Notre Dame vs. Navy: 5 things Brian Kelly said
Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly made it crystal clear Tuesday that his team has moved on mentally from its humiliating 41-8 loss at Miami (Fla.) on Saturday.
“Regardless of a win or loss,” Kelly said in his weekly press conference, “we use Monday to refocus. Our team has been refocused. What happened Saturday is behind them and we’re back to work.”
The ninth-ranked Fighting Irish (8-2) will host Navy (6-3) Saturday at 3:30 p.m. (NBC).
Kelly touched on a number of topics Tuesday and here are five of them.
Now is not a good time for Notre Dame to have slipped into a slump in terms of being able to stop an opponents’ running attack.
The Midshipmen are the third most productive run team in the entire country and the Irish haven’t played worse all year against the run than they have in the past 11 days.
“We just have to have a better attention to detail,” Kelly said when asked about improving his team’s run defense. “Our fits have got to be better. We’ve got to get off blocks.”
Through the first eight weeks of this season, the Notre Dame defense had given up, on average, just over 116 yards rushing each game. However, in the past two weeks, the Irish have allowed Wake Forest to run for 239 yards and Miami 237.
“We’ve got to get back to that mentality of dominating those one-on-one match-ups,” Kelly said. “You’ve got to win some match-ups.”
Kelly said a lack of execution, not anything schematic, has been the issue of late.
“We had guys in position to make plays,” Kelly said. “We’ve got to simply make plays.”
Navy is currently averaging 370 yards rushing each week.
MARTINI STIRRING THE IRISH
One of those run-stopping Irish players needs to be senior linebacker and team captain Greer Martini.
Regardless of how Martini plays over the final three games of his career in South Bend, Kelly lauded the student-athlete for what he has brought to, not just this year’s team, but the program overall.
“When you talk about captains,” Kelly said, “one of the dynamics that you’re looking for is selflessness. Here’s a guy that plays on all of our special teams.”
“One of the things we want to instill in our players is the ability to not just play on your own defensive unit, but how you can do anything, and any job, to help your football team. That’s been Greer.”
That ‘selflessness” has also been exhibited over the last five weeks by Martini.
In the first five weeks of this season, he started at outside linebacker, but over the past five weeks, he has given way to junior Te’Von Coney, who has flourished over the second half of this season.
“Since Greer has gotten here,” Kelly said, “he’s done whatever we asked him to do.”
Martini is on the verge of having his most productive season of his career.
He has played in 47 games and made 169 tackles. Martini currently has 53 total tackles, which is just two shy of his personal best of 55 set a year ago.
He has also notched 14 ½ tackles for a loss in his career.
“Not only is he well respected because of his character traits,” Kelly said, “and obviously, well respected in our community here at Notre Dame, but as a player, he does all of the jobs for you.”
As Kelly mentioned, the Miami game is in the past for all of the Notre Dame players, but perhaps it needs to be taken that way mostly by Irish quarterback Brandon Wimbush, who had his worst game of the season Saturday.
Wimbush not only was ineffective (10 of 21 for 119 yards), but also inaccurate (a pair of interceptions).
“He’s a competitor,” Kelly said of his quarterback. “A competitor wants to be at his best when his best is needed, and he wasn’t.”
“So, he wants to rededicate himself to his preparation, and he wants to go out there and be the best version of Brandon Wimbush.”
One of those areas of emphasis, Kelly noted, was the necessity of his team to be effective in the red zone against Navy.
“Last year,” Kelly said of a 28-27 Irish defeat, “we scored, but we didn’t score touchdowns. You have to score touchdowns.”
Last week aside, Notre Dame’s play inside the 20-yard line has ranged from good to spectacular, and that is in large part to the play-making ability of Wimbush.
“He’ll go about his work,” Kelly said, “we’ll be demanding, but never demeaning to him, and ask him to be passionate and persevere in coming back after a difficult performance.”
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MIKE IS THE MAN
Like Martini, graduate student offensive lineman and team captain Mike McGlinchey drew praise from Kelly in advance of his final game at Notre Dame Stadium.
Kelly spent more time praising McGlinchey for his out-of-football performance, than his on-the-field exploits, which have been very good.
“I think that it’s easy to point to his football accolades,” Kelly said, “but he’s what you want from a student-athlete at Notre Dame. He graduates, stays to play with his teammates, captains his football team for two years, (and) I just think he embodies all of the traits that we look for here at Notre Dame, not just in our student-athletes, but in our students.”
“That is what he means to this university.”
McGlinchey has bounced around the line at various times and positions, but has played in all 48 of his possible games in his four years.
“We can be really proud of him and not even look at his jersey number,” Kelly said. “He’s really the model of the man behind the jersey more so than the number on the jersey.”
Most football teams – at every level – find itself banged up and not totally healthy late in its season. However, in the case of the deep and talented Irish running backs, Notre Dame may finally actually be getting healthy after not being so all season.
Starter Josh Adams has played in all 10 games, but has been limited in some of those to the point that he actually has sat out over three games worth of quarters this season, while back-up Dexter Williams has missed four games and barely played in two others.
“Knock on wood,” Kelly said, “this looks to be the best week that we’ve had with them in terms of the medical report.”
Reserve runners Tony Jones Jr. and Deon McIntosh have also missed multiple games this season, but Kelly believes the group has the health to be effective Saturday.
“We’re hopeful that all of the backs are in a better position than they have been at any time this year,” Kelly said.
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