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September 24, 2017

Brian Kelly

South Bend, Indiana

Q. Coach, first of all, my first question to you today is have you had any inquiries from Dancing With the Stars about your performance last night after the game?
BRIAN KELLY: No. My wife has informed me, though, that I cannot decline any dances with her in the future.

Q. You had some nice moves there, by the way.
BRIAN KELLY: Thank you.

Q. The question I do have is the improvements that you've made between last year and this have a lot to do with the coordinators you brought in, but I would suspect it also had something to do with some attention to details. Could you talk about those both offensively and defensively?
BRIAN KELLY: Well, that would be a long conversation, but I guess I could touch upon a couple of things. I guess it's just a matter of -- it starts really with getting back to the traits that are necessary to be successful, and that is on a day-to-day basis making sure that our players are developing good habits that can transfer themselves onto the field. Every day we're creating the right habits, the right attitude, developing that -- the grit necessary. So that stuff happens off the field, too, going to class, making sure you're not on any lists. Doing all the little things right on a day-to-day basis develops a core within your football team that you can overcome all things on the field, as well. It's just that attention to all the things that go into developing your football team, not just what happens on Saturday.

Q. I want to talk about that big turnover around the 6-minute mark of the second quarter when Crawford forced that fumble in the end zone for a touchback. How crucial was that play because it looked like Michigan State was marching down the field trying to get back in the game?
BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, a really heads-up play by Shaun, but that's the kind of player he is. He got in there, punched the ball loose and was -- and it wasn't over then, right; he stays with it, falls on the ball in the end zone, just a real headsy play. Those are the little things that you have to do. You've got to be smart as a football team, too, and another trait that we're developing with our football team, we're playing much smarter. Turnover-free on the offensive side of the ball, and coming up with a play like that and playing really smart football on the road, those are the traits that you need to be successful as a football team.

Q. How do you prepare this week for a team that you have never faced before in Miami Ohio? I know it's a MAC school, a lot of MAC schools are doing well against Big Ten schools and others.
BRIAN KELLY: Well, it's quite normal for us. We're non-conference, so as an independent, we're used to playing teams for the first time. We hadn't played Georgia in quite some time, and so it's a common occurrence for us in terms of playing teams for the first time. We'll go back to work today, and we've already broken down Miami, and we've got a lot of respect for Chuck. Obviously I know him quite well, and he'll have his football team ready.

Q. Last night you alluded to the turnovers gained that last year you guys were around 104th and even lower the year before, and right now you're 13th in the country in that category. I'm curious as you move into this next third of the season what other areas do you think are potential areas for growth with your defense?
BRIAN KELLY: Well, you know, it was the first time we really faced a team that threw the ball quite a bit. 51 passing attempts. We have to play with a little bit more of a sense of urgency in terms of down and distance, recognizing game situations. So there's some improvement there for us. We've got to do a better job with just understanding passing off routes, underneath coverage, things of that nature, inside-out on slant routes in terms of down and distance. So there's a lot of things that we can improve on there, and again, seeing a team that threw it 51 times last night gave us a real good kind of snapshot of some of the things that we've got to really focus in on and work to improve this week.

Q. My second question is with regard to injuries. Was Adams' gimpy -- did you hold him out maybe precautionary, or was he just not feeling good with only nine carries, and I was a little worried about you when I saw Quenton Nelson pick you up and shake you. Do you have any rib problems or concussion protocol today?
BRIAN KELLY: Josh, when we got up at halftime, he felt some stiffness, so we got a precautionary X-ray, which came clean, and at that point, we had already started the third quarter, and so we started with Dex and made a decision that we wouldn't put him back in unless it was absolutely necessary. They put up three on the board, we respond, and at that point, we weren't going to get him back in the game unless we felt it was absolutely necessary.

Quenton Nelson is a pretty strong guy, but I've been working out, so I'm in pretty good shape, too, so no injuries to report of.

Q. Stiffness where with Adams, what part of his body?
BRIAN KELLY: His ankle. Yeah, it was ankle stiffness.

Q. Last night you talked a little bit about some of the mechanical improvements Brandon made. I'm just curious from a coaching standpoint how your staff maybe called the game to his strengths a little bit better because that was something you had talked about during the week, maybe something you guys could do on the board.
BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, I mean, I just feel like getting the quarterback off with some quick throws, some easy throws to get into a rhythm was important. I wanted to make sure that Chip got some openers for him in his first nine plays that were high-percentage completions for him and get him into a nice rhythm, which he did. I don't know, I think he completed maybe four or five in a row to get into a rhythm before we took a shot down the field. So it was orchestrated or planned or constructed that way, whatever word you want to use. But hey, I felt really good after we made a couple of adjustments, and it's not uncommon when you go through the volume that you do in terms of preseason camp and all the throwing that sometimes the ball drops a little bit. We just moved the ball up a little bit. It was just a slight adjustment, and he's throwing the ball perfectly.

But we wanted to get him some completions, no question, and we set it up that way.

Q. And in all seriousness in the locker room after the game, is that the most fun you've had postgame, and what does it sort of say about the rapport between you and the players that that scene can happen?
BRIAN KELLY: I love my guys. I love being around them. They're fun. They do the right things. We don't have a lot of guys on lists. They pay attention to all the things. So when you have those opportunities to enjoy it -- they're kids, they're young, and sometimes we need to share that with them and be young. Even though I might not look it or act it at times, you're with young guys all the time, and it's important that you get to share that with them.

I made a promise to them that we'd get that megaphone back, so I wanted to make sure that we were able to present it to them.

Q. What has been maybe more telling or defining or maybe even gratifying to you as far as you have 16 rushing touchdowns right now, you had 18 all of last year, but you also have allowed only one rushing touchdown after allowing 23. Which would you define as maybe more telling of where this team has grown from a physicality aspect?
BRIAN KELLY: Well, it's a combination of really a determined, intentional decision to go that route, number one. And the way we've prepared this football team since January, it is focused on that fundamental principle of physicality, and running the football and being great against the run, so this has been intentional from January in terms of what I wanted this to look like.

So it would not be in my estimation successful if we had 16 rushing touchdowns and 16 given up. We want the differential. So again, I'm repeating myself, but making the changes that I made, it's been about this intentional crafting of what we wanted to look like, and that's what we look like right now, and we've still got some work to do.

Q. And I know last week you particularly emphasized that so much of the attention is on Brandon, but the receivers also have to make some of the catches, and there were at least three yesterday with Equanimeous, the 40-yard catch, Durham over the middle where it was a dangerous one again but made the reception, and then Claypool straddling the sideline. Was that especially a point of emphasis last week?
BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, and Dexter's catch was a pretty good catch, too. I think -- I knew that we needed to step up our play in supporting Brandon. He had to obviously throw it better, we had to catch it better. I wasn't alarmed, but it was certainly something that during practice -- there wasn't a time where if a ball was not caught there was not a comment about how important it is for us to focus on the football and catch that football. Again, intentional to make sure that our guys were locked in and focused in terms of catching the football.

Again, we've got some guys that are gaining some confidence out there, and I think you'll see a better rapport as the season goes on here with Brandon and the receivers and confidence grow in that regard.

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