Onward Notre Dame: Brian Kelly’s Journey Home to Boston


One of the many storylines coming into play this week is Brian Kelly‘s return home to Boston. The New England native will have a special memory this weekend, playing a rare football game in Fenway Park, surrounded by family and friends who’ll be watching the sixth-year Notre Dame head coach compete for another chance at a national title.

Yesterday, NBCSN aired the latest Onward: Notre Dame episode. This one focused on Kelly’s return to Boston over the summer, where he threw out the first pitch at Fenway Park and spent time in his hometown, hosting a football camp at his former high school.

Enjoy the entire episode here, which was encapsulated by this quote from the Irish head coach.

“The perception is the head coach at Notre Dame and whatever comes with that. I consider myself a Division II guy that worked his way up,” Kelly said, juxtaposed by the video of him signing autographed cards as his private flight to Boston takes him back to his hometown. “I had to learn how to do the laundry. Used to take eight-hour bus rides into Northern Michigan. Now we’re flying on a private plane to Boston. I’ve never really had it handed to me. And I hope I’ve kept it in perspective.”


Irish offense will look to counter BC’s aggressive defense


Notre Dame doesn’t see a lot of man-to-man coverage. Maybe it’s because we’ve seen Will Fuller beat just about every team willing to run one-on-one with him into submission—starting with Texas and continuing all the way through to the tire tracks he left on Pittsburgh.

As Notre Dame prepares to take on Boston College’s No. 1 rated defense, the Irish will get a chance to go strength vs. strength. The Eagles will continue doing what they do defensively—play downhill, aggressive defense at the point of attack, sometimes leaving their covermen on islands. The Irish? They’ll get a chance to counterpunch, finding great matchups and hoping to make the Eagles pay.

It’s not logical to assume the Irish will be able to get their big-play offense back on track against a defense that gives up just a shade over 2.1 yards per carry and less points than anyone else in the country.  But there will be big plays available if the Irish can execute.  With C.J. Prosise in the lineup and the Irish receiving corps at full strength, that’s the objective of DeShone Kizer, who admittedly got a little vanilla against Wake Forest.

“These guys go hard and they take risks,” quarterback DeShone Kizer said on Wednesday. “And they’ve been really successful throughout the year.”

Kizer knows those risks also signify opportunities. Not just with the chance to hit Fuller when he’s matched up alone on the outside, but to target difficult one-on-one covers like Corey Robinson. The Irish may also be able to find ways to isolate their slot receivers, especially as Boston College is forced to substitute inexperienced defensive backs after injuries hit their starting lineup.

While establishing the running game will allow the Irish to stay balanced, getting vertical with the receiving corps could turn this game lopsided in a hurry. Boston College’s offense hasn’t been able to score points. Take away the 100 points they scored against Howard and Maine and they’re averaging less than 10 points a game against FBS competition.

So while Kelly, associate head coach Mike Denbrock and offensive coordinator Mike Sanford need to find ways to manufacture a running game, what they really need is a quarterback willing to stay smart but aggressive, with Kizer understanding that he’ll have chances to allow his receivers to go make plays.

“If you’re not going to challenge them vertically, then challenge them on the outside,” Kizer explained. “They have the ability to do a bunch of different things. They like to play their man coverage, but they play some really cool zone coverages in which there are not many open areas, and you’ve got to be able to understand when those are coming at you.”

Kizer is evolving still as a quarterback. While he’s clearly shown a mastery not often seen in a first-year player, sometimes you still see the gears churning. That was evident on some passing downs against Wake Forest, when the Demon Deacons changed looks and made things tough on the young quarterback, forcing him to do a little too much thinking.

That’s likely the mission for Boston College’s defense, knowing they have little offensive support. While the Eagles offense is decidedly vanilla, the defense will continue rolling the dice, hoping to change the game while the offense bleeds the clock, hopefully able to take advantage of the opportunities afforded them.

Kizer has shown the ability to hit the long ball. More importantly, he’s shown the smarts to stay out of trouble, his only two-turnover game coming against Temple. This Boston College defense is a new challenge for him. Not necessarily because it’ll be scheme heavy, but rather because they are just really good at what they do.

“They have complete confidence in what they’re doing right now,” Kizer explained.”They know what they’re doing, they know who they are, and they’re really good at what they do. And when you have confidence in what you’re doing, it allows you to play more competitively and be able to take a couple more risks that end up in game-changing plays on defense.”

And in that corner… The Boston College Eagles


It’s time for Boston College. No traditional opponent has done a better job playing the spoiler against Notre Dame than the Eagles. Whether you harken back to 1993 or prefer the turnover-plagued, green-jersey debacle of 2002, Boston College has been there to celebrate some of the most misery-filled moments in recent memory.

The Eagles walk in a woefully lopsided football team. They’re among the worst offenses in the country. They’re the opposite on defense, one of the best statistical units in the country.

In Steve Addazio’s third season in Boston, many hoped that the former Temple head coach and Urban Meyer’s old offensive lieutenant would be able to reboot the scoring attack. Instead, Addazio has coached college football’s version of a four-corners offense. Outside of the 100 points the Eagles scored in non-conference cupcake wins over Maine and Howard, Boston College hasn’t scored more than 17 points, doing that only twice.

Joining us to talk Boston College is the Eagle in Atlanta, Bill Maloney. With B.C. relegated to the role of spoiler amidst a really disappointing season, Bill took the time to talk about the state of the program and if he sees another shocking upset in the cards.


Last we chatted, I think we both knew the consensus was that 2015 was going to be a trying season. Just three wins later — even with a very good defense — that’s certainly been the case. It’s Year Three of the Steve Addazio era. How are you feeling about things?

Not good. My expectations were rather high for this year. I thought that with Addazio overachieving with someone else’s scraps and leftovers meant that as he got his own team, he would thrive. Injuries hurt the offense as well as youth, but I don’t feel like the season and many games were managed well.


Staying on the offensive side of the ball — what’s going on with the quarterback position? Who should the Irish expect to prepare for? And does it matter? We knew the departure of Tyler Murphy was going to hurt, but how tough has this been?

I think (freshman John) Fadule will get most of the snaps. Smith and possibly even Flutie could play if Fadule is disastrous. I think it matters in the sense that Fadule has shown the ability to pass the ball that the other two did not.

It has been tough, but also very frustrating. I don’t think Addazio nor his OC Todd Fitch adapted to any of their QBs skill sets.


Let’s flip to this defense. To me, it’s really impressive that the Eagles manage to be the No. 3 team in the country from a scoring perspective—especially with an offense that’s unable to protect them. It looks like Steve Daniels is having a monster season. Matt Milano as well. Harold Landry and Connor Wujciak are wreaking havoc in the trenches. Is there a weakness to this defense? And have they played an offense that’s been as explosive as the Irish?

The only emerging weakness are the DBs. Both starting DBs — who were awesome — are out for the year with injuries. The team that was most similar to ND’s offense was Clemson. They were able to challenge the DBs and make big plays downfield. BC needs to stop that this weekend.


Wake Forest laid a pretty nice blueprint against Notre Dame last weekend, keeping the football away from the Irish by dominating the time of possession. They couldn’t score in the red zone and gave up a Pick Six. Do you expect Addazio to devise a similar game plan?

That is Addazio’s plan regardless of the opponent. I think you will see more the same this weekend.


Is it safe to call this game the biggest one of the season? Postseason hopes are gone. A rival comes to town—to play a home game. There’s a great chance to wreck a very good Notre Dame season. Is that what it comes down to?

With nothing to play for, this game becomes huge. I think Addazio could use the goodwill that would come with a win and it will help legitimize his “rebuilding” narrative.


You’ve been writing about Boston College football for a long time. I was thinking back to the decision to fire Jeff Jagodzinski after he interviewed for an NFL job. It got me thinking about the chaotic decade Boston College football has had. The move to the ACC. The changes since Jags. Not just at the head coaching position, but at AD as well, with Brad Bates taking over in 2012. What’s your take on the state of BC football and maybe through a wider lens, the athletic department in general?

A lot of that chaos was a result of our former AD. Brad Bates is more mild-mannered and deliberate, so there has been less chaos, ruffled feathers and controversy. Both his big coaching hires are still in the too early to tell stage, so everything seems fine.


Last one (I promise): BC doesn’t need to be a great team to beat Notre Dame. What’s your confidence on the Eagles—wearing 1984 throwbacks while the Irish wear green—pulling off the upset?

It could happen, but I don’t have a lot of hope.

Irish offense ready for another stout defense


A week after being held to their lowest yardage total of the season, Notre Dame travels to Boston to take on the nation’s best statistical defense. Yes, Boston College is a three-win team. But that’s courtesy of an imploded depth chart at quarterback and an offense that makes anemic sound like a compliment.

But the Eagles play defense. Stout, tough, aggressive defense. Giving up just 236 yards per game and under four yards a play, Boston College is giving up a relatively insane 2.1 yards per carry and just five rushing scores on the season, both numbers the best in the country.

The Irish will welcome C.J. Prosise back after missing last weekend. But after freshman Josh Adams was held to gains of less than two yards on 10 of his 17 carries last weekend, Prosise will have a major challenge as he looks to cross the 1,000 yard mark on the season this weekend.

Brian Kelly knows about the challenge the Eagles present. This is Notre Dame’s seventh Top 40 defense they’ll face this season and likely the best of the group. Boston College defensive coordinator Donnie Brown has built another dominant group, doing it behind productive players like Steven Daniels, Harold Landry and Matt Milano—largely anonymous to Irish fans until they’re wreaking havoc in Notre Dame’s backfield.

On Tuesday, Kelly talked about Notre Dame’s struggles against a good Wake Forest defense (a group that managed to beat the Eagles 3-0). And if you think the Irish looked at that game tape and immediately wanted to get into a rugged ground war this weekend, you obviously haven’t been following Brian Kelly for that long.

“I would say that we just have to be probably a little more aggressive. I thought we were a little conservative at times,” Kelly said, when asked about the offensive struggles last weekend. “Probably a little more aggressive in the areas where we’ve been pushing the ball vertically. So we’ll get back to being more aggressive offensively.”

That vertical passing game will have chances against a Boston College secondary that’s a bit beaten up. Cornerback Kamrin Moore is done for the year. True freshman Taj-Amir Torres will likely start, with corner Isaac Yiadom banged up as well.

That leaves the Irish hoping to find ways to get yardage in chunks, even if that’s been hard to do against the Eagles.

“I don’t think you can make a living with this team or win or score enough points just trying to stack three-yard runs against them. It’s going to be a long day,” Kelly said. “They would hope that that’s the way you kind of play the game. We’ve got to try to find explosive plays.”

Notre Dame remains No. 4 in CFB Playoff rankings


Notre Dame remains ranked No. 4 in the College Football Playoff race, surviving a week where pundits expected two surging Big 12 teams to close the gap. Yet the Irish’s 21-point victory over Wake Forest—not to mention their body of work for the season—kept them comfortably above a narrowing pack behind the lead group.

The biggest win of the week belonged to No. 7 Oklahoma, who beat Baylor last weekend, the Bears falling from No. 6 down to No. 11. Stanford was the other big loser of the weekend, dropping from No. 7 to No. 11—now needing what might be divine intervention (not to mention a win over Notre Dame) to find its way into the final four. The Pac 12’s chances also went up in smoke when Utah lost to Arizona.

While Temple was bumped out of the Top 25 after getting beat by USF, Notre Dame’s victory over Navy looks better each week. The Midshipmen are up to No. 16, courtesy of an impressive strength of schedule and a lone loss to the Irish. Oregon’s victory allows the Big Ten to claim a non-conference Top 25 victory as a collective conference, No. 9 Michigan State’s best win of the season.

While the Irish will take on a three-win Boston College team, other Top 10 opponents play significant games this weekend. No. 1 Clemson gets their chance at Wake Forest. No. 2 Alabama is playing through a virtual bye week, a game against Charleston Southern essentially a scrimmage before the Iron Bowl. No. 3 Ohio State faces a real challenge, taking on No. 9 Michigan State in Columbus before heading to Ann Arbor next weekend.

Oklahoma, the week’s big winner, has another test with TCU set for primetime in Norman. That’s a week before traveling to Stillwater to take on No. 6 Oklahoma State, essentially a conference championship game—and the Big 12 hopeful a playoff game at the same time.