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...
On Notre Dame's execution today...
On the improvement of the team...
On the difference between this season and the previous three...
Jamoris Slaughter - Sr. - Safety
On keeping your eyesight on the ball and coming down with it...
On trying to strip the ball...
On forcing turnovers...
On the upcoming bye week before USC...
Jonas Gray - Sr. - Running Back
On the changes that helped lead Notre Dame to victory...
On his role on the team...
On his conversation with former Irish running back Jerome Bettis over the summer...
Theo Riddick - Jr. - Wide Receiver
On the momentum produced by wins...
On his role in today's game...
Tyler Eifert - Jr. - Tight End
On preparing for today's game...
On the team's learning curve...
Harrison Smith - Sr. - Safety
On the upcoming bye week...
On going into the game knowing Air Force was going gain yards...
On Jamoris Slaughter's play today...
Andrew Hendrix - So. - Quarterback
On whether or not he pictured having 111 rushing yards in his first game...
On whether or not he was nervous getting out there for the first time...
On being tackled a yard short of a touchdown...
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...
"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...
Tim Jefferson Jr. - Senior QB
On Notre Dame's defense...
On the two first half turnovers...
On covering more yards overall than Notre Dame...
On AFA's momentum throughout the game...
Jordan Waiwaiole - Sr. Linebacker
On Notre Dame as a team...
On Tyler Eifert's game...
On Notre Dame playing two quarterbacks...
On what happened overall...
On Notre Dame scoring 59 points...
On being better...
On preparing for the next game...
Asher Clark - Sr. Running Back
On the game overall...
On frustration of out-gaining them...
On his injury...
On the offense in general...
On stopping Notre Dame a couple of times...
On the first fumble of the game...
On disappointment of the game...
On San Diego State on Thursday...
Alex Means - Jr. Linebacker
On injuries on defense...
On playing a different position...
On thoughts at halftime...
On coach's speech at halftime...