Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly saw what he wanted on the field and off the field on Saturday when the No. 4 Irish scored a season-defining 30-13 win at No. 14 Oklahoma.
Kelly said the Irish accomplished all four of the goals he had laid out for them to defeat the Sooners.
"It was on point," Kelly said during his Sunday teleconference. "We wanted to be smart, disciplined, physically and mentally we wanted to be tougher than our opponent, and we hit all four of those. So as it relates to what the message was and what we wanted to accomplish, it hit all four points for us."
Notre Dame also handled the victory, which improved the program to 8-0 for the first time since 2002, the way Kelly would want his team to.
A week after Kelly reminded his players to be happy after a narrow victory at home over BYU, the coach saw exactly what he wanted from his players after a win that puts them in the national championship game conversation.
"They were very excited about the win," Kelly said. "They felt really good about how they won the game. It wasn't a giddy group. It was a group that felt like they had earned the win and celebrated accordingly. … You know when you gauge a win how your team reacts, and I thought it was an appropriate reaction after the game."
Kelly said he really liked how the secondary and three freshmen reacted to being in such a big game Saturday.
"Three true freshmen making an impact in (receiver) Chris Brown (whose first-career catch was a 50-yarder that set up quarterback Everett Golson's game-winning touchdown), (safety) Elijah Shumate and (cornerback) KeiVarae Russell (who had nine tackles) … I think the tackling of our secondary against a very skilled group," Kelly said of what stood out Saturday. "We were going to give them the ball in space and we were going to have to make tackles, and I was very, very impressed with a guy like KeiVarae Russell, who's a true freshman who moved over there just a couple months ago, the way he tackles in space. And then Elijah Shumate, a guy who 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."
Kelly also said running back George Atkinson III, who missed the game against the Sooners because of the flu, was feeling better Sunday and has been cleared to practice. Atkinson was one of six players dealing with the flu last week, Kelly said.
Quarterback Gunner Kiel, who also didn't make the trip to Oklahoma, was not one of the players dealing with illness. Instead the freshman was left behind because of the number of administrators making the trip to Norman, Okla., forced Kelly to cut back on the numbers of players traveling.
Kelly also said the team came out of the win with a pretty clean bill of health. The only injuries the coach talked about Sunday were to cornerback Bennett Jackson (shoulder) and safety Matthias Farley (hand), and he said both players were fine.