In front of 102,000 rabid Texas fans, Notre Dame became the third top-10 team of the week to lose in week one. They didn’t go quietly, however. The Fighting Irish came back from a 31-14 3rd quarter deficit to force overtime, finally falling 50-47 in the second extra period. Coach Brian Kelly talked about the game in his postgame press conference.
Q. Tough game last night. I was watching the game last night. You guys dominated in the third quarter against Texas keeping them off the field, 21 unanswered points. What happened in the fourth quarter? Did the defense get tired, or did they just — Texas just started using the option more?
BRIAN KELLY: No, I mean, the fourth quarter was — you know, they scored obviously on the last drive. We were up 35-31 with 5 minutes to go in the game, and, you know, they — we missed a tackle on a front where we had an extra hat, and they scored to go up 37-35. We blocked the extra point and tied it up. Fundamentally we were in a good position.
Like I said, fourth quarter, we were down 31-28. The guys fought back, got the lead, and, you know, played some pretty good defense and gave up that last drive with 3:52 or 5:23 to go and had a chance to get off the field and hold them to a field goal but missed a tackle.
Q. I was looking at the defense. The last three games you guys have given up over 450 yards total offense, the last two games, the last game of last season and yesterday. Is there something wrong? Is the defense not tackling, getting tired? What’s been the issue?
BRIAN KELLY: Last year was last year. This is a different defense.
Q. Of course.
BRIAN KELLY: We evaluate from week to week. Clearly we’ve got to coach better. We’ve got to play better, and we’ll continue to do that. We’re going to be obviously looking at those things today. But, you know, again, it’s like anything else. It’s college football and you’ve got young guys that you’ve got to coach and we look to get better next week against Nevada.
Q. Coach, I wondered if you could comment on the status on Torii Hunter’s injury status and what it looks like as far as going into this week for him?
BRIAN KELLY: Too early to tell. Both of ’em sustained head injuries, so they’ll go through our battery of tests and we’ll see how they are today and proceed from there. Really too early to tell.
Q. I know that from a defensive standpoint that’s kind of a tough assignment you go in and you don’t have film to look at of Texas players running that offense, and I wonder how confident you are in this team and your coordinator to maximize the talent of your defensive players?
BRIAN KELLY: I mean it’s the first game, and you go into the first game and — first time starters, and we have a lot of young guys that got their first start. We’ll critically evaluate and I think everybody needs to tap the brakes and relax. You know, this is a football team that showed great resolve, took the lead down 17 points in the fourth quarter up 35-31, and we needed to come up with one more stop or one more better offensive possession, you know, to win the football game and we didn’t do that.
So this narrative about, you know, it’s all the defense’s fault is, you know, just Monday morning quarterbacking. If we get a better punt, if we flip field position, if we make a catch or a throw we’re talking about some different things.
Q. Along those same lines, what do you think will help fix this defense? Is it guys settling into their roles or —
BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, we’re a young group of guys and, you know, we played — we had three true freshmen out there at one time in the back end of our defense. It’s going to take some time, but they’re athletic kids that will continue to develop and we’ll get better each and every week.
Q. Now that you have a little time to sift through it, what’s your assessment of where you’re going to go with the quarterbacks this week?
BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, you know, I haven’t gotten a chance to — everything that we do we do it within our group first. Haven’t gotten a chance to speak with the group, and I mean the group being the offensive staff and then the two quarterbacks. Once I get a chance to spend some more time with them we’re really in the process of grading film and evaluating all three phases of our game.
Once we do that and get a chance to sit as a staff and talk about it we’ll have a better sense.
Q. Coach, Devin Butler is a Chicago area kid. What do you see on film so far that impresses you about him?
BRIAN KELLY: Obviously, he had a coming out party, you know? In the sense that we saw a kid that came out of nowhere and has really made a name for himself. But, you know, he’s got speed, explosiveness, a guy that we obviously on film, you would respect right away. So, you know, again, they like to run the football and it’s part of who they are as a program so they always feature, you know, an explosive back and they’ve got another one in him.
Q. Coach, I think this might be one more of those Monday morning quarterback types because I didn’t think of it yesterday but when C.J. Sanders scored the touchdown to put you guys down on one, was there talk on the sideline about trying to go there?
BRIAN KELLY: No, no, I didn’t give that much thought. We battled so hard to get back into the game, and, again, to take the lead. It just didn’t feel that was the right time to go for two. Obviously, with the rules being as they are, you’re going to go for two in the third overtime anyway. It’s not going to be a prolonged situation. You’re going to get it decided if it goes to a third overtime.
Q. One more on the defense. Is there a point in time when you evaluate with the staff that you would step in more defensively? I know it’s Coach VanGorder’s defense. Is there a time in your coaching career where you think I’ll step in and manage the game defensively a little bit? Not that you would call plays but take over the management of the game to revolve around your offense?
BRIAN KELLY: Everything that we do is collaborative. At the end of the day the defensive structure and what we’re doing is run through me.
So anything that we do from a defensive standpoint has my signature on it. So, you know, I’m in the meetings. Brian and I are in communication, so anything more would be me taking on a role in more of a play calling and I’m not in that role, and I have somebody that can do that quite well.
Q. Brian, you said yesterday that you subbed out through for personnel reasons. I was wondering if you could expound on that after watching film today?
BRIAN KELLY: No, just personnel reasons. We make our own decisions relative to time and place in the game.
Q. How would you evaluate how Devin did after coming in for him?
BRIAN KELLY: He did some pretty good things. His fits were really good in the run game, made a couple plays at the line of scrimmage that I liked. He was on body and coverage on a double move in a third-down situation, and in a couple of our “dime” looks was instrumental in the interception, was carrying a number two vertically which called Buechel to throw the ball a little bit high and Crawford was able to get the interception so did some good things in a short period of time out there.
Q. Coach, have you had a chance to look over the hit on Spruell, and do you plan to pursue it at all in terms of with any officials groups as to targeting situations?
BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, we sent the clip obviously to the supervisor of officials with the ACC, and, you know, we got confirmation back that that would have most likely have been a targeting call. We just don’t understand why that was not reviewed by the Big 12. I guess they’re going to be reaching out to them to find out why it wasn’t reviewed. But, you know, clearly, win or lose player safety should be at the front of this game and we don’t believe that that was the case in this instance.
Q. Coach, just following up on the question with the two at the conversion, late in regulation when you have the time at fourth and one, was there any thought of going for it, or was it too deep in territory to gamble on it?
BRIAN KELLY: I don’t think in those situations where you fought so hard to get yourself back in the game that you want to be, you know, that brazen in your decision making. The circumstances of the game, the way the guys battled, their resiliency, I’ve never coached a game where the team is down 17 points in the second half and they expend that kind of energy to get back in the game to roll the dice like that.
Q. And for clarity, did you make the decision prior to the game that no matter what, Malik was going to be in for the second series even after DeShone led the first drive for a touchdown?
BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, I felt like we wanted to get these guys in early and give them the opportunity in the first few series to get into the ball game. It doesn’t — you know, in my estimation it doesn’t do much for them if they’re sitting and watching, so I wanted to get them in early, yes.