Oct. 30, 2010
COACH Brian Kelly
COACH KELLY: Obviously a very difficult loss for our football team. Certain pales in comparison to the unimaginable sorrow we had this week in the loss of Declan Sullivan. As a father of three, I can only imagine the sorrow that accompanies the loss of your son. So it's been a very difficult time for me and everybody within our football family.
I didn't think we were going to have to go through something like this so close to the tragedy we had with Matt James. You know, you think you're strong and able to handle all of those things that are thrown at you. This one was very difficult. All we can do in these very difficult times is what we did, and that's support Declan and his family, rally like we did here at Notre Dame to provide for all those affected with this great loss the opportunity to heal.
So it's been, from a personal perspective, a very difficult week for all of us. I focused strictly on the Sullivan family, our football family and my own family. Really that's been all the things that have taken up my time since this tragedy occurred.
Declan, you know, quite frankly, I don't know if it's customary or not, but the head coach usually doesn't come in contact on a day to day basis with a lot of videographers. They come in and we leave. Our time never really syncs up where we get a chance to spend much time.
But I got a chance to meet Declan and know him because of all the time he spent in our office, especially this summer. As you know, he was a lover of film and writing. He was a great writer. I've got great memories of him just being in the film and video offices, putting things together secretive on most occasions. I'd look over his shoulder.
I pass that on because this one hurts because, again, in my 20 years I don't know that I've had maybe a dozen people, student workers, that I knew. I knew Declan. It's was a very, very difficult week for all of us.
Extraordinary the way the university has come together. The mass was so good for me and everybody on our football team, our football family, the university. The leadership that Father Jenkins and Jack Swarbrick has helped me with me and all those associated with our football program.
On Wednesday I made the decision that we could have a productive and safe practice outdoors. Productive because the conditions were such, although windy, were not unlike many days that I had practiced at other universities, including here at the University of Notre Dame. Productive practice is important obviously within our offense, as well. Throwing the football, you have to be able to look at the weather conditions and find out whether you believe it's going to be a productive day first. We believed it to be productive. It was productive, obviously up until the tragedy.
The next thing that is important is that it's a safe session, that the practice must be safe. That takes on a litany of different things when you talk about safe. When we're indoors, my biggest concern is always running out on the track or running in an area where there's medical equipment or water bottles or just the safety of our football team.
Outdoors, different weather elements obviously play in that relative to safety, as well. You know, whether it's a tornado warning the day before or it's a lightning storm that's in the area, or the heat index is at a certain number, and certainly wind. All of those elements have to be evaluated in making the decision, which I made the decision that I felt it was productive and safe.
We have systems in place to make certain and that deal with issues of safety. Clearly in this instance, they failed. We are in the process of examining all of those systems that are in place and looking for those answers. That's currently where we are: investigating this tragedy and carefully looking at everything relative to safety.
You know, I can't emphasize enough how important it is that, when you talk about taking your football team outside, those items are at the forefront of every coach's not just me, not just here at the University of Notre Dame everybody in the country thinks about the same things. That's probably the one area obviously that we're all grappling with right now.
I can recall being out at the practice site. It was a windy day, but a productive day. Next thing I knew, I heard that the tower was down. First thing that I did is I got to my coaches that were obviously affected by the situation, some of them running around. I gathered the coaches quickly, two of them, and said, Keep practicing. At that point we had players that were starting to migrate towards the accident scene. I thought it was important for me to keep our guys away from that accident scene.
Our coaches did a great job of monitoring our players, staying with our players, keeping them preoccupied, as I then left to go to the accident scene.
I got to the accident scene and saw that our training staff were with Declan, and I wanted to make certain that that area was in good hands. It looked like to me everything was moving in the right direction. We had Notre Dame responders, we had ambulance responders. And once I felt comfortable in that situation, where we had professionals on site dealing with it, I went back inside to the practice field and subsequently called our football team together at midfield. We prayed for Declan. I told and informed our football team of the injury, the seriousness of it, and I then dismissed our football team.
That's my best recollection of the events surrounding the accident itself.
Obviously there's going to be a lot of speculation, there's going to be a lot of questions. I'm not really adept at being able to handle some of the specifics. I can tell you that we're working hard to get all those answers. We're so close to this event occurring that we're still putting together a lot of the information that everybody I'm sure is interested in, as we are as well. We're very interested in making sure that we provide, my staff has been incredible, in providing as much information as possible. That's really important.
For me, it was important for me to get a chance to spend time with Declan's family before the mass and pass on to them our entire football team's sincere sorrow for what has occurred. It's just a devastating thing for everybody. But it was really important, I wanted to be able to meet the family. I was very, very fortunate to do so.
I'm trying to cover as many of the notes that I have scribbled down here.
Again, I think the most important thing is that for me, productive and safe. Weather related factors are examined every day relative to that safe atmosphere. We've got systems in place to deal with that. We're obviously examining them very, very carefully, especially obviously wind.
So, again, I don't have a lot of answers relative to specifics. I'll open it up to some questions.
Q. When did you realize that it was Declan that was down? Did you know when practice started that it was him?
COACH KELLY:I knew once the tower went over who it was.
Q. Why didn't anyone tell him to come down? Who is responsible for monitoring stuff during practice as conditions change? Why wasn't there anyone to tell him to bring the lift down?
COACH KELLY:Certainly, as you know, those are all the things that we're examining right now. We could probably come up with a number of different things that we're all wondering. Those are the questions that are being asked exactly as you've asked them. We're doing that, and have been doing it since the accident occurred.
Q. Is there a max wind speed prescribed for those pieces of equipment, that you know of?
COACH KELLY:I don't. Again, if I had the knowledge specifically of wind speed and heights of lifts, all of those, I certainly would provide those to you. I just don't have that information.
Q. The daily protocol of the videographers, do they come in and get assigned, or do they do their duties knowing what they are?
COACH KELLY:Typically they all meet together, get a practice schedule, because each one of them are assigned different areas of the field to film. Declan was on the defensive field. His duties were generally filming the defensive and our offensive show squad. Everybody knew their roles as they began the day. We're given a schedule as to, We want you filming in this area at this particular time.
Q. When you met with his family, in what capacity did you meet with him? Where were you?
COACH KELLY:We were in the main building. It was a great exchange because Declan had informed his family how much he enjoyed his year here with me and the staff. It was great to hear that. But more importantly, it was me telling the family how much he meant to our entire football team. His personality was so easy to recognize. He stood out from everybody else. Obviously, we wanted to pass on our sorrow, as well, not only individually, but also as a team.
Q. (No microphone.)
COACH KELLY:Not that I'm aware of.
Q. Will you be back outside again next week and will you have videographers up in the lift?
COACH KELLY:We will be outside. We will not be using the lifts until we clearly have more information relative to some of the questions that were asked here today.
Q. Has anybody been temporarily relieved of their duties or assignments while the investigation goes on?
COACH KELLY:Not that I'm aware of. Let's talk about Tulsa.
I told our football team I was proud of them, and I am. I'm proud of the way they battled. Not happy losing football games. We work too hard. But they battled. We were the Fighting Irish today. We had guys that were down. We had a lot of freshmen out there today learning how to play this game, fighting.
You look at the game in its entirety, there was a little bit of everything out there today. But for me, it's certainly about winning football games, first and foremost. But it's the way our guys played. Boy, with everything that was on their plate, they went out and battled their butts off today, and I'm proud of them. Questions.
Q. Now that you head into your bye week, now that you've examined everything, what areas do you have to work on as you get ready for the last three games and have to win two?
COACH KELLY:You're absolutely right. The most important thing still is for us is to get to six wins. We got to win two out of three now. That's our number one goal, to win two out of three games minimally to get to six wins.
Q. Can you take us through the last play with the interception in the end zone, what you were hoping to see there.
COACH KELLY:Yeah, we knew we had a one on one matchup with Mike Floyd. We certainly wanted to give that an opportunity for success and score a touchdown there. Took a timeout there to talk about it. I think we all know what happened there.
But keep in mind, you better get used to it, because that's the way we're playing. If we can get a one on one matchup, and we think we can get that accomplished, we're going to call that play again and again. We'll make that play. We didn't make it today. But in time we'll make that play.
Q. They told us there was an unconfirmed report that Dayne is done for the season.
COACH KELLY:It seems every medical report I get, it ends with, Done for the season. I'm not sure. I haven't gotten anything yet.
The first report I got was a bruised knee, and then it was something with his patellar tendon. I'll have to get more information before I confirm, deny what it is. But it's a severe injury, I can tell you that, just seeing Dayne briefly.
Q. Does it change what you do with the two other freshmen quarterbacks? Do either of them start getting reps?
COACH KELLY:They may get reps. But, you know, right now obviously we've got to get a backup ready, and that would be Nate right now.
Q. I know you said you would call that same play again. 36 seconds left, a field goal kicker who hasn't missed in the last 18 tries, why not just set up a field goal?
COACH KELLY:Why not try to get Michael Floyd one on one against a 5'9" corner and call a timeout, here is what we're going to do. Second down, take a shot here. If we don't like it, let's throw that thing away.
Tommy wanted to do all those things. Tommy is a gamer. You saw him competing out there. He knows the deal. He's a quarterback.
Again, to me this is how we play. We're going to play aggressive. We're going to play smart. If it's not there, we're going to throw it away. We're going to line up on third down and have another shot to get that thing even closer.
But I would make the call again and I would hope that the process of learning would have a different outcome.
Q. How would you assess Tommy's play overall today?
COACH KELLY:Awesome. Are you kidding me? I couldn't be more happy for the kid. True freshman going out there, hasn't played. He just competes. Took some big hits, got right back up. I don't know if he knew where he was a couple of times. Got right back up, said some things. I knew that he was going to compete again.
He's a competitive kid. He loves to play.
Throwing the ball is where he's at. You know, that's what he does well. He gets the ball out of his hands. He reads things. Couldn't do everything we wanted to do. I don't even know what the numbers are. We've got to score more points. But I love the way the kid competed.
Q. After the Michigan game you put together some packages for Nate and Tommy. Can you talk about how those packages are different?
COACH KELLY:Throw the ball. Throw it. Get it out.
The one thing we have to do is, look, we've got a young back out there? Cierre. Cierre is learning as he goes. Did he miss some reads? Absolutely, certainly. There is a guy that had almost no football. He hadn't played. He's out there competing. He wants to do well. You got Tyler Eifert, who is a freshman, you got T.J. Jones, Robby Toma who hasn't played, Tommy Rees. They're battling. I couldn't be more proud of those kids.
Q. What was the deal with Armando today?
COACH KELLY:It's not a good situation. He may have played his last down here at Notre Dame because of the injury. Yes, he has another hip flexor. It's the labrum. It's now torn cartilage. He may need surgery. He may be out. We're not certain on that. But he wanted to dress and run through the tunnel in case it was his last time playing at Notre Dame.
So add him to the list.
Q. Not to belabor the last interception.
COACH KELLY:You can ask as many times as you want, I'm going to give you the same answer.
Q. They said they had over under coverage on Michael.
COACH KELLY:That's not what they had. They had one on one. You saw it. Did you watch the play?
Q. I saw two guys near Floyd, one guy in front of him. I was passing along what Todd Graham said.
COACH KELLY:Throw the ball away, we're fine. We sent two receivers to the field: one to hold the safety, one to hold the one on one route. If we have one on one coverage, we're going to take it, if not, we're going to get rid of it. Didn't work out that way.
But, again, if confronted with the same situation again, and I'm not trying to bully the answer to you, I've always reacted with if you give me that matchup, let's take it, if we don't, we'll throw it away and run it on third down and kick the field goal. We didn't get a chance to run it on third down.
Q. How would you describe the guys before the game?
COACH KELLY:Really good. Really went through all of the emotions. We had a wide range of emotions that our guys were dealing with. We provided resources. Our university provided counselling, provided opportunities for our guys to speak. Our coaches were available. We really went through those emotions and got to today, and our kids were ready to play. They were loose, they played hard.
Q. Ever in your coaching career, this week, Declan's death, the way this turned out, has there ever been a more difficult week for you?
COACH KELLY:As a football coach, there's been more difficult weeks relative to the game itself. But in terms of the tragedy that occurred, there's never been a more difficult time in my life.
Manti Te'o - So. - Linebacker
On the tumultuous week both on and off the field...
"We knew we had to keep digging and had to keep focused. When something like that (Declan Sullivan Tragedy) happens, we are just in shock and just kept going and practicing. We did our best to prepare, and I thought we prepared well."
On his feelings after the Declan Sullivan tragedy...
"A lot of things, just shock. My heart goes out to his family and I'm trying to get a hold of his sister Gwen to make sure she is okay; and that if she needs anything, to let me know and let my family know. It's a tough time for them and we just have to be there for them, since we are a big family."
On what he saw and heard Wednesday at practice...
"I remember the scout team pointing to the offensive tower and I saw that (tower) rocking. Then when I looked out of the corner of my eye, I saw (the defensive) one falling. It is something that you don't expect to happen. To this day, you don't want to believe it happened. When you look at this shirt and the decals on the helmet, it gives us another boost and another thing to play for."
On the upcoming bye week before the home finale against Utah...
"We just have to stick to each other, stick together and rely on each other. We have to be there for each other and support each other during this week."
Chris Salvi - Jr. - Safety
On knowing Declan...
"I did not go to grade school with him, but I have a bunch of mutual friends that went to school with him in Long Grove. It was Buffalo Grove, St. Mary's of Buffalo Grove. We went in the same grade in high school, and graduated together."
On what he remembers about that fateful day...
"I wasn't far from (the tower). I saw it falling and I heard it crash. I was not one of the ones who ran out. Initially, I didn't know who was up there. Later, Coach gathered us all and he told me that it was Declan (Sullivan) who was on it, and he was rushed to the hospital."
On moving forward...
"You don't want to put it out of your mind because he was such a good person. You want to remember him and honor him by how you conduct yourself everyday, not just on the football field. You want to act how he would like you to act, and play how he would want us to play."
Brian Smith - Sr. - Linebacker
On playing today in light of this week's tragedy...
"I think a lot of us were very grateful for this chance to play today and to get our minds off of everything that happened this week. I spoke to someone who was on the National Football League Players Association when 9/11 happened and he was able to step up and say that playing football was the one thing that could get everyone's mind off of the tragedy. In that sense, it was really good to get our team out on the field today and just try and play the game."
On gaining perspective at a young age...
"This week has put things into perspective a lot for me and I know for the other guys on the team. Obviously our season hasn't been what we wanted it to be and it's easy to get down about that; but after this past week we realized that there are way more important things in life than a football game."
On Coach Kelly's view of the team today...
"I saw a bunch of guys who went onto the field today and played their hearts out. I tip my hat to (Quarterback) Tommy Rees regardless of the outcome of the game, he went out there and kept battling. He's just a freshman but he took some big hits and he never backed down."
Cierre Wood - So. - Tailback
On Coach Kelly saying that Armando might be done...
"I have a huge responsibility now, as well as (fellow tailbacks) Robert Hughes and Jonas Gray. We're just going to work hard in practice and try to keep things moving forward."
On the areas in which he needs to improve...
"I need to work on reading blocks better. I know I can get more yards if I go inside instead of outside, so I need to continue working on that."
Michael Floyd - Jr. - Wide Receiver
On Tommy Rees' play at quarterback...
"He wasn't expected to play at all, so to fill that role with (starting quarterback) Dayne (Crist) going out he did an exceptional job and he can only get better. That last play, it's nothing he should put in his own hands - it's a team effort."
On keeping the team focused throughout the final games...
"We have to keep fighting, making the corrections when we watch the film. We have to make sure we're not making those mistakes next time."
On the Declan Sullivan tragedy...
"I didn't know him personally, but when you're dealing with the death of another person that's part of your team it's hard. Even though I didn't know him, I took it hard and I really respect him and his family."
Ethan Johnson - Jr. - Defensive End
On playing after the Declan Sullivan's tragedy...
"It was tough, but I'm taking it day-by-day. It wasn't a family member, but it's still hard. I can't imagine how his family feels right now."
On whether the loss hurts more after this week's events...
"I view the two (the game and the tragedy) as totally different. Losing (a football game) pales in comparison to death. I feel horrible about losing, but it pales in comparison to how his family feels right now."
On getting over this loss...
"I don't think it's going to be tough to get back on track and get ready for Utah. I'm excited we have two weeks to do it."
Harrison Smith - Sr. - Safety
On how the team mentally prepared for the game...
"It is pretty hard to say. We just focused on the game after what happened this week. As far as the game goes, everyone was focused on the game when the game came around. It was a way to be free from what happened (on Wednesday) for three hours on Saturday. Everyone played hard and that is how we play."
On the coaching message after the game...
"There is really nowhere to go from here except to stick together and move forward. We all have to have our each other's backs. It is definitely not a time to say we just lost two in a row. It's the same thing we have done the past few seasons; just go ahead finish the season. We are still determined to make a bowl and that is what we are going to do."
On the shaky defensive start...
"On the first drive they had some looks that got us, but once we got off of the field and talked to the coaches and made some adjustments, we rebounded and held tough the rest of the game."
Interview with Tommy Rees
Tommy Rees: It was a tough week for everyone. We're proud of how everyone came out and played. Very proud of how everyone played.
Q. How hard was it to focus?
Tommy Rees: You know, the coaches and players, we really rallied together. Obviously, a terrible, terrible tragedy, what happened. As far as the team did, everyone stuck together, had to pull through. Obviously the game didn't end how we wanted. But everyone did a real good job of dedicating the game to Declan, his family, being supportive with all that, and also knowing that the school needed a football team out there. So we pulled together and played.
Q. Can you talk about what you saw in the last play?
Tommy Rees: We had one on one coverage with Mike. When we have that, we want to take a chance. I under threw the ball a little bit. The corner made a nice play.
Q. Two point game, when you get around the 20 yard line, you know you're in field goal range...
Tommy Rees: The biggest thing about that is Coach Kelly's confidence in us. Helps me accomplish things out there and make a play, put points up on the board. That helps. Obviously it didn't end up how we wanted to, but we'll keep pushing.
Q. Can you talk about how far you've come since the Michigan game.
Tommy Rees: That all comes with how the coaches prepared me, Dayne's input. This time I was really ready to step up.
Q. How much confidence were you able to get from having success on the field?
Tommy Rees: A lot. Helps when you kind of get in the groove. Not worry about things anymore.
Q. (Question regarding the Declan Sullivan situation.)
Tommy Rees: Extremely difficult. I'll leave it at that. It's obviously a terrible thing that happened. I'll leave it at that.
Q. Tough to think about football?
Tommy Rees: Hats off to the coaching staff and the whole Notre Dame community for how they responded. They really helped push us forward.
Q. Did you know Declan personally?
Tommy Rees: No, I did not.
Q. What's going through your mind right now, Dayne out with the injury?
Tommy Rees: I just want to be there for my teammates. Obviously, like I said, didn't end up how we wanted to. I gained some confidence. I think the team has some confidence in me now. Just try to keep pushing forward. Just got to keep pushing and get prepared for Utah.
Q. How would you discuss your day overall?
Tommy Rees: You know, I'm not happy with the last play or a couple plays there in the middle of the game and such. But, you know, I'm pretty pleased with how I performed going out there. Obviously with a loss...
Q. (No microphone.)
Tommy Rees: He just kept telling me, keep pushing, keep working, how proud of me he was. He really helped me tremendously, more than anyone else. Having him behind you like that, he helped me a lot.
Q. Can you talk about how having a bye week should help.
Tommy Rees: Yeah, no, I feel good. I'm ready to push forward, get prepared for two weeks.
Q. (No microphone.)
Tommy Rees: I don't know. I mean, everyone out there you trust, try to spread the ball around as much as possible.
Q. (No microphone.)
Tommy Rees: You know, that's not in our hands to make that call.
Q. Was there a question Wednesday night?
Tommy Rees: We just listened to our coaches, listened to the staff. What everybody said, we followed.
Q. Now that you have the starting job, how important was coming in early?
Tommy Rees: Obviously, looking back on that, it made a huge difference for me getting that opportunity to come down. Looking back on it, it was great.
Q. Was that ever in doubt? Or was that after Dayne's injury?
Tommy Rees: It's such a long time ago, to be honest. Just kind of something we discussed before Dayne's injury, set up the possibility.
Q. What did you see on the final pass?
Tommy Rees: We had one on one coverage of Mike. Whenever you have that, you want to take a chance. He's a fantastic player. I under threw the ball a little bit.
Q. Did you realize you under threw it as soon as you released it?
Tommy Rees: Yes. But with Mike, he can even make bad plays good. That one is completely on me. I take accountability for the throw. Looking back, I would try to take it back. Nothing I can do now.
Q. How much of a learning experience was it? On the job training, not what you expected.
Tommy Rees: Yeah, I mean, it helped a lot. I learned a lot out there. Just getting some game experience under my belt goes a long way.
Q. The other interception that was returned, what happened on that one?
Tommy Rees: Again, that one is on me. Any interception is on the quarterback.
Q. Coach Kelly was upbeat about how you did. What did he tell you after you came off the field?
Tommy Rees: Not to put that play on me, take accountability for it, which helped. In the back of my mind, I'm kicking myself for it. He told me he was proud of me, proud of how I played. That helps a lot.
Q. Did he grab you right away at the sideline?
Tommy Rees: Yes.
Q. What does that mean to you?
Tommy Rees: A lot of the it shows how much he cares and how supportive he is.
Q. You're standing out there, the interception, players around you celebrating. What was it like?
Tommy Rees: Really upset, obviously. You go from highs to low. Kind of shocked.
Q. (Question regarding rhythm.)
Tommy Rees: Play calls, the calls were right. My job.
Q. They said they were trying to change the defense up on you a lot.
Tommy Rees: Yeah, Tulsa did a lot. Like I said before, hats off to them. Their coach did a good job.
COACH TODD GRAHAM
COACH GRAHAM: First of all, I want to say our thoughts and prayers are with the family. Went through something similar like that at Rice. Puts things in perspective. Can't say much other than our hearts go out to the family. Our prayers go with them.
Today was a big day for the University of Tulsa. Really proud of our kids. Just came in as a team. The effort that went into putting together, I can't put into words how much this means to our program.
I came here in 2003 from West Virginia. We had the number one turnaround in the country in '03, had gone a decade without a winning football season. To be sitting here at this podium at a place that's very dear to me as I grew up, and the tradition, and I love college football, and Notre Dame is college football, to be sitting here, to have the opportunity to come into South Bend, Indiana, and win is something I'll cherish the rest of my life.
I told our kids the same thing. I have tremendous respect for this place. They've got a good football team. Our kids just wouldn't be denied today. They played with unbelievable heart and unbelievable character.
We were honored to come here. Again, our thoughts and prayers are with the Sullivan family. We really appreciate the opportunity to come here.
Q. Were you shocked they threw the ball there, second down?
COACH GRAHAM: You know, you got probably the best receiver in the country. I'm not going to sit here and second guess what anybody else does because I get myself second guessed a whole bunch.
I'll tell you how we play. We play to win. We put it in the left lane, put the hammer down. I think it was aggressive.
I'll be real honest with you. When I seen the ball get thrown, I was scared to death because you got the best receiver in the country going up.
That's the other thing, I can't get at this podium and not talk about our secondary. I don't want to single people out. We're 120th in the country in pass defense. Guys have been just beat up to death in the paper, how terrible we are, all that. Finally got all of our guys healthy today. First time we got all of our guys healthy. Those guys played outstanding today.
Q. Were you anticipating a run? What were you looking for?
COACH GRAHAM: We pretty much over and under, cloud covered, what we called cloud coverage. We were cloud number three. We did that to Floyd most of the game, just trying to disrupt him. We basically were calling what we call cloud bracket coverage. Our corner had him over the top. He did what he's coached to do. He had great positioning on the ball. The ball looked to be just a little bit under thrown and he was able to make a play on it.
Q. (No microphone.)
COACH GRAHAM: I just can't describe it. I really can't. I'm just so proud of our staff, our players. There's so many individual efforts. Damaris Johnson's punt return was unbelievable, phenomenal. Shawn Jackson, a true freshman, to come on this field play like he did today. Interception for a touchdown. Our guys were unbelievable.
I'll tell you what we kept doing: kept reminding ourselves to play the next play. We didn't come here for a good showing; we came here to win. That's the way we called the game. We were very aggressive. It was a real physical game, too. Guys are really beat up.
I can't express what this means to me personally and to our program. To get our first BCS win against Notre Dame is pretty awesome.
Q. (No microphone.)
COACH GRAHAM: To win in a big game, you have to play defense, and we played defense today.
Q. Where does this win fit in terms of your coaching career?
COACH GRAHAM: Biggest win ever. No question in my mind. Regular season game, no question. I don't want to put down the championship teams I've had an opportunity to coach in the past, but as far as a single game, to come here, growing up as a kid, loving college football. Man, I remember when I was in seventh grade, I dreamed of being a college football coach, a college football player. To be able to get to fulfill my dream.
Guys, in 2000, I was coaching at Allen High School. To be sitting up here and get this opportunity to do this, I'm very grateful to Bubba and to our president. We got a great school, great university. Boy, means a lot to me.
No question, it's the very top.
Q. (No microphone.)
COACH GRAHAM: Which one? We completed about four. We just finally got one.
Q. (No microphone.) COACH GRAHAM: Well, you know, it was big for us. I kept reminding Coach Morris, our offensive coordinator, they give me a hard time hiring a high school guy. There was a guy calling plays against Austin Westlake last year and he's calling them against Notre Dame today. I kept reminding him, keep going aggressive, keep going aggressive. You have to give their front a lot of credit. They sacked us. We did not have our way offensively at all. As a matter of fact, they did a great job defending us. They did some things that caught us off guard and we had a tough time adjusting to.
Q. (No microphone.) COACH GRAHAM: Yeah, I mean, I told him that. I told him it was very, very important that he used his legs today. We felt like that the one thing that we did have going into the game is that we got a lot of speed. We got guys that can run. GJ really hasn't ran the ball this year that much. A lot of it's been that Shavodrick has been hurt. We've been a little leery. I told him, we're coming in here. That Shavodrick really couldn't have played today if we had him, probably would have had to play a true freshman. That was a big part of our plan for GJ to run, for him to be tough. He did a great job. Very proud of him to lead this team to victory over Notre Dame.
Q. Coach, when Tommy Rees came in, did your strategy change in terms of how you wanted to attack him? What were your impressions?
COACH GRAHAM:I think he's a very good thrower. Naturally we didn't change much. What we really tried to do with having a new guy in there is just not stay with the same coverage. We tried to vary the coverage over and over and over and not be able to give them any type of rhythm. I think the difference in the game, to be honest with you, football is still like it was 50 years ago: you got to be able to run the football. We stopped the run. We were able to stop the run. That allowed us to play, you know, full four, five under, three and two deep coverages. That helped us a great deal. Really proud of how the guys played, how physical they played up front. I thought we controlled the line of scrimmage.
Q. The blocked extra point, something you saw on film?
COACH GRAHAM:We challenged our guys. We've been pretty good at it. It's something that we do very well. I think it was a low kick. I think Cory Dorris got his hand up. We had good push. It's all about effort. PAT field goal block, that's all it's about, straining, wanting to get to the ball. If I remember right, the kick was a little bit low.
Q. (No microphone.)
COACH GRAHAM:Said he better not miss it (laughter). No, I felt like early in the game, when he missed the field goal, I always talk to him. I'd be a liar if I knew anything about coaching kickers. I don't. But I heard at a clinic one time: Don't miss left. We talked to him about not missing left. He was just kind of being lackadaisical. I think the atmosphere had ahold of him a little bit. I said, Son, you have to block everything else. If you miss it, kick it hard. Go attack the ball. Really, to be honest with you, on both field goals, we had bad snaps. Such did an unbelievable job of getting all three of the ones that we kicked. I don't ever say anything to the kicker. Coach Blankenship doesn't let me to do that. Defensive guys yelling at the kickers is not good. Guys, thank you. Appreciate you having us.
Tulsa Player Quotes
GJ Kinne o Jr. o Quarterback
On third-down conversions... "That's just how our season has gone. We have to overcome. We work on it every day, We've been in that situation before. It was third and 28 and we converted and it was big."
On the opening drive... "We've harped on coming out fast; we worked on it this week. The second and third quarter we killed ourselves. We stopped ourselves a lot. We have to work on that."
On all around play of the team... "The defense really stepped it up and played a great game. Give the credit to them. We just kept plugging away, plugging away and it came our way finally."
On the locker room after the game... "I've never been a part of anything like that. It was an awesome feeling and I give a lot of credit to our guys and it's something we'll remember forever."
On Notre Dame's last play... "I was surprised. I was sitting with Clint Anderson, and we felt like East Carolina all over again for our guys. We thought something good has to come our way for once this year. John Flanders made a hell of a play."
On the Declan Sullivan tribute... "I want to give my condolences and prayers to the Sullivan family. That's very tragic. I thought Notre Dame fans came out and supported them well. I can't imagine something like that happening to someone in our Tulsa family. I just want to give a lot of credit to those guys."
Shawn Jackson o Fr o Linebacker
On the win ... "I'm just going to cherish it right now"
On his interception ... "I just reacted on the ball. Before the game, I actually picture something, doing something great. I just put it into action. It's going to mean so much, going back into conference play. We just have to step it up and get ready for Rice next week"
On running with the ball ... "I played quarterback in high school. It was great. I just give it to our defensive coordinators and our defensive coaches. They put me in the right spots to make the plays, and that's what they did tonight."
On this being one of his best games ... "It seems like it right now, I mean we just have to get ready for Rice next week. It's a great game for right now, but tomorrow we have to start game planning for Rice"
Ricky Johnson o So o Wide Receiver
On his penalty and first down play... "Their player hit me in the face so I just kind of hit him back. It was just a reaction. After the play was over I saw the flag and said, 'It can't be on me,' but it was. After that, the next play, we just had to move on. I made a great play, G.J. (Kinne) made a great pass, and it just happened from there. I wasn't the primary guy; he usually has to read it out. It just happened to come my way and I made a big catch."
On what the win means to him... "It's a great win for the school and the team. It's put us on track for a conference championship. I think we're going to win out and go to UCF and beat them."
On the number of penalties... "Coming into the game, we were like eighth in the nation in penalties. Then all of a sudden this game, penalties were coming from everywhere. We just had to face the adversity and fight through it and we did it."
On the impact of Declan Sullivan's death... "We've never been in an environment like this where something tragic happened like the day before we played a school. We talked about it, but we didn't want to let it affect us during the game or anything."
Kevin Fitzpatrick o Jr. o Kicker
On the last kick... "I went out there, had a miss at the beginning of the game. Everyone kept telling me 'You're alright, you're alright,' so the last kick I went out there 100% confident I was going to make it. I had the wind to my back. I was confident in our team. Our offense got us down there in field position, so I just went out there and it was just like every other kick, keep my head down, kick it through."
On the possibility of it being a game winning kick... "With eleven minutes left in the quarter, it started going through my head. It kept going back and forth; their defense stopping us, our defense stopping them. Right then and there I got myself prepared for that kick."
On the previous missed kick... "The wind was in my face. As a kicker, you never want to miss left, but it was going in and the wind pushed it out. It's disappointing to miss one, but you have to go on to the next kick."
On his big game earlier this year against Memphis... "Memphis was a huge game, I had four field goals, and so this was kind of the same feeling, except in front of 80,000 people instead of at home at TU."