Kelly praises team’s effort against Army; says freshmen have come along
Renee Griffin | Tuesday, November 15, 2016
Irish head coach Brian Kelly had many positives to focus on in his Sunday teleconference following the 44-6 win against Army, which brought Notre Dame’s record to 4-6.
One particular point of emphasis was the defensive improvement the Irish have displayed in recent games, with the effort against the Black Knights the most clear example yet.
“First and foremost, a very detailed, organized plan, well-coached during the week of practice, a focus on the fundamentals, and in-game adjustments that have been followed through by the players,” Kelly said of what has helped the defense move from 103rd nationally to 39th. “So I think just a coordinated effort that has seen this defense get better and better.
“The utilization of some more of the freshmen [who] have really matured and have gotten better obviously later in the season, you know, they’ve gotten more and more playing time. But I think all of that has come together through really good preparation, great morale, and at the end of the day, kids executing the game plan.”
Playing the option offenses of Army and Navy allowed players with superior athleticism to see extra time on the field, namely junior defensive lineman Jonathan Bonner and freshman safety Julian Love, Kelly said.
Junior linebacker Greer Martini is another player who drew praise from Kelly.
“Greer is a very smart football player,” Kelly said. “He has a good sense for finding the football. But he’s a very disciplined player, which you have to have that trait when you’re playing option teams. You know, I think when you look at some of the traits that great players have, very disciplined players are going to find the football, and he does that quite well.”
Offensively, junior quarterback DeShone Kizer was the main force behind the decisive Irish victory, Kelly said, with help from the run game.
“I think obviously you start with the quarterback,” Kelly said. “I thought his leadership skills, his ability to make plays with his arm and his feet extended plays for us. I thought our running backs ran extremely hard. Any time you have 200 yards, your offensive line has to be doing some good things, and it’s always good to see your tight end catch a couple of touchdown passes.”
Next up for Notre Dame is Virginia Tech at home for senior day.
“Two of our seniors are student managers for us, Corey Robinson and Doug Randolph, that have been very helpful for us off the field, and then we have in this class a number of guys that have remaining eligibility,” Kelly said. “We don’t have a huge class that have used up all of their eligibility. It’s kind of an interesting class in that sense that we’re certainly going to be honoring them, but a number of these guys will have eligibility remaining if they choose to come back.”
The matchup with the Hokies is a necessary win for the Irish if they want to reach .500 and become bowl-eligible. Kelly said the team’s mentality is as strong and determined as ever as the season winds down.
“They know that obviously the season is one week at a time here now, and obviously two weeks is all that’s left in their regular season,” Kelly said. “So from that perspective, you know, everybody tends to ratchet it up and focus a lot more on the day-to-day, especially when you have 18- to 21-year olds. Anything that can stay right in front of them is always a positive.
“They’ve been really good at staying in the present all year, regardless of whether they’ve been up or down, so that’s not much of a concern for me. It’s really been about how they’ve played and their execution, and that’s getting better and better each week.”