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UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME MEDIA CONFERENCE


September 22, 2012


Brian Kelly


Notre Dame 13
Michigan 6


BRIAN KELLY: A great team win for our guys. Defensively what can I say, six turnovers, limited we felt is one of the most dynamic offensive players in the country to no touchdowns. Just an incredible performance by our defense.
We got Kyle Brindza came big again with the field goal and special teams, and then what I was most pleased with our offense was their ability to close out the game. You've got to be able to close out hard‑fought, close games, and the two possessions we had in the fourth quarter pretty much took the ball away from Michigan when they needed it. I think we had a seven‑minute and 40 second drive followed up with the last drive which closed out the game.
As much as we would have liked to have executed better on offense, give Michigan a lot of credit. They did a very good job defensively, and we knew we were going to be in for this kind of close, tough, hard‑nosed football game, and proud of the way our guys pulled it off.
With that I'll open it up to questions.

Q. Your decision to pull Everett, and where do you go with the quarterback decision from here?
BRIAN KELLY: Everett is our starter.

Q. You said that beating Michigan State was a signature victory. What was this?
BRIAN KELLY: I think it's another step in the process of consistency that I've talked about. Before you can go from being a good team to a great team, you have to exhibit some form of consistency in performance, and you have to play week in and week out. Our kids have had three tough opponents early in the season as we're trying to find ourselves offensively with Purdue, Michigan State and Michigan in consecutive weeks.
It definitely goes towards that consistent performance that we're looking for, and this is another step towards that.

Q. Talk about your defensive game plan, the ability to get pressure on Denard but also not spring him loose for scramble plays, just evaluate the job your defense did in that regard.
BRIAN KELLY: I thought what you saw in this game plan, be it a little bit different from last year's plan, is that we mixed it up a little bit more in the back end. We were in a lot of star coverage last year into the third and fourth quarter, and I know Bob wanted to mix it up a lot more. We got into a lot more zone, which we knew if we got into more zone we could be more susceptible to some of the runs, but we handled ourselves very well with some new starters back there, and in particular I thought Matthias had a great game.

Q. Can you just talk about from the big picture the identity of this team this year seemingly is going to go through the defense and how you've branded that the last two weeks?
BRIAN KELLY: Fine with me. I think anyway you can manage the football game to win it, you've got to get a contribution in some fashion from your offense, and obviously the big play throw to Eifert was the contributing factor. So we're fine playing to our strength.
Again, I think we saw that that defense is such that we want to make sure that we limit turnovers, and early on we turned the ball over, and ultimately that's why we made the change at quarterback.

Q. Kind of piggy backing off that, what do you do to make sure that Everett‑‑ there is no confidence chip away here because that was obviously a more significant amount of time that he missed.
BRIAN KELLY: Sure. I don't really believe it's a matter of confidence as much as he just has to settle down. He was not as comfortable as I would have liked after playing the Michigan State game where he was in an incredible environment. He needs to just settle down a little bit, and he's going to be fine. He'll have the week off to evaluate all the things. He'll have a week that he doesn't have three exams and four papers, and I'm not building in any excuses for him, but he just has to settle down a little bit, and he'll be fine.

Q. A win by 1 or 20 or 30 against Michigan at this point in the season, 4‑0 going into the bye week, how much does that buoy confidence?
BRIAN KELLY: Well, I think they all know if they continue to prepare and do the things necessary and make plays ‑‑ players are stepping up to make plays. There's a great deal of confidence but they know they have to play really well each and every week. I don't think there's going to be a false sense of confidence after four games. They know they've got a lot of work to do. But it's a group that understands that they've got an opportunity to do something really big.

Q. Another emotional game for Manti. Just how important has his presence been these last two games, especially today?
BRIAN KELLY: He's the guy in there. I mean, it all evolves around him, his personality, his strength. He's a special guy. Take advantage of him while you've got him now, because I've never been around a kid like that.

Q. You mentioned the offensive contribution and it was Riddick in the fourth quarter, you kind of rode him on the key drive down the field.
BRIAN KELLY: We're riding the guy that's hot, and he ran physical, picked up some big first downs for us, and Cierre had a good run for us in that one drive, too. But, yeah, he was the guy. The guy that's in the game running the ball effectively, we're usually going to go with that guy.

Q. Can you talk about Danny Spond, obviously his best game here?
BRIAN KELLY: Danny Spond played very well. He played in space, which is difficult for a 250‑pound linebacker, played physical, was able to set the edge. As you know, it's so important against a guy like that to set the edge. I think there was one time on a bubble in the fourth quarter where the ball got outside him, but other than that he was on point.

Q. What is it do you think that you're doing better defensively through these first four games?
BRIAN KELLY: Well, I think it's been an emergence of our defense throughout our time here at Notre Dame. I think our defense has experienced a lot of different offenses. There's one thing at Notre Dame: You're not getting the same team each week. So I think it's just been a good progress for us, and now our kids are bigger, they're faster, they're stronger, and I think it's just the evolutionary process of this defense over two and a half years.

Q. Has Tommy Rees shown you anything that gives you any pause about the situation that maybe you want him integrated as a two‑quarterback system, anything that you've seen from him?
BRIAN KELLY: No, not really. I think we're fairly comfortable if we need Tommy to come in and handle some of the offense for us, if we feel like it's necessary, we will. But he's just a great asset to have if you need him. To close out a game, we'll continue to go that route. We'd like to continue to develop Everett so we don't have to do that, but we're still going to try to win football games anyway possible.

Q. The fourth quarter drive there with Theo again, that's the second week in a row you guys have been able to kill a game running the ball like that. What leads to you taking over with running in the fourth quarter?
BRIAN KELLY: Well, I think first of all you've got an offensive line that will play physical. The backs ran hard. We've got two and three tight ends out there, so we're at that level that we can compete with the very good teams that know we're running it. There's eight, nine guys on the line of scrimmage, we're still running into those looks, and we didn't want to turn the ball over in the second half. We weren't going to risk turning it over, our defense played so well that we were going to be a little bit stubborn. So maybe we were a little bit more stubborn in terms of wanting to run the football and eat some clock. That's the way that defense needs to be managed.

Q. Tyler had a big catch but other than that he wasn't thrown to many times during the game?
BRIAN KELLY: Tyler Eifert is a tight end. You guys seem to think he's going to get 90 balls. He's a blocking tight end who has the unique ability at the end of the game to spread out as a wide receiver and catch a pass.
The game was such that he was required to be inside blocking and he did a heck of a job. He just continues to open everybody's eyes about his ability to be a wide receiver and a blocking tight end.

Q. Since you're sitting here now at 4‑0 and you've got three, I guess you call them, grind wins, can you tell me subtly what's the advantage to that as opposed to four sort of have the game wrapped in the fourth quarter, and how do you manage these next two weeks?
BRIAN KELLY: Well, I think our players see how the game unfolds and know that it's gut check time in close games and that they've got to rely on each other. It builds a closeness within your locker room, both on the offensive side and the defensive side. It builds confidence that no matter what the circumstances are that they can find a way to win, so those are all great things that we'll continue to build on. As we move into the bye week, we're getting into a lot of exams, so we'll try to get Tuesday and Wednesday on Miami and weight train on Thursday and give them some time off on Friday and Saturday as we roll right into Miami with some extra preparation.

Q. I know you're confident of the D‑line going into the season, but 14 sacks in four games, does that surprise you a little bit?
BRIAN KELLY: You know, I don't know that I was thinking much in terms of sacks. It was‑‑ I think we wanted to make certain that we were going to be able to support our front in the back end of the defense, and I think after tonight, we all feel that we've got some young guys back there that can play at a high level.
I think if I was looking for surprises, I would tell you that look at the game that Matthias Farley played, first‑time starter who was a wide receiver last year. I think our coaches have done a great job of getting that back end of our defense to the point where there's a lot of confidence so those guys can just tee off and go get the quarterback.

Q. And when you're plus 9 in the turnover department you're a lot smarter coach?
BRIAN KELLY: There's no question. My wife even talks to me when I'm plus 9, which didn't happen much last year. (Laughter.)

Q. Your defense obviously played well before tonight, but after the last two years what does it do for them to play this well against a guy like Denard Robinson?
BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, I think it's the next step in knowing that they can‑‑ look, when you limit Michigan and Michigan State to no touchdowns, the significance is it's not just about one player. It's 11 players bought into a scheme. It's more than 11 as you know in terms of the depth of guys that we're playing. They have a lot of confidence in each other. They have great confidence in their teammates and their coaches, and we know that we can plug in the next man in and they're going to get the job done.
I mean, that's a great feeling to have when you know your defense is playing at that level.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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