The following is a complete transcript of Matt Campbell and Brian Kelly’s press conference on Friday, Dec. 27, prior to their teams matching up in the Camping World Bowl on Saturday courtesy of the folks in the Camping World Bowl’s media relations department.
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by both of our head coaches. We’ll get started with an opening statement from each and then take questions. We’ll begin with Coach Campbell, whenever you’re ready.
COACH CAMPBELL: Yeah. Really simple from my end. This has been a phenomenal week. I just want to thank the bowl, everybody in charge with it, and also all the volunteers, for their time [and] their effort with our football program and our team. We’ve had an incredible week. Obviously, we play a tremendous opponent, have the utmost respect for Coach Kelly, what he’s done and certainly the University of Notre Dame. So with that said, I’ll turn it over to Coach.
COACH KELLY: Thanks, Matt. Same here.
Been a great week for our football team to come down to Orlando. Florida Citrus Sports, the Camping World [Bowl] couldn’t have been better in terms of the events for our kids to be a part of. Obviously, the volunteers that put this together give our kids an opportunity to be part of the community and, obviously, the opportunity to prepare to play a great Iowa State football team.
Matt’s done an incredible job of putting a football team together that many people don’t know how good this football team is, but I can tell you, [with] my 30 years of coaching football, I know how good it is. It’s going to be a great football game. We look forward to the challenge and should be exciting for everybody to watch.
Q. Really kind of a question for both of you guys but we’ll start with you, Coach Kelly. You mentioned how good this team is when you look at it. When you go through all the preparation and all that, what was the first thing that kind of jumped off the screen when you were looking at the film?
COACH KELLY: Well, I think when you look at it offensively, the size of tight ends creates match-up problems. Purdy as a quarterback is such a great competitor. You know, obviously the freshman running back has gotten better and better. I just think the balance on the offensive side of the ball, they have been able to score lots of points against really good football teams. And then defensively, they create problems because of the uniqueness of the scheme. You’re not really sure exactly what it is at times. And maybe that’s part of the whole thing, because they do such a really good job of, you know, creating a different look against different teams but a unique structure defensively.
But I think what I think when you talk about Iowa State, it’s a team that plays hard for four quarters. And, you know, you can see some teams on film that, you know, in the second half, they start to wear down. This football team plays stronger in the second half.
Q. Notre Dame obviously a prestigious program. What jumps off the film when you look at this year’s version of it?
COACH CAMPBELL: I think watching Coach Kelly’s teams, no matter where he’s been, I think they’ve always had a very common denominator, and that’s great fundamentals, great detail. And then you look at this year’s Notre Dame team and the size, you know, defensively, the size and discipline across the board, the ability to create turnovers with that defensive front and the ability to, you know, have length in the secondary to be able to close the passing windows is really impressive on the offensive side of it. Again, the size of the offensive lines, the wide receivers, the tight ends, certainly I think the great understanding of the offense at the quarterback position and the detail that he plays with and the ability to make things happen with not only his feet but his arm. It’s really impressive.
So I think all those things combined and then you throw in special teams, it’s just a really well coached football team that never beats itself.
Q. Matt, this question is for you. What do you see when you look at a guy like Ian Book?
COACH CAMPBELL: Playing some really great quarterbacks over our time in the Big 12, I think great quarterbacks have a unique trait to own the offense. And one of the things I think Ian does such a great job of is you always see him put their offense in a really good position. And whether it’s the ability to use his feet to make something happen when a play breaks down, he seems to always know when where the football’s going and he’s decisive. And I think great quarterbacks own the offense and that’s what I see from him. It’s been really impressive to watch him play. And, again, you’re talking about a young man that’s just continued to grow in that role at the quarterback position but it’s been real fun to watch him.
Q. Coach Kelly, when you look at Iowa State’s record, 7-5, is that a bit deceiving maybe to those outside of your walls when they look at this match-up?
COACH KELLY: Yeah. I think nationally they haven’t certainly gotten the credit that they deserve, but I think those that watch football and understand the game know this is a team that has a number of traits that you don’t put down on paper.
As I mentioned, they play physical for four quarters. They play with confidence. They play with a belief that they’re going to find a way to win, and they play with a little bit of a chip on their shoulder. And maybe that’s because of the conference that they’re in, that they don’t feel like at times they get the kind of notoriety that that they deserve. But you can just see the way they play with the disdain of, ‘We don’t care what you think about us.’ And I think they’re back in that same position. That’s why it’s a very difficult team to play because they play so hard with that kind of demeanor.
So their traits really trump talent in that sense and make for a very dangerous football team week in and week out.
Q. Coach Campbell, what has impressed you about Zach Petersen’s play for your football team this season?
COACH CAMPBELL: Yeah, Zach was put in a tough situation with JaQuan Bailey going down early in the football season, an all-conference football player.
But I think one of the things that’s been really neat about Zach’s growth is, he’s been such a great role model for the young kids in our program. Zach is a true freshman last year, played some critical roles on special teams, and I think that gave him great confidence to go into his sophomore year and just continue to develop and grow in our program. I think that confidence allowed him to be really confident when his number got called to step into now a No. 1 role on our defense and to be able to go and play with great confidence. And so, you know, he stepped in in a really phenomenal way. There’s times I’ve said Zach’s played as good as anybody on our defense throughout the year. And I think his consistency, his discipline, his toughness, those are the traits that we want in a young man that plays in our football program and Zach’s done a great job of displaying those traits week in and week out for us.
Q. Coach Kelly, what is the challenges does your defense face when taking on a team like Iowa State with Brock Purdy, quarterback?
COACH KELLY: Well, certainly a prolific passing offense is No. 1. Match-up problems at the tight end position create opportunities for them. You know, Brock’s ability to keep plays alive, that’s part of what they do offensively. Very comprehensive passing game and a very good offensive structure in terms of what they do and how they want to do it. They’ll find ways to run the football effectively when they need to. And, you know, again, when you really look at them offensively, I think the ability to feature the tight ends within their offense, the running game, and a quarterback that just has a special ‘it’ to him. And I think that anytime you have a quarterback that obviously can see the field really well, has escapability, arm talent, they’re difficult to defend.
Q. Coach, you’ve defeated highly ranked Oklahoma, West Virginia, TCU, what would it mean to you, your program, and your players to add Notre Dame to that list?
COACH CAMPBELL: Yeah, I think what we’ve tried to do is just look at every team as its own entity. This has been a phenomenal process for us in building this Iowa State football program. It’s kind of been a process from the ground up and we’ve really taken every opportunity one day at a time and really one game at a time.
And I think the biggest thing for this year’s football team in 2019 is this has been a really interesting mix of football players. It’s got a veteran-ness of 20 seniors who have been through a lot in our program. They went through a coaching staff change and kind of stayed the course with us. And yet it’s also got a mix of some really young players and some guys that have just continued to grow as this season’s gone.
And I think more than anything is the opportunity to finish the football season playing our best football. And that’s always been our goal, just to be able to play our best football for four quarters. And, you know, we haven’t done that yet this year, but I think to get another opportunity to do that and obviously to play an incredible program and obviously an incredible football team like Notre Dame, I think that’s big for us.
Q. Do you look as an opportunity look at games like this as an opportunity to gain respect? Do you want your team looking at these types of match-ups in that way?
COACH CAMPBELL: I think anytime we step on the field, we want, especially at Iowa State, as we’ve continued to build this program, to be able to continue to earn the right to play great football. And people look at our football team and say, ‘Boy, that’s a football team and a football program,’ that our kids play hard and they do it the right way. And so really, outside of our walls, we really try to understand the value of doing things the right way inside of our walls and really worry about that more than anything else.
Q. What has this senior class meant for each of these teams going into this year? Matt, you just kind of hit on it briefly there, but just dive into it a little bit more and being the final game in school colors?
COACH CAMPBELL: For this senior class for us, like I said, it’s a really unique group and a big chunk of this group is a group that stayed the course with us through a coaching change, a small group of young man that kind of joined us three years ago with, you know, Ray Lima, Matt Leo, and those guys, and then you’ve also got a couple grad transfers in there. But, you know, I think one of the neat things about this group is, they’ve given us this unbelievable and uncanny ability to have this great unselfishness about themselves and to leave this program in a better place. And when they walk out of that locker room tomorrow I think they can look themselves in the mirror and say, ‘Boy, we’ve made an impact here and we’ve left this place better than we found it,’ and I think they’ve given us some great lessons to grow off of and so for that I’m deeply indebted to them.
COACH KELLY: I would say consistency in our process. Three years of ten-plus wins, [it’s] very difficult to continue that process year in and year out as you kind of go through the program. So anytime that you have a group of seniors that have stuck together, that have, you know, listened to the message and have come back the next year and have doubled down again on your process and have stuck with it, and then have brought others with them, that’s really the key ingredient here. They have brought others with them to the point now where your program is in a position where they have touched all the others in the program of how to do things the right way on a consistent basis.
THE MODERATOR: I’ll ask from the podium if there’s anything for either of you that has stood out about this week in Orlando, whether for you personally or staff or the players, anything that’s notable for you.
COACH CAMPBELL: The weather. You know, in Iowa, we don’t get this weather usually in December. So I think for us it’s just been great for, obviously, our players, our families, our coaches’ families. You know, the kindness of the people here. Certainly the weather. Obviously, the ability to get out and see a lot of great things that we normally wouldn’t get the opportunity to do. It’s certainly been great for our university.
COACH KELLY: Yeah. I would say the same thing. You know, bowl games sometimes get, you know, pushed into a group of bowl games. But this one, you know, you can single it out because Matt and I have gotten a chance to meet like for the first time yesterday.
So there haven’t been a little of events where we’re pulled away from it in the bowl. It’s been really focused on the players and giving them an opportunity to enjoy it while we continue to work and develop in our football teams. So that blend I think is great that the Camping World Bowl has put that together where we can continue to be with our staff and our families, continue to build our football team and let the players enjoy the bowl. So I think the bowl has done a great job. It’s hit the right note in putting this bowl together and I have been to a lot of them, most of the New Year’s six bowls, and I think this one stands out in terms of the way it’s organized. Very well done.
Q. Brian, 24 hours away till kick. What’s the mindset of your team right now?
COACH KELLY: Well, I think they’ve started to get into their normal game kind of mode, mentality. You know, you have to switch from practice and being, as I just mentioned, you know, in Orlando and Disney and Universal Studios and all the sunshine. You have to flip that switch and get into a competitive mindset. So our guys have quieted down. They’re much more present in the moment as they get ready to play a great opponent in Iowa State. So you could see that as they’re walking around the hotel. There’s much more of a purposefulness in terms of how they’re handling themselves. They’ve got their AirPods or their iPhones or they’ve got a sense that we’re getting close to kickoff and you’ve got to get into the right mind set.
Q. Notre Dame has played almost every single Power Five team. I think there’s only eight left that Notre Dame hasn’t played and Iowa State is one of them. Is that something exciting to you to play against another team that Notre Dame has never ever played against before for the first time?
COACH KELLY: I’d rather play Coe College. No disrespect to Coe. I’m going to get a ton of Coe grads that are going to beat me up on this one.
My point being is Iowa State is not necessarily on the list of teams that you want to play for the first time. Look, as an independent, you’re going to go through the schedule and you’re going to play the teams across the country and in every conference. Next year, it’ll be even more of that as we continue to do that. But I think that’s the great thing of being an independent, you get an opportunity to play an Iowa State and get a chance to meet Matt and, you know, obviously, a great young coach that is doing incredible things.
So this is kind of the attractiveness, if you will, of being an independent football team where you get a chance to play these kinds of games.