Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly addressed the media after a 31-17 win over North Carolina.
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On the win over the Tar Heels:
“It was a really great win on the road against an outstanding opponent in North Carolina, a prolific offense. Our defense was outstanding, especially in the second half. One of those road wins that really shows the mettle of your football team.
“The defense was outstanding. I thought that in all phases, especially in the second half the way our defense played. And then our offense, running the ball, throwing the ball. Ian Book was outstanding. Kyren [Williams], Javon [McKinley]. Then defensively, Drew White was outstanding. Ade [Ogundeji] was relentless with the pressure.
“We’re playing without, arguably, our bellwether player in the back end in Kyle Hamilton. Our safety play was outstanding. [DJ] Brown and Houston Griffith were outstanding and certainly Shaun Crawford. A great victory on the road. It gets us to our ninth win and puts us in a great position to clinch an ACC berth in the championship game with one more win.”
On the play of backup players thurst into significant roles, including center Zeke Correll, right guard Josh Lugg and safety Houston Griffith:
“The most important thing today was the belief that we have in the guys that stepped in. We believe in Zeke. Here’s a kid that there’s just been waiting for his opportunity, a highly recruited player. We’ve got great trust in him. Same thing with Josh Lugg. Same thing with Houston Griffith when he stepped in for Kyle Hamilton. We believe in these guys, and we would love these guys and trust them. So they went out and they played at a high level.
“All of these things are important. But I think at the end of the day, is that when we went into the locker room and halftime at 17-17, I looked at that team and I said, ‘Now you got to understand we got to take this one play at a time. And this is going to be fighting for every blade of grass. But you guys are capable of doing this. Let’s go out and do it.’
“And they did it. This is on them. The players made the plays necessary for this game to turn out the way it did.”
On adjusting to North Carolina’s offense early in the game:
“Our game plan was outstanding. Look, having a little bit of the time off and then playing a prolific offense like North Carolina, it was a little bit — I gave the analogy to our staff — like coming out against the triple option. It was fast. We needed to acclimate a little bit. And once we did, we really liked our game plan.
“We thought that we had some things that they hadn’t seen before. We’re able to take away some of their glance reads off the RPO, which made it difficult for them in certain situations. And we were able to do it with moving our safeties around.
“So I thought that the plan was outstanding, and the players executed it extremely well. This was as well as our group played in the back end, even when Kyle went down, Houston, DJ, and Shaun played extremely well and assignment correct. Great communication. One of the huge things that we felt like we needed to get better at was the communication back there, and they did a great job.”
On containing one of the top offenses in college football:
“There’s a lot to be said about holding this offense to under 300 yards. That’s a pretty big accomplishment in terms of what they were able to do. Boy, they had two backs, and those backs are legit now. They are legit backs. Both of them averaged over 100 yards, and I think they had a combined 87 yards rushing today. That’s an outstanding defensive effort today. And then an offense that was very opportunistic and balanced with 280 yards passing and 200 yards rushing.”
On the play of fifth-year senior wide receiver Javon McKinley:
“We liked the matchups. The kids going to go up and get the football. But let’s not underestimate the precision on the sideline. He had two really key plays that he made tight roping the sideline. And then if you add a third where he just makes a play out of nothing. He can do a little bit of everything for us, whether it’s a drive route coming across the field, whether it’s down the field or timing routes on the sideline. We’ve got a guy that can do a lot for us.
“As that continues to grow, Ian Book is looking for a guy like that. It’s great to see Joe [Wilkins] come in and catch a really big throw for us on the sideline as well. So everybody’s contributing. Everybody’s got a piece of this. Everybody is excited about where we are.”
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