Tuesdays with BK: Army/Yankee Stadium edition


I think everyone that follows Notre Dame football will stop overlooking service academies after the last neutral site game that was played in the New York metro area. And from the sounds of Brian Kelly’s Tuesday remarks, he and the Irish are certainly preparing for a 6-4 Army team that could easily be 9-1.

Here are some highlights from Kelly’s press conference, courtesy of the video team, and as usual — I’ll give some thoughts below:

A few thoughts:

Most probably wondered what those gigantic playcards were that were being held up on the sidelines by one of the backup quarterbacks in the Red Army. For those that have watched Oregon this year, Chip Kelly has employed similar cards this season and now the Irish were doing it to help quarterback Tommy Rees… or as Brian Kelly noted, to stop the espionage, as the team’s codes had been cracked.

Kelly explains how he knew:

“When the players came back and said, ‘Coach, they knew the signal.’ They were calling the play,” Kelly said. “Then just doing it for so long. Every year we have to go in and change up our signals, especially when you’re on TV every week. There’s a thing called TiVo now. People click it back and forth. When you’re out there so much publicly, you’re doing a lot of that, you just have to be prepared. So it’s not unusual in that sense that we’ve had to do this before.”

I’m not surprised in the least that the Irish’s signals were hacked, especially when Kelly explained a few weeks ago that the signals changed every quarter, essentially giving teams enough of a head-start to start code-breaking.

(I’ve spent five minutes trying to think of a good John Woo “Windtalkers” joke, but the playclock expired.)

Either way, adding four additional signals likely brings in a new layer for teams to disseminate, and puts both Army and USC back to square one.


Even though Cierre Wood is improving, Jonas Gray has forced his way into the rotation at running back. While an injury set back Gray’s progress, big effort runs like the one he made against Utah remind everybody that he deserves 5-10 carries a week.

Kelly agrees.

“Yeah, I think we want to continue to get him more and more work,” Kelly said about Gray. “Cierre obviously got the bulk of the work, felt comfortable out there, carrying the football a lot. Given the conditions, we stayed with the guy we felt like was slogging it out there pretty good. But, yeah, Jonas has become more of a, Hey, get him in, whereas he was an afterthought in a sense. Now he’s really at the forefront of, Let’s get him in and get him some work.”

Some wondered if Gray was being held out for the rest of the season, potentially to use a medical redshirt and preserve a season of eligibility. With Armando already out for the year and Robert Hughes graduating, next spring should be a heated battle between Wood and Gray, with Cam Roberson a true darkhorse.


Want to see the difference between Brian Kelly’s strength and conditioning program and the program under Charlie Weis? Linemen like Ethan Johnson and Kona Schwenke aren’t just maintaining weight during the season, they’re gaining it.

Williams is reportedly 290 pounds, up five pounds from preseason camp. But one of the biggest surprises? Try freshman Kona Schwenke, who has worked his way into the defensive end rotation and is up to 263 pounds, up from the 245 he was listed at during preseason camp.

Kelly gives the credit to strength coach Paul Longo and training table.

“I think there’s a couple things. Number one, our strength program for our guys,” Kelly said. “I’ll give you an example. Ethan is 290 pounds. He’s a tough guy to move around. Our training table, our weight training, all the things, our guys taking care of themselves, that’s the most important thing in November that you want to be physically stronger… Coach Longo does a good job of getting me that information and alerting that particular player if we have some issues with his strength or stamina.”


Kelly is looking at Notre Dame’s performance against Navy and their option attack as an aberration. But if he and Bob Diaco constructed a different gameplan, they aren’t letting on. (Note: they better have…)

“If you go back and look at the games leading up, the Navy game has been an aberration from my standpoint. We’re going to correct that against Army,” Kelly said. “We just didn’t defend it. We couldn’t get to the areas that we needed to get to. We’re not going to be talking about it as much as we’re going to practice and execute. The guys know what to expect from it this time around.”

This is one of those games that should be absolutely terrifying for Irish fans, as there’s no real reason to know what’s going to happen on Saturday night. After watching Notre Dame dispatch of Utah the way they did, there’s reason to think the lightbulb turned on, but most people thought that before the Navy game as well.

It should be a fascinating Saturday.

Kelly confident Robinson will rebound

Notre Dame v Florida State

Corey Robinson‘s season was already off to a slow start. And that was before a difficult night at Clemson. The junior receiver came into last weekend with only four catches, held out against UMass after a pregame tweak of his knee put a scare into the Irish.

Robinson’s knee checked out fine. But mentally, it appears that the sure-handed junior is struggling.

Just before halftime against the Tigers, Robinson failed to reel in a long catch that would’ve given the Irish a much-needed touchdown heading into half. Early in the fourth quarter, a high throw from DeShone Kizer on the Irish’s first failed two-point conversion play slid through Robinson’s hands. Made worse was a mental mistake by Robinson, the Irish needing to use one of their second half timeouts when the junior wasn’t on the field.

Coached hard on the sideline by Brian Kelly and coached up by his position coach Mike Denbrock (as we saw on both Showtime and Fighting Irish Media’s ICON), the staff is doing it’s best to get Robinson’s confidence back.

With some wondering if Robinson’s struggles should open the door for talented freshman Equanimeous St. Brown, Kelly talked about their belief that the junior will return to form.

“Corey Robinson is going to get the job done. I had a very lengthy conversation with him yesterday,” Kelly said Tuesday. “I believe in Corey. Corey’s got to believe in himself, and he will. He’s got to go attack the football. He’s letting the football come to him. He’s letting it eat him up a little bit, but I believe in Corey.”

There’s no better place to showcase that belief than against Navy. The Midshipmen don’t have a defender physically capable of matching up with the 6-foot-5 Robinson, who will likely face his share of single coverage with Will Fuller likely demanding safety help.

Then it’s just a matter of Robinson showing the hands and confidence that made him one of last year’s most consistent performers.

“Once he starts attacking the football, I think we’re going to see somebody that can make the plays that we expect him to make,” Kelly said. “So I’m optimistic that we’re going to see the guy that we need to see on Saturday.”

And in that corner… The Navy Midshipmen

Keenan Reynolds, Jamar Summers

The theme of this week’s game might very well be mutual respect. But if Notre Dame is going to get their season back on track, they’ll need to very quickly get past any sort of reverence they have for Ken Niumatalolo and the Navy Midshipmen and look for any way to beat them.

Sandwiched between showdowns against Clemson and USC, Navy comes to town, one of the below-the-radar unbeaten teams in the country. With option superstar Keenan Reynolds in the final year of a career that is already one of the most prolific in college football history, the Irish defense goes into triple-option mode for the second time in this young season, asked to once again find an answer for an attack that not many people have solved.

Helping us to prepare for the Midshipmen is the play-by-play voice of Navy athletics, Pete Medhurst. Covering Navy football since 1997, Pete was kind enough to get us ready for the 89th meeting between Notre Dame and the Naval Academy.

Hope you enjoy.


Lost in the misery Notre Dame fans feel after the Irish’s undefeated hopes washed away in Clemson last weekend, is that the Navy team coming to South Bend is really, really good. I know it’s early, but you’ve been covering the Midshipmen for a long time. Can you rank where this team stacks up compared to some of the others you’ve seen?

I think its the best overall Navy team, considering the play of both units right now and special teams as well. The defense is giving up  just 15 points a game, and based on the prowess of the offense, that’s going to lead to a lot of victories if you play at that level.


Is Keenan Reynolds the best triple-option QB in Navy history? As someone who has watched his career evolve, can you speak to his improvements as a quarterback and a player? How important has he been to the evolution of this program?

I believe production speaks for itself. Good health could make him the leading touchdown scorer of all-time in the sport. He’s a coach on the field. Speaks like a coach, has a want to get better. Each day is a mission for him and the unit to get better and they hold themselves to a high standard to meet each day, he’s the leader of that group.



Joining the American Conference was a huge decision, but one that looks to be paying dividends. Have you noticed a difference in the program now that they’re chasing a conference title?

Coaches say it is. They have been met with quality response on the road recruiting. We get to states that are important footprints for us and just adds another goal where our players can be rewarded for their hard work. The conference has been very, very, good so far this year.


Defensively, this game should stress Navy. Notre Dame’s big-play potential is the best of the Brian Kelly era. (The Irish already have more 50-plus yard touchdowns than they’ve had in any other season under Kelly.)

Takeaways and preventing big plays seem to be a tenet of a Buddy Green defense. Are those the big keys for the Midshipmen defensively?

No question this is by far the fastest team Notre Dame has ever had. I go all the way back to the great Lindsay Nelson days when I used to watch the Notre Dame football report every Sunday morning. They can attack you anywhere at anytime with several people. Double cover one, they have three others in the formation who can beat you any play. Brian has put together a great plan and his coaches have delivered great recruits to the program. Many teams can’t survive an injury to the QB, but they have.

Mids have turned teams over this year and that’s a huge key for any defense. With Dale Pehrson taking over the defense (note: Green is taking a sabbatical to recover from major neck surgery this season) those goals have not changed. Eleven guys getting to the football, ball comes out, you have a great chance to get it!


Notre Dame had success earlier this season against Georgia Tech, and Brian Kelly spent a gigantic portion of his offseason preparing for the triple-option, going as far as recruiting a walk-on option quarterback who runs an option-specific scout team.

Do you think the success the Irish defense had against Paul Johnson’s triple-option will help this weekend? Or do you see subtle, but important differences between what Ken Niumatalolo does than his predecessor?

Coach Kelly is a good football coach. After we beat them at the Meadowlands, 35-17, you sensed, he was going to work hard to find a solution because for them to achieve their goals, they have to beat us.

Im not sure how many huge differences their are in our two offenses, one though is the QB. His ability to get Navy into the right play is huge no matter how a team lines up. Defensive personnel has improved in a huge way for Notre Dame too. They have quality people who can run and get to the ball. Last couple have been barn burners. Hopefully Saturday can be the same.