USC vs. Notre Dame: Postgame Quotes

    Nov. 29, 2014

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    USC vs. Notre Dame
    LA Memorial Coliseum | Los Angeles, Calif.
    Saturday, Nov. 29, 2014

    HEAD COACH Steve Sarkisian

    Opening Statement
    "I am happy for this guy [Hayes Pullard] and his class. Their last moment, their last game and moment in the Coliseum is something they will remember for a lifetime. What a memory to cherish. That is what this rivalry has meant for the last 88 years. We only get to be a part of it for a few years.

    For our team I keep singing the praises of our resiliency, our leadership, and our ability to get back up off the mat, get back on the horse and keep riding. They did it again. They keep showing me more and more stuff. I can think about games and trying to explain the last two minutes, and those are some gut-wrenching losses. I can think back to a week ago when we just didn't play our brand of football. You go back to next Monday, give them the message and they work their tails off. For them to come back and play the way they did today in all three phases that was just tremendous. The way we held them down defensively was amazing. For the most part, a really solid game against a good offense. Offensively I thought our tempo was good. We ran the ball much more effectively this week and Cody was on. He was throwing the ball to the right guys at the right time. When it wasn't there, he was able to extend some plays with his feet. On third downs, 13-of-18 is a tremendous number. It made for a great day and it was a fantastic way to close our regular season. We understand what we are capable of moving forward. Now we figure out which bowl game we will go to, prepare like crazy and try to get win number nine.

    On if this week's win was the byproduct of last week's loss...
    "I think there was a little bit. I think we know we didn't play very well a week ago. As I said last week, we know sometimes it's just not your day. Sometimes you don't play the way you are capable of playing. That is my job, to figure that out so it doesn't happen. For this game, I thought it really showed tonight. We had really hard, physical practices. We were excellent at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. I think it's a little to do with being pissed off from a week ago, but practicing well on Tuesday and Wednesday paid off."

    On what kind of a statement this game makes...
    "I think it gives us a chance to head into bowl prep with some confidence. Notre Dame is a really good ball team. They had some gut-wrenching losses like us. We knew this was two animals in the corner and one had to fight their way out. To play that well against that caliber of team, I think it sends a message to us, what we are capable of doing. We all came here to be champions, to be the best. We are capable of being that. It's a work in progress. There are a couple of gut-wrenching losses that will haunt us, but our future is ridiculously bright. We are going to be really good and we are not going anywhere. Performances like this show you want you are capable of. That is the standard that we are held too, what we need to strive for."

    On what improvements Sark made coming into this game...
    "I felt like we remained aggressively on offense. I was in tune with him [Cody Kessler] on offense. He knew what we were trying to get accomplished; I think we were very clear about that. He is the extension of us on offense. The game plan was very clear for everybody. Our players need to feel me, not just on gameday, but all week long. I wasn't happy last week and I wasn't happy with the way we played. Maybe I had a chip on my shoulder and that set the tone for practice. In my opinion, inevitably a team takes on the personality of its head coach, but it's a process. I hope it happens sooner than later. I think we are very close. We pride ourselves on overachieving. When you bring together a group of talented and competitive players then you've got something. Nothing has ever come easy to me, I have had to scratch and claw for everything and that is how I want my team to play."

    On the play of George Farmer...
    "George has been getting behind the coverage the last couple of weeks. Last week we had him, but we just couldn't give him the ball. George's comfort level in the system has really grown. He has played pretty steady the whole way through. He is a big, strong, physical guy that is a tough matchup because he can just go. He is a great compliment to Nelson [Agholor] and JuJu [Smith]."

    On George Farmer's resiliency....
    "No doubt. That is exactly what we want. We want guys that keep fighting, keep battling. Inevitably that is going to become the character of our team. Everything may not be perfect in the fourth quarter, but we just have to keep scratching, clawing and find a way to win. Once we figure that out, we will become a great team. Right now we are a good team. But when we find that piece of the puzzle, we will become great. I am excited for that journey."

    On if this is Cody's national debut...
    "At some point people are going to recognize him. He has thrown 36 touchdowns and gave up just four interceptions. Those are ridiculous numbers. At some point people will recognize it. We see the way he prepares and studies and fights, and this year it wasn't easy. It is not about that stuff. That stuff comes with a team that performs consistently at a high level. I know that is what he wants more than anything. At some point, you can't ignore it. That is what this guy is doing, playing at a very high level."

    On if after a performance like this if he ever thinks what could have been...
    "Sure, but that is all part of the self-analysis aspect of it. Just as I analyze after every game, I do the same as soon as the season is done. Quite honestly I have already started that. How we are going to fix some of the issues, sure, we are really, really close. Some of these defeats we have had are good for us. We will be better for it. Do I wish Hayes could have gone out playing in the Pac-12 Championship game? Sure I do. But some of those losses [ASU, Utah, UCLA], those are as valuable of lessons as today's win. We will learn from it. It will start January 12 when these guys come back to school. I do reflect on that stuff, I do think what-if, but there are some valuable lessons in those games that will help us in the years to come. We have to find the positive and build."

    Cody Kessler, Quarterback

    On if the looks that Notre Dame gave were consistent with what he saw on film...
    "Coach Sark and Coach Helton put together a really good game plan. They are hard on me in the game, it really comes down to executing the plays, and I think that is what happened this week. They gave us the exact looks we saw in practice."

    On improving each week...
    "I think I felt a lot more comfortable. I have seen everything, great games and bad games that helped me prepare for the future and made me more comfortable. Our offense is improving and when these guys are on the same page, we are capable of everything. The sky is the limit for this offense and this team."

    On the uptempo offense...
    "It was obvious today how tough it was for them to get lined up with the uptempo. I think it really played to our advantage today. On a personal note, I think we have done a really good job of rotating guys in and out. That is what is really cool about our depth, it really helps our offense."

    Hayes Pullard, Linebacker

    On blitzing more this week...
    "Most definitely. We learned from last week. Us linebackers, we weren't going for Hundley. This week, we needed to go help the d-line. Coach Wilcox had a good game plan for us. We have to actually go as linebackers. We did it today."

    On the emotion of Senior Day...
    "It was a great feeling. Everyone was saying, `We did it for you.' But I really felt like we did it for us as a team. We got to get that bad taste out of our mouths and we keep getting better. Like Coach Sark said, `This team has a bright future.'"

    On the Trojan Family...
    "This university has become family to me from the moment I stepped on campus. It's was just a bond that I will never forget. We don't just come to USC for four or five years, it lasts forever."

    POSTGAME QUOTES - Notre Dame
    USC vs. Notre Dame
    LA Memorial Coliseum | Los Angeles, Calif.
    Saturday, Nov. 29, 2014

    Brian Kelly, Notre Dame Head Coach

    On if there will be a QB change...
    "I anticipated that being the question and I don't have any answer for you. We tried to get a spark offensively and Malik (Zaire) gave us that spark. We had a couple drops on one drive and missed a field goal. I don't think we punted when he was in the game, so he did some good things. He made some mistakes, which is to be anticipated on it being his first time.

    "We knew we were shorthanded. We've lost a lot of players on defense over the last five weeks. It's been a difficult run for us, with key players on defense (hurt) and having to play so many freshmen. We just haven't been able to stop anybody and it's been a difficult run for us. We knew that it would be an uphill run when we lose as many key players and playing as many freshmen as we have on defense.

    "I thought we've played good on offense most of the year. Today, we thought we had some things early on that we didn't execute on. And that's why we made a change at the quarterback position. But we got down 21 and obviously made it an uphill run.

    On whether he'll open up QB job in bowl prep...
    "I really need some time before I make any decisions at quarterback. This is not just a quarterback situation. We can't lose sight of today. We have to remember where we are after today's loss. It's a red-letter day for our players and coaches alike. Two years ago we were playing for a national championship. Today we got our butts beat. And it wasn't as close as the score. I thought Coach (Sarkisian) was very generous today running the football to keep the score where it was. Having said that, we've got a lot of young players and I'm confident as to where they want to go. We expect to be back in the spot we were a couple years ago, but we're in a tough spot now.

    On USC QB Cody Kessler...
    "His efficiency is outstanding. He came in with 30 touchdowns and four interceptions. He's smart and he plays well within the offense they run. Today he threw six touchdown passes. On merit, 36 and 4, I think those numbers stand up with all the quarterbacks in the country.

    On today's effort...
    "They got punched in the nose today. You want to see a response too, right? They're young, but I want to see some bite, too. I want to see some bite. The bowl preparation, we're going to have to see a response. All jobs are available and we're going to have to see something from this group.

    "They're playing as hard as they can, but there's a deficiency there with personnel, particularly on defense. We made too many mistakes on offense, had some drops. Uncharacteristic. I was just praising our WR group this week and they come in and dropped way too many balls. I was disappointed in their play today from an offensive standpoint and we didn't get the kind of play from the quarterback early on that we needed on the road."

    "We loaded up against the run and were in man coverage all day. We knew it was pick your poison today and we just don't have a lot of answers in that situation."

    "This is not a program situation. This is personnel. We're talking about young guys growing up and maturing and starting to grow into their roles, defensively in particular. And we need to figure out the quarterback position.


    On if Malik Zaire brought a spark...
    "He came in with some energy to help the team. But everybody is giving it their all ... We know they had a good offense. Our offense had to show today and didn't and we came out with a loss."


    "They had some long drives and they were running the ball inside and we weren't stopping it. It was both pass and run game (that gave us trouble) ... It's tough when guys get hurt, almost at every position. I don't think it's an excuse, but it's tough.

    On the injuries on defense...
    "The biggest thing is it can turn into an excuse and then people can use it as a crutch. That's the biggest problem.

    What does team need to show over the next month...
    "I think our practices can go a step further. It's everything. Our team needs to take a step forward and it's a step we haven't taken yet."


    On USC's receiving corps...
    "Obviously they're good all around and have a lot of depth. They're fast receivers."

    On how he felt it went defending USC man-to-man,,,
    "Obviously we'll find stuff tomorrow on film. It's mostly technique. When you're 1-on-1, it's really technique. Besides that, I don't think we could've done anything better. We just played our game."

    On injuries in the secondary...
    "It's had a big impact on the season. But we have to move forward and people have to step up."


    On trying to provide a spark to the offense...
    "We came too far as a team to have a lack of energy. The only thing on my mind was how to provide the spark and that was my mindset going in. The guys around me kept it up as an offensive unit and we did what we could to lessen the gap and make it a game."

    Was he surprised at the change and does he think he'll get a chance at the job in bowl prep
    "My thing moving forward is to be as prepared as I can be for the guys around me, because that's who I play for. We have a great offensive unit and it's my job to be the distributor to get them to our great guys."

    "My only thing moving forward is whatever we could do to put points on the board. Whatever I could do to help the team, that's what I was trying to do. And playing with heart. That's what we were lacking a little bit in the beginning, but we definitely gained heart as we continued the game.

    "Everything in life is about getting an opportunity. When opportunity came, I didn't even look at it like this is make or break. I just wanted to go out and help the team."