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Hype grows, message remains the same for Brian Kelly, Irish

Notre Dame Vs Miami. Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly.  Saturday October 6 2012 I Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

Notre Dame Vs Miami. Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly. Saturday October 6, 2012 I Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

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The Big Number

2 — Notre Dame’s national rank in scoring defense. The Irish have allowed 7.8 points per game. Only top-ranked Alabama (7.0) has fared better. ND has gone three straight games without allowing a TD for the first time since 1980.

Extra point

Everett Golson was pulled for the two-minute drill against Purdue, but he got to run it at the end of the first half against Miami. He completed four straight passes of 11-13 yards to set up a 34-yard field goal attempt, which Kyle Brindza missed.

“I thought he managed it very well,” Kelly said. “Maybe he managed it too aggressively. We didn’t want the ball thrown to the wide field with one second left on the clock. Maybe at a different stadium, we don’t get that one second. He was aggressive, but he made some strides, being comfortable out there, and doing the right things to be effective.”

Updated: November 11, 2012 6:24AM



Somewhere in the midst of Grand Valley State’s run to two straight Division II national championships in 2002 and 2003 — sometime after the Lakers had won their 20th consecutive game — then-head coach Brian Kelly had his hands full trying to keep his players level-headed, and focused on the task at hand rather than all the hype surrounding the program.

That hype? One of the Detroit newspapers was actually covering the team.

“That was a lot of noise for us,” Kelly said.

Nearly a decade later, Kelly stood before a few dozen reporters and a bunch of cameras on Tuesday, a week removed from having NFL Films embedded with his team for nine days, and a few days before ESPN’s College Gameday set takes over a chunk of campus in front of Touchdown Jesus. Notre Dame is ranked No. 7 in both national polls, is projected as a Top 5 team in the BCS rankings to be released on Sunday, and faces a punishing, physical 17th-ranked Stanford squad on Saturday.

Now that’s a lot of noise.

But the principle remains the same.

“It’s just on a larger scale,” Kelly said. “But it’s the same noise.”

The perpetual hype machine that envelops Notre Dame even in mediocre years has ratcheted up the intensity with every passing week — a laugher over Navy in Ireland, gutty victory over Purdue, a dominant “signature win” at Michigan State, a prime time win over Michigan, an annihilation of Miami at Soldier Field. And each week, Kelly has been in his players’ ears about tuning it all out.

Easier said than done.

“It is possible to avoid; just don’t pay attention to it,” defensive end Stephon Tuitt said before the Miami game. “But that’s kind of hard, because people are e-mailing me and sending me text messages. It’s exciting to be a part of that.”

But the looming specter of Stanford — which has won the last three meetings, the last two with relative ease — should keep the Irish grounded, much like a career 0-fer against Michigan kept them focused after the breakthrough win at Michigan State.

“They haven’t beaten Stanford, and if there’s one team that has beaten us physically, it’s Stanford,” Kelly said. “And they know that.”

The Cardinal (4-1) knocked off then-No. 2 USC three weeks ago, before getting upset by Washington. Last week, against Arizona, Stanford got into an uncharacteristic shootout before rallying from 14 points down in the fourth quarter to win in overtime. Arizona quarterback Matt Scott threw 69 passes, torching the normally stout Stanford defense for 491 yards.

Kelly’s expecting to see the real Stanford defense, though — the one that’s allowing just 77 yards per game on the ground, the one that’s a heck of a lot more like the vaunted Irish front seven than the porous Miami middle that let the Irish run wild for 376 yards on Saturday.

“They’re difficult to run the football on, and it’s hard to get the ball downfield because the quarterbacks are under constant pressure,” Kelly said.

That means redshirt freshman quarterback Everett Golson won’t have so much time in the pocket. And it means the Irish certainly won’t be able to run 30 consecutive rushing plays, as it did to close out the Miami game. In other words, never mind the pressure from external forces, Stanford’s bringing plenty of pressure of its own.

And that’s what Kelly wants — no, needs — his players to focus on this week. No matter what headgear Lee Corso puts on Saturday morning.

“We will have to get better as a football team this week,” Kelly said. “We will have to improve on our performance against Miami if we want to beat Stanford.”



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