STANFORD, Calif. – A disappointed Brian Kelly talked with the media tonight following a tough 27-20 loss to the #8 ranked team in the country. The Fighting Irish head coach discussed a number of topics including Stanford’s 3rd down success, Tommy Rees’s legacy, Chris Watt’s knee, and how he feels about going 8-4 this season.
Kelly: “There’s no moral victories. I’m very disappointed that we weren’t able to come up with a play and win the football game. We didn’t come down here to play a close game. There are a lot of disappointed guys in the locker room and I feel for them, but we obviously came up a little short today. Stanford is a very good football team and we wanted to get into the fourth quarter with an opportunity to win the game. We did that and we needed to make one more play, but we couldn’t make the play when we needed to.”
Q: What happened to CJ Prosise on the first interception in the fourth quarter?
Kelly: “He got in a collision. Stanford was in a double-buzz, drop eight. We had worked on trying to get the ball in the seam and he got “collisioned”. Obviously the interception ensued. It didn’t cost us anything, but we got another opportunity and we couldn’t make the play when we needed to.”
Q: How do you think the offensive line held up today?
Kelly: “They gave us a chance to win. With Nick Martin and Chris Watt out, and playing Steve Elmer, we’re down a lot of bodies in there. They battled and held their own. It could’ve been ugly in many instances when you’re playing a Stanford team that is a veteran team, but those kids battled and gave Tommy (Rees) an opportunity to make some plays. We ran the ball when we needed to in some key opportunities. I have to say for a lot of guys with inexperience they went in there and battled well and I’m proud of them.”
Q: What is the extent of Chris Watt’s injury? Is he done?
Kelly: “I really would not want to make that assessment right now. It didn’t look good and the early reports weren’t good. It wasn’t the PCL that was hurting him before.”
Q: Can you comment on the safety play?
Kelly: “Mathias (Farley) was a little shaky in the first series and then I thought he played very well after that. Austin Collinsworth obviously had a big interception for us. I thought they played well - they were “on body”. We had to utilize them a lot in some of our schemes where we had to fit them in the running game, but I thought they played solid today.”
Q: Can you talk about DaVaris Daniels’s performance tonight?
Kelly: “He just needs to run consistently. He does some really good things and he’s coming along. There’s a lot of good things out there for him and he does a really nice job - he just needs to keep running his routes every single play - that’s where his focus needs to be. That’s the next level for him - that consistency.”
Q: Can you talk about Dan Fox’s performance tonight?
Kelly: “He’s had back-to-back weeks where there is just a different level of focus and being locked into understanding how to play the game. He’s just been really, really good the last two weeks. I’m really proud of the way he’s played and taken that MIKE linebacker position, which has really been a big transformation from the Will linebacker position - physical and tough and gritty. I really can’t wait to watch him play one more game because he’s playing really good football.”
Q: Was there a challenge the defense answered tonight between the third and fourth quarter?
Kelly: “I just thought they hung in there and played hard. They made some plays for us and gave us an opportunity to win. We had a chance to win the game - our defense gave us a chance to win the game. Our offense kept us in it - we just needed to make another play. We had an opportunity and we just couldn’t get the ball to Will (Fuller) when we needed to.”
Q: Did tonight’s outcome alter your postseason destination in terms of bowl games?
Kelly: “No, I don’t think so. I couldn’t tell you for sure - I think Jack (Swarbrick) would know better than I, but there’s going to be some opportunities for us that we’ll have to sit and evaluate. There’s a lot of schools that still have an opportunity to take some of the spots that are there. It’s a unique situation for us this year without having a tie-in. We’re appreciative of any bowl that will take a good, hard look at us.”
Q: Do you still feel like you want to let your seniors pick the bowl game?
Kelly: “I’m certainly going to have a say in it too, but I’ve already met with our seniors and our captains - they want to play, so we’re going to play. They want to finish out with the win.”
Q: Can you talk about Tarean Folston’s performance tonight?
Kelly: “He did a pretty good job. I thought he ran hard. Tommy (Rees) did a great job of double- checking and checking us into some run looks. There were some things going on out there that I thought Tommy was masterful in a lot of things that he did today. He had Stanford on their heels at times and got us into some very good looks. But I thought Folston did a really nice job running the football.”
Q: What did Stanford do offensively to have such great success on third downs?
Kelly: “They caught us in our dime package twice. They brought the tight end into the backfield and had three open with split backs against dime personnel. They effectively schemed us up pretty good to get us out of dime personnel. That canceled out our dime personnel after they ran the ball against us.”
Q: In your mind, what is Tommy Rees’s legacy?
Kelly: “(smile) You guys ask me this all the time - I would really need more time. Legacy is such a big word to me. I just love the way the kid competes out there. He’s not going to go into the College Football Hall Of Fame - he doesn’t have those type of skills. He just puts his heart and soul into what he does.”
“As a coach, what you appreciate is somebody who gives you all he has. That throw to Will Fuller tonight was as far as he could throw it - he can’t get it any further than that. That’s just Tommy - he gives you everything he has. I don’t know if that’s a legacy answer - he just gives you all he has and that’s all you can ask from kids. I wish there were more.”
Q: How would you evaluate an 8-4 regular season?
Kelly: “It’s not where we want to be. I mean 8-4? You don’t sign up for that, and I told our guys that losing is unacceptable. 8-4 is not where we want to be. We lost some tough games, but those are all excuses. We want to win football games - we come to Notre Dame to win football games. We can sit here and talk for 10 minutes about how we have 15 guys that are injured and that Tommy Rees was at St. Liam’s (Hospital) getting an IV on Friday. Those are excuses, we have to win football games. It is what it is.”
Q: Some of your losses this season you felt like you didn’t play well enough to win. Was this game any different from those?
Kelly: “You know, for me, the markers have been pretty clear - turning the football over - we turned it over today, but we were able to overcome that. We wanted to be on the road against arguably the best team we’ve played all year and have a chance to win. That’s what you want to do - you want to fight and you want to play hard and play physical. We’ve done that the past two weeks – I’ve liked the way we had physically and mentally approached the games the last couple of weeks. Obviously I didn’t like the way we played against Pitt - nobody did, but for the most part this team has answered the bell all year. We’ve had one stinker against Pitt.”
“We’re better in November then we were in September. I’d like to take this team and look at it like this: Where were you in September compared to where you are November? This is a better football team.”
Q: You’ve had other teams before that were banged up that have played better in November than September. Why do you think that is?
Kelly: “I guess I have to find a way to get better in September. I guess that’s the way to do it.”