Brian Kelly met with reporters this afternoon after a thrilling victory over the USC Trojans. Kelly covered a variety of topics as the team heads into its second bye week of the season, including talking what he would have done if he had fielded the onside kick. Unfortunately, no one asked about the halftime scrum.
-Kelly continues to heap praise on the job that Ian Book is doing under center for this team. Kelly said the main attribute he wants in a quarterback is for the man under center to lead the team to victories, which Ian has been doing. Brian touched on the fact that the offense scored 30 points last night with 0 turnovers. Brian Kelly continues to say he is “proud” of how Book is performing.
-There was a ton of hype surrounding Jafar Armstrong heading into the weekend. Armstrong was a non-factor in the game due to the way the USC defense attacked the Fighting Irish offense. Armstrong’s role this week was to be a large contributor in the pass game. However, due to the flow of the game, the package of plays never materialized. Kelly said they were looking for Jafar to play 10-15 plays this weekend.
-The offensive line is performing well, but the head coach wants more out of them. Tommy Kraemer and Aaron Banks were lauded for their work on the interior last night. Kelly said these two guys allowed them to lean heavily on the run. Kelly said the tackles, Liam Eichenberg and Robert Hainsey, were just “ok” last night.
-Donte Vaughn’s role for the second half of the year is yet to be determined. Kelly was asked specifically what the coaching staff plans to do with Vaughn. He said that the coaching staff is continuing to have that discussion about whether to withhold Donte Vaughn from competition the rest of the year to maintain his redshirt or whether he needs to be on the field. Kelly wants to do what is best for both the player and the program moving forward.
-Kelly was asked if he thinks the 3 man front last night should have been discarded midway through the game. He said it is easy to second guess these things after watching film, but he still believes it was the right plan. Kelly said he talked to Clark Lea about an adjustment here or there he would have liked to have seen but overall was satisfied with the performance. Kelly stated the defense was trading yards for time off the clock on the last USC touchdown drive.
-The best question of the afternoon was when Brian Kelly was asked about why he was on the field during the onside kick. Kelly said he was trying to get a timeout because he wanted Lawrence Keys III to move up. Kelly believed the officials were either going to grant him a timeout or throw a flag, neither of which happened. A reporter then asked him what he would have done if he had received the onside kick. Kelly quipped, “We teach our guys to advance it if they receive it clean and to try and score, otherwise they need to fall on it. I would follow my coaching.”
-Kelly thought Brock Wright did a marvelous job in fielding the onside kick. Kelly spoke about how Wright is one of the most trusted players on the team due to his role with the punt team and onside kick units.
-Kelly continues to praise the efforts of the 2019 Notre Dame Fighting Irish. He spoke about how he team continues to prove its maturity, continues to focus on doing the little things the correct way, embraces the hard work on the field and in the weight room, and its unique ability to flip their practice mindset into a competitive game mindset on Saturdays. Kelly admitted he is the most surprised how effective this team has been at winning in a different fashion each week this season. Kelly also talked about how he wasn’t sure what kind of team he was going to have this year. He noted how he knew his players enjoyed being around each other from the start. However, he has learned about the “high care factor” this year’s team possesses and its ability to plow through their imperfections and keep working hard each and every day.
At 5-1, this team is where most everyone expected them to be. The College Football Playoffs still remain attainable but are highly unlikely at this point. I expect this team to run the table in the second half of the season and end up in a New Year’s Six Bowl Game. Go Irish!