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For Notre Dame, battle with Michigan filled with familiarity

Sep 2, 2014, 7:56 PM EDT

There will be no secrets between Notre Dame and Michigan Saturday night. Entering the fourth matchup between these two coaching staffs, even a game featuring three new coordinators won’t likely bring any true surprises.

“I think we all know the kind of game that we’re going to play here with this opponent,” Kelly said on Tuesday. “Each team knows each other very well.”

So while Pat Fitzgerald takes the Cal bloggers and beat writers to task for not divulging the Bears’ secret plans for a second quarterback, the formula seems quite obvious for both teams.

For the Irish, it means finding a solution to quarterback Devin Gardner and his tight end turned wide receiver Devin Funchess, who connected for three touchdowns last week.

“We’re playing an offense with Gardner and Funchess, a 1‑2 combination that is very dynamic,” Kelly said. “Funchess being on the perimeter is the a matchup problem, and he will be a matchup problem for everybody he plays this year. We will have to find ways obviously to slow him down, and he’s going to be difficult, and Gardner has played great against us. ”

Calling Gardner’s play in 2013 great might be an understatement, especially after the Michigan quarterback almost single-handedly dismantled the Irish defense, throwing for four touchdowns while leading the Wolverines in rushing in their 41-30 win.

With Brian VanGorder presenting a much different scheme than Bob Diaco, Kelly talked briefly about the need to slow down Gardner. A week after scheming to keep Rice quarterback Driphus Jackson in the pocket to lessen his threat running the football, VanGorder will need to dial something up tactically different than the Irish’s game plan in 2013, as Kelly acknowledged the multiple ways that the senior quarterback can hurt Notre Dame.

“I would think we would have a little bit more and a variety of schemes for Gardner because he can hurt you obviously running the football and throwing the football,” Kelly said.  “We’re going to have to have a comprehensive plan for him.”

Whether that comprehensive plan includes players like KeiVarae Russell and Ishaq Williams still remains to be seen. Kelly had no update on the five suspended players on Tuesday morning, with the status quo still all we’re told.

That means the Irish are not only practicing without the five suspended players, but also meeting without them, a decision that could change depending on the timetable for any discipline according to Kelly. But mental reps this week — especially with VanGorder likely heavily scheming to take advantage of a susceptible offensive line — are at a premium, and if Russell or Williams is expected to play this weekend, understanding their responsibilities will be key.

So will shoring up any other communication issues. While the game Notre Dame played last week was remarkably clean for an opener, a few communication breakdowns in the secondary turned into big plays for Rice, with the Irish head coach tabbing poor communication for three explosive plays.

The remedy for that has been sought not just on the practice field, but in the meeting rooms as well.

“We have to be more demonstrative and take more control back there,” Kelly said. “We aren’t standing back there like we are during practice, and I think Coach VanGorder, if you were here at our meetings yesterday, made it clear during the meetings how he wants those guys to communicate.

“I was in the quarterback meeting room and I could hear our safeties communicating very well during film study.”

The storylines are plentiful this week, but Kelly did his best to make sure he wasn’t one of them, begging out of a question that asked if there was any upside that comes with the Michigan series ending.

With a huge weekend on tap both on the field and off the field in recruiting, perhaps the only thing controversial Kelly did was select his plaid sport coat, the spoils of victory from a summer golf tournament among old coaching friends.



  1. sblxdoc - Sep 2, 2014 at 8:17 PM

    I believe this will be a high scoring game. I’d be curious to know the over/under. Everett Golson will be the difference maker though, with maybe a kickoff/punt return for TD. I’m saying ND wins by 7.

    • papadec - Sep 3, 2014 at 12:39 AM

      At espn ncaaf odds – 54.5 for the over/under. ND favored by 4.5.

    • liv4nd - Sep 3, 2014 at 10:21 AM

      I say by 10

  2. newmexicoirish - Sep 2, 2014 at 8:23 PM

    I don’t have a feel for the final score, but I think the difference is going to be Kyle Brindza. I see clutch kicks leading to an Irish win.

    Go Irish – beat (for the final time) Michigan!!!!

  3. mtflsmitty - Sep 2, 2014 at 8:23 PM

    As titilating as having the suspended players back this weekend may be, I don’t think there’s any way that’s going to happen.

    Cole Luke and Max Redfield will go hi/low to limit Funchis’ impact. Jaylon will be pointed squarely at Gardner. Shumate plays a much better game.

    Offensively, Our OL dominates their weak DL with plenty of Nick Martin, Hegerty/Hanratty, and Lombard in their LBs’ grills. Run game has a big day, as does Koyak on the play action.

    Irish 44-31

    • sblxdoc - Sep 2, 2014 at 8:29 PM

      Great comment. I agree with everything you said, especially about the running backs having a big day.

    • dickasman - Sep 2, 2014 at 8:50 PM

      I love how mr do right snuck in a tit in there.

      • johngaltisspeaking - Sep 2, 2014 at 11:25 PM

        White snow and Clitty the clitorus

      • mtflsmitty - Sep 2, 2014 at 11:36 PM

        Dick, that’s funny. I actually chose that word for your benefit. I’m glad you enjoyed it. You never disappoint.

  4. dbldmr - Sep 2, 2014 at 8:42 PM

    Somewhere a racehorse is missing a blanket.

  5. johngaltisspeaking - Sep 2, 2014 at 10:45 PM

    The opener against rice had a low low TV rating. Oregon and Michigan state are the hottest teams right now in college football. Another low rating and another loss to Michigan. This year might be the year ND gets serious about football again. 6 win season at best. Fans are tired like me waiting for notre Dame to turn it around. This academic debacle doesn’t help.

    • sblxdoc - Sep 3, 2014 at 8:05 AM

      Sock puppet ^^^^

  6. DPU Man ND Fan - Sep 2, 2014 at 11:30 PM

    You are tired.

    • papadec - Sep 3, 2014 at 12:33 AM

      Tiresome & boring would be closer to the truth..

    • johngaltisspeaking - Sep 3, 2014 at 12:38 AM

      You are right I am tired of ND pretending to be a Powerhouse Football team.

      • sblxdoc - Sep 3, 2014 at 8:06 AM

        Sock puppet ^^^^

      • billtetley53 - Sep 3, 2014 at 8:49 AM

        Youre tired, yet you get four comments back? Too funny.

        Good old sb mut have learned a new term. He thought sock puppet was so funny he used it twice, ugh.

        These “highly educated” ND fans never cease to amaze me with the stupidity they display in dealingcwith “trolls”.

  7. steincj36 - Sep 3, 2014 at 1:20 AM

    Over. For sure.

    Our DTs are great, but the DE’s are still green. And DE’s need to contain mobile QB’s. Solid safety play and DE’s that contain, and all Gardner will be able to do is dump off short routes. Can we execute?

  8. getsome99 - Sep 3, 2014 at 2:26 AM

    Wait. Do those ratings include how many fans watched on the NBC Sports app? Something fans of other college programs cannot do unless they’re subscribed to a cable package that includes the conferences their teams play in. Anyway, on to Saturday’s game.

    The only thing unfamiliar for Mich is Everett Golson punching them in the mouth. Golson has had 2 full years to think about his abysmal performance against the Wolverines in 2012. Which is by far the biggest blemish on his so far record breaking career. 5 more TD’s for Golson in this game. I still think we’re in for a STeams surprise as well as some points from the defense, but Golson will have a memorable performance in this game.

  9. jerseyshorendfan1 - Sep 3, 2014 at 1:31 PM

    Hey Coach, is that jacket awarded for high score in the round?

  10. 1historian - Sep 4, 2014 at 8:32 AM

    The game will be won up front – THERE’S an original thought.

    Instructions to OUR big guys – pound the ever-loving dogs++t out of THEIR big guys on every play, as in knock them down – it works every time.

    I understand the need for the artificial turf but I will miss the sight of dirty uniforms, a little blood on the uniforms, especially in the rain or snow.

    FYI – I am an old coot.

    • johngaltisspeaking - Sep 4, 2014 at 2:08 PM

      Yes you are strange

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