Brian Kelly spoke to the media immediately following Notre Dame’s disappointing performance against Ball State on Saturday. Kelly’s Fighting Irish played an uninspired and lifeless 60 minutes of football on Saturday to barely survive against one of the worst teams in the MAC from a year ago.
Kelly took the blame for the disappointing performance in his opening remarks stating that he and his staff need to do a better job coaching and preparing his team. Well, yeah, that’s a given when you beat a team you were a 5 touchdown favorite over by just 8 points a week after beating the #14 team in the country.
On how the players responded to the Michigan win over the week.
I think the first couple of days that they were bouncing back from Michigan. I thought Thursday was a good day for them. But I obviously didn’t do a good enough job of getting them up to play at the level that they need to play.
Each year is new. You get new experiences with different guys. You know which buttons that you have to push as you get a chance to know your kids a little bit better in these circumstances.
Kelly said that they did not intentionally hold back Brandon Wimbush from running the football this week. Wimbush, a gifted runner, did not have a single carry in the entire first half.
I don’t think it was intentional at all. I think it was just part of, you know, play calling and part of what we’re doing. I think sometimes we look too much into the whole, Did you run him? Did you not run him?
On Brandon Wimbush.
As a thrower of the football, he was pretty good. Decision making needs to get better. We got to coach him through those, too, as well. He’s experiencing some things that he didn’t experience last year because we didn’t throw the ball down the field into some coverages. In some instances these were some things that he didn’t experience last year.
I think we’ll make progress off of today with Brandon. I think there was one he hung up there that we’d like to have back. On the RPO that got deflected for a pick, I thought it was really good timing. The ball came out the way it’s supposed to. Threw a couple of seams that were really deliberate, things he hadn’t done before.
I’m sure some will read those quotes and say “what the heck is he talking about,” but he’s not that far off here. Wimbush did actually make some pretty good throws on Saturday and he did put up a career high 297 yards. He also made a lot of bad decisions and then started to panic in the second half the second he sensed any sort of pressure – real or not.
Kelly said that he did not think about pulling Brandon Wimbush even though Ian Book was seen warming up on the sidelines following Wimbush’s third interception.
I think what we want Brandon Wimbush to do is continue to lead our offense. Brandon Wimbush wasn’t the reason we were ineffective offensively. I could name all the things that I just mentioned. I don’t think we coached very well this week. I don’t believe I prepared them the way we should have now that I see the way they played. We didn’t protect them at the highest level. There’s a lot of things.
Now, I get it, right? It’s going to go back to the quarterback, and he gets the scrutiny. But I don’t think it got to the point where, Hey, let’s pull Brandon Wimbush out of that game.
On Brandon Wimbush taking a lot of the responsibility for Notre Dame’s poor showing on himself following the game.
I don’t think he’s ever shied from it. He’s always been first in line to take accountability and responsibility. He’s just that kind of kid.
I think what really needs to be said is that the ineffectiveness of our offense doesn’t always revolve around Brandon Wimbush, nor does the success. I think we’re all going to jump to the quarterback. It’s everybody else.
He jumps on the sword. But we won the football game. He’s got a lot to learn. He’s got to grow, but he will.
On his top two running backs Jafar Armstrong and Tony Jones Jr
I think Jafar is developing each and every week. I think you saw his versatility again as a pass-rusher, as a guy that carries the football. He’s learning a lot every week. There’s new experiences for him each and every game that he plays in. I think this is just accumulating kind of reps for him, game reps, learning as he goes. Obviously he’s got some really good skills.
Tony Jones, we just need him in there, consistency, play at that high level. I told him that. I think he can be an outstanding back. We just got to get that on a more consistent basis.
Armstrong had a decent stat line, but after running for 42 yards on his first touch of the game, he gained just 24 yards on his final 12 carries. Jones meanwhile was a little more consistent though more than half of his yards came on one carry as well. As a whole, both backs left a lot of meat on the bone again this week.
On the feeling in the locker room following the win.
Listen, the first thing I tell them when we come in is, number one, you can never apologize for winning. Winning is hard. So understand that, that first and foremost you won a football game.
But you’ve got to critique it, right? Did we live up to the standards we set in the way that we played? No. I did a poor job preparing you. You have to bring the energy necessary to play this game. It’s not chess. It’s football. It requires an energy that may have been lacking, so let’s look at why that wasn’t there.
On the lack of game film Notre Dame on Ball State’s new 3-4 defense.
We had very, very little. That’s not an excuse. We should have been better at handling the movement up front. It’s a 3-4 defense, but it’s hard for me to really get into it in-depth until I watch it. There were just too many times where we had unblocked hats at the point of attack, and that’s jut not us. That’s not who we have been relative to our schemes.
There will be some chatter of how Notre Dame doesn’t see the 3-4 defense much but honestly, any excuses of the kind are akin to Bob Diaco’s ridiculous comments following the 2010 disaster against Navy when he claimed they had done things they never have seen before. This was Ball State. Notre Dame should have played better if they had no game film at all.