Following a weekend few Irish fans will soon forget — in which the Notre Dame Fighting Irish obliterated a preseason title contender in the University of Southern California Trojans — Brian Kelly once again fielded questions for his weekly press conference. Let’s jump right into what he said:
A Mindset Set on Domination
Many of us Notre Dame fans felt that the Irish were the better of the two teams heading into Saturday’s annual matchup. There was a nervousness heading into the game, of course, because Brian Kelly and the Fighting Irish had so regularly failed to secure wins against teams ranked in the Top 15. With warranted apprehension, many seemed to feel like this was a game that the Irish should win.
But 377 yards and 5 touchdowns on the ground? A 49-14 final score?
Very few, if any, expected that.
Led by Brandon Wimbush and Josh Adams, Notre Dame repaid USC for the 2014 drubbing they gave to the Fighting Irish. It was a complete and utter dismantling of a program littered with former five-star athletes, not to mention a Heisman contender and a near definite future first-round draft pick at the helm.
Ofttimes when teams like this collide, it is a sort of mutually assured destruction. This was as far from that as one can get. This was a one-sided decimation, the likes of which hark back to a certain 1977 game between USC and Notre Dame.
“We talked about what they needed to do to win this football game,” Kelly said, “and that was to have a dominant mindset in terms of wanting to dominate their opponent.”
They had the mindset, and so it was. The power of belief has energized what was just last year a program in shambles.
Many are calling this a “statement win” for the Irish. This goes beyond just a statement win, though. This was an unleashing of pent-up frustration by an entire team. This was the result of a season of embarrassment in 2016, and doubts that continued into 2017. This was coming out and absolutely stomping the team that had just last year made them look doubtlessly inferior. This was the culmination of the anger of 4-8, and the belief that they were so, so much better.
This was more than just a “statement”; this was an exclamation point after the win.
This Irish team has officially arrived. They’ll ride this high for another day, no doubt, but the team’s eyes are on a much bigger trophy than the Jeweled Shillelagh. The work is just beginning.
Next week, the Irish will face an up-and-coming 14th-ranked North Carolina State Wolfpack. With Bradley Chubb and the Wolfpack defensive line leading the way on defense, and Ryan Finley, Jaylen Samuels, and Nyheim Hines all posing significant threats on offense, this will be yet another trial for an Irish team that looks ready to take on any and all comers.
So while the Irish have won this battle in a very convincing fashion, the war has just begun. Whether or not the Irish end up on the right side of all this, it will be a lot of fun to watch.
On to the next week.
Other Notes from the Press Conference:
- When asked why he decided to hire Mike Elko, Kelly listed a number of reasons. Among them: “His ability to really take the football away.” Needless to say, it’s a noticeable difference from BVG’s unit in that regard. So far, so good for Elko.
- Furthering the Elko commentary, Kelly said Elko is very trusted by his players and is great at forming relationships with them. That trust and communication has paid dividends on Saturdays, no doubt.
- The offensive line is still really good, per Kelly, “I think it might have been our fourth time that we've rushed for over 300 yards ... they just continued to go out there with the mindset that they want to control the line of scrimmage.”
- Praised was the team’s “intentional focus” beyond just playing USC and the 11th-ranked team in the country.
- Kelly claimed that his desired “traits” and the athletic skills of Kevin Stepherson are finally starting to come together. This should lead to much more of #29 on Saturdays going forward.
- As expected, the players and coaches don’t talk about rankings, “Just being aware of your circumstances is fine. We don't take it much further than that.”
- Kelly likens this team’s leadership to 2012, but there are certainly differences: “You know, you've got a Te'o and you've got a McGlinchey. So you've got some similar dominant personalities. But this team, I think, had to come together with a more common purpose than maybe the '12 team, in a sense because we have a lot of younger football players impacting what we're doing.”
- Dexter Williams, Cam Smith, and Greer Martini are collectively anticipated to return for the upcoming game against NC State.
- Now that the backfield is getting healthy again, we should expect to see more two-back sets. Kelly stated, “We just think with two guys that are closing in on 220 pounds in that split set, it's a pretty imposing backfield and gives us another wrinkle within our offense.”
- Kelly touched on the fact that his team needs to “act like they’ve been here before” and expanded upon that with, “If you get all giddy and you're not emotionally stable to stay consistent, we're not going to be able to get this journey completed the way we want to.”
- Brian Kelly met with all recruiting commitments on Saturday, had six interviews with families throughout the day, held a Sunday breakfast with all the families, and then met with “six or seven” more recruits for personal interviews. It’s been a busy recruiting weekend, to say the least.
- Kelly said that they changed the offensive approach for this game in order to get away from the tendencies. Subsequently, they added some misdirection into the game plan in addition to attacking the perimeter early on.
- At the end of the press conference, Kelly lauded Tevon Coney’s play against USC: “He played his butt off. He was outstanding ... It was his best performance at Notre Dame.”