Mental Break

Kelly discusses bye week plans, his past successes following mid-season time away, the opportunity for self-evaluation, and a pertinent conversation with a senior that's yet to take place.

If it ‘aint broke, don't fix it.

For Irish head coach Brian Kelly, his approach to bye weeks has proved successful over the years, as did his consistent handling of the Irish roster during three trying sessions of his 19-game tenure: a 1-3 start, from which the team rebounded to reach 4-3; a pair of defeats that dropped his team to 4-5 last November prior to the Week 10 bye, from which the Irish won four straight to end the 2010 season.

And of course, his squad's recent, ongoing four-game winning streak that followed a head-shaking 0-2 start to 2011.

Win or lose, whether the practice week follows a clean or sloppy effort, Kelly continuously preaches consistency of message, of voice, and of the method in which his staff conducts its business.

Bye Week 2011 thus begins no differently than would game week: the team lifted Monday, practiced hard Tuesday with 11-on-11 work, and will do the same Wednesday, only in a shorter format (fewer 5-minute sessions have resulted in 90-minute Wednesday practices as of late).

The lone welcomed departure? Today (Wednesday) is the team's last practice until Monday, October 17.

"We'll have quite a few that will go home," Kelly noted of his group. "Again, we've worked hard to make sure their classes have been taken care of and of course as you know a lot of them are exams.

"All of our players are required to turn in a flight itinerary if they're getting on a plane. We'll have that all (Wednesday). I would say it's a good amount of our players."

Kelly outlined two keys to any mid-season break.

"I think the utilization of bye weeks is really two-fold," Kelly offered following Tuesday's practice. "One, is mentally you've got to get your players some rest. It's not just physical; everybody seems to think it's the physical element. These guys are in a pretty good place.

"It was 80-something degrees on Saturday and you didn't see much fatigue from either team because we're already physically acclimated. I've always felt it's the mental end of things that you look for, both for your players and your coaches.

"The second thing is to do a good job self scouting, in other words, what are you doing, what have you done the first six weeks, what are your areas that you can maybe break tendencies, maybe change some things up in terms of what you're doing, offense, defense and special teams.

"I've always looked at the mental health of your football team. And then internally how you can maybe break some tendencies."

Since taking over at Central Michigan for the 2004 season, Kelly's teams are a combined 6-1 following a bye week, the only loss a 40-16 defeat Connecticut as coach of Cincinnati in 2008. Those Bearcats proceeded to win six straight to conclude the regular season with a BCS berth.

Irish after a Bye

A look at Notre Dame's recent history following its bye week:

  • Charlie Weis was 2-3 at Notre Dame following a bye, with two losses to USC at mid-season and one to Navy in November
  • Tyrone Willingham finished 2-1, though a Week 11 Bye didn't help much in preparation for a trip to #1 USC in 2004
  • Bob Davie's Irish teams finished 8-1 over five seasons, as teams regularly received two bye weeks in that era. Davie's only loss occurred after the 9/11 suspension of the ND/Purdue contest, losing to Michigan State in South Bend.
  • Lou Holtz finished an impressive 11-2 following bye weeks, losing at Pittsburgh in 1987 to fall to 3-1, and vs. Florida State in Orlando in 1994 – the Game of the Century rematch from the season prior.
  • Gerry Faust was 2-1 (lost at home to USC) with no bye week in either 1982 or 1983 as the season began in mid-September
  • Recently bronzed head coach Dan Devine – he of Gate D fame outside the House that Rockne Built – finished 5-2 following a week of rest.

Of note, Holtz's 1990 season did not include a bye week – 11 straight football Saturday's produced a 9-2 record vs. a slate that included six top 20 foes for the oft-#1 ranked Irish.

There is, however, one item of interest that won't be included in Notre Dame's time away from the field: a conversation regarding the future of senior quarterback, Dayne Crist.

"We have not talked about the future. We're really just trying to keep him sharp as our No. 2 quarterback," Kelly said of Crist who is eligible to play college football in 2012. "There will be a time and place for us to sit down and talk about where we go after the season. But right now this is just really about the next game and being prepared for USC."

According to a spring conversation with Crist, the senior signal-caller is set to graduate in December, one semester ahead of schedule. Top Stories