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Kelly wants team to play with 'head' of a champion

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly liked what he saw from the Irish in Saturday's 29-26 triple-overtime win over Pittsburgh.

Now, he wants his team to take the next step in the final three games of the season.

"I told my team that they had the heart of a champion in the way they battled through triple overtime, but now that we understand that we will fight and battle, we've got to have the head of a champion too," Kelly said during his Tuesday news conference. "The head of a champion understands that each and every week, you are going to get the opposition's very best."

The No. 4 Irish (9-0) expect to get the very best from Boston College (2-7) when they travel to play the Eagles at 8 p.m. Saturday.

Kelly isn't looking at Boston College's record going into the game, instead he is looking at how hard the Eagles play. And he also remembers how close the Irish's home win was last season over Boston College, when Notre Dame won 16-14.

"They play hard. They play physical," Kelly said. "If you take a couple of their games, they've got Clemson late in the fourth quarter in a close game, same thing with Miami.

"This is a team that again our players understand that if they don't play their best, they can get beat. A lot of respect for Boston College and the way they run their program and the way their kids play on a day-to-day basis."

Kelly also said that it looks like backup offensive tackle Tate Nichols' season is over because of the latest setback to his knee injury.

"We think it is a PCL, but we need to get the swelling out before we get any further," Kelly said.

Kelly also said the team is still dealing with the flu bug that kept defensive tackle Louis Nix III from starting against Pitt and kept George Atkinson III out of the 30-13 road win over Oklahoma on Oct. 27.

"We've got a couple of guys who are battling it again this week," Kelly said. "We got it a little bit sooner. I think we are a little bit ahead of the game this week compared to last week."

The Journal Gazette's Assistant Sports Editor Tony Krausz covers The University of Notre Dame. Krausz, a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism and a native of St. Louis, has been assistant sports editor since October 2005. Prior to joining the JG, he worked at two papers in Mississippi covering high school and college athletics.