NOTRE DAME, Ind. — As he does following every game, Notre Dame Fighting Irish head football coach Brian Kelly is speaking to the media on Sunday during his weekly teleconference. Irish Illustrated and 247Sports bring you updates from Kelly, as he will surely provide more takeaways from Notre Dame’s win over Northwestern on Saturday, potentially look ahead to next weekend’s matchup in South Bend against the Florida State Seminoles, talk about any injuries from the matchup with the Wildcats, and share other comments about how things played out at Ryan Field, as the Fighting Irish moved to 9-0.
Live updates in THIS THREAD at IrishIllustrated.com.
Q. Obviously Isaiah Bowser gives them, your opponent last night, a real threat at the running back position. Where do you think you guys are defensively as an interior run defense, and what’s the latest on Tagovailoa-Amosa and his return?
BRIAN KELLY: Where are we as an interior run defending team? I think we’ve been great all year. You know, we were preparing primarily for a team that needed to throw the football to beat us. They weren’t going to beat us running the football. Our transition into playing Northwestern was really to defend the pass, so if there was going to be any rust, it was going to be on maybe some of the runs. They got into some two-tight end stuff, so they did a really good job of showing a little bit more run, where we really wanted to take away the deep shots. We spent a lot of our preparation time in our transition from option to defending Northwestern in the pass. Again, for them to win that football game, we had to make some mistakes, which we did, and they had to throw the ball over our head. Other than the one vertical seam route, we did a really good job. So I’m not concerned about teams running the football. Those that have focused against us in terms of wanting to run the ball, Pittsburgh would be a good example, you know, we shut those teams down. Myron is — again, we talk about 10 weeks, and I think that that’s going to hit right at 10 weeks. I think our last X-ray showed that he’s probably on that timetable, which would put him as a guy that would come out and start to condition for the USC game and try to get him ready for USC.
Q. I was just curious with your offensive line, two games with the current format, how you feel like they’re holding up, and could you draw a line between sort of pass pro and the ability to be effective in the run game?
BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, I think that pass pro has been really good. We feel comfortable. Ian has got a good pocket to work out of. He’s been really effective when we need to throw the football in key situations, 4th down situations. So I feel really good. We’ve got to be better in all phases, and it’s not just the offensive line. We’ve got to make better decisions in terms of what we do within our run game, as you know, has a lot of options off of it. It’s not just running the football, it’s RPOs, and we’ve missed a few of those reads with some pressures that forced the ball to go out on the perimeter. You know, we’re still obviously working to get that combination of five guys together. I think the one thing that we weren’t pleased with was the penalties. You know, we haven’t had those kind of procedure penalties all year, and to have some of those was a bit frustrating. But you know, I think we get back at it, and I think we’ve got the rotation down where Kramer and Reuland are splitting the game. I think that’s going to continue to go that way, and we’ve just got to get more consistent performance from first-time starters, and in particular with Liam and Aaron. They’re going to make some mistakes, but they’re big, physical players, and we’ve just got to be more consistent.
Q. And this is a bigger picture question. I think we talk to you about leadership all the time, cultivating that. Do you think one of the successes of this team is like having better followers like Dexter, Chase, guys who are sort of like younger, haven’t played maybe a ton, but are just sort of falling in line with what you want the program to be about better than maybe they have in the past?
BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, I think when there’s a consistency in terms of what the expectations are, I think that that’s really helped for those guys that are not ready to take a leadership role but really are bought into our process. I think there’s a lot of truth to the fact that we have so many more players that are just sticking with a process more so than needing to be outstanding leaders. And so when you have everybody rolling in the same direction, I think you get a team that’s much more cohesive.
Q. I wonder if you could give us an update on your injury situation going into the game and coming out of the game.
BRIAN KELLY: Going into the game, in particular like who — guys who did play or didn’t play?
Q. Who didn’t — Tranquill’s situation going in and coming out, and your general health as going into the Florida State game?
BRIAN KELLY: Yeah. Drue came out of it well. We played him in our dime package, handled it well. He stayed on the field for the last drive and had to make a couple of tackles and really stick his foot in the ground. He feels good after the game, so a real positive trend as it relates to Drue moving forward. Alizé Mack was cleared for conditioning for tomorrow, which would put him back at practice on Tuesday, and I think that we got out of the game with no major injuries that would put anybody in jeopardy for Florida State.
Q. What pleased you the most coming out of that game, other than you won it? Was there something that maybe the second half, the way the kids came out and played in the second half that made you — was pleasing for you?
BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, it’s hard to win on the road against good competition, and this is a good football team. Going on the road, winning against quality opposition, you know, overcoming some adversity. You get a punt blocked against you, that’s a big momentum swing. But our guys, they handled the moment. They handled the situation. We’ve had similar situations like this where we haven’t handled it quite as well. I just liked their grit, their resolve, and just, again, the overall preparation and beating a team on the road that’s a pretty darned good football team.
Q. I wondered if you could kind of explain your thoughts about going for it on 4th down. You’re one of the more successful conversion teams in the country. You’ve gone for it 19 times this year, which is on record pace for you and a lot more than some seasons, and you’re not doing it when you’re necessarily behind, you’re doing it kind of in an aggressive fashion, and I wonder if you can just expand about your philosophy with the 4th downs and why you’re doing it more and why you’re successful.
BRIAN KELLY: Well, I think there’s a couple of things there. One, I feel really good about our defense, and I think we’ve seen them, even these last couple of games where we’ve unfortunately turned the football over and they’ve gotten us out of both of those jams. I think it’s a confidence in our defense that they can come in in a sudden change situation if we didn’t get the 1st down. I think it’s confidence in our quarterback to execute in those 4th down situations. And then I think we look at the use of analytics, as well. I don’t subscribe to just strictly analytic use of 4th down situations. I’ve got a sense and a feel, as well, as to when to use it, but I think all those three things factor into 4th down and going for it.
Q. And just to put a little finer point on Drue, do you anticipate not only better movement with the ankle but maybe closer to getting that cast off? And then what did you learn from Jordan Genmark Heath’s play?
BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, I think Drue is closer to getting the cast off his hand. I think you might see that come off here if it’s not brought down to a very workable situation. But I don’t think that that’s even an issue right now with his hand. He’s able to use it in the fashion that he needs to to tackle and do the things necessary. I think this is much more about being more comfortable with his ankle. But I think he got out of the game feeling really confident that he’ll be able to make some big strides this week in terms of playing 1st and 2nd down. You know, I think for a first-time starter, he did a nice job. There’s certainly some run fits that he can do a better job on, but we felt when we played him in this game that he was going to be able to do a job for us that would not put us in a deficit position defensively, and we want more from him, but we did not think he was going to play at a level that there would be issues. We had a front that was going to protect him and let him run, and what you’ll see on film is a guy that was able to run and make some tackles for us. So all in all, we thought he did a solid job for a first-time starter.
Q. How have you seen Julian Love grow into more of a leadership role over not just this year but the last few years as he’s put up some big numbers and taken over that secondary in some regards?
BRIAN KELLY: You know, Julian is not a vocal leader, but he does everything the right way off the field, in the weight room, you know, in our program. So leadership sometimes is mirrored by how you handle yourself on a day-to-day basis, and I think he gets young guys to follow him by example, and so that’s how — you know, when you describe certain players in the program, Julian is a great leader because he espouses all the things that we talk about relative to the traits that you need, and he’s a great one to model for all of our young players. That’s the impact that he has in our program.
Q. Did you ever see getting this much production out of him way back when when he had only played one game at corner back in high school?
BRIAN KELLY: You know, I think we’ve always answered these questions by — when we recruit somebody to Notre Dame, our expectation is to develop them into the best version of themselves, and we thought he was going to be a really good football player. It’s just you don’t know when that’s going to be, when that happens. Is it a freshman year, sophomore year, sometimes it takes until their junior year. But we thought he had all of the skills necessary to be a really good player for us.
Q. It seemed like you went tempo a lot, up tempo on offense a lot last night, especially in the second half, and it seemed to work. What did you see from Northwestern’s defense that made you think that that would work, and what was your impression of how it went?
BRIAN KELLY: You know, we like to get into a flow of tempo if the game allows it, you know, and for us that’s kind of been the case all year is the flow of the game for us is much better if we can get going and play at a pretty quick pace. So there wasn’t really anything that changed as much as we just got into a better rhythm, and we were executing at a better — at a higher level, and once you’re able to do that with this offense, you can start to play a little bit faster.
Q. We’ve talked so much about Ian and his accuracy, and rightfully so, but how much has his dimension as sort of an underrated runner, and you’ve used him some on designed run plays yesterday, too, helped aid the overall offense and the tempo that you do want to run?
BRIAN KELLY: Well, certainly one of the things that we’ve always felt that Ian was capable of is keeping plays alive, and he’s got quickness. We don’t feel like he’s a guy that we want to run like we ran Brandon Wimbush. Brandon is 228, 230 pounds, and it was part of his skill set. But he is elusive. He’s quick. He’s got really good instincts, and he can keep obviously drives alive with his ability to run. We had a couple of runs in there called that I thought he executed very well late in the game. So it is something that you have to keep an eye on when you’re defending him.
Q. This was the most asked question on our board, and I have to admit I didn’t pay much attention to it, but you were so successful with the tempo in the second half, but later on there was responses that maybe when you were trying to run clock, you were snapping the ball with 20 seconds left or so on the play clock. Is that part of the rhythm you wanted to get into, or just maybe something that you didn’t necessarily want but it happened?
BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, it’s so difficult to almost stop the offense to the level of — when you’re still in a competitive mode. If we were up two scores, maybe three scores, we would probably take that clock down to two or three, but we needed to score another touchdown. We needed to put more points on the board. It’s virtually impossible to keep the tempo of your offense and bring the clock all the way down. It’s like in any other sport when you’re running your offense, you can’t change it completely and get both accomplished; that is, take the clock all the way down and run the offense the way you want to run it. We did take some more time by holding the play, by not sending it in right away to eat some clock, but we still needed to score, and that meant we still needed to play at least in a similar tempo.
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