No matter how it happens, there’s no such thing as a bad victory in any sport.
Sure, there maybe some concerns for the victors following the win, but you take the W and move forward into the next week/day/month, etc.
That’s what Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly and the Fighting Irish will attempt to do on Saturday, as the No. 15 team in the nation heads to Tobacco Road to face off with the Duke Blue Devils.
An important reminder: Saturday’s game will be on the ACC Network, which ... yes, that’s a thing this season and yes, it’s definitely smart that ESPN is using one of the sport’s biggest fan bases to try and bring more eyes to a new streaming service, but yes, it is in fact, stupid.
Following a heart-attack-inducing 21-20 win over Virginia Tech to extend their home winning streak to 16 games this past weekend, Kelly stepped to the podium for his Monday press conference prior to his team’s faceoff with the Blue Devils and addressed a few topics, including what the Irish will do without starting right tackle Robert Hainsey, who fractured his ankle in the win over the Hokies.
Another week, another opponent coming in off a bye against the Irish
Kelly on Duke: "Very smart. Well coached. Last time up here they beat us."— Mike Berardino (@MikeBerardino) November 4, 2019
Another opponent with a dual-threat QB coming off a bye.
The loss Kelly referenced to during his opening remarks on Monday came back in September 2016 when the Irish raced out to a 14-0 advantage, only to fall 38-35 to Duke with current New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones throwing for three scores in the upset victory for the Blue Devils.
This time around, the Irish will see Quentin Harris running the David Cutcliffe-designed offense. Harris, who has 19 total touchdowns on the year, is Duke’s second-leading rusher with 408 yards and six touchdowns on 104 registered attempts.
“One of the deeper/better groups we’ll see this season”
Duke D-line is one of the deeper groups #NotreDame will face, Kelly says.— Mike Berardino (@MikeBerardino) November 4, 2019
"Good-looking team, across the board. We're going to have to be on offensively. The turnovers have to go away."
Kelly’s not wrong about a couple things: despite a 4-4 record, Duke’s front will provide a sturdy challenge for the new-look Notre Dame offensive line (more on this in a bit) and the turnovers do have to be a thing of the past for the Irish to not only win on Saturday, but keep their “New Year’s Six” hopes alive.
Although Duke hasn’t been strong in maintaining possession of the football this season (a -5 margin heading into Saturday, tied for 113th in the nation), the Irish can’t afford to give an underdog with a steady offense any extra chances to potentially pull the upset.
What to do following Robert Hainsey’s season-ending injury?
BK on Robert Hainsey (fractured ankle vs. VT): "He'll be back by spring. We probably won't put him in a contact situation. He'll be moving, but I doubt we have him in a contact situation."— Michael Whitlow (@couldbelikemike) November 4, 2019
Starting right tackle Robert Hainsey fractured his ankle on Saturday against Virginia Tech and has already been ruled out for the rest of this season. Kelly addressed the future of Hainsey, while also noting that surgery isn’t required with this particular fracture.
With Hainsey out, Kelly said the Irish will turn to Josh Lugg, who will take all of the first-team reps at right tackle heading into Saturday.
Josh Lugg will be Notre Dame's first-team RT this week.— Michael Whitlow (@couldbelikemike) November 4, 2019
"We can always move some guys around," Kelly said.
Banks and Patterson could kick out and play tackle if needed. Grunhard can play center, Kelly notes. Would rather not play freshman Andrew Kristofic this year. "If we have to, we will."— Mike Berardino (@MikeBerardino) November 4, 2019
Is Ian Book ... back?
Saturday wasn’t the cleanest game in Ian Book’s career, but the signal-caller stepped up in the clutch when his team needed him the most and delivered a game-winning touchdown run in the waning moments to seal the victory.
Of course, Kelly was asked if Book’s back to being Book again.
Brian Kelly asked about Ian Book’s confidence.— Pete Sampson (@PeteSampson_) November 4, 2019
“Look, if you lose your confidence here as the quarterback here at Notre Dame, you can’t play.”
Said that’s recruiting question 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.
Kelly said Book was not loose last week due to outside criticism, but he's gone through the worst of it.— BlueandGold.com (@BGInews) November 4, 2019
"This should be a launching pad for him to go out and really be excited about playing."
Some other notables from Kelly’s presser:
- Kelly didn’t fully commit to running back Tony Jones Jr. being ready to go on Saturday, but did say he expects both he and Jafar Armstrong to be ready this weekend. The Irish have had the backfield duo for roughly one half of football all season.
- On the defensive backfield, Kelly commented on the progression of freshman safety Kyle Hamilton, while also noting that TaRiq Bracy will see more time at cornerback this weekend.
You can watch the full Kelly press conference down below: