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September 4, 2011

Brian Kelly

Q. Brian, I know that you still probably have some evaluation to do, but just having slept on it, where do you feel like you are with the quarterbacks, Tommy and Dayne?
COACH KELLY: You know, we're evaluating that right now. We've just finished grading all of the film. We'll meet here about 4:00, start to discuss some things relative to personnel, and then whatever decision we make, we'll talk to the quarterbacks involved and then get rolling again on Monday with the decision as to how we go. So we're still in that process.

Q. Did the long delay at halftime give you either more time to think about the decision to put Tommy in the second half or prepare him for what you wanted to do in the second half?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I think it gave us more chance to go over what we were doing and what they were doing against us with Tommy. So we spent a good amount of time with him just prepping on him, prepping with him on the plays that we were going to look towards in our menu. So it did give us some time to spend with Tommy.

Q. How would you evaluate the freshman play on defense, the guys in your front seven?
COACH KELLY: The two linemen played both the first half and the second half, so Tuitt and Lynch, and of course Nix played in the first half and second half. So those three guys we evaluated for the whole game. They did some good things. We're pleased.
Ishaq and Troy Niklas only played in the first half. We felt like with the score being as it is, those are really critical positions, both run and pass. We stayed with our veterans there.
All in all, the guys on defense we were pleased.

Q. Punting situation, Ben Turk apparently had had such a good fall camp. What do you think happened yesterday?
COACH KELLY: You know, I think it still goes back to how you respond when 81,000 people are out there. Ben has got to get through that. He's our best guy. We see that every day in practice. He's got to get through that, and when it's game time, he's got to perform. We're at that point now where the guys we have, there's not another guy. You know, they simply have to get better when we get into game situations.

Q. One quick one about Carlo and Filer being on kind of a jumbo offense and short yardage. Talk about your thought process with putting them in there.
COACH KELLY: Well, we wanted obviously a little bit more athleticism and some really punch at the line of scrimmage. We thought that they physically could do a good job for us. We didn't execute as well as we would have liked in that offense, obviously, so we're going to have to evaluate where we are with that.

Q. And then big picture, when you look at this team, as you move forward, and I'm sure you're not feeling perky today, but what gives you reason for optimism about this team? What do you still like about this team that you believe that this was going to be maybe an aberration down the road?
COACH KELLY: You know, I just think that they know that there's no cupcakes. You don't open up with cupcake teams. You play good teams right out of the gate. We probably played as poorly as we can play relative to execution. We played hard, we fought, we had great resolve. Our guys hung together. We played a lot of true freshmen, I think seven in total. So I really think our future is really bright.
We have to be able to clean up a lot of the mistakes, and they're really glaring when you play the kind of teams that we play at the start of our schedule.

Q. What goes into, I guess, the process of that quarterback decision over a 48-hour span? You've seen these guys through preseason. There's going to be I assume one practice tomorrow that doesn't have a lot of game planning in it. What factors come into play when you've seen them, you're kind of working off this one game and then make a call?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I think it's a fair question. A couple things: First, sometimes you want to evaluate was it as bad as you thought or was it better than you thought, because in the now you get a sense and feel as the game goes, but sometimes when you go back and you take a step back and you look at film, you get a better understanding of maybe it wasn't the quarterback's fault on this play, maybe it was some other factor. So film allows you to do that. So we'll do that today. Then we'll find out and make a decision, here's where we want to go for the rest of the season, and that will be another critical decision.
So it won't be as much as what they do on the practice field; it'll be a decision based upon what we saw on film and who we think is the best quarterback right now moving forward.

Q. This is the second time Tommy has come in under the gun and had a big game. You look back at Tulsa last year. Is there something about him that he's able to jump into situations midstream and get things done? Do you have any thoughts on what allows him to do that?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, we would like more guys to be at ease with the game. Tommy goes in there, and the game is not difficult for him. He's obviously got to get better in a lot of areas, but he doesn't go into the game and appear at any time to be overwhelmed or anxious. We had some guys that were a little anxious in their first game. He doesn't have that. He's always seemed very comfortable running out on the field. That's never been -- it's always been a strength of his I should say.

Q. On the defense, I think there's probably pluses and minuses there. How would you evaluate that unit as a whole first time out?
COACH KELLY: You know, I really thought that they played pretty strong. If you look at the 23 points, I think we know that ten of those were a direct result of turnovers. Another three was on a short field that we gave up on a punt return. There are some things that we've got to clean up, but they're really specific. They're not far-reaching issues. There's some specific things that we believe that we can clean up and get better at. Obviously too many penalties would be the first thing.
But that's another reason for feeling like if we take care of the football and do the things that are in our character, our defense is going to continue to be there for us.

Q. When you named Dayne the starter two weeks ago, what ultimately was it in Tommy's demeanor in those two weeks as a backup that gave you confidence to put him in so quickly?
COACH KELLY: Well, I think it made it pretty clear that I felt comfortable with both of them as starters, and they had both exhibited the things necessary to be in that position, so I never really felt like this is a guy that is a No. 2 and can't lead our football team. We were pretty clear on that at the time of making the decision. So I wasn't concerned. He had done it in the past. He had shown that he could come off the bench very easily, so that led to all those thoughts going into making that decision.

Q. And do you have a set day, a target day, during the week where you want to name a starter and get it over with or are you going to play this thing out throughout the week?
COACH KELLY: We're going to try to obviously sit down as a staff today, as I mentioned earlier, and try to sort out what's in our best interest moving forward. We've got two quarterbacks that we know are prepared to run our system. We've got to figure out which one it's going to be. So we want to do it. This isn't going to be trying to gain a tactical advantage because Dayne and Tommy run a very similar system.

Q. How are the guys feeling today?
COACH KELLY: Pretty good. Given the longevity of the game in a sense, we didn't have anybody that couldn't answer the bell this weekend.

Q. People felt like both your lines offensively and defensively were probably going to be strengths. As you kind of look back at yesterday, how did you feel like those two units played as groups?
COACH KELLY: Certainly well enough for us to win the football game. And I think you evaluate them based upon your ability to -- when we had to throw, we had to throw. They knew we were throwing the football when it was late and we were trying to get points on the board. We didn't know if the game was going to get called off in the third quarter, so we really had to pin our ears back and throw it, and they knew we were going to throw it.
So I think if you look at the first half, we had great balance offensively, running it and throwing it. That's really where we want to be. We got behind, then we weren't sure whether we were going to get four quarters in. We started throwing it, and they knew we were going to throw it. I think from a defensive standpoint, when we needed to get stingy, we did defensively, especially the defensive line, and we played two true freshmen.
Certainly in the first game, evaluating the offense and the defensive line, if you're looking at some things that as a coach you feel good about moving forward, those guys are going to get better and better.

Q. Just kind of the big picture, you mentioned guys need to be comfortable in a game like a Tommy, and you've had guys like Ben Turk who has struggled or Dayne or a handful of guys yesterday, but how do you kind of replicate that in practice better or differently so when you're evaluating your practice tape, you know, okay, what this guy did on Tuesday is going to be more symbolic of what he does on Saturday because I'm assuming over training camp the stuff that showed up yesterday didn't show up a whole lot.
COACH KELLY: Yeah, certainly you don't predict the five turnovers, and in particular three inside the 5-yard line.
Some of it is player related, some of it is making sure that we do a better job coaching down in the blue zone. So I wouldn't pin it on just any one individual as much as collectively those guys that didn't have the kind of game that they're capable of. They have something to draw on after this game, and as coaches, we've got to do a better job of making sure we get the ball in the end zone.

Q. You mentioned Turk needing to get back out there because he's your best guy at that position. Similar to him, Riddick is that guy in the punt return game. What was it with him yesterday? Was it just first-game jitters? Was it a technique issue that you saw? And do you look to somebody else this week at that position, or is Riddick going to be the guy no matter what?
COACH KELLY: We're going to start Theo again at that position. He's a one-time starter. Obviously he didn't look great back there. I was probably as nervous as anybody else when the ball went up in the air. But we've got to get him through that. He's capable of doing it. He can track the ball. We've got to get him to that next level.
So in answering your question, he's just got to continue to take balls in practice, feel much more comfortable. I'll tell you a couple techniques that we've used. The last five practices, he was not allowed to field the punt with both hands. He had one football in one hand and he had to field it with one hand, and I think he dropped one in five days. So he's capable of doing it. He's got to get over that traffic that's coming down on him and concentrate on catching the ball.
As it relates to Turk, he's got a great leg. He's shown that. He's just got to go out and do it in a game. It's nice in practice, but you've got to do it in a game. It's less about technique, although we're always evaluating technique. It's about going out and making plays.

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