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October 26, 2013

Video: Kelly likes Irish resolve

BRIAN KELLY: Well we told our guys Air Force was going to give us that punch at sometime, and that was in the very first quarter when we drove down and had a field goal blocked and subsequently they scored. Then our team was going to have respond. They responded quite well, obviously, from that. That was the challenge to our football team, that something was going to happen early on and they would have to respond and they responded very, very well. From then on, really played well.

Defensively, played a lot of players, got a lot of guys involved. I thought our defensive plan made some adjustments when they got the ball out to the perimeter, started to make some checks, got our corners involved. I think that was a nice adjustment that we made.

Offensively, (senior quarterback) Tommy (Rees) threw the ball very efficiently. He was on target, and could really pick his spots. When we needed a play, he was able to make it. Again, scored 45 out of the next 48 points after that touchdown. That was really a big thing for us.

QUESTION: I'm sure people want to know who his physical therapist is after a day like this, but did you want to pull Rees out any earlier or were you confident that he could stand up to whatever hitting he would get today?

BK: When our doctors feel like he's cleared to play on a Tuesday, that's enough for us as we put him through a battery of tests. They're not going to clear him for contact unless they feel really good about it. We had no hesitation at all to get him through the game. Certainly we didn't want to put him in harm's way, but we certainly felt confident to get him out there and play the game.

Q: Did you expect to pass as much as you did? Air Force played your running game pretty well early in the game.

BK: We felt their corners and safeties were extremely aggressive, a lot more than they had shown, and gave us the opportunity for some one-on-one match-ups that we didn't think we were going to get quite frankly. We were able to take advantage of them and get over the top of them.

Q: Since the bye week, (freshman receiver) Will Fuller has gotten more involved. What did you see in him?

BK: Will has speed, and he will come down with the football. He's sure-handed, and we saw a potential contested ball late in the game where he came down with it. Great speed, and we really like the way he tracks the ball.

Q: (Freshman linebacker) Jaylon (Smith) struggled early on but seemed to pick things up pretty well after the second quarter. How do you assess his game today?

BK: I don't know that I would characterize struggle as much as we were in some coverages that really put him as the only player on the perimeter. We didn't help him very much, so we had to make some adjustments.

We got caught in some checks that we didn't expect to make that are automatics within our normal system. Now we're playing an option team, we really can't go to some of those default checks, so we had to make some changes there.

He battled, played well. He's just a tough, physical kid. It was just a matter of time to give him some support. Once we were able to play some more cover two and roll the corner to the field, then we got the game back in control better. Once the ball was able to stay within the defense, we were in a much better situation.

Q: How is (senior offensive lineman) Chris Watt?

BK: Sprained knee, but he played a little bit in the second half. Bumps and bruises throughout the game for a number of our guys. I don't have any specifics right now on most of these guys. I'll know a lot more when they check in tomorrow and they'll get a full evaluation from our doctors. I'll have a lot more for you guys on Monday.

Q: As much as you guys threw the ball, you had two tight ends on the field for almost the whole game it seemed like. What did you see that you wanted to get the double tight end out there?

BK: Well we think (junior) Ben Koyack is a guy we wanted to get more playing time for. We think he's somebody that you saw we got him matched up. We felt like there were some particular match-ups that we could get with Ben on the field that we liked. He's got good size, good hands, and you saw him catch a touchdown on a particular matchup we liked.

Again, when you're playing a 3-4 team, you like two tight ends because it spreads out that 3-4 a little bit more, gives you some bubbles in there that you like in terms of the run game.

Q: The character of Tommy Rees after the injury last week, coming back with 17-of-22, five touchdown passes. How does he keep coming back every time?

BK: Well he's played well, except for the interception against Arizona State, where I thought he played very well against Arizona State coming off a sub-par performance against Oklahoma. He played well against Arizona State. Thought he clearly was playing well against USC until he got injured. Really feel like he's been playing well and doing some things putting the ball in great locations.

I'll just give you one example. (Senior receiver) TJ (Jones's) catch -- a couple of his catches the ball position was outstanding -- but the one in particular I liked was (sophomore receiver) Chris Brown's touchdown catch. He put it at a position where he was the only one that was going to catch it.

He's making those kind of throws. Even if they're covered right now, Tommy can make those kind of accurate throws, throwing it away from the defenders. He's going to continue that.

Q: What's the significance in your mind of guys like Fuller, (freshman receiver Corey) Robinson, Koyack, Brown getting their first real taste or a different level of involvement in the game plan?

BK: I'd like to have these guys in week one or week two, to be honest. You'd like to get these kinds of opportunities for these young guys early, because it obviously builds their confidence. They're a really confident group. So to get them involved, especially these young guys, it's so important to their development.

Sometimes you have to sit on them a little bit longer than you want because you're playing such tough competition. They're developing. They're growing. It's good to see them have some success tonight.

Q: How did you feel the offensive line held up today? You had to shuffle a lot of guys in there in a spot you don't rotate a whole lot.

BK: We got beat on one twist before the half where Tommy got sacked. We had to kick (junior Conor) Hanratty over to left guard. By in large, they were fine. We got the ball out quickly. We'll have to take a look at the film, but we were moving pieces around.

Q: Is there a takeaway from the way (junior running back) Cam (McDaniel) and (freshman Tarean) Folston ran so hard late in the game, or was it a different circumstance than earlier?

BK: We went a little bit more to gap schemes. We were having some problems in those penetrating. We're a zone -- inside-outside zone -- team, as you know. (Junior center) Nick (Martin) was on an island pretty much in the 3-4. Nose was getting a lot of penetration.

So we went more, started to block down on the nose and hold, had a little bit more success with some gap schemes in the third quarter, which was a change-up from what we had been doing. I think putting some gap schemes in the third quarter opened up some running game for us.

Q: How big were those two turnovers?

BK: They're huge. I think anytime you separate yourself from two scores against a team that runs the option, they're huge. You even saw in the third quarter there that they went to the spread. We got them behind the chains for one series, because we went up two scores. They were big turnovers. There's no question about it. I think we kept the pressure on them offensively, which was the key. We kept scoring points. The turnovers and consequently the scores on offense, piling those points up, keeping it separated put them under a lot of pressure tonight.

Q: How would you evaluate (senior quarterback) Andrew Hendrix's performance?

BK: A lot better than last week's.

Q: Dating back to the beginning of 2011, you guys have won all the games that you were predicted to win mostly. How important is that big picture-wise in building that consistency in the program?

BK: I don't know that we look at what we're supposed to do in terms of projections. We want to win every game that we play, right? Our guys set our goals, and the goal is to win every week. This is the second week -- as we've talked about and we've had this discussion -- we've broken down the second half of the season into six games, and this is week two.

Now we go onto week three. We want to win each and every week because our guys want to win 10 games. But you can't win 10 unless you win six and seven. They've stayed on task and prepared very well this week. We were on break, going on the road, but they did a very nice job. They've always prepared very well, and we're going to have to do that again this week against Navy.

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