I listened to the replay of Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly's weekly press conference leading up to Saturday's matchup with Stanford this afternoon, and I couldn't help but feel a little bored. The great western philosopher, Rasheed Wallace, once posited that "Ball don't lie," and in the case of Kelly's Irish squad, "Tape don't lie." Even the casual observer could see where Notre Dame excelled and where they stumbled versus Syracuse in MetLife Stadium. Notre Dame won without playing all that well and survived critical mistakes that would have sunk past Irish teams. As was pointed out, winning when you turn the ball over like that is remarkable.
Salute to @NDFootball: How hard is it to go minus-4 in TO margin & win? Over last 2 seasons, vs. Power 5 teams, minus-4 teams went 1-28.— Ivan Maisel (@Ivan_Maisel) September 28, 2014
So if you came here looking for emotion and intrigue, you've come to the wrong place. Perhaps you'd prefer some drama and controversy? Maybe a little late night press-releasing? If so, I'm sorry, but you'll have to move along. Irish fans should embrace the sweet vanilla goodness of sitting at 4-0 one-third of the way through the 2014 season. There were no bombshells to drop or controversies to wiggle out of. We know what we've seen so far, and we know the task ahead.
As was noted in E's game review, Brian Kelly is in the ideal coaching position. His team has upside, and while he'd love to see them playing their very best football, they're filling film rooms with plenty of tape on what not to do. He's got a Sunday buffet worth of teaching moments to refer to in every phase of the game, yet his young squad has found a way to knock out four consecutive wins, three of which came against "Power 5" schools.
However, in many ways, the season starts on Saturday when the Stanford Cardinal and their fan arrive in South Bend. Brian Kelly's opening this week wasn't the typical Holtz-ing of the opponent. Stanford comes in with the nation's best scoring defense and pass defense. They bring an experienced QB and dangerous skill players. As Kelly noted, his team will have to play much better and clean up the mistakes to make it out of this weekend 5-0.
In his 40+ minutes of time Tuesday afternoon, the Irish head coach spent most of that time confirming what we already know and expected...
- Nothing has changed for the Marooned Five. Kelly was quick, and wise, to avoid details on the process. Even if this week results in a quick and complete acquittal from wrongdoing, it will be difficult to get the guys involved for this game. How quickly they can learn the game plan will drive how quickly they'll get on the field.
- Notre Dame QB, Everett Golson, was named the FBS Independent Offensive Player of the Week for his performance vs. Syracuse, but thankfully, Kelly observed that Golson's body language and film study suggest to him that Everett is eager to go out and improve his play.
- While we're having a lot of fun at a certain other school's expense, the issue of head injuries is no laughing matter. Kelly spent a good portion of his time Tuesday addressing the Irish protocol for injuries. There are spotters from the training staff that specifically watch the game looking for possible injuries. When one is spotted, there are specific assessment protocols that kick in to action. The Michigan controversy is causing the Irish to review their procedures, but as an Irish fan, Kelly's explanation of the processes left me feeling confident that athletic trainer Rob Hunt, the medical staff, and Notre Dame's coaches take player safety as a primary concern and communicate effectively in gamely situations.
- Kelly heaped justifiable praise on Sheldon Day's performance. He specifically noted Day's performance and effort late in the game as "the sign of a potentially great player."
- On the injury front, Amir Carlisle is all the way back in practice Tuesday and barring a setback, should contribute Saturday. Austin Collinsworth is moving along and "could help this weekend" at the safety position. Jarrett Grace remains day-to-day and "waiting for a breakthrough."
- When asked about the improvement of his record at home dramatically improving over the last few years vs. his first few, Kelly answered that he's getting more comfortable with everything that goes in to game week at Notre Dame. While he attributes it to better planning and management, I think many of us would point out that having a damn good team helps too.
- This week's moment of levity was provided in Kelly's response to a question regarding the personal foul flagged on Romeo Okwara in New Jersey. Possibly opening himself up to defending his use of wet towels, the Irish head coach had a little fun with what appeared to be a pretty bogus call.
FIDM Video (transcript here)