Kelly gets first win; more work needed
Brian Kelly's debut as new head football coach at Notre Dame last week was a success but he admitted the Irish have a long way to go.
The Irish looked impressive in the opening half of the game but the offense faltered in the second half. The real bright spot of the 23-12 win over Purdue was the defense. As the South Bend Tribune put it, the end of the game didn't haunt the Irish.
Last season and the season before under Charlie Weis, the Irish ran out of gas in the fourth quarter and the defense gave up a lot of points at key times. The end result was losses that eventually led to the firing of Weis. Last week the defense withstood the late charge of the Boilermakers to preserve the win.
The victory was the first for ND since last October and ended a four-game losing streak. The key play that made the game a cliff-hanger was in the fourth quarter with ND up 20-3. QB Dayne Crist hit Michael Floyd on about the seven-yard line and as Floyd raced towards the goalline he was stripped of the ball. Purdue recovered and went on a long drive to make the game close. If the Irish had gotten into the endzone on that series, it would have made the score 27-3 and that would have been it. But Crist and the Irish did have a sustained drive later that resulted in a field goal to seal the win.
But the real story of the day was the defense. There is no question the Irish have the tools on offense to score points but the "D" is the real key to a successful season. More on the game later.
Today the Irish take on the Michigan Wolverines, who also enter the game at 1-0. Last week the Wolverines beat up Connecticut, 30-10, led by QB Denard Robinson. In his first start Robinson ran for 197 yards. Although the rap on Robinson was that he was not a good thrower, he completed 19 of 22 passes for 186 yards and a TD in the game. His speed is the most dangerous part of his game.
Michigan leads the series, 21-15-1, with their last win last year in Ann Arbor, 38-34, in a game in which the Irish gave up a late TD to lose it.
The game will be televised nationally by NBC-TV with a 3:41 p.m. scheduled kickoff.
IRISH NOTES:Crist won the praise of many last Saturday. He was steady, made no mistakes, didn't throw an interception and led the Irish on a key drive for a field goal that sealed the win. On the day he was 19 of 26 passing for 205 yards and a TD. The performance ranked him 38th in the country for pass-efficiency in the opening weekend of college football. Michigan's Robinson was 21st last week in that category. The 205 yards ranks him fourth on the ND all-time list for their first start. Brady Quinn is the leader with 297 yards in his debut....Six true freshmen saw action for the Irish against the Boilers....Frosh Bennett Jackson caught the eye of Kelly for his efforts on kickoff coverage. He is a backup receiver....Kelly enters today's game with the second-longest, regular-season coaching winning streak in the country. Boise State's Chris Peterson is the leader with 26, Kelly has 19....The Purdue game marked the 212th consecutive sellout crowd at ND stadium....Kelly avoided joining Elmer Layden and Lou Holtz as the only Irish coaches to lose their first games....Some game stats. Armando Allen had 18 rushes for 93 yards and a score and Cierre Wood seven for 57. Receiving Floyd caught five for 82 yards; Kyle Rudolph five for 43; and TJ Jones three for 41. Defensively leading tacklers were Gary Gray, Carlo Calabrese and Manti Te'o with nine each, Darrin Walls with seven and Brain Smith six....Kelly said he will consider using green jerseys, but not today. He said he is considering it for the Army game because "of the subway alums and what the green represents relative to our constituency on the East Coast." ....The Irish are 5-5 when wearing green jerseys....No serious injuries last week. Linebackers Prince Shembo and Darius Fleming both experienced cramping. Fleming was knocked out of the game because of them. Both returned to practice this week and will play today. Safety Jamoris Slaughter suffered a ankle injury that took him out of the game. Slaughter won't play today and will be replaced by sophomore Zeke Motta....Kicker David Ruffer is now eight for eight in field goals since being brought onto the squad by Weis two years ago from the campus program. He remains a walk-on. Ruffer beat out the school record-holder for consecutive field goals (14), scholarship kicker Nick Tausch, for the place-kicking job and had a career-long 46-yard field goal Saturday....Freshman Derek Roback has been granted a release from his scholarship so he can transfer to Ohio University. Roback was an outside linebacker then switched to safety. Kelly said Roback wants to try is hand at quarterback and that won't happen at ND. Roback was an outstanding high school QB....The status of center Dan Wenger is questionable. Wenger suffered a concussion last month and has had problems recently. The fifth-year senior did not practice this week. Because of the nature of the problem ND is using extreme caution with him....Last weekend we were in South Bend for the game. The media in South Bend said the city and ND officials expected about 100,000 plus people on campus both Friday and Saturday for the game. They appeared to be right. Several fans from this part of Pennsylvnaina and our area were at the game....The weather last week was almost perfect the entire weekend. Thursday had threatening clouds early but Friday and Saturday plenty of sunshine and mild temperatures. However, today's forecast is for the chance of showers and thunderstorms in the afternoon. The forecast doesn't appear to favor either team. ND's game with Army in Yankee stadium has a 7 p.m. start and will be televised nationally by NBC since it is an Irish "home" game....Today's game will be similar to last week's Purdue matchup. It will be a tough one with both teams about equal. The Irish have to contain Robinson to have a chance, and that is a real challenge because of his speed. I picked ND in this one. The bookie line has the Irish favored by four mainly because the game is in South Bend. This game means more for Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez, whose job is on the line, than Kelly, some say. But Kelly knows how much a win over Michigan means in this long-time rivalry.