SOUTH BEND – Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly is quick to name an opponent he’d rather face than No. 16 Stanford this weekend.
I’d rather be playing St. Joe’s High School, no question, Kelly said.
Kelly’s desire to play a South Bend prep team isn’t hard to understand after back-to-back heartbreaking losses.
The Irish fell to Michigan 28-24 on a late 72-yard drive, and Michigan State pulled off a fake field to beat them in overtime 34-31 last weekend.
The losses left Notre Dame at 1-6 in its last seven games, but the Irish are staying upbeat.
We our obviously not happy at 1-2, but at the same time, it has almost kind of energized the team this week, safety Harrison Smith said. Everybody is going hard. The coaches are getting after it. It is not we are down and everybody is feeling sorry for themselves.
A little self-pity would be understandable as the Irish’s season doesn’t look to get any easier.
Notre Dame (1-2) takes on the nation’s third best scoring offense in Stanford (3-0), which is averaging 51.7 points, at 3:30 p.m. Saturday. The Irish have lost their last 10 games against teams ranked in the top 20, and the Cardinal is outscoring opponents 155-41.
Then the Irish travel to Boston College (2-0) on Oct. 2 and play host to Pittsburgh, which was 1-1 entering Thursday’s game against No. 19 Miami, on Oct 9.
We’re not in the locker room hanging our heads, quarterback Dayne Crist said. We’re doing what we need to do to beat Stanford. That’s really what it comes down to. It’s relieving having guys in the locker room and on the field that want to go out there and play the game.
Stanford, the most formidable foe in the next three games, was the team Notre Dame had the most recent success against. The Cardinal ended a seven-game losing streak to the Irish last season with a 45-38 victory.
Notre Dame pulled out a 20-16 win last season over Boston College to end a six-game losing streak to the Eagles, and Pittsburgh has won three out of the last four meetings between the programs.
If the Irish falter over the next three games, the players believe they can endure the losses. Notre Dame had five- and four-game losing streaks in 2007, a pair of two-game losing streaks in 2008 and a season-ending four-game slid last season.
It is kind of different this year, we are still rolling, receiver Michael Floyd said. The whole team is doing real well and making sure it stays focused.
One of the ways the Irish are staying focused is by tuning out what is being said outside the locker room.
Really it comes down to our belief in the team, belief in the coaching staff, the way we carry ourselves every day, Crist said. All that other stuff, you can’t really pay attention to it or you’ll go crazy.