him.

As you can see, he's athletic. He can throw the ball deep. Will did not make that catch that he threw down the field, but he's capable of pushing the ball down the field as well as running the football. We'll continue to work with him, and he's got a lot of talent.

Q. When you compress the not-so-good first half of defense with challenging them and how they responded, when you push all that together, what do you think overall for the defense?
BRIAN KELLY: You know, I think everybody would say that UMass presents some unique problems. They do a very good job with their scheme. They put up points against virtually everybody that they play.

I think we played better in the second half. We transitioned out of option last week. Probably a little bit of a slow start, finished strong.

All in all, a lot of things to work on, but I like the way we finished.

Q. No Luatua today, and anything sinister with Ronnie Stanley?
BRIAN KELLY: Nothing sinister with Ronnie Stanley. He's had some patellar tendonitis, but nothing major. Luatua had a concussion, and went through the protocol and just felt like he wasn't at the level we wanted him for this game, but expect him to be with us next week, but we'll continue to work him through the protocol.

Q. With the C.J. Sanders punt return, 21-20 at that point, how important was that for you guys, and how unsurprised were you to see that happen with a kid that's been as explosive as he's been?
BRIAN KELLY: Well, I think he's been close quite a few times. We've iced the outside. We had him backed up there pretty good, so we doubled outside. In those situations you're gambling a little bit when you double outside. We felt like to fake a punt there, you'd really have to be gambling. We borrowed a couple guys from the inside to double outside and it gave him some room.

He's a very shifty runner. He's got great vision and did a nice job on the holdup, and he did the rest. It was a big play in the game, gave us some momentum certainly, and kind of turned the tide a little bit for us.

Q. You mentioned how important it was to get the young freshmen some action. Looked like you made a conscious effort to get Josh Adams some competitive action.
BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, we wanted him early touching the football, for C.J. And again, I think we had made that decision that even last week, that we probably redlined C.J. a little bit, and we had to really get Josh involved early, which we did, and then it was nice to see him run well. And then Dexter obviously is a very gifted player, and we saw that today. He's got great speed. He's just still learning, but I think we all saw today what kind of athletic ability he has.

Q. Because of the injuries you've had, you've had to reshuffle; how much are you still learning about your team in terms of what buttons to push, how everything can work together best?
BRIAN KELLY: Well, I know the football team and its heartbeat very well. I think we're still learning about certain players and what their strengths are. I think that's a fair question as it relates to the kind of players they are and their skill set. I think I've got a pretty good feel for the pulse of the team and its leadership core and then how these younger players fit into that group. They really like each other, and they enjoy playing.

It wasn't a flat team today. It was an excited team that played with a lot of energy, but I do agree that we're still kind of sorting out, you know, the certain roles for the players on this football team.

Q. Is that something you feel like needs to be expedited from here or is that sort of a natural process when you're shuffling in so many guys due to injury?
BRIAN KELLY: No, I think when we lost -- when you lose your starting quarterback and now we're still learning about the strengths of DeShone Kizer, we're still fitting certain plays and things that he likes, I immediately knew where to go after a couple of incompletions. We immediately flipped that script, and we're still learning about C.J. in certain things.

I think you're absolutely right on that we're still learning about the players in particular that have had to come in and step in after these injuries, especially the tight end position now, too.

Q. The safety position, how did you feel like Farley, Redfield, they both saw quite a bit of time today?
BRIAN KELLY: It's one that I didn't think we were -- I didn't think we were supporting the run effectively early on with our safety play. I thought we were a little late. We got much better in the second half.

Q. You mentioned DeShone being able to self-correct. As a coaching staff, what does that do for you when your quarterback is able to identify what he did wrong even before he gets to the sideline?
BRIAN KELLY: Well, we spend a lot of time on trying to figure out the best way to teach, and really, I think to be a good coach, I think you really need to know how kids learn and also how to best get them to be the best player they can be in a short period of time.

One thing about him is that if you really do a good job of showing him something, he's going to pick it up, and if you remind him about it, he can self-correct. Some can't. Some need more film. Some need more repetition. He's not that kind of guy. So I think it's just really getting to know your guys and how to teach them, and we can do that through some techniques of understanding how they learn.

Q. With Luatua out, what did you feel like you got out of Weishar?
BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, I thought we got some good in-line blocking. Our two tight ends were very effective today, especially with they got into their three-down package. I'll have to watch the film, but I thought Chase Hounshell did a pretty good job in-line blocking for us today, and Nic Weishar. We were effective getting the edge today on our outside zone play.

So my first inclination would be to say that both of them were effective in their roles at the tight end position because we played a lot of two tight ends today.

Q. Corey Robinson, was he hurt?
BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, he tweaked his knee in pregame. Sprained knee, yeah. Unbelievable. He was going for some popcorn -- no, I made that up. He was not going for popcorn. Don't write that down.

He was just running some drills and sprained his knee. We just felt like it was important to keep him out of it. He didn't feel 100 percent, and so we'll get an MRI in the morning and hopefully we don't -- we're optimistic that it's not anything major, but we want to make sure and get a look at it tomorrow morning.

Q. You guys spread the ball around pretty good today. Was that something that you guys were trying to -- was that a conscious thing to get more people involved or was that DeShone going off of what UMass was doing? Coach Whipple said they were trying to keep Will from beating them.
BRIAN KELLY: Well, there was more double zone today. That opens up other receivers. We've had this conversation a few times. Will had coverage over the top of him which opens up other receivers. It opens up the middle. The tight end was open a lot today. We're going to utilize the receivers that are in our progression. There are certain formations that we can get into that are going to get Will one-on-one and we'll take our shots when we get them, but by and large, answering your question, more double zone on Will gives these other guys opportunities to catch more footballs.

Q. C.J. is obviously getting more comfortable and comfortable at the running back position. That has to do with obviously getting the reps, but what else is he doing that you're seeing that he's able to grasp the position so quickly?
BRIAN KELLY: I'd like to say that -- first of all, Autry Denson does a great job. He's our all-time leading rusher here at Notre Dame. He's able to have conversations about the position that are real in a way that he's played the position, so he can really impact him with a lot of knowledge, so that's been very helpful in his learning curve.

I'd say the other thing would be that he's a natural runner, and if he wasn't, I don't think that he could have been ascending in the manner that he is. He's ascended quickly, and so I think we've got to credit the athlete himself as a natural runner of the football.

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