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UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME MEDIA CONFERENCE
October 23, 2012
COACH KELLY:¬† Good afternoon.¬† I'll begin by recapping last week's game.¬† Again, a victory for Notre Dame, and the learning process continues for us as a staff, as coaches, as players.¬† We got a lot out of that game in terms of being able to watch film and essentially teach from a victory.¬† And you always like to be able to do that with a win.
We moved quickly into game week, and our kids are certainly excited about the challenge of playing Oklahoma.¬† It's a great program, a great tradition.¬† Coach Stoops is looking to do what we want to do here, and that's built a program on consistency.
And that is the charge that we're under right now in our development of a football program, is to do this week in and week out.¬† And we've been very successful this year up to this point and look to carry that on against, again, a very good program and a very good football team.
You know, if you look at their team, in particular, on the offensive side of the ball, quarterback‑driven Jones is a very accomplished player.¬† He has great weapons around him.¬† The wide receiver crew is as deep as anybody that we've gone against.
Certainly very good running game, physical.¬† And from a defensive standpoint, probably as talented as a group that we've gone against.
So we know the challenge in front of us.¬† Our players understand that it takes great execution and it will take a great effort on Saturday, but one we're extremely excited about as well.
With that, I'll open up to questions.
Q.¬† When you did the cardio test yesterday, was there any recurrence of symptoms with Everett?
COACH KELLY:¬† No, it went very well.¬† And he feels great, very confident.
We wanted to do that more because he hadn't had really the opportunity to get out there and run, and we didn't want to wait until Saturday where he's out there and we have some setbacks.
He's good and 100percent, and he'll start for us against Oklahoma on Saturday.
Q.¬† Prince Shembo, when you moved him to the drop last year, was that just to get your best athletes on the field and knowing that you'd eventually move him back?
COACH KELLY:¬† It was definitely to get our best players on the field at the time.¬† And, as you know, we were developing some younger players at the position.
Prince obviously plays much better when we can shorten the field and he can get after the quarterback.¬† He's great over at tight end.¬† It's just a more natural fit for him being at the cap position.
Q.¬† Where have you seen his development this year?¬† He had a great game, but he's done some things maybe that haven't shown up in the stats subsequently.
COACH KELLY:¬† He's, first of all, a guy for us that can match up against any tight end in the country.¬† We feel like that's a favorable matchup for us when we have Prince Shembo over at tight end.¬† That coupled with his ability to rush the quarterback, I think both of those things stand out for us; that you've got a guy that could be so strong against the runs and then give you great effort, too.¬† He's a guy that doesn't take a play off.
Q.¬† Did your path cross with Bob Stoops at all, other than playing in the one Oklahoma game in '08?¬† Do you guys know each other at all?
COACH KELLY:¬† No, not really.¬† Other than just understanding each other's background and history in the Midwest.¬† But, other than that, no, it's just been simply on that time that we played them at Cincinnati.
Q.¬† I was speaking with another college coach who played against Oklahoma last year, and he said that their defensive line not only does a great job of rushing the quarterback, but even if they don't get to the quarterback, they get their hands up and tip a lot of passes, like an inordinate amount of passes.¬† I wondered, have you noticed that this year from that defensive front?¬† And, if so, with Everett being 5'11", 6', how big of a concern is that?¬† What can you do to combat it?
COACH KELLY:¬† I think we see that a lot.¬† Especially if you're in a quick passing game.¬† Defensive linemen know they don't have a great chance of getting to the quarterback in shotgun.
So I think a well‑coached defensive line understands when they can obviously constrict the pocket or get a great push.¬† They know and sense when an offensive lineman is sitting on the line of scrimmage, and they do a very good job of getting their hands on it.
I think it's a well‑coached group up front.
Q.¬† Last three weeks they've shown a pension for big plays, a 95‑yard run, long passes.¬† Where do you start with your defenses in attacking a big‑play producer like that?
COACH KELLY:¬† I think it's similar to what we've done all year, is Miami also is a team that can get the ball over your head, and we saw they were able to do that on a couple of occasions.¬† They didn't execute.¬† So we're quite aware of their ability to get vertical.¬† And we take great pride in our ability to minimize those big plays.¬† We're going to have to do that again on Saturday if we expect to win.¬† If they can throw the ball over our head, it puts us in a very difficult situation defensively.
So, again, our scheme, the way we coach it, the way our guys understand it, we have to minimize big plays.
Q.¬† Danny Spond is a guy who probably through injury versus more than anything else hasn't seen the field much before this year, but it seems like every week I'm noticing him more and more.¬† Could you talk about his development?
COACH KELLY:¬† I think it's the classic case of somebody making you notice him.¬† His play makes you notice him.¬† He's played extremely well this year, and we knew he had some real strengths at the position for us.¬† He's thick, he's strong.¬† But he's athletic, and he works really well in space for a big fella.
And I think that's been his development this year, is that he's kept himself on the field on third down.¬† He's is not just a first and second down guy.¬† I think that speaks a lot to him.
And we recruited him as an athlete.¬† He was a tight end in high school.¬† Played quarterback.¬† He was a really gifted high school.
We felt like he had a chance to grow in that position.¬† It's nice to see that he's made people notice him.
Q.¬† Looking at Oklahoma, one loss to Kansas State, is there anything that you notice that Kansas State did in that game that makes Oklahoma less like they normally are?
COACH KELLY:¬† No.¬† Collin Klein is an outstanding quarterback, dual‑threat quarterback, extremely after it in throwing the football, and he's just a very patient runner.
But I think Kansas State played very good defense.¬† And I think it starts with if you look at Oklahoma in the last few weeks, just putting up so many points, you're not going to win those games.
So it's going to start on the defensive side of the ball for us and to keep the points down, and then obviously find a way to get some scores.¬† And it's going to be hard on both ends.¬† I think we're going to see two teams that are going to be really pushing hard to get points on the board on both sides.
Q.¬† What does a guy like‑‑ a veteran presence like Zeke Motta do for a secondary going into a matchup like this one?
COACH KELLY:¬† Well, I think it's what he's done all year.¬† He's been the veteran now without Jamoris Slaughter.¬† We lost Jamoris against Michigan State.
I think the communication to have him back there is obviously huge for us with Bennett and KeiVarae Russell back there, and you now add Matthias Farley with Jamoris down, he's got three rookies with him.¬† I don't think we can underestimate what he's done back there for us.¬† He's an integral part of our defense.
Q.¬† Everett will practice today like he did two weeks ago?
COACH KELLY:¬† Yes, he's full go.¬† He'll be in there, and we're preparing to start against Oklahoma.
Q.¬† You've been seen on film talking to your team in the locker room about enjoying every step of the way of the process.¬† Could you talk about the importance of them enjoying the journey, which I'm sure ties in with not getting ahead of yourself?
COACH KELLY:¬† Sure.¬† I think it starts with understanding that there's so much work and preparation that goes into this, that if it doesn't become fun for you, then you lose your edge.
I've always felt like your team keeps its edge in November when they enjoy being around each other, when they enjoy being around the coaches, when they enjoy still playing the game.
So I've always felt that teams in November have a distinct advantage if they're enjoying the process, if they really come over here and feel good about practice and understand how that is all part of their experience.
So we don't come over here and have smores and campfires and sing songs.¬† But I think you really have to enjoy the process and enjoy winning in, particular.
Q.¬† Easier to do that when you are winning?
COACH KELLY:¬† It is.¬† But I still think it's been‑‑ it's been something that I've communicated with our football team regardless if we were 7‑0 or 4‑3, you still have to talk about the process and enjoying it and really having fun while you're going through it.
Q.¬† You were asked on Sunday about the margin of victory.¬† You've had four really close games.¬† Would you prefer, I mean, in retrospect, if you know you're going to win or you can look back and know it's a win, is there more to be gained from those close wins as opposed to 24‑point wins?
COACH KELLY:¬† As said in the outset of my press conference, we learned a lot.¬† We learned a lot as coaches and we learned a lot as players in a victory.¬† And sometimes it allows you to do that.
And I would rather do that obviously than lose a football game and have to deal with that element.¬† We've learned a lot from it.¬† I'd like it to be 30‑point wins, like everybody else.¬† But there's certainly a lot of components when you win close games against big competition, a lot can be gained from that.
Q.¬† We get asked about play calling all the time and the screen game.¬† Has your change in blocking scheme impacted the screen game in any way?
COACH KELLY:¬† No, I don't think so.¬† I think there are‑‑ if you're a team that's going to be throwing the football quite a bit, and I think that's part of what you do, you're going to be looking at a pretty comprehensive screen game.
We're running the football with eight, nine guys on the line of scrimmage.¬† You're screening into a lot of hats.¬† If we were spreading them out more and had some more space, you know, certainly screens have always been part of what we've done.¬† It's just the way we're playing the game right now.¬† We'll keep them off balance with misdirection.¬† As you saw, we had a lot of misdirection motion.¬† That really took place with the screen game for us.
So there's different elements that you have to keep the defense off balance, and, again, the way we're running our offense, the screen game, although it's still there, it just never really presented ourselves this last week that we needed to call it.
Q.¬† Last question, Tony Springmann, was that his most effective performance in a Notre Dame uniform?
COACH KELLY:¬† We think so.¬† Yeah, we graded him out pretty high.¬† He had a very effective game, he was on point in terms of his fits, and that's what we expect as he continues to grow.¬† He'll be a really good player for us.
Q.¬† Oklahoma seems to think its offense is in a different groove maybe these last three weeks than it was up until that Kansas State game.¬† Does that come across to you in any way?
COACH KELLY:¬† Certainly.¬† I think there's a confidence level.¬† You can see it in the receivers, the quarterback, and Landry has been very effective and efficient with the football.¬† Made big plays.¬† They're balancing their running game in there.¬† Certainly their offense has evolved since the first week against UTEP to where they are today.
So I'm sure they're calling the same plays.¬† There's a similar routine in terms of what they're doing.¬† But there's a lot more confidence in the group.
Q.¬† What about Landry Jones, is there anything you can see that's different in him from maybe early on to where he is now?
COACH KELLY:¬† I think the normal progression of the quarterback.¬† He's gotten into a good rhythm.¬† He hasn't been disrupted very much.¬† And I think, like most good quarterbacks, if you can get into a good rhythm and you're not disrupted, you're going to be pretty effective.¬† You can see that's been the case.
Q.¬† One question on Theo, how is he a different runner, if at all, than he had been up until this year?
COACH KELLY:¬† He didn't really run the ball for us up until this year, in terms of the carries that he's getting.¬† So I think he's evolved as a running back, as really a first‑year player this year.
We felt like he was a guy that ran hard and physical.¬† He did that when he had the ball in space.¬† I think he's just carrying that over now at the running back position.¬† And that's just the kind of personality he is.¬† He likes to get in there and lower his pads and play physical.
Q.¬† Follow‑up on Theo.¬† To have a slot receiver then turn into a power back, how rare is that in college football for a kid to make that kind of a transition?
COACH KELLY:¬† I think it's rare because he was flipped from being a running back to a wide receiver and had to be brought back to where his natural position is.
I don't think it's unusual.¬† Because his body type was really more suited for the position.¬† We were in a different place in our program where we needed somebody to get out on the perimeter and give us that play.
So his body type is such that he could be a physical player.¬† I think now that he's at that running back position, he is in the right place.
Q.¬† Curious on Everett.¬† He's been consistently I think better away from home than here.¬† I don't know if that's just a coincidence.¬† But how relevant do you think that is for him this week in terms of, hey, here's something that you can feel good about, you've gone into hostile environments before and played well?
COACH KELLY:¬† I don't know.¬† I really don't know in terms of home versus away.¬† I just think that he's a lot more confident having the Michigan State underneath his belt, going through the tough time that he did at Michigan.¬† I just think he's a more confident player.¬† Played well against Miami.
So, again, I couldn't‑‑ I really couldn't put my finger on it as to home versus away.¬† I know this:¬† He's excited about playing against Oklahoma, and we expect him to play well.
Q.¬† The structure of Oklahoma's defense, usually when a safety leads a team in tackles it's a negative, for them it's a positive.¬† Could you talk about the way they use Jefferson and how difficult it is to get a handle on that?
COACH KELLY:¬† If you're out there, and I hate to give any recruiting advantages, you want to play safety at Oklahoma because those guys are free to play.¬† You know, they play a lot of man coverage.
So the safeties are free to come down and support the run.¬† It's part of what their defensive philosophy is.¬† So he's all over the place.
He's got some freedom in the passing game, but primarily he's in there to be a run fit player, and he does a very good job at it.
Q.¬† Do you see him as somebody that teams just can't get to, or is he just unaccounted for, in terms of there are too many guys to block already?
COACH KELLY:¬† Mostly unaccounted for, mostly.
Q.¬† You mentioned last week that you wanted to get George Atkinson more involved.¬† Even though he didn't have a lot of carries, it seemed that with him in motion from wide receiver it served as a distraction for the defense, raising them up.¬† Was that the whole type of‑‑
COACH KELLY:¬† That's what we were trying to do, get him on the field, make sure he was part of it.¬† And, again, we think with a speed guy out there, there were a lot of plays that we didn't run that are obviously out there for us moving forward with him in that position.
Q.¬† Is that part of like a complement to maybe to the screen game or even the zone reads?
COACH KELLY:¬† Yeah, we want some misdirection, clearly.¬† We don't run counter, but this gives us some misdirection within our offense that we think we needed to add, and I think it's going to be something that we can continue to build on.
Q.¬† Back in August or even the spring, could you have envisioned this team needing to average maybe in that 200‑yard range rushing as opposed to past years, because of maybe some questions at quarterback?
COACH KELLY:¬† No, I think as we went through the spring it became pretty apparent to me that the success of our offense was going to be predicated on what we could do up front and running the football.¬† I think it started to emerge in all of our coaches' minds that it was going to be a run‑first kind of offense and still spread the field, still be able to attack.
We need to get better in our passing game.¬† We have to be better on third down.¬† We have to be better in the red zone.¬† We know that.¬† But I think in answer to your question we felt it was going to be like an offense that had to run the ball effectively and somewhere near the range we are right now.
I think we're 194‑194.¬† I think if you can get to 200, you know, 200‑200, that's a pretty good balance.
Q.¬† So many times in marquee games like this it comes down to turnovers and special teams.¬† Now, turnovers, you've been among the nation's leaders there in margin and everything.¬† How would you rate your special teams effectively‑‑
COACH KELLY:¬† A.¬† A plus.¬† It's a set‑up question.
Obviously we missed some field goals, and we're not pleased with that, but we've been pretty good kicking the football.¬† We haven't been the best in the country.¬† But it's not taking away from winning.
As it relates to punt return, we're fielding the ball much better than we did last year.¬† We need to go north and south.¬† We're not pleased with our kickoff return game.¬† We think we've got some players in there that have to step their play up.¬† And we're really thin on punt return.
When we lost Wood and we lost Jamoris Slaughter and had to pencil in players full‑time on the defensive side of the ball, we lost some really good cover guys.¬† We're really thin there.¬† And we're not going to be able to answer it until we get some reinforcement.¬† This recruiting class should help us next year where we have depth in personnel.
We're still one click behind in special teams with the depth of the personnel that we need.¬† And that's just the fact.¬† We're playing some young guys there that have to get better.¬† But I like where we're going to go.¬† I think our punt return is going to be really good.¬† I think we're going to have some guys that we'll be able to get on that team.
But we are who we are right now.¬† We're clearly disappointed we have to do a better job.¬† We have to give George Atkinson more room.¬† We've gotta do a better job.¬† And we can.¬† We just have to be better at that area right now.
I was kidding about the A.¬† I heard it coming, so I responded.
Q.¬† I want to ask you about a particular part in last week's game, not particularly because of the looking back on last week's game, but Tommy Rees, when he called the timeout, he had a play called and then he was going to audible to something else, and he looked and it wasn't going to work and he called timeout, and it seemed like a really heads‑up play, could have run his own play, could have tried to do something, but he called a timeout, and then put Hendrix in and got the first down.¬† Seemed like you had some real leadership on the field at that point.
COACH KELLY:¬† Yeah, he's a guy with a lot of experience.¬† He does a really good job pre‑snap evaluation of what we're seeing out there.¬† And we had a play on that he felt like the Sam backer was going to be disruptive in the play.
And it's a heady play.¬† That's the kind of player he is.¬† And that's what has made him such a valuable player in our program.
Q.¬† Seems like a lot of coverage of this game revolves around people say Notre Dame doesn't pass the ball very well.¬† There was a former coach here that used to say:¬† Show me the team that passes the most, I'll show you the team that's behind.¬† And we've been ahead.¬† And a lot of times when you're ahead, if you pass the ball, you might give the chance for the other team to get back in the game.¬† Being ahead has probably kept the passing numbers down a little bit.¬† But when you're winning, you live with that.
COACH KELLY:¬† Yeah.¬† Again, we had the ball with six minutes and 20seconds and ran the ball obviously five minutes and whatever, 50 something seconds.¬† So we're taking time off the clock clearly to close out football games.
If you go back and look at each win, there's a lot of yardage there and a lot of time of possession where we're not throwing the football.
But having said that, we have to be better on third down throwing the football, and we have to be better in the red zone.¬† And those are areas of emphasis, and if we're better in those two areas, then our efficiency is going to jump up.¬† I'm interested in being more efficient in terms of our passing game.
Q.¬† Bop Stoops, 79‑4 home record at Oklahoma.¬† Just how does that speak to the strength of the program?
COACH KELLY:¬† That's where we want to be.¬† I mean, we want that consistency.¬† Year in and year out you know Oklahoma is going to be part of the conversation.
And that's where we want to get our football program.¬† We're nowhere near that yet.¬† We think we're moving in the right direction.¬† We're trending the right way.
But I think the hallmark of great programs is that consistency, the consistency that we saw here for a number of years that we haven't seen, we want to be able to bring that back.¬† And that takes time.¬† And that takes a lot of winning.
And that's why there's so much pride and tradition in their program as well.
Q.¬† Obviously you tried to keep out the noise and everything, but is that number almost as intimidating as the atmosphere, knowing they only lost four times in the last 13 years?
COACH KELLY:¬† I think if you think about it, sure.¬† We've got so many other things our guys have to worry about, whether they're stepping with their right foot or left foot.¬† Those numbers are really not something we bring up.¬† But clearly we know how good they are.
Q.¬† You've mentioned many times how excited the players are about this week.¬† As a coach, is there a little extra juice this week when you've got a top 10 matchup on national TV?
COACH KELLY:¬† Absolutely.¬† This is why you coach at Notre Dame.¬† This is why you coach at those programs that get the opportunity to play in marquee games.¬† There's an excitement but there's also a realization that that excitement only gets you so far.¬† You've got to prepare well.¬† You've got to be detailed and organized.¬† And so in times like these, we get that.¬† That's why we want to be here at Notre Dame.
But it's really no different than any other week in terms of how we prepare and what we expect from our coaches and players on a day‑to‑day basis.
Q.¬† The mindset of your team, you've won four games by a touchdown or less this year.¬† Something this team has struggled with the last couple of years.¬† What's the difference in the mindset that makes that happen?
COACH KELLY:¬† Just focus on what you can do.¬† I mean, if you start thinking about big picture and you start thinking about all those other factors, it takes you away from the job at hand.¬† And I think we've done a good job of focusing on each other, focusing on their jobs, and I think doing their job has allowed them, regardless of the time in the game, how much was on the clock, winning, losing, when they focus so much just on their job, they don't even pay attention to that stuff. ¬†You don't even think about the scoreboard.¬† We let the coaches do that.
Q.¬† And you talked about not getting around to have smores, campfire, songs.¬† Did you have any teams that did that?
COACH KELLY:¬† No, quite frankly, we haven't.¬† But I will tell you this:¬† I've had teams that have really enjoyed the process.¬† And this group does.¬† They enjoy coming to work, getting better, and that's why it's fun to be around this group.¬† They really enjoy their work.
Q.¬† When you first came in you talked about not having a five‑year plan but a five‑minute plan.¬† A minute ago you mentioned it takes time to get to the level Oklahoma is at.¬† How long has it taken for you to put an imprint on the team?¬† I assume you can't come in the first year and get everything done you wanted to do.
COACH KELLY:¬† Going back to the quote, obviously, the five‑minute plan was to work on winning and the elements of winning.¬† Winning is defined by everybody by wins and losses, and I understand that.¬† You get hired and fired.¬† But when you're a football coach and you're building a program, you have to start winning right away.
The question and the answer to the question is when does it start to translate into wins on the football field.¬† And I think it starts to translate once it's clear across the board what it takes to win.¬† And you can't do it until you stop losing.
So any of the things that go contrary to working on winning have to be eradicated before you can do it on a consistent basis.¬† We're getting to that point where we don't do many things that cause losing, and that's why in regular season games I think it's like 15 out of the last 17 regular season games that we've won.
So that process is‑‑ we're right in the middle of that.¬† Now it's‑‑ we got a ways to go, but we're making progress towards that goal.
Q.¬† When you were at Central Michigan, I think you used the term "championship culture," trying to build a championship culture.¬† Do you still use that phrase, and is that kind of what you thought you'd see the process‑‑
COACH KELLY:¬† I stay away from the word "culture" in anything I talk about now.¬† But in terms of championship programs, they all have similar tenets, and the first one I would talk about is they understand about high achievement.
They have a high bar for achievement.¬† And I think once you see a winner, you know that they've got high standards, both on and off the field, and that's what we try to build here in this program.
Q.¬† Can you talk about the process‑‑ is that what the process is, just day‑by‑day teaching the things that need to be done to get that high‑expectation level?
COACH KELLY:¬† Absolutely.¬† I mean, there are so many things that you have to eradicate first before you can even get to that level of talking about a championship mentality. ¬†You have to be able to make sure that you've patched all the areas where the air is coming out of the tire, so to speak.
And once you've done that‑‑ sometimes it takes a little longer than a month or month, it could be two years, whatever the case may be‑‑ but then you could start to attack strictly on what your expectations on a day‑to‑day basis are.¬† You can't do that until you eradicate all the things that go to taking away from winning.
Q.¬† I'm sure you've heard this stat before, that historically Notre Dame coaches that have done well here have won national championships in the third year.¬† Do you think that's a coincidence, or do you think that that's how long it takes for a successful coach to put its imprint on the team and get things going?
COACH KELLY:¬† I haven't thought much about it.¬† Three years is pushing it in today's society.¬† So I would say that today you better get the thing moving in three years, because there's not a lot of patience out there.¬† But we're on schedule for everything that we need to do and our program to continue to win.¬† And I really don't think about those big picture items as much as I think about what practice is going to look like today out in the rain.
Q.¬† You had a number of position changes this year.¬† Is it more of you see something‑‑ the coaches see something in a player and say, hey, I think he would fit better here, or is it a need?¬† How tough is it to go to a player who thinks of himself as whatever position and say, hey, you're not that, you're this?
COACH KELLY:¬† It's both those.¬† It's really having, I think, the ability to look at somebody and project, which I feel like that's been part of my career.¬† I was in Division II.¬† You have to project every player.¬† Then the Middle American, you better do a good job finding guys.¬† I had a kid, Joe Staley, who was a tight end.¬† He's now the starting left tackle for the San Francisco 49ers.¬† That was an interesting conversation when we moved him to left tackle.¬† His dad wasn't very happy.¬† Though I did get a Christmas card from him last year, because I think he signed a huge contract.
But you have to project guys along the way.¬† And my answer to the question is that's absolutely something you have to be able to do, in my opinion, in developing your program.
And then there's the necessity part.¬† And we're right‑‑ we have more projections where we think you can help us here than necessity.¬† We have a little bit of that still in our program.¬† We want to get away from that where we have to move somebody because of need.
Q.¬† Your seniors are your last fully inherited class, and this is a vitally collective effort.¬† Could you comment how gratifying it must be to see them develop under you and your staff for the long haul?
COACH KELLY:¬† I'm really happy for them.¬† They have seen the best, and they've seen some of the tougher times as well.¬† And I think their perseverance, their maturity, their leadership, it's all about who they are as individuals.
So I think what's most gratifying for me and the senior class and those guys that are completing their eligibility, is that they have had that perseverance that you need to be successful.¬† And that's why it's a pleasure to coach them, and they're going to be so successful moving on from here.
Q.¬† And one of those, Zack Martin, he's excelled for you for three years, but can you evaluate how he's even improved this year in the new scheme and how well it fits him?
COACH KELLY:¬† I will say selfishly we're hoping that he's coming back.¬† But if he doesn't, we'll wish him the best.¬† But he has done so much for our offensive line and just the things that we're looking for, that toughness.¬† He's such a tough competitor.¬† He's a great communicator.¬† He's a great leader.¬† He's respected by everybody on the football team, not just the offensive linemen.¬† That's why he's one of our captains with another season of competition remaining.
Yeah, he brings all those things to the table.
Q.¬† Brian, obviously your defense has made a terrific step forward this year.¬† Wonder if you could talk about some of the elements that have helped you get there, and also particularly what Theo and Lewis‑Moore have meant to that growth?
COACH KELLY:¬† I think it starts in our front seven, and really forcing teams to be off schedule.¬† We've been very good against the run, which now puts you in predicaments and predictability that allows us to obviously get into a personnel grouping that match well with us in terms of nickel and coverage scenarios.
So I think that's been probably where we start, is our front seven with Manti and the linebacker corps, and then up front the three guys are doing a great job in Moore, Kapron Lewis‑Moore, Nix and Tuitt, they've been outstanding.¬† Starts up front and allows us to build off of that and get some offenses off schedule.
Q.¬† I know you just kind of hit on Kapron Lewis‑Moore, but could you talk more about what you think or how you think his season has gone, especially bouncing back from the knee injury last year?
COACH KELLY:¬† You know, he has done so much as a football player.¬† And his time here, he came in, he was an undersized player really for the role in which he has right now.¬† Physically he's in the best shape of his career here in his senior year, which says so much about him.¬† And he's been an incredible leader for us.
I think the thing that stands out more for me is he's also been a consistent emotional leader for us.¬† He also brings an energy to practice.
He always brings an energy to the games, and that's been really important for our football team.¬† So he's worn a lot of hats, and this is clearly a reason why we are where we are, because of a guy like this.
Q.¬† Opposing defenses haven't had a whole lot of success stopping OU's offense when they bring in Blake Bell at quarterback on the short yardage runs.¬† Scored 21 touchdowns on the ground since the middle of last year, and even four in the first half against Texas.¬† Since you guys haven't given up a rushing touchdown this season, is that something you've challenged your defense with to stop that, and do you think your defense is better equipped to handle that package maybe than some other OU opponents have been?
COACH KELLY:¬† If it's first and goal from the five, we're going to have a hard time keeping them out of the end zone.¬† And so they bring them in, they bring them in in scoring opportunities, it's a great short yardage offense.¬† And he's big.¬† He's physical.¬† You're running behind a very good offensive line.
So I would tell‑‑ and I told our defensive coaches this:¬† If he's on the field, we're going to have to do something really extraordinary, because he's a tough guy to stop.
So, again, I think the way they use them, the circumstances and when he goes into the game, he's been very, very effective, especially in their short yardage goal line offense.
Q.¬† Also wanted to ask, one of the things Kansas State was able to do was force Landry Jones into mistakes under pressure.¬† Obviously you guys have had a lot of success getting pressure on quarterbacks.¬† Does that give him an increased emphasis this week given Landry Jones' past struggles when he's put under a lot of pressure?
COACH KELLY:¬† I can tell you if he's in a rhythm like most good quarterbacks, he's going to be difficult to beat.¬† It doesn't mean we're going to blitz every guy when we get off the bus, but there's certainly going to be a way we're going to have to disrupt his timing a little bit.¬† And hopefully we can do it by putting him in some predictable passing situation software.
So it's pretty clear.¬† This is a very talented player that if he gets on a roll and set his feet every play, you're in for a long day.¬† So we clearly know the challenges in front of us and what we need to do.
And I would just tell you this:¬† It's not just Landry Jones, it's any really good quarterback.¬† If you let them sit back there and set their feet at this level, you're going to have a long day.
Q.¬† Brian, with Landry in such a good rhythm, as you touched on, with his experience and with his playing and in front of a home crowd versus some things that are working maybe against Everett, not in such a good rhythm with the injuries and such and being a little less experienced and going on the road, does that give Oklahoma an inherent advantage you think in that position going into Saturday night?
COACH KELLY:¬† You would think so.¬† You would think an experienced quarterback‑‑ somebody that has been there, done that, has won a lot of games‑‑ would have the edge over a young, inexperienced quarterback.¬† But you don't know until Saturday hits. ¬†And that's the great thing about these games.
We have a lot of confidence that Everett is a great competitor and that he's going to do what he can do to help us win football games.
But, yeah, if you look at the matchups and you were going down the list, you would say that that's a positive for Oklahoma in that situation.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports