POPE: Finishing strong in fourth quarter a forte for Irish
September 24, 2013 7:02PM
SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 21: Cam McDaniel #33 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrates his game-winning touchdown against the Michigan State Spartans at Notre Dame Stadium on September 21, 2013 in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame defeated Michigan State 17-13. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Oklahoma has defeated Notre Dame one time in the 10 meetings between the teams. Oklahoma’s only victory came in 1956 (40-0). Notre Dame has won the last seven in the series.
The Extra Point
Elijah Shumate was listed as one of the starters at safety on Notre Dame’s depth chart released Tuesday. The other starting safety spot was listed as Austin Collinsworth or Matthias Farley.
Updated: October 26, 2013 6:40AM
SOUTH BEND — It wasn’t pretty.
Not that it had to be or that mattered much to the Notre Dame football team.
All the Irish were concerned about was the result. And once again, the team found a way to win a close game.
“We just play our game. We knew this game was going to be a tough, physical game,” Notre Dame linebacker Carlo Calabrese said after Saturday’s 17-13 victory against Michigan State. “And we knew it was going to come to the end. We just grinded it out and came (out) on top.”
Notre Dame has appeared to have the formula for winning the tight games.
In the team’s last 11 games decided by one touchdown or less, the Irish have a 10-1 record. Notre Dame has pulled off the feat the last two weeks. The Irish rallied to win at Purdue, 31-24, on Sept. 14. And then last week, Notre Dame held on to defeat the Spartans by four points.
“I just think it happens over a period of time,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said Tuesday. “You know, when we first got here I don’t believe that we were able to win some of those games, and I think it’s just a matter of time. We’re four years into our program. Our kids believe that if they prepare the right way and they take care of the things that they’re supposed to do that they have a belief.
“It’s the will to prepare and it’s the belief that they can win. You carry those with you.”
The Irish have turned around their success in close games under Kelly. Notre Dame has had 18 games decided by one touchdown or less since Kelly arrived. The team went 2-5 in the first seven occurrences. Notre Dame has gone 10-1 since.
“You still have to perform. We didn’t perform late against Michigan; we lost the football game (41-30). Even though we prepared and we believed you can win, you still have to perform. We were able to perform to win football games,” Kelly said. “But you have to have those two things. I know our guys have confidence that they can win each and every game they play, but they also know that they have to make plays.”
Like the Michigan game, last year’s Oklahoma contest doesn’t fall under the “one touchdown or less” result. But it was tied in the fourth quarter before the Irish pulled away for a 30-13 win in Norman, Okla. Notre Dame scored the game’s final 17 points.
The teams meet again Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium.
“Last year they made all the plays down the stretch in the last six minutes of the game and that’s what changed the game,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said Monday. “It was a 13-13 game with six minutes to go and they make all the plays at the end.”
That’s been the case the last two weeks.
Notre Dame trailed Purdue 17-10 heading into the fourth quarter. Quarterback Tommy Rees connected with wide receiver DaVaris Daniels for two touchdowns. The second, an 82-yard strike, gave the Irish a lead they would never relinquish. Cornerback Bennett Jackson also had a crucial interception return for a touchdown. The Irish outscored Purdue 21-7 in the final quarter.
There wasn’t much offense for either team in Saturday’s Notre Dame-Michigan State battle. The game was tied at 10 heading into the fourth quarter.
A trick play by the Spartans late in the third quarter backfired, leading to an interception by Matthias Farley. The Irish capitalized on the miscue, and some Michigan State penalties, to get in position for the go-ahead touchdown.
A 7-yard run by Cam McDaniel gave Notre Dame a 17-10 lead early in the fourth quarter. The Irish outscored the Spartans 7-3 in the fourth quarter.
“There’s definitely a positive reinforcement in the belief that they can win,” Kelly said. “Look, we’ve won a lot of football games, 15 out of the last 16 games, 10 in a row at home. Those things all go towards that belief that they can win. They believe that they can win no matter what the circumstances are.
“But again, I would caution you to say that it’s still about you’ve got to make plays. We made a couple more plays at the end, and we’ll have to make a couple more this weekend. But there is that belief system. There’s no question that that foundation has been laid.”