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November 19, 2017

Brian Kelly

South Bend, Indiana

Q. Good afternoon, Brian. It must be nice to be able to play a team this week that's going to allow you to have the football up there.
BRIAN KELLY: Yes, indeed.

Q. I'm wondering if the uniqueness of playing Navy or preparing for Navy's unique attack -- offense, are you able to take some of those things that you had to prepare for and use them against Stanford and their offense, which features a big back?
BRIAN KELLY: No, I think what we take, essentially, is that there are probably four or five opportunities in the game where we could have given our offense more possessions. Execution on third and 16 probably is one of them, where they run the fullback and essentially give us the football back and we don't make a play there. That's going to give us two more possessions. Fourth and six, we're in a position to make a play, third and 12.

I think what we take away from it is that we've got to make some plays too to get the ball back and give our offense more possessions. I think that that's a takeaway.

And then offensively, clearly getting off to a better start. We've got to settle in better. We finished very well, but getting off to a better start when you know you're limited with possessions. I think those are good takeaways for us moving into Stanford.

Q. And, again, the fact that you -- that Navy uses that option attack and you know you're going to get the run pretty much every -- on every play, does that help you prepare for a Stanford team in any way?
BRIAN KELLY: Not really because you're playing different fronts and doing different things with your group in terms of not being able to really get after it the way you might want to with Stanford. Other than being physically healthy, I think our guys will be really excited to put the Navy game behind them and get to work on Stanford.

Q. Okay. I'll bite the bullet for everybody. What is the health of your team coming into this game? If you could give us some specifics.
BRIAN KELLY: It's good. I mean, we'll have to see how EQ responds going through the concussion protocol. He was better today. Tomorrow will be a big day for him. But some bumps and bruises, but came out of it pretty clean. Obviously, the defense played 80 plays. So they're a little bit more sore than the offensive players.

Q. Talk about Love, the running back for Stanford. What type of running back is he? Is he one of the basic running backs you've seen all season long, like from Miami and the other teams you've played throughout the year?
BRIAN KELLY: Well, he's extremely explosive. Big time player in the sense that he'll turn a 3-yard run into a 60-yard run, just explosiveness at that position, like probably no one else in the country. You've got to wrap him up. You've got to get him on the ground. I think that's what he brings is the explosiveness to the Stanford offense.

Q. I know Navy yesterday held the football for the entire game. How do you keep your players fresh on the offense knowing that Navy is going to use the clock, run the football? How do you keep your players from not getting stiff during that time with Navy running the football all the time?
BRIAN KELLY: Well, again, I think they've got to stay mentally in tune to the game. They've got to be prepared when it's their time to get back out there. I think we did a pretty good job, obviously, with them holding on to the football as much as they did. We only had it for six minutes in the second half, and we scored two touchdowns when we had the football. Then the last series where we've got to make a play to end the game.

So I think our kids did a pretty good job of mentally staying in tune to what was going on.

Q. I wish you and your family a happy Thanksgiving.
BRIAN KELLY: You too. Thank you.

Q. Coach, in some of the past years when you've come out of a triple option game, there's been some lower leg injuries with your defensive linemen. There's been kind of a tough shift getting back to a conventional -- playing a conventional offense. It didn't seem like there was much talk about the cut blocks this year. Am I reading that right? And also, do you feel like there's a mental shift that you have to get with your team to get them back to a conventional offense defending that?
BRIAN KELLY: No, I think the bigger shift was this week, mentally get them back to -- away from the Miami game to the Navy game, I thought was a bigger challenge this week, quite frankly. I think they're going to be all too happy to get away from this Navy game and get back to a traditional sense of football.

We've been playing that way all year. I think, if it was earlier in the year, there would be more of a concern of getting back to what you would consider traditional football. It's the last game of the year, and they know what's at stake. So no real concerns here. Let's go play the last game of the year with a lot on the line.

Q. And just following up on the first part of my question, did Mike Elston approach it different? Because you didn't hear guys talk about the cut blocks, even worrying about that and so forth this year?
BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, we had no players with knee braces on. It's attitude, really, more than anything else. What kind of attitude do you have going into the game? You know, I just felt like our guys had a great attitude to go in and play and compete and not worry about those things. If you're worrying about your knees and you're worrying about getting cut, you're probably going to get cut. But our guys came out of it with no injuries, no concerns, no feeling of they got after my knees.

And that's a different offense in the sense that it's a bigger team. They're not as small up front where they have to rely on cut blocks. They can play a lot more of a physical game. So I think it was just the attitude was right and the way the guys played the game.

Q. And then my second question is last year you got so much value out of doing the exit interviews. I'm curious if you're thinking about doing that again this year and why or why not if you make that decision?
BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, I really haven't given it much thought. It was a valuable tool for me last year. I'll certainly give it some thought after we complete this game. But my focus really is on just trying to prepare our guys this week.

Q. Brian, you talk about Brandon being a little amped up. I'm curious, how does that happen for a young player where he would sky Stepherson in the first quarter on that crossing route but then in the fourth quarter hits him right in the hands for the game-winning touchdown?
BRIAN KELLY: Comfort level, in terms of he's working on his mechanics, getting more comfortable with muscle memory, doing it over and over again. He had been throwing those balls in the ground. So just, you know, again, a guy that's working at his craft, trying to get better at it each and every day.

As you know, he threw the ball high to Claypool on the first one, then high to EQ. Just trying to tune it in. The ball is coming out of his hand better, but he's got to start that way where he's tuned in immediately. So he's going through some mechanical adjustments that are getting better and better, and they showed themselves later in the game. But we've got to see those things happen right away.

Again, just to answer your question more directly, I think what you're seeing is that muscle memory starting to take over, but it's got to hit right at the very first snap.

Q. Just with the big picture look at your team, I think someone just looked at box scores the last three weeks compared to October, September, they wouldn't feel like they were watching the same team. Do you feel like this team is still getting better in some areas that maybe people wouldn't notice if they're just watching the games?
BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, I think it's nonsense. I think it's nonsense to look at box scores about this game and compare it to other games. We had the ball for six minutes. We had two touchdowns. We've got to catch a ball at the end or -- you know, that's a pretty effective and efficient offense. We've got to make a few more plays defensively but --

No, I couldn't have been more proud of the way we played. If there's one game we'd like to have back -- and I take the responsibility for the preparation of our team for Miami. Wake Forest proved to be a pretty good opponent. We were up 41-16 in that game, and kind of maybe lost a little bit of concentration.

So, no, I really -- other than the Miami game, which was our one hiccup this year, I'm pretty pleased with our football team.

Q. What factors did you and Coach Elko consider when you came up with the defensive game plan? You were very aggressive at the line, very proactive pressing the line of scrimmage.
BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, well, we could have a long conversation about this, but we clearly wanted to give them different looks on the dive and the pitch in particular. I thought we did a really good job. We made it hard for them. The game turned into quarterback sweep, quite frankly. And that's -- it made it really difficult. It wasn't triple option for a lot of the game. It really just became how the fullback was loading on our cornerback, you know, responsible players.

Just, again, from our perspective, we'll have to look at tactically if that happens again, how we can get them and attack that because they just were trying to run sweep, quarterback sweep, and bleed clock. We've got to get them off down and distance. We've got to get them off track on first down.

So I thought our plan was really good about changing things up with our fronts and who had pitch, who had QB, and that made it difficult for them.

Q. How different would you say this approach was compared to previous games against Navy? And other than the missed opportunities to get off the field, you were pleased with the approach?
BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, I was. It was different. We didn't have a particular post player most of the time. I mean, we were rotating with the safeties and corners. Troy Pride had to play physical for us. Here's a guy who was a wide cornerback pedaling most of his time here, now he had to go mix it up. I thought he played real well, real physical. We were doing some things we hadn't done before with some players, and they played really well. Love played really well.

So, yeah, we mixed it up and did some things that we hadn't done before, but it was really about they run a reverse. We're in great position to make the play and get off the field. It's third and 16, we've got to make a tackle and get off the field, maybe give us two more possessions. Great wheel route, we're in position, we've got to make a play. So it was really about making some plays in key situations.

Q. Hi, Coach. Talk about in the fourth quarter with about 7:20 left in the game and Navy was driving the ball deep in your territory. How crucial was it to have that interception?
BRIAN KELLY: Obviously, a very, very big play at that time of the game. The key is, obviously, we put them behind the chains and we forced them to throw the football. Troy was in a really good position and made a big play for us.

Q. Also, talk about what this rivalry game means to you, your coaching staff, and also the senior players.
BRIAN KELLY: We have a great deal of respect for Navy. Playing this game is something that traditionally has been played -- you know, it's one of the longest running rivalry games. It's always a tight game, hard fought. Our guys are just happy to get out with a win.

Q. Good luck next week with you guys against Stanford.
BRIAN KELLY: Thank you.

Q. Good afternoon, Coach. I know that maybe there's a shortage of bodies at cornerback, but given how well Julian Love performed in his role for this particular situation, is the door open for him potentially to move into safety if somebody like Troy Pride, Shaun Crawford, are your best corners, or was this just a specific calculation for Navy?
BRIAN KELLY: He's capable of playing safety, but he's our best corner. If we could clone him, I'd like to do that. I think we're going to roll with the group we've got with only one game left. There's no question. Could he be our best safety? Yes. He's definitely our best corner. The problem is we can only play him at one of those two positions.

I hear what you're saying. You've got Troy. You've got Crawford. You've got Watkins. Why don't you move Love back there? But I think where we are right now with one game to go, I think we're going to hold serve to where we are right now.

Q. As far as Chase Claypool, what transpired where he was really unable to play pretty much in the second half, and what is his status like for Stanford?
BRIAN KELLY: I think he was fine. I mean, he had a bit of a shoulder. He got hit in the shoulder, but nothing that would preclude him from being back in. We just had a rotation that we felt comfortable that was in the game at the time, but he'll be fine for Stanford.

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