UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME FOOTBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 14, 2017
BRIAN KELLY: Hi, quick recap. On Saturday, obviously, Miami played very well. We learned a lot from the game, and we've moved on to Navy.
This weekend we've got 26 academic seniors and/or graduates that will be honored before the game, and some are playing in their last home game at Notre Dame. So very, very important game, obviously, for them and for our football team and important for us to get back to playing to our standard.
That standard is set by the jerseys and the uniforms that we'll be wearing. We'll be wearing Rockne uniforms. There isn't a better name that you could be wearing that has set the standard of excellence for Notre Dame football. So getting back to that standard of excellence will be worn, and it certainly is what we've talked about relative to refocusing our football team on playing to a standard that we had set this year.
So Navy. First of all, it's about getting back to our traits, and you have to have an incredible attention to detail when you play Navy and their offense. I think everybody knows quite well how prolific they are and how difficult they are to stop. They do things offensively that teams each and every week struggle to defend.
And the other thing you have to do is you have to beat a lot of one-on-one blocks. You have to play physical. You have to be able to get off blocks. You have to be able to make tackles against a very good and well disciplined football team, a team that fights for four quarters. They've won close games. They manage the clock very well. They play smart football. It will be a great challenge for us.
Offensively, we have to be able to score. Last year, obviously, we scored, but we didn't score touchdowns. You have to score touchdowns. You have to finish off your drives. You have to be extremely efficient, and that's what their offense forces you to do is to be extremely efficient on offense.
And we've got to find a way to take the football away. We haven't done that. We didn't do that last week. We've got to get the football, take it away, and revert back to some of the things that we were doing defensively. If we can get some turnovers and get some points relative to touchdowns instead of field goals, then we'll put ourselves in a much better position against a very good opponent.
So with that, we'll open it up to questions.
Q. Brian, with this being Mike Elko's first time going against Navy that I know of -- he went against Army. Does that help? I mean, seeing that concept for three years in a row playing Army, does that help with his preparation?
BRIAN KELLY: Oh, yeah. Yeah, there are similar tenets there, certainly. Having the understanding of that. You know, his background is that he's had to stop option teams before, Georgia Southern. He's been in the option system. That was something that we vetted out in the interviewing process. So very comfortable with what we'll be doing in terms of -- this isn't a defensive coordinator that's coming in inexperienced in terms of stopping the option.
Q. Temple had a really good game plan against them a couple weeks ago, and I guess, if it was copyable, SMU would have done the same thing and had the same result. Do they just adjust so much from game to game that it's difficult to get a template for them?
BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, they have so many different formations, so many different looks. They made a change obviously at the quarterback position, you know, after the Temple game. They had a bye week, and they made a change there, and that made a huge difference to their running game.
Clearly, they are always looking to make some adjustments, and you have to be prepared for every look for the last ten years. They did some things against us two years ago that we hadn't seen in six, seven years. So you have to be able to adjust and sometimes adjust on the fly.
Q. You've gotten some pretty good mileage out of some of the kids you got very late in the recruiting cycle last year, and Myron is one of them. What's he kind of brought to the table? Has he surprised you at all in the way he's played? What are -- maybe what's still ahead for him?
BRIAN KELLY: You know, again, when we recruit somebody to Notre Dame, I don't think that we're ever surprised. I think what really is kind of the thing that we evaluate players on is their readiness in terms of how quickly are they going to be able to contribute?
So we felt like he was going to be a really good football player for us. When could he take his physical traits and apply them? And I thought he was able to translate them right away, and I think we're really pleasantly surprised that he could do that right away. He had the size. He had the physicality, but can you learn our defense and apply it right away? So that's that football IQ. That's that awareness that he took and ran with immediately when he got to camp, and that was a pleasant surprise for us.
Q. Is that some of it, the product of the high school program that he came from?
BRIAN KELLY: Not necessarily, as much as it's to the individual and just -- you know, look, I think there's the old adage about a defensive line. How do you get him to get off the block? You know, you just have to yell louder. And sometimes guys just have that sense and awareness to get off blocks, and he just has a great first step. If you look back on some of the key plays that he's made this year, it's been by penetration. So one of his really unique skills is that he has that quickness off the ball.
Q. Last one from me. Dexter's been banged up off and on for a long time, and Josh, it seems like he's been getting nicked. What's it look like for those two going into their last home game this season?
BRIAN KELLY: You know, knock on wood, this looks to be the best week that we've had with them in terms of the medical report. Josh shows no ill effects from an ankle, a head or neck, and Dexter had the quad contusion, which was limiting, and it was the best that he's felt. So we're hopeful that all of the backs are in a better position than they have been at any time this year.
Q. Brian, one of those seniors, Greer Martini, is a guy we probably don't talk about as much, but why was he a good choice as a captain before the season, and what has he meant to the program?
BRIAN KELLY: I think, when you talk about captains, one of the dynamics that you're looking for is selflessness, and here's a guy that plays on all of our special teams. One of the things we want to instill in our players is the ability to not just play on your own defensive unit, but how you can do anything and any job to help your football team, and that's been Greer. Since he's gotten here, he's done whatever we asked him to do.
So we thought that not only is he well respected because of his character traits -- and, obviously, well respected in our community here at Notre Dame -- but as a player, he does all the jobs for you, and that can be mirrored quite well in your football team. He's been a great captain because of that.
Q. And you mentioned Navy with the quarterback change last week. Any one of three guys could start at quarterback for them this week. How much did they tailor that option to the guy who's playing quarterback, and how difficult is that for you when you're not sure how it's going to be?
BRIAN KELLY: Yeah. There's clearly a little bit of difference in terms of who they are with their quarterback situation. So just looking at their numbers, Zach right now is their leading rusher, and if you go by just looking at that, you'd say, all right, how do you defend him? He's difficult in itself, but Malcolm Perry runs for over 200, and they rush for 556. So you've got two quarterbacks of different style, but one's the leading rusher that didn't play last week because he's banged up, and then Malcolm Perry comes in and rushes for over 200.
So, obviously, you have to be able to play the triple option. You still have to be able to play both of them out, and that's what makes them very difficult to defend.
Q. Have you been able to -- with the uniqueness of the Navy offense, have you spent any time getting the players acclimated to it considering what you usually go up against every week?
BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, we've spent a little time on it. In our bye week, we took a full practice session to work on it. So the guys have the basic tenets of how we're going to be lining up, the defensive fronts, coverages, movements, schemes, and then we'll go full go at it over the next three days.
Q. Flipping to the offense, what things in the running offense off of last week do you think you need to maybe emphasize or clean up after last week?
BRIAN KELLY: You know, I think it's just a matter of executing better in all fronts. There's no major overhaul of anything other than we've just got to be better in our execution. That's all 11 players. It's not just one guy here or there. It's just the execution of our entire offense. It's not just the run game. It's run game, pass game, it's tempo, all those things.
We were never in, other than maybe the first drive and a good flow of the game, and so it's just going back, and our preparation this week will be about that attention to detail that's necessary to run the offense the way it needs to be run.
Q. In terms of what you learned last weekend, how much of it is really applicable just based on the environment that you walked into on Saturday night?
BRIAN KELLY: Well, we learned a lot from the environment. I think that was a great lesson to be learned. And so we're still on the same mission, and that doesn't change. Our mission is to win a National Championship. Whether we have a chance to win that this year, it doesn't change the fact that that's still the same mission. What we learned in that game is going to help this team and these guys that are in this program when we're put in that situation again. So there was a great amount of learning that was taken from that game because of that environment.
Q. How much did -- when you talked to Brandon after the game, the hand -- I think I might have asked you this on Saturday. But taking snaps directly under center or mesh point --
BRIAN KELLY: I don't believe any of that had a factor in the turnovers and the execution. He has not brought that to my attention. It has not been something that our trainers have brought to my attention as an issue. So we feel like we've just got to go back and work on the preparation, and that's going to be the focus this week.
Q. And Nick Coleman, just in terms of the season that he's had, going from a guy that had never really played that position up until spring to really sort of being a consistent performer for you back there. How impressed have you been with the way he's taken that on?
BRIAN KELLY: Very pleased with Nick. I think the -- you know, if you take and go back to last year where Nick was essentially pulled from the starting lineup after the Texas game and then tried to find a role as a nickelback, and now to play at the consistent level that he has, I think we would be saying that this is a really good year for him, and I think it comes from consistency. He's been a consistent player for us.
Q. I think after the game you used USC as an example in terms of how you'd like to see your team respond in terms of taking a tough loss and flushing it and move forward. It's early in the week, but to what extent have you seen what you wanted to see?
BRIAN KELLY: Regardless of a win or a loss, we use Monday to refocus. Our team has been refocused. They are -- what happened on Saturday is behind them, and we're back to work. We went back to work yesterday, and our guys are clearly focused on the preparation for Navy. There's a 24-hour rule that they have to abide by, and they went through that process. We're ready now to take on a really good football team in Navy and get back to the traits that have gotten them to 8-2. That's going to be important because they're going to need them on Saturday.
Q. Is it perplexing to you at all that last week you though they demonstrated those traits throughout the week like they had most of the season, yet on Saturday they didn't show up?
BRIAN KELLY: Like I said, Miami played really well. They played really well. And we've kind of put it behind us. So we've moved on. I haven't given Miami much thought since Sunday. I've been focused on Navy at this point.
Q. How do you evaluate what Mike McGlinchey has meant to this program over the last five years?
BRIAN KELLY: I think it's easy to point to his football accolades, but he's what you want from a student-athlete at Notre Dame, graduates, stays to play with his teammates, captains his football team for two years. I just think he embodies all of the traits that we look for here at Notre Dame, not just in our student-athletes, but in our students. That's what he means to this university. We can be really proud of him and not even look at his jersey number. He's really the model of the man behind the jersey more so than the number on the jersey.
Q. You mentioned earlier that you guys are going to need to finish drives this weekend in order to beat Navy, but you guys only had six possessions last year. So what can you guys do this year to make sure you have more chances to score the ball?
BRIAN KELLY: Get off the field defensively, right? It starts there. You know, we're in a different year, right? We're in a different year. So each year you look at what you're doing defensively, and we've been much better on third down, much better taking the football away. We've got to get back to playing that kind of defense where we're much more aggressive. We're defeating individual blocks and making plays on third down to get off the field. We need more than six possessions. Six possessions is not going to do it. It's too razor thin.
So creating that mindset on defense and giving us the opportunity offensively to have more possessions.
Q. And comparing this to last week, I guess, going back to the tape, did you have any different ideas about your decision to punt the ball on your first drive when you guys were in their territory? I mean, obviously, a different environment coming into this weekend.
BRIAN KELLY: I don't know. What are you referring to?
Q. When you guys punted, I guess your first drive, driving into Miami territory.
BRIAN KELLY: I'm not sure. I can't remember. The Miami game? Are you talking about this past weekend?
Q. Past weekend, yes.
BRIAN KELLY: Punting the football. I've kind of put that out of my memory. So I'm sorry. I'd have to watch the film again, and I'm not that interested in watching it again.
Q. Just following up for the six possessions, we talk a lot always about the triple option taxing the defense mentally. Does it do the same to your offense in the sense that there's this urgency that you have to score a touchdown almost every possession if you are limited to six, sometimes eight or nine possessions?
BRIAN KELLY: There's no doubt about it that that plays upon how you go about your game plan. You have to take advantage of every opportunity that you possess the football. So how you play call, your fourth down situations, punt, no punt. There's no question that, when you go into this game, that that affects you.
Now, you can't let that affect the way you play the game. I mean, your guy's got to play with a mindset that they're out there to attack and make plays, but as a play caller, no question that you've got to be thinking in those terms that I must possess the ball, I must finish drives, and I must finish them with seven points. There's no question about that.
Q. Last two. You've been very effective against the run through the first two months. The last two weeks, 237 yards, 239 yards. You're facing the number one offense in rushing in the country, and two weeks later you're facing the number one running back in terms of rushing yards.
BRIAN KELLY: I don't think we should play these two games then. That doesn't sound good. You're making it sound worse.
Q. Where do you need to upgrade or improve that run defense especially? What holes have you seen that need to be addressed?
BRIAN KELLY: Just we have to have a better attention to detail. Our fits have got to be better. We've got to get off blocks. We've got to get back to that mentality of dominating those one-on-one matchups. You've got to win some matchups. We had guys in position to make plays. We've got to simply make the plays.
Look, they ran -- their first half running attack was one that we felt really comfortable that we should be more effective with. We've simply got to be better in our preparation and coach our guys better, go back and make sure that we're teaching him the fundamentals so we can make the plays necessary.
So there's no high science here. There's nothing that can't be prepared during practice for us to get back to playing the kind of run defense we need to play, simply stated.
Q. What do you think changed in the last two weeks, where you made --
BRIAN KELLY: I don't know that anything changed as much as we've got guys that are 18 to 21 and there's a lot of factors. So they just -- they've got to focus on their job. They have to stay focused, and they have to have an attention to detail, and they have to really be locked in on their traits. And that's my job to get our guys locked back on those things. We'll do that this week.
Q. And then you also first eight games forced 17 turnovers, two a game. And last three -- the two big ones you had against both Wake Forest and North Carolina State, Julian Love interceptions, were huge. Unable to generate any against Miami. You haven't been as effective with the turnover game.
BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, again, look, we're teaching strip sack every day, right? If we execute the technique the right way, we're probably going to get a strip sack. We have a ball that's in the air. We've got to catch it. So we're right there. We're going to get our turnovers. We were right there. We didn't make a couple of plays that we have been making, but we're going to get back at it on the practice field. We're going to keep teaching and trust our teaching, and our guys will get back to making those plays.
Q. Obviously, a lot of people fan-wise are feeling like the season is over. I'm just curious for -- actually, let's start there. How difficult is that when you have a buzz around your program and then maybe it's not there anymore?
BRIAN KELLY: It really doesn't -- you know, it's not what we're about. I think I was coach of the year two weeks ago, and then there's fireBK.com. We don't live in that world. We coach our players on a day-to-day basis to the mission of our university and to the mission of our football program, and that is to graduate all of our players and play for a National Championship.
So every day we're working on the traits to develop our players. Miami played really well. We didn't play to our level. We're back at it this week. And we'll get back at it this week, and we'll play hard for Notre Dame, and that's really what our invest ourselves with on a day-to-day basis. We can't get caught up in anything else. So that is left up for other people to judge.
Q. Obviously, National Championship would be -- the percentages are very low for this year.
BRIAN KELLY: Sure.
Q. But would getting to a New Year's Six bowl game, getting to ten wins in the regular season, are those goals that your team would be very invested in for the final two weeks of the season?
BRIAN KELLY: Look, clearly, the most important thing for our guys right now is to get back on the winning ways. They can count. They know how important it is to win and win games, and they know, if they win football games, good things will happen down the road. We were 7-2 or 7-1, and they put us up there and said how great we were, and then we haven't played quite as well. What we've done is refocused our guys back on day to day. We've been really good when it's been day to day.
So that's been the focus this week. Let's get back to each day, and let's have a great Tuesday. And then whatever happens later, then that's great because it's really about your preparation. If you do a great job, you've seen how well you've played. And then they'll all love you again. So let's just work on preparation on Tuesday and Wednesday and send our seniors off on Saturday to win. They deserve that. They've done a great job of redirecting our program back to where it needs to be, and that's really the most important thing.
Q. Finally from me, after the game, Sunday teleconference, today, you've had a different, I guess, mood about you in terms of how you handled the loss with the media and with what we saw with the team in the locker room. I was just curious if you took this loss in a different way than previous ones you've had over the years.
BRIAN KELLY: I'm not sure what my mood was after the game, but I was not feeling very well. So maybe it was perceived differently. I take all losses very hard because I put so much time -- just like all of our coaches do. Every loss is very, very difficult because of all the time and effort, and you want to win for your kids. They wanted to win so bad. I mean, so bad. So you take them very hard.
But you also have to have a message to your team as to what needs to happen moving forward, and then you get a chance to evaluate and know that you have to take something from a difficult situation and turn it so you can move forward.
I don't know that I went from sad to happy or happy to sad as much as you learn from experiences and you want to grow. We have to take what happened, as difficult as it was, and we've got to grow, and we've got to grow from it because we're going to be in this situation again, and when we are, we need to flourish in that kind of situation.
Q. Brian, we've seen, I guess, from Brandon how even keeled he is, how mature he is, and talked all season about how he's growing and progressing. I'm just wondering after Saturday just what you've observed from him and how he's moved on or just how -- just what you've observed how he is, how he's doing.
BRIAN KELLY: Well, I think he's a competitor. A competitor wants to be at his best when his best is needed, and he wasn't. So he wants to rededicate himself this week to his preparation, and he wants to go out there and be the best version of Brandon Wimbush. That's all you can ask for from your players. So he'll go about his work today. We'll be demanding but never demeaning to him, and ask him to be passionate and persevere in coming back after a difficult performance. That's what we do to all our players, not just the quarterback.
Q. Just wondering (coughing) --
BRIAN KELLY: Do you always get choked up when I talk with you?
Q. It's wintertime. Got a little cold going on. Why? Do you think that I do?
BRIAN KELLY: No. I was just -- I didn't think I was that bad of a guy.
Q. No, no. I got a little cold. Just wondering, does he ask for more advice or help after struggling from you or from Chip or Tom? I don't know what kind of -- what he has.
BRIAN KELLY: Brandon, we're getting to know him -- his first year in the fire, if you will. This was the first year. Last year he had the best job in college football, right, backing up, and he knew he wasn't going to play because we told him pretty much that we were going to redshirt him.
So we're getting to know him in a sense of being in the fire, having to compete at the highest level, and then having to deal with the ups and downs. So we're kind of getting to know him. How is he going to handle adversity? Does he have the grit necessary? Does he have the passion and perseverance? I think he does, but we're learning, as you are. We're asking the question, and my response is we'll find out a lot about him as he bounces back.
I think he's going to bounce back really well, but I think the answer to your question is he's going to get a chance to show everybody on Saturday.
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