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Notre Dame Football: A Study In History From The Brian Kelly Press Conference

What can we glean from the Irish’s up-and-down start to the season?

Daelin Hayes
Mike Miller/One Foot Down

A Study in History

Following an exemplary first half of football in the season-opener against Michigan, Kelly’s Irish have been the epitome of inconsistency. This Notre Dame Fighting Irish team struggled in consecutive games against much lesser opponents, as we all know, beating Vanderbilt and Ball State by a combined 13 points.

This paradigm stretches back to last season, though, specifically beginning just after the wheels fell off the wagon against Miami.

Beginning with Navy in 2017, and leading up to this past Sunday against Vanderbilt, the average score of Notre Dame’s past five wins has been 23 - 16.8.

While two of those wins include solid performances against good LSU Tigers and Michigan Wolverines games, they also include games against Navy, Ball State, and Vanderbilt.

Clearly, those three teams are far inferior to Notre Dame.

This team either plays to the level of its opponent, or it struggles putting teams away for good. Either way, it’s a harmful trait to this Irish team’s hopes for the playoffs.

It is, however, reminiscent of the 2012 season. And while nobody is suggesting this Irish team will make a magical run to the National Championship again, the parallels are easily observable. A hit-or-miss offense led by an exciting dual threat quarterback, the Jafar Armstrong-Theo Riddick swiss army knife, a defense that anchors the team - they’re all there.

notre dame Mike Miller/One Foot Down

So much so, that it was brought up at Brian Kelly’s Sunday Presser.

When asked if Kelly felt Wimbush could do more than Golson did in 2012, Kelly responded:

“I think he’s capable of more... I think he is light years ahead of where Everett was in 2012 in terms of running the ball and in the passing game. I think it’s about more than just one position group. Wide receivers and running backs are young, a couple of new offensive lineman, but there are a lot of new pieces in the room. When all the pieces mature, they will start to click.”

If history is to provide any precedent, there is hope yet for this team. With time will come maturity, and with maturity will come success.

But they’re running out of time.

Other Notes from the Presser:

  • On the injury front: “Just sore, bumps and bruises. Nothing that would have any players not participating in practice on Tuesday.”
  • Kelly described the next step for the offense, “Consistency... They play hard, have a great attitude, and just have to grow up with increased playing time.”
  • He furthered the previous sentiment when discussing his playmakers, “We have players who can make the play, but we’re not there yet, and we need to continue working on it.
  • While the defense has been solid, Kelly believes there’s a lot of room to grow, “We’re making mistakes that good teams don’t make... Those things take time and we need to get better if we want to go from good to really good.”
  • Kelly stated that the majority of Wimbush’s runs are designed, “There was really only one true scramble. That went for a touchdown; it was a pass play. Everything else was a designed run.”
  • When asked if Kelly though Wimbush should be the leading carrier in a game, Kelly replied, “No, I don’t think we go in with a set amount. We’ve limited other quarterbacks. It’s who he is. He is one of our best runners... All three (Tony Jones, Jafar Armstrong, Brandon Wimbush) will have multiple carries.”
  • Regarding Jalen Elliot’s play at the end of the game, “Great play... That was a big play for him.”
  • When discussing the challenge of an upcoming road game, Kelly said, “We’ve got to play with the physicality that we did in week one and week three. That’s pretty clear. We need to be more consistent. We have good spurts on both sides of the ball, but on the road, you have to play consistent for four quarters.”
  • On the impact of turnovers, “Any time you take the football away, you create energy and good momentum... Any time you can turn those into points, it makes a huge difference in ball games.”
  • When it comes to turning more field goals into touchdowns, Kelly harped on execution. “We have to get them to execute better play in and play out. Our offense is capable of playing much better.”
  • When asked about Book coming in for Wimbush in the red-zone, Kelly simplified it with saying, “The run-pass opportunities really fit Book’s game.”
  • More on Book and Wimbush’s 2-QB arrangement, “I don’t think we are hurting [Wimbush] or the game in any fashion. It’s a fluid situation. We will continue to use their assets.”
  • Kelly praised Eichenberg’s play, “I have my grades and he played well. I think there are a couple things in pass protection to work on in terms of recognition, but his physicality was there in the run game.”
  • Tony Jones is progressing nicely: “He’s physical and becoming that guy. It turned out that way for us last weekend. He’ll be a big asset for us.”