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November 28, 2015

Brian Kelly

Stanford, California

Stanford - 38, Notre Dame 36

COACH KELLY: Well, tough to talk to our team in the locker room after a game like this. Two very good football teams playing today and came down to Stanford made a play that they needed to make to win the game and we didn't make it.

And like I told our team, it's tough to win games. Winning is hard. And losing should never feel good. There are no moral victories. I'm disappointed in losing the football game, but I'm proud of our football team and the way they competed, the way they kept playing for four quarters and just came up a little short. So with that, questions.

Q. How big of a punch in the gut was that? That they come down, you were so close and had such an opportunity to make the college football playoff.
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I mean our guys are very disappointed. They know -- it's never about the last 30 seconds. We had a number of opportunities in the red zone that we should have converted or could have converted into touchdowns that we had to settle for field goals.

So, it's never about just one series or one play. It's a culmination of the game and the reality is, we're two plays away from being undefeated and being the number one team in the country, you know. One play at Clemson and one play here at Stanford.

So, I love my team. I put this team up against anybody in the country. Fact of the matter is, we're not going to get that chance. We get that. We understand it. So it's disappointing, but very proud of our football team.

Q. Gutsy drive by DeShone Kizer taking the team down the field there on the final drive.
COACH KELLY: Well, I thought it was as good as it could get, right? Four something on the clock, eats up the whole clock, makes an incredible play on the third down, throw as big route under duress, runs the ball physically. I think he handled himself like a fifth-year senior, and he's just a freshman. So, if there's a bright spot there, obviously, the way DeShone Kizer played was pretty bright.

Q. The other quarterback, Kevin Hogan, grew up a Notre Dame fan and has close ties and can you just speak about what you saw from him?
COACH KELLY: I thought Kevin was accurate. Kevin is a great competitor, and we know him well, and he's a class act, a class kid. I know him through recruiting, I knew him every year. He's just a competitor, great competitor, and I thought he was on tonight, threw the ball effectively, hit us with big plays down the field. But that's what we expect when we play Kevin Hogan. He plays very well.

Q. You mentioned you're maybe two plays away from being undefeated. Given the amount of time and effort a team puts into a season, the amount of injuries you overcome, how do you kind of just deal with that and rationalize it?
COACH KELLY: Well, you really don't. I think everybody clearly understands the game of college football, that maybe there's a team or two that is immune for that, we're all dealing with it. Baylor dealt with it, TCU's dealing with it, Michigan State's dealing with it. Everybody's got to overcome it. And we were two plays from being on the other side of it.

And so, from our perspective, I think each and every year you go in and you know that your roster is not going to stay the same in November. That's why you have to prepare yourself and build your football team with depth.

We know what that looks like now, and we'll continue to build our football team to have the kind of depth to sustain injuries that occur naturally in college football.

Q. How do you feel like Josh Adams and Devon Butler filled in for the respective replacements?
COACH KELLY: I think Josh Adams set a Notre Dame record for freshman rushing, so that's a pretty good mark on his record.

I thought Devon Butler competed his butt off. He got a PI late in the game, but he's competing for the football. So, I thought he played well. He left with a concussion in the last series, Nick had to go in for him. But I was proud of Devon, I was proud of the way he competed out there.

Q. There's a pretty big difference in third down defense in the first half to the second half. Where do you think those improvements came from?
COACH KELLY: I thought we were much better up front. We got pushed around a little bit in the first couple of drives and then we settled down and played much better. I think we kept Christian under a hundred yards rushing, which hadn't happened in a while. I think a lot of that was just we settled into our game plan and played just better football defensively. It starts with your front four.

Q. You guys rushed for 299 yards. Seemed like you had two looks you kept going to with some success, the counters with the running back and also with DeShone and then the power reads. What was it you guys saw and what was it that allowed you to have so much success running the football?
COACH KELLY: Well, a couple of things. Obviously, you get the pull a little bit and gap block. It's a mixture of three down and four down and we got some good angles based upon film study.

We felt like we got some good leverage and the ability to pull some of our big guys. They're not quite as big and physical as they have been in the past, so we felt like we had an opportunity to gain some leverage. And I thought we had a pretty good plan going in.

Q. Can you talk Jaylon finished with 15 tackles, 8 solo, seven assist, can you just talk about his play?
COACH KELLY: Normal day. That's Jaylon's normal effort. He's all over the field and he has been every single week that he's played. I don't think he's had an off week. He may have had a play that he didn't make once or twice, but each and every week he has had that kind of impact to our defense.

Q. You mentioned DeShone playing like a fifth year senior. Over the course of the season, how important has it been for the moment never to be too big for him?
COACH KELLY: The moment's never too big for him. He's still learning. There's things that happen out there, you can turn the football over. Obviously right before the half. He knows those things action but he's growing and learning, but he's a great competitor. I thought his last drive, the way he handled himself and got us in the right looks, I thought the throw to Will Fuller was as good as it gets. Just did some great things out there and again, I think that his learning curve is probably in the short field areas and making decisions down there, but who wouldn't want that guy back next year? I'm sitting on a pretty good situation with the quarterbacks that we have coming back, if I don't screw them up we should be okay.

Q. With the kick returns, putting Jalen and Joe and quite a few defensive starters on that to try to -- was that just an effort to try to stop McCaffrey from being the field position impact that he's had this year?
COACH KELLY: Oh, absolutely. It was all about McCaffrey and making sure that he did not wreck the game from special teams. I thought we did a great job on special teams and kept him out of changing the complexion of the game from that standpoint.

I thought we kicked it well and punted it well and covered it well. I thought we got the upper hand in special teams other than obviously the field goal they kicked at the end.

Q. Starters on kickoff coverage, did you feel like this team emptied the tank today, that there was nothing left at the end?
COACH KELLY: No, it was all hands on deck. Jalen is on it, Joe Schmidt is on it. It was a defensive play. I said, look, guys, we can go one of two ways with it, do you want to start on the 45 yard line or the three yard line? I can put a couple of backups on this team or you guys can start on the 20 or 25 yard line. How do you want this to go? And it wasn't much conversation after that.

Q. The 27 yard gain to Cajuste, was that sort of what was available on that defense or could you take us through that play from your perspective?
COACH KELLY: We got to close down inside out on that seam route. I thought we probably played it a little bit too, too much outside in, worried about backing up. We got to be more aggressive to a seam route.

Q. I know that at this point maybe hard to look at big picture but 10-2 with all that you guys over came with injuries and everything, how would you categorize this regular season?
COACH KELLY: Again, a couple of plays away from being undefeated. Couldn't be more proud of the way our kids competed, over came some catastrophic injuries to key players. Quarterbacks, running back, tight ends, defensive linemen, cornerbacks. I mean, we're talking about across the board here, we're not just talking about one position, we're talking about impacting all positions, playing on the road against very good competition, getting home at five o'clock in the morning, bouncing back, playing two option teams, I mean I could go on and on. Proud of my football team. We didn't get it done, we didn't win enough games, we get that. But this is a really good football team.

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