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Kelly preps the Irish for Stanford

Nov 23, 2011, 4:37 PM EDT

aaron lynch Sack

Before the Irish break for the holiday and set off to Palo Alto, Brian Kelly took some time to talk with the media and get everyone up to speed on injuries, Stanford, his Thanksgiving plans, and what the Irish need to do to spring an upset on No. 4 Stanford.

As usual, the guys at NBC took the time to cut us the greatest hits. I’ll give you a few thoughts below as well.

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Not that we didn’t already know, but Kelly confirmed that Jonas Gray tore his ACL. Here are the heartbreaking particulars:

“His MRI came back, and was what we thought it would be —  it was a torn ACL,” Kelly said. “There was some other collateral damage in there that’s going to have to be taken care of as well, and so we’re in the process of setting up that surgery.”

Kelly put the recovery timetable at six months. That should give Jonas plenty of time to get healthy, get back in shape and find an NFL training camp.


It’s still up in the air whether or not Theo Riddick will be healthy enough to play, let alone transition to running back. But it’s clear that Notre Dame is going to need to get production out of freshmen George Atkinson and Cam McDaniel. Neither have done much of anything from the line of scrimmage and will face one of their stiffest tests on Saturday night.

“We certainly are going to have to count on George and Cam.  They’re going to have to play for us.  They’re going to have to play Saturday against Stanford.  There’s no question.”

It’s a big big week for running backs coach Tim Hinton. We haven’t seen anything out of Atkinson (as a running back) or McDaniel that makes us think they’ll be ready for significant touches. Neither are physically imposing players, and if the Irish can get anything out of them in the running game, it’ll be a great help to keeping Cierre Wood fresh.


Speaking of Cierre, it’s not as if the Irish running game is left for dead with Gray’s injury. Before he started splitting carries, Wood was on pace to potentially break the Irish all-time record for rushing yards in a season.

“He’s still Cierre Wood,” Kelly said. “There was a good balance there.  Obviously losing somebody that scored 12 or 14 touchdowns in Jonas Gray was a blow to us. But we still have a 1000‑yard rusher in Cierre Wood, and that’s a good thing to have to going into your last game.”

For Wood, this is a spotlight opportunity for the junior running back, who’ll be back home on the West Coast for Thanksgiving. If there’s ever such thing as a springboard game for 2012, this could be it for Cierre, with a national audience there to watch the explosive and shifty runner — something that’s troubled the normally stout Cardinal run defense — take center stage.


We’ll spend more time this week singing Andrew Luck‘s praises. But one key to his success is the playaction passing game. To limit that, the Irish will need to play great on early downs and force Stanford’s hand, as opposed to try and out-scheme the veteran signal caller.

“I don’t know that he’s going to get confused by anything,” Kelly said of Luck. “I think it’s a matter of us doing a really good job in play‑action and knowing when he’s going to throw it. Putting him in those positions when he has to throw the football is the most important thing. First and second down obviously are very crucial to us.”

With Stephon Tuitt still questionable with an illness, the Irish will need Prince Shembo to play one of his best games of the season, especially if he’s lined up at the drop linebacker position. If the Irish can get solid linebacker play out of Shembo and the combination of Dan Fox and Carlo Calabrese, and get Darius Fleming after the quarterback, the defense will have a chance.

(After being held approximately 300 times this year, it’ll also be nice to get Aaron Lynch finishing off his sack opportunities, or at the very least drawing a flag for his efforts.)






  1. 808raiderinparadise - Nov 23, 2011 at 5:34 PM

    No excuses here ….. CAL battled them … then ND has to win.

    Must win for recruits, relevance and ranking next year. Prob land a nice bowl game too, maybe play Auburn or someone like that.

  2. mgscott - Nov 23, 2011 at 6:46 PM

    College football hopes ND will actually be relevant someday,

  3. txbeej - Nov 24, 2011 at 1:44 AM

    I’m thinking 38-17 Cardinal, with Rees turning the ball over at least three times. The losses of Cave and Gray are devastating to the one facet of the offense which has been really good this year, and I don’t think we’ll get enough pressure on Luck to hinder him too much.

    But … you never know, and certainly I’ll be hoping for a much different result. Good luck Irish. Happy Thanksgiving, all.

    • notredamegrad - Nov 24, 2011 at 10:18 AM

      38-17? Let’s hope not! Last year, Stanford won 37-14, and ND had a turnstile for an o-line and only 44 yards rushing on the day (1.9 ypc!). Last year, facing a much less stout Irish defense, Stanford only scored 19 points through the 3rd quarter, then almost doubled that in the fourth.

      This year, we’ve got a much improved o-line, an actual rushing game, and a much improved front seven that should (here’s hoping) be able to slow down the Cardinal’s run game and force the pass; the Cardinal defense has also allowed about 30 points per game this year, giving our offense a shot to put up points. Last year, Stanford was only our young team’s 4th game under Kelly; they’ve since played another 20 games together and have a QB making his 15th start (with another 2 games’ worth of experience), rather than his 4th. Tommy will need to play the best game of his career, true, but it’s tough to picture this game looking a lot like last year’s, unless the Irish really don’t show up.

      Irish, 34-31.

  4. jommy995 - Nov 24, 2011 at 3:02 AM

    USC and Oregon scored on these guys at will. Any reason to think they can cover Floyd and Eifert? I’m sure they’ll put up some points on ND. But I’m not sure they belong in the top 10.

  5. papadec - Nov 24, 2011 at 10:13 AM

    Winning season or losing season – ND is always relevant to college football – just ask the TV execs, they know what gets ratings (and money). I trust Kelly & his staff to have the team ready for Stanford. I wish Irish fans, and detractors, everywhere a Blessed & Happy Thanksgiving. One of my fondest memories is Thanksgiving 1965. My brother was a homesick Freshman @ ND, and I was headed for Parris Island on Dec. 8th. I visited him & we shared Thanksgiving dinner with a South Bend family. They weren’t a wealthy family, one son was recovering from an accident. Just plain, good people. To me, that’s what the ND family is – not just football. I hope that tradition is still alive @ ND, Peace & love to all – especially those who can’t be with their families today.

    • michigandomer1984 - Nov 24, 2011 at 11:13 AM

      Thank you for your comment: “To me, that’s what the ND family is – not just football.”

      I love and live for ND football but there is more to ND than just football. I wish some of the idiots at NDNation who think the administration has failed could understand this point. For instance VaDblDmr thinks that OSU’s ability to hire Meyer “reveals how inept our admin is.” It is funny how many of these same posters thought Meyer was unscrupulous and immoral (and the devil) when he was at Florida, but now somehow he should be a coaching target. If I remember the story right, Father Hesburg (when being interviewed and being photographed for the cover of Time) refused to have his picture taken with a football when asked to do so. As the youngest ND president ever (35 I think) he showed a better understanding of the university than these idiots. I am a double domer. Maybe VaDblDmr’s handle is misleading.

    • 9irish - Nov 24, 2011 at 12:26 PM

      That’s well said. (Did you yell at your brother a few months later after Parris Island and describe the meaning of “homesick” ?!)

      • papadec - Nov 24, 2011 at 12:58 PM

        I’ve been yelling at, beating on, & otherwise tormenting him all his life (always had & have his back too) – isn’t that what kid brothers are for, and what big brothers do? “Homesick” – when someone is away from their loved ones – especially during Holidays & special occasions. Not limited to students. That first night @ Parris Island in 1965 – there were several guys crying.

      • 9irish - Nov 24, 2011 at 1:32 PM

        Well…yeah! anyone who is not homesick there has problems. Everything is relative….nice story.

      • 9irish - Nov 25, 2011 at 10:59 PM

        BTW, papadec…1965 at Parris Island? Great respect for that….Semper Fi

    • gracehall1980 - Nov 24, 2011 at 6:47 PM

      First, Happy Thanksgiving to the ND family. Now, tell me, who in their right (or wrong) mind goes “thumbs down” on papadec’s comment?

      • papadec - Nov 24, 2011 at 7:12 PM

        Ahhhhhhh – probably a tormented kid brother, whose big brother never had his back.

  6. kazmar619 - Nov 24, 2011 at 11:33 AM

    I am a big ND fan and I always believe ND is going to win but I also fear this game may be the final statement of the Heisman winner.

    • papadec - Nov 24, 2011 at 2:43 PM

      Luck will have a Bowl Game for his final college performance, and hopefully to make up for a less than perfect performance vs ND, this weekend..

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