Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly noted that sentiment before last Saturday's prime time victory in Chestnut Hill. His Irish may be 10-0 this fall, but Kelly knows well what his five predecessors learned during their disparate tenures in South Bend:
It's especially hard to win at home. At least for Notre Dame, a program that's enjoyed just 10 in its last 50 seasons and four in the last quarter century.
The 2012 graduating class can accomplish that feat Saturday vs. Wake Forest. It's one of the few stated goals the team has that Kelly has shared with those outside his walls.
The only thing we talk about in terms of a goal: they want to go undefeated at home. That's really important to this group," Kelly said. "They don't talk about 11-0 or 12-0 or national championships or bowl games or any of those things. They want to win this last home game because they want to be that group that went undefeated at home. That's what's important to them."
Autry Denson, Mike Rosenthal, and Kory Minor (1998), Tony Rice, Pat Terrell, and Anthony Johnson (1989), Andy Heck, Frank Stams, Wes Pritchett, and Mark Green (1988), and Tim Brown (1987). That preceding isn't merely a sampling of notable seniors from teams that have finished a home schedule in South Bend undefeated in the last 25 years -- it's instead an exhaustive list.
Scouting a Future SafetyKelly's offense lost redshirt-freshman receiver DaVaris Daniels in last week's win. The blossoming target broke his collarbone attempting to track an end zone pass and will be lost for the remainder of the regular season.
Other than Daniels and since Jamoris Slaughter tore his Achilles in mid-September, Kelly's crew has been blessed with good health through 10 contests.
"Our health is really good. Losing Daniels obviously is disappointing. (Nose guard) Kona Schwenke, who had the shoulder (injury), is better. He's in a better position. Everybody else is in good shape."
Included in that report is recovering safety Austin Collinsworth; the team's expected nickel defender was lost for the season due to a torn labrum suffered in last spring's Blue Gold Game.
"He is back. He has not been cleared for contact. He's in the weight room. Our protocol is after they've been released, they go to (strength & conditioning coach) Paul Longo," said Kelly. "Longo has a time with them, and when they're strong enough to do specific exercises, then they get released. He'll practice with us most likely when we get to bowl preparation."
Kelly added that when the Irish prepare for a bowl foe, Collinsworth -- now eligible through 2014 -- will be a member of the Scout Team, though he won't have a full practice slate as many bowl sessions are catered to younger, untested players with veteran starters receiving ample December rest.
Dire StraitsThough he hasn't played since Week Four, true freshman Ronnie Stanley offensive travels with the Irish -- one of 70 players in uniform and available for each road game.
It would have to be an extremely dire situation with the offensive line," said Kelly when asked if freshmen that could still be redshirted might see time. "That's where we're most thin. We've got some young players on the back end of our defense that would have to be pressed to play. I wouldn't be crazy about it, but we'd have to play them. But the only guy really would be offensive line that we don't want to play unless there's a dire, emergency situation."
That dire situation could present at tackle, where Zack Martin, Christian Lombard, and Nick Martin are the only healthy bodies ahead of Stanley, or at center, where the team took a recent hit to its ranks with an off-field injury to third-string redshirt-freshman Matt Hegarty.
"He had a medical procedure and I can't get into the specifics of it, and it don't want it to be a cloak and dagger situation," said Kelly. "He's fine, but we have to shut him down until he has some further tests. Again, because of privacy, I can't get into the specifics about it. It was not a situation where he got hurt in a practice. This was outside practice that caused some concern. He's had some testing and he's doing well. But we have to shut him down from football until we do some further testing.
"We're not certain as it relates to bowl game opportunities. But we're fairly certain that he will not be available to us this week or next."
In addition to Kiel and Daly, a potential fifth season of eligibility is available to C/OL Mark Harrell, running back Will Mahone, safeties John Turner and C.J. Prosise, and defensive lineman Jarron Jones.
According to Kelly, because Stanley appeared in just two games, but not during or after Game Six, he remains eligible for a fifth season in 2016.