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Notebook: Irish want to hit big plays

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said he knows his team will have to make some big plays when the No. 1 Irish (12-0) play No. 2 Alabama (12-1) in the BCS championship game Jan. 7 in Miami.

Kelly also knows he will need to speed up the pace at times against a Crimson Tide defense that is ranked No. 1 overall, giving up 246 yards per game, and No. 1 against the run, giving up 79.8 rushing yards per game.

"If you go in there and say we are just going to play the game between the tackles, you are in for a long day," Kelly said Saturday. "I think we have to utilize the 53 and a third by 120, we got to be attacking all areas and getting the kind of matchups we need offensively. We got to get big chunk plays. I'm just going to tell you that right now. They know that, we know that."

Special changes

Notre Dame's special teams haven't been the best this season, particularly on punt returns.

The Irish average 2.4 yards on punt returns, and their kickoff returns haven't been much better, averaging 20 yards.

Kelly said he could change up his special teams units to get more production in the BCS championship game.

He did the same thing last season in the Champs Sports Bowl when he used receiver Michael Floyd on punt returns as was rewarded with a 41-yard return against Florida State.

"We think it is all hands on deck for our special teams, first of all," Kelly said. "It's a one-game deal. We can add to the personal on our ST, and we will probably look to do that.

"We have not been spectacular, but we haven't stunk the joint up either. We just need to continue to hold serve in ST, and maybe, we can get lightening in the bottle on a return or get a block. Our concerns is to make sure we take great care of the football and flip the field when we need to flip it."

Second surgery for Collinsworth

Notre Dame safety Austin Collinsworth, who has been out this season after having offseason shoulder surgery, is still not able to practice with the team.

Coach Brian Kelly said Saturday that the 6-foot-1, 202-pound junior had to have a second surgery. This time on his back.

"He had a discectomy," Kelly said. "Kind of like (tight end and former Bishop Dwenger standout Tyler) Eifert had, very similar. I can't give you whether it was right or left, but he needed that attended to. He got that taken care of … he feels great, so we feel like we've got him put back together."

A discectomy is usually performed to repair a herniated disc, and Kelly said he expects Collinsworth to be able to participate in spring practice.

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