Caught in a Trap?

Fans, media, and pre-season prognosticators have pointed to Saturday's upcoming "sandwich" game vs. BYU as a trap for Brian Kelly's Irish since the 2012 schedule was released. The Notre Dame head coach knows but one way of combatting that reality.

On a national scale, it barely registers, and in Las Vegas, the margin is expected to be one comfortable in favor of the hosts.

Locally, most are already nervous for next week's head-knocker in Norman. And on the campus of Notre Dame? Comparative serenity -- the University is in the midst of fall break, with most students elsewhere enjoying respite.

Never mind BYU is likely better than three of the teams Notre Dame has beaten to date. Game Seven vs. the Cougars lacks the panache of its predecessors. Consider what the Irish have faced over the last four matchups.

  • No. 17 Stanford, a team that not only had beaten the Irish in three straight, but one that bloodied their nose between the lines along the way.
  • Miami, a matchup played among the pomp and circumstance of prime time in Chicago, and a week of preparation in which every elder Irish fan took time to remind 75-plus players that this was the rivalry that defined previous program greatness.
  • Prime time vs. No. 18 Michigan, another program with three straight over the Irish, each ending more painful than the previous installment.
  • Prime time at No. 10 Michigan State, a win noted by the head coach himself as a "signature" victory.

Prior was long-time rival Purdue and a trip to Dublin to kick-off the season.

And now, BYU, a team with a good defense, a 4-3 record, and a distant history as a national contender that, like Notre Dame's, pre-dates its entire roster.

"They are trap games if you forget how to go to work," said Kelly in direct response to the inevitable trap game query. "We've already talked about it with our team, and we'll make sure that we do everything to prepare the right way.

"It's college football each and every week. Look to the North Carolina State/Florida State game (an upset win by the Wolf Pack over the then No. 3 Seminoles). Go to West Virginia versus Texas Tech (49-14 Red Raiders over the high-scoring, formerly No. 5 Mountaineers.) Why does that happen?  Well, you forget how you got here."

To ensure his Irish remember how they arrived at No. 5, Kelly has changed, well, nothing, in preparation for the Cougars No. 3 ranked rush defense.

"We don't leave the Big Ten," joked Kelly in reference to BYU's approach. "It's another physical football team that plays great defense. They have won a couple of close games this year on the backs of their defense. Offensively, they have got some big-bodied wide receivers, a quarterback (Riley Nelson) who is a senior who can certainly make plays, well coached, and certainly from our end, we'll have to play well or we'll get beat.

"Again, I think the most important thing for our football team is to continue to do what they have done.  They don't need to change anything.  We don't need to add more to practice.  We don't need to do anything else but pay attention to what we've done up to this point."

Not Always as it Seems

Three for Mike Golic. One apiece for both Chris Watt and Braxston Cave. Or do we have that wrong?

Notre Dame's quintet of uncharacteristic -- not to mention poorly timed -- false starts last week raised a few eyebrows in the press box. Golic has been lauded as one of the team's most dedicated veterans, Cave a fellow fifth-year senior and three-year starter, and Watt a top level guard with nearly 20 consecutive starts under his belt.

Why the continually pre-snap mistakes?

"I could get into the specifics of it. It's poor communication," said Kelly. "We have to do a better job communicating with the quarterback and the center. I mean, I could do a two-hour clinic on this thing. 

"It has to do with how it (the shotgun snap) comes out; your voice inflection, all of those things.  We have to do a better job.  That's another area that we have to clean up.  One week we don't have any; the next week we've got five.  So that's what keeps us here late at nights."

Asked Sunday about Golic's apparently tough day, Kelly defended his starter similarly. "

"I don't know that Mike Golic had a lot to do with those false starts….Mike has made progress. He played against a very, very good defense, and they won some, Mike won some," Kelly noted. "The thing with Mike, he's such a dedicated player. I mean, he comes to practice every day; he's purposeful. He's not going to be first-team All-American at that position, but here at Notre Dame, he doesn't need to be; he needs to just be Mike Golic. And we're proud of the steps that he's made to help our offense."

Just Don't Screw It Up

The term serves, pending your point of view, as either faint praise or a slap in the face for a modern quarterback: game manager.

Referenced often regarding a player at the position not yet, or proven not capable of "winning" a game with his developed skills, a "game managing" quarterback is asked to serve as one cog in the machinery, not a playmaking machine.

Due to the dominance of his defense, Notre Dame's head coach and offensive play-caller has taken on that role in 2012.

"I think I've always tried to do that, but you call(ed) a different game with the kind of defense that you had," said Kelly in his ever-changing game management role. "My background has been in the Mid-American Conference and when I was at Cincinnati, you had to outscore people. So (regarding) defense, 'Hold on,' you're not thinking much about it. Whereas now you're really thinking about long fields and how you can put your defense in a better position."

"(For example) with the turnover that we had (vs. Stanford) which consequently they didn't score, we had not been able to flip field position for about nine minutes (previously).  And I'm thinking about that that whole game; that that turnover, though it didn't result in a score, it took us nine minutes to get field position back for us.  So I think a lot more about (game management) now."

If his defense goes another month without giving up a touchdown, Kelly won't have to think too hard.


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