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September 30, 2017

Brian Kelly

South Bend, Indiana

Notre Dame - 52, Miami (OH) - 17

BRIAN KELLY: Proud of my football team. I challenged them on Monday to exhibit mental toughness, and the mental toughness is defined -- was really about accountability to a standard that we've set here in terms of how we want to play, and they had that mental toughness today they exhibited right out of the gate, 45 points in the first half.

So really proud of our guys. They had a great week of preparation. It's a great group to be around, and you know, again, just to come out knowing that physically they were more talented than their opponent, to come out with that mindset was another real growth moment for this football team. Miami, Chuck does what great coaches do in these kinds of games. He limits possessions. Again, I think he had the ball for 35 minutes. I think I talked about that in the press conference on Thursday. He keeps the ball away from you, so we knew we had to be opportunistic. We took the ball away defensively in the first half. We cashed it in for points, which we've done all year, got a lead, and then obviously were able to put the ballgame away.

But hats off to Miami. They fought. Ragland is a heck of a quarterback, tough, tough kid, and we wish them the best, and we'll be rooting for Chuck Martin and Miami. Obviously he's a special friend of mine.

But you know, the story for me is my team and how proud I am in terms of them exhibiting the mental toughness. So with that, I'll open it up to questions.

Q. How did you want to defend them? It looked like you played a lot of quarters. They have Gardner, who obviously is a real weapon for them, and Ragland is a guy with some experience and savvy. What was your approach with them?
BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, well, you know, we tried to defend the back shoulder, and we thought we were in some pretty good positions for back shoulder throws, and they made some good throws down the field, quite frankly. We were in position one time where I thought it could have gone either way on a couple of calls here or there, but we were competing for the ball.

You know, I think that's what we expected to happen. We expected maybe to make another play or two there, but still kept the points down to the point where we wanted to stay in more quarter coverage against them to eliminate big plays.

Q. And what's your running back situation now?
BRIAN KELLY: Josh could have played. His ankle was not a serious situation. But we didn't want to put him in harm's way.

Tony just -- you know, again, he got hit. He wasn't ruled out of the game, so we just felt like we just would run with Deion and just be safe.

We expect extra back next week. Josh should be full go, and I think Tony gets this week to really get back to 100 percent. So I feel good going into next week.

Q. You talked about the targeting penalty or targeting rules earlier in the week --
BRIAN KELLY: He knocked the paint right off the kid's helmet. You know, I really can't comment on it because I know I'll say something that gets me in trouble.

Q. I don't want to get you in trouble.
BRIAN KELLY: Thank you.

Q. But I will ask you about this: Once you had such a big lead at halftime, what did you want to see in the second half? I mean, you were happy with the businesslike approach. What did you want your takeaway to be in the second half?
BRIAN KELLY: We wanted one more sustained drive offensively and defensively. We wanted to clean up a couple of things. And as you know, we really went to throwing the football for Brandon. We wanted to get through some passing game things that we hadn't got to in the last couple of weeks. So it was really delving into some of the playbook for Brandon and some across-the-board reads that we hadn't really got to. He threw a great ball, great read on the last play before the half. We went empty, no back. He checks the protection, finds the one-on-one match-up down the middle of the field. So we got into some of that in the third quarter, and again, you know, it's an apprenticeship, right. We're still learning as we go, but he's making some really good progress.

Q. Josh was at 150 yards before the end of the first quarter and only had, I think, maybe eight carries. What are your thoughts on his performance, just even --
BRIAN KELLY: He's a stud. I mean, look, Barkley is a great player at Penn State, but you know, Josh has got to start to get some kind of national recognition for the kind of season that he's having. He is a load. He's a big, physical runner who gets in the open and then runs away from people. So this is a special back who's having a special year.

Q. And it seems like this team has incrementally found new goals and new things each week. What's the next step for this team?
BRIAN KELLY: Now we really have come full circle in terms of what I was asking them to do. Now this is about consistency and performance, and then cleaning up some of the things that we know are our weaknesses. We've got to get better at tackling. We've got to be able to play the ball in the air. We've got to be able to obviously pass the ball with a higher efficiency. So standard things that we have to work on on a day-to-day basis that we know are things that are going to be challenged week in and week out.

Q. This is three straight blowouts for you guys. Where is the confidence of your group right now?
BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, I don't even know that they look at it in that respect. I think it's really about how they approach the game and how they come out -- I think what they're more excited about is I challenged them on Monday to show me mental toughness, and they were expecting to be -- that getting validated today, so that's really what their focus is about, how they're preparing and how they play the game, more so than what the point differential is.

So I think more than anything else, it's a special group in the sense that they -- it's how they play the game that's more important to them than really what the score is.

Q. This is another opponent that you've held under 20 points. How important has your defense been to this success for you guys early on?
BRIAN KELLY: You know, somebody asked me that, and I think it was our own radio people. They said, this team is complementing each other really well. I don't think you can look at this team and say, well, it's a dominating defense or God, it's a dominating offense or it's the special teams. We don't hurt each other. I mean, we complement each other. Our defense takes it away, we go and score. Our offense doesn't put our defense in a bad position. I mean, I think we really complement each other. We take care of the football. It's just a good group, and it's working well together. We'll need to continue to do that if we want to continue to win.

Q. What kind of influence has Chip had on Josh?
BRIAN KELLY: You know, I think it's -- I don't know if Chip has a direct influence on Josh as much as there's a commitment there to a physicality of how we run the football, and so that brings out the best in Josh. You know, Chip has been committed because I've asked him to be committed to a physical run game, and so that brings out the best traits in Josh. He's a physical back. He's not a -- I used Barkley's name. That guy is a jump cut special player at full speed. Josh is going to run over you and break it, so Chip and the play calling and the way we've constructed this offense, it's a great fit.

Q. Can you talk about Greer Martini and the interception tonight, the strides that he's making?
BRIAN KELLY: Well, you know, Greer does a lot for us, right, he's involved on the kickoff team. Here's a guy that's a captain for us that's leading our kickoff team in tackles. I mean, you know, he's playing the Will linebacker position in pass coverage as well as -- he's doing things that puts us in a really good position because he can play out in space and get his hands on footballs and do those kinds of things, and then moving back in the box, and he's physical enough to play in there. So he's a very important player for us in all respects. A very versatile player. Can do a lot for us.

Q. In your first seven years, you guys rushed for over 300 yards twice combined in your first seven years. You've done that three times now in 2017 alone. Can you just kind of talk about where your run game is right now and what's allowed you guys to just be so dominant week after week on the ground?
BRIAN KELLY: You know, I think it's been -- we've got really good players that we want to feature, and commitment that I made to change the focus of the offense towards a much more physical approach to running the football. And we've got really good players. So making sure that we, you know, utilized our strengths, and our strengths are we've got two guys on the left side that are going to be playing on Sundays as well as a very good center, right guard, and our right tackles are coming along, as well, five tight ends and physical backs.

You know, maybe I just woke up one morning, hit my head and came to my senses and said, let's go to our strengths and run the football.

Q. Kind of breaking down your numbers the first four games, there's a lot of balance between 11 and 12 personnel, a lot of balance between running left and right. How important is that?
BRIAN KELLY: We went to a different mode this year. I wanted to self-scout each week, so we've self-scouted each week. We've got great balance in a lot of things that we're doing. Before I used to self-scout it would be five weeks and then we'd self-scout and maybe there were some tendencies here and there, but we're self-scouting weekly, and I think we have got some pretty good balance in what we're trying to do offensively.

Q. Does that result more in just tweaks here and there, or how does it -- you look at the numbers, you look at the data, then what happens after that?
BRIAN KELLY: Moving the tight end a lot, moving it, changing strengths, so moving the back opposite of where the tight end is, doing a lot of things that now you move your front. We're in a different place. So it's been effective for us.

Q. Last couple weeks it seems like --
BRIAN KELLY: I don't want to give up too much of that stuff.

Q. Last two weeks Khalid Kareem's snaps seemed to be going up. Today he was pretty productive, pretty disruptive. Can you talk about what you've seen from him?
BRIAN KELLY: Khalid is really emerging in so many ways. Physically in the weight room, his numbers are off the charts in terms of what he's been doing. He's just physically coming into his own. Very trustworthy in terms of what he's doing day-to-day with Coach Elston. He's earned his playing time.

Q. In the passing game receivers and tight ends combined, are you sort of getting a little closer to figuring out what you want that rotation to be, or is that just going to be a season-long developmental process?
BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, I think we feel a little bit more comfortable on the perimeter with Claypool and Eq. We're still a work in progress with some of the other receivers, you see Chris Finke making a fabulous catch. We need to make a catch earlier in the game. We're still evolving. I think we're getting closer, but no, I'm not ready to tell you that we're solid in our first three guys yet.

Q. Overall how much do you think that factors into -- you use the the term apprenticeship with Brandon, not maybe having the same guys out there all the time?
BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, it's part of it. I think there's -- you know, he knows where sometimes he's looking for one guy a little bit too much instead of coming off of it, and I think that has a little something to do with it. He wants to feel comfortable with one guy instead of coming off it. That's part of the process there, as well. There's no question.

Q. Devin Studstill, was he injured today?
BRIAN KELLY: You know, Devin could have played today. We wanted to make absolutely certain going up against a high-tempo team next week with North Carolina that he was 100 percent. He's about 80 percent with a foot, and if he was pressed, we could have played him. We need four safeties next week.

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