NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Fall break has hit the Notre Dame campus and Brian Kelly and his Fighting Irish are preparing for their next test this Saturday against BYU. Which quarterback will start this week is still up in the air for at least the time being.
Everett Golson missed the end of regulation and overtime of Saturday’s 20-13 win over Stanford and Kelly said at his Tuesday weekly press conference that his status remains uncertain. Kelly says Golson did not pass his cognitive test on Monday after suffering a concussion is Saturday’s game, but he will retake it again Tuesday afternoon.
“Obviously, if he passes today he will practice on Wednesday,” Kelly explained. “Which has been kind of a similar routine. Last week it was turf toe that he wasn’t able to go and the week before it was his shoulder, so this is kind of business as usual.”
Kelly says Golson has passed a balance test and is clear of concussion-type symptoms like agitation and sensitivity to light, but there is a computer test that he still must pass before he can be cleared to resume physical activity.
With Golson out of practice for at least Tuesday, Kelly said Tommy Rees and Andrew Hendrix will split the reps along the lines of “60-40”, with Rees getting the majority. Golson will be limited to “mental reps” from the sideline. The offensive game play will not change much for Saturday though, even if it takes one more day for Golson to get back on the practice field.
“We would probably limit some of the things we do,” Kelly said. “There’s very little that we can’t do in the running game. We would probably limit some of the things we do in the passing game and some of the things we put on him. He could practice (for the first time this week) on Thursday and be ready to help us on Saturday.”
Kelly did not dismiss the possibility of using two quarterbacks if the worst-case scenario happens and Golson is not able to play in Saturday’s game, but he says there is an element to the offense that the Irish must include in the game plan.
“We’re going to make sure that you have to defend a running quarterback that can run,” he said. “That’s gonna be part of the game plan.”
Avoiding the Trap
This week’s game against BYU has the makings of the classic “trap game”. It a game against a three-loss team that is sandwiched between two ranks opponents – Stanford and Oklahoma. Avoiding falling into that trap is possibly the biggest test for the Irish this week.
“They’re trap games if you forget how to go to work and do those things,” Kelly said. “We’ve already talked about it with our team and we’ll make sure that we do everything to prepare the right way.”
Kelly has managed to keep his team focused on the daily “process” of getting better. It is a theme he has come back to time and again throughout this season and one that should help them guard against any potential “trap” this week.
“I think they’re all trap games, every single one of them, if you take a breather,” he added. “But if you just stay on the course (and) continue to what you’re doing we’ll be fine.”
Brigham Young was a team that many considered to be an opponent that should not be lightly regarded before the season began, but now the Cougars (4-3) fall into the “trap” category. They have already lost as many games this year as last year’s squad that finished with 10 wins.
In keeping with teams like Michigan State, Purdue and Stanford, Kelly sees the Cougars as a team that plays physically.
“I don’t know that we know how to play any other way than to have that kind of effort necessary,” Kelly said of the demands of playing another physical team. “I think if we had played a bunch of spread teams coming into this game we would probably be a little bit more concerned about it, but we’ve already played this kind of physical brand.”
BYU does bring a little bit of the unknown with it into this week’s game. Notre Dame played the Cougars from 2003-2005, but they haven’t met since. It is the first opponent the current Irish coaching staff has no recent firsthand experience with, but Kelly does not see that as a concern.
“The hardest team for us to prepare for offensively was the Purdue game,” Kelly said. “We had a new defensive coordinator (coaching for Purdue), we had no film (on his defense) (because) he had been in the Canadian Football We had no idea how it was going to go.”
“(BYU head coach) Bronco (Mendenhall) has been the defensive coordinator for some time there. We know how they’re gonna play the game and conduct the game, so I think that’s less of a concern.”
Upon Further Review
The biggest outcry among national media and the Stanford camp (other than phantom whistles) is the way the game’s final play was called when it went to instant replay. Stanford running back Stepfan Taylor thought he was able to stretch the ball across the goal line before he was down, but both field officials and those in the replay booth thought otherwise.
Kelly says he has not heard any official explanation regarding the ruling on that play.
“I haven’t (and) I haven’t asked for it either,” Kelly began. “We simply feel like we had made that play. We had guys in position to make the play. If the whistle hadn’t blown we feel like we were in good position to continue the play. We heard the whistle and the play was over.”
In Kelly’s mind there were other plays over the course of the game that were equally not cut and dry.
“There’s a number of plays that could have went either way,” Kelly opined. “Everett’s fumble, which was a huge play, appeared that he stepped out of bounds. You could microcosm the whole game and look at different things (but) the fact of the matter is that the game was officiated, it went to replay and it was a great game.”
B (C) S
Notre Dame is fifth in the first Bowl Championship Series Rankings, which were just released two days ago. Don’t ask Kelly what kind of ramifications that No. 5 ranking has for his team though.
“I really don’t care,” Kelly said when asked if the No. 5 spot is a good place to start out. “I’m sorry. I know our fans care a lot about that stuff and that’s great. I love seeing Notre Dame out there and having stories about Notre Dame. That’s why we came here, but I really don’t give it any thought as to positionally whether that’s a better post position for us than any other.”
In other words – avoid the noise.