Notre Dame head football coach Brian Kelly doesn’t subscribe to the idea that his team came out flat in Saturday’s 17-14 victory over Brigham Young. He said the intensity was there; it was just a matter of sloppiness and self-inflicted wounds that made the contest closer than necessary.
Penalties, an interception and a 3-for-5 effort in the red zone, which included a pair of missed field goals, were Kelly’s primary focus Sunday.
“Let's just take an offensive standpoint,” Kelly said during Sunday’s teleconference. “Two missed field goals, those conversions, those have to be touchdowns on those drives. We can't settle for field goals. I look at it and make assessments as to what we did on those drives. We had a snap infraction that put us in a 3rd-and-9 situation, and then we come back and miss the field goal. Then we come back again with a great drive and a big run and we can't convert a couple of runs.
“I can tell you this: As we go through it, what we're looking for is how we can put more points on the board. Settling for field goals has really been my focus here the last hour because, again, we just finished up with all of our breakdowns, and we'll take a closer look at it, but again, I'll go back and say we left too many points out there. We've got to put more points on the board.”
The Irish may not want to settle for field goals, but they would have gladly taken both that sophomore Kyle Brindza missed in a tight game against the Cougars. Brindza, who is 11-for-15 this season, was off on attempts from 40 and 28 yards — both in the first half. He connected on a 24-yarder near the end of the third frame to cut the deficit to 14-10.
Kelly wasn’t concerned about his kicker’s confidence moving forward.
“He was just off on his line a little bit,” Kelly explained. “You know, it's such a skill that you have to be right on. He's got a great makeup. Mentally he's a tough kid. He's not afraid of the big moment. And those are all the things that I'm concerned with the most. And I never saw a crack there at all.
“He was a little off on his technique, and he knew it, and he'll work hard on it in terms of correcting it this week. He's got the makeup to be a guy that you can keep rolling out there.”
The No. 5 Fighting Irish now turn their attention this weekend’s momentous road trip to No. 8 Oklahoma, which slipped up only against Kansas State and its Heisman caliber quarterback Collin Klein at home on Sept. 22. At 5-1, the Sooners have beaten their opponents by an average of 36.2 points per game. Notre Dame, trying to add some octane to its offense, is expected to have starting quarterback Everett Golson back in the lineup after the sophomore was held out by Kelly against BYU, despite being cleared by team medical staff, because of lingering concussion symptoms.
Kelly expects sophomore quarterback Everett Golson to be ready for Oklahoma
“I think tomorrow will be the last … we’ll do a full physical exertion tomorrow and really kind of get after it,” Kelly said. “I just met with the doctors about it again and, as I said earlier, he was cleared because he passed all those tests. I think they want to just make sure we run him hard tomorrow and elevate his blood pressure, and make sure that’s the last piece. The rest then is just go play.”
Golson looked off in practice last week once he was cleared Wednesday, and Kelly didn’t want to take any chances.
“He took reps, but the reps that he took were really more of 7 on 7 and some team reps, and we really haven't run him physically like he would in a game situation after a big run and then come back and maybe run an option play,” Kelly explained. “I just want to make sure that we've covered everything, so in talking to our doctors we're going to put him through a good physical exertion tomorrow, and we expect that to go well. If it goes well, now I think it's just full steam ahead Oklahoma.”
Kelly has been pleased with Golson’s development on the field this season and believes the collection of experiences up to this point will benefit the youngster in Norman Saturday.
“I think it's bits and pieces throughout the entire year, at Michigan State in a very hostile environment, and then in big game situations where we're playing on the road in Chicago,” he said. “It's just a cumulative effect. In other words, all the pieces that come together for him to make him a better quarterback than he was earlier in the year is his experience, and we think he'll build on that and should not have any problem playing in a big environment at Oklahoma because he's already done it.”
Ignoring BCS rankings
The second BCS poll comes out this evening and, if the AP and USA Today rankings are an indication, Notre Dame might have to sit tight at No. 5 for another week. It makes no difference to Kelly.
“I think they know they haven’t arrived. Being fifth in the country and 7-0, and you can say they haven’t arrived, that they haven’t reached the level they can, I think it’s a very good place to be. There are a lot of things I think we can improve on. If you’re 7-0 and No. 5 in the country and you think you’ve arrived, that’s when you as a coach and a team are in peril.
“…I know it's good for our fans and they like to see it, and we're fine with that. We'd rather be part of the conversation than not. As it relates to my day to day operations with our football team and preparing them, it has no significance in terms of what we do. I understand the big picture of it, our players do, it's great for our University, but it's not going to change the way we prepare and how we go to work each and every day.”
Fifth-year senior John Goodman, who has been dealing with a back issue, was able to play against BYU, but Notre Dame’s game plan required bigger bodies at receiver in the second half when the Irish turned to a power running game. Junior cornerback Bennett Jackson was banged up with what Kelly said was a neck strain, but is expected, with soreness, to practice this week and be available versus the Sooners.
Freshman safety Nick Baratti Tweeted after the game that he dislocated his shoulder on a special teams play Saturday. When asked about his status, Kelly responded: “He doesn’t get to use Twitter next week.”
“He was cleared to play,” Kelly added. “Subluxation, [he] was stabilized and went back in the game and played the rest of the game.”
Senior place kicker Nick Tausch is still working through a hip flexor, which turned out to be a little more serious than initially thought back in early September.
“He's coming back,” Kelly said. “He's much stronger in kicking the football now, but again, the door was opened for Kyle to go in there, and we're pleased with where we are with him.”