Brian Kelly: Opening StatementTerrific football game. Arizona State outstanding offense. We were looking for some consistency offensively and we knew that coming into this game we had to control the football and keep that offense off the field. I thought we started the game on a long drive which kind of set the tone for the game in limiting some possessions for them. I think that really helped set us into a flow offensively.
Defensively, I thought we played very well. They're a very difficult offense to defend. They do so many things very well. (Arizona State quarterback Taylor) Kelly is difficult to keep in the pocket. When he gets outside, he's got outstanding receivers, (Marion) Grice, the back. It's just a difficult offense to defend and I thought we did a pretty darn good job. Probably would like to have that last drive back there, but that's why Arizona State's a pretty darn good offense. A really good football game. With that I'll open it to questions."
QUESTION: You expressed a lot of confidence in your defense going into this week, saying that you thought it was good enough to win the rest of your games. What led you to that confidence? What did you see in practice this week?
"I don't think it was just this week. I just felt like we were getting better, not to the level where we feel like we have arrived. We think there's a lot left out there that needs to get better.
Certainly disappointed to lose (junior linebacker) Jarrett Grace today. It looks like he's probably going to be lost for the season, but (senior linebacker) Dan Fox going in there, played very well for us. I just felt like we had not yet put together a consistent effort. We saw a pass rush today that we hadn't seen for most of the year, which obviously changes the way we look defensively. I thought we triggered much better in the secondary, tackled much better as well. I guess, to go strictly to your question, I just felt like the personnel that we had was getting better and we were starting to come together as a unit."
Q: It seems some of the seniors attacked this game with some more intensity: (receiver) T.J. Jones, (linebacker) Prince (Shembo), Dan Fox, (cornerback) Bennett Jackson all made huge plays. Did you see this coming based on post-Oklahoma practices?
"I don't know that there was any more intensity in the group. As we've talked about, we just needed to make more plays. The little things. All week we've talked about making the ordinary plays. TJ would tell you he just ran good routes and did what he was asked to do across the board. Those are our guys that have to step up. If we're going to win games, those guys have to play well If they're not going to play well, we're going to struggle. I don't know if there was any more that we saw in practice. I think we continued to be who we are week-in and week-out."
Q: The way the defense responded after (junior kicker Kyle) Brindza's field goal there, with Prince getting a sack and then (junior safety) Matthias (Farley) with the interception, just how encouraging is that to see the defense come up with that kind of an effort that late in the game to basically secure the win?
"Again, I think we all remember what we saw last year defensively salting away games, and we feel like our defense is continuously getting better. We're not there yet. I'd highlight the last drive. I know coach (Bob) Diaco wasn't happy about the last drive. I had to cheer him up a little bit in the locker room. Certainly we feel like the defense with a good pass rush, playing good technique in the back end, that we can do those kinds of things."
Q: Talk about playing in such a grand venue as AT&T Stadium and what it means having momentum built off of tonight's win flowing into your bye week?
"Certainly, the Shamrock Series here in North Texas, really, I think for our University was a great experience. We didn't know what to expect in this stadium. You hear things like 100,000. But it just feels like a great venue. The fans seem to be close. It is loud in here.
"We actually struggled at times, as you saw, with some penalties and false starts, even with a pretty pro-Notre Dame crowd in here. It is loud. It is a terrific venue for a college football game, and I'm happy to hear that college football is going to be back here next year. Just a great venue. North Texas is great, and the Shamrock Series was a great success for our University here."
Q: I know you need to push it in there when it is 27-all, but can you talk about Kyle Brindza? He's now 11-for-11 in the fourth quarter in his career hitting field goals.
"I would say he's a pretty clutch guy in the fourth quarter. He missed one early, but you have to look at his track record. You've obviously done your research. He just has that feeling that he's a clutch player for us and he has been since he's been here. We feel like -- he started us off well with the 53-yarder, and got us the lead for the first time. He's that kind of player for us. We can really rely on him."
Q: TJ Jones did a little bit of everything.
"Yeah, they couldn't defend him. Again, similar to the last few weeks, a lot of man-to-man coverage. The choice was to make a difficult throw of the football. I thought we did a better job -- 145 yards rushing, 279 (passing yards). That's a little bit better mix with the kind of pressure defense that Arizona State brought today. I think that's a little bit better in terms of where we want to be, so we got better today offensively."
Q: (Senior quarterback) Tommy Rees has been facing a lot of criticism recently, especially on things like Twitter and things like that. Do you feel like with his performance tonight he was able to silence some of those critics? "No. No. They'll still be there."
Q: What was the difference in the pass rush tonight, specifically with Prince? He seemed like he had kind of a breakout game.
"I just think that week-in and week-out, they have -- I'll back up and be a little bit more detailed with you. Oklahoma, in their game plan, the ball came out extremely fast. The ball came out quickly. We were just that close. Michigan State, same thing. The ball was coming out of their hands. This was a lot more, they wanted to get down the field, a lot more vertical routes. Takes a little bit longer for their routes to develop, and this was the first time we really got into a true drop back passing game. And the more drop back passing game that we see, we're going to get home, and tonight we were able to."
Q: I know you mentioned this a little bit in your opening, but the focus all week was on doing those little, tiny different things, small things. How did you think your guys did with that tonight?
"I'll have to take a look at it. That's kind of more of a big picture, more of what I wanted them to focus on. It was more about a message of how close we are to winning football games consistently. I think that's something that I'll kind of have to watch on film before I can answer that clearly."
Q: Couple of personnel things. (Junior tight end) Ben Koyack tonight, built on last week, with the touchdown. What does that do for him? And also, (freshman linebacker) Jaylon Smith's play, particularly matched-up against a team that likes to hit the field, going to the running backs. How do you feel like he did tonight?
"He's in a very difficult position. As a matter of fact, they even started to crack down on him with their No. 2 receiver. We have to replace because now people are actually trying to come for him, because he's a difficult guy to block. He's got great speed. You saw him and his ability to track down Kelly in the open field. He's a very important player within our defense They got the ball outside us a couple of times, but he's getting better each and every week. His recognition of what's going on is really where we're seeing big progress with him.
"As it relates to Ben Koyack, confidence is the big thing here. He's gaining confidence week-in and week-out."
Q: Talk about the production you're getting out of TJ Jones and Tommy Rees, 135 yards tonight.
"TJ is our big play guy. He's somebody that we have to rely on. Tommy and TJ have come through this program together. Whereas sometimes we misfire with some of the younger receivers, and I think you probably saw that at times, him and TJ Jones are right on the same page. When he's in trouble, he's looking for TJ Jones. They came in together as freshmen. They played together as freshmen. They've grown through this program together. When he needs a throw, he's looking for TJ Jones."
Q: Any update on what happened to (senior receiver) Daniel Smith? "Fractured ankle."
Q: Out for the year I'm assuming? "I don't have that. My guess is that would be the case."
Q: Just to confirm, Jarrett, was it his knee? "No. He has a fractured leg. He'll stay here for observations over night. We'll have more for you on both those injuries, but they look to be fairly significant."