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Brian Kelly: Mr. November

Exactly 100 years ago, Nov. 1, 1913, first-year Notre Dame head coach Jesse Harper began what can be categorized as the most important and amazing month in the school’s football history.

Brian Kelly is 10-1 in November at Notre Dame, was 10-1 at Cincinnati in November, and also 2-0 at Cincinnati during regular season games in December.

Forced to schedule nationally because of no regional marquee takers, Harper and his Notre Dame team capped a perfect season with their traveling show by first upsetting Army 35-13 (Nov. 1) in a watershed moment, Penn State 14-7 (Nov. 8), traveled to St. Louis to defeat Christian Brothers 20-7 (Nov. 22) and then five days later, on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 27), defeated Texas 30-7 in Austin.

During his five years at Notre Dame, Harper was 19-1 (.950) in November, with the lone defeat coming to Army in its “revenge match” in 1914. His first three years the November record was 10-1. A Notre Dame head coach hadn’t matched that … until now.

Through his first three seasons with the Fighting Irish, Brian Kelly is 10-1 in November. It began in 2010 when his reeling 4-5 team on a two-game losing streak, and having to suddenly start freshman Tommy Rees at quarterback, defeated No. 15 Utah, 28-3. Last year Kelly joined Frank Leahy and Lou Holtz as the lone Irish coaches to vanquish USC in their first two trips to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

And there’s more. Kelly also was 10-1 in November during his three-year stint at the University of Cincinnati (2007-09) before coming to Notre Dame, winning his last eight contests in that month. Four of those victories were against ranked teams, and the lone defeat was in 2007 (28-23) to No. 5 West Virginia.

And wait, there’s more! In regular season games that extended into the month of December while he was at Cincinnati, Kelly was 2-0, highlighted by the dramatic 45-44 win at No. 15 Pitt in which a BCS bid was on the line. The Bearcats trailed 31-10 before rallying to victory.

Finally, Kelly also won his last two November games while at Central Michigan University in 2006, highlighted by the MAC Championship game, the team’s first such title in 12 years.

In his last 26 November/December regular season games, including the MAC Championship, Kelly is 24-2 (.923 winning percentage). His lone loss at Notre Dame in November was 28-14 at Stanford in 2011, when quarterback Andrew Luck led the Cardinal. A victory at Stanford this year — currently No. 5 in the BCS — would go a long way toward atoning for that setback.

Kelly said much of the November success is based on year-round conditioning plans, headed by his long-time right-hand man, Paul Longo. This includes proper nutrition, hydration and pacing of training and practices throughout the year. A huge part of conditioning is not over-working players.

“We make it such that it’s not a grind,” said Kelly of how the practices are set up. “It’s not a sprint but a marathon, and that October is for pretenders and November is for contenders. We try to ingrain within our players’ [and] coaches’ mind that this is now the time to kick it into gear. This is where you get the opportunity to play for championships.

“You can’t have a great November without having a great plan as it relates to your conditioning. That goes back to January. That goes back to what you do in June. If you try to win the battle in June and July and August, you’re probably going to come up short in November.

“We want to make sure the tank is full in November, and we’ve done a pretty good job of it.”

Like in everything else, you need luck, too. Just ask Alabama head coach Nick Saban. Losing a game in November, especially at home, used to be a death knell for a college football team with championship aspirations. The Crimson Tide has lost at home in November each of the past two years (LSU and Texas A&M) but still went on to capture the national title.

“You’ve got to be lucky, too,” Kelly said. “You’ve got to stay away from the injury situation and make sure your players are developed and count on guys … we’re going to have to count on guys to play a big role for us in November.”

Here are the November records of Notre Dame coaches their first three years at the school, keeping in mind it’s not always an apples-to-apples comparison based on strength of schedule:

Jesse Harper 10-1 (.909)

Knute Rockne 11-1-2 (.857)

Hunk Anderson 7-6 (.539), plus 1-0 in December

Elmer Layden 6-4-1 (.591), plus 1-0-1 in December

Frank Leahy 9-2-1 (.792), plus 0-0-1 in December

Terry Brennan 8-4 (.667), plus 1-1 in December

Joe Kuharich 5-7 (.416), plus 0-1 in December

Ara Parseghian 8-2-2 (.750), based on NCAA formula where ties count for a half-win and half-loss, thereby dividing 9 into 12.

Dan Devine 8-3 (.727) , plus 1-0 in December

Gerry Faust 3-8 (.273)

Lou Holtz 8-4 (.667)

Bob Davie 7-5 (.583)

Ty Willingham 6-5 (.546), plus 0-1 in December

Charlie Weis 9-3 (.750)
Note: In his last two years, Weis was 1-8 in November, losing his last six.

Brian Kelly 10-1 (.909)

  • What is his record against ranked opponents in November? % compared to other ND coaches?

  • John, right now he is only 1-1, with the win against Utah in 2010 and the loss to Stanford in 2011. More impressive is he was 4-1 at Cincinnati, not including the win over No. 15 Pitt in December 2009.

    As a basis of comparison with the Hall of Fame coaches at ND the last 50 years, Ara was 1-1-1, Dan Devine 1-1 and Lou Holtz 2-4. But Lou's opponents included 1986 national champ Penn State and at SEC champ LSU, and in 1987 it had at national champ Miami and in 1988 at then No. 2 USC.

    As I stated in the article, it's not all apples to apples there. But 24-2 in your last 26 November games at three different schools is pretty darn impressive, no matter how you slice it.

  • That is impressive. Even with 2 losses to BYU and Stanford, he would be 12-3. Obviously hoping for more, but worse case that is a .750 clip for a coach trying to turn a program around. I'd caveat those results a bit since it appears scheduling issues have made our schedules harder on the front end than the back end. For example, Holtz regularly played Tennessee in November.

    I don't want to jinx the team, but assume 2 wins the next 2 weeks putting us at 8-2. I'd then assume the 20-3 record over the course of 2012 and 2013 would be one of the better runs in the modern era of ND football. The 88-89 run would be first, but the current run would have to be in the top 5 since 1980. I could look this information up, but I suspect you have already thought about such a scenario!

  • nd1992 said... (original post)

    I'd caveat those results a bit since it appears scheduling issues have made our schedules harder on the front end than the back end. For example, Holtz regularly played Tennessee in November.

    Holtz only played Tennessee in 2 of the 11 seasons he was at ND, the 1990-91 home and home series with the Vols. Not exactly what I would call playing them regularly.

    He also had home and homes with SEC members Vanderbilt and Alabama during his tenure at ND, going 3-1 against them.

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    My luck w/the Irish 20-6...GO IRISH!!!

  • Lou Somogyi said... (original post)

    But 24-2 in your last 26 November games at three different schools is pretty darn impressive, no matter how you slice it.

    But kind of tempered by the fact that that he's .500 in late-December/early-January (bowl season), no? Also, I'd be curious to know the combined records (winning percentage) of Notre Dame's opponents in November compared to those opponents in September/October. Rankings, too. Just seems that in the grand scheme of things, November records are rather misleading. Notre Dame has been to three bowl games under Kelly, but has been ranked going into those games only once. With that being the case, I'm not seeing the significance of a great November record. A great November record is ONLY important if you're going into November unbeaten, which Kelly has done 25% of the time (trending downward from 33% last year).

    It has long been established that Brian Kelly is good to very good when it comes to beating lesser opponents, which is absolutely a significant step up from recent coaching staffs. But there is still much more of the mountain to climb.

    Notre Dame is a really nice Corvette. Just not sure what the means in a race against Bugattis.

  • John,

    I hear you and respect your opinion on it. But two things:

    1) I don't care if USC is 0-11. Anyone ND win in the Coliseum is grand.

    2) The November/December record speaks to more what he did at Cincinnati, where most of the marquee games came during that time and where depth becomes a greater issue as the season progresses.

    Also, I have to to find a topic of the day every day for the web. It's like filling 24-hour news stations. You find any topic you can get your hands on to try to entertain the Notre Dame masses.

    This post was edited by Lou Somogyi 6 months ago

  • Lou Somogyi said... (original post)

    John,

    I hear you and respect your opinion on it. But two things:

    1) I don't care if USC is 0-11. Anyone ND win in the Coliseum is grand.

    2) The November/December record speaks to more what he did at Cincinnati, where most of the marquee games came during that time and where depth becomes a greater issue as the season progresses.

    Also, I have to to find a topic of the day every day for the web. It's like filling 24-hour news stations. You find any topic you can get your hands on to try to entertain the Notre Dame masses.

    Well said Lou!

    We have one of the top coaches in CFB and John wants to nitpick every time he's brought up.

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  • Lou Somogyi said... (original post)

    http://notredame.247sports.com/Article/Brian-Kelly-Mr-November-157330

    His 10-1 Notre Dame record during the month ties him with Jesse Harper for the best by a Notre Dame coach after three seasons.

    Lou

    I think Mr November has a partner in Coach Longo - this has to be a major factor/hire in ND November performance. Didn't BK bring him in from Cincy?

    This post was edited by irish13 6 months ago

  • WE ARE ND76 said... (original post)

    ... John wants to nitpick every time he's brought up.

    One of us posts on this board every day several times a day. And one of us does not. So needless to say, I think you're overstating my nitpicking of Brian Kelly. Or maybe he's only brought up on days that I post.

    But yes, I'm less impressed with November records if they aren't followed up with bowl wins ... or even a visit in the final rankings. After four years, "one of the top coaches" hasn't even returned Notre Dame to the top, and it's not like Notre Dame is short on resources, financial or otherwise. And the time Notre Dame did start feeling really good about itself, they were ultimately embarrassed for doing so.

    Brian Kelly gets paid handsomely to win football games. I'm not going to pat him on the back for doing the job he gets paid (very well) to do. And I sure won't continue to prop up his accolades from Cincinnati as if I care, because I don't care one iota about the Bearcats program; not a fan. When the team adds a trophy to Notre Dame's case more impressive than the Sun Bowl, then maybe I'll hop on the bandwagon. For now, he's more hype than delivery in my opinion.

  • simm said... (original post)

    Holtz only played Tennessee in 2 of the 11 seasons he was at ND, the 1990-91 home and home series with the Vols. Not exactly what I would call playing them regularly.

    He also had home and homes with SEC members Vanderbilt and Alabama during his tenure at ND, going 3-1 against them.

    You're right--I was merging the games in the 2000s when I was thinking it was a regular occurrence. So no it wasn't a regular occurrence.

    I think there is a concern that we may not see those types of games against big name conference opponents on a regular basis with conferences moving to schedule more games in conference. I hope games against the FSU/Miami/Virginia Techs will sometimes occur later in the season. We will always have a USC or Stanford at the end of the year. BYU is a nice game this year, but it would be nice to have a little higher profile game in November to add to the USC/Stanford mix.

  • John Haynsworth said... (original post)

    ...For now, he's more hype than delivery in my opinion.

    One of the most absurd things I've ever read. And how do you not "pat him on the back" for winning if your going to crush him for losing

  • 619irish said... (original post)

    One of the most absurd things I've ever read. And how do you not "pat him on the back" for winning if your going to crush him for losing

    Fair enough, we'll agree to disagree on the absurdity of that statement. Maybe you can spin a 1-2 record in bowl games, 1-3 record against Michigan, 1-2 record against Stanford, an average of 3 losses per season, etc., into greatness, and many Irish fans do. I just happen to think he's a good coach, not great.

    And I was supportive of noteworthy wins over OU and Stanford last year for example. I certainly didn't apologize for Notre Dame putting itself into position to compete for a BCS Championship last year.

    But within this conversation, we're talking about November records. Looking at the numbers, Kelly's November record at Notre Dame looks nice, but just looking at the record lacks context. Novembers have generally been fairly smooth sailing for Notre Dame compared to September/October.

    Look, it's one man's opinion. I could be like some and call for his job (now THAT'S absurd), but I haven't. Despite my lacking enthusiasm for Brian Kelly, I can still engage in respectful conversation about his positives and negatives. If you want to see absurd, then there are plenty of absurd opinions re: Brian Kelly on this board.

    This post was edited by John Haynsworth 6 months ago

  • John Haynsworth said... (original post)

    Fair enough, we'll agree to disagree on the absurdity of that statement. Maybe you can spin a 1-2 record in bowl games, 1-3 record against Michigan, 1-2 record against Stanford, an average of 3 losses per season, etc., into greatness, and many Irish fans do. I just happen to think he's a good coach, not great.

    And I was supportive of noteworthy wins over OU and Stanford last year for example. I certainly didn't apologize for Notre Dame putting itself into position to compete for a BCS Championship last year.

    But within this conversation, we're talking about November records. Looking at the numbers, Kelly's November record at Notre Dame looks nice, but just looking at the record lacks context. Novembers have generally been fairly smooth sailing for Notre Dame compared to September/October.

    Look, it's one man's opinion. I could be like some and call for his job (now THAT'S absurd), but I haven't. Despite my lacking enthusiasm for Brian Kelly, I can still engage in respectful conversation about his positives and negatives. If you want to see absurd, then there are plenty of absurd opinions re: Brian Kelly on this board.

    So "absurd" may have been to strong of a stance there. And I understand the issue with the 1-3 record with Michigan but in 2010 dayne crist missed 2 quarters of played which forced kelly to play a walk on and a true freshman because of the way Charlie left the program and in 2011 the defense absolutely choked in the 4th quarter because of diaco and Gary gray refusing to turn his head around. I'm also not going to really fault him for losing twice to a Stanford team that was light years better then ND with a #1 overall pick at QB who had his worst game of each year against ND.

  • Lou will know this, but I believe the Longo relationship goes back to CMU.

    Kelly's intelligence is shown by his making Longo on the same pay and perk level with his offensive and defensive coordinators. Longo is not just some guy running a weight and fitness program, he is fully integrated into the coaching agenda and is aligning the workouts (and the mental commitments embedded therein)
    with the then current weekly mission of the coaching staff.

    Again, lou would know more, but it seems that since they realigned the staff that there is a relatively smooth
    working relationship among the entire staff.

  • Look who we used to hAve! Charlie weis found ways to lose to navy Syracuse and uconn in the same season. Sorry John, but he's far better than many other coaches we have had. Moreover he's shown he can recruit. You have such an arrogance that you fail to see other programs. Alabama, Florida state and Oregon also give scholarships. They aren't hamstrung by academic admissions and cold weather. They also have a track record of putting guys in the league. Winning it all is tough and takes luck among other things. I think you're understating how poor BYU is. I think this game is the toughest game we play at home. With Stanford coming up it'll be a physical slobber knocker. If Kelly makes it through against these oponents including a tough road game due to Pitts ability to always play tough, recognition needs to be made. I've spoke with many folks who are very arrogant and it's a disturbing trend among ND faithful. Like Holtz once said, the other teams give scholarships too

  • Actually, I'm fairly certain they amended du lac and the Indiana statutes as follows:

    "It is hereby declared that that flatulent, fraudulent bull's pizzle Jersey Shore more obnoxious than Snooki Jabba the Hutt impersonator Charley Weis has RETIRed the "more hype than delivery." trophy and appelation and such phrase, whether or not you think it gives you a schematic advantage shall never be used again." Punishment
    for such use shall be being bound into a chair and being forced to watch slo mo game tapes of the home losses to
    Syracuse, Navy and Uconn achieved by that fraud.

  • DomerPile said... (original post)

    Sorry John, but he's far better than many other coaches we have had.

    I've never once argued that he's not better than anyone since Holtz.

    The rest of the nonsense in your post about arrogance really isn't relevant. It's not arrogant to want the head coach of the team I root for to have his team ranked more often than not. Brian Kelly has coached something like 47 games at Notre Dame. His teams have entered less than half of those games ranked. (After his first season Lou Holtz was ranked entering every matchup until midway through a disastrous 1994 season - 87-94)

    If you're excited about Notre Dame being a multi-loss program more often than not with the occasional run at glory, great. I can see why you're content. You're getting exactly what you want. My expectations are higher. I want Notre Dame to be a perennial top 10-15 team.

    But I've exhausted my opinion on Brian Kelly, so I'll let this be my last comment on the matter. Good luck with the rest of this thread.

    This post was edited by John Haynsworth 6 months ago

  • BrownerandFry said... (original post)

    Lou will know this, but I believe the Longo relationship goes back to CMU.

    Kelly's intelligence is shown by his making Longo on the same pay and perk level with his offensive and defensive coordinators. Longo is not just some guy running a weight and fitness program, he is fully integrated into the coaching agenda and is aligning the workouts (and the mental commitments embedded therein) with the then current weekly mission of the coaching staff.

    Again, lou would know more, but it seems that since they realigned the staff that there is a relatively smooth working relationship among the entire staff.

    Thanks - I was pretty sure Coach Longo came with BK - the quick turnaround in 2nd half game/season stamina has been remarkable and this occurred the 1st season under BK with the last 4 games in 2010 being Ws last one against USC. You don't hear anyone saying ND's gassed in the last quarter anymore:)

  • John,

    Your points are valid and I don't necessarily disagree with them. I also would not put Brian Kelly in the great category because that word is thrown around too indiscriminately. I think there is a thankfulness initially that "thank God it's not as bad as it had been." To get to the BCS Championship last year was a "Dream Season." Yeah, the BCS was a nightmare, but it was the type of campaign everyone was waiting for. Now, once you've fed the beast, the appetite becomes insatiable.

    That is part of the job description for every coach who ever was here or will be here.

  • I'm of the opinion that if you put Brian Kelly at an OSU, Florida, Bama, etc. He's going to at a minimum get the same results as an Urban Meyer. He's proven himself a winner all along the way. He's not play by the same set of rules as the other schools and he's a QB(which he had on the roster for the next 3 seasons) away from being a perennial Top 10-15 team.

    Kelly is on par with these other coaches and will prove it before he leaves ND and what sets him apart from the rest is he was willing to put his legacy on the line to take on the challenge and ridiculousness that is Notre Dame football. He didn't see the easy way out by taking an SEC job or an OSU type job that he was in line to get as well that would have given him an easier and quicker route to success.

    I value you your opinions John. But I have noticed a pattern in your posts relating to Kelly. And I think he's earned a bit more respect than you tend to show him. You are absolutely entitled to your opinion and as always I enjoy civil dissenting discourse on this site.

    cheers and Go IRISH!

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  • John Haynsworth said... (original post)

    But kind of tempered by the fact that that he's .500 in late-December/early-January (bowl season), no? Also, I'd be curious to know the combined records (winning percentage) of Notre Dame's opponents in November compared to those opponents in September/October. Rankings, too. Just seems that in the grand scheme of things, November records are rather misleading. Notre Dame has been to three bowl games under Kelly, but has been ranked going into those games only once. With that being the case, I'm not seeing the significance of a great November record. A great November record is ONLY important if you're going into November unbeaten, which Kelly has done 25% of the time (trending downward from 33% last year).

    It has long been established that Brian Kelly is good to very good when it comes to beating lesser opponents, which is absolutely a significant step up from recent coaching staffs. But there is still much more of the mountain to climb.

    Notre Dame is a really nice Corvette. Just not sure what the means in a race against Bugattis.

    John, I think it's fair to massage the November stats as you have, or would like to see. At the same time, I think you can spin some positives out of his Notre Dame November record. In 2010, those games were won with Freshman Tommy Rees at quarterback. How many people do you think felt that Notre Dame had any kind of chance whatsoever to win all those games? I find that to be a pretty big deal. In 2012, those games were won with the pressure of an unbeaten season riding on each one. Think that's not a big deal? Ask Alabama, Oregon and K-State. Yes, they played stronger teams, but the pressure was there, regardless.

    You say a great November is "ONLY" important if you're going into November unbeaten, and I strongly disagree. One of the indicators I had written about before Kelly took over was the ability of a team to look stronger at season's end, than in the beginning. This was clearly a failing of many of the Weis' teams. I think this is a very telling quality. It's important to see that a coach can refine a team as the season progresses.

    I agree with you (and Lou) that Kelly has yet to prove he's a great coach at Notre Dame. But, I think you and I set the bar for greatness at different levels, as would be the case for nearly everyone. Referencing something you wrote further down on the thread, I don't think it's a fair expectation for a coach at Notre Dame in this era to be a perennial Top 10-15 ranked team. Even as a benchmark twenty-five years ago, Holtz wouldn't have made the cut, either.

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  • John Haynsworth said... (original post)

    I've never once argued that he's not better than anyone since Holtz.

    The rest of the nonsense in your post about arrogance really isn't relevant. It's not arrogant to want the head coach of the team I root for to have his team ranked more often than not. Brian Kelly has coached something like 47 games at Notre Dame. His teams have entered less than half of those games ranked. (After his first season Lou Holtz was ranked entering every matchup until midway through a disastrous 1994 season - 87-94)

    If you're excited about Notre Dame being a multi-loss program more often than not with the occasional run at glory, great. I can see why you're content. You're getting exactly what you want. My expectations are higher. I want Notre Dame to be a perennial top 10-15 team.

    But I've exhausted my opinion on Brian Kelly, so I'll let this be my last comment on the matter. Good luck with the rest of this thread.

    I see what you are saying John. My contention with Kelly is winning the BCS bowl games. This is something that Holtz was a master at, going to 9 straight New Year's Day bowl games and going 5-4 in those games from 1987 to 1995. Kelly is now 0-1 in those games and even if ND does not get into the 4 game playoff in the coming years they still have a chance to go to a "BCS" game whether it is the Cotton, Orange, Fiesta, Sugar, Rose or Chick Fila. Kelly needs to start winning those type games to be mentioned among Holtz, Ara, Devine, Leahy and Rockne.

  • John Haynsworth said... (original post)

    One of us posts on this board every day several times a day. And one of us does not. So needless to say, I think you're overstating my nitpicking of Brian Kelly. Or maybe he's only brought up on days that I post.

    But yes, I'm less impressed with November records if they aren't followed up with bowl wins ... or even a visit in the final rankings. After four years, "one of the top coaches" hasn't even returned Notre Dame to the top, and it's not like Notre Dame is short on resources, financial or otherwise. And the time Notre Dame did start feeling really good about itself, they were ultimately embarrassed for doing so.

    Brian Kelly gets paid handsomely to win football games. I'm not going to pat him on the back for doing the job he gets paid (very well) to do. And I sure won't continue to prop up his accolades from Cincinnati as if I care, because I don't care one iota about the Bearcats program; not a fan. When the team adds a trophy to Notre Dame's case more impressive than the Sun Bowl, then maybe I'll hop on the bandwagon. For now, he's more hype than delivery in my opinion.

    In the words of Bryce Harper... this is a "clown" post right here.

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  • simm said... (original post)

    Holtz only played Tennessee in 2 of the 11 seasons he was at ND, the 1990-91 home and home series with the Vols. Not exactly what I would call playing them regularly.

    He also had home and homes with SEC members Vanderbilt and Alabama during his tenure at ND, going 3-1 against them.

    Correct, but I would then replace Tennessee with PSU, whom Holtz did play regularly in November and went, I believe, 3 and 3 against.

  • Heh. The irony of board members calling out "clown" posts while adding absolutely nothing to the conversation certainly isn't lost on me. But then again, this is about the level of intelligent discourse I've come to expect from most on this board anymore.

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