Brian Kelly remembers one thing about Senior Day at Assumption College in 1982. The Greyhounds, captained by a linebacker from Everett, Mass., suffered their only loss of a 7-1-1 season.
Fifth-year senior John Goodman will get a greater chance to play in his final home game this Saturday.
Kelly spoke to his current undefeated team Monday morning about making sure they didn’t have the same memory. The third-ranked Irish and the 29 seniors on their roster take on Wake Forest (5-5) Saturday in the final game at Notre Dame Stadium this season.
“The most important thing is for them to get the proper perspective through the week,” Kelly said at his weekly Tuesday press conference. “Yes, it is your last home game, but we’ve got a lot in front of us. What you’ll remember the most is whether you win the game, not that it was your last home game.”
The distractions of playing at home have weighed Notre Dame down at points this season. The Irish have been notably less successful and more mistake prone in South Bend than elsewhere. The emotion of Senior Day promises to ratchet those distractions to a new level. Kelly said he asked his team to try to keep those emotions in check until the end of the game.
At stake for the Irish is the chance to keep their national championship bid alive and to finish undefeated at home for the first time since 1998. While the former must be a surprise even to Kelly, the latter is something this year’s team set out to do specifically.
“A tangible goal for us was to protect our home field,” Kelly said. “If you want to take that next step in terms of success, you’ve got to win at home. I think we’ve all talked about the statistics at Oklahoma and the numbers were mind-boggling in terms of their home field advantage [77-4 record since 1999] until we beat them. We want to have that kind of legacy. We want to build that kind of dominance at home.”
- Freshman cornerback KeiVarae Russell passed all necessary post-concussion tests Monday and is cleared to practice with Notre Dame this week. Russell missed the final quarter of Saturday’s game against Boston College with a head injury.
- The defense will also have the full services of starting nose guard Louis Nix, who was ejected in the fourth quarter Saturday night for a post-whistle scrum with some Boston College offensive linemen. Kelly said Nix’s ousting was for an unsportsmanlike penalty and not for throwing a punch, so he won’t have to miss any playing time this week against Wake Forest.
- Notre Dame will not have sophomore wide receiver DaVaris Daniels, who broke his collarbone against the Eagles. Kelly said Tuesday he expects to use a mix of several players to replace Daniels, including freshman Chris Brown, junior Danny Smith and fifth-year senior John Goodman.
Goodman caught his second touchdown pass of the season in Daniels’ place Saturday. According to Kelly, he has been plagued by a variety of injuries this year and lost playing time because of it.
“John’s given us everything that he has in his senior year,” Kelly said. “He’s been a great teammate. He’ll get a chance now to play a little bit more.”
- Kelly said he has not had any discussions with defensive coordinator Bob Diaco about possible head coach openings in the future. Diaco’s success in South Bend has him climbing the list of assistants ready to become candidates for their own program. Kelly said he would give Diaco the opportunity to make an upward move if the situation presented itself, but it hasn’t been a topic of conversation this year.
“You know Bob. He doesn’t want to talk about it,” Kelly said. “He didn’t come to Notre Dame to be the head coach somewhere else. He came to Notre Dame to help win a national championship.”