You choose, we deliver
If you are interested in this story, you might be interested in others from The Journal Gazette. Go to www.journalgazette.net/newsletter and pick the subjects you care most about. We'll deliver your customized daily news report at 3 a.m. Fort Wayne time, right to your email.

Notre Dame

  • ACC back to being power conference
    Welcome to the new Atlantic Coast Conference. It’s where a founding member is out, a fast-rising program is in, Notre Dame is there, too – sort of – and nobody else is leaving.
  • Irish receiver off team while facing charges
    Receiver Will Mahone has no chance of returning to Notre Dame while facing felony charges of assault on a police officer, intimidation of a public servant and vandalism, his attorney said Tuesday.
  • Irish receiver suspended following arrest
    Will Mahone was suspended indefinitely from Notre Dame’s football team Monday after a weekend arrest that left the junior facing three felony and two misdemeanor charges.
Advertisement
Associated Press
Notre Dame players celebrate with fans after the Irish’s recent win over Michigan.

Irish get some schedule relief

– Notre Dame’s brutal schedule appears easier to handle than when the season started.

That’s what a 4-0 start will do to a slate that had five teams in the Associated Press preseason Top 25 on it. Even if the No. 10 Irish still have three games remaining against Top 25 opponents.

But after dispatching then-No. 18 Michigan 13-6 on Sept. 22 at home a week after upsetting then-No. 10 Michigan State, the Irish believe big things are in store for the rest of the season.

“The team is 4-0 and has beaten two top-20 teams. That’s enough for them to know that if they continue to work hard and do the right things, they can be a really, really good football team,” coach Brian Kelly said during his teleconference last Sunday.

Notre Dame will still have plenty of good teams to deal with when it resumes play against Miami at Chicago’s Soldier Field on Saturday.

But even that seems easier after some early season stumbles by other teams.

The Irish play host to Stanford on Oct. 13. The Cardinal had risen to No. 8 in the AP Top 25 after upsetting USC 21-14 on Sept. 15, but they will likely slide down the poll today after losing to Washington 17-13 on Thursday night.

Notre Dame’s road games against ranked foes also no longer appear as daunting as when USC was ranked No. 1 in the preseason poll and Oklahoma started the season at No. 4.

The Irish travel to Oklahoma on Oct. 27. The Sooners, who entered the weekend 2-1 and No. 16 in the AP poll, fell in the AP Top 25 after a 24-19 loss to Kansas State on Sept. 22.

Notre Dame closes the regular season Nov. 24 at USC, which entered the weekend 3-1 and No. 13 in the AP poll.

Kelly, who gave his team the weekend off, said he will not let his players get too far ahead of themselves with two thirds of the season left and the possibility of a BCS bowl berth.

“We go back to work … same routine that we’ve had each and every week,” Kelly said of what he will do with his team after beating Michigan. “(The players have) got a lot to do in the classroom, a lot of exams coming up. We’ll be really busy. We’ll be focused on that and work right into Miami.”

Notre Dame will have to keep its focus to make sure its sixth 4-0 start since 1982 looks more like the teams guided by Lou Holtz than Gerry Faust or Tyrone Willingham.

Holtz led the Irish to an 11-0 record and their last national title in 1988 after a 4-0 start. And his teams in 1993 (11-1) and 1989 (12-1) were in the championship discussion at the end of the season.

But Willingham’s 2002 team, which started 8-0, lost its final two games by a combined score of 72-19, and Faust’s 1982 team lost its final three games and finished 6-4-1.

“We’ve always believed that we could be great,” linebacker Manti Te’o said after the win over Michigan. “Slowly but surely, these little steps we’re taking, it builds our confidence. But I think the strength of this team is we don’t buy into that hype. We don’t buy into all that stuff. We just do whatever it takes to where we’re 4-0 now, and last week we were 3-0, and all we were focusing on was to be 4-0 and now all we’re focusing on is to be 5-0.

“We approach every week the same, always trying to get better, always focusing on the next opponent. We don’t worry about opponents down the line. I think that’s where we really have helped nurture that feeling that the sky’s the limit for this team.”

tkrausz@jg.net

Advertisement