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CTTCS: Northwestern Week Press Conference

Coach Kelly reflects on Notre Dame's loss to Arizona State and looks ahead to this weeks matchup with Northwestern

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Cutting Through the Coachspeak

This week, Coach Kelly went into great detail about some of the things the Irish will need to do to win this weekend with a solid Northwestern team rolling into South Bend. Kelly also provided some in depth explanations to the issues the team had last week in Arizona.

On Northwestern...

Coach Kelly didn't spend too much time elaborating on his perception of the Northwestern Wildcats. He did mention that when looking at the tape, he saw a team that was very disciplined on both offense and defense. Kelly also gave Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald credit for being open minded offensively even though he is identified as a defensive coach:

Q. Do you notice any similarities to the way he coaches compared to the way he played when he was a player?

COACH KELLY: Certainly there is a lot of pride in the way they play defensively, but, you know, I think when you talkabout their offense, he does not hold back offensively because he's a defensive coach, if you will. You know, Mick McCall can run anything from five wides to split back options. They can do anything on offense. I just think it says a lot about his ability to diversify as a coach and not just kinda say, well, I'm a defensive minded head coach, so I'm going to run, you know, power I football. I think that says a lot about who he is as a coach.

One comment Kelly did make about Northwestern's defense is that they run a system similar to what Notre Dame ran under former defensive coordinator Bob Diaco. Kelly referenced the Wildcats willingness to allow underneath plays to prevent the big play. That the Wildcats run a low-pressure scheme should be good news to many who believe that ND needs to get some things sorted out in pass protection.

On the loss to ASU...

Coach Kelly seemed to come out with the intention of supporting Everett Golson after some in the media thought he was overly critical of the Irish quarterback in his post-game comments last Saturday. Kelly pointed out that Golson was willingly taking responsibility for the turnover problems that have been plaguing the Irish, even though at least three of the turnovers from the ASU game were not on Golson:

Q. Brian, what do you do now? Anything left to try to figure out what to do with Everett and turnovers?

COACH KELLY: Yeah, we've evaluated the film, gone through it. You know, I think what's been talked about, the buck stops with the quarterback, right? I think Everett made that pretty clear. I think he took full responsibility for what needs to happen at that position. I think that's really the most important thing. The kid has taken full responsibility, and it is fact of the matter is, when you look at it, he's not to blame. There is 11 other guys or 10 other guys that have a lot to do with those turnovers, but he took full responsibility. And rightly so. The quarterback is the distributor, right? The ball is in his hands. He's accountable for the football, and he took full accountability for it. He didn't shirk away from that. But the fact of the matter is, we have guys that are responsible for doing things on particular plays when there are turnovers that don't get their job done. He doesn't point a finger. He doesn't say that this guy didn't do his job or this guy didn't do his job. That's why he's a leader on our football team. He's responsible for the football. Every one of those turnovers, he's responsible for. Because he's the leader, and he took full responsibility, and that's why I'm proud of him. But he's got 10 other players that have to do their job, and they gotta do their job better, and that's what we went to work on this week.

It is good that Kelly seems to have come to terms with the causes of the turnovers an seen that it is not truly all on Golson. It should also calm the fears some were having that there was something about BK's offense that lent itself to more turnovers. It seems that Kelly has identified that they have been a convergence of gameplan, execution and the other defense that should be able to be remedied.

When discussing the apparent problems with protecting against the pressure that ASU brought against ND, Kelly mentioned that it was not all due to issues along the offensive line. Kelly pointed out several instances where the breakdown in protection was due to either a tight end or a back not being sound in their assignments or due to Golson not getting the ball out quickly:

Q. I'm talking about the sacks, too, though, the seven sacks.

COACH KELLY: Yeah, well, one of the sacks was counted as Everett running out of bounds so it's really six sacks, right? The fifth sack was at the end of the game, right? He's trying to make a play. So now we're talking about, there were two sacks that we feel that were related to pressures and the rest were Everett's got to be in his progression. The ball's got to come out of his hand. We could probably have an hour long conversation about this, it's not about simply the offensive lines inability to pick up the blitz. This is all synced into, the ball has to come out of your hand on time when they bring the pressure. There was a four man pressure where when we stepped up in the pocket we're not stepping up in that situation and we stepped into a sack. So it's not just on an offensive line's inability to pick up pressure. There is more to it than that, so that's why we're not pressing the alarm button on our offensive line in this instance. There are so many factors that have to get better across the board.

Later in the questioning, Kelly was asked about the issues Tarean Folston and Greg Bryant were having in pass protection that forced Kelly to use Cam McDaniel more in the 2nd half when Notre Dame was forced to throw the ball. Kelly responded by saying that there were some technical things the younger backs were working on but a big part of it was that Folston and Bryant need to develop the mentality of wanting to be great pass blockers, a skill McDaniel possesses.

When discussing the defenses effort against Arizona State, the Irish coach made several enlightening statements. He pointed out that Nyles Morgan was thinking too much in his first start, causing him to not be as explosive as he is capable of being. Kelly also mentioned that the communication between Elijah Shumate and Max Redfield in the back of the defense along with Morgan in the front seven needs to improve. Surprisingly, even though some mentioned after the game that Jaylon Smith had not influenced the contest as much as he could have, Kelly said that this was Smith's best game of the season so far.

Quick Hits...

- The team is focusing on the game each week and is not looking toward the end of the season

- Durham Smythe has been held back by some injuries but is now healthy and will be used to give Ben Koyack some breaks to keep his snap count down

- Back-up quarterback Malik Zaire will be taking over as the holder on field goals

- Torii Hunter as been impressive when he has been on the field and will be cross training at all three receiver positions in order to get him and Will Fuller on the field at the same time