Kelly praises corners after shutout
Isaac Lorton | Monday, September 8, 2014
Coach points to turnovers, career days from receivers and special teams led by Brindza as keys to victory
After challenging the secondary in last week’s post-game teleconference, Irish coach Brian Kelly addressed Notre Dame’s corner play, the receivers and special teams in Notre Dame’s 31-0 victory over Michigan on Saturday in Sunday afternoon’s teleconference.With three interceptions and one forced-fumble recovery, the Irish shut out a dynamic Michigan offense, which included a mobile quarterback in graduate student Devin Gardner, a matchup problem in junior receiver Devin Funchess and a trio of powerful rushers. Michigan had not been shut out in 365 games over 30 seasons, dating back to a 26-0 loss to Iowa on Oct. 20, 1984, an NCAA record. Kelly pointed to the four turnovers as the main ingredients for the victory, despite the Wolverines out-gaining the Irish, 289-280, in total yards.
“Well, obviously there’s turnovers that play a huge part in it,” Kelly said. “Turnovers obviously have a major influence in how games are won and lost at all levels.”
Graduate student cornerback Cody Riggs highlighted the corners’ play, with one of the three interceptions in the fourth quarter. Kelly said he was pleased with how well the corners, Riggs and sophomore Cole Luke, performed against Michigan.
“Except for the one long pass, I thought we played much tighter coverage,” Kelly said. “We’re starting to break on the ball with the kind of eye control and discipline we’re looking for. I thought we had a shot at [an interception] in the fourth quarter with Cole Luke. If he triggers a little bit quicker, we get another one.”
The play of the cornerbacks allowed for the safeties, junior Elijah Shumate and sophomore Max Redfield, to each collect a pick as well in the second half.
“… We’re getting that much more aggressive kind of corner play that also allows us to play over the top, as well,” Kelly said. “I think it’s evolving and getting better each week.”
Senior quarterback Everett Golson had a myriad of receivers to target Saturday, passing for 226 yards to seven different receivers. Kelly said after the game senior Amir Carlisle had a “statement” game, in which he had 61 receiving yards and caught the first two touchdowns of his Irish career. Sophomore receiver Will Fuller led the Irish with 89 receiving yards and had one touchdown. Kelly said one of Fuller’s biggest contributions was his catch on a fourth-and-three slant route, to keep the Irish alive on a drive in the second quarter, which resulted in a 14-0 lead.
“We really like[d] that matchup on the outside,” Kelly said. “As you could tell, we kept going back to it. We think that the emergence of Will has been in that he’s using his hands. … I think where he’s made great progress since the spring is his ability to flash his hands and really aggressively go get the football. Once he started to do that … we felt a lot more comfortable being able to take advantage of those short matchups, as well. People are going to play off him, so he’s going to get some of those quick game slants because of his outstanding vertical speed.”
In the post-game conference, Fuller commented that when the Michigan defense played press coverage he saw that as a sign of disrespect to the Irish wide receivers. Kelly said that attitude should be an inherent trait in receivers.
“I think all wide receivers need to have that kind of demeanor when it comes to press coverage and man-to-man coverage,” Kelly said. “We’ve … taught these kids from day one when we installed this offense, if they’re going to take away the run, we’re going to throw the ball as many times as we have to win football games, and you have to win. That’s the demeanor we want from our wide receivers. If we call your number, you got to go get the ball … we expect you to make a play. … They’ve got to have that edge to them when it comes to man-to-man coverage.”Special Teams
One of Kelly’s three keys to winning the game on Saturday was average field position.
“Starting field position has a huge play in [the victory],” Kelly said. “That’s your special teams. They play a large role in wins and losses.”
Kelly said the Irish controlled field position so much in part due to senior punter and kicker Kyle Brindza and the punt team’s outstanding coverage. Brindza had four fair catches called on his six punts and two were placed inside the 20-yard line, while only one of Brindza’s six kickoffs was returned, for a gain of 16 yards.
“Yeah, [Brindza’s] been obviously really big in flipping the field position,” Kelly said. “His hang time has been obviously the biggest piece of his punt game. Obviously the kickoffs, I think he’s only had a couple returned this year.What else can you say about him? He does everything for us. We’re getting the great effort that we need on all [special teams] units.”