Before taking questions on Saturday following his team’s 27-13 win over Purdue, Brian Kelly opened up his press conference by talking about the improvement he saw from his squad against the Boilermakers. Despite numerous mistakes that left a ton of points on the field, the Irish did show some improvement in areas that looked like glaring weaknesses just a week ago.
“I just like the fact that we’re growing, getting better, and we can come back now and look at the things that we obviously have to continue to improve on,” Kelly said before going in-depth on a number of different topics.
Here’s what Kelly had to say.
On the impact of eliminating big plays on Saturday
Quite a bit. Quite a bit, right? You saw the structure of our defense today. We added some things in there that I think will be part of what we do.
I thought we executed better. You know, I thought we tackled better. Not great, but better. We still you have to continue to leverage the ball a little bit better.
This was an improvement, and there were going to be some growing pains and there were, but we did it through some wins. We’ve got an ACC win, a win against a really good MAC team, and we got a Big10 win as we continue to grow and develop.
On Jordan Botelho only playing special teams in his first game back
Yeah, he just wasn’t physically — when you’re off for that period of time some guys respond better than others, and he just did not have any legs. Mike wanted to keep him on special teams and he was an emergency-use guy for us. We are pretty sure he’ll be in a better spot for us next week.
On tying Knute Rockne with 105 wins as head coach at Notre Dame
Yeah, I mean, it takes a lot of things to be in place for that to happen. Father John has been with me on this journey, Jack has been on this journey. Consistency, leadership, alignment, all these things have to come together to get this point.
You can’t — look, we’re going to play our rival and they’ve had a number of different head coaches at their university. You know, I’m talking about our rival on the west coast. This is not to smear them at all. I’m just saying it requires consistency to get to these marks.
We have it with our leadership, our athletic director, and we’ve had it in the coaching because we have alignment. And because of that, that’s helped a lot in being consistent and winning football games.
On rotating more players to avoid the 4th quarter lapses from the last two weeks
It wasn’t necessarily the fourth quarter. It was more about we wanted to get guys in the game to keep them fresh. We felt like the play load was too high.
You know, you saw Brown in there a lot. You saw Ramon in there a lot, TaRiq. We were rotating guys in because we felt the player load was too heavy on guys and we were making some mental mistakes in the fourth quarter.
So I think that rotation helped us a lot, and we spent a lot of time on our third down packages and getting off the field.
On how he felt about the offense on Saturday
I mean, I think, look, I mean, the inability to catch a couple balls here and there is something that is wholly correctable, right? You know, if we felt like we were deficit in our ability to find a running game or get guys open, then I probably be here going, This is going to be a rough one, guys.
I feel pretty good. We just have to be executing at a little bit better level, and we got great teaching opportunities now this week.
On the split between Jack Coan and Tyler Buchner and why we didn’t see Buchner in the 2nd half
Yeah, it was similar to what we did the first game, Pete. We got backed up again and he got us out of a bit of a hole, so he’s kind of been that guy that we’ve kind of leaned on when we’re backed up and maybe he gives us a boost, if you will.
Then he had a tight hamstring and couldn’t go again. That’s why you didn’t see him again. So we wanted to be cautious with him. We don’t think it’s anything major, but we weren’t going to put him out there, especially with a guy that’s going to run, if he doesn’t feel great. Not going to go out there and pull it and be out for two, three weeks.
On developing an identity on offense
Yeah, you saw. We had Joe Walt out there, No. 35. We’re trying to really hone in on what we can do as we have been banged up a little bit on the offensive line, and really carve out an identity, and it’s been shot passes. When we get those shot passes we got to convert.
And then, look, running the football is about when they know you’re going to run it, you’ve got to be able to come up big, and we did that today.
On the play of Kyle Hamilton
There is only one guy that can make the plays he did today. You guys watched it. That fourth downplay, how good was that? That was pretty good, wasn’t it?
I thought it was, too and I was standing right there. I would pay to watch him play. You know, he just missed another one late. He’s a really good player if you guys didn’t know that.I know you do. I say that. He does some things that surprise me at times, his awareness, tackling, and he had a really good week, too.
On using analytics with 4th down decisions
Yeah, I mean, I been doing this a long time. Just to give a sense of it, we have — I believe in using analytics, but I’ll trump them if I don’t feel like the game is going the right way.
There were a couple occasions where analytics said to go and I decided to punt and we downed one inside the one. It’s art and science, and so I rely on it, but I’m not married to it.
I still think you got to get a feel and a flow for the game. We use the analytics, but I think there were a couple times today where I decided that it would be best to do something different.
On his evaluation of Tosh Baker
I thought Tosh battled his butt off. You know, at the end of the day he had a couple of procedure penalties, but when you look in the kid’s eye and you’re on the sideline or you are at a timeout and he’s got a look that he’s just loving it, like I love being out here competing, I just love the fact that he got in there and battled and has some experience now that we can count on.
We just added some great depth to our football team. You know, look, I mean, our offensive line continues to grow and develop each and every week. You’ve got a third tackle with his first start. You’ve got a left guard that was trained as a center that is learning every day. You know you’re good at center.
I think the right guard, Cain, is doing a good job, and I think Lugg is playing his best football. So I would say all in all, they’re playing pretty good.