BRIAN KELLY: We played the last two games here in different styles. USC‑Notre Dame was a defensive effort that certainly we could talk about it all year in terms of the way our defense played, and then today we had to be flawless in the second half offensively. That's the way you win football games, as a team. You don't win them on one side of the ball or the other.
We were able to come up with a couple of key stops in the second half against Navy today that allowed us to put more points on the board than the Midshipmen. They executed flawlessly today. Hats off to them. They controlled the clock, made possessions difficult relative to time of possession. So just, again, shortened the game, no penalties, no turnovers, and really played a great game and really took us in a position‑‑ put us in a position that we had to play great in the second half.
I'm really, really proud of our team. They took the lead in the second half‑‑ or in the fourth quarter -- and held on in another very close football game, so great win for Notre Dame.
QUESTION: You called it a great win. When you look at it, are you happy to get the win, or are you concerned that they put as many yards up as they did and points as they did?
BK: No. I mean, if you look at option teams, especially Navy, I'm ecstatic about getting out of here with a win in terms of the way they played today. They were flawless in terms of their execution. When they're on and they're playing well, you're just really excited.
Now, we slipped and fell on a pass where we could have put ourselves in a two‑score situation. We had a holding penalty, which really could have changed things early on. So there's some circumstances there that played in. But very difficult to play.
We haven't made any excuses about guys being out of the lineup. We just went out and battled the best we could.
Yeah, there are no asterisks next to this one. This is a ‘W’, and we're excited about it. We're going to have our 24‑hour rule, and we're going to take all 24 hours on this one.
Q: One call that was a little confusing to me was where they first called targeting, and then they said it was on (senior defensive lineman) Justin Utupo. Was that correct? What happened there?
BK: I am absolutely‑‑ I can't come up with the right word to figure this one out. I asked for three explanations. Three times I asked for an explanation on it, and I couldn't get a clear explanation other than it was not a targeting penalty because it was a run play.
Of course, that wasn't my question. My question was, why was it a personal foul. And it was never answered.
Q: Who was it on?
BK: It was on Justin Utupo, which we had a different video of what happened over there, so we're very confused as to what exactly happened.
So there must have been a number of people over on the sideline. We'll ask for some clarification, but you can't give option teams 15 yards. It was a crucial play. It was fourth down. It was a big play.
Q: (Freshman running back) Tarean (Folston) going for 18 (carries), 140 (yards). Did he just get into a rhythm, and you just kept on rolling with him?
BK: Yeah, exactly. He was running well, and just felt like we'd stick with him in terms of the way he was running. And they were blocking very well up front for him.
Q: For a freshman to do that when the game's on the line, how does that speak to maybe his mental toughness?
BK: I don't know. I think he's conditioned better. I don't know that he would have made that many carries early in the year. He wasn't conditioned well enough to be in there. I think it's more of his physical. He always had the mental makeup. We felt that from the very beginning, that he had that. I think this is more about his physical conditioning and really just having a hot hand.
Q: After the success you've had defensively at Arizona State, Southern Cal and Air Force, do you worry confidence now? Do you chalk it up to‑‑
BK: This is one, just throw it away. It's such a different game. It's defending the quarterback, lead play. It's just you're ready for one game and the Naval Academy and what they do and how they do it, and then the next week it's a totally different situation. That's why it's such a difficult game to play.
The way‑‑ and I said this earlier in the week. Nobody runs this option as effectively, and when they are on and they're not turning the football over and they're‑‑ and that's what they did today. It's a one‑shot deal with them. Find a way to beat them and move on.
We were fortunate the last couple of years that we got up early on them and really forced them out of running true triple-option, and we were able to do some things and play coverage this year. It was just a matter of let's get a win and get out of here.
Q: And what's the injury situation with (senior defensive lineman) Kona (Schwenke), with (junior linebacker) Ben Councell, with (sophomore defensive lineman) Sheldon Day?
BK: They're all banged up. They all will require some attention that I'll have to get further information. I tried to talk to Rob Hunt, our head trainer, but it was a triage in there. So I'll have to get further information for you guys tomorrow. But we got some guys that didn't play today and that we got more guys that are banged up.
Q: Offensively with Navy, were they doing anything differently than what they had shown? Did you feel like they were holding anything back, or was this just an execution game for them?
BK: In terms of their offense or their defense?
Q: Yeah, what they were doing. In 2010, you talked about how they held something back and you had to adjust on the fly. Did that happen today or just the traditional look?
BK: No, they ran a couple of unbalanced plays where we had some pressures on or some looks that make it a little bit more difficult, but, no, this was still centered around the quarterback.
And at times not getting‑‑ not whipping the guy over us. You know what I mean? Sometimes you've just got to whip the guy that's over you, and sometimes we weren't able to defeat some of those one‑on‑one blocks, but nothing that they schemed up and had a different look for us.
Q: Could you just talk about your vantage point on their last play, how you saw that develop and the way you stopped it.
BK: It did not look like true triple coming. It looked like single-option. It looked different right away. So I thought it was going to be option-pass, but then obviously the reverse. I was happy it was a reverse because I felt like there was enough speed on the field that we were going to be able to track it down.
Q: The last couple of games against teams where you have an athletic advantage over the play of your tight ends, how you've been able to employ that and take advantage of that.
BK: It was a big play, as you know, to (junior tight end) Troy Niklas. His size matchup is huge. We were able to use the play-action boots today to our advantage. They were starting to really play hard inside on our inside zone play, and that's why Tommy was able to get outside and get it to our tight ends off the play-action. So the utilization of our two tight ends today for the run game really benefited us in using both (junior tight end Ben) Koyack and Troy Niklas in the passing game.
Q: Before Kona got hurt, he was having a heck of a day. Your thoughts on what he was doing out there.
BK: He was playing well. He was playing a lot of snaps certainly. Sheldon Day went down. (Sophomore defensive lineman) Jarron (Jones) is still an inexperienced player in there. We're really thin.
So he had a lot of work, a lot of time that he had spent on the field, and then he went down with an ankle, too. He was battling his butt off in there.
Q: With Tarean having his big day and (freshman linebacker) Jaylon Smith making that big tackle and a lot of young guys playing, what does that say about the future of your program?
BK: That we've got more young guys that are developing. It's always a blend, you know. It's a mixture of guys like (junior safety) Eilar Hardy, who had to come in for (senior safety) Austin Collinsworth, who was out of the game. I don't think it's‑‑ unless you're playing, you know, 10-15 freshmen, which you never want that to happen because you're rebuilding. We're not in a rebuilding mode here.
I think it's always about blending in some true freshmen, but it's really nice to see some of those young players because they're extremely skilled. It gives you a glimpse of those guys that are going to be here for the next 3 1/2 years.
Q: (Navy fullback) Chris Swain had a lot of rushing yards right up the gut today. Just how much would (senior defensive tackle) Louis Nix have kind of helped in that department?
BK: Any time you've got a 335‑pound guy in there, he's hard to move, right?
But our guys battled in there. Yu can take the dive away, if that's all you want to do, but you're trying to mix it up. Sometimes you're trying to add an extra hat to the quarterback, who was very difficult to defend. Then you're a little thin on the fullback.
It's just one of those deals where they're difficult to defend. We just scored more points than they did today, and we got a win. I'm happy about that.
Q: You talked about Folston a little bit today. I’m curious about your thoughts on how you thought he ran. It wasn't just good numbers overall, but it seemed like every carry he was productive.
BK: That's a good question. I think‑‑ I would say, generally speaking, there was only one run that I did not like, where he did not go north and south, bounced one out on the left side, and got the first down, but we want to keep it going north and south, and I thought he did that very well, saw the holes very well.
And we're looking for guys to go north and south and make people miss, and I think if you look at all his runs, he by and large did that. If you look at (junior running back) George (Atkinson’s) touchdown run, that was a heck of a run. That was a north and south run. He supplied the power to the power, all the things that we've been asking him to do.
So there were some good runs out there.
Q: How close with the injuries you have in the front seven of the defense, are you pushing that limit of the depth you have up there?
BK: We reached it and surpassed it. We're past it. We're‑‑ you know, I'm reminded of that scene in‑‑ I think it was Apollo (13), where there's a scene in the movie where they're having troubles in the capsule because there's CO2, and they have to figure out a way to bring that level of CO2 down.
I showed a clip of it. They throw all this stuff on the table to all of these guys in Mission Control, and they say, you guys have got to figure out with all this stuff here, how to get this done. That's what we did this week. We threw it all on the table, and we figured out how to get it done. That's why I'm proud of the guys.
We didn't complain about it. It's part of the game. Injuries happen. You've just got to find a way to get it done, and they did. We'll find a way to get it done. And that's my answer to the question is we've got a lot of moving parts here with guys playing different locales. We had Ben Councell with his hand on the ground. And (sophomore linebacker) Romeo Okwara playing a five-set deep for the first time. So we were figuring it out as we went.
Q: I know this is your favorite topic, but with (senior receiver) TJ (Jones) slipping, and other guys slipping and falling today. What was the condition of the field in your opinion?
BK: The conditions weren't great. I will say this, our field people work their butts off, though, to try to get it the best they could. This is a long‑‑ this is not a -- this is not the first day of this problem and the rain today. This is something that has been inherited in a large degree over a long period of time.
So it's a lot more of a complex problem than, you know, just a couple of years here. It's going to be resolved. It will be handled. (Director of Athletics) Jack Swarbrick will take care of it. It will be handled. It's not an easy fix. This is not just roll out some grass and tamp it down. So it will be something that will have to be worked on in the off‑season, looked at extensively, and we'll come up with a solution.