Football: With no BCS shot, Irish remain motivated
By LaMond Pope 713-2691 or firstname.lastname@example.org November 12, 2013 8:46PM
Notre Dame senior wide receiver TJ Jones has at least one catch in 37 consecutive games. He has had multiple catches in 33 of those 37 contests.
The Extra Point
Nose guard Louis Nix III remains undecided whether he’ll turn pro or return next season to Notre Dame.
“It’s a thing to think about right now,” Nix said Tuesday. “I’m not sure yet. It’s something to consider. We have a lot of good guys coming back.”
Updated: December 14, 2013 6:39AM
SOUTH BEND — Notre Dame had to adjust its goals after September losses to Michigan and Oklahoma ended any chances of returning to the BCS national title game.
Saturday’s 28-21 upset loss at Pittsburgh knocked the Irish out of the picture for a BCS bowl game.
So now what?
“It’s Notre Dame. If that’s not enough to play for then you are at the wrong school,” senior wide receiver TJ Jones said Tuesday. “Even though we’re not going to go BCS, it’s still playing for your brothers. It’s playing for your family and the bonds that you build together with your teammates and playing for the University of Notre Dame.”
The BCS is gone, but the players say all is not lost.
“We’re not going to go out there and let a team beat us or take advantage of us. We’re going to go out and try to win every game. At the beginning you’re playing to get that national championship, but you are always playing for the guy next to you,” senior cornerback Bennett Jackson said.
“Now that we have had certain situations that have caused us not to go to a BCS game, we’re still going to play for the guy next to us, which was our main focus in the beginning. I don’t see us losing focus or coming out flat because we can’t make it to a BCS game. We’re still going to play just as hard because we have that much respect for the guys next to us.”
Notre Dame has its second bye this week. That gives the team an extra week to regroup after the stunning loss to the Panthers.
The Irish won’t practice this week, but they will condition, weight train and recoup from various bumps and bruises.
The injury report expanded Tuesday. Defensive linemen Isaac Rochell and Jarron Jones are battling ankle sprains. They are day-to-day. Center Nick Martin broke his snapping hand in the first quarter against Pittsburgh. He wants to play against BYU. If he does, he’ll likely be wearing a cast.
Martin played through the pain at Pittsburgh. Stephon Tuitt had to leave Saturday’s game early, and it had nothing to do with an injury.
The defensive end was ejected in the second quarter after being flagged for targeting. Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly didn’t agree with the call.
“Targeting as we all know it is somebody dialing in, intentionally trying to injure somebody and we clearly know that wasn’t the case in that instance,” Kelly said. “We’ve got some work to do with the legislation and hopefully we’ll be able to get to that in the offseason.”
Tuitt became the second Notre Dame player ejected from a game for targeting this season.
“I am for player safety,” Kelly said. “I am for making sure that in this game of football that we do everything to protect the integrity of the game. We don’t have it right yet. We need to get it right. Hopefully we’ll be able to get it right.”
Kelly pointed out that losing Tuitt didn’t cost the Irish the game.
“The facts are the facts. We turned the ball over eight times in our three losses and we took it away once. In our seven wins, we’ve turned it over five times and took it away seven times,” Kelly said. “In our three losses we gave up runs or passes of 64, 63 and 54 yards. In our seven wins, we gave up one 48-yard pass to Purdue. Those are facts. We live in finding solution to those and we know what they are and we know how to win and what we need to do to win.
“… The facts are you’ve got to take care of the football and you can’t give up the big plays. If you do that, you can win football games here each and every week at Notre Dame. If you don’t, you’re going to lose.”
The losses mean no trip to Pasadena for the BCS title game or Miami for the Orange Bowl. Instead, pundits are projecting Notre Dame for a lower-tier bowl in a place like Detroit or Shreveport, La.
Kelly isn’t concerned about the bowl destination.
“Our primary focus is winning our last home game and in particular sending our seniors (out) with a win,” Kelly said. “They’ve got four quarters left at Notre Dame Stadium. They are going to be a huge part of the history of Notre Dame and helping us to four bowl games, a national championship (game). And we are going to do everything in our power to make certain our seniors go out winners in their last game at Notre Dame Stadium.”