Rest, Recover, Refocus

Notre Dame won't practice this week. They can't, unless the plan is to use orthopedic boots, casts, and the team's trainers and doctors that apply them as part of defensive personnel groupings. But head coach Brian Kelly said today his team, especially his seniors, has a singular focus in its 10 days of remaining preparation for Brigham Young on November 23.

Notre Dame's 17 seniors and six graduate students have won a combined 35 games as Irish players, all of them under the guidance of Brian Kelly.

The head coach's plan of attack after a season-altering loss to a middling Pittsburgh team last week? Win the next one, largely because it's the last one.

"Our primary focus and the focus of our team is winning our last home game. In particular sending out our seniors with a win," he said. "They're going to be a huge part of the history of Notre Dame, helping us to four bowl games, a national championship (appearance) and we are going to do everything in our power to make certain our seniors go out winners in their last game at Notre Dame Stadium."

The disheartened Irish will have to handle a relative peer to do so as BYU sits with an identical 7-3 mark and wins over Texas, Houston, Georgia Tech, and Boise State's stand as the highlight conquests. At their best, the Cougars run at will and will doubtless attempt to do so vs. a broken down Notre Dame defensive front next Saturday.

Broken to the point that practicing was deemed less-than-prudent.

"We're not practicing at all. We're in conditioning, weight training, that's all we're doing this week," said Kelly. "We're just at that point -- look, if I knew going out and practicing two or three days was going to benefit us greatly in the BYU game, I'd be out there right now and we would not be talking. It's in my estimation we could have a situation of diminished returns that would put us in jeopardy. We're conditioning pretty hard, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Sunday will be the bulk of our work."

The defensive line ranks No. 1 among Kelly's list of injury concerns. Kona Schwenke gets a cast off today for closer examination of his ankle. Sheldon Day has a chronic ankle injury that won't heel until after the bowl game. The same is true of Louis Nix's knee. Backups Isaac Rochell and Jarron Jones are wearing boots on their sprained ankles.

Sprained ankles are all the rage in South Bend these days.

"They're in our new line of shoe wear called, 'The Boot,' said Kelly, barely joking. "They're wearing boots right now. They have ankle sprains so we're day-to-day with those guys."

Add cat linebacker Ishaq Williams to the day-to-day list, his hamstring injury improving slightly with two games off and another week on tap.

"We moved him pretty aggressively so we're hopeful we'll get something," Kelly said. "Obviously, he's tightened up. He's probably gone from a Grade 2 to a Grade 1. Is he 100 percent? Probably not, but we're hopeful he's going to be able to contribute."

Contribute to What?

The season goal of returning to and winning the national championship game was lost by the end of September. Their redefined goal of winning seven straight to qualify for a BCS berth was lost last week in the Steel City.

Hello Shreveport. Or worse. Or slightly better. It doesn't matter. But November 23 and the ensuing battle at Stanford on Thanksgiving Saturday, do.

"Whether it's a BCS Bowl game or it's not, it's still about week-to-week at Notre Dame," Kelly said. "Whether you're playing in Miami or New Orleans, whatever the destination is, they're all runner-up games. (This season's BCS Championship is in Pasadena, California.)

"It's really about winning the next game. That's the focus of this team. In particular for our seniors. The single-minded focus of the group is playing at home for the last time, making sure we send them out winners, and beating BYU. It's really immaterial as to where that (bowl) destination is."

The destination won't be appealing from a competitive or financial standpoint, but that won't matter to those playing for the final time in an Irish uniform.

"Wherever we go, it'll be a sell-out, our fans will come, and I know the opponent will be ready," said 5th-year senior guard Chris Watt. "We will be too." Top Stories