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January 1, 2016
Ohio State 44, Notre Dame 28
THE MODERATOR: We'll begin with some opening comments from Coach Kelly.
COACH KELLY: I'll begin by congratulating Ohio State. Very good football team. Deserving of their ranking. You know, just a well-coached team. I think they executed better than we did today, obviously.
I told our football team that it was going to be a physical game today. I thought that we handled ourselves well relative to the physicality of the game, but we didn't execute as well as we needed to to win the game. Couldn't get off the field on third-down situations and had some opportunities offensively that we couldn't capitalize on.
But couldn't be more proud of the football team. An honor to coach them, honor to be around them. The way they competed this year, regardless of the circumstances, they just kept playing.
I think the best illustration of that was the first five minutes of the third quarter, I challenged them and told them, it was a bit risky as a head coach that you tell your football team that the game is going to be decided in the first five minutes of the third quarter, because obviously if Ohio State goes down and scores, it probably takes the wind out of our sales.
We came up with a big turnover, we consequently scored there. Made it 28-21. Just loved the resiliency of our group and very, very proud of them.
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. Coach, do you have any status update on Jaylon Smith?
COACH KELLY: Significant knee injury.
Q. Brian, you said earlier in the week this would be a measuring stick for you guys. How do you feel you measured up today, big picture?
COACH KELLY: Feel pretty good about where we're going. We certainly needed to execute better, but didn't feel like we were out-manned. We were shorthanded today, but we weren't out-manned.
Q. Did martini have something on his hand?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, but he was able to continue to play.
Q. Coach, talk about Jaylon's injury. He's meant so much to this team. To see him go off the field like that, it must have been heartbreaking.
COACH KELLY: It is. Certainly the guy that is so impactful, I guess. I mean, Joe is a leader on our defense, but he would tell you that Jaylon impacts what we do defensively significantly.
Then Te'von obviously goes out right away. We're putting Jarrett Grace in a very difficult position. Jarrett is unbelievable. He's a Mike linebacker, a rush end, he's a Will linebacker. He's whatever you ask him to do, he comes in there and competes.
You lose a guy like that early on, it significantly affects what you're doing defensively.
Q. Brian, I believe you were trailing by double-digits for 48 minutes. You cut it to 10. Did you consider an on-side kick at that point or were you just concerned about giving them the short field?
COACH KELLY: Well, I mean, I think you saw the way the game was going. We felt like there was enough time, we still had three timeouts. We felt like we just needed one more stop.
I didn't feel like giving them any field advantage at that time in the game. We have quick-strike capabilities of scoring, that it wasn't at the forefront of the tactical decisions I would have made at that point.
Q. I don't know if you want to answer this, or we ask Sheldon, at what point did he get hurt during the week? What did you expect you could get out of him today?
COACH KELLY: Well, we thought Sheldon broke his foot the other day. I was very confident that he didn't because there was no way we could break another foot. I think I was the only one.
He went and got an x-ray on Thursday. It came out clean. He got treatment round the clock. That's the kind of guy he is. Here's a senior playing in his last game, got treatment all day, got himself ready to play, then got deathly ill last night, right, Sheldon?
SHELDON DAY: Yeah.
COACH KELLY: We had to have him on medicine and IVs to make it through the game. That's the kind of captain he is. He's unbelievable. He gave us everything he had today. He was on IVs all morning.
Q. Coach, when Bosa got ejected in the first quarter, did you have any message for your team to take advantage as the momentum swung in your favor?
COACH KELLY: Well, I mean, certainly you recognize when one of the top players is out of the game. I mean, we didn't change anything in the game plan. We got a little bit of a lift because we had a play that went for 15 yards, plus we had 15 tacked on. We had a little bit of momentum because of the play.
But you're not really thinking, Oh, Bosa is out of the game, until a little bit later.
You know, I think the play, then the 15 yards is a significant chunk play. That's where you get most of the momentum.
Q. Starts for the two teams pretty much polar opposites before evening out after that. What do you think that was a function of with OSU getting out to that start?
COACH KELLY: I thought they ran the ball effectively. Obviously their first series was outstanding. They ran the ball effectively right down the field. So I just think that they executed very well early on. It was the difference in the game really, those 14 points early. We had to play catch-up from there.
Q. Joe and Sheldon, could you talk about Ohio State's rushing game, what made it so difficult to slow down.
SHELDON DAY: I would say Ezekiel Elliott. He makes it challenging. He's a physical back. He makes his presence known. He did some special things with his feet today. I would say that was the most difficult thing about it.
JOE SCHMIDT: I would say schematically they do a great job of creating challenging situations with changing numbers and unique plays. You combine that with Ezekiel Elliott and J.T. Barrett's ability to run the football, then their offensive line doing a great job all day.
So I would say their back is very talented. But they did a great job scheming, especially early on. They had some good plays.
Q. Coach, just how proud are you of the defense, so depleted, their effort, make a microcosm of the whole season? For the seniors, same question really.
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I'll reiterate what I said to them in our mental edge meeting. I felt like, you know, this game would ultimately be decided on who was tougher and who was more physical. We didn't get out-toughed. They ran the ball effectively. I'm not taking anything away from their ability to do so.
But we didn't flinch. That's the mark of this team this year, that they played hard and physical. Regardless of who was out there, they gave us everything they had. We were a little shorthanded, but they didn't make any excuses for it. They battled. We were missing a rotation inside defensively at the tackle position, but they didn't complain. They took extra reps.
That's the mark of a group that just has bought in to do whatever is necessary to win.
Q. Coach, was it a continuance of the injury with C.J. Prosise?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, just felt like he couldn't go.
Q. For the seniors, what has your time at Notre Dame meant to you?
NICK MARTIN: It's been very special. Went above and beyond expectations coming in. These four years have been unbelievable.
This team, I couldn't be more proud or honored to be part of this team. Selfless guys that really care about everyone else more than themselves.
JOE SCHMIDT: Yeah, you know, I kind of echo that sentiment from Nick. There's no guys I'd rather play this game with. It didn't matter if it was practice, a game, doing the program in the off-season. I've never had more fun. This last five years has been just a remarkable experience. I wouldn't trade it for absolutely anything in the world.
SHELDON DAY: I would definitely say I would reiterate what everybody said. It's been a special year for everybody. Just going through these four years with these guys, it's been fun grinding with them. Most people can't say that. We definitely enjoyed the process. Wouldn't change it for the world.
Q. Brian, it's been 22 years since Notre Dame won a major bowl. If there was an easy answer, you would have implemented it. What do you do to stop that streak or do you stay on course where you're headed right now?
COACH KELLY: I like where we are. We're going to keep banging at the door. Keep playing Ohio State, keep playing Florida State, keep playing Alabama, keep playing these teams in these kinds of venues, in these kinds of games.
We don't want to be playing directional teams with no profile to them.
Big names, great traditions, New Year's six games. Keep playing them, get in them. Keep building your program, keep recruiting, keep doing it the way you're doing it, and we're going to win these games.
We've made significant progress since where we were in 2012. We'll get there. Hopefully we won't have as many injuries. We'll get back here again. We'll win 'em.
I had a similar process in my career earlier when I was in Division II. Took us about six years to win a playoff game. Then we won three national championships.
Look, I'm not saying we're ready to win three national championships. But stay the course, keep doing what we're doing, keep recruiting, keep bringing in great guys like this, and we'll get there.
Q. Michigan State, you saw how they loaded up. They only had five first downs. They come back the next week with a different approach, basically were unstoppable. Were you wondering which offense you might see today?
COACH KELLY: I thought they did a very good job of spreading it out a little bit more. Clearly you could tell early on that they were going to ask J.T. to throw the ball if he had free-access throws. It was clearly a different offensive structure.
They still went to what their strength was, and that's running the ball 54 times. They just did it with a bit of a different look. It tends to spread you out a little bit more, creates a little bit more space. I thought it was effective today.
We would have welcomed the game to be a little bit like Michigan State, but I think it was a very good, well planned-out game plan.
Q. DeShone, could you talk about team 127, what you're going to take away from these guys, what they've taught you.
DeSHONE KIZER: Being kind of thrown into a situation that I wasn't expecting this year, to have these guys around me and other seniors out there, to help me become the leader that I am now, it's been awesome.
Team 127 is going to be one that everyone is going to remember. Obviously there are some things that we would like to have back, guys playing alongside of us. To have guys like Joe, Sheldon and Nick, pick me up right away, teach me how to be a guy to lead an offense, it's been awesome. I've learned quite a bit.
It's obviously a very disappointing situation to have guys like this who are so impactful in my life not go out with a victory.
Q. Coach, Devin's injury forced Nick Watkins into the game, and I wanted to get your thoughts on him. And I wanted to ask about Andrew Trambetti, was that always a plan to get his more plan or something that happened on the defensive line this last week?
COACH KELLY: I thought Nick competed well. We knew he was going to be a target. But here is what we asked him to do. They're going to throw it out there, make the tackle. He was holding on for dear life most of the time.
I love the fact that he was out there and he was not afraid of the moment.
Joe, what did you think?
JOE SCHMIDT: Yeah, Nick is the kind of guy, he's not going to flinch. I think he competes against our receivers every day.
COACH KELLY: They like him. I thought he did a nice job. He didn't give up any big plays. We just asked him to play top down and keep it in front of you, make the tackles, let the front seven handle what they can handle.
As for Andrew, he was slated to get most of the work out there. He made some good plays. He made the athletic plays.
The one thing with Andrew is, he just has to let it go. At times, Sheldon knows this better than anybody because he runs that room, he can go. Sometimes it's just a matter of letting it go. When the light goes on and he goes all the time, I think he's going to be a really, really good player for us.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, gentlemen.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports