Brian KellyGreat football game. This was a matchup that we had wanted at Notre Dame and I know LSU felt the same way. We wanted to be challenged. We were disappointed in the way we played obviously at the end of the year and our guys wanted this opportunity to finish the season the right way. They played hard. They played for four quarters and really the mantra for us was get this to the fourth quarter and find a way to win it. We certainly did that. We controlled the ball for the last 5.5 minutes and Kyle Brindza came up with the game-winning kick. Really happy for Kyle and that’s the way he came in to Notre Dame. We recruited him out of high school on the heels of watching him kick game winners in high school state championships. It’s a great way for him to finish up his career.
Question: You used both quarterbacks to win and both had plays on the final series, what determined which guy went in under which circumstance? What was your thinking on final series?
BK: There were plays just being familiar with both of them that I felt they could execute and help us move the ball down the field. So I went back to just a feeling of what I believe they could execute in a very crucial situation of the game and that’s kind of how I called the game in that last series. So I really tried to fit it to what I believe that those were plays that they felt comfortable with.
Question: Would Everett have come in if Malik’s helmet didn’t come off?
BK: He would’ve gone back in the game, certainly.
Question: At that point? Then you stayed with him.
BK: We were going to go back to a couple plays that he was scheduled to get. I don’t remember if it would’ve been immediately but I think it would’ve been the next play. I do believe it would’ve been.
Question: Is this now Malik’s job to lose?
BK: This really was just about this game, playing both of them and my focus was about winning this game and we’ll figure out the quarterback situation in January. This was just utilizing both of their skills to get a win today.
Question: You had 30 days to use two QBs and game plan for LSU. Can you envision that on a week-to-week basis?
BK: Well part of playing Malik and starting him was to try and find out how we were going to utilize in the game and how to construct playing two quarterbacks. Part of making the decision to start him was to find out how we were going to move forward and effectively craft and put together a game plan for both of them. Today I think we kind of saw a glimpse of what that’s going to look like. I couldn’t have done that without starting him, playing him and getting a feel for the game. I think we can move forward and being looking at that and how we can construct that.
Question: Did you feel like you had a lot more buttons you could push?
BK: Absolutely. Two tight ends in the game, a will up front that started with Ronnie Stanley. Ronnie today was extremely vocal. It kind of lit a fire under everybody today. I think it carried over. I don’t know, did you guys feel that? He was extremely vocal. More than he’s ever been, and it just kind of charged up everybody. Ronnie is not a big talker. It just seemed to elevate everybody’s play on the offensive line. They were certainly a big part of our success today.
Question: Your opening drive was 15 plays; your last drive 14. Opening drive/last drive ranking:
BK: They were the best drives that we had this season in terms of exerting our will on the opposition against a very good football team in LSU. Controlling the clock. We dictated the outcome by controlling the football. If LSU has the football with No. 7 (Fournette), he’s a game changer. We certainly couldn’t give them the football back. We’re in the huddle and we looked at each other and Malik was there, there was 5:42 left in the game, we said ‘guys this is it right here. We can’t give them the football back. If we do, we’re probably not going to win the football game.’ We had to control the tempo.
Question: How well do you feel both QBs played today?
BK: I thought they played very well and I thought they played well because they played together and they played unselfish. They trusted what we called. The big word for us was trust. Let us call the game. Trust what we’re calling. Trust what we’re doing. And we’re going to get you there. I thought that was pretty evident from Everett and from Malik. Just giving us that opportunity to trust what we are doing. If you do that and stay within what we’re calling in the system, we’ll have success. I thought they both did a great job.
And in particular, I thought Everett was outstanding, even in the last drive where – nobody really knows this, he got hit pretty hard on the play that he made. He had to go in and get a shot, the first time he’s ever done that since he’s been here at Notre Dame. To come back out and play, I was really proud of him.
Question: Was he hurt on the completion to Fuller?
BK: Correct. It was in his ribs. He got hit pretty hard.
Question: Can you talk about the defensive effort?
BK: We knew we were going to play better. We got this guy back over here (Day). When you get 91 back on your football team, that helps a lot. Getting him back healthy, moving Isaac Rochell down inside gave us a little bit more inside presence. That helped. Cody Riggs on the outside helps us out a lot. We were beat up and tired late in the season. Getting a break there, really rejuvenated our football team, particularly our defense. And quite frankly, we kept our defense off the field. We did a better job, I did a better job coaching. And I think that helped in this respect, we didn’t have to put our defense in some tough positions.
Question: What did you learn about team tonight?
BK: Offensively, we can take care of the football if we really practice the right way. If we are committed to that. We had no turnovers today against an aggressive LSU defense. There’s no reason why we can’t play mistake-free football. We also learned that we can play physical and tough even if we are a little bit banged up and don’t have the guys. We don’t need to have one guy and have him on the field. We can rally around other players. Smart, tough football. We can play that at any time and I think we saw that today.
Question: Was this a situation of learning life lessons?
BK: That’s all we talked about. We really talked about this more being a life lesson for handling adversity. We had some adversity. Everybody was down on Notre Dame and our kids and ‘we can’t do this and we can’t do that.’ I said ‘that’s going to happen in life. You just have to believe in yourself, believe in what you’re doing, stick with it and trust what you’re doing. And if you do that, you’re going to be OK.’ We trust in our players and they continued to work hard for us and it was going to work out for them and it’s a life lesson for them that they’ve learned.
Question: Would Golson have played more had he not been hit (injured)?
BK: "We had kind of settled in more as to this guy was the runner and Everett was kind of the thrower if you will a little bit, even though (Zaire) threw the ball effectively, and Everett ran it a little bit, we were controlling the clock with some Q runs with Malik with some reads and Everett was throwing the football, so it still would have come out the same way (number of snaps)."
Question: Did you have a target number regarding time of possession?
BK: "Nine minutes per quarter. Our number that we told our guys, we wrote on the board, we needed nine minutes a quarter, we needed 36 minutes. We got the number we wanted (37 minutes)."
Question: You were often a play away from winning other games this season. What made the difference today?
BK: Players make plays and we told them, 'Listen, we're going to get you to the fourth quarter. Trust the plan. I'll get you to the fourth quarter, I promise you that. And then you have to go make some plays. And these guys made plays. Sheldon made some big plays for us. Kyle made plays, Malik made plays. Players make big plays. A Notre Dame football player comes here to make a play. We'll get you there, then you have to go make a play. T
This year, we got to the fourth quarter and we didn't make some plays and we lost some football games. We lost to Florida State in the fourth quarter. We lost to Northwestern in the fourth quarter. We lost to Arizona State in the fourth quarter and we lost to Louisville in the fourth quarter. We got the game in hand in the fourth quarter today and we handled it in the fourth quarter. We're going to make that a habit with this football team. WE didn't do that this year, today we did that and we're going to build off it.
Question: Kyle (Brindza): What's going through your head when LSU called three straight timeouts to ice you?
Kyle Brindza: The icing doesn't really bother me. It's a life lesson we all learned. I've gone through a lot of adversity (of late) -- a great career and then kind of almost ended like that, it hurt me a lot these last couple weeks. Going into this game it was just me and Malik clicking on all cylinders, trying to figure everything out. Going out there, my mind is always clear, clear as day. I finally shook off all the cobwebs and was able to trust this guy next to me and that's how we got the game done.
Question: How did that feel?
Brindza: "It felt great. Not only just for me but to leave a program so historic like this in this kind of fashion, it's a blessing for me but also to help win a game for my teammates, it's a bigger blessing."
Question: Malik (Zaire), how did it feel to be out there? How do you feel you played?
Malik Zaire: I think what was important today was that we got the hold down. I know that in previous games I can take acceptability for most of that. I'm glad that when it came down to get the opportunity to prove that we can get off a field goal successfully.
In terms of my play today, I was just trying to do my job. What the game plan was, what the plan of attack was to try to win a football game and I just tried to protect the football. That was probably the number one thing I tried to focus on doing and just doing my job, not trying to put it all on myself. Knowing the 10 guys around me, especially the offensive line was going to get their job done and they had a big day.
Question: You were really emotional after the game, what was going through your head (Malik)?
Zaire: "Just the whole season, being a little bit frustrated in terms of pondering my place on this football team, being able to still stay focused, still stay tuned in even when things around me weren't going the way that I felt I could contribute to the team. Life is about these opportunities that we get each and every day and taking advantage of them. I'm thankful for that lesson and I didn't want to ruin it for this football team coming off the losses we have, I think it was important that we took advantage, do whatever it took to win. This team came together and we got the job done.
Question: Do you feel like you had the role of being more of a playmaker in the offense?
Zaire: My role never changes in terms of being a distributor. When they call my number I just want to play and try to get in the best possible position to make plays for the guys. It's my job to distribute. Just being the facilitator and having command of the offense is something that's important to me and it's important to protect the football and it's important to me to continue.
Question: Coach what did you see on LSU's fake field goal?
BK: Well it was interesting, I had a number of guys in my ear, take a timeout. And I didn’t want to take a timeout, because I didn’t want to prompt them to go back to the sideline and think about calling a fake. So that’s how smart I am. So we were just yelling out, be prepared for the fake. It looked like up on the board he wasn’t in and then of course it was confirmed he wasn’t in, but our guys were kind of tuned in for a potential fake at that time.
Question: Can this game be a springboard or 2015?
BK: Any time you get a victory in the manner that we got it, because it was an important component that we were not finishing off, and that was these guys — look, when you work so hard at something you need to start to see the benefits of that. And then were working hard, they were preparing hard, but they weren’t seeing the benefits of that and that was, they weren’t seeing the wins. It allows us to continue to do our work and now they know that if they continue to work the same way, they’re going to see the benefits of their work and that is winning football games. That benefits you going into 2015.
Question: Can run-heavy offense be something that’s your new identity next year?
BK: I think, look, the most important thing for us today was to win this game. So we had to have a game plan for today. We know what we have with both quarterbacks. He’s (MZ) not going to change, so we’re going to continue to utilize his 223 pounds — or is it 225? Or 230? (Zaire interjects: Whaaaaat?)
Hopefully not next spring it’s not that much). We’re going to continue to use his strength. He’s a good runner of the football. We love the fact that both of these guys can make plays. I think it’s fair to say that both of them together can give us some really good balance in both of those areas?
Question: Malik, How much fun is this?
Zaire: Well I haven’t really played a lot since my senior year of high school so just being out there just gave me that feeling of, alright, I’m doing this again. I was kinda nervous. But after a while you’re like alright, they’re hitting me pretty hard so you gotta stop being nervous. You just gotta remain focused on the fact that this is about your team, this is about getting a team victory. No pressure was placed on me physically or individually because I knew the pressure was on the whole team. And it was a big game, we aren’t playing like a community college. It was important for us to get this victory moving forward and a strong effort moving in toward the spring and next year.
Question for Sheldon Day: How do you feel physically?
Day: I was probably about 90 percent today.
Question: How you feeling now?
Day: Uh, a little swollen, a little sore, but I guess that comes from playing an SEC team.
Question: You ever doubt you’d be ready?
Day: Not at all. You can’t miss an opportunity like this.
Question: Kyle, did you want to kick from left hash?
Brindza: To be honest, I don’t really need to pick a side. At the end of the day, it’s how you have self-confidence in yourself. Through these past couple weeks, how hard they’ve been on me, coach Kelly coming up to me and being in my ear and just saying be confident in yourself, you have that confidence in yourself when you came here, these past couple years, don’t let it go to waste. So it was just for me to be confident. You put it on the left hash, right hash, either way I knew it was going to go in.
Question: Malik, knowing you’d interact with Everett, did that change your relationship?
Zaire: (Number) 5 did a great job today. Knowing both of us were going to play, it was just about working together. My perspective on it still didn’t change, we’re still competitive, we’re still getting after it, we still had that mindset that we gotta do this for the team and we’re going to push each other to be great. Coach (Matt) LaFleur says all the time, how great do you want to be, and I think that competitiveness in the air is definitely going to push us toward that goal. I’m glad we got a chance to do that and it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out next year.
Question: Malik, Wwas this your Rudy moment?
Zaire: Rudy was like a one-hit wonder, wasn’t he?