Irish offensive coordinator Chuck Martin was his usual wise-cracking self Friday morning when he met with the mass of media here in southern Florida to preview the first-time offensive coordinator’s first BCS Championship appearance.
Chuck Martin won four national championships and played in two others at Div. II Grand Valley State.
Martin looked like a man happy to be back at home after a restful vacation, and in away, he was. His first two seasons at Notre Dame matched the longest stretch the former Div. II head coach has gone without a trip to a national title game since 2000.
Martin has coached in seven championships in the past 12 years — the first six at Div. II Grand Valley State. He said Friday that despite the vastly larger stage, his first title trip at Notre Dame didn’t seem much different than the yearly stop in Florence, Ala., the perennial site of the Div. II finale.
“It became a home away from home for us,” Martin said. “To me it's very similar. It doesn't feel any different. I know everybody says, well, it's a bigger stage, and it's not. … It's been a good time, more fun than we should be allowed to have, actually.”
Martin has less fun breaking down Alabama’s defense last month — he described the experience of watching the Tide’s third-and-long film reel demoralizing. Alabama, he said, created more turnovers and sacks than first downs allowed when an opponent needed at least seven yards on third down. The smart bet for those playing the numbers is to cut your losses and punt in that situation.
The six-week layoff gave Martin and head coach Brian Kelly more than enough time to brainstorm the chess game of Xs and Os against Alabama’s Nick Saban. The challenge now falls on the pieces and whether or not they can stay upright long enough to do their jobs.
“The specific thing is how good they are,” Martin said when asked about the strengths of Saban’s defense. “This [hypothetical play] looks like it would have a chance for success, but can we get open on that corner or can we protect the quarterback long enough?”
Don’t let Martin’s brand of self-deprecating modesty fool you, if there has been a time in the past 43 days that Martin has been tied up with butterflies it didn’t last long. His loose demeanor helped sophomore quarterback Everett Golson through Friday’s interview as the two sat side-by-side on the large dais, a scene still far outside the rookie’s comfort zone. It should also help in the days leading up to Monday night’s game.
Martin took a freshman quarterback, Grand Valley State’s Cullen Finnerty, to a national title in 2003 before Kelly left for the Central Michigan job. Finnerty and Martin went on to win two more championships in the next three years.
“We're hoping that history repeats itself,” he said. “Everybody is worried about that next one, we're trying to make this the first of three, actually. No one thought that was coming out today, huh?”
Martin is back where he is comfortable under the sport’s brightest spotlight in Miami, and he is hoping to stay there.
“Tuesday we turn our equipment in no matter what,” he said. “We always talked about that. We want to play until the last day you can turn equipment in, and obviously we're doing that at Notre Dame this year.”