Valuable Lessons

Notre Dame has played four of its seven contests close and late in 2012. The lessons learned therein could serve them well in the season's final month.

Brian Kelly officially speaks with the media four times during the football season. He began today's weekly press conference with a unique take on his team's seventh straight victory, another close call against a solid, well-prepared foe.

"I'll begin by recapping last week's game: again, a victory for Notre Dame, and the learning process continues for us as a staff, as coaches, as players," Kelly said. "We got a lot out of that game in terms of being able to watch film and essentially teach from a victory."

While Irish fans inexplicably lament a 7-0 start in which the Irish win with defense and a running game (the same group would have exchange a right arm for those attributes over most of the last 15 football seasons), Kelly understands the value of winning close, late, and under 60 minutes of adversity.

"I'd like it to be 30-point wins, like everybody else, but there's certainly a lot of components when you win close games against big competition, a lot can be gained from that," he said.

"Just focus on what you can do. If you start thinking about big picture and you start thinking about all those other factors, it takes you away from the job at hand," said Kelly of a program that has won seven of its last eight games decided by a touchdown or less. "And I think we've done a good job of focusing on each other, focusing on their jobs, and I think doing their jobs has allowed them, regardless of the time in the game, how much was on the clock, (whether) winning, losing, when they focus so much on their jobs, they don't even pay attention to that stuff. 

"You don't even think about the scoreboard.  We let the coaches do that."

What the Irish staff appears to have learned and embraced is its running game and a concurrent reliance on its dominant defense. Kelly's Irish moved to 13-0 when passing fewer than 30 times in a contest with Saturday's win; five of those victories this fall.

It was a philosophy used briefly during a four-game winning streak to conclude 2010, his first season at the helm. It was rarely in play last season (three such outings), but was forecasted early by Kelly and his staff in preparation for 2012.

"I think as we went through the spring it became pretty apparent to me that the success of our offense was going to be predicated on what we could do up front and running the football," Kelly offered. "I think it started to emerge in all of our coaches' minds that it was going to be a run-first kind of offense and still spread the field, still be able to attack.

"We need to get better in our passing game.  We have to be better on third down.  We have to be better in the red zone.  We know that.  But I think…we felt it was going to be an offense that had to run the ball effectively, and somewhere near the range (yardage) we are right now."

Golson's a Go

Redshirt-freshman quarterback Everett Golson passed his final conditioning tests Monday; his coach declaring him ready to battle the Sooners in Norman.

"It went very well, and he feels great, very confident," said Kelly. "We wanted to do that more because he hadn't had really the opportunity to get out there and run, and we didn't want to wait until Saturday where he's out there and we have some setbacks. He's good and 100 percent, and he'll start for us against Oklahoma on Saturday."

Golson has yet to finish a home game, replaced three times by backup Tommy Rees for disparate reasons. He ceded his starting job to Rees Saturday, the result of a concussion sustained late vs. Stanford on October 13.

Outside of South Bend, Golson has helped guide the Irish to three victories by a total of 65 points. He is nonetheless the clear-cut underdog under center Saturday, at least on paper.

"You would think so. You would think an experienced quarterback-- somebody that has been there, done that, has won a lot of games-- would have the edge over a young, inexperienced quarterback," said Kelly of Oklahoma senior signal-caller Landry Jones. "But you don't know until Saturday hits. And that's the great thing about these games.

"We have a lot of confidence that Everett is a great competitor and that he's going to do what he can do to help us win football games. But, yeah, if you look at the matchups and you were going down the list, you would say that that's a positive for Oklahoma in that situation."

Then again, the next game to be played on paper will mark a college football first. Top Stories