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    FIGHTING IRISH

    Nov. 2, 2013

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    Notre Dame vs. Navy
    November 1, 2013
    Home Player Quotes

    Jaylon Smith • Fr. • OLB

    On making the final play...
    "We practiced it on Thursday, you know take the field and win the game. It was really just a routine. It was all out. And we were fortunate enough."

    On alignment on that play...
    "I was lined up on that side. My job is actually to stay back and fold. So, really got looking, looking too much. Seeing the ball was initially going away from me so I continued to fold and after I seen the reverse, Eilar [Hardy] did a great job of slowing the guy down, and I was able to make the tackle."

    On making impact as a freshman...
    "It's a blessing. I really just thank God for the opportunity. We've been playing the game since we were eight years old, so just to be able to go out there as a freshman and contribute is always good."

    On the differences between Navy and Air Force...
    "It was something we had to adjust to. We knew coming in that Navy runs the option the best, the best in the country; you guys saw that tonight. They're a great team and we were able to get the win."

    Eilar Hardy • Jr. • S

    On playing bigger role...
    "Words can't even explain. I came along way from my injuries and things like that. It feels great running around and making plays for my team. It feels great."

    On coming in for Austin Collinsworth...
    "It was that last series. I came off and Austin looks at me and says he's done. So that just flipped the switch in my brain. It was the last drive, and we had to make a play. I have to be on my business. And I went out there on the last drive and made a few plays and won the game."

    On forcing reverse out...
    "Basically, the flow was going left, so our whole defense is moving that way. Out of the corner of my eye, I see the guy coming around on the reverse, and I looked back out to right and seen the lineman ready to kick me in. My instincts were to beat the block and dip inside of him, I forced the play wide, and my teammates came over and made the play."

    TJ Jones • Sr. • WR

    On the back and forth nature of the game...
    "We knew from the get go that it was going to be that type of game. With their style of offense, it was going to come down to possessions and ultimately it was going to come to us scoring and them scoring back and forth. It was going to coming down to who had the ball last."

    On the game in general...
    "We had a couple mistakes early that cost us two interceptions, but other than that we felt like they couldn't stop us and we only stopped ourselves."

    On the interception where he slipped...
    "That's on me. I slipped, I fell and he threw it expecting me to be there. If don't fall, then that's perfect placement right in front of the safety so that's 100 percent on me. I fell and it's my fault."

    Dan Fox • Sr. • LB

    On the difference between Navy and Air Force...
    "They're both really tough opponents, but Navy just really brought it today. They always capitalized on all our mistakes we made."

    On the constantly rotating defense...
    "It's frustrating, but you just have to keep chugging along and get a stop when you need it and that's what we did."

    Ben Koyack • Jr. • TE

    On working together with Troy Niklas...
    "I think originally we were kind of getting comfortable with a couple group of guys and now we have become a lot more comfortable and we began to execute together. I think that has shown."

    On the benefits of playing together...
    "Two big guys anywhere, regardless of what position, I think it's hard when we are executing the way we should be executing and using the right technique. I think that makes us difficult to defend."

    On the touchdown catch...
    "It was just a bootleg play and there was no one in the flat. It made it a lot easier for me."

    On his improvement in the last month...
    "That is a good confidence booster, but at the end of the day, the work is never done. We just have to enjoy the win for 24 hours, then just get back to work and sink Pitt."

    On if tight end is the strongest position...
    "I don't know if I would say that. I just think that we kind of had a mindset that we wanted to execute better. At the end of the day, we went out and we did execute better. I think the coaches saw that and put a little bit more confidence and a little bit more responsibility our way."

    Zack Martin • Gr. • OT

    On the offensive lines' affect in the second half...
    "We know, playing a team like this, we need to score virtually every time we touch the ball. We made a few mistakes in the first half. We didn't execute the way that we wanted to. We knew their triple option is so hard to stop, so we knew we had to score every time that we touched the ball, and we were able to do that."

    On adjusting in the second half...
    "It was more of an execution thing. We didn't make many adjustments. We just knew that we could go out there and run the ball. It was more of an execution thing."

    On Tarean Folston's performance...
    "It was great. All our backs bring a little something different to the table, and it is the first game where really Tarean has gotten some serious carries. It is fun to see him go out there and run. He is very shifty. He is great at hitting the holes. He is good at setting up blocks. He will start inside and pull a linebacker inside for us, and cut it outside real quick. It sets us up real well, and he is able to make some big plays out of it."

    Navy Player Quotes

    Parish Gaines • Jr. • Cornerback

    On the final series...
    "I was definitely impressed with how our team played, but for us it doesn't amount to much without a win."

    On their defense today...
    "I thought we played better in the second half. In the first half, I didn't think we played Navy defense. The second half I thought we played better, but we still needed one more stop. It's easy in hindsight to say that now, but we know what we can do. I felt like, as a defense, we could've played better."

    On whether or not Notre Dame's Tarean Folston surprised the team...
    "Not really. [George Atkinson III], their starting running back, he's a great player. That's what we've been expecting the whole week. I guess he just didn't get as many carries. I actually don't know why, but we just had to stop them. It really didn't matter who was running the ball. We had to contain and stop the run."

    On Notre Dame's offense...
    "At first, they kept their receivers in tight - along with their tight ends. They kept play passing out of that formation, but it was really nothing we haven't seen before. The second half was just smash mouth football."

    Chris Swain • So. • Fullback

    On moving the ball today ...
    "I feel like we came out very hard and we really wanted to win this game. We did everything we could. That's really about it."

    On the end of the game...
    "It really hurts, especially since we play these guys every year and we were just so close. It really hurts."

    On the amount of yards earned...
    "I feel pretty good about that, but in the end we didn't win."

    Keenan Reynolds • So. • Quarterback

    On the last possession...
    "On the road, against Notre Dame, and driving to win the game, that's the dream; a dream come true. Unfortunately, we didn't make enough plays to finish the drive. I have to do a better job, make a better pitch and things might have been different. There are some things we could have done to put us in a better predicament, but we just have to do some self-looking and figure out what we have to do and move on."

    On what the team will take away from this game...
    "I think we gave ourselves a chance to play. We didn't turn the ball over, but at the end of the day the only thing that counts are wins and loses. We just have to move on and keep building on what we've done, and keep playing. Our goals are still intact, so we still have a chance to accomplish everything we set up this season."

    On the difference in moving the ball in this game compared to previous games...
    "Execution. This is the same defense we've seen many times this year and we just had to execute. I'm so proud of the guys up front. They fought the whole game. They kept their eyes on the perimeter and they ran hard. We gave ourselves the chance to win, but we just didn't make enough plays."

    On the last play of the game...
    "I trust coach's play calling and he felt like that play was going to work. So I was all ready for it. He saw something and he felt like that would have been a good play, so I trusted it and I went with it."

    On the offensive line... "I don't think there is a tougher line in the country. Those guys battle and I don't think anyone on the line isn't banged up right now. They just keep fighting and fighting. They might not be the biggest guys, they might not be the strongest guys, but they keep fighting. I couldn't be more proud of those guys up front and we just have to keep building."

    On the game in general... "We wanted to come out with a win and every time we step on the field we expect to win. This game was no different; we expected to win. We prepared all week like we were going to win and it is disappointing not coming out with a victory. But, like I said, we just have to get ready for Hawaii next week."

    COACH KEN NIUMATALOLO
    COACH BRIAN KELLY
    TOMMY REES

    COACH NIUMATALOLO: Congratulations to Coach Kelly and the entire program. Great win. It's a hard fought game. Super proud of our players. nd I think -- like I said, I think everybody in this room can rest assured that we just -- those are the type of young men that are going to be protecting us, tough, hard nosed kids.
    Yes, we would have liked to have won the game, but I couldn't be more proud of a group of young men that just continued to battle at the end. But like I said, give props to Notre Dame. They made enough plays to win. But having said all that, I'm still proud of our team.

    Q. [ No microphone ].
    COACH NIUMATALOLO: We might have taken a tad too long on the reverse there. We felt like it was open. I've got to go back and look at tape, but I think we're one block from breaking. You know what I mean?
    We were a little bit -- maybe a step too slow on our mechanics of it, where it normally should have been a fraction of a second earlier. That block shouldn't have been an issue because we should have helped flank it.
    We were a little late on the pitch, in our pitch relationship there, but I thought it was a great call by Ivin. They made the play. Again, you've got to give Notre Dame the credit. They tackled us for the win.

    Q. Speaking of Ivin, can you just talk about the offensive game plan. Because you rolled off 400 plus yards against that defense. COACH NIUMATALOLO: Like I said, it wasn't good enough. We didn't win.
    I thought Ivin and his staff did some good things. We struggled against Notre Dame the last couple of years. I just thought our kids played well but still wasn't enough.

    Q. Your thoughts on Keenan's performance. Three rushing touchdowns and threw for another one.
    COACH NIUMATALOLO: I thought that kid played great. I thought Keenan played well. I thought we had the perfect scenario. We got the ball to the 50 yard line, all our time outs left. I didn't want to give them the ball back. If we were going to score, I wanted to score with basically nothing on the clock, and we had a chance. Like I said, we had a chance.
    Got to go back and look at the tape, but I think we're one guy away from breaking it, but we didn't get it done.
    I thought Keenan played great in a hostile, tough environment to play. This is a great, great atmosphere to play at. I thought the kids prepared well for the game. ust one more play. That's all it would have taken, just one more play.

    Q. Coach, did you -- when did you get the sense that this might be the whoever has the ball last wins game? And did you try then to pace yourself to get the ball last?
    COACH NIUMATALOLO: Well, it's hard to do that, but we were trying to go slow. I mean, we were going no huddle, but it wasn't a fast no huddle. You could see a couple of times we snapped the ball with one second, two seconds left on the clock. We were trying to keep them off the field. Our big thing was try to limit their possessions. They're very, very good on offense. They're very good on defense, but we felt like our chance was to limit their possessions, keep them off the field. We were fortunate to get some turnovers. They had a couple passes there that they dropped, but for us to beat them, that's what's going to happen. They had a couple of turnovers. We didn't have any penalties. We got to play it almost perfect to even have a chance, and I thought our kids played well.
    Again, it wasn't good enough to beat a very, very good Notre Dame team.

    Q. And, obviously, Air Force does things different than you, but seeing them playing option principles the week before, did that help you find some holes and find some things you wanted to attack?
    COACH NIUMATALOLO: I thought Coach Kelly said it best early on. I thought it was an advantage for both sides. It allowed them to get a couple of weeks of practice with the option, but it allowed us to see what they were going to do.
    It's not like Coach Diaco didn't know what we were going to do anyway. Like I said, we haven't been able to score any points the last couple of years.
    We're just fortunate to know we executed a little bit better. We made some short plays, and we found a way to move the ball against a very good football team.
    We were happy with the 3 1/2, the 4 yard plays because, again, it kept the clocks moving. It kept the sticks manageable in down and distance, kept them off the field.

    Q. Folston had a good game. What did you know about him coming in, and what were your impressions of him?
    COACH NIUMATALOLO: Good player. Just they got good players, and they got good coaches. Just played well. Just -- I mean, what can I say? They had a heck of a game.

    Q. With the way the team played today, you have to be encouraged for the rest of the season because all your goals are still in front of you and you're still going to accomplish everything you want to.
    COACH NIUMATALOLO: I think Notre Dame goes through this every week. I mean, everybody gets up for Notre Dame. For everybody that plays Notre Dame, it's the Super Bowl for that team.
    For us to come to the Mecca of college football, our kids are excited about it. So we played really, really hard. What we can't do is let this loss turn into two losses. We can't let Notre Dame beat us twice. They're a good team, but hopefully they won't beat us twice. Hopefully, we'll bounce back next week.
    Thank you, guys.

    COACH BRIAN KELLY

    COACH KELLY: We played the last two games here in different styles. USC Notre Dame was a defensive effort that certainly we could talk about it all year in terms of the way our defense played, and then today we had to be flawless in the second half offensively. That's the way you win football games, as a team. You don't win them on one side of the ball or the other.
    We were able to come up with a couple of key stops in the second half against Navy today that allowed us to put more points on the board than the Midshipmen.
    They executed flawlessly today. Hats off to them. They controlled the clock, made possessions difficult relative to time of possession. So just, again, shortened the game, no penalties, no turnovers, and really played a great game and really took us in a position -- put us in a position that we had to play great in the second half.
    I'm really, really proud of our team. They took the lead in the second half -- or in the fourth quarter and held on in another very close football game. So great win for Notre Dame.

    Q. Brian, you called it a great win. When you look at it, are you happy to get the win, or are you concerned that they put as many yards up as they did and points as they did?
    COACH KELLY: No. I mean, if you look out at option teams, especially Navy, I'm ecstatic about getting out of here with a win in terms of the way they played today. I mean, they were flawless in terms of their execution. When they're on and they're playing well, you're just really excited. Now, we had -- you know, we slipped and fell on a pass where we could have put ourselves in a two score situation. We had a holding penalty, which really could have changed things early on. So there's some circumstances there that played in. But very difficult to play. We haven't made any excuses about guys being out of the lineup. We just went out and battled the best we could. Yeah, there are no asterisks next to this one. This is a W, and we're excited about it. We're going to have our 24 hour rule. We're going to take all 24 hours on this one.

    Q. One call that was a little confusing to me was where they first called targeting, and then they said it was on Justin Utupo. Is that correct? What happened there?
    COACH KELLY: I am absolutely -- I can't come up with the right word to figure this one out. I asked for three explanations. Three times I asked for an explanation on it, and I couldn't get a clear explanation other than it was not a targeting penalty because it was a run play. Of course, that wasn't my question. My question was why was it a personal foul? And it was never answered.

    Q. Who was it on?
    COACH KELLY: It was on Justin Utupo, which we had a different video of what happened over there, so we're very confused as to what exactly happened.
    So there must have been a number of people over on the sideline. We'll ask for some clarification, but you can't give option teams 15 yards. It was a crucial play. It was fourth down. It was a big play.

    Q. Brian, Tarean going for 18, 140. Did he just get into a rhythm, and you just kept on rolling with him?
    COACH KELLY: Yeah, exactly. He was running well, and just felt like we'd stick with him in terms of the way he was running. And they were blocking very well up front for him.

    Q. For a freshman to do that when the game's on the line, how does that speak to maybe his mental toughness?
    COACH KELLY: I think -- I don't know. I think he's conditioned better. I don't know that he would have made that many carries early in the year. He wasn't conditioned well enough to be in there. I think it's more physical. He always had the mental makeup. We felt that from the very beginning, that he had that. I think this is more about his physical conditioning and really just having a hot hand.

    Q. Coach, after the success you've had defensively at Arizona State, Southern Cal, and Air Force, do you worry confidence now? Do you chalk it up to --
    COACH KELLY: This is one, just throw it away. It's such a different game. It's defending the quarterback, lead play, and it's just you're ready for one game and the Naval Academy and what they do and how they do it, and then the next week it's a totally different situation. That's why it's such a difficult game to play.
    And the way -- and I said this earlier in the week. Nobody runs this option as effectively, and when they are on and they're not turning the football over and they're -- and that's what they did today -- it's a one shot deal with them. Find a way to beat them and move on.
    We were fortunate the last couple of years that we got up early on them and really forced them out of running true triple option, and we were able to do some things and play coverage this year. It was just a matter of let's get a win and get out of here.

    Q. And what's the injury situation with Kona, with Ben Councell, with Sheldon Day?
    COACH KELLY: They're all banged up. They all will require some attention that I'll have to get further information. I tried to talk to Rob Hunt, our head trainer, but it was a triage in there. So I'll have to get further information for you guys tomorrow.
    But we got some guys that didn't play today and that we got more guys that are banged up.

    Q.Brian, offensively with Navy, were they doing anything differently than what they had shown? Did you feel like they were holding anything back, or was this just an execution game for them?
    COACH KELLY: In terms of their offense or their defense?
    Q. Yeah, what they were doing. In 2010, you talked about how they held something back and you had to adjust on the fly. Did that happen today or just the traditional look?
    COACH KELLY: No, they ran a couple of unbalanced plays where we had some pressures on or some looks that make it a little bit more difficult, but, no, this was still centered around the quarterback.
    And at times not getting -- not whipping the guy over us. You know what I mean? Sometimes you've just got to whip the guy that's over you, and sometimes we weren't able to defeat some of those one on one blocks, but nothing that they schemed up and had a different look for us.

    Q. Could you just talk about your vantage point on their last play, how you saw that develop and the way you stopped it.
    COACH KELLY: It did not look like true triple coming. It looked like single option or -- which it looked different right away. So I thought it was going to be option pass, and then obviously the reverse.
    I was happy it was a reverse because I felt like there was enough speed on the field that we were going to be able to track it down.

    Q. The last couple of games against teams where you have an athletic advantage over the play of your tight ends, how you've been able to employ that and take advantage of that.
    COACH KELLY: It was a big play, as you know, to Troy Niklas. His size matchup is huge. We were able to use the play action boots today to our advantage.
    They were starting to really play hard inside on our inside zone play, and that's why Tommy was able to get outside and get it to our tight ends off of the play action. So the utilization of our two tight ends today for the run game really benefited us in using both Koyack and Troy Niklas in the passing game.

    Q. Brian, before Kona got hurt, he was having a heck of a day. Your thoughts on what he was doing out there.
    COACH KELLY: He was playing well. He was playing a lot of snaps certainly. Sheldon Day went down. Jarron is still an inexperienced player in there. We're really thin. So he had a lot of work, a lot of time that he had spent on the field, and then he went down with an ankle too. No, he was battling his butt off in there.

    Q. Coach, with Tarean having his big day and Jaylon Smith making that big tackle and a lot of young guys playing, what does that say about the future of your program?
    COACH KELLY: That we've got more young guys that are developing. It's always a blend, you know. It's a mixture of guys like Eilar Hardy, who had to come in for Austin Collinsworth, who is out of the game. I don't think it's -- unless you're playing, you know, 10, 15 freshmen, which you never want that to happen because you're rebuilding. We're not in a rebuilding mode here. I think it's always about blending in some true freshmen, but it's really nice to see some of those young players because they're extremely skilled. It gives you a glimpse of those guys that are going to be here for the next 3 1/2 years.

    Q. Coach, Chris Swain had a lot of rushing yards right up the gut today. Just how much would Louis Nix have kind of helped in that department?
    COACH KELLY: Any time you've got a 335 pound guy in there, he's hard to move, right?
    But our guys battled in there. So I think it's -- you can take the dive away, if that's all you want to do, but you're trying to mix it up. Sometimes you're trying to add an extra hat to the quarterback, who was very difficult to defend. Then you're a little thin on the fullback. It's just one of those deals where they're difficult to defend. We just scored more points than they did today, and we got a win. I'm happy about that.

    Q. Brian, you talk about Folston a little bit today. Your thoughts on how you thought he ran. It wasn't just good numbers overall, but it seemed like every carry he was productive.
    COACH KELLY: That's a good question. I think -- I would say, generally speaking, there was only one run that I did not like, where he did not go north and south, bounced one out on the left side, and got the first down, but we want to keep it going north and south, and I thought he did that very well, saw the holes very well. And we're looking for guys to go north and south and make people miss, and I think if you look at all his runs, he by and large did that. If you look at George's touchdown run, that was a heck of a run. That was a north and south run. He supplied the power to the power, all the things that we've been asking him to do. So there were some good runs out there.

    Q. How close were the injuries you have in the front seven of the defense you pushing that limit of the depth you have up there?
    COACH KELLY: We reached it and surpassed it. We're past it. We're -- you know, I'm reminded of that scene in -- I think it was Apollo 12, where there's a scene in the movie where they're having troubles in the capsule because there's CO2, and they have to figure out a way to bring that level of CO2 down. I showed a clip of it. They throw all this stuff on the table to all of these guys in mission control, and they say, you guys have got to figure out with all this stuff here, how to get this done. hat's what we did this week. We threw it all on the table, and we figured out how to get it done. That's why I'm proud of the guys. We didn't complain about it. It's part of the game. Injuries happen. You've just got to find a way to get it done, and they did. We'll find a way to get it done. Jaylon, we'll be done in a second. I know it's your press conference, but I'll be done in a second, and we'll let you get going. Is that all right? And that's my answer to the question is we've got a lot of moving parts here with guys playing different locales. We had Ben Councell with his hand on the ground. And Romeo Okwara playing a five back deep for the first time. So we were figuring it out as we went.

    Q. I know this is your favorite topic, but T.J. slipping, other guys slipping and falling today. What was the condition of the field in your opinion?
    COACH KELLY: The conditions weren't great. I will say this, that our field people work their butts off, though, to try to get it the best they could. This is a long -- this is not a this is the first day of this problem and the rain today. This is something that has been inherited in a large degree over a long period of time. So it's a lot more of a complex problem than, you know, just a couple of years here. It's going to be resolved. It will be handled. Jack Swarbrick will take care of it. It will be handled. It's not an easy fix. This is not just roll out some grass and tamp it down. So it will be something that will have to be worked on in the off season, looked at extensively, and we'll come up with a solution.

    TOMMY REES

    Q. It's got to feel really good getting the win.
    TOMMY REES: Yeah. First off, hats off to Navy. They did a great job. I have so much respect for what they do protecting our country and all that. For us, we had opportunities early on where we couldn't capitalize. When you play a game like that, we need to take the early lead and take them out of their game plan. If not, you're going to have a nail biter like that. They do a good job of offensively staying on the field and limiting your touches. I'm really proud of the whole team and how they came back and were able to pull a close one out.

    Q. At what point in this game did you feel like the margin of error was small?
    TOMMY REES: I think in the second half we knew, especially after we only had one possession in the third quarter, and we knew we needed to make plays and take advantage of the opportunities we had on offense, not knowing when the next time we touched the ball would be. It started up front for us. Those big guys up front played a heck of a game, and we were able to run the ball fine. Cam did a nice job for us in the second half. And we made some throws when we needed to.

    Q. [ No microphone ].
    TOMMY REES: I'm extremely happy for the kid. We've known from day one he could provide another weapon for us offensively and for him to really come into his own. It starts up front for us. We had guys in there that aren't used to playing those kinds of snaps. He did an awesome job for us. Tarean ran hard and took care of the ball. He didn't play like a freshman tonight. He played like a guy who really knew what was going on out there.

    Q. [ No microphone ].
    TOMMY REES: It's awesome. We have guys our entire offense, we have a lot of depth everywhere. We have tight ends that we can bring in. We've got a lot of receivers playing. Yeah, I think we're starting to show our depth at running back. I think all of them kind of provide a little different intangible or skill that we can throw out there. You know, we all miss a step, but we're able to get those guys some fresh legs and fresh carries.

    Q. Playing against Navy provide a whole bunch of [ No microphone ].
    TOMMY REES: Yeah, it's a little frustrating. Like I said, they do a great job controlling the clock and limiting your touches offensively. That's how we knew they were going to play. When you don't take advantage of early opportunities, it's tough. We stayed within ourselves, Zach and I, T.J., tried to keep the guys going, keep them we're going to get another series. We need to go down and score a touchdown. Anything else is unacceptable. We had great leadership, and we were able to really rally together and find a way to pull it out.

    Q. [ No microphone ].
    TOMMY REES: Yeah, I think we've proven we can win some of these close ones. It shows the fortitude and the type of character we have as a team when you're able to stay focused and really grind it out for four quarters.

    Q. Tommy, pretty great the last couple of weeks. [ No microphone ]. How do you get yourself back to that rhythm?
    TOMMY REES: I don't feel like the rhythm is really gone. Obviously, threw the one play to T.J., he slips. I've got to see that. The play before the half, probably should have taken it down and tried to make something when it's not there, try the two minute drive. I felt like other than that we were able to I felt like, when we needed to throw the ball, we were able to make some plays. Troy had made a huge play for us on third down on that last drive. We just got to keep working and keep staying within ourselves offensively week to week and be prepared to play.

    Q. [ No microphone ].
    TOMMY REES: Yeah, I mean, Oklahoma kind of-- I'm not going to reflect on the past, but there were obviously some things that happened early on that were hard. You got to keep going. After that point, you really just need to prepare every week and working hard throughout the week of practice and film study and developing a rapport with all the guys on offense. We're just going to continue to do that, and you got to find a way to win next week.

    Q. [ No microphone ].
    TOMMY REES: Yeah. We didn't make all that many adjustments. We had a couple of wrinkles here and there to what they were doing. For us, it was about finishing drives and executing. We moved the ball the whole game, but it was just a matter of closing it out when we got down there. For us, it was just keeping what we're doing and knowing that we were able to move the ball and stay confident and prepared to go.

    Q. [ No microphone ].
    TOMMY REES: Yeah, like I said, he didn't play like a freshman out there for us today. He played with a lot of the confidence and a lot of toughness and grit for us. It starts up front. We did a great job of getting him some great looks. He ran extremely hard and made people miss. I think he'll keep moving forward. It's the kind of game where you gain more confidence in him.

    Q.[ No microphone ].
    TOMMY REES: I'm no expert on that field, but I feel like for a younger back, he really understands what we're trying to do within the run game, and he understands the different looks and has really good vision. I think he'll just keep moving forward from here.

    Q. Playing the ball well really sets off
    the play action. TOMMY REES: Yeah, we were able to get out on the perimeter with some boot actions. Koyack did a great job. Even Troy was holding on to those plays, but then he came back and made a couple great blocks and sprang for a couple of extra yards. Being able to run the ball like that, you've got to have play action.

    Q. Particularly that third down where you made nine yards, talk about that play.
    TOMMY REES: Are you talking about the last drive?

    Q. Yeah.
    TOMMY REES: Yeah, we had a two high look. Any time you meet Troy going down the middle, kind of matched up with a mike linebacker, he's a mismatch for that. For me, you've just got to put it up there and let the big guy get it. He's pretty tough to take down after he gets the ball in his hands. So it was awesome.

    Q. Feel pretty good?
    TOMMY REES: It feels great. Just got to keep moving forward and take it one day at a time. Come out here and find a way to win next week.

    Q. [ No microphone ].
    TOMMY REES: Yeah, he didn't play like a freshman. He ran extremely hard and was able to make some people miss and get some tough yards. I'm really happy for the kid. I think he's got the right attitude to keep moving forward and keep working hard for us. I think he can be a pretty good player for us down the road.

    Q. Does he play like a freshman?
    TOMMY REES: Yeah, it's about his character. He's a pretty mature kid. He understands the game of football and the different schemes that we're trying to do. When you've got a kid like that, it's pretty special to see.

    Q. Maybe a little more patient?
    TOMMY REES: I'm not going to get into -- I'm not an expert on judging running backs, but I think even Cam and George made some big runs for us as well, and Tarean took advantage of some great looks, and we blocked well up front, and he really finished runs well.

    Q. [ No microphone ].
    REES: Yeah, I think being able to have two tight ends on the field, it shows a different threat offensively, and you've got like five catches for three touchdowns or something. But, yeah, he's a vulture for sure down in the red zone. Yeah, any time you can have two tight ends and run the ball and come back with some play action and different things, I think it gives an extra dimension to our offense.

    Q. When you roll out on that boot and there's nobody there, what's going through your mind? Is it like touchdown for sure?
    TOMMY REES: No, I think the biggest thing on boots is you don't pass up a opportunity and try to get out there and get the ball. Troy should be coming open to a little deeper, but he made some great blocks to spring Koyack on those runs. He did a great job for us all day.

    Q. The big one to Troy, I think it was on third and eight. Kind of like how you saw that play develop. Did you get a good view of him having guys behind his back?
    TOMMY REES: I didn't see the end of the run. I was looking back at the time. We had a good matchup. It was kind of a two high look, and we were able to take advantage of his mismatch, the way he presents with his size, and I just put the ball up for him, and he usually makes a play for us.

    Q. Next time you guys come back here, it will be your last game. Can you talk about [ No microphone ].
    TOMMY REES: Yeah, I'm not trying to get into a couple of weeks ahead. Obviously, it's in the back of our heads, as seniors, and really we've got to focus on finding a way to have a great week of preparation and get ready for Pitt. It will be a great moment for seniors and our families and our close relatives and people we're close with, but it's kind of the last thing on my mind right now. We've got to find a way to have another great week of practice.

    Q. Do you think about that when you're in the locker room, like, hey, we can only do this one more time?
    TOMMY REES: It's been a discussion. Sometimes Coach will challenge us, hey, you've only got a couple more quarters here to play and make the most of it. That's just how to really leave your legacy at home. For us, it's awesome playing here. Like I said, we're going to focus this week on Pitt. And then we've got a bye, and we'll focus on BYU. When the season's all over, it will be nice to look back and think about the special moments we've had.

    Q. Can't do anything about the past, but pretty content with where you guys are here now with three games ago?
    TOMMY REES: I think for us, big picture, we don't want to let that get in the way. We've got to focus on recovering tomorrow and getting ready for film study and practice throughout the week and let the big picture stuff take care of itself. We've just got to have a great week of practice and go out there on Saturdays and find a way to win games.

    Q. Tommy, you're a veteran and played in a lot of big games. How was this team able to pull out this victory?
    TOMMY REES: I think the great leadership we have, both on the coaching staff and some of our older guys. We've been in close games before, and we've shown our character and shown that we know how to fight for four quarters and find a way to win games.

    Q. You've had some close games, but you guys are on a roll. How good does it feel to be on this roll? What does it do for the rest of the season?
    TOMMY REES: I think we've got to continue with what we're doing, not look at the big picture, and stay focused. The weekly preparations have been key for us. Just keep executing throughout the week and find a way to win games.

     

     

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