Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly spoke for the final time Thursday before the fourth-ranked Irish host No. 1 Clemson Saturday night at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend.
This is just the second time in the Kelly era the Irish have hosted a game of this magnitude. The last time they did, they routed a top 10 Stanford team.
“We haven’t had many of these opportunities at home. This is the second time we’ve played a top 10 team at home. The last time we did, we took it to Stanford pretty good. Let’s play the same way against Clemson. Let’s play physical for four quarters. You don’t get many of these opportunities.
“And recognize you gave yourself this opportunity. Nobody would be making anything of this game if you had lost a game or weren’t relevant. It’s a privilege to play in these games. There’s no pressure. Play to a standard and you have to play great football against a great opponent. We know that. Enjoy it. You put yourself in this position and you’ve been here only one other time at home and you handled yourself really well. Let’s go do it again.”
Here is the rest of Kelly’s transcript from Thursday’s press conference courtesy of Matt Freeman at Irish Sports Daily.com
On final points of emphasis to the offense:
“We want to be who we are. We’ve defined through the first six weeks. We want to play a physical brand of football. That’s who we are. We want to take shots down the field. We’ve got to get some 1-on-1 matchups to allow our bigger-bodied receivers and tight ends to be part of this offense.
“At the end of the day, this is about four quarters of physical presence with our offense. That’s kind of how we’ve played football this year. You don’t start changing who you are at this time, so you can expect us to play physical. We have to make some plays on the perimeter with our receivers and tight ends, but this game is going to come down to our ability to win at the line of scrimmage.”
On running the ball against good fronts (Pitt example):
“Running the ball is about run efficiency. Run efficiency is 3rd-and-short. We’re outstanding and one of the best in the country. The ability to run the football to set up playaction pass and having that presence when a team like Pitt that is built to play nine guys at the line of scrimmage. We took shots down the field.
“Good coaching and execution is based upon what a defense is doing as well. You can say we ran the ball effectively against a nine-man front, what does that mean? It means you ran the ball for 7 minutes and 52 seconds to end the game when they knew you were going to run it.
“I don’t know how else to evaluate a run game other than to say when we had our second offense out there and they had their first defense, we ran the ball for 7 and half minutes.
“I feel good. I don’t know why we’re talking about this. You guys know who we are and how this is going to play out on Saturday. We’re going to run the football. They’re going to try to stop the run. We have to make some plays downfield in the passing game. We have to play really good defense against an outstanding offense and play really good special teams.”
On Clemson being known to steal signs and signals:
“I think you have to be cognizant of it and be aware of it. There’s no question it’s something we are dealing with and I think we’ve lived it. We’re prepared for it.
“When you come down to the execution part of it, you just want to give your kids the opportunity to execute in a manner where nothing gets tipped off. We’ve got to do a great job that we don’t tip anything off and if that’s wristbanding more or doing other things, we’re looking at all those alternatives.”
On lack of excitement on campus:
“No, I think campus is a little different. You don’t feel the same kind of vibe that you normally would, but I think that’s been kind of the case all year. It just feels like another week for us in terms of our preparation. Our kids know it and that’s all that really matters. It’d be nice to have all the other trappings that go with it, but there’s enough noise about this game. Our guys hear it. They understand it and they have to make sure they’re not distracted by it.
“The pandemic has made it a little bit different, but when they step on the field, they know who they’re playing. They have a great deal of respect for Clemson, but they want to be in these kinds of games. That’s why they come to Notre Dame. I think there’s a great deal of excitement even without all the other things that are going on – GameDay is here. They know that’s going on, so there’s enough excitement going into the game.”
On QB Ian Book:
“From Ian’s standpoint, this is much more about protecting yourself, getting us in the right protections. Coach Venables does a great job with different looks. I think you spend a little more time on 3rd down in terms of protections. The week for Ian is a little bit more cerebral in that sense. Making sure he’s well protected so we can get the ball out in a timely fashion. We’ve been really good in 3rd down situations, so we want to make sure we give him all those tools to give him the opportunity on 3rd downs.
“Other than that, it’s been a typical Ian Book week in terms of real good leadership and real good execution. That’s why he’s so successful. You don’t see much of a change in him from week-to-week. He is so consistent.”
On C Jarrett Patterson:
“He’s much more of a physical player this year than he was last year. He’s stronger and put on weight. He’s so much more confident in the position in which he plays now – the second year at the position. It has allowed him to do a lot more calling out fronts and establishing calls. I think there’s a level of confidence and he’s built a physicality to him over the year from being in our strength and conditioning program.”
On making plays down the field:
“We threw the back shoulder to Javon (McKinley) last week – well executed. We threw the post to (Ben) Skowronek the week before. I think they are time and place necessary when you call those plays that they are executed appropriately. I think that’s what is most important. When those plays are called, they need to be executed and turned into big plays.
“I feel we’re at that point now where when those plays are called, those guys, in particular, are going to win one-on-one matchups, whether it’s Clemson, Florida State or Louisville – it doesn’t matter who is covering those guys. They are going to make plays—same thing with the tight ends and the slot receiver.
“What’s really important here now is where we are in the season when your number is called, we feel confident in that plays have been made in games, but to the level where when we call those plays, we feel really confident we’re going to be successful in the execution of those particular plays.”
On health of RG Tommy Kraemer:
“Tommy had a stiff back leading into the game. Got him loosened up for the game, but he had a sore and stiff back. When that game was pretty much in control there, we got him out of the game. He’s felt really good this week. We don’t think they’ll be any ill effects to the tightness he had in his lower back. That’s really all it was. There was no disc or anything else.”
On Clemson WR Amari Rodgers:
“We didn’t know much about him. They had all those other beasts at wide receiver that we had to worry about – Ross and all those other guys.
“He’s a dynamic player. You get a chance to see him – it’s kind of interesting. They keep things really simple and well-coached on their special teams. Last week, it was like – I don’t want to say gimmicks, but there was so much going on special teams with Georgia Tech. This week it’s kind of here’s who we are and this is what we do and by the way, you have to defend Amari Rodgers. He’s that kind of playmaker. He’s an outstanding football player not only as a wide receiver, but as a special teams player and is my point. You can be in the most basic of looks offensively and in special teams and he can break things open. He’s developed as a premier player.”
On RB Cameron Ekanayake named as a Rhodes Scholar Finalist:
“This is the second one we’ve had. Really proud of Cameron and he represents WOPU Nation. We got to give a shoutout to them. More importantly, he represents the student-athlete is so important here at Notre Dame. The players love him. He’s such an important part of our football program.
“He provides such an important role for us on our scout team and in our locker room. He’s a guy that a lot of guys gravitate towards, not because they want help with their homework, but because of his personality. Being a local guy – he’s from Edwardsburg 9Mich.) That makes it really neat as well.
“I know he’s talked to Corey Robinson, who was our last finalists for the Rhode Scholarship. It would really be neat to see him win a Rhodes Scholarship.”
On message to the offensive line and tight ends this week:
“It’s four quarters. The most important thing here is this is going to be a battle of wills. Our guys have done a great job of playing for four quarters, battling and taking over in the fourth quarter, exerting their will.
“It’s been about talking about we’re not going away from playing physical and running the football. This is going to fall a lot on their shoulders and they’re excited about the opportunity they have to control a lot as to what’s going on with our success.
“These are the kind of games offensive linemen love.”
Another championship season is underway for the Tigers. It’s time to gear up for another year of Clemson football.
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