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Tuesdays with BK: Purdue edition

Sep 28, 2011, 12:44 AM EDT

brian-kelly-michigan

Okay, people — who’s ready to turn the corner from bickering about a quarterback controversy that only exists in the hearts and minds of Irish fans? (This guy!)

While there will be plenty of time for us to keep picking away at the play behind center, Brian Kelly and the Irish continued to trudge forward, sitting at 2-2 and ready to tackle their third Big Ten opponent of the season, the Purdue Boilermakers.

Here’s a sampling of what Kelly had to say this afternoon. As usual, I’ll give some thoughts below:

 

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If you were looking for the money quote on Tommy Rees, Kelly delivered it late in the press conference:

“You can put together an incredible highlight reel with Tommy Rees this year,” Kelly said about his starting quarterback. “And you could also put together a blooper film. So it’s really being able to gain that consistency of play after play after play. And a lot of that is learning and experience, and that’s where we’re at.

“That’s this year. We better not be talking about this stuff next year or there will be another quarterback playing. But he is learning. He’s got — some of the body of his work is really good and some of it needs great improvement. And he knows that. I know that, and we believe that he’s capable of being more consistent for a longer period of time.”

And there’s the closest thing to Kelly’s response to why he’s rolling with Rees over Crist.

Moving on…

***

There’s been a lot of talk about winning ugly this week. Kelly didn’t use those exact words, but he talked about the importance of winning and closing out close games. It was as close to a inside look at Kelly’s philosophy of building a team as we’ve seen in some time.

“I ask our players all the time and we talk about all the little things that you have to do to win. Now when you build your program, then the two things that I’ve always looked for in winning teams, and I think the best example is you take Auburn last year who won the National Championship. I think they had six games that they played where they won late or in overtime or won by just a couple of points. I know on my Cincinnati team where we went 12 and 0, we had a number of games that were decided on the last possession. And the point I’m making is one of the things that I liked about our football team at Pittsburgh is that we showed poise and confidence down the stretch.

“Poise to me is the ability to raise your level of concentration when it’s most needed. That you can’t talk about. You have to go demonstrate that. Confidence is the trust in your teammates that they’re going to do their job so you don’t have to do theirs. And those are hard to get to, and I was really pleased, of all the wins that we’ve had, that was the first time that we exhibited in 2011 poise and confidence because if you look at the Michigan game, we didn’t trust in what we were doing in the end, and consequently, we didn’t do the job necessary to win that football game.”

It isn’t hard to think about past Irish teams (specifically 2008 and 2009), and how when the season started going sideways, Notre Dame couldn’t do anything to stop it. Kelly proved in his first year that he had to ability to pick his team up off of the mat. Unfortunately, it was after the Irish had already lost five games. After digging itself a two game hole, a win on Saturday would give us another data point to examine, and more importantly push the Irish to 3-2 heading into Air Force and the bye week.

***

There’s been some grumbling about the play of Will linebackers Dan Fox and Carlo Calabrese after watching them miss some big one-on-one tackles so far this year. But ask Kelly what he’s thought of their play, and it’s a completely different tune.

“Both of them have really done some great things,” Kelly said of the duo. “You know, we got matched up a couple of times one on one with the backs, so it forced us to go to nickel because we didn’t like that matchup. But by and large our will linebacker has been outstanding in pass coverage. Calabrese has had a couple of really good plays in pass coverage for us. Danny’s done a great job. We’ve got some really good plays, especially on his pass coverage from our will linebacker position.”

Part of me wonders if that answer was a bit calculated, if only because it doesn’t pay to have other teams hear you acknowledge you haven’t been getting great linebacker play. That said, both guys have 15 tackles each, and three combined tackles-for-loss. Those 30 tackles would be good for second place on the team — 11 shy of Manti Te’o and five ahead of Harrison Smith, really just about where you’d want them to be. When you look at it that way, that’s pretty good production from the position, though I think everybody would like to see the missed tackles cleaned up.

***

For those wondering if Kelly had plans on playing any more freshman, he let us behind the curtain Tuesday afternoon, where Cam McDaniel, George Atkinson and Davaris Daniels are loosening up.

“I think maybe running back position, you know, we’re ready to give one of those two young guys some work, McDaniel and Atkinson, both of them, you know, we’re really close there,” Kelly said. “Daniels is getting closer each and every week. So I’d say on the offensive side of the ball those would be the three guys most likely.

“Defensively, you know, I think you see the guys that we’re playing right now. I don’t see anybody else hopping in to the lineup or cracking the two deep.”

For those wondering if Kelly would give a guy like Ben Councell or Josh Atkinson a chance to work their way into the rotation it seems like Kelly’s content standing pat with the defensive unit.

***

Finally, Kelly had a fascinating exchange where he broke down the thought process of going for the punt block on the first series of the second half. He acknowledged the decision backfired, but also gave some interesting thoughts on the parameters for which he calls for a block. Interestingly enough — it’s not when the punted is pinned in his endzone.

“We have a yard line that we will not put one on because you only get two points out of it. You know, I don’t want to block a kick for two points,” Kelly revealed. “I’d rather set our offense up at midfield than try and block a kick for two points because if you block it and it goes out of the back of the end zone, obviously, you know, you get the ball back. But we look in all those terms of when do you go for a block and what time do you do it and then in some instances how your defense is playing.”

Kelly said the call wasn’t an in-game adjustment, but rather one they made before hand, after reviewing tape with Mike Elston. Obviously the outcome wasn’t what the Irish wanted and it was a huge momentum changer, but Kelly made it clear that he has a ton of confidence in Austin Collinsworth, one of his best special teams players.

That’s the first time I’ve ever heard a coach explain his logic, and while at first it seemed a little counter intuitive, it makes a ton of sense.

  1. papadec - Sep 28, 2011 at 3:22 AM

    The punt blocking decision explanation makes a lot of sense to me. I think the penalty call was bogus. I thought the kicker fell into/onto the ND defender and was rewarded for his acting skill. But hey, that’s the chance you take on that play.

    • bernhtp - Sep 28, 2011 at 10:54 AM

      While I agree with you, the fact remains that Austin did touch him on the block attempt and the punter successfully sold the roughing call with his flop. This was effectively as damaging as a turnover and was something that obviously needs to be addressed. I bet the ST coaching staff has a session reinforcing proper block technique/angles in practice this week.

    • hyde - Sep 30, 2011 at 1:16 PM

      Like the call or not, the refs called running into the kicker on Pitt during ND’s first possession. Turk should get an Oscar for that play.

  2. jimbasil - Sep 28, 2011 at 6:01 AM

    Yes, maybe Rees didn’t have a stellar afternoon in Pittsburg, but I thought the ND Oline pretty much was lost all game long and became very porous at critical times causing Rees to look much worse than he actually was. If we continue to discuss the play of Rees in the Pitt game I think it’s best we include the Oline play in that discussion.

    Remember, this was a Pitt team who needed some sloppy Refereeing giving them a rushing TD to barely get by Maine and Maine is no cardiac team.

    I would think that if Kelly must keep defending Rees’s play, then it is best he also makes a change at QB.

    I’m very curious about Hendrix. I really thought by now we would start to see Hendrix in the mix during games.

    • tm8838 - Sep 28, 2011 at 8:15 AM

      I am also thinking that it is about time we see Hendrix for a series or two just to give opposing teams something else to focus on. It was easy to see what opposing defenses can do when they know that Tommy is going to pass it and not run the ball (eventhough he did have a decent run versus Pitt).

      • jimbasil - Sep 28, 2011 at 10:16 AM

        Rees did run it once or twice during the Pitt Game, but it was clear Pitt was willing to give up a running lane for Rees and challenge the ND Offense everywhere else. There were times in the game where the center of the field straight through was wide open for Tommy and all he needed to do was tuck and run (an impulse Tommy does not have). I would assume anyother QB with better mobility would have jumped at those opportunities.

        My initial thoughts when the starting QB was named, was that Crist would last – at most – a few games with Rees starting a few having Hendrix come in as the starter at the latest – mid season. I didn’t think Crist would be removed so quickly or that Rees would go for four games or more without the sightings of Hendrix taking snaps late in games.

      • alsatiannd - Sep 28, 2011 at 11:55 AM

        It’s always good to get your #2 real playing time no matter who your #1 is. But you need to have won the game after 3 quarters before you insert #2 in the 4th. No one should have expected any of our first 4 games to turn out that way. Could we be up 25 on Purdue by the start of the 4th quarter? For the first time all season we can say “maybe.” If that happens, then seeing Hendrix would be good for him, for the team, and even Tribe Hendrix.

    • joeschu - Sep 30, 2011 at 4:12 PM

      Keith says we’re moving on, but I’m out in front of the “let’s see what Henrix can do” bandwagon. Tommy has a low ceiling and I’ll be disappointed if we don’t see someone else (like EG or Andrew) next year, or I can guarantee BK that we’ll “still be talking about this stuff.”

      But Keith says we’re moving on :-)

      • dickasman - Sep 30, 2011 at 6:55 PM

        High Five Joseph! Me too….I’d love to see what this Jimi Hendrix kid can do…even Golson! Cheesus Chrimity, ND is not that GREAT to be “ragshirting” anybody, especially at QB. Let’s see what Jimi can do before he transfers. Let’s see what Golson can do BK. This is ND, if you don’t produce, you’re gone BK, remember that!

  3. brendanunderscoreg - Sep 28, 2011 at 7:17 AM

    I’m not too concerned with the Will LB play from the Pitt game. All of the missed tackles that I can remember occurred when trying to bring down Graham one on one. The guy’s a really good, shifty back. He’ll do that to more than just our LBs this year.

    Anyone else nervous about Purdue? I get the feeling the team might be looking past them a little bit. I know the media seems to be looking past them.

  4. dbldmr - Sep 28, 2011 at 7:56 AM

    Nervous about Purdue…? I’m nervous about every game. I don’t think BK will let the team look past anyone, but until the Irish are firing on all cylinders I think we can look forward to close games. A dominating defensive performance would go a long way toward allowing the offense to get into a rhythm. I’m looking forward to the D-line setting the tone for the game.

    • johnnd1985 - Sep 28, 2011 at 10:23 AM

      I’m nervous about every game that Rees plays for the reason that I and many others have stated. Luckily, in my older age, I get over losses much more quickly than my youth. I’ve had to get used to stupid losses, poor recruiting and stupid coaching, so what’s another coach making a stupid and stubborn coaching decision? I do wonder what happened to Kelly’s comment between USF and Michigan that he wouldn’t hesitate in pulling Rees if he played poorly. Maybe he burst that memory cell during one of his temper tantrums.

    • txbeej - Sep 28, 2011 at 2:48 PM

      This game and the Maryland contest are the only two I’m not worried about at all. Purdue is even more Purdue-ish than usual. This must be an easy victory.

      • dickasman - Sep 28, 2011 at 3:39 PM

        Agreed, TXblowjob!

        I think they’ll come out looking good….making us all forget how “lacking” our team can be….til Air Farce comes to town to remind us.

      • joeschu - Sep 30, 2011 at 4:18 PM

        This is the kind of ridiculous and irrational thinking that gives ND fans a bad name. There is NO ONE in the country we can look past with this team. If you turn it over 5+ times, SMC’s powder puff champs could cross the street and give us a game.

        Maryland has played fairly well, and Purdue looks at this as a much bigger game than we do. Calling Air Force anything other than a dangerous opponent ignores the fact they’ve beat us at him in the past and they present a unique challenge with their style of play.

        Show our opponents some respect.

      • dickasman - Sep 30, 2011 at 6:52 PM

        Joe, I agree with you and all but, let’s face it. ND does have a baaaaaaaad habit of making every game EXTREMELY more difficult than it really needs to be.

      • txbeej - Oct 2, 2011 at 2:09 AM

        You’re a funny guy, Joe. I was being ridiculous and irrational for expecting an easy win over a team that lost to Rice and struggled with Middle Tennessee State? Well, irrationality wins the day then, as Purdue needed a garbage time touchdown to keep the score within 30 and they were clearly outmanned at every position on the field. I grant you, they have the better punter.

        And Maryland got clownstomped last week by Temple. You want to pee your pants about the Turtle, go ahead. Even I can’t muster the pessimism needed for that.

  5. bernhtp - Sep 28, 2011 at 9:49 AM

    Just to lighten things up a bit here after hundreds of recent heated posts, here is the TheOnion’s take on the MSU win (about 30 secs in): http://www.onionsportsnetwork.com/articles/is-serena-williams-sexy-or-not-get-out-of-my-face,26139/

    • johnnd1985 - Sep 28, 2011 at 10:29 AM

      How can anyone thumbs down that? Must have no sense of humor. What a riot? You gotta be able to laugh at yourself.

      • bernhtp - Sep 28, 2011 at 10:48 AM

        I noticed that I started to get an automatic and quick thumbs down to every post after I made an unflattering remark about some guy on this blog continually promoting his (strange combo) ND-Nebraska football site. Whether this is a mere coincidence or somehow related, I don’t know. Anyway, I certainly don’t care.

        The Onion piece is very funny, as usual.

    • bbdaines - Sep 28, 2011 at 12:48 PM

      Thanks for the post.. too funny..

  6. dickasman - Sep 28, 2011 at 1:04 PM

    Ben Turd is the best punter in the entire world!!!

  7. andy44teg - Sep 28, 2011 at 3:09 PM

    I literally LOL’d reading that one. Thanks, dick. I still gave ya a thumbs down, though. Sorry, man. He looked pretty good against Pitt, however. I think he’s turning it around.

  8. dickasman - Sep 28, 2011 at 3:31 PM

    Hey, no worries. I’m here to pick up the ball and run with it when Keith Arnold drops the ball. I think we will horsepound da $ht outta Purdue this weekend but horsesht punter and punt returner. We are a top 25-30 team right now, just like last year at this point. We have a QB and Punter who my neighbors cousins uncles aunts nieces can out throw and kick.

    Flaccid my friends….veeeeeerrrrry flaccid…..I wanna see them beat focking Stanford, go to BCS bowl and get sht kicked outta us by SEC team by 59-3. SUCCESS!!!

    • Keith Arnold - Sep 28, 2011 at 4:33 PM

      Where’d I drop the ball now?

      Easy with your innuendo and language, dickasman. I really don’t feel like moderating comments on this site. Keep the funny. Lose the other stuff.

  9. dickasman - Sep 28, 2011 at 4:35 PM

    :-(

  10. tpdsdomer - Sep 29, 2011 at 9:19 AM

    Calling a “punt block” when the other team is punting from the back of its own endzone when you have the lead makes absolutely no sense to me, especially when you know that you’ll get the ball in great field position 99% of the time even with just a fair catch!!!

    I respect Kelly and his knowledge of the game and I really like the direction of our program, but the decision to go for a block at that point in the game is totally beyond me. It’s mistakes like that which change the momentum of games and get teams beat. If Notre Dame is to lose I’d much rather it be because the other team was better, not because of our own horribly misguided tactics. GO IRISH!!

  11. notredamegrad - Sep 29, 2011 at 10:18 AM

    I understand the frustration with the punt block decision, but if Collinsworth had in fact successfully blocked it, picked it up and carried it into the end zone, a la Blanton v. Utah, everyone would be singing the praises of Collinsworth, Kelly, and special teams re-energized by Atkinson’s kick-off return. When risk pays off, we praise the decision as bold; when it doesn’t, we call it idiocy.

    Kelly showed great confidence in his team to make that play and was willing to take the risk; if they lost the bet, which they did (on a suspect call), he would then rely on an incredibly stout defense to turn the ball back over. The defense failed to get it back, even though they had a fine shot at it. I think Kelly’s was a reasonable risk to take. It is interesting to me that he would rather take a risk like that to put points up with special teams than let the offense immediately take the field to score – seems clear that he wasn’t happy with their ability to score at that point in the game.

  12. dickasman - Sep 30, 2011 at 1:26 PM

    Guys, I have a serious more important question. Do you think BK would call the Kockblock if we were at a strip club? You know one of those party pooper guys who always rants “oh comon guys, we’re all married w/ kids blah blah blah blah”…..

  13. dickasman - Sep 30, 2011 at 1:31 PM

    All’s I gotta say is that they better destroy Purdont on saturday. I’d love to see ND destroy them like 59-13 score like any other top 25 team would. I do not want to see ND match the opponent and play “down” to the opponent’s level which they constantly seem to do.

    CMONNNNN…Take some focking viagra and get up for some of these games guys!

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