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August 31, 2013

Brian Kelly


JOHN HEISLER:  While I know that the news has made its way out into the public during broadcast today, I just wanted to take a minute on behalf of Father Jenkins and the rest of the University of Notre Dame, to say how thrilled we are that on a day where our head football coach becomes one of the youngest coaches in history to achieve the 200‑win milestone, that we can also announce that we have entered into a new agreement that ensures that Brian will continue to provide the leadership that has fundamentally changed this program, restored it, given it the foundation that it needs for continued success in the future.
While we won't be providing any details about the contract, I did want to preempt Brian just for a second to say we could not be more pleased, and, Coach, thank you very much.
COACH KELLY:  Thanks, John, appreciate it.  Thank you.
Well, there is so much to get into.  A great win for our football team.  Openers are probably for coaches the most difficult because the preparation and the planning, you don't know what to expect, really.  I mean, we can talk about our team.  We can, you know, think that we know about our team, but you really don't until they get out there and play.  Certainly we had a notion about this team, but until they get out and really get into the action, you don't know a lot about it, and we got a chance to find out a little bit about our football team today, and we won.
Anytime you can win in an opener, you can learn so much more about your football team.  Here's what I know, to win football games at the BCS level, you've got to take care of the football.  We took care of the football today.  No turnovers.  That's extremely important.  You've got to keep the points down on defense.  We continue to do that.
Again, our defense does not surrender big plays and keeps the points down and really makes you work to sustain drives and to get it into the end zone.
You could see in the second half how difficult it is to play mistake‑free, flawless, play‑in and play‑out.  It's very difficult to do.  We're suffocating in that sense defensively.  The third element is your special teams.  And although at times we would like to execute better, I saw some very encouraging signs in our special teams.
We were able to flip field position with our punt game.  The time that we were asked to flip it with Kyle Brindza today, we did that.  We'll have to be technically better in our pooch‑punt situation with Kyle.  I'm confident we'll be able to do that.  Certainly our field goal situation will need to be better.  But, again, all of those areas I'm very confident that we'll get better.  We've left the ball outside our kickoff coverage one time.  But those phases allow you to win football games.
So we saw all of those things, and then we saw ten freshmen play today.  A lot of good things happened in our opener against Temple, and we've looked to build on that.  We're going to have to play better in all phases against Michigan next week, but we're going to enjoy this victory today, and our kids will get back to work on Monday.
Open it up to questions.

Q.  If I can ask you about the contract quick.  Typically schools, at least Notre Dame has released length in the past, can you say how long this new deal runs through, what year?
COACH KELLY:  Yeah, it's a five‑year contract.

Q.  Starting now?

Q.  If you don't want to get into specifics, what elements in this are important to you?  Are there elements that you really wanted to address that this does address for the next five years?
COACH KELLY:  I just think the contract is one that has involved the leadership of the university.  Obviously, Jack Swarbrick, Father Jenkins, we've all been in discussion about the future of the program.  So when we come to an agreement, it's not necessarily that within it I get a lunch stipend on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  It's about that we're all together in this contract about moving the program forward.  Do you know what I mean?  That we've all decided that by signing this contract, we're all in it together, and that's what I was looking for.
By my signature on it, Father Jenkins' signature on it and Jack Swarbrick's signature on it, we've all agreed that the principles within this contract is that we're all in it together, and our voices, the communication was the huge piece for me.  That that dialogue is open, and that's what I was looking for.

Q.  Move back to the game.  When you look at first glance at Tommy out there did you see the command and the clean play that you wanted to see from that position?
COACH KELLY:  Yeah, I saw some really good things, and some things that we're going to have to get better at.  We had six possessions in the first half, you know, and I think we missed a couple of throws that he'd like to have back.  Obviously, missed field goal.  But I think we had four or five chunk plays of over 30 yards.  Obviously a lot of the questions coming in is could we push the ball down the field?
I think we answered a lot of those questions right away with his ability to push the ball down the field.  I thought his patience was better, and it will continue to get better.  So I was pleased with his performance, and he knows he can play better.

Q.  Do you have an update on DaVaris?
COACH KELLY:  Yeah, he had a slight groin, and we could have played him, but we felt like with the depth that we have at that position, we put Chris Brown in for the big third‑down conversion when they went press cover one.  And DaVaris would have normally been in that position.  It gave us a great opportunity to put Chris Brown in there.
As you know, he came up with a big catch.  So it was next man in.  But he could have played.  We wanted to make sure we did not put him in a position where it could have been worse, and make sure that he's a hundred percent for next week.

Q.  The double move he had on the second touchdown.  Is that a move he could have made last year successfully like that?
COACH KELLY:  You know, it wasn't as much of a double move as much as he was reading the coverage, and I think he's just a lot more experienced, and he and Tommy now have a much better relationship in terms of where to be.

Q.  If you could, could you assess Jaylon Smith's first game at Notre Dame, and how you feel he performed today?
COACH KELLY:  He did some pretty good things.  He played like a freshman.  He was a little out of place at times, but in some instances he obviously has great athletic ability and closes very well.  But it's probably what we expected from him.  I thought he played like a freshman today.  Played with some great energy.
He's got great speed and athleticism.  But he's got a lot of work to do as well in terms of being in the right place, forcing the football, being in the curl.  He missed the curl a couple of times, but I'm sure glad he's on our football team.

Q.  Can you talk about the cohesion of your defense, what you saw from that standpoint and maybe what you want to see going forward?
COACH KELLY:  Yeah, what I like was the safety communication was outstanding.  I thought Collinsworth did a very nice job of working with Matthias Farley, in particular, get eight lost our calls in.  I thought that was seamless.  I think we continue to work as a group up front with calls and making sure that we get the proper calls in.
But by and large, other than a couple of mistakes, we had some penalties in the first half that we didn't duplicate in the second half, and that was key.  But, no.  I think that there's a seamless, natural transition on that defensive side of the ball.  We didn't feel that there were communication issues at all on the sideline.  Everything seemed to move and communicate very smoothly for us.

Q.  In terms of what you would like to do with your placekickers at Michigan, is this something that you kind of have to go through the week and figure out?
COACH KELLY:  Yeah, yeah.  I'll probably have to go through a couple of days and figure out what we want to do.

Q.  It's a pretty heavy rotation defensively, but Shembo needs to stay in there in every important situation.  He spent a lot of time in the back field whether the stats show or not?
COACH KELLY:  Yeah, Romeo did get a chance to play in the fourth quarter.  We got him out in the fourth quarter.  But you know, Prince is a guy that can go all day.  He's a great, conditioned athlete, and he's an important player.  He just doesn't like coming off the field.  He can do so many things for us.  He's a guy that we feel like can play every play.  But I will say this, we have a great deal of confidence that Romeo can go in there and play if we need him to.

Q.  T.J.'s contributions today both receiving and in the punt return game, what were your thoughts?
COACH KELLY:  I thought it was dynamic.  Dynamic is a word that I would use as a receiver when we're talking about after the catch.  So he caught the football, and then he was dynamic after the catch.  And that's what we were looking for from him.
As a punt returner, this is his first time returning punts.  He made one bad decision where he did not field the punt, and I thought he made a great play late in the game where he fielded it in traffic, which we've struggled with guys having done those jobs over the last few years.  I think he's going to be really good at it as he continues to get more live playing time at that position.  I'm pretty excited about watching him back there.

Q.  Third quarter, Cam McDaniel came real close to scoring a touchdown.  He got down to about the two‑‑yard line.  He was getting ready to get back in the huddle, hoping to get probably the ball again.  Then George came in for him, and he looked a little frustrated.  He came out, but then when George scored, he was the first one on the field.  What is that attitude among the running backs or among anybody that made that happen?
COACH KELLY:  Yeah.  In hindsight, I should have kept him in.  We were at a personnel grouping.  It's a bit‑‑ I don't want to get into too much detail, but we pair a lot of our personnel groupings in with certain play calls.  We really should have just kept him in with that personnel grouping.  We got a little too technical on it, and that was my fault.
He should have stayed in.  He carried the load right down to the end, and he should have stayed in the game on that play.  So, hindsight, I should have kept him in the game.

Q.  But he still didn't get frustrated.  He was the first one out there to congratulate George and congratulate Tommy.  About that attitude of the way they get along or the chemistry there?
COACH KELLY:  Well, we asked our guys to really look at three things.  One, we want them to be smart, disciplined and selfless, and that is the core of our football team.  I think it's probably exemplified in most positions, but at that running back position, that is Cam McDaniel.  Heck, he ran through the wrong side of the gauntlet in the running back thing for me.  Right?  If you remember that.  There is nothing more selfless than that.
So that is the kind of kid he is.  Is that going to be the lead story too?  You were building up to this.  That made the story.

Q.  I were talking about wanting to see greater distribution of the ball from receivers.  Were you pleased with what you saw today?
COACH KELLY:  I was very pleased.  I thought you saw what I was hoping for.  You had Daniels catch a touchdown.  You had T.J. Jones and obviously Chris Brown.  You had Troy Niklas, you had the running backs catch footballs.  You had Tarean Folston catching a nice ball coming out of the back field.  I think you're going to see great distribution of the football across the board, and it's going to be somebody new each week.
Now T.J. Jones is going to be in the mix every single week, because he's one of the best wide receivers in the country.  But you're going to see a lot of guys contribute offensively.  I think it's for the better.  I really do.  I think it gives us great balance across the board.

Q.  The momentum got away from you a little bit in the second quarter.  How much of that was your lack of familiarity with what they might run with the new coaching staff and/or end up running 43 plays in the first half which looked like it fatigued your defense?
COACH KELLY:  I don't know.  I mean, I had the feel and the flow of the game pretty‑‑ we felt like we could score, and we were going to score enough points.  I didn't feel like I had to click over and tell Bob to bring pressure and get the ball back.  I didn't feel like at any time that we were in that position that take the ball.  Let's get the ball back no matter what.  Either they score, right, or we get them off the field.  I didn't feel that at any time because I felt like we were going to put enough points on the board.
So I was okay with it the dink and donk that they were going exhibit on offense.  If they were going to continue to just take stick routes and swings, I was okay in letting that happen.  That's how we play defensively.  We knew kind of that that was the plan for them, and I never felt that.  There was only one time in the third quarter where they had an extended drive that I said, let's get some pressure.  We got some pressure, and then we got the next score and then if they wanted to continue that.  So I really never felt that at any time.

Q.  Your assessment, without looking at film, of the inside linebacker play?
COACH KELLY:  First half spotty, second half firm, much better.  I thought that the second half we fitted the plays a lot better.  One of the hallmarks of our defense, no easy runs on the perimeter.  We had run easy run on the perimeter, and that's very unusual to happen in the first half.  We had one.  Then had none in the second half.
So, again, the playing volume‑wise, Fox and Calabrese, their volume was way up.  But I thought in the second half they played much, much better.

Q.  Can you talk about the flow of the game and not feeling the need to put on pressure.  Is that just your team or your program?  Do you feel more comfortable in that grind‑it‑out type of pace as opposed to the first four minutes when you were playing?
COACH KELLY:  No, I mean I want to score every time we touch the football.  As I said earlier, we got up 14.  We should have kicked the field goal, right?  We should have been up a little bit more.  Then we had a couple of throws that got away from us.  I thought we did a great job of checking and protection.  We had a pressure.  Tommy rushed the throw.  We had a wide open receiver, so we misfired on a couple.  Thought we should have been up more points.
Our style of defense is we're going to keep points down.  We just need to be patient, and that's just the way we play.  Offensively, I've said from day one, we've got to score more points.  In this game we had some opportunities to score more points.  I was never‑‑ it was never in my mind that we were in a situation where we were in trouble.  I felt like we were going to score enough points.

Q.  On your 200th win, is there any point where you're able to take a step back and look at that big picture and what type of accomplishment that is?
COACH KELLY:  You know, I think the thing that, and I haven't really taken the time to think about it, other than a lot of the coaches that are with me today have been part of a lot of those wins.  And that's really, for me, pretty special.
A lot of those guys‑‑ Mike Denbrock, I think he's been with me.  He might have been with me on my first win and my 200th, and then coaches along the way.  So it's pretty special that a lot of the guys that were here for the 200th have been along the way with me on a number of those wins.

Q.  Coach, you touched on Troy Niklas's touchdown.  What did you see from him as a pass‑catching option throughout the day?
COACH KELLY:  He was wide open down the middle of the field, and Tommy did a good job of reading the coverage.  They were in their third‑and‑long coverage, and he outran the middle linebacker down the middle of the field.
He's an option every time.  He's a big‑body guy.  He's got to continue to work on separation.  But what he did today on some quick bubble throws, I mean, he man handled some guys on the perimeter.  He was an outstanding blocker for us today.
We asked him to block on the perimeter.  He did a great job today.  Then when he had his opportunity to catch the football, outstanding.

Q.  (No microphone)?
COACH KELLY:  Yeah, I think it did.  I thought we ran the ball effectively out of that look.  I think there is more to come.  I think we only showed a little bit of it.  There were a lot more pieces to it.  Today was just a small segment of it.
We didn't obviously show a lot of our stuff today, which was our intention.  We're happy that we didn't have to put our entire game plan out there for everybody to see.  So that was a pretty good deal.

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