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UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME FOOTBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
October 9, 2016
South Bend, Indiana
Q. Hey Brian, just curious, was there anything that you guys could have done either during the week or during the game that might have helped Sam out with snapping yesterday?
COACH KELLY: No, I don't know that there was anything. You know, we went to guard controlled so the guard was tapping Sam.
The conditions were atrocious, so snapping the football was, you know, difficult, to say the least. It was just atrocious conditions to snap a football in. It was difficult for him or anybody that was asked to snap a football given the conditions.
Now, the referees did a good job of trying to get balls in there. Again, he was put in a very difficult situation. We tried to work as many scenarios, but when you're put in that kind of situation you just got to do the best you can.
Q. In terms of the offensive game plan, how much did you have to alter that kind of on the fly, whether it was Saturday morning showing up at the stadium or during the game given the conditions?
COACH KELLY: Well, you know, we ran a lot of direct snap during pre-game. We were out there with the quarterbacks and centers. I don't know that they felt really comfortable even in direct snap.
We're a shotgun team. Most of that is built into what we're doing. Even though we were trying to go direct snap, in pre-game we were having a hard time with that kind of situation.
So if we were going to have any struggles, we were going to do what we do. In terms of altering the game plan, you have some specific runs and certain passes that you're going to lean on within your game plan when come to the stadium and see the conditions as they are.
Q. I saw Tarean was participating in warmups. Were the conditions just such that you guys didn't feel confident getting him on the field?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, that's correct.
Q. Just bigger picture, for you guys in the program, what do December bowl practices do for younger guys on a team? Maybe not necessarily like the red-shirted guys, but some of the guys who even played as freshman. What's the benefit of having those practices?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, 12 to 14 more practices and another game of competition is very valuable, so the push is obviously to get ourselves in that position.
We've got a lot of work just to continue to work on the problems that we have. We can't get ahead of ourselves. Big picture certainly that's very important. You definitely want that opportunity to give them more opportunities on the field, more meeting time. It's a definite advantage.
Q. Did you guys have any issues getting out of Raleigh last night?
COACH KELLY: No, just very bumpy getting out. Other than some spilled water here or there, no issues.
Q. Do you know if any of your players' friends or families who maybe were at the game had any issues making it home or to their hotels?
COACH KELLY: Not that we've heard. I know our sports information director was going to check to see if there were any issues.
Q. And then in hindsight, do you think it was a good idea to have the game go on as scheduled? I know that last week you mentioned that you guys had a window, that you can play from noon Saturday until noon today. This morning it was like high 50s and sunny, so I just didn't know if maybe looking back. Obviously you can't make any changes, but just wondering.
COACH KELLY: Oh, I think all coaches would -- if we could have went over the indoor facility I think Dave and I both would've preferred that. Those calls are outside our purview.
They tell us to play the game and we got to play the game. Certainly I think when you're coaching and preparing you want to put your kids in a position that they can obviously succeed. It was a very difficult game to play under the conditions.
Q. Last night you discussed how the offense isn't making that play; it's not making that one play to win kind of at the end in some of these losses.
COACH KELLY: Right.
Q. Have you been able to look any further into why that is? Is it recruiting? Development? Coaching? Scheme? Have you been able to put your finger on what that could be?
COACH KELLY: You know, no. It has nothing to do with scheme or coaching. You know, we've had the ball in each one of our losses on the offensive side of the ball with a chance to either win or tie the game.
Against Texas, we had the ball when the game was tied with three minutes to go; we didn't make a play.
Against Michigan State, four minutes to go in the game; we went three and out.
Against Duke we had the ball with a minute and a half and went four plays and out.
Again, we were first and ten on the 18-yard line with to minutes and 43 seconds; we couldn't execute.
It's really just about having that demeanor and toughness and that will that regardless of the circumstances, we're going to get it done.
The players are fine; coaching is fine. There is just a fine line between winning and losing, and we're not making or executing as a unit. Not any one person, but as a group we're not executing effectively in the closing minutes to win football games.
Q. With the weather conditions, was there a point in the game where you were thinking about moving it to this afternoon? Looks like it's beautiful weather here now. Yesterday was atrocious. Was there a point about moving it?
COACH KELLY: No, you know, obviously we had a delay of lightning. I think that was the only time there was some concern. Once they decided to kick it off, we were going to find a way to finish it.
Q. You're 2-4 now. What are your goals for the rest of the season? I know you want to get to a bowl game. Six wins. Is that the goal, or get better in different departments?
COACH KELLY: We went to keep getting better on defense, making progress there. Kind of what I just talked about. You know, close out games. You know, we're doing some good things on offense. I like our personnel. I like what we're doing.
We just lack that ability right now, that maturity, that toughness, that thing that you can't put your finger on, that "it." We got to have that late in the games.
We haven't had that yet and we have to develop that on offense. So developing that on offense, continue to grow on defense, those are the immediate goals.
Q. And with Stanford coming to town, big rivalry game. What do you guys want to do to keep Stanford -- I know today is Sunday. You've got to get ready for next week. What do you see with MCaffrey? He's not running the ball like he did last year, but he's still effective.
COACH KELLY: Yeah, we have a lot of respect for David and Stanford with what they've been able to accomplish as a program.
For us, it's really working on the things that I've been talking about on both sides of the ball. You know, I'm sure that their focus is on them.
Again, gives us an opportunity to get better this weekend. That's all we're focused on.
Q. I know you've felt strongly that this team can improve every week. Given the conditions, given everything that kind of went into yesterday, can you take away that your team improved?
COACH KELLY: Absolutely, without question. You know, you want your entire group to improve. The defense obviously, two forced turnover; red zone play has increased dramatically in terms of keeping people out of the end zone.
There is a mentality shift that has occurred on the defensive side of the ball; offensively it was difficult. The conditions were extremely difficult.
You know, if things were different I'm sure we would've been able to score some points. But what we're lacking on offense are the things that I've been referring to. It's that consistency that we need to get, that toughness when we need it. We got to come up with those plays.
That's what we're really focused on from an offensive standpoint. If you ask me, we leave that game knowing that our defense is ascending and that our offense has looked really good at really times. This is a hard game to really evaluate your offenses' performance.
Q. After the game you were a little bit kind of self-reflecting; maybe was just the moment where you seemed to maybe regret that the coaching maybe didn't prepare the players well enough, I guess. I don't want to read too much into that. Looking back over the film and the conditions, do you wish you were in the ball more or comfortable with the approach that you ended up taking?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I think it's easy to look back on things and wish I did that, wish I did that, could have done that. You know, I've been doing to a long time. Probably got asked that question after every loss.
Yeah, I want to run the ball more effectively in those situations, but I'm not going to second-guess what we do either. If we start doing that then we're going down the wrong track.
We're going to win/lose together, and I think the most important thing is when we get our opportunities we can't have self-inflicted wounds. We had a number of those on Saturday.
Q. I know that you don't have a lot of experience with a record like 2-4 in your career, but I'm just curious, as a coach, how do you handle the outside noise that comes with that record at Notre Dame?
COACH KELLY: Honestly...
COACH KELLY: Doesn't affect me. I have to make sure it doesn't affect the assistant coaches, doesn't affect the players. And I'm sure they hear a little bit of it, so it's really just my job to make sure we work on getting our team better each and every week.
Everybody has struggles. Everybody goes through some tough times. You're going to have some adversity. If you cave to adversity then how strong are you really? I'm looking for guys that are strong, guys that bounce back higher when there is some adversity. I'm not looking for guys that will crumble at the first sign of a little bit of adversity.
Yeah, 2-4 is unacceptable. Not where we want to be. But I'm looking for guys that want to be a solution and not worry about what other people think or say.
Q. Last one from me: When you are going through adversity, and I know that you've made it through those periods before, what are your anchors? What do you as a coach try to get your team and yourself to focus on as you're making your way to try to improve?
COACH KELLY: Similar to what we did on the defensive side of the ball. Very short order. We're playing fast; playing with excitement; forcing turnovers; we're playing the game the way I want it to be played. I want tough guys on the field and gentlemen off the field.
I think from an offensive standpoint maybe we have a little bit too much going on as well. We've got to lean some things up and get them playing faster and freer and not thinking too much. Going back to basics and being better at what you do than your opponent. If you do that, you got a good chance at winning.
Q. When you look at the offense, clearly the weather had a lot to do with yesterday. Then when you're evaluating your defense, how much does the weather factor into the success that they had? What do you point to as this is just fundamentally good regardless of conditions versus this was probably aided by the fact that North Carolina State was trying to move the ball in the same weather you guys were?
COACH KELLY: Gap responsibility, how we're corralling the football, assignments, alignments. All of those things factor into when you're grading a defensive play. Who is getting cut off and reached? Who is taking the back way? Who is not coming across the face of a defender?
I mean, I could list probably 20, 25 different factors. Regardless of what the field looks like, are your guys doing the things they're asked to do within the structure of the defense? A lot of those things were happening on Saturday.
So if you take that away, in other words, if you take the conditions away and you play on a fast-track, our guys are doing the right things defensively. We just need to continue to build on that.
Q. Special teams has been hit and miss this year; obviously was a miss yesterday. Can you get more involved in that? You're already more involved in the defense. I don't know if that's feasible for you at stage of the season.
COACH KELLY: I am. The crazy thing about it is we're talking about some unbelievable things that I haven't seen occur in a long time. I mean, we overstride a little bit on our punt in the last punt maybe we give up a little ground, but we kick it directly into the hand of a guy who sticks his hand up.
It's almost inconceivable that we could do that in that situation. If we tried it 50 times, I don't know if we could do it again. So we just got to coach it better; we just got to rep it better.
You know, at first I thought we got driven back, but we really didn't. We needed to have a little bit better steps on the punt, a little bit better protection. The direction of the punt, if it's six inches right or left it doesn't get touched. It's just one of those things that happens when you're not winning football games.
Q. The decision to play the game, you are told to play so you play. Who is telling you that? Athletic director: Television?
COACH KELLY: ACC. The ACC controls it.
Q. Okay. Thank you.
COACH KELLY: Yes.
Q. Brian, you mentioned the improvements defensively with turnovers and red zone and mentality shift. The second time through with a new group of coaches leading the defense, what are you able to add on schematically?
COACH KELLY: More 3-4 defense; a little bit more coverage variations that I felt like fit our personnel and what their strengths are.
So I really think just getting the guys in what I believe are the positions that they can help us. You know, best utilize their talents.
Then do a really good job during the week of emphasizing. I thought we did a good job of emphasizing and getting three and outs. And then our red zone, and we made a focal point of it.
Just I think just those little tweaks here and there to get that.
Q. So it's more mentality shift than scheme shift, per se?
COACH KELLY: I would say -- if I was to break it down, I would say it's properly 65% mentality and probably 35% scheme.
Q. After the Michigan State game you called that Jerry Tillery's best game. Did he play as well yesterday as his stats indicated?
COACH KELLY: He played pretty darn good. Yeah, he was solid and did some things we asked him to do in terms of playing to the level of the quarterback in third down situations.
Very solid inside out against their stretch play, so he had another really solid game.
Q. When you signed Nikko Fertitta, I know you thought you had a core special teams guy. What has he given you at safety?
COACH KELLY: Reliability and toughness.
Q. Good understanding of what you wanted to do defensively as well?
COACH KELLY: Yeah. And when I say reliability, he knows what to do and he doesn't put himself in a position where he can't succeed. If he needs to get to the middle of the field or needs to be in good leverage, he's not going to put himself in a position where he can't succeed. You gain reliability there.
And then he's a tough kid. You know, he's got toughness. I like that about him. I liked it in the recruiting process. You know, he had 90 plays for us against Syracuse. Didn't have that many Saturday, but fills a very needed role in terms of reliability and toughness.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports