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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, September 04, 2018 9:10 pm

Kelly's weekly Irish press conference

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

Notre Dame opened its season with a 24-17 victory over Michigan in South Bend and today the Irish ascended four spots in the AP Poll to No. 8. They will try to improve to 2-0 when they take on Ball State on Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium. Coach Brian Kelly spoke with reporters about his team's Week 1 victory and its upcoming matchup against the Cardinals. 

Here's what Kelly said:

Opening Statement: "We have an exercise that we use within our program, offense, defense, special teams, support staff, everything that we do, and we call it well-better-learned. What have we done well? What can we do better? And what have we learned? I think when we look at the Michigan game, what we did well, our football team had an accountability and a responsibility to each other that was outstanding, and I mean, as it manifests itself that accountability and responsibility was over seven, eight months in the working, and it showed itself on the sideline. It showed itself in the way they played. They played together. There was great communication on the sideline. We had guys that were locked in. They were holding themselves to a high standard. They did that very well. They stuck to our process. When we talk about what they did well, that was great to see. What we learned is that we have to finish off an opponent. We had opportunities to put Michigan in a very difficult position, and we did not, and so I think we learned a lot from that experience.  When we see an opportunity to put an opponent away, we've got to have a dominant mindset and be able to do that.  I think we've learned a lot about that."

On Keeping his team motivated after a big win: "We have a standard. They know what the standard is, and they have met that standard for the last eight months. They know the standard that we have here, what our mission is, what our process is, and we'll continue to reiterate that on a day-to-day basis. We play Ball State, but for them it's a nameless, faceless opponent in the way they go to work every day. They'll know Ball State's scheme. They'll know their players. They'll know tactically what they need to do, but what overrides that is the standard that they have to live up to as a program on a day-to-day basis."

On whether it's more difficult to motivate his team for Ball State than for Michigan: "It shouldn't (be). You know, we've got a mature group of players that recognize that it's really about our preparation. It's not about Michigan's preparation or Vanderbilt or Ball State or Virginia Tech or any other teams that we play.  It's really about what we do, and if we prepare, and through our total preparation, they've heard this now for the last couple years. If they stick to their process and their preparation, it really doesn't matter the team that we're playing."

On how he evaluates his offensive line after facing Michigan's talented defensive line: "Well, it starts with (the line's) preparation was outstanding. They trusted it. And then they played really hard. They made mistakes. Those are good players (at Michigan), and that's a tough scheme. But they overcame it with great communication. They helped each other. There was a lot of help going on. We were sliding together. Those guys were working well together. Very rarely was (Robert) Hainsey or Liam (Eichenberg) left out on an island. Somebody was sliding their way. There was a back that was over there. A tight end would kick. The center would push the guard off. So there was a lot in unison, that group was working really well together, and I think when you talk about really good offensive lines against a defense that has so many moving parts, you can't put somebody out on an island. If you do that, you're going to have some problems." 

On Brandon Wimbush's decision-making: "I don't know if that was the No. 1 concern for us last year. I think quarterbacks are always going to be judged by decision-making during games, and there will be times where you question a decision here and there, should he have taken a sack on 1st down in the red zone. But by and large, he's been a good decision-maker.  Accuracy, confidence, those things are on the up. But he was another guy that had a great week of practice. His energy, his demeanor, you could sense that he felt really good about what he was going to do, and I think that's going to continue to grow."

On why he often used two-tight end sets against Michigan: "(Michigan) is a team that loves to attack edges, creates some very difficult problems for you, unique problems for your zone reads game, for your play action game, your (run-pass option) game. Tight ends neutralize that a little bit. But we think we've got three really good tight ends, four actually, but three in a constant rotation. That's not going away. Michigan definitely prompts you to use them a little bit more, though."

On how he will handle kickoffs this week after kicker Jon Doerer struggled: "I don't want to use (field goal kicker) Justin Yoon. We needed to get Jon right. Obviously he got in his own way, and he's a talented player. You know, we needed to go rescue him and get him out of the game. He wasn't throwing strikes. But he's going back in, and he's going to kick off and he's going to get it right. He's a talented player, and he's committed to doing it, so he'll be back out there."   

dsinn@jg.net