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Kelly talks 52-0 shutout win over South Florida Bulls

| Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Notre Dame football head coach Brian Kelly took to Zoom again Monday to answer questions from the press about Saturday’s 52-0, shut out win over the South Florida Bulls, the outcome Kelly had been hoping for. As he said at half time, he was tired of being “the nice guy.”

“First of all, I didn’t know that that was going to go public. If I knew it was public I probably would have articulated it a little bit differently. But having said that, what I meant is, first of all we respect our opponents in everything that we do,” Kelly said. “So this this had nothing to do with not respecting our opponents. This had everything to do with us, in terms of how I wanted our team. We have a way of looking at four quarters of football. We didn’t start fast and we did in this game. But I wanted to make sure we finished strong. And so the comments were really about finishing strong and emphasizing that regardless of what the score was, I didn’t want any let up. I wanted our guys to have a mindset that we have to do so many things to get to Saturday. It’s really hard with all that’s going on that I didn’t want our guys to get distracted at any time. I wanted them to stay locked in, stay focused and get after it for four quarters. Again, great respect for our opponent regardless of who it was, I could have said that against team. It was centered squarely on how I wanted our team to perform and finish what we started.”

Allison Thornton | The Observer
Irish senior linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah during Notre Dame’s 35-20 victory over Virginia on Sept. 28 at Notre Dame Stadium. Owusu-Koramoah led the team in tackles in the game with seven total.

The Irish did not let their foot off the gas in the second half against the Bulls.

“You have seen a lot of two tight end sets, you’ve seen three tight end sets,” Kelly said. “We’re deep there at that position. We want to be a team that’s physical, that utilizes our tight ends as part of our weapons we can be in spread as well.”

Although the game has since been postponed, Coach Kelly also discussed how the team has prepared for Wake Forest.

“[We’re] certainly excited about our win last weekend,” Kelly said. “Now we get back to ACC play and a team that we’re familiar with in Wake Forest.”

He went on to praise head coach Dave Clawson and the consistently winning program he has put together over the years, having been to four consecutive bowl games.

“Their kids know how to win,” Kelly said. “And he’s got some dynamic players. He’s got a first-round draft pick in [redshirt senior defensive lineman] Carlos Basham [Jr]. He’s going to be a guy that we’re going have to game plan for and we always know about their prolific offense and really really impressed with [sophomore quarterback] Sam Hartman. I mean, he’s a guy that we saw a little bit of a couple years ago and he got injured and [redshirt junior quarterback Jamie] Newman came in and took over for him but he’s a very talented quarterback. He’s got arm talent. He’s got the host of receivers that can, as they always have at Wake Forest, a very very good passing game, and a breakaway back.

“You know I think [sophomore running back Kenneth] Walker [III] is an outstanding back he showed that against North Carolina State in particular. And [redshirt junior Christian] Biel-Smith is a one-two punch, so talented in the backfield. … Wide receivers that always even though they had one of their top guys not play this year, in [Sage] Surratt, they still continue to line up very talented players. Three starters back on the offensive line and then again, as I mentioned, veterans, on the defensive side of the ball. I know they’re probably not happy with with giving up the points they gave up but this is a defense that has a lot of experience playing a lot of ACC games.”

Kelly then broke down how some of Notre Dame’s talent will factor into their game against the Demon Deacons, beginning with graduate student quarterback Ian Book — who will be facing the team against whom he had his first start — for the first time since then.

“Like any quarterback, he’s got the battle scars, plus the success, you know, 22-3, I believe, as a starter,” Kelly said. “That’s pretty good resume. If we knew that, we should’ve probably put him in sooner. He’s had a great run since going in there, so where has he grown — obviously leadership, knowledge of the offense. You just can’t duplicate experience, so I think just all those games that he’s played led us to victories and — from our standpoint — just that consistent leadership and consistent winning when you’re 22-3.”

Experience is key to senior defensive lineman Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa and graduate student wide reciever Javon McKinley as well, Kelly said.

“It’s the natural development of a guy that not only has the physical tools but awareness,” Kelly said. “[Tagovailoa-Amosa is] a guy that you can’t throw a screen against because he recognizes that certainly his athleticism shows itself, but recognition of blocking schemes. Just that awareness that you get with experience so again I think we’re talking in terms of guys that are now playing a lot of football, that going into this year now Myron has a great sense of what they’re trying to do to him, and he can defeat blocking schemes, whether it’s a run game or savvy enough to understand whether it’s a screen or drop back pass, he’s got a complete game.”

This experience comes in handy with their leadership, too, Kelly said.

“When you have a guy that’s been around as a fifth year that is setting that kind of standard and model it rubs off on all the other guys,” Kelly said. “So, you know, [McKinley is] influencing [freshman wide receivers] Jordan [Johnson] and Xavier [Watts] and setting a great example, and we just got to continue to do that with everybody, and then we got to continue to get him involved in the offense as well.”

Junior wide receiver Braden Lenzy is back in action, and Kelly said the offense gains vertical stretch and speed with him on the field.

“He’s still a guy that you have to respect because we’ve seen what he can do with that kind of speed,” Kelly said. “He’s going to have to continue to stay on the field, stay healthy so he can build that consistency with Ian [Book] in terms of … running routes and being part of our offense, but he’s getting healthy. I think this will be a great week for him to kind of continue to build on that relationship with Ian.”

Regarding the difficulty of gaining experience without having the experience needed to play, Kelly discussed how the Irish have adopted a “next-man-in” mentality and utilized it throughout the off-season up until now.

“You come here with an expectation to play,” Kelly said. “So, first and foremost is that our players come here with the expectation that they’re going to come here and compete, and so we make certain that all of our players are prepared so offseason, weight room, conditioning … we’re making sure that all those guys are understanding that their number might be called. We hold the standard and develop a standard that requires all those players to be alert and be ready. There’s no coasting — you don’t take the year off and just kind of, say, ‘Well, I’m not gonna play.’ We keep everybody alert and … the new rule going in last year really helped a lot. Quite frankly, when they got four games to play without losing eligibility — and certainly this year where they don’t lose any eligibility — it’s kept everybody sharp and alert, so those two things are really working for you this year, as well where these guys are really engaged and know that they can be called upon at any time.”

This past weekend, for example, sophomore cornerback Cam Hart had 44 snaps at corner while graduate transfer cornerback Nick McCloud had 14.

“We wanted Cam to get as many reps — he needs a lot of work out there,” Kelly said. “This was a great opportunity for him to get that kind of work. He’s coming off for shoulder surgery last year, didn’t have spring ball. This was a great opportunity for him to get those reps in, and Nick … had been getting a lot of work. So it was a great opportunity to kind of dial him back a little bit.”

Sophomore linebacker Jack Kiser also saw success this weekend.

“He’s gonna Wally-Pipp guys on offense, as far as I’m concerned,” Kelly said. “It was fun to watch him. He’s a good player. We’ve got a lot of good players that  when given the opportunity will Wally-Pipp you … and that’s a great thing — it’s a tribute to him and being prepared. His preparation is outstanding. But we’ve got some other guys like that, too. … You look at [freshman defensive lineman] Alex Ehrensberger when he gets in there, he was playing nose guard all week on the scout team. And he gets in their defensive end and runs a great stunt, technically sound. We’ve got some guys that have been very impressive really locked in and happy for for Jack [Kiser], and there’ll be other guys. They’ll get their opportunity, too, and they’ll shine.”

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About Mannion McGinley

Mannion McGinley is an American Studies and Sociology major with a Journalism minor in Notre Dame's class of 2023. She is a member of the Glynn Family Honors program and currently serves as an Assistant Managing Editor at The Observer.

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