I have a question on the missed field goal. Bennett Jackson and Chris Brown are out there at the same time. Did you notice as it's happening is there an exception to that rule that that wouldn't be a penalty?
"No exception to it. It was a coaching mistake. We had put our Desperado team on there, and Chris Brown is part of Desperado. Just we've got to do a better job. An oversight that can't happen.
When did you notice that or become aware of it? "After the play."
One of the things you mentioned and your players talked about after the game was about the ability to take an opponent's best shot. Can you just talk about getting that message, and if you felt like yesterday could have been a turning point for you guys moving forward. So they understand to be a championship level team you have to play at that level every week, not just against Oklahoma?
"Yeah, I think certainly they understand what it means to be ready to play each and every week. I really didn't have any problem with their preparation during the week. We just didn't play with the same focus and intensity that we need to each and every week against quality opposition. There can't be any difference between Oklahoma and Pittsburgh, because they're going to play at the same level, and we're not good enough not to play our A-game.
"So I think the learning experience is that, listen, you're 9-0, but you have to play your very, very best or all these games are going to come down to one or two plays. So hopefully they've learned from that."
You've had championship teams before. Is that one of the toughest lessons to get a team to learn?
"Well, I think it's all part of the football teams that I've had. They've all had good days and bad days. The winning teams have all found ways to win games. I'll go back to Auburn in 2010. I think they had six games that they won by three points. I think the most important thing to engrain into your football team is that you're going to win, and that confidence that you're going to win no matter what.
"Along the way, you learn that you also have to play your very best each and every week, especially when you're at Notre Dame. So I think the latter comes first. In other words, you want to build that belief that they can win under all circumstances. But along that journey, they also realize that each and every week, they're going to have to bring their best."
I was curious going back to Everett in the third quarter. Were you going back to him regardless at that point or was some of that indicative of the interception that Tommy had thrown?
"I don't know that it was just the one interception. I just felt like the offense was a little stale and we needed a way to jump start it. Everett can go in there and do some things with his feet and kind of create some things. I thought we needed to create some things. I don't know. I just had a gut feeling that we needed to jump start the offense."
Following up on that, think about after you said you went and talked to Everett, were you concerned at that point that maybe he wouldn't be mentally ready to go back in?
"Well, you're always looking for signs to see how your guy is responding. He's a young kid. He handled himself much better than say the first couple of times when we took him out of the game. But I think he's a very competitive kid. I've got a feeling that he wanted to get back in there and compete, and he certainly did that."
He mentioned that he was watching and seeing things and seeing some mistakes. Is that something that you have your assistants to look at to make sure he's in the game rather than focusing on what's happened?
"Oh, certainly. We're making sure we're having dialogue with him on the sideline. He's definitely staying in the game. We talked to him in between every series to make sure that he was still focused and he was."
Talk about perseverance with the whole team, but is this a lesson especially for Everett that you can start out with some tough plays and maybe not doing the best, but if you stick with it, even a late mistake, if you stick with it, good things can happen? "I hope so. I think they're all learning experiences for him. You know, we hope that he takes from this game that if you just keep fighting and you just keep sticking with the game plan, that you've got a chance. Again, every step for him has been a learning experience. I think he takes that with him from yesterday's game."
Last one for me about Manti. I think he only had one tackle in the first half. I think two in the third quarter and then picked it up in the fourth. Were they doing something different? Was he having kind of an off game too?
"No, I mean, he didn't make some plays that he made before, but he's still an incredibly gifted player. The guy has run a couple of screens that were well designed. We didn't get some support from the back end that we needed.
"I wouldn't say that Manti was the cause for why they ran the ball more effectively. There were two or three players that were not fitting the play correctly."
You spoke a little bit about Matthias' surgery and so forth last night, everything that was involved. Was there a thought originally that he might not be able to play with this? Secondly, how do you feel like he did play once you had him on the field and got a feel of that?
"No, he practiced after the surgery the next day, then he tackled on Wednesday. We had pop-up tackling drills to make sure that he felt like he could tackle, and he was engaged. Had a good week of practice, but he didn't play with the same speed in the first half and don't know why. Second half, he was flying around like Matthias Farley. Might have had a little effect on him in the first half."
Did you have a backwards step with Tate Nichols, what is his situation?
"Yeah, we're going to get an MRI on his knee. We may have (taken a step back) We're not certain until we get more results and talk to (Dr.) Brian Ratigan today, met with his parents. We're still in the process of getting more information. But he did suffer an injury, and we won't have any definitive information for a couple more days."
When you were mentioning the team needs to bring intensity and bring it every week, does that apply to special teams or is what's happening on special teams Saturday still some of the inherent weaknesses that you thought were there with personnel and having better personnel next year for it? Where do you see that?
"Well, yeah, it's a pretty broad question. I mean, if we look at all the areas, no, we did not snap the ball effectively. We missed a field goal. We did not kick the ball off very well. We kicked it twice down the middle where we're trying to pin it. I'm not disappointed with-- I guess the area that we need to continue to grow towards consistency is the skill area. It's fielding all those punts. It's kicking the ball consistently. It's snapping the ball consistently. I guess those are the areas that I want to see improvement on.
"But by and large, our special teams have not been a reason for me to stay up all night. It's those catching the punt, snapping, it's holding, it's kicking. Those are the things. Those are skill players. That's a craft that they just practice every day and we've got to keep them going."
You mentioned last night when you do change quarterbacks it's a feel and so forth. I wondered, do you feel like you'll get to the point with Everett where you won't have that feeling where you're just going to say I'm going to let him play through this because I trust him? Or do you feel like that's just not going to happen this year? That you're going to have to have this plan in place.
"No, I think that's a good question. I think we're getting close to playing through it because of what he did in the second half. I don't think we could have done that earlier in the year, quite frankly. I think when we took him out last year, he was done. He was just mentally done. He was not mentally done.
"So, in truthfulness, I would tell you that he's closer to getting to that level where let's just keep fighting through it, because we saw him respond with that competitiveness in the fourth quarter and overtime."
I have a technical question. I know (Joe) McKnight from USC used to change his number whether he was on special teams or offense. If you do that, is that something you tell the referees before the game, is it something you have to do on the fly?
"No, you have to inform them procedurally of that. It's just bad coaching."
Will you switch Chris Brown's number at this point, or will you do the procedure thing in the future if you have to go to those two?
"Yeah, we have an easy way for us to make sure this doesn't happen again, and they won't be on the field again. It's on me now. So I'm going to make sure it doesn't happen."
Along the lines of the championship teams you've had in the past and the discussion about the field goal stuff. Do championship teams always have sort of a mix of making their own luck and getting a little bit of luck along the way if that's just the way it goes?
"It seems that way for me. Most of the time you're making your luck, and you're playing through some rough spots. I've never had a team that won because it was lucky. But I've had many teams that were fortunate because they were good football teams and they found a way to win, if that makes sense. Does that make sense? "
We'll see. We'll see how it turns out in the paper tomorrow.
"No, I'm not really interested in what the article looks like. I'm trying to answer your question. I don't think I've ever had a lucky football team. I think I've had a team that's gotten some breaks along the way, but generally those teams have earned them along the way."
Great. You can't just be 9-0 out of pure luck is what you're saying?
"That's what I'm saying. Thank you for helping me out."
On another topic, Theo (Riddick) and Zack Martin last night lamented the red zone efficiency. Where's that on your priority list now and how do you amp that up maybe?
"The quarterback's got to do a better job down there. We fumbled the football, threw an interception and missed a couple of really easy opportunities to score. As you know, a 15-play drive, 18-play drive to come up with only six points. You can't leave those points out there. It's a process of continuing to develop at the quarterback position, taking care of the football. Again, I think execution down on the goal line."
Q. Nine games into a season, how much can you alter what you do in the red zone, or do you just basically have to hammer out honing what do you already? COACH KELLY: Yeah, I think you have to be even more simpler in terms of execution and repeating the same plays and making sure that you make progress during the week. We thought we did, and then the game starts and we don't get the kind of production down there. So we're on it as much as you guys are in terms of understanding how important it is to put points on the board when you get down there.
You talk about making your own luck. One guy that made an overlooked play yesterday was Zeke Motta. About 40 yards hustling down field after (Ray) Graham and fighting all the way to make that tackle. It saved four points, but it really saved a 24-6 deficit that would have been tough to overcome.
"Yeah, you could point to that. You could point to we held them to a field goal after a first and goal situation (same drive). We made a couple big plays there too. I think our guys understand those effort plays can come back and help you. That's another indication that sometimes when these games go your way, you're making more plays that actually get registered when you're talking about them. That's a classic case of making the little plays turn into something big."
You talked about the two early drives, 16 and 18 plays. You're not an often-penalized team. But the first offensive drive of every home game has included a penalty. I don't know if this goes into the strange scenario of being 5-0 in close home games? But do you know anything that contributes to that when it doesn't happen on the road?
"I just think that's focus and attention to detail. We had a penalty when we just didn't have our W (receiver) on the line of scrimmage. It's like from day one you've got to be somebody that is not concentrating for a penalty like that to occur. So, yeah. I attribute it to the guys have just got to be sharper."
"No, it was brachial plexus. It was his shoulder. He bounced back after it, he was a little sore. Checked in today, and he was feeling pretty good."
I guess a simple question. Why has it been so much harder for you guys at home versus on the road?
"We're really trying to figure that out. It might just be it is what it is. I don't know. We've looked at schedule. We've looked at trying to limit distractions. I wish I had a really good answer. I don't have one.
"I know this: We'll battle you at home. We'll protect our turf. We'll find a way to win. But it seems as though for some reason we don't get the points on the board at the opportune time or convert when we need to offensively. It's just been one of those things where we've had to grind everything out. But we know when we're at home, we'll battle you even if we're down 20-6 in the fourth quarter."
Is there any correlation between the distractions that go with a home week or home weekend at Notre Dame versus what happens on the field?
"I don't think there is any question that there's a lot going on here at Notre Dame. We really think we've streamlined our schedule to eliminate a lot of those distractions. But ultimately it comes down to the players, and whether it's ticket requests or family and friends want a tour of the football building or they want to go to the Basilica.
"We've talked about it ad nauseam with our team about how important it is to really focus the last 48 hours in on the football game. Again, I think if we put some points on the board early on with Pittsburgh, we probably wouldn't have this conversation. But we didn't, and we had to battle back to win the game. We've been looking at it, we've examined everything, but we do know we'll fight like heck to try to win at home."
First four games of this season, Everett Golson had a minus 11 yards rushing, last four appearances 230 yards, averaging about 58 a game. Did you have any kind of target figure for him before the season, maybe 25, 30 yards a game, to see the offense operate at the efficiency with the running game with Everett carrying the ball?
"That's a good question. We could use you here at sports information, because I don't get any of those detail numbers from Brian Hardin. That's good work. I would say this. That we weren't sure about his durability. We weren't sure about whether we wanted to really run him a lot. As we've seen him progress, it's pretty clear now that we've amped it up in terms of run plays called. Early on, we were hesitant. We weren't really sure we were worried about ball security and we still aren't.
"As the season has progressed, we've looked at him a little different in terms of running him."
You've had quite a bit of an empty back field in the third and fourth quarter. How much did that really help? Because during that time, even though Cierre (Wood) and Theo didn't carry the ball, he had five carries for 63 yards during that time and seemed to open up the passing lanes too, maybe.
"Yeah, we're doing a couple things in there. We're trying to get some match-ups with those running backs coming out of the back field. We're already lining them up and trying to control some protections for Everett in those situations. When the back is in the back field, you have to do a lot more checks with the protection. When he's not, we can get the guys out and control protections a little bit more for them. It's really set for Everett to help him out more in the passing game."
Prince Shembo seemed to have quite an active game. 8 tackles and a couple quarterback hurries and a sack. Did that grade out as perhaps his best game here?
"He was very active. He did not have many missed assignments because he had a come the previous week. He graded out very high for us. Ishaq Williams as well."
In terms of ball protection, how much more pleased have you been with Everett in the last couple weeks on the outside?
"I think we're more pleased that he's actually putting the ball and properly carrying the football. He's not carrying it like a loaf of bread. It's not in one hand. He still has a tendency to do that. But he's taken to coaching. He knows how important it is that ball security is crucial to our success. So he's taken coaching. We're not there yet, but he's definitely making progress in that end."