The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are 1-0 after taking down the Florida State Seminoles in an overtime thriller — but it came at a cost. On Monday, Brian Kelly talked about the injuries the Irish sustained as well as some perspective on the FSU game as they move towards the Saturday meeting against the Toledo Rockets in South Bend.
“Certainly an enjoyable victory when you’re on the road. After getting a chance to look at the film, Florida State has an infusion of a number of veteran players on their football team and they had them playing very well last night. We started fast. We have a mantra here about four quarters of football and one of them is starting fast. As you know, we got off to a great start, defensively as well. I think six out of the first eight possessions, other than the two big plays, we had them pinned down. We really needed to finish off the first quarter better than what we did. That was really pivotal. We had three or four missed conversions offensively that we needed to execute better. If we do that, we’re in a different game. So, again, I thought we started fast. Then I think the other takeaway would be that it’s a gritty group. When you’re up 38-20 on the road and you give that lead up, many teams do not get out of there with a victory and our guys hung in there. We came up with the big stop when we needed it defensively. We were able to win it for the first time I think in the history of Notre Dame since we’ve gone to the overtime, won on the road in overtime. See how I threw that just out there matter of factly? I’m gonna stick with those, because they’ve been confirmed. They just showed the metal and the grit necessary. As I said, last night, I really like this group. We got a lot to do, a lot of work to clean up. Our defense caused havoc. We had the sacks, we had the interceptions, but we gave up big plays. We’re transitioning from a different mindset in the way we need to play defense and you cannot let your guard down for a moment or you’re going to give up a big play. So, we’ve got some work to do there. Marcus Freeman will get that done and our players are committed to that end. So, all in all, we were happy with the win. We know we’ve got a lot of work left in us to really get better going into week two.”
About the injuries
“We’ve got two MRI scheduled at 2:30. I forgot today is Labor Day. Hard to get an MRI tech into work on Labor Day. But we do have them for 2:30 set for Shayne Simon and for Blake Fisher. Both of them are at 2:30. We think very similar to what I kind of alluded to last night, but we want to obviously make certain relative to the injuries there. Paul Moala tore his other Achilles tendon. Devastating. It was an emotional locker room last night. I kind of didn’t tip that off to you guys because it was still pretty raw. But yeah, we’re all very disappointed for Paul. He worked so hard to get back to getting on the field. But we love Paul and he’s gonna be missed. He’s a guy that we were counting on and he’s gonna be sorely missed. Bauman has a non weight bearing fracture (leg). So, he’ll get surgery. He’ll have a plate inserted and if all things go well there, that is six weeks.”
In regards to the missing trio of C’Bo Flemister, Logan Diggs, and Jordan Botelho, Kelly provided about as much information as he did Sunday night.
“We get that from week to week. So, we’ll get an update on that sometime Tuesday or Wednesday.”
With Blake Fisher out, Michael Carmody stepped in at left tackle for the remainder of the FSU game. Bk talked about Notre Dame’s depth and “who’s next” along the line.
“Tosh Baker and Joe Alt will definitely be the next two. We have confidence in both those guys that they can come in and play at a high level for us.”
Notre Dame is now down three linebackers from fall camp through Sunday night with Marist Liufau, Shayne Simon, and Paul Moala. With depth becoming an issue, BK was asked about freshman Prince Kollie.
“Look, you heard what I just said, right? It doesn’t matter how good you are. We got to be able to trust you. That trust is going to have to be accelerated with Prince. So yes, he’s moving inside and he’s gonna get work. We may have to call upon him a little bit sooner than we had expected.”
Things to work on
There are plenty of things the Irish need to do to improve as a team. Kelly talked about the tackling on defense in particular.
“Let me just take you to where we were defensively last year. Essentially, the structure of the defense was that your position, right, by virtue of where you played, your role was you always had that gap. That’s what you do. You have that gap. This defense, six different players have that gap depending on what the call is. It’s the corner. It’s the safety. It’s the end. So when you’re moving, it changes what your responsibility is. It requires all 11 players to be locked in and focused every single snap and it puts you in a position where you’ve got to make that tackle. You’re putting all of those players in a position where they have to make those plays. We’re getting to that mindset of, look, we got back to 17 play drives again. We can’t have that. We got to get off the field. We’ve been down that road before. That’s not where we want to be. We got back into this, okay, we’re going to layer this off, I’m going to try not to make a mistake, we’re going to keep it in front of us, and that’s not the way we want to play. We want to play with havoc on our defense. We did that early on and we kind of fell back to our old way of thinking, and Marcus is going to get that turned. Hard to turn it in wee on. We’ll get it turned and it’ll be fun to watch.”
Most of us that watched the game came away with some type of “the offensive line needs to get better” kind of a take. Kelly was more optimistic than the rest of us.
“I thought we protected pretty darn well. We were pleased with the protection. We had a couple procedure penalties. We had an assignment error on a sack where we just flat out went the wrong way on it on a slide protection. But overall, pretty pleased with what we did from a protection standpoint. Look, I’m not here to make any excuses for anything relative to the run game. We’re going to run the ball a little bit better. There’s no doubt. But when you’re in silent cadence and you’re utilizing tight ends on the perimeter, it makes it for a difficult cadence to get everybody moving at the same time. We struggled a little bit with that in unison getting off the ball. Those things are going to get better. I think from a running game standpoint, we did not see any red flags that are going to say, ‘Hey, this is going to be difficult this year.’ We’ll get better running the football.”
On to Toledo
“We’re excited to be home. We’ve got our 24 game win streak on the line. We’re playing a really good football team in Toledo. This is, in my estimation after watching some of their film, this is probably the finest MAC team that we’ve brought into the stadium since I’ve been here at Notre Dame. So, we’re going to have to be prepared and we’re on a short week. It was a physical game. We’re really going to have to rely on getting the right preparation and rest to play our best this weekend.”
“We just need our fans to be as loud and as excited about being in that stadium as we are, and just welcome us back from a long lay off. Look, we expect that, so I’m not challenging anybody but this is big for us. We haven’t experienced this kind of environment in quite a long time. So, it’s a big game. It’s the first opportunity for us to show our home crowd what we look like and we just want them to be out there in full force.”
“Offensive line, I think they’re well coached, excellent scheme. Defensively, I’ve seen every look imaginable from three safety deep, to three down, four down. They just give you a myriad of looks on defense, but I think this is a mature team. A lot of veterans on it. They’ve got guys that can make big plays. It’s a good football team and it’s well coached.”
You can watch the full presser below. Kelly talks about Jack Coan, the team’s mindset after the win, and Kyle Hamilton’s helmet coming off... BK said if he could make that type of play that he’d take his helmet off too.