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November 18, 2017

Brian Kelly

South Bend, Indiana

Notre Dame - 24, Navy - 17

BRIAN KELLY: Good, gritty, tough football. Guys got that close win that everybody's been waiting for, so we checked that box. Just a really good football game. Our guys played well, their guys played well, and we were able to come up with a victory against a team that's really difficult to defend. And they played really well today, limited us to seven possessions. And we responded in the second half offensively and were able to nose ahead and win the game 24-17. So I don't really have a lot to wow you with. Just games that require just a grittiness to them and a toughness and a resolve. This is it. If you want to go see 62-52, go to your local Big-12 network. But it's just good, tough football. So I'll open it up for questions.

Q. Your defense stayed on the field for 42 minutes, but they never made lot of mistakes. This is a ball game, I think the last time I looked you had only three penalties in the whole game. Talk to us about how well your guys played and what they were able to do being on the field that long.
BRIAN KELLY: Well, our attention to detail in terms of what we need to do, we really needed to show some great traits today about who we were in this game. Talent does not win out in a game like this. Your assignments, the way you tackle the ball carrier, bending him back, was so important today, because you're fighting for every yard.

We didn't give up explosive plays, though. They made some key plays, obviously the 4th and 16 where the guy bends back and we don't make a tackle there. The wheel route to the fullback, they made some key plays clearly. But we didn't give up explosive plays. I think we limited them to, in terms of rushing they had 72 rushes for something around four yards a rush. So that's pretty salty defense.

Q. I don't see teams, when I watch Navy on film, I don't see many teams throw a lot of different looks at their offense defensively. You guys threw a lot of different looks today. What kind of went into your decision to do that?
BRIAN KELLY: We just felt like moving the front, not giving them consistency on the perimeter. And, clearly, what we felt we wanted to do is not give them those big plays, where it was clear they knew what they were going to get. We wanted something different that they had to defend each and every time or a little bit of uncertainty as to what they were going to get each and every time.

Q. Pride is a guy that came in here with a lot of speed, that is what he is known for, and he gets that label, that cover guy. Today, even before the interception, I thought he was very good in the run game. Can you talk about what you saw from him today and what brought him to this point where he can kind of play that all around game?
BRIAN KELLY: When you play corner against Navy, you can't just back up and back pedal. You still have to be able to force the football and you have to be able to take on a block and defeat a block. So I think if I was to say what Troy did today is he became more of a complete player in the sense that he had to get into the action. He's been playing wide corner and you're not really in the action there, right? He was in the action today. He had to get off blocks, make tackles, and get his nose dirty today, and I thought he did a nice job.

Q. Offense kind of came out of the gate a little sluggish. Brandon was off target a lot early --
BRIAN KELLY: 1-5 to start the game.

Q. -- but last drive of the second quarter, he hit those two big passes --

Q. -- please talk about, was there just an adjustment, was it just him kind of buckling down? What was it?
BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, so, the weather conditions weren't great, the wind was really blustery down on the field. We actually threw the ball pretty good today in pregame. His mechanics have tightened up a little bit. He just was a little off, as you saw, he threw the ball high, EQ had to go up and try to make a tough catch. Chase had a high ball thrown to him as well. He was just a little bit amped a little bit, and the ball came out high a couple of times, but I thought he settled down into the game. And what we're looking for is a guy that will take what's happened early and kind of reset a little bit, which he did, and refocus, and he came back and made some really big plays for us. So the conditions weren't great to throw the football today, but I thought he was gritty, hung with it, and we went back to some tough throws, too, that he had to make. And I was really proud of the way he responded.

Q. Stepherson had a career day today. Most yards in his career in a game. Can you talk about what he added to your offense? He was kind of your big-play guy today?
BRIAN KELLY: He was. We featured him on drive routes underneath. They were obviously playing over the top in some quarter coverage on third down situations. We felt like if we could get him on some drive routes underneath, that he could run and catch. He was that for us today, as well as run the football, get those safeties down, and let's get Kevin over the top, and we were able to do this as well. So he's a featured player. We lost DQ, too, so he was able to do that for us today. He's a talented player.

Q. Greer Martini has now made a four-year living against the option. What is his acumen against this offense, where he hit a career high 15 tackles today? It's not his first time doing this.
BRIAN KELLY: Ken Niumatalolo asked me if he was a senior, and he hoped that he would not be back next year. He's tried to block him, he can't block him, he was our player of the game, he got the game ball. He just has a really good nose for the football, good sense, but I think what you saw today was the physicality and bending back on the full back. He was physical, he played with the top of his pads. I mean it was a clinic in terms of the way he played the linebacker position today. He just -- it was a senior game, I mean he was in a great zone, he was feeling good, and he's always played well against the option teams.

Q. Julian Love, you started him at safety, they went to a different look, moved him to corner. Why did you want him on the edge and what did he provide when he was moved back?
BRIAN KELLY: Well, he's a very fluid athlete. He's got some unique skills in the sense that he really can play safety. Usually corners can't do both, right? They're either one or the other. He can play both naturally. And against this offense, he allows us to do some things that really bring out his skill set and allowed us to effectively put one of our better players in a hit position, an unblocked position, if you will. And he can go chase some things down.

Q. Following up on Stepherson, how difficult was it for him to get himself in a position to have a day like he had today, given what he put himself through and not having a lot of meaningful practice reps for a long time?
BRIAN KELLY: Well, it's been a journey, there's no question about it. I think I've said this many times, I'm proud of the fact that he has shown the passion and the perseverance to be here today. He's had many chances to fold under the scrutiny that he's been under, but he's persevered and Notre Dame's been great for him. As a football player, he's grown a lot, too, by being so much being more locked in. He knows our offense really well now. We had a similar play last year, the drive route that he caught today, that he turned up in the score that we had just before the half. We threw it where we were unsuccessful and had to settle for a field goal last year against Navy, where he took the ball and he didn't turn it up field. You could see the knowledge base of him from last year to this year. So he's grown a lot.

Q. Just with this game being such a weird game strategically and everything else, what do you take away -- what can you take away from this game?
BRIAN KELLY: The take away is our kids played really hard, they really cared about their teammates and wanting to win this football game. I loved the way they kept fighting and we may not have won this game last year.

Q. You mentioned EQ getting banged up. Looked like Chase Claypool took a hit. Anything you can pass along on either one of them?
BRIAN KELLY: EQ is being evaluated for a head injury. And Claypool is fine, just banged up a little bit.

Q. Given the score of the game and the game flow, could you just describe how critical you think the last drive of the second quarter was when you guys were able to get points on the board before halftime, especially knowing you weren't getting the ball to start the third quarter?
BRIAN KELLY: It was critical. I think the big part of that was how I was going to determine the -- we even thought about surrender defense, to be quite honest with you, when it got down to the three-yard line. When we got to the three, is to let them score at the three, and let's get the ball back. It was just one of those things where clock had been utilized to the point where we needed the ball back, and we -- because we felt like we could score if we just got the ball back. So there was a lot of things going through my head at that time. I'm considering surrender, do I use another timeout here. But the fact of the matter is we, the way it ended up playing out is we had enough time and it was crucial that we do something right before the half.

Q. When you look at what this senior class has kind of gone through over the last two years, how appropriate is it, do you think, that they get to win a game like this in their last game here?
BRIAN KELLY: Well, they got a chance to do something not a lot of teams can do, and that is win 10 games. I don't know what the numbers were, but there's single digit, double digit, I mean it's eight, 10 teams a year win 10 games. So they can be an elite class two out of the last three years of winning 10 games or more. 10's the number, but they can win 11. So there's a lot to play for for these guys, and they have done an incredible job of leading us back to where we should be.

Q. Drue Tranquill, all the injuries he went through and to come back and have the season that he's had, how special is that?
BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, Drue -- and Drue, as you know, plays so hard, but you're going to get a chance to talk to him. He's so excited about winning this last game at home and with all that's going on in his life, it's just so satisfying to see those things. You may not get him off the field tonight. They may have to leave the lights on, because those kids don't want to leave.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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