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September 4, 2010

Brian Kelly

COACH KELLY: Good way to start the season obviously. There's a lot of firsts here today: First walk from the Basilica, first pep rally. There's a lot going on. At times I wasn't certain if we were going to get lined up for stretching today the right way. So there's a lot of anxiety going into the first game, especially with all of the things that are surrounded with our game. So it's very satisfying to come out of today with a victory.
You learn a lot about your team after a game like this, and in particular, it wasn't -- you know, it wasn't a warm-up game. We went right into the Big Ten and played a Big Ten rival in Purdue. And you learn a lot about your football team today.
So a lot of things that we have got to work on, there's no question about that. Clearly, what I was very pleased with that we battled, for four quarters. I told them, if you just give me great effort for four quarters, we'll find a way to get it into the house. Now, we are going to have to get in a little bit more assertively at times, but that's going to come. We are going to continue to develop and if we can be a better football team as we learn down the road when we are putting these kinds of positions again to close out games, I think we'll be able to do it.
But very satisfied today with our opening win. With that, I'll open it up to any questions.

Q. As high a bar as you want to set, do you come out figuring there may be a few fits and starts in certain areas and that's okay for a first time out?
COACH KELLY: Provided you win. I mean, I don't want to learn lessons after a loss. But we clearly know more about our football team. I think that's the most important thing. We got a chance to really evaluate some things today. Again, we need to win more games and when we win, when we are put in situations where we can close out opponents, our guys will close them out. We are not quite there yet. But we made some progress.
I think the thing that stands out, to me, early in the season, special teams are huge, and I thought our kicking game was outstanding today. Obviously the field goals were huge. Our special teams played a pretty good role in today's win.

Q. You said you thought you would be more balanced; run, pass, how important was that to execute, specifically today?
COACH KELLY: Well, quite frankly it's always about how the defense is playing us relative to run and pass.
Within the spread offense, if the numbers are favorable in the running game, which they were because they were playing so much double zone, they run a lot of cover two, we have to be able to run the ball effectively, which I thought we did.
You know, when they brought pressure, we didn't handle that end as well as I would have liked. We know the areas that obviously other teams are going to look at that we are going to have to improve on.

Q. Maybe it's too soon, after your first game, but before the game started, I didn't see you stand still for one second during that whole stretching thing; take us through what was going through you emotionally, and the second part, when you're standing there hugging your assistant coaches and playing the song.
COACH KELLY: Well, I think I probably am as nervous in an opening game, whether it was here at Notre Dame or Cincinnati or Central Michigan or Grand Valley, because there are so many uncertainties. So there was probably a lot of nervous energy for the opener. I know what to expect a lot more now going into week two in what we have to get from our team. I think probably in answering that question, there was a lot of nervous energy, because there were a lot of unknowns relative to how we were going to play. Not how we were going to play but just the manner we were going to play.
After the game we all went through this for the first time other than maybe Mike Denbrock. As a coaching staff, this was different for us, all of the things that go along with being at Notre Dame, we shared that today with the alma mater, so that was nice.

Q. You're up 20-3 late in the third and looks like going in to score when Michael Floyd fumbles after the reception at the goal line and would have been 27-3 and the route would have been on. Were you disappointed after that? Seems like you lost your momentum after the fumble.
COACH KELLY: Well, I still think it's about developing a mentality. Call it what you want. Just the instinct of a champion senses that he's got his opponent on the ropes. We have not acquired that yet but we will. Today, obviously, it was a pretty clear case that when we had our opponent in a position to put him away, we didn't execute when we needed to.
So it will be a point of emphasis. Our kids see it. We will communicate and we will expect them that the next time they are in that position, that we take care of the ball and get it in the end zone.

Q. Going back a little bit to the earlier question, was there a moment today, last night, will it come tonight, where you'll take a moment to yourself and just think about what today was, where you are?
COACH KELLY: You know, throughout my entire career, I've never really kind of looked back on the accomplishments. I've always been so focused on the process that I think that what I will reflect on is the things that we didn't do that we needed to do to play better today.
So maybe it's just the DNA; maybe it's just the coach in me. I just have never, ever taken the time to go, boy, what a great job you did today getting your first win at Notre Dame.
I'm going to be thinking about the things that we didn't do today that we need to get better at for Michigan.

Q. What were your very first impressions of Ian Williams?
COACH KELLY: My first -- when I got here? Had a chance to be an unblockable player (chuckling). But we needed to keep him on the field. He had only averaged less than 40 plays in the game because he couldn't stay in the game because of his work volume. So it was our job to make sure that Ian Williams stayed on the field. Our strength and conditioning staff did a tremendous job: He's lost weight, his conditioning level is outstanding and consequently, he's on the field for all the plays.

Q. Talk about the defense from the sacks, the turnovers.
COACH KELLY: You mean the slow defense? Everybody on ESPN, television, FOX, everybody has talked about a slow defense. We really want our guys to play fast and I thought they played fast today.
I thought they were aggressive. We can get better. We missed a lot of tackles today and there's some key players on our team that missed a lot of tackles today that when they go back and look at it, they will go, wow, that was not very about. We played aggressively. We played fast. We competed for the ball. And obviously had some huge stops in a short field. Any time you can do that, you can feed off that energy, and I thought we had great energy on defense today.

Q. After the interception, the long drive, your team really did close out the game. Talk about that.
COACH KELLY: Yes, we had talked on the sideline that, look, we put you in a bad situation here. We are putting it on your shoulders. We were down to playing Brian Smith had to play a lot of dog. Darius Fleming was out virtually the whole game with cramping. Shembo couldn't go. It was truly a next man in from a defensive standpoint. Slaughter didn't play very much at all in the second half. Zeke was forced in.
I just think our depth defensively really slowed itself, and when you're going with your thirds and fourths, I think it shows that, you know, our guys get that we need them all this year to play for us, and they came up big.

Q. You're focused on the process, but you are -- do you see anything in the process of the day that you didn't see before?
COACH KELLY: A lot of Kelly Green shirts. It's cool. I saw those shirts.
You know what, I think, maybe this is just my background; any time that I've gone into the stadium with 81,000 I've always played up to that point. Now it was 81,000 and it was our people. It was nice to have that crowd, that 81,000 rooting for your team. I've always taken teams to Penn State or at Michigan and we have always had to play up to being on the road in front of 80,000, 90,000. I think the one thing that stood out to me today was the crowd obviously was into it and it was a great advantage. That's probably the one thing that will stick in my mind.

Q. What were your impressions of Dayne today?
COACH KELLY: I thought he started well, and I think, you know, we have some things that we have to work on. I told him, he didn't have to win the Heisman today, but he had to help us win today. He helped us win. There's a lot more that he's capable of doing. I think he's going to make great progress from week one to week two. He saw a lot of things today, being in the spread of the run game checks, all of those things which I think are going to benefit him greatly.
I would say that if we were looking at his performance, he played well enough today for us to get a win against a good opponent, but there's great room for improvement. I think we would probably be in agreement on that.

Q. Told him that he didn't have to win the Heisman; did you sense that you had to tell him that?
COACH KELLY: I think any time you can lower the expectations of a Notre Dame quarterback, you're probably doing the right thing.

Q. How would you assess how your team played from a mental standpoint, penalties, knowing what to do and where to be?
COACH KELLY: I thought from that standpoint, we showed some pretty good discipline today. In particular, I thought with the number of formations and what we tried to do today offensively, played pretty good.
Clearly holding on to the football is absolutely crucial. But again, if you look at it for a first game, I would not -- I would not characterize it as sloppy today. I would characterize it as good all-around football. It wasn't great, but it was pretty good for all three phases today. A lot of room to work on, but not bad.

Q. Robert Marve was playing his first game in a few years, and at times you were successful against him. Kind of assess how he did today against the defense.
COACH KELLY: I think clearly that the strength is his ability to keep the play alive. And he certainly can do that. But we did get to him, as well, and we forced some big plays, with great effort.
So I would say, you know, if we can limit the throws to the big receiver down the field, that's really what we wanted to do more than anything else. We knew that he was going to extends some plays, but we got only in one situation where we got locked up one-on-one late in the game in the fourth quarter. Other than that, our game plan I think stayed pretty true; we knew that he was going to run around. Let's make sure that we are in good coverage.

Q. Can you just talk about Armando's play today and maybe the spark you got out of Cierre?
COACH KELLY: Well, we believe both of those are outstanding backs and we had some good looks today to run the football. I thought they manufactured some runs and obviously utilized their athletic ability. They are both very gifted and we just have to give them a lane, gave them an opportunity, and I thought that both of those guys displayed the skills necessary for us to be successful.
Again, Cierre came in and we had a role for him. He got tired, first time he's played football since high school in his senior year. So his eyes were really big in the fourth quarter, but we are going to mature him, and he's going to be obviously somebody very important.
And we are not going to forget about our other guys, because we are going to need them all, we really are. It's going to be a grueling schedule these first six weeks, it's going to be bang, bang, bang, we need all those guys.

Q. Tuesday you had Nick Tausch listed at your starting kicker, and Thursday at the last second you said there was a last-minute change, seemed to pay off, gave you the two-score advantage.
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I was obviously very pleased with our kicking game today. Ruffer effort came through. We concerned ourselves with his operation. We were never concerned about his leg strength and his ability to obviously get it through the goal post. Nick is a very good kicker, too. We think we are blessed that we have two guys that we can count on throughout the year, but he was big today.

Q. Since you've been hired, there's been a buzz building about you and you come in with the undefeated record last year and this year, your spring ball went well, your fall camp went well and you get your first win today. A lot of people see you as the white knight coming in to say save the program. Is do you see yourself that way?
COACH KELLY: Oh, yeah, exactly. (Laughter) I couldn't put it any better. (Laughter).
What is a white knight anyway? Look, I took on the challenge at Notre Dame, because I want to see this program back to where I believe it should be, and that's amongst the elite of college football. We've got some work to do. We are not there yet, believe me. Trust me. But we took a step today and we are going to keep pounding at it and working at it.
Our kids are committed and our coaches had a great plan today and I think we are just going to continue to do what we have been doing. If we get our guys to believe in themselves and have that confidence, I think it will bode well as we continue to move through the season.

Q. Will you keep anything from today, game ball, final stat sheet that one day 50 years from now you will look back on and say, I remember that day?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I will. Jack Swarbrick, my athletic director that gave me this opportunity, gave me the game ball, and that will be something that is very memorable. And hopefully there's many more of those to come.

End of FastScripts

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