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October 29, 2017

Brian Kelly

South Bend, Indiana

Q. Now that we have thawed out, could you give us an injury update, specifically on Bonner, Mack, Wimbush and Morgan.
BRIAN KELLY: Bonner, sprained ankle, lateral. It's not a high ankle. X-rays are negative. We'll make sure he is protected, but he should not be limited. He'll be a go for Saturday.

Morgan, he's had some chronic shoulder throughout the year. It's just a matter of protecting him during the week, but he'll be fine and ready to go.

Alizé had what was diagnosed as a concussion, so he is in our concussion protocol.

Q. How about Brandon, limped off?
BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, left ankle sprain, mild. No restrictions for him. He felt good. Checked in today, felt good. He'll enter tomorrow's workout with no restrictions.

Q. With all the off-the-field stuff, talk about Heisman, College Football Playoffs, how do you deal with that as you prepare week-to-week? If you get a sense the kids are getting a little caught up, what can you do to get them back on ground?
BRIAN KELLY: Well, it's something we've been working on. As they've won games each and every week, they've gotten more recognition. Last week after the USC game, more recognition. They recognize that. They're aware of that. We've made them aware of the fact that there will be more noise as you continue to win.

That's immaterial to what our process is. Our process is to refocus on what's important now. What's important now is our preparation. They're really good. They're trusting their training. The training started back in January. This is really nothing new for us. They've handled it well so far.

Q. In the first quarter yesterday with 9:36 left, how important was it for you to get a touchdown after you were blocked for a punt?
BRIAN KELLY: I think every time we're out there, we're looking to score. I think I said in the press conference last night, our kids didn't flinch after the punt block. Most teams would. It wasn't critical. Obviously we want to score every possession.

I think the way we scored really kind of erased any murmurs or any kind of sense that North Carolina State was going to take any kind of control of the football game.

Again, our kids didn't flinch after the punt block. Scoring as quickly as we did obviously sent the statement to North Carolina State that that wasn't going to affect us.

Q. This week you take on Wake Forest. They put up a lot of yards against Louisville yesterday. What do you have to do? Seems like they got the running game involved yesterday against the Louisville defense.
BRIAN KELLY: I think they got everything involved against the Louisville defense. Over 600 yards. I think John Wolford had the best game of his career, counted for six touchdowns, five in the air, one running. Wolford is really good. He gets into a rhythm. He's very difficult. They're getting great play from Greg Dortch in the slot receiver position. Scotty Washington, 6'5", long. They're very good at what they're doing right now, and operating at a high level.

We've got a great challenge. They're going to play inspired football obviously with Coach Elko here. We know what we're going to get from Wake Forest. They're going to play inspired football.

Q. I know when you hired Mike Elko, you were going to give him the chance to pick his own staff. He chose to retain Mike Elston, among others. I know that Mike interviewed for the job. Could you take us behind the scenes of their collaboration, what Mike Elston means to your team and staff.
BRIAN KELLY: Well, Mike has such a veteran presence. He wasn't negotiable, Coach Elston. He was staying. It was some of the other coaches on the staff.

Coach Elston, once he took over a large role on the defensive side of the ball, interviewed for the coordinator job, just to set the record straight, he was going to be part of the staff moving forward.

Obviously he's been involved with the program in every facet of the defense. He's a very bright coach. He relates well. He's done just a fabulous job of retooling our defensive line.

He, for me, when he was involved in the defense, I got a chance to spend more time with it last year, I was able to see what his influence was with our players, the way he coached them. I was able to relay that on to Mike Elko.

Q. In terms of tempo, your numbers both offensively and defensively have come down. They were both kind of revving up pretty high at the beginning of the year, now they're a little bit above the national average. Was that something that is intentional or is that the way these games have been playing out?
BRIAN KELLY: It's more about the way the games have been playing out. We were pleased with our tempo in the game. As you can imagine, we had 22 of our last 28 plays that were runs where we slowed the clock down. We intentionally, from about -- I think there were about three minutes left in the third quarter, through the entire fourth quarter, we did not use any tempo on offense. This game in particular, we've had a number of those games, late in the third and fourth quarter, where we've completely slowed down.

The games and the way they have gone have dictated it. But when we've needed to play with tempo, I've been pleased with that this year.

Q. You told us you wrote yourself a note in your locker before the USC game. Did you write yourself another note before NC State? If so, what was your message?
BRIAN KELLY: No duplication of notes this week. I mentioned the story only because I was so confident in our football team, and I would have been disappointed.

This week it was not about overconfidence, it was about knowing that we were prepared, and we went against a very good team. It was such a different scenario. So it's not something that I typically do or have normally talked about.

But I felt really good about our preparation. I felt our kids had the right mindset going into the game.

Q. Drue Tranquill took responsibility, but take us through the X's and O's of the blocked punt, what happened and what needed to happen?
BRIAN KELLY: Drue is a very standup guy, but unfortunately it wasn't his mistake. Our long snapper has to block in protection. That's what's unique about this. There was some miscommunication as to whether he was going to be part of the check. We moved it from an overload right to an overload left. The center thought differently. Everybody else was on the same page. We had a looper come right up through the center, A gap, and he wasn't blocked.

It was a blown protection. Obviously it can't happen. That's why it's so crucial that everybody is communicating and everybody is on the same page. We'll go back to work on it and make sure it never happens again.

Q. Could you speak to Durham Smythe's role on the team? We spend so much time on Wimbush, the receivers, offensive line, everybody but Durham. How important has he been to the chemistry of the offense overall?
BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, I think you've hit it right on the head. 'Chemistry' would be a great word. He is so important to the chemistry. He's such a consistent piece and so assignment correct in everything that he does.

First of all, incredibly popular, well-regarded by his teammates. He has a special relationship obviously with Mike McGlinchey, his roommate. Not only that popularity is there, but him having his best year this year where he's physically performing at a high level as a blocker, then making plays down the field.

I think you're right, he adds so much to the chemistry of the offense.

Q. Housekeeping questions. Tony Jones Jr. looked like he might have tweaked his ankle on the opening kickoff, didn't play a whole lot. What's his physical status?
BRIAN KELLY: This ankle has kind of bothered him. He's fighting through it. He ends up getting a hip pointer during the game, which really, you know, set him back. He got back involved and fought through it.

It's just been one of those things where he's getting a little frustrated, is the best way to describe it. I think he was a little bit better today. We just got to get him in a good frame of mind and get him off and running because he's a really good player.

Q. I asked you about Troy Pride on Thursday. I meant to include a question about Donte Vaughn. I think you tried to slip him in on dime, a timeout was called. Has he been slowed by the neck injury from pre-season or is it just a matter of being up against good competition?
BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, he'd be the next man in. He's still developing in the areas that we need him to. I just think if there was a need there injury-wise or otherwise, he would be the next man in. He's still developing and still making progress. But Troy has got some other skills that we were looking for relative to his speed.

Thank you.

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