NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Brian Kelly and his Fighting Irish are ready to move on to the next challenge against Oklahoma. While Kelly did his best last week to try to side-step the ‘trap game’ chatter, the Irish looked like a team stuck in trap game mode in Saturday’s 17-14 victory over BYU.
Kelly says intensity was not a concern in the second straight game the Irish have trailed in this season, but he did not see what he needed to see from them – especially in the first half.
“I thought our guys had very good consistency (and were) very consistent in their approach and their preparation,” Kelly explained. “We were sloppy. We had some sloppy play in terms of we threw an interception, we had a personal foul. It was more about some sloppiness than it was intensity. I was pleased with the way we came out other than those errors, which I’ve just mentioned.”
Notre Dame was flagged four times for 36 yards in the first half. The Irish also allowed BYU to score on two of three red zone chances. They had just one penalty (a personal foul) in the second half and did not allow the Cougars to reach the red zone in the game’s final 30 minutes.
The Irish were two of three in red zone scoring opportunities, thanks to a pair of missed field goals. Both of those chances came in that “sloppy” first half.
“Those have to be touchdowns on those drives,” Kelly said. “We can’t settle for field goals…we left too many points out there. We’ve gotta put more points on the board.”
The three-point margin of victory was probably not what most ND fans were hoping for or expecting, but a win is still a win. Notre Dame has won four if its seven games by a seven points of fewer this season, but Kelly is not concerned by that fact.
“I just want our guys to compete and prepare well,” he said. “If they prepare well and compete on Saturdays we’ll win enough games. I really don’t care how many we win them by.”
Kelly was confident a week ago at this time that Everett Golson would be his starting quarterback for the BYU game. It turned out Golson missed the entire game on Saturday after suffering a concussion last week against Stanford. He was cleared by the team’s medical staff last week, but Kelly played it safe with Golson’s health and started Tommy Rees at quarterback instead.
Kelly says Golson has a big test coming on Monday to determine if he will be physically ready for next week’s road test at Oklahoma. The Irish head coach met with the team’s medical staff on Sunday to determine what they think will be the last step toward getting Golson back on the field.
“They want to just make sure that we run him hard tomorrow and elevate his blood pressure and make sure that’s the last piece,” Kelly explained. “The rest then is just let’s go play. I would reiterate that tomorrow would be the last real test and then we just move on.”
Golson did take reps with the offense Wednesday, Thursday and Friday last week, but Kelly says those reps were in 7-on-7 drills and “team reps”, adding that none of those reps sufficiently replicated true game-like situations.
Receiver John Goodman missed a second straight game on Saturday with a lower back injury. Kelly said late last week that he expected Goodman to play against BYU, but he said on Sunday that he was kept out in order to give Daniel Smith, who is arguably ND’s best blocking receiver, a bigger role in Saturday’s game plan.
Kelly says the offense needed Smith’s “bigger body” on the field, but expects Goodman to be ready for the OU game.
Safety Nicky Baratti may have made his first big faux pas as a Notre Dame football player. The freshman tweeted “Dislocated my shoulder but grinded it out for the rest of the game” on his personal Twitter account Saturday night. He also tweeted “My shoulder……#VerySore” Sunday morning.
The messages were not a favorite of Kelly’s when asked about them during Sunday’s conference call.
“He doesn’t get to use Twitter next week,” Kelly deadpanned when asked about Baratti’s comments.
Kelly went on to say Baratti had a “subluxation” of the shoulder, but was stabilized, cleared by medical staff and went back in to play the rest of the game.
Cornerback Bennett Jackson strained his neck while making a hit in the third quarter of Saturday’s game. He stumbled a bit to the sideline a bit right after the hit, but Kelly says it is just a strain and Jackson, who received treatment for the injury on Sunday, should be “fine” for next week.
Kicker Nick Tausch has not played since the season-opener against Navy. He kicked a field goal and was 5-of-6 on extra points in that game, but has been sidelined since with a groin strain. Kelly said on Sunday the injury may have been worse than originally thought, but added he is doing better.
“He’s coming back,” Kelly said of Tausch. “He’s a lot stronger in kicking the football now, but the door was opened for Kyle (Brindza) to go in there and we’re pleased with where we are with him.”
Brindza missed on field goal tries of 28 and 40 yards for Notre Dame’s two missed chances in the red zone on Saturday.
“He was just off on his line a little bit,” Kelly said of Brindza. “It’s such a skill that you have to be right on. He’s got a great make-up. Mentally he’s a tough kid. He’s not afraid of the big moment. Those are all the things I’m concerned with the most. I never saw a crack there at all. He was a little off on his technique and he knew it.”
After Further Review
For a second straight week instant replay played a role in a potential scoring play for an Irish opponent. In both last week’s game against Stanford and in this week’s game against BYU the replay booth upheld the original call on the field. Stanford’s non touchdown was kept that way, while replay confirmed a touchdown catch by BYU’s Kaneaukua Friel even though it looked like the ball hit the ground in the act of the catch.
“I didn’t see it the same way,” Kelly said of the call. “I thought I had a pretty good view and it’s one of those things, I guess. From a replay standpoint when the call is made on the field they’ve gotta be absolutely certain (to overturn the call). I thought I had a good look at it, but I guess those things even out.”
The touchdown came with 6:07 to play in the first half and put BYU up 14-7. BYU did not score again in the game after the extra point was kicked by Justin Sorensen.