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November 20, 2016

Brian Kelly

South Bend, Indiana

Q. What more did you learn about the non-targeting calls on DeShone after watching film?
BRIAN KELLY: Well, we sent it into the supervisor of officials, and they won't comment on it until they get a chance to see it from our film. I have not got to, to answer your question, any further information from them.

Q. When you watched it personally, did it aggregate you more, or are you equally as frustrated as you were last night?
BRIAN KELLY: Well, it's clear on film that it was a helmet to helmet on a defenseless player. You know, it will stand up to the scrutiny, it's just beyond me why it doesn't get reviewed. That's what their job is is to review it, and that's the second time this year that we've had a player that's been targeted that the replay officials have not seen it that way.

At this point, you know, my points that I made yesterday are still, for me, the most important. What are we going to do when it comes to player safety? I mean, that's the most important thing. Our officials have got to be held accountable for player safety.

Q. What was the moment like when you realized that DeShone had to come out for that final play?
BRIAN KELLY: Well, we had to get Malik in there right away. Obviously you've got 13 seconds, and we told him what the play was. You know, we didn't have much time because we had to get him on the field right away, and clearly we didn't execute the play the way we wanted to at the end. You know, very difficult situation to put Malik in.

Q. And I think last night you said that with that final play, you guys didn't coach it well enough or something along those lines. Looking back, how would you have done it differently, obviously given the difficult circumstances with DeShone having to come out?
BRIAN KELLY: Well, reminding him that the clock is going to run on the ready for play. He wasn't aware of the situation, and it's our job -- obviously he's got to stay in tune to the game, but it's our job to make sure that he's aware of the game situation, that the clock is going to begin on the ready for play, and he wasn't aware of that, and so time came off the clock, and they were critical seconds.

Q. What can you say about the way DeShone in particular has handled the losses and leading an offense that's struggled to finish games in the fourth quarter?
BRIAN KELLY: I'm not really sure what to say. I think he along with the other 10 players, you know, are all responsible for the execution of the offense, and certainly the quarterback gets a lot more of the scrutiny than everybody else, but I think they all feel the same way. We played very well and executed very well in the first half and didn't execute or play as well in the second half, and each player is accountable, and coaching is certainly part of that, as well. I think he feels as though he's part of that, as well.

Q. And kind of more about his leadership, because when he comes into the postgame and answers questions, kind of like what you said last night, he doesn't really know what to say, but more what have you seen from him as far as a leader goes?
BRIAN KELLY: Well, I think he's growing in that regard. I think the last month or so he's really taking more of a vocal and demonstrative leadership role. He's holding others accountable, and I just think he's just maturing. His natural ability to lead is starting to come out, and I think it's been a great benefit for not only the offense but for the football team.

Q. After the game you talked pretty extensively about the targeting, and again we're talking about it today. I was curious, after the first hit on DeShone in the third quarter, how soon on the sideline was he checked out, and how long does that process take, and was there any consideration of not bringing him back in the game just as a precaution, because it looked like he grabbed the back of his head after that first hit in the third quarter and he was pretty shaky and slow to get up?
BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, I mean, that's all out of my purview. We have a medical spotter that's responsible for that, and we have a team physician on the sideline that evaluates any of those situations relative to any contact with the head, head or neck area. It was never brought to my attention that he was not going to go back into the game or that there was a concern. My trainer would come up to me and let me know if there was any concerns.

I know he was checked out, and I don't believe that there was any feeling that he was not going to go back in the game. I know he was checked out after the game, as well, and checked out today, as well. You know, I think sometimes you do get hit in the head, but it doesn't mean that there's a concussion.

But again, all I can say that we have medical professional people that are keeping an eye on all that.

Q. But does it scare you, with the way he got up, he was slow to get up, and obviously maybe he had his bell rung, but when it happens twice, does it become frightening for you just as a human being, to watch somebody get hit like that twice in the span of, I don't know, 45 minutes or an hour? It looked like -- thank goodness so far he's okay, but does it kind of frighten you a little bit just person to person, just watching somebody get hit like that?
BRIAN KELLY: Well, you know, the nature of the way he plays, he's a big, physical player, and if you were watching the way he played throughout the game, he was running people over. So you know, there's a physicality to the way he plays. He's not a -- I don't look at him as somebody that is a china doll out there. He's physical player. He's out there mixing it up, and we're always concerned about player safety and DeShone, but I don't think that there was a time where I felt like he was out there at risk. I think he was playing physical, and that was kind of the nature of the game that we were in.

Q. Last night you said you wanted to look at the film before you addressed the question. After having done so, can you illuminate us a little bit about the difference in productivity on offense from the first half to the second half, what happened there?
BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, pretty clear that they were self-inflicted wounds. The first two possessions we fell behind the chains because of procedure penalties. The third possession we scored a touchdown. The fourth possession we did not pick up a pressure front that led to a negative run of six yards that put us behind the chains. Fifth possession we had two drops on very makeable catches on a 2nd and 4 and a 3rd and 4.

Our sixth possession we had a big drop down at the end of a deep ball that was a ball that we should have caught, and then the seventh possession was the last possession of the game.

Really self-inflicted, negative plays, and the inability to make a catch here or there. You know, I'd like to credit Virginia Tech, but looking at the film, we executed a whole lot better in the first half than we did in the second half.

Q. I know when you came to Notre Dame, you embraced wanting to have the running game be more a part of your offense. Do you feel like the running game is as physical as you want it to be?
BRIAN KELLY: We rushed for 200 yards against one of the best rush defenses in college football. I don't know where that perception has come from, really, to be honest with you, if I look at it.

If we had to do it all over again, we should have thrown the ball a little bit more. They were in a lot more pressure fronts, especially in the third and fourth quarter, a lot more man-to-man coverage, and that was the nature of the game.

But you know, they mix it up pretty good up front, but to have a rushing game that rushes and creases the defense like it did for 200 yards, if we went into that with the thought that we were going to rush for 200 yards, I probably would have taken it.

Q. This sounds very off topic and I hope you'll humor me. When you went to look for a new offense or a new way of doing things back when you were at Grand Valley, to go to the spread was quite a jump for you. What was your motivation that year for going out and finding that, trying it, and making it your own?
BRIAN KELLY: To really be able to attack the multitude of defensive looks that you get from three down to four down and be able to run the ball 60 times a game if you needed to or throw it 60 times a game. And so I've always felt that balance is not 50/50, balance is you have to be equally as good as running it as you are throwing it, and that was the genesis of getting into a spread offense.

Q. I'd imagine that you don't give a lot of these big-picture things a whole lot of thought until you're finished playing USC, but we're not sure when we'll talk to you after that game again. Have you given some thought to whether you're going to go inside or outside the staff with your defensive coordinator opening?
BRIAN KELLY: I think I'll definitely interview inside the staff and certainly bring somebody from the outside, as well, so that process will take on an internal candidate and there will be external candidates, as well.

Q. Just curious, given that this is your last week of practice, then you can coach players with a ball until the spring, are you going to try to get a look at some guys who are redshirting this year into practice this week, maybe with the first or second team?
BRIAN KELLY: We've kind of already done that and throughout the year. Like we'll bring kids up to practice with us for that specific reason, because we don't want to just wait until bowl practice or -- because we don't think in terms of not going to bowl games to do that.

We've gotten a pretty good look at most of those guys already and have had a pretty good evaluation period throughout the year.

Q. For a guy like Brandon Wimbush, what did his reps look like during practice this year, and specifically he was the guy I was wondering if you were going to give him a little bit more this week.
BRIAN KELLY: No, we moved him over to the scout team so he would get more reps, actually, because he was only getting a few reps as the third-string quarterback. Other than the option weeks, you know, the last -- let's see, these two games and the previous game with Miami, he'd been on the scout team and getting a lot of the reps there to keep himself moving the football, throwing the ball, staying active.

But he wouldn't get any more work than the two quarterbacks are normally getting.

Q. For this week with some of the younger guys who have played this year, like a Chase Claypool or like an Elijah Taylor, somebody like that, are you going to actively try to get them on the field a little bit more against USC?
BRIAN KELLY: You know, I think we've steadily tried to include those guys, and I think we'll still continue to do that. But we're going to do everything in our power to win the game first, and then if we can get these guys part of that win, we certainly will. But this is really about going out on a win more than anything else.

Q. You've mentioned throughout the year about how the offensive play calling and everything is really a collaborative effort among so many coaches, but yesterday you stated that there's always that danger of having too many cooks in the kitchen. Is that something you feel you need to reassess as far as the collaborative aspect of it and maybe just single it into one person?
BRIAN KELLY: Oh, it's something that we'll definitely have to think quite hard on in the off-season, absolutely.

Q. Where do you feel that some problems have emanated from that perhaps, where you feel that you do need to make a change or at least evaluate it further?
BRIAN KELLY: Well, I think when you're 4-7, I think you have to evaluate everything. I don't think I sit here right now with all of those answers for you, other than certainly we've talked about players and executing, but coaches are part of the evaluation process, as well, and I have to be able to evaluate our coaches critically, as well.

I'm not prepared to do that at this moment, but I can tell you that no stone will be unturned, and we will look for improvement in all areas.

Q. Is it a situation where you perhaps would like to make more full control of the play calling and maybe have it streamlined that way?
BRIAN KELLY: That's an option. Certainly not being involved in the direct play calling can be one of the options, but like I said, I'm going to reserve comment on what that ends up being until I get a chance to fully evaluate everything.

Q. Going back to the earlier question about a physical run game, I think this is the thing maybe that most people from the outside will evaluate, is when you have like a 1st and goal at the 2-yard line when you're up 7-0, you're in a shotgun formation, and you did run two straight plays into the middle and weren't able to get in, and then inches away from the goal line you were in a shotgun and then you lose seven yards off a bad snap there. There's sort of a feeling of just powering over with your 6'5" quarterback. What's your take on just running shotgun from the one-inch yard line?
BRIAN KELLY: It's what we do. I mean, you know, that's what we're comfortable with. That's what we practice every day. It was a little bit too far out to go direct snap in that situation. We had the option -- we have a couple of direct-snap plays. We were going to run quarterback power on that play, and it was blocked very well, and the only problem is we mishandled the snap, which is obviously something that we do every single day, and unfortunately that was an unforced error.

But yeah, we feel like the big quarterback in that situation and running him was the right call at that time on 3rd down. You see that from, I think, Virginia Tech on most of their key situations. They ran the quarterback. We like that play on 3rd down. We just obviously didn't execute it with bobbling the snap, something that we do every day.

Q. Just to clarify, obviously it might be a rare situation to happen, but if you guys were to win and get to 5-7 and got a bowl invitation, would you guys accept that invitation?
BRIAN KELLY: It's not my call, and that would be Jack and our administration. I wouldn't -- again, I'm a football coach. I'll do what they tell me to do. But I'm not real supportive of a 5-7 football team in bowl games. But I don't know if we have obligations relative to the ACC or what the standard is for it. But it doesn't fire me up that much.

But again, those aren't my decisions.

Q. And then also, do you have any clarification on why your spotter wouldn't have asked for Kizer to be looked at after the helmet-to-helmet?
BRIAN KELLY: Do I have any clarification on what?

Q. On why the spotter didn't signal to whomever to have DeShone looked at immediately before he played another down after that helmet-to-helmet hit?
BRIAN KELLY: No. It wasn't brought up to me, and I'm not part of that dialogue. That happens with our medical personnel relative to whether they're going to ask for a player to be pulled out of the game.

Q. I know this year I was watching a lot of college football games, your game and everybody else's game. It seems like the refs have been having issues with the targeting calls. Do you feel like in your mind should it be an equal playing field with all the different conferences, referees to be on the same page? It seems like some of them are not on the same page.
BRIAN KELLY: Hallelujah. Can we make you the federated official for the entire college football? I mean, that's what we need, really. We've got to standardize at least the replay booth, because you've got different interpretations across the board, across the country, as to what is targeting, what isn't targeting. Yeah, I mean, it's crazy. It's got to get fixed.

Q. The last time you played USC was out there two years ago, and you guys had a hard time playing against them. What's the plan for this week to get ready for that game Thanksgiving weekend? Are you guys getting out there early to get adjusted to the time zone?
BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, I mean, we played them last year, we beat them last year. This is a good football team we're playing, and we think we're a little bit better prepared. Last time out there we were decimated with injuries, especially on the defensive side of the ball, so I think we're in a much better situation. We'll go out Thursday to acclimate and be ready to play a very good USC team.

Q. And I know the last question from me is you're 4-7; what are your goals for this week against USC? Everybody wants to end the season on a positive note. That's the first goal. Are there other goals you're looking for?
BRIAN KELLY: No, it's just simply win, finish. We played really well for spurts against Virginia Tech, but we didn't put together a complete game. Put together a complete game against USC.

Q. Just curious if you had any sense of whether Daniel Cage or Torii Hunter might be available for you this weekend.
BRIAN KELLY: I'm not sure to be honest with you. You know, I think both of them have made progress, but I really wouldn't have a sense until we see them move around on Tuesday.

Q. And is there sort of a threshold they would have to clear just in terms of how many practices they would need to log before you'd feel comfortable playing them?
BRIAN KELLY: Torii has got to be able to change direction. He hasn't been able to change direction. He can go straight line, but he hasn't been able to change direction in the manner that he needs to at the position he plays. He could be playing a lot of different positions, but the one that he plays requires that change of direction. He just doesn't have it right now. We'll see where he is next week Tuesday.

Daniel Cage, yeah, I mean, that could be a tougher one because of the conditioning factor, because he hasn't been able to do a lot of conditioning. We think he's going to be able to do his conditioning this week. We'll find out. But I would say it's going to be a lot tougher for Cage because of that conditioning element.

Q. Big picture, did anything that happened this weekend sort of change your outlook on the off-season about where the program needs to go?
BRIAN KELLY: No. I mean, this is not a program issue, this is about consistent -- you saw this football team play, how well it can play. This is about consistency. This is about the second half false start penalties and missing a catch here or there. This is how do you play consistent football for four quarters. Some of that is guys growing up, getting more experience. Some of that is better coaching, better teaching the techniques. But yeah, there's nothing endemic within the program as much as it is a team that has not executed consistently for four quarters.

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