After a solid win over Navy, the Fighting Irish move into rivalry week and prepare to play Southern Cal on Saturday. Also, following so many major injuries early in the season, the Irish played in their second straight game without serious injuries.
Brian Kelly answered a wide range of questions during his Sunday news conference. His decision to put Jarrett Grace in the game in the second half was influenced by the Navy fullback doing so well. Grace, the heaviest of the linebackers, played an impressive game. Kelly mentioned that after all the Jarrett has gone through with his terrible leg injury two years ago, his great game was as meaningful to him as it was for Jarrett. It was wonderful to see good things happen to good people.
Offensive guard Alex Bars replaced Quenton Nelson who had a sprained ankle. Bars had a solid game, especially in pass protection.
“I thought Bars, for a first start, he did some pretty good things. You know, awareness. Missed a linebacker one time on a power, but did a pretty good job overall. His pass protection was solid. He moves well. He’s a really good athlete for a big kid. So I would say overall pretty good start,” Kelly said.
One reporter stated Sheldon Day has more tackles for loss, more sacks, and more quarterback hurries than he did all of last year. Kelly attributed this to the fact that Sheldon is in great physical condition and is finally healthy. Day stayed at Notre Dame to help the team and himself. He’s a captain and a leader on and off the field.
When asked if he was disappointed that Southern Cal lost to Washington last week and now unranked, Kelly stated it is a rivalry game and everyone knows Southern Cal has tremendous talent. The great motivator is that Southern Cal beat up on the Fighting Irish last year and his team will be looking to revenge that loss this Saturday. Having followed Notre Dame football for many years, there’s no greater win than beating Southern Cal. They have ruined a number of Notre Dame seasons. And this year the Fighting Irish enter the game with an outside chance of making the playoffs at the end of the season.
As the season enters the midpoint, Kelly said more consistency on the secondary is important for growth potential. The team needs to continue the balance on offense and increase their development of the quarterback.
The game ball following Saturday’s matchup went to Rob Regan. He is a walk-on option quarterback who runs the option against the defensive team. He was a triple option quarterback in high school and applied to Notre Dame. Kelly, along with Coach Elliott, thought it was worth having Regan run the option in practice since the Fighting Irish was facing Georgia Tech and Navy this year. That decision has paid great dividends! Coach Elliott has spent the last year researching on how to stop the option, talking with coaches about it, and watching film. He deserves a lot of credit for the way the Fighting Irish defense played against Georgia Tech and Navy. The Fighting Irish can now concentrate on Southern Cal and the second half of the season. Their ultimate goal is the college playoffs.