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Notre Dame Football: And Then There Was One

With only one game left to go, the Irish look to finish the season off strong

Navy v Notre Dame Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Brian Kelly and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish secured their ninth win this season over the Navy Midshipmen on Saturday, 24-17. Following that game, Kelly had his weekly meeting with the media to discuss last week’s game and what’s coming next. The ride has been - for the most part - a good one, and Kelly’s team will look to close the regular season on a high note with a win over Stanford. With that said, let’s just jump right into it.

And Then There Was One

It wasn’t pretty, but is it ever that way versus Navy?

It was a tough, hard fought game for this Irish squad. Ken Niumatalolo and the Midshipmen played the exact type of game needed to take down a superior Fighting Irish team, but it just wasn’t enough. A valiant effort, no doubt, but this Notre Dame team was just a bit too much for Navy to handle this time around.

Navy was “held” to 277 yards on the ground and 3.8 yards per carry. That equates to a solid showing for the Irish defense when you consider that Navy’s averages sit at 360.5 yards per game and 5.63 yards per carry, respectively. Needless to say, the defense showed up to play on Saturday, though it certainly didn’t feel that way at times.

That feeling was likely a product of Navy holding the ball for a whopping 43 minutes in this game, playing a sophisticated game of “keep away” in order to prevent Notre Dame from running up the score. However, Notre Dame did something fairly impressive in coming away with the win:

It goes without saying that it isn’t easy to win when you have the ball for the equivalent of just over a quarter. Greer Martini, Julian Love, and Troy Pride all did their parts to make such a win possible.

Now, the Irish will travel to Palo Alto for their annual matchup with the Stanford Cardinal. Instead of Christian McCaffrey, they’re led by their explosive Heisman candidate: Bryce Love. Stanford’s formidable rushing attack will be far from easy to deal with; Love alone averages 172 yards a game, and it one of the most elusive players at his position in the NCAA.

“Well, he's extremely explosive. Big time player in the sense that he'll turn a 3-yard run into a 60-yard run, just explosiveness at that position, like probably no one else in the country.”

It won’t be easy, and it’s as far from a guaranteed win as a game can get. It will be a test of Notre Dame’s mettle, but that’s what this entire season has been. Navy was, USC was, North Carolina State was, Georgia was, and Miami was. All those challenges have been taken on, one after another, in a rebound season for the Irish.

Each challenge has come and gone.

And then, there was one.

Notes from the Presser:

  • First and foremost come the Injury Notes: Equanimeous St. Brown will be in concussion protocol during the week, and Chase Claypool is fine despite the rough hit to the shoulder.
  • Brian Kelly touched on some takeaways from Navy that can apply to the upcoming game against Stanford, “Offensively, clearly getting off to a better start. We've got to settle in better. We finished very well, but getting off to a better start when you know you're limited with possessions. I think those are good takeaways for us moving into Stanford.”
  • Love will be difficult to contain, in case you weren’t sure: “You've got to wrap him up. You've got to get him on the ground. I think that's what he brings is the explosiveness to the Stanford offense.”
  • Kelly praised his players ability to stay in the game despite barely getting on the field, “Well, again, I think they've got to stay mentally in tune to the game. They've got to be prepared when it's their time to get back out there. I think we did a pretty good job, obviously, with them holding on to the football as much as they did.”
  • There’s no concern from the staff about shifting away from the option and to a traditional offense, “It's the last game of the year, and they know what's at stake. So no real concerns here. Let's go play the last game of the year with a lot on the line.”
  • According to Kelly, there was a different approach to the Navy game than usual for Mike Elston, “Yeah, we had no players with knee braces on. It's attitude, really, more than anything else.”
  • “Yeah, I really haven't given it much thought,” on if Kelly would do exit interviews again after this season, “It was a valuable tool for me last year. I'll certainly give it some thought after we complete this game. But my focus really is on just trying to prepare our guys this week.
  • Wimbush progressively began to pass more accurately as the game went on, and Kelly had an answer for why: “Comfort level, in terms of he's working on his mechanics, getting more comfortable with muscle memory, doing it over and over again. He had been throwing those balls in the ground. So just, you know, again, a guy that's working at his craft, trying to get better at it each and every day.”
  • On if this team is different than the team we saw in November: “Yeah, I think it's nonsense.”
  • Kelly spoke on the scheming that he and Elko did in order to deal with Navy, “ Yeah, well, we could have a long conversation about this, but we clearly wanted to give them different looks on the dive and the pitch in particular...We've got to get them off down and distance. We've got to get them off track on first down.”
  • This was a different gameplan than normal against Navy, “Yeah, I was. It was different. We didn't have a particular post player most of the time. I mean, we were rotating with the safeties and corners...So, yeah, we mixed it up and did some things that we hadn't done before, but it was really about they run a reverse.”
  • “Obviously, a very, very big play at that time of the game,” on Troy Pride’s interception, “The key is, obviously, we put them behind the chains and we forced them to throw the football. Troy was in a really good position and made a big play for us.”
  • The respect for this game and rivalry is alive and well for this Irish team, “ We have a great deal of respect for Navy. Playing this game is something that traditionally has been played -- you know, it's one of the longest running rivalry games. It's always a tight game, hard fought. Our guys are just happy to get out with a win.”
  • Kelly lauded Julian Love’s overall ability as a defensive back, “He's capable of playing safety, but he's our best corner. If we could clone him, I'd like to do that.”