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UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME FOOTBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
October 29, 2016
South Bend, Indiana
Miami - 27, Notre Dame - 30
COACH KELLY: You guys have had plenty of time to think up questions. So we'll just let you guys get rolling.
Q. Brian, you said during the week that Josh Adams has explosiveness back. What did you see from him today?
COACH KELLY: I thought he has explosiveness back. What did you see from him?
Q. Could you just talk about what you saw from him and specifically the touchdown run, what happened on that play.
COACH KELLY: We felt like tempo would be our friend today. It's a very athletic football team. They crowd the line of scrimmage. Numbers are very difficult for us in terms of blocking everybody. So tempo was going to be a big thing for us.
Our inside zone play allows us a little bit of misdirection and the opportunity not to block everybody because you've got to defend the quarterback as well. And in that situation, if you're not perfect with your defensive fit, it gives you an opportunity to fit the ball up inside, and we were able to do that on that particular run play that you're referring to.
Q. Jarron Jones and the rush defense today held them to 2 yards in the first half and 18 for the game. Dominant effort by your --
COACH KELLY: Dominant effort against a Power Five football team that was nationally ranked a few weeks ago. I think that's about as good a performance that we've had in a while here. Jarron was outstanding. He was awarded the game ball.
What I think stands out to me more than anything else is when your senior is playing his best ball. That says a lot about how he feels about coming to work every day, getting better, regardless of the record. I think that's a real positive for our program and for him individually. He was a beast today out there.
Q. Finke and Yoon obviously came through in the end for the special teams, but it was a rough day (indiscernible).
COACH KELLY: Well, look, our whole football team had been battling at times being indecisive in certain areas, whether we were indecisive at the quarterback position, whether we were indecisive as a play caller, whether we were indecisive at the cornerback position, indecisiveness kind of put us where we are today.
So the word that we were using was let's be decisive in everything that we do. Well, there's still some indecisiveness that is lingering. It's slowly leaving, and the opposite of that is being decisive and confident in what we're doing. And we have to be more confident. We've got really good players that care a lot, that have a lot of pride in what they do every single day, and I just have to reinforce with those guys to be more decisive.
They're coming on the other end of that, being indecisive. They're getting closer to being decisive.
Q. Brian, Justin Yoon got dinged on, I think, a field goal. Then you had Chereson kicking off for a while. Then you brought Justin back in again. Did he get injured?
COACH KELLY: No, he had a little bit of leg -- what I'll call tendinitis. We want to be careful with him, stretching him out on kickoffs all the time. His workload picked up incrementally this year with kickoffs and his PATs and field goals. Chereson's done a really nice job. So we wanted to give him some kicks and really take some of the load off of Justin.
Q. How would you evaluate DeShone's ability to bounce back from the last couple of games?
COACH KELLY: Really, really pleased with some of the play within the play. For me, my eye is focused on rhythm, timing, getting the ball out of your hand, and I thought he was -- I thought it was the best since he's been here in getting the ball out of his hands.
There was a couple of throws on the next to last drive that he would like to get back, but he's not flawless yet. So sorry, guys. He's not flawless yet. He's got some work that he'll continue to work on, but he was really good today. He did a lot of really good things.
I think the thing that stands out for me was the mental toughness that he showed coming back from missing a couple of receivers on the drive prior to and really showing some mental toughness on that last drive. I was looking for that in this game, and he showed that to me, and I was really proud of him.
Q. What can you build from the defense's play overall -- I mean, they were put in bad positions today -- and how they handled the last drive by Miami?
COACH KELLY: Well, I think, first of all, any time that you can hold anybody in college football to an ineffective running game and then pass breakups. We do sack the quarterback here at Notre Dame. So for you guys that didn't think that that happened, we do sack the quarterback. If you want to go direct snap and drop back, we can get to you. Now, if you just catch it and throw it, it's hard to get to you. So we can sack the quarterback.
I thought it was a complete effort from a defensive standpoint. There are things we can do better, there's no question, but I thought the run defense was solid. I thought we got our hands on balls and pass breakups and deflections. And we pressured the quarterback. So I thought a lot of good things happened out there today defensively.
Q. Could you just quantify the importance of this team closing out a close game and being victorious.
COACH KELLY: It just meant that we're not going to have to go through this again. We were all going to have to listen to, okay, the locker room is falling apart, a bunch of baloney, and we'd have to go through all this again. It wasn't going to change anything.
We were still going to do the same thing. The attitude would have been great. Their preparation would have been great. But they were going to have to figure out how to win a football game late, and that meant they had to execute better, they had to play all phases better at the end, and they did.
Offensively, they scored the last ten points. They stopped Miami on the last drive, and we executed in our special teams game in kicking the field goal. Those three things had to come together sooner or later for us to win a game. So they executed and closed out a game. That's all that means.
Now they know how to do that. So we'll go back to work with the same underpinnings, the same things that we've worked on over the last 10, 12 weeks, but now there's a lot more confidence in that room that they believe that they can do it, and if they just pay attention to the little things and are more decisive, they're going to win for -- they can win every game they play because they lost five games by one possession. So they know that.
Q. I know you'll have a chance to look at the film, but it seemed to me like you guys tackled better today. Is that your assessment, and is that something you guys worked on over the last two weeks?
COACH KELLY: No. We've worked on it for the last -- it's been a point of emphasis for the last 4 1/2, 5 weeks. We made it the first period. We changed up our tackling circuits. We made it a point of emphasis in terms of the way we're going to tackle. We're starting to see that come to fruition.
Q. Coach, what goes on on the bottom of the pile at the 2 yard line when ten guys are on top of each other grabbing for the ball?
COACH KELLY: Well, I think we all know what's happening in there. I can tell you what I'm hoping happens, that we come up with the football in that situation. But I think we need to stay away from even getting into those kind of scrums. I think the play you're referring to is the one that the ball came loose on the goal line.
But we've been on the other end of those, and our guys were going to find a way to win this game, and we came up with it. But clearly, you can understand that there's -- it's survival of the fittest down there.
Q. Strategically, what allowed Jarron to make the impact that he did. What got him through this so often?
COACH KELLY: We're playing a lot more three downs, so he's on the center. I don't know if you saw a lot of things that we were doing, but we're -- you know, we're hugging up those guards, and any time you bring the guards -- the guard has Nyles on top of him, and he doesn't know whether he's pressuring him or not, Jarron is one-on-one with the center. A couple of times, we were able to get him one-on-one. You can't block him one-on-one.
Q. Coach, you talked about the scrum there. I believe DeShone is the one who came out with it.
COACH KELLY: He was.
Q. What does that say that the quarterback is the one who can go in and get the ball when it looks like that?
COACH KELLY: One of the things I was looking for from him was not whether or not he could throw another dig route. I needed some toughness from him, some mental toughness. And that's an indication. He was not going to be denied. He was going to find a way to get that football. That grittiness is maybe what we were lacking a little bit, and he showed some of that grittiness in the way he went and fought for that football.
Q. And just the season he's had with all the close losses, how important was it there, backs against the wall, when Josh milked that run, I'm sure there was a few wondering, (indiscernible). How important was it for him to get you guys back into that play?
COACH KELLY: I can tell you what was on the sideline. You saw the energy on our sideline. Our guys were not going to believe that they couldn't do it.
Now, the time might have ran out, and we might not have won the football game again, and they would have come back on Sunday and Monday, and they would have went back to work and kept working until they got a win. There wasn't a belief, when I looked in the eyes of every one of those players, that they weren't going to figure out and find a way to win.
So no one was surprised. They were just happy as heck that it's finally over, that they got through it in a close game, that they found a way to win. That was the feeling more than anything else. It was the exhilaration that they finally got through and finished a close game.
Q. A couple big plays by Nyles. You brought up sacks as well. Going back to the summer, he was kind of expected to be one of the leaders. Do you think he is growing and developing with what you see out of him?
COACH KELLY: I thought he's played very well all year. I think he's been as consistent of a player that we've had on defense, from Game 1 to game 8. His toughness, his demeanor and the way he comes to practice every day, there's no -- I'll tell you what. In that locker room right now, if you're saying who do you want in your foxhole? They want Nyles Morgan in their foxhole. He's a guy that you want watching your back because he's there every day. Every practice, he plays with toughness, and I think he's been that consistent performer for us.
Q. Talk about your players up front played well this game. Obviously, that was a big part of the run defense. But it looked like you guys were kind of throwing some different looks, using your linebackers maybe a little bit more downhill on some stunts. What did you see with Miami that made you think you could have success with your linebackers maybe stunting like that?
COACH KELLY: You know, there's a number of factors that go into each and every game plan, and one of the things that was really, really important here was we knew more than anything else in this game that we had to attack the line of scrimmage. It's a big offensive line, and they had talented backs. If we didn't dent every gap and they caught some seams, we weren't going to catch them. So we needed to attack the line of scrimmage.
So this was a game plan that was set up. I thought it was an outstanding game plan that our defensive coaches put together, and that was really aggressive to the line of scrimmage. Now, it put us -- those corners were on an island a lot more today, and I thought they made some outstanding catches. We were on body in coverage. They made some great catches in third down situations, but they were on their own a lot today, more than at any time this year.
So the looks that you saw today is that we were run blitzing a lot more today than at any other time.
Q. Earlier in the season, when you were giving up bigger plays in the run game, you talked about fits at linebacker. Obviously, you have to go back and watch the film and assess things, but did it seem like your guys, including the safety coming down, did it seem like they were more consistent with their systems?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, the systems are better. In terms of what we're asking them to do, we're overlapping with both safeties in terms of making sure there aren't any big plays. We let one ball get outside. We were a little late with our safeties, but other than that, they're doing a great job of overlapping each other.
Q. You talked about the corners being on an island. Most of the time it was refreshment. Donte Vaughn in particular seemed to really handle himself well on the vertical game. Could you talk about what you got from him today. They seemed to want to challenge him a lot down the field.
COACH KELLY: Yeah, he plays the ball very well. He's got a good sense of when to turn. Some guys just have a blind spot to that. He's long. He can rake through the basket. He does a really good job with that.
We feel like the things he has to work on is recognition. He's a little slow sometimes to fire his guns on some of the spots and bubble screen things. But he's going to be a really, really good player. I love coaching him. And just all those three freshmen corners out there are just doing a great job for us.
Q. Last thing from me. Third down's been an issue this season. You guys went 8 of 16 today. Was it just execution? Was there something you saw on third down you thought you could exploit?
COACH KELLY: We spent a lot of time on it and self study. Obviously, we did some things differently today to put ourselves in better positions to manage our third down situation.
Q. Earlier on, you mentioned more decisiveness a couple times. How much, whether subconsciously or not, do you think a win will get those guys playing more decisive?
COACH KELLY: It helps a lot. But indecisiveness is -- it's trusting what your coach, right? It's trusting in yourself and trusting in your teammates. Those three things have to come together. So if one of those three things is not present, it brings some indecisiveness in what you're doing.
That happens to different players at one of those three levels. Some is they don't trust their teammate, and so they go do his job, which, obviously, is not a good thing. Or they don't trust themselves. Or the third, obviously, is they don't trust the coaching, and they do their own thing. We're really close to getting all those three things together, and a lot of that has to do with inexperienced players who are gaining now eight weeks into the season, they should be a lot more experienced, and they shouldn't be freshmen anymore. I think that's where we're at.
Q. A couple of injuries. McGovern looked like he left early.
COACH KELLY: McGovern, Martini.
Q. Cage, they brought down.
COACH KELLY: Cage -- all went into the concussion protocol.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports