Transcript: Brian Kelly Talks Iowa State/Camping World Bowl
Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly was part of a Camping World Bowl teleconference after it was announced his team would face Iowa State in that bowl.
Below is a transcript of Kelly’s remarks, followed by the Q&A with the Irish head coach.
BRIAN KELLY: “On behalf of our football program, all of our staff and players, Jack Swarbrick, our athletic director, Father John Jenkins, we're excited to be part of the Camping World Bowl. It's run by Florida Citrus Sports. We're aware of how well it has been run. Steve Hogan, we're very familiar being there in '18 at the Citrus Bowl.
“Our players are excited. Our university is excited. We got a great matchup with a very, very good football team in Iowa State. [Head coach] Matt Campbell has done an incredible job. The football team he has this year is a record-setting football team. I think they lost four games by maybe one point.
“It will be a great challenge for our football team. It will be exciting. I know they travel well. We travel well. It will be a great kickoff to the College Football Playoff with the first game on.
“Again, very excited about this opportunity. Our guys are looking forward to playing.”
Q: How do you look at a bowl game like this where it's not a Playoff game? Is this a stepping stone to 2020 or just a good finish to 2019, or a little bit of both?
KELLY: “It's just like the last five games we've played: it's about a standard of play, it's about an opportunity where a lot of these guys will be playing for their last game with this team. They want to play well. They want to play for each other. They want to continue to play at a high level.
“It's really not about a lot of those different narratives other than these are 18- to 21-year-olds that are really focused on preparing and wanting to play well, enjoying being with their teammates for the last time this year, and not to make it much more complicated than that.
“They've done a really good job of avoiding a lot of the different scenarios that are set up about how they should think. They really think about preparing for the game, then going out and playing to a standard, enjoying it.
“They've been great this whole time waiting to hear who they're playing. Now they're just excited about this opportunity, about playing one last game.”
Q: Coach Kelly, talk about winning 11 games in a season, what does that mean for you? Last year you had a hard time in the Cotton Bowl, a tough game. Winning 11 games in the program, what does that mean for Notre Dame?
KELLY: “I think it's like anything else, you want to finish on a win. I don't know if 11 has any magical number to it other than the consistency of performance for our players. We've won 10 or more games over the last three years. We want to just continue that, as I mentioned earlier, standard of play.
“Again, 11 wins is certainly an outstanding football season. We want to finish on a great note. But we won't be defined by any one game in particular.
“Again, I think more than anything else, it's getting one more chance for these guys to play with their brothers and enjoy the game, enjoy the opportunity to be in Orlando, part of the Camping World Bowl.”
Q: Iowa State, what do you see getting ready for that team? You haven't played a Big 12 team in a very long time. What is the difference between a Big 12 school and an SEC school?
KELLY: “They're all good. Obviously, the reputation is well-earned. This is a really good football team that could easily be 11-1. They've got an outstanding quarterback in Brock Purdy. I haven't watched them on film. We don't have any crossover games with them. We played Oklahoma obviously in the Big 12, so we have a great understanding of the caliber of football that they play week in and week out.
“Explosive on offense. I think they set a school record for points and touchdowns and total offense this year. We know what we're getting. Explosive offenses in the Big 12, really solid defensively, physical football team, well-coached. Matt Campbell is an outstanding football coach.
“Yeah, it's going to be a good football team we're playing.”
Q: An update personnel-wise. You had some injuries with Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa and Aaron Banks. Everyone physically cleared to go for the bowl game? Have you heard from any players about not playing the bowl game?
KELLY: “The two that you mentioned are cleared to play. They've been with our football team conditioning. We'll begin on Saturday our practice format. It's kind of an interesting schedule we have to put together because we start our reading days on Saturday, and exams next week. We'll kind of work around it. Those guys are cleared.
“Nobody has come to me. We had our first team meeting today. We were out on the road recruiting. Strength staff had the team last week. So I haven't gotten a chance to sit down with anybody. But generally I would get some kind of sense whether somebody...
“We have a history and tradition here. The nine bowl games that I've been part of, everybody plays. If something changes, I'm certain we'll deal with it and they'll let us know.”
Q: Your last trip down, special game against LSU, really seemed to catapult your team to a special season last year. Talk about how a game like this can do that for a program.
KELLY: “Well, I think it builds obviously a lot of momentum going into your off-season when you're able to win a bowl game. Certainly doing it against quality opposition. Certainly LSU was a good football team.
“I think when individuals have really good performances, it does that, as well. Ian Book, Miles Boykin, obviously teamed up in that game to have big performances.
“I just think it catapults you into your off-season training, conditioning. It builds a great deal of confidence as you get ready for the next season.
“Yeah, no doubt there's some momentum there that you build off of it.”
Q: You mentioned Iowa State's passing offense being very prolific. Your passing defense has been very good this season. Why would you say your defense has had so much success defending the pass?
KELLY: “There's many components to that. I think we forced the ball out of the quarterback's hands very well. Our pass rush has been very consistent. I think when you look at those things, they have many components.
“The second component is the way that we're structured defensively. We're a top-down defense in that we're going to keep the ball in front of us. I think we do a pretty good job with our safeties, making sure that they're staying over the top.
“I think we do a really good job of tackling. Tackling is important. Limiting those yards after catches, I think we've been really, really good at that.
“Look, there are going to be opportunities to make some catches. You're going to get your catches. I think we've gotten the ball out of the quarterback's hands quickly. I think we've done a great job of eliminating the big play down the field. I think we get you down on the ground and tackle really well when you do complete the football.”
Q: The running game has had good and bad moments. Trying to find some consistency with that, do you think extra time off in bowl preparation allows for maybe the running game to figure itself out, Jafar to be fully healthy and contribute more than he has?
KELLY: “I think we saw glimpses of that explosiveness against Stanford. Jafar is feeling better. He's feeling stronger. He certainly will help us as we continue to work towards getting better.
“Remember, we have two very good offensive linemen that have been out for most of the year. We're still in the middle of the pack in the country. We're probably doing as well as we can, given the circumstances.
“We ran the ball when we wanted to run the ball this year. That's a big deal. When we needed to run clocks out, when we needed to run the football, we ran it when we wanted to. That's the mark of a good running game.
“Do we want to be more consistent? Absolutely. Do we want to have bigger opportunities in the running game with explosive plays? We certainly do.
“But some of that was an injury to one back that we thought would be a little bit more explosive, and he looked a little bit better against Stanford. So I think those things are coming together for us.”
Q: How familiar are you with (Iowa State defensive coordinator) Jon Heacock, his defensive structures? I believe that was somebody you evaluated when you made the shift to Mike Elko a few years ago?
KELLY: “I know Jon very well. Outstanding football coach. Great background. Very successful. Yeah, very much aware of the system and structure that he wants to run defensively. Does a great job. He's been very consistent with the kind of defensive philosophy. He can play three down, four down, drop eight. He's got a little bit of everything defensively that he can employ.
“He does a great job of utilizing the personnel. If he loses a lot of guys, he can come back the next year with young players and keep the scheme simple. He's a really good football coach. Well aware of the success he's had.”
Q: In terms of maybe getting more work for younger guys through practices, are there any individuals in particular thinking, How do you attack these practices in December when we're going to be giving you more reps and scrimmage opportunities?
KELLY: “Yeah, I just think from our perspective, the young receivers need to continue to get some work. I think when you're talking about our defensive backs, some of the young defensive backs, guys that have not played a lot, continue to get work for them.
“You're looking at in particular the position areas where there's going to be younger players needed to step in next year. We'll craft and articulate areas where, for example, a senior won't play his position but we'll put a young guy in that position and see how he handles himself with some other veterans around him.
“That's kind of how we like to go about it. We don't want to put a whole bunch of young guys in there right away. We'll have a day where Chase Claypool is not playing, but maybe Kevin Austin is in there with Chris Finke and Braden Lenzy. Or we'll have one of the younger freshmen D-linemen in there. That's kind of how we like to put them out there to evaluate where they are in the program.”
Q: Just because you brought his name up, is Kevin Austin available to play in this game?
KELLY: “No, he's not available to play.”
Q: Traditionally you've had this past week off waiting for your bowl game announcement. Was it different this year compared to last year?
KELLY: “No, no change really. We were on the road recruiting as well. It was weight training. It was conditioning. It was the same format. The only difference here is there's obviously a little bit more of a break. Our guys won't get that break. They'll go right to the bowl site.”