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Tuesdays with BK: One more time

Nov 21, 2012, 1:53 AM EDT

Brian Kelly

As Brian Kelly, the head coach of the No. 1 ranked team in the country, stood at the podium for his final game week press conference of the season, he was candid when he spoke of Notre Dame’s rivalry with Southern Cal. Frankly, it hasn’t been much of one.

“Well, it’s not a great rivalry right now. We haven’t won enough games. They’ve had the upper hand on this.  We need to make this a rivalry,” Kelly said. “To me, a rivalry has to go both ways. We’ve got one win out of ten.  That, to me, is getting our butt kicked here.  We need to win some games.”

As if you expected Kelly to talk about the good fortune of having Matt Barkley sidelined with a shoulder injury and the Trojans losing three of their last four games. With Notre Dame just one game away from punching their ticket to the national title game, let’s run through Kelly’s Tuesday comments.

As usual, you can watch 30 minutes worth below. I’ll clip some interesting tidbits.

***

On Sunday, Brian Kelly talked about the importance of tackling this Saturday. It wasn’t hard to figure out one of those key targets is wide receiver Marqise Lee, who has just had a phenomenal sophomore season. Kelly talked about what made Lee so dangerous.

“Oh, boy. Incredible just acceleration after the catch. You know, if you look at what he does after the catch, that’s where it gets really scary,” Kelly said of Lee. “Secondly, they do a great job and their offensive staff does a great job of setting up formations to get him one‑on‑one matchups. They’re always prodding your defense to get him matched up where they get some great one‑on‑one looks.”

Last year, USC found a way to get their other star receiver, Robert Woods, in a key one-on-one match-up in the red zone against Lo Wood. That play resulted in a touchdown pass. With freshman KeiVarae Russell on the wide side of the field and Bennett Jackson sometimes flipping to help out, expect the Irish to do their best to protect their cornerbacks against tough one-on-one match-ups.

When asked what contributed to Lee surpassing Woods, another player that had Heisman aspirations early in his career and may have his ticket already punched for the NFL Draft, Kelly explained the problem with scarcity.

“We thought he was a terrific player, no question about it,” Kelly said. “But there is only one football, so it just seems like he’s gotten more of the catches, whether by design or not.  Either one those guys can beat you by themselves.  The numbers just have gone his way this year. But, you know, you’re talking about two of the best in the country.  I don’t know that you can really choose.  They’re both terrific players.”

***

In a really nice moment, Kelly talked about his interactions with past Notre Dame coaches as the season continues to head down a historical path. For Kelly, that means a weekly card from Ara Parseghian, multiple conversations with Lou Holtz, and a nice note from… Charlie Weis.

“I get my weekly card from Ara.  Each week he hand writes a note to me. The great thing is he’s so unassuming.  He’s done this and been there, but he’ll write a note like he doesn’t want to assume anything, you know what I mean?  Like he’s never given any advice, just talking as a Notre Dame fan and alum.  Great to just get that communication with him.

“As it relates to Lou, I talk to him about some specific things that I would like his opinion on.  Ara is much more of a fan, supportive.  I invite him up every home game to my box, and he politely declines because he thinks he’s got the best seat in front of his television. That’s our conversation.  With Lou, it’s more about some specific things.

“[Lou] knows Notre Dame, and Ara does as well.  Those are great assets. But a number of coaches, Charlie Weis knows Notre Dame.  I got a wonderful note from Charlie last week.  It was heartfelt and talked about the seniors, wishing them the best.  It was really a terrific note from Charlie.  Very classy. So we get a lot of that communication with the former Notre Dame coaches, and it’s really nice.”

It’s nice to know that there isn’t any scorched earth between Weis and Notre Dame, and just as important, that Kelly recognizes the contributions Weis made to this program, especially with the senior class. While Kelly built this program into a consistent winner, he certainly wasn’t left an empty cupboard.

***

If you’re tracking the Cierre Wood will he / won’t he return story, Kelly was incredibly complimentary about Wood, while continuing to talk about running north and south, a pretty consistent criticism by the Irish head coach.

But almost more interesting was Kelly’s evaluation of where Wood has evolved the most this season.

“Route running. Ball catching. Those are two huge areas where he has elevated his game,” Kelly said. “Practice, he practices with a purpose every day now.  He is locked in.  He’s getting more north and south in his running.  The inside‑outside zone scheme is set to run north and south. We don’t want a lot of cutting.
We ran the option play on Saturday, and he was looking to cut off of somebody. You know, he was resisting the temptation.  When he runs north and south, we all know what he’s capable of. So those three areas he’s really made great improvement.”

It’s interesting that Kelly cites Wood’s improvement in the passing game because the veteran running back has hardly gotten a chance to contribute in the pass game, with Theo Riddick acting almost exclusively in that role. A year after catching 27 balls, Wood has only two catches, both coming against Miami.

***

Lastly, Kelly was asked to consider Manti Te’o wearing the garnett and gold of USC, where he almost ended up playing his college football. It was the first time he’d ever thought of game-planning against his star linebacker.

“That’s the first time I’ve ever changed my brain over to think about it in those terms,” Kelly said. “Not very comforting. I know he’s a pain in the butt when we go against him in the spring. You know you can’t do certain things with him. He’s kind of eliminating certain plays already just because of his instincts.  You’re going against a great competitor, you know. That would be difficult plan against, yeah.”

***

 

 

 

  1. 9irish - Nov 21, 2012 at 2:52 AM

    eh….I understand what he means about the “rivalry” from the perspective of his players. But it’s still a huge rivalry….just ebbs and flows. We owned them for over 10 years…last ten years, not so much.

    Look at Ohio State and Michigan, that one has gone on long dry spells, too.

    But I understand what he is saying. Telling the players to make up for this dry spell and send USC packing.

  2. papadec - Nov 21, 2012 at 3:46 AM

    I understand the comment – 10 of the last roughly 18-20 years of the players ages…… BUT – I don’t like it! Rivalries aren’t about the last 10, or even 20, years – they are about the history & tradition of ALL the games. That’s too much like an espn sound bite down playing the ND accomplishments & history.

  3. mannydomer61 - Nov 21, 2012 at 7:49 AM

    Hey papdec he is just trying to fire up his team so we can go out to LA and pound them into powder.
    I am sure coach Kelly understands the importance of this rivalry and how relevant it has been throughout it’s long history.
    Coach Kelly just taking a page from the Lou Holtz school of downplaying your teams abilities and accomplishments before a big game.

    • papadec - Nov 21, 2012 at 4:06 PM

      manny – I get that – maybe I’m too sensitive. I read (I think @ Irish Sports Daily) that when ND & usc have played each other, with ND ranked #1, that ND is 5-2. I like that stat better than usc 9-1 over the last 10 years. I’m sure we’ll hear about the 9-1 way more than the 5-2 during the game.

  4. mdirish - Nov 21, 2012 at 8:04 AM

    I loved the way Lou would tell the media each week that the task at hand was damn near impossible. He’d then go to the team and tell the boys that their going to beat the hell out of them. Trust me there is a lot more being said in that ND locker room than anyone on this board will ever know. I say change nothing this week!

  5. ndgoldandblue - Nov 21, 2012 at 8:10 AM

    BK is a lot like Holtz when he discusses other opponents: incredibly complimentary and gracious. I love it. Absolutely no bulletin-board material. That’s a pretty stark contrast to Kiffin. In his entire coaching career, I doubt he has ever said anything complimentary about an opposing team or player(s). Already this week, both Kiffin and Wittek have provided enough soundbites to fill up an entire bulletin board, not like the Irish really need any extra motivation. And it’s only Wednesday.

    Looks like everyone at USC is underestimating the Irish. We all know what happens when we underestimate an opponent; it nearly came back to bite us (Pitt). Let’s hope it does come back to bite USC. By a point or by 30 points, a win gets us to the national championship. I’m having trouble wrapping my head around that. If there was ever a time for the Irish to play their best game of the year, it would be this Saturday. Do they rise up to the occasion, or falter when the lights are the brightest and the stakes are the biggest? Something tells me it will be the former.
    Irish win 24-14.

    • 4horsemenrideagain - Nov 21, 2012 at 9:36 AM

      If I live to be 150 years old and see ND wallop USC in every game from now to then, it still wouldn’t heal the wound inflicted by the 2005 game; the 4th and 9 and the Bush Push. Then again, hanging 50 on USC tomorrow, sacking Wittek 5 times, picking him off 3 times and letting Cam McDaniel eat up the clock in garbage time would go a long way to helping me forget 2005…

      • ndbcs2013 - Nov 21, 2012 at 9:49 AM

        Love it! Cam McDaniel = the fat lady singing. Here’s hoping that Cam gets about 15 straight touches to end the second half! Really like watching the kid run hard, too. Like a little battering ram. No north south worries with him.

      • 4horsemenrideagain - Nov 21, 2012 at 9:53 AM

        He reads the blocks so well and knows where the hole’s going to be before it appears. Love that kid!

      • ndgoldandblue - Nov 21, 2012 at 10:19 AM

        I hear ya. Even though the game’s not tomorrow, I kind of wish it were. I’m a professor, so I’m already on break for the holiday. I like having a full week of work to keep me focused on other things besides the Notre Dame game. This week is the worst. Too much time off and the biggest game in 19 years has led to me experiencing a temporary case of bipolar disorder. Some days (like yesterday), I think the other shoe is going to drop, and the Irish will lose in heartbreaking fashion. Other days (like today), I think Wittek crumbles under the pressure and we win by more than a touchdown.

        The only solace I take away from the ’05 game is that the Irish already had one loss, so a victory over USC wouldn’t guarantee a spot in the national championship. This one on Saturday, however, does. Damn it, where’s the Rolaids? I have some papers to grade; maybe I should get to that.

      • 4horsemenrideagain - Nov 21, 2012 at 10:26 AM

        Comforting to hear I’m not the only one having a hard time this week, and an 8 p.m. kick-off? Good grief, I may be on beer #37 by that time of day, just trying to calm my nerves!

        Sandbagging my house waiting for Hurricane Sandy to arrive wasn’t as nervewracking as this week has been, but reading that Wittek has guaranteed a victory has been the bright spot today. It reminds me of those cartoons where the wolf is looking at the sheep, and in the wolf’s mind it suddenly turns into a big porkchop with legs.

      • 9irish - Nov 21, 2012 at 10:42 AM

        ugh. Makes you wonder how Weis’ tenure would’ve been different if they’d have won that one. They were pretty good that year.

      • nudeman - Nov 21, 2012 at 11:14 AM

        9irish
        His tenure would have turned out the same
        The final word on CW is that despite his schematic “genius”, the job was too big for him
        No concept of building a defense, strength training, and recruiting an entire team.
        The embodiment of the Peter Principle

      • 9irish - Nov 21, 2012 at 12:17 PM

        Nude,
        I don’t disagree, it probably would have just served to prolong the pain. And you’re exactly right about the physical part of it…nobody pushes them around anymore.

      • bostonjan - Nov 21, 2012 at 12:54 PM

        Hey Nude,

        I don’t disagree that the HC job was likely too big for Charlie. However, i am grateful for his contribution – especially in ramping up the recruiting effort and restocking the cupboard. My sense at the time of his hiring was that no elite HC (eg. Urban Myer) wanted the position after the Davie and Willingham years of deteriotation. This year’s senior class (and Manti in particular) is a testament to Charlie’s contribution. We’ve debated this topic ad nausem on the board, and I don’t mean to start again.

        I’m pleased to read that the relationship between Kelly and Weis (AND Lou and Ara) is so positive and supportive. Coaches as well as players can learn from the experiences of those that came before them.

      • nudeman - Nov 21, 2012 at 1:22 PM

        bostonjan
        You’re right, the subject has been beaten to death.
        No interest in beating up on CW. He tried hard, still loves ND, it didn’t work. Onward

        However I disagree with your “restocking” comment
        Willingham was an awful recruiter (look at the 2004 list; embarrassing) and so it wasn’t hard to be better than him.

        Having said that, CW tried to do it all at the skill positions with little regard for D or line play. That was his downfall more than anything else, I believe.

      • papadec - Nov 21, 2012 at 4:11 PM

        4horsemen – hopefully it will be on Saturday (not Thursday) – I guess we’re all a bit anxious.

  6. ndrocks2 - Nov 21, 2012 at 8:11 AM

    Instead of an annual rivalry which it is, I believe the point is it hasn’t been a competitive rivalry for quite some time minus two years ago in the rain without Barkley. Given what is at stake we can and will move the pendulum back in our direction starting this Saturday. GO ND!!!

  7. drdannddad - Nov 21, 2012 at 8:53 AM

    Two thoughts: First, I think it might be helpful to use Lou’s old approach to big games like this one. “We just need to be the best team on the field this Saturday.” That always seemed to help the team handle pressure and maintain perspective. Second, yesterday ESPN’s Jesse Palmer said yesterday that USC had “zero chance” to beat ND without Barkley. So now USC has some bulletin board material courtesy of ESPN.

  8. irishking - Nov 21, 2012 at 9:00 AM

    I would love to have the opportunity to sit alongside Ara to watch ND play and listen to his comments.

    • 9irish - Nov 21, 2012 at 10:33 AM

      There would be alot of “bleeping” in that conversation!

      Now him vs John McKay, that was where this modern rivalry came from. My favorite John McKay quote, after ND beat them 51-0. Coach what do you think of your team’s execution? “Well, I’m all for it”

      Funny guy…hated him, but funny.

      Go Irish

      • nolanwiffle - Nov 21, 2012 at 1:22 PM

        McKay did utter that line. However it was said while he was coaching the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during their historic 0-26 start as a franchise. Souther Cal won 4 national championships during McKay’s tenure there. Execution was never a huge issue.

      • 9irish - Nov 21, 2012 at 3:40 PM

        Really? I thought I read that in one of the Notre Dame books that I have. Anyway, he was a witty guy.

      • 9irish - Nov 21, 2012 at 3:49 PM

        Nolan, ahhhhh….you’re right. But this was the one I was thinking of

        Following the 51–0 loss to Notre Dame in 1966, “I told my team it doesn’t matter. There are 750 million people in China who don’t even know this game was played. The next day, a guy called me from China and asked, ‘What happened, Coach?’”

  9. ndbcs2013 - Nov 21, 2012 at 10:02 AM

    Need Zeke Motta and Danny Spond to lay some lumber on Woods and Lee when they make catches. They will get their catches, but they need to pay a price at least a few times, and especially in the middle of the field. Otherwise, need Jackson and Russel to grab on and hang tight on EVERY play! Yards after catch might be the stat that defines the game. Love to see a strip or two also, like the Bears have made a great habit of doing. Plays like that are huge game changers.

    • 4horsemenrideagain - Nov 21, 2012 at 10:18 AM

      A few of these de-cleating hits like the one Calobrese dished out last week will help make Woods/Lee hear some footsteps. They say Wittek throws much harder than Barkley, I’m guessing pressure makes this worse (like how Crist used to gun the ball on a 5-10 yard pass), so I’m hoping this will make Woods/Lee slow take an extra second to make sure they are securing the ball before breaking upfield, giving LB(s) and safeties time to take good angle and deliver big hits.

  10. mtflsmitty - Nov 21, 2012 at 10:03 AM

    It just can’t be understated how much our defensive backfield has steppwd up this year. Truly amazing. They absolutely get a ton of help from a front seven that castrates foes running games, and great pass rush. But the fact that plenty of respect is given to USCs receivers, but no one is talking about our porous pass defense is really amazing. They’re not talking about it cause our guys rock.
    That said, Zeke and Matthias will need to take good angles to avoid mistakes we made against Pitt.

    Go Irish.

  11. nudeman - Nov 21, 2012 at 11:19 AM

    I’ve loved a lot of the head coaches ND has had over the years, but there will always be something special about Ara. Maybe because he took over just when I was becoming aware of ND football as a 10 year old.

    Resuscitated a moribund program from the abyss, and ALWAYS had them ready for big games. Cool, confident and Armenian handsome, pacing the sidelines and never seeming out of control. A gentleman when interviewed; articulate and interesting to listen to.

    2 NCs isn’t too bad either

    Ara will always be #1

    • 4horsemenrideagain - Nov 21, 2012 at 11:22 AM

      I like how he sends Kelly a note each week, but doesn’t butt in or try to parade around campus tooting his horn. As classy as they come.

  12. runners00 - Nov 21, 2012 at 12:02 PM

    A few random thoughts on how I see this game (might as well have some fun as long as we’re 11-0 and we’ve been waiting since the early 1990s to actually have this feeling):

    1.) Kelly is right that rivalries are usually much closer, both in terms of scoring margin and results. I mean, how many times have we seen Michigan beat OSU 38-0? I don’t know if I have seen it. Same with Auburn and Alabama. We’ve been pretty weak on the results front, too, in recent years.

    2.) Cierre Wood’s going to have the game of his life against USC. He’s 215 pounds of speed and agility. But we have to block for this to happen and that means up front, we’ve gotta break open some holes for Wood — early and often — but I think that we’ll do this to SC’s relatively young defense.

    3.) Meanwhile, Everett Golson’s option looks are going to drive SC nuts. He’ll scramble for a dozen yards here, a half-dozen there and this will open up the receiving core. Goodman’s end-zone grab — on the SC side of the field — opens the scoring after a nine-minute drive. After an SC fumble at their own 20 yard line, Goodman scores again. The Coliseum is silenced.

    4.) Defensively, Tuitt, Shembo and Kap will converge on the quarterback, while Te’o, Nix and Spond will shut down Redd and McNeill.

    5.) I’m with you on Cam McDaniel. After our 51st and 52nd points (against SC’s field goal, made at the end of the first half, when they cut the score to 31-3), we hand it to McDaniel and he spends most of the fourth quarter wandering between tackles, gaining 3-4 yards per play.

    6.) Meanwhile the fans depart shaking their heads. “Didn’t see this one coming,” Herbie says as another pitch to McDaniel leads to four yards. “We knew it would be an uphill battle for USC without Barkley. But Notre Dame really took it to SC tonight, Brent. They’re creating holes for McDaniel — the 4th string back — that are monstrous. They’re playing the best we’ve seen them all year.”

    Now that sounds like a really fun game to watch (and, I have to say, I LOVE that this game is in the Coliseum. The white uniforms and gold helmets are so simple, but so much fun to watch, and the chatter is so much more prominent this week as a result of the ESPN/ABC coverage).

    • 4horsemenrideagain - Nov 21, 2012 at 12:32 PM

      That prediction is epic. I am DVR’ing the game (besides watching it live) and if it goes that way, I may watch that tape 2-3 times/wk. between now and the NC game, and even more often after that.

      I usually save my predictions for Fridays (superstition), but I foresee Silas Redd and McNeal having long days, Toma and Chris Brown both making their marks and Wood having a MONSTER game, while Riddick puts up more solid numbers. I also think our defense forces multiple turnovers and the time of possession ends up being about 70:30 in our favor.

    • nudeman - Nov 21, 2012 at 12:46 PM

      runners, this is great stuff

      Some other observations:
      1) Wittek is 6’4″ and 235 lbs. Can’t be very mobile. For USC, that’s not good.

      2) USC is ND 2011. Penalties, turnovers and mind numbing losses. Love it.

      3) The Colinauseum always scares me. Too many memories of sunshine and temps in the 70s when I was a kid freezing in another Chicago early winter, Anthony Davis, 49 points in the 2nd half, getting screwed by the refs after a great Montana comeback in ’78 and that fuc**ng horse. If it was up to me, that damn thing’s head would have been the one they used when they made The Godfather.

      4) It is my strong belief (and I thought this before Barkley went out) that if ND plays its game and doesn’t cough it up there is no way they lose to this collection of SoCal wannabe divas. I say, right here, right now it’s ND 24 USC 13 (but I reserve the right to change my mind right up until kickoff.

    • bostonjan - Nov 21, 2012 at 1:01 PM

      7.) Since Gameday is apparently being broadcast from the USC campus, one more random thought – Lee Corso suits up in the Leprechaum outfit again as he picks ND to win…..

      • runners00 - Nov 21, 2012 at 6:31 PM

        That would be nice – but it involves substantial concessions (I.e. “I was wrong about ND. They are good”). Doubtful.

  13. ajw21 - Nov 21, 2012 at 12:56 PM

    I haven’t seen any tape of the qb from hs or anything but from what I have heard he is pretty mobile for his size and more mobile then Barkley but thats not saying much. At halftime they should have a Barkley vs Rees 40 yrd dash! Haha!
    GO IRISH!

  14. kiopta1 - Nov 21, 2012 at 2:22 PM

    This weekend’s game/games have me so eager that i am viewing Thanksgiving as an annoying chore to get through.

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