Brian Kelly took the helm of the Notre Dame Football Fighting Irish in 2010. Since then, the Irish have been quite the roller coaster ride.
Brian Kelly is either loved or hated by Notre Dame football fans. There really isn’t much in-between. But if Saturday’s 24-17 win over Michigan is any indication, Notre Dame fans everywhere should start loving the team that Kelly has put together.
Since he arrived in South Bend in 2010, the Irish football team has seen more than its fair share of ups and downs. After feeling out seasons in 2010 and 2011, Kelly’s team peaked in 2012, heading to a National Championship. Then, in 2013, quarterback Everett Golson was suspended and the Irish went through a rebuilding year in 2013. In 2014, things were looking good again, but the Irish fell off in epic proportions at the end of the season.
By 2015, though, the Irish would peak again, coming up shy of the College Football Playoff, thanks in large part to a horrendous prevent defense that allowed Stanford to easily set up a game-winning field goal in the final seconds of Notre Dame’s regular season.
In 2016, the Irish fell flat on their face. In 2017, Kelly re-built, holding a recruiting class together and overhauling his coaching staff. But 2017 proved to be another building year.
Whether it was the loss of a significant player do to injury, sub-par recruiting classes, the loss of coaches, or anything in-between, it felt like Kelly was always tearing things down and starting over.
It doesn’t feel that way anymore.
Notre Dame came in to Saturday night’s game with questions, sure. But those questions were answered fairly easily. The Irish had a game plan that was easy to follow and one that should make fans happy: Be aggressive offensively in the early going, get a lead for a stellar defense, run the ball (despite not having tons of success) and let Brandon Wimbush manage the game with his legs and with throws that he’s comfortable making.
If nothing else, it seems that this Notre Dame team already knows its identity. The coaching staff clearly knows, too. And for maybe the first time, Kelly is giving off the sincere vibe that he’s willing to mold his game plan to more closely match his team’s personality. That is what Notre Dame fans have been waiting for over the course of the last 8 years.
For more on Notre Dame’s new vibe, listen to the latest episode of the Under the Dome Podcast: