Oct. 8, 2011
COACH KELLY: Well, we played very good offensive football. We started off fast, Michael Floyd set the table for us early on and that's probably why he's one of the best, if not the best, receiver in the country, the touchdown pass where he went over the top in man to man coverage. Kind of gave us that momentum.
And then we were able to get some good rhythm offensively. We got two key turnovers by our defense that we were able to set up; and any time you get a chance to turnover Air Force and put points on the board, it allows you to extend away from them. And you need some extension from them sometimes in terms of points because they are so difficult to defend, and I think we saw that today.
Really pleased. It was a tough week for us. We had a lot of academic responsibilities; our kids were really loaded up heavily. And you know, again, playing Air Force and all of those things combined, I'm really pleased with today's performance.
Q. You told the news media in your preseason press conference that you would know and you would tell us when your team has arrived. From what you've seen in the last four weeks, have you arrived?
COACH KELLY: No. No. But we have made progress to the level where we know what it looks like on the other end. But there's still so many areas to iron out. We have got to get more consistent in special teams. We have glimmers of really good play. We have got to obviously tighten things down defensively with our younger guys. And then just play with more consistency.
Four in a row is not enough for this group, you know, but I like the direction that we are going.
Q. Can you talk about Andrew Hendrix and why was a good day?
COACH KELLY:It was just a matter for all of our guys, we had this suspicion earlier in the year with Aaron Lynch. We are going to play the guys when they are ready to play. He wasn't ready to play. And he's ready to play, in a limited fashion that we saw today; but one that we think really fits Tommy.
Now there's so much versatility in which you have to defend offensively. Now you have to defend it on option, read option, you have to be able to defend a quarterback now that can pitch the ball and speed option. It just creates many more difficulties for a defense, and at the end of the day allows our offense would be very diversified.
Q. Old faces in new faces and new faces, Chase and Josh Atkinson; what was it about this week that you felt they were ready?
COACH KELLY:Well, we needed a physical presence. Chase is a big, physical, strong player. We really were not sure what Ethan's status was going to be until we got the boot off; he was not moving around.
So we practiced Chase all week and really liked the way he practiced and felt like he could win there and help us. You know, Josh, as you know, we had to move Jamoris and we really played with five DBs. So next man in in that instance was Lo Wood which got in there and then we had to get Atkinson some work, too.
Q. Just curious, when the game was still a game, how would you evaluate your defense today before it got the sloppy stuff at the end.
COACH KELLY:Not bad. I think any time that you can hold down I think with six minutes to go in the game, it was 59 19. I think we did a pretty good job today.
Yeah, there's areas that we can clean up, but you know we were not going to give up big plays. That was really the way we set our defense was that if they were going to get it, that they were going to have to earn it all the way down the field.
Q. Two weeks in a row right now where the first play creates a turnover and you score right after that. How important is that to establish an early lead?
COACH KELLY:Well, you don't get that each and every week. You don't go into the game thinking, okay, we are going to get a big stop here, turnover and score.
But I do believe our offense is they are starting to play the way I want them to play, and that is with more of a toughness, a mental toughness that when we get a chance here, we are going to put points on the board.
I was really, you know, not disappointed, but we had not put up enough points based upon our offensive yardage, and today was that day. And I think our guys are starting to understand: It's not good enough just to lose a ball, you have to put points on the board, and I think we are starting to understand that.
Q. Last year, you were in desperate need of that bye week, just you were really at that point. Now you're on a real roll. How do you go into that bye week? Seems like you almost want to keep that going, that momentum.
COACH KELLY:Yeah, I think we need it, we need a break. Our kids, they have got a lot on their plate. As I said, we had a very stressful week this week. You know, they will have the bye week and then mid winter break and that's going to be, you know, key for our guys to just relax a little bit.
You have to understand, Aaron Lynch, those kids have been up here on campus since June 16. They have not been home since June 16, and that's hard for an 18 year old kid. So this break comes at a good time for our guys to get home and see their families a little bit. So any momentum that is lost in that is gained by our guys getting a chance to get home.
Q. The decision to play Chase, how is that related to Ethan's health? Do you have a timetable?
COACH KELLY:We really look at it as if you are really ready to play physically and go in there and play for us, we are going to guys. We just feel like physically he's mature enough to go in there and play for us. It really did not have much to do with Ethan. Obviously we'll have to see where he is moving forward, but we just felt like he was ready to play.
Q. Do you right now consider Andrew your No. 2 quarterback?
COACH KELLY:Oh, no, Danny is our No. 2. Andrew does not have all of the grasp of the offense, everything that he needs. But he certainly is somebody that can go in the game and can do some very good things. He was four for four throwing the football, made some very good decisions. We featured six different formation looks for him, and it's a package that can continue to grow with him.
Q. Talk about Theo, not only being part of the offense, but being an integral part of the offense.
COACH KELLY:I've been trying to tell you guys that he's pretty good. Just when he gets his chances, he runs so hard. I mean, he is a difficult guy when he gets the ball in his hands.
And obviously there was a concern on my part to make sure that he got some touches and got into a good flow. It was nice to see that, because he is I don't know how you defend one guy over the other. You've got Tyler Eifert, Theo, great catch by TJ Jones on a key third down situation. All of those guys, it's a very, very balanced group and you've got to keep Theo in the mix.
Q. What was it about this week, as opposed to last week where Theo got all of the touches?
COACH KELLY:Each and every week, there's a different defensive coordinator, and just they say a play and we are going to go do this. We are not going to let this guy get the ball and when they do that, we have to respond in kind and be prepared based upon what they do to get our guys some touches.
Q. How important is it to get him involved early? Does it help him a lot to get touches early?
COACH KELLY:Theo, I think some guys just go with the flow. He definitely needs some MoJo, some good MoJo, and it helps when you can run reverses with him, some hand off sweeps, some screen gain; any way that you can get the ball in his hands without it being within the routes itself.
So we are going to continue to have that, feature that within our offense, and I think it keeps him involved in the offense.
Q. You said Danny is No. 2, what does that mean for Hendrix? Will he get more snaps or less snaps? What does it mean for him?
COACH KELLY:I really couldn't tell you. All I know is you're going to defend him because he's pretty good.
It was funny on the run that he had, he said, "Coach should have challenged that; I was actually in." So he's a pretty confident kid. He can run, he's athletic. He can throw the ball very well.
We are just going to continue to utilize him to strengthen Tommy's hand. And now with both of those guys, and Tommy obviously being about 85 to 90 percent of the game, it just gives you another dimension of our offense that if you're not prepared for it, you can see what happens.
Q. Tommy, seven touchdowns, no turnovers the last two weeks, what's been the difference specifically with him?
COACH KELLY:Just maturing. He's growing as he goes here. I keep reminding you guys and hopefully you're starting to listen to me. He's 8 1 as a starter and he continues to grow and develop, and we are seeing that maturity. Got flushed out of the pocket a couple of times, threw the ball away, made some very good decisions in pressure situations when something wasn't there. He's just developing maturing.
Q. With the run pass option, several different guys scoring touchdowns, is this as close to your offensive identity that we have seen since you've been here?
COACH KELLY:Yeah, we are getting closer. Our tempo is not there yet. We would like to play faster but we are getting better. We are making the strides; the question was asked earlier, we have not arrived. The pieces are starting to come together for us. We are getting there. And it's started really with the running game and the ability to run the football. Once we do that, there's so many other pieces that we can use.
Q. Four in a row heading into the bye, does momentum take on any importance or is it week to week?
COACH KELLY:I'm answering honestly from my perspective as a head coach, and having been a head coach for 21 years, momentum is needed when there's not a lot of wind in the sails. When you have confidence in your ability, momentum is not a necessary part of that. I think that momentum then becomes a turnover in a first series and capitalizing on it with a touchdown. That to me is momentum within the game now.
Q. For the first five games, Jamoris never really was a factor and today he made two really big plays. What about him turned the corner?
COACH KELLY:Well, you know, he's played really good football for us. He's in a different spot. He played within our defensive structure. He played Prince Shembo's position today. Prince was a backup defensive lineman today for us, so he's right at the point of attack within the structure that we had out there today.
But he's been big for us all year. He allows us to do some things at nickel that we have not been able to do all year.
Q. Can you just talk about the advantage of playing with a short field?
COACH KELLY:Yeah, for me, I'm not really concerned with the field so much as the scoring zones. That's been our issue. We moved the ball effectively all year. It's been putting points on the board in those areas where you need to score.
I think that's probably, for me, what I take away more than anything else, is putting the points on the board. We had not been very good at that, and we are getting better because we are making better decisions, maybe better play calls, too.
Q. Along the same line as third down conversions?
COACH KELLY:Yeah, it's been a focus. I think good teams convert at a high rate there. We have got very good diversity within our offense. We can run and throw it, but we are hard to defend right now. I mean, there's a lot of things coming together for us offensively with so many different outlets that it's like I said, we are getting to the point where our guys feel very confident that if they just, during the week, do the little things right, they will be able to execute on Saturday.
Q. What did you think of Andrew today? Tommy Rees: He was great. He worked hard and it paid off. He did a great job.
Q. They were blitzing you all over the place; did you go over that during the week?
Q. The last two games, seven touchdowns, are you settling in? What's the difference?
Q. When is the last time you ran 70 yards?
Q. Hendrix, can you talk about that and your progression?
Q. Talk about Theo today.
Q. You and Dayne were pretty animated with Hendrix.
Q. The first play of the game, you guys come back and score; how important is that?
Q. Do you feel the offense has arrived in the last two weeks?
Q. Coach said that Andrew was really getting in and it was helping you, about helping you improve, how much does that help your game in opening things up?
Q. Four straight wins going into the bye, and then USC, where is confidence right now?
Q. The drives, turning it over, seemed like there was no problem whatsoever with that. Did the defense finally just click?
Q. You guys are so balanced. Was it the plan today to spread it around?
Q. I know you like to find things to correct, is this about as perfect - is this what the finished product looks like to you?
Q. Theo Riddick, was there more of an effort to make sure Theo Riddick gets some touches?
Q. How much did Andrew coming into the game help you?
Q. What is it about Theo that separates him from other receivers?
Q. You were not that far from going through what Andrew went through today, getting that first game; did you talk at all about the first game all?
Q. What do you tell him about what it's going to be like?
Q. What did you say to him about running out of gas two yards short?
Q. Seems like the offense is running a Brian Kelly offense - what's different for you guys?
Q. Are you starting to feel more confident?
Q. Can you talk about Theo's
Q. What's going on up there that you guys have been successful?
Q. Looking forward to the week off?
Q. What will you do?
Q. Theo didn't have a catch last week; was he on you about getting the ball this week?
Q. How important is it for him specifically to get involved early?
Q. What do you think of the breast cancer stuff?
Michael Floyd - Sr. - Wide Receiver
On how the running game balances the offense...
"Our running game opens up a lot of things out on the perimeter for the wide receivers. Having two good running backs, Jonas (Gray) and Cierre (Wood), who take the ball outside a lot of times with the wide receivers blocking, that is a great feeling."
On Notre Dame's execution today...
"We know what we are capable of doing. When you're playing Air Force, you're not going to have a lot of possessions, so whatever you do, you have to make the most of it. That's exactly what we did today."
On the improvement of the team...
"Out team is making corrections. We're making sure to never make the same mistakes twice. We have been watching film and learning as the season goes on."
On the difference between this season and the previous three...
"I don't know if there is too much different. It's about having everyone in the same rhythm and confidence. Everyone knows what our main goal is."
Jamoris Slaughter - Sr. - Safety
On keeping your eyesight on the ball and coming down with it...
"You have to be athletic for that. I wanted the ball, and as Coach (Kelly) says, if the ball is in the air it is ours."
On trying to strip the ball...
"We practiced all week trying to strip the ball. We knew these guys were small and we are physical and on the first play I was just trying (to strip it), and it worked out for us."
On forcing turnovers...
"The coaches are always stressing turnovers. Our turnover ratio hasn't been as good in the past few games, so we are trying to work towards not turning the ball over in this game and throughout the rest of the season."
On the upcoming bye week before USC...
"I'm definitely looking forward to the break to get a little time off to heal my body up and regain some strength. I think the bye week will help us out a lot. We will take time too really focus on USC."
Jonas Gray - Sr. - Running Back
On the changes that helped lead Notre Dame to victory...
"Come out with a fast start, play physical, exert your will early and let the rest take care of itself. We can't continue to have drives where we go all the way to the red zone and not score. We can't do that against this type of team. We have to seize opportunities and score at every chance we get."
On his role on the team...
"Keep playing consistent. I know my role on the team. I know I've got to make big runs like that. Be physical in the red zone. That's a big part of our red zone scoring, punching it in when we have that opportunity. I try to exert my will, and never be tackled."
On his conversation with former Irish running back Jerome Bettis over the summer...
"The main thing that touched me when Jerome Bettis and I had a chance to talk, was he said that he sees a lot of himself in me. That was huge. The main thing he said was at the beginning of the game, he wore guys down. By the second half, they didn't want it anymore. That was just his bag of tricks. Exerting your will and letting your legs do the rest."
Theo Riddick - Jr. - Wide Receiver
On the momentum produced by wins...
"We've won four straight, and we hope to continue that trend. I think we started out a little too slow. I think it showed. Everyone is picking up their game as you can see and I think the score today is showing that."
On his role in today's game...
"We came to work today and we did well. It's a team game and a spread offense. The ball can go anywhere. I was open, and Tommy (Rees) took full advantage of it."
Tyler Eifert - Jr. - Tight End
On preparing for today's game...
"Every college football game is a physical game, it doesn't matter who you're playing. This bye week will be good. It will give us an extra week to prepare for USC."
On the team's learning curve...
"We feel it clicking a little bit more. I think you saw there in the first half we were clicking about as good as we could. Just to keep that rolling and to keep doing what we've been doing is the main thing."
Harrison Smith - Sr. - Safety
On the upcoming bye week...
"I don't think (our team) has really thought of stopping our momentum. When we come to play we know its time to play. "
On going into the game knowing Air Force was going gain yards...
"That's what you know you're dealing with when you're going in to face one of these (option) teams. Nobody really ever stops them. But if you can get them off track, get some turnovers or not let them score when they're in the red zone - you have a great shot at winning. They might not show up on the stats but they really make a difference. "
On Jamoris Slaughter's play today...
"He was unbelievable. He was responsible for the two (Air Force) turnovers and the first play of the game really set the tone and got us going. The defensive backs have all been trying to incorporate (strippin the ball) into out play and (Slaughter) was the first one to get a fumble.
Andrew Hendrix - So. - Quarterback
On whether or not he pictured having 111 rushing yards in his first game...
"Definitely not. When Coach Kelly told me that I had a package this week, I envisioned getting in a little bit and getting my feet wet. It's a dream come true getting to say that I did that here (at Notre Dame Stadium)."
On whether or not he was nervous getting out there for the first time...
"Not at all. I think that the preparation that I had throughout practice this week made me really comfortable. I had to just go out there and do it, so I honestly didn't feel any jitters at all. I was anxious to go out there and show what I could do."
On being tackled a yard short of a touchdown...
"It was pretty frustrating. I was just happy to be in there and to be able to get a long rush like that. The offensive line did an awesome job blocking and some of them were guys that weren't in there normally. If there was a video board I probably would have been checking who was behind me, so as I was checking to see whether or not I was going to have to make a move or not I just ended up losing my balance. I was stopped just a bit short, so it was a little embarrassing, but I'll take it."
COACH CALHOUN: One thing that's quite evident in recent weeks, we made significant improvement, playing with an awful lot of confidence. A very talented football team that executed extremely well today, and you know, to come in here, one, you have to win the turnover margin, we didn't do that today and again, tip your cap to them. They were able to get a ball out on our very first play on scrimmage on offense, and defensively we have got to get off the field on third down. They are quite a group and just with no weaknesses and we saw that coming in, too.
Frankly when you see them playing live, you're a little bit surprised that the record is not even better and it can be as they go.
What do we have to do? We have got to continue to somewhat more and really develop as a squad. Probably what we did a little bit today; we moved some guys around in different spots which we felt like we had to do with our defensive front and we are going to make sure that we go back and revaluate to see if that's the best thing for us to down the road.
Turn around quickly, play again Thursday night against an excellent football team, a talented and very gifted group, against San Diego State. They have rushed for 228 yards in their Bowl game on 28 carries, had a bunch of yards against us and then defensively are a really, really capable units. So that's where we have to go forward at the Air Force Academy.
COACH CALHOUN:We've got to do it, whatever parts are involved, we've got to do it. I think you take a game like this, you're able to play guys like Nick Fitzgerald and Joe Champaign played a bunch today as a freshman, and those guys, there are just so many lessons that are involved in a game like this and I think especially for a freshman at the Air Force Academy. Those guys are going to have to respond for us over the next seven games of the season.
COACH CALHOUN:Again, tip your cap to them. I think they are an excellent football team. I mean, their movement, their size, that's a really, really good offensive line. I think the quarterback played super, and I think he did last week against superb and they are talented on the outside.
Just we are in some spots to make plays. It's not like you look out there and we have a bunch of busted assignments. We have just go to play against a squad like this, you've got to make those happen.
Q. Talk about defending the short field, I think in the first half, they were starting a lot, like from Robinson's yard line.
COACH CALHOUN:No question. That was a huge part of it. There's more to it, also. But we put our defense out there with some short fields, absolutely. With the turnover, two turnovers, you know, in the first half, and we took some chances. That we did.
And when it doesn't work out, you've got to be make it very, very difficult on yourself. Now that's not taking anything away from the opponent either.
Q. Talk about you guys actually out gained them 565 to 560
COACH CALHOUN:Doesn't matter.
Q. Doesn't matter?
COACH CALHOUN:No, sir. That does not matter.
Q. You alluded to the quarterbacks, can you talk more about Rees and also Hendrix, the first time he had played. Did you expect to see that wrinkle in the game?
COACH CALHOUN:You knew in high school he was quite a player in high school, too; and speaking of Hendrix. And Eric has played really, really well. I thought last week against Purdue I mean, Purdue was a 38-3 game; probably could have been more than that, too.
The difference is, you look recently how well they are operating offensively, go two weeks in a row with enormous balance. They have weapons, and then there are times where we got two of our really, really good players, corner and a safety that gobble up; and sometimes you have to throw to a tight end, which those are plays that you have to make, especially here when they are playing well.
Q. A function of not being able to stop them defensively
COACH CALHOUN:Coming into the game, we just thought, how can we grab a possession. We thought that was going to be something we would have to do, and we didn't execute it. And that's on us. That's on us as coaches.
Q. What explanation from the officials did you get on the replay on Michael Floyd's touchdown? Looked like it was out but what did they tell you.
COACH CALHOUN:There was no explanation. I think what it was calling the field stands. It was confirmed that it was definitely in. I didn't see it, either. When I saw it on the sideline, I thought it was out. But as far as the actual visual, I didn't see it.
AIR FORCE PLAYERS
Jon Davis - Senior DB
On the number of points given up overall...
"It makes us feel like the defense needs to step up. We put it on the seniors' backs and we have a lot of seniors on defense that just need to make more plays. In the last two weeks we just have not made enough turnovers. We didn't have any turnovers today. You can't win games like that. So we have to step it up on the defensive side and find a way to get to the ball more. We need to put our bodies in danger and make that play for your team."
"We've given up too many points and the guys are just not following their rules in the defense. They scored off a lot of missed assignments. Our coaches gave us the right defense but we just couldn't make it happen, and we just didn't follow through. It was hurtful to see a score like that. I have never gotten beaten like that in my life. We had a rough day today."
On why Air Force had the performance they did...
"We just couldn't get off the field. There were a lot of third downs where we stayed on the field when we could have gotten off. You have to find a way to make it happen. Defense just didn't make any turnovers. The entire game we gave them what they wanted. We had weaknesses in the defense and they were hitting all of them."
Tim Jefferson Jr. - Senior QB
On Notre Dame's defense...
"There was nothing that was I was overly impressed about. They mixed up the defense a little bit and they have some major athletes on the defensive side of the ball, but that we already knew. We were able to put some drives together during a second wind but we just weren't able to finish off a lot of drives without penalties. When we get penalties that hurts us badly."
On the two first half turnovers...
"In our offense you can't turn the ball over at all. It was huge momentum-wise when we broke that long run to start the game and then turned it over. When I threw that interception everything was covered up and I just tried to force the ball into my drop down route and the guy made a wonderful play on the ball."
On covering more yards overall than Notre Dame...
"We can move the ball in just about any route, but it is hard to defend the option by itself. When you are a varying offense like we are, we are very tough to defend. But if you don't put enough points on the scoreboard it doesn't matter how many yards you get."
On AFA's momentum throughout the game...
"It was a combination of us playing well but hurting ourselves with penalties. We had about six or seven penalties and they all turned out to be huge. It was just one of those things where it's mental. It's the mental aspect of the game where you have to take advantage when you can."
Jordan Waiwaiole - Sr. Linebacker
On Notre Dame as a team...
"They're a real balanced team, both passing and running the ball. It keeps them real diverse and as a defense it makes it hard. They have a lot of weapons. Obviously Michael Floyd is a huge passing threat and they have great running backs. You never know where they're going to come from or what they're going to do."
On Tyler Eifert's game...
"He's a great route runner and did a lot of great things for ND. He was hard. He's going to do a lot of great things for them."
On Notre Dame playing two quarterbacks...
"No, it wasn't really a surprise. You kind of anticipate something like that. Obviously you have different guys for different roles, so that wasn't something that threw us."
On what happened overall...
"Turnovers were terrible, both ways. The defense's failure to cause them and the offense giving the ball up a couple of times. Failure to execute and getting off the field on third downs for defense is obviously a big thing. You have to put points on the board to win a football game."
On Notre Dame scoring 59 points...
"That's terrible. It's disgusting as a defense. We'll look at tape to see what we did wrong, but that's something you cannot have happen in any aspect of the game."
On being better...
"We have a lot of new guys on the defense that need to do the right thing and the old guys have to step up and make plays. We have to contain the run as well."
On preparing for the next game...
"In this aspect, it'll be great to just put this one behind us and move on. We have practice tomorrow and we're going to dial in on San Diego State and that's what we're going to focus on."
Asher Clark - Sr. Running Back
On the game overall...
"It was a tough loss. Notre Dame came out prepared. They were disciplined and a great team. We couldn't execute a lot of times so they came out on top."
On frustration of out-gaining them...
"It comes down to execution and us not being able to execute on third down. We have to get better at holding onto the ball, myself included."
On his injury...
"It was just an instance where I got to close to the side line and ran into someone on the side line. I just got a little bruise from the wall or bench. I was able to play through it and still contribute to the game."
On the offense in general...
"We moved the ball around with the yards rushing, but we weren't able to do it when it counted, like on third downs."
On stopping Notre Dame a couple of times...
"It definitely gives you confidence, especially when you're against a team like Notre Dame. But if you're not able to hold onto the ball or get first downs, it shoots down your confidence."
On the first fumble of the game...
"It was disappointing on the first big play with a 20 yard run. Especially when they could use it as a big turnaround for their defense."
On disappointment of the game...
"It's disappointing whenever you lose a game. It's hard when you don't execute when you need to, even when you know you can. When we get back to Colorado Springs we're just going to focus on San Diego State."
On San Diego State on Thursday...
"It's going to be difficult to get ready for the game physically with the quick turn around, but when it's time for kick-off, we'll be okay."
Alex Means - Jr. Linebacker
On injuries on defense...
"We had a little blow to our defense with three of our guys out and me moving down to defensive end which isn't my natural position. You have to step up, though, and make plays. As a unit and D-line, we didn't, and we're not happy at all."
On playing a different position...
"It's a different mentality. I've had the whole week to prepare for this. Throughout the season I've been playing a couple of defensive end snaps. We're a little undersized but that's our team. We're undersized in every game we play. We're used to that. We're just not happy with how we played."
On thoughts at halftime...
"It's embarrassing; it hurts. We've been preparing all week for this. I've been thinking about this game from the beginning of the season. Playing Notre Dame at Notre Dame We should have played better than this. We got beat. We beat ourselves a little bit, but we got beat."
"Honestly, it ticks us off a little more. I'm ready to go give it to the Aztecs now. We have practice tomorrow. I'm ready to turn it around and get back into it."
On coach's speech at halftime...
"Forget it. 42 points, you can't remember that. They beat us on some plays; we beat ourselves on some third downs. He told us it's 0-0, go out and don't quit."