Monday Morning Briefing

In a total team win led by its battle-scarred upperclassmen, the contributions of five Notre Dame freshmen did not go unnoticed.

Its normally the silver lining in a Monday morning lament. After a loss, fans inevitably point to the play of the future -- stars-in-the-making among their not-yet ready rookies that showed promise in defeat.

For Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly and his program's fans, no such silver lining has been necessary. The Irish are 8-0, ranked #3 in the only poll that matters, and heading into a winnable home game vs. Pittsburgh.

And in what seemed to many to be a lost cause in Norman, its notable that three key offensive players emerged, each of whom will be eligible for three mores seasons of football in South Bend.

"I think what it allows us to do is to continue to be more balanced as an offense," said Kelly specifically of Everett Golson and his redshirt-freshman quarterback's MVP effort in the upset. "I think we talked with some of the weaknesses we had in throwing the football, particularly on third down. We were much better in this game. Again, I will tell you that some of the progress has been derailed by some injuries along the way."

Golson's October medical report was lengthy: shoulder, toe, concussion, and Saturday night -- one vicious, textbook shot to the stomach on a designed run. He emerged no worse for the ware, buoyed by his best game and his team's best to date.

"He was certainly a young man that was full of excitement and confidence, got a chance to spend some time with him on the bus ride to the airport," said Kelly. "I think what we were most pleased with was he was smart and he was disciplined. Some of the things that we were talking about between the art and science of the position. He threw the ball away when he was under duress made good decisions.

"(Golson's) mental development has been really good. If we continue to go that way, it's going to give us an offense that's going to be difficult to defend because we'll have great balance. That's what we're trying to get with Everett in there. Not an offense that throws it 50 times, nor an offense that runs it 50 times. One that is really balanced and more difficult to defend."

Influx of Youth

Stocked with four proven weapons in senior tight end Tyler Eifert, junior X receiver T.J. Jones, and the senior running back tandem of Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood, Irish fans should take note of the Saturday night emergence of two potential stars: true freshman wide receiver Chris Brown, and redshirt-freshman target DaVaris Daniels, both of whom could continue to contribute as a magical 2012 season progresses.

"You have to keep calling the plays that put him in those positions," said Kelly of two post routes thrown to Brown, one of which hit for 50 yards in the fourth quarter. "During the weeks leading up, those are calls that Chris had during the practice, and he knows what he's doing.  It's just you're waiting for that opportunity.  You can't call it for the first time. That's a play we've run, 50, 60, 70 times over the past eight weeks of repping that particular play. So it's not for us as coaches as much of a gamble as you would think putting a true freshman up there because we've repped it so much."

Brown's 50-yard burst set up Notre Dame's go-ahead score midway through the fourth quarter, a one-yard plunge by Golson that gave the Irish the lead for good, 20-13.

Daniels posted two catches, both moved the chains, both were contested heavily by sticky man-to-man defense from the Sooners. Both were the type of competitive plays Daniels needed to make one week after his lack of concentration on third down led to a Tommy Rees interception vs. Brigham Young and Cougars touchdown shortly thereafter.

"I think you really hit the right word: he competed. That's what we look for from DD is competing every single play," said Kelly. "He's a young guy starting to figure it out. You've got to compete at the highest level every single play. We're demanding that from him. I think in terms of competing, you're right on. He competed against Oklahoma. Now the challenge is to compete the same way against Pittsburgh."

In addition to Brown and Daniels, Kelly noted the contributions of two other freshman, both on the opposite side of scrimmage.

"I think the tackling of our secondary against a very skilled group. We were going to give them the ball in space and we were going to have to make tackles," said Kelly of his young defensive backfield. "I was very, very impressed with a guy like Keivarae Russell who is a true freshman that moved over (to cornerback_ just a couple months ago, and the way he tackled in space. Then (nickel) Elijah Shumate, a guy that, again, is just a true freshman playing in a very big environment.

"The way they handled themselves in that kind of environment, I wouldn't say surprised me.  But those are the things that we're talking about in terms of guys really impressing us."

Business as Usual

After a grinding 17-14 win over Brigham Young last Saturday, Kelly spoke post-game of a lack of celebration from his team in the home locker room. Similar sentiments were expressed in previous seasons -- always after a close win vs. an expected underdog.

How about Saturday night in Norman, and after the biggest win any of Kelly's players have experienced in their football careers?

"They were very excited about the win, but they felt really good about how they won the game," he offered. "o it wasn't a giddy group. It was a group that felt like they had earned the win and celebrated accordingly. We got on the bus and we got on the plane, and you could barely hear a pin drop the guys were out sleeping.

"So you know when you gauge a win how your team reacts.  I think it was an appropriate reaction after the game."

Appropriate for a team in the thick of the national title hunt. Top Stories