SOUTH BEND – Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly doesn’t like to live in the past.
But as the Irish have stumbled to a 3-2 start after going undefeated last season, Kelly said Tuesday he recently glimpsed at last year’s team to figure out how to move forward this season.
It’s OK to be reminded, and I put on a clip of about a 10-minute clip of last year where Pittsburgh hit one off the upright in overtime, and we had to rally in the fourth quarter against BYU and that (quarterback) Tommy (Rees) had to throw one, after trying to call a timeout, to (former receiver and Bishop Dwenger graduate John) Goodman on the sideline to keep a drive alive during Purdue to eke out a win last year, Kelly said. My point being the margin last year was razor thin, and the margin this year is razor thin.
The Irish enter Saturday’s game against No. 22 Arizona State (3-1) at the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, with higher numbers on defense than at any point last season.
Notre Dame is giving up 23.8 points per game after allowing only 12.8 per game last season. The Irish are also giving up 364 yards per game – 133.8 rushing and 230.2 passing – after holding teams to an average of 305.5 yards – 105.7 rushing and 198.8 passing – last season.
Even though the numbers are up, Kelly said the defense is doing enough to help Notre Dame win.
I don’t think they’re spectacular, but I think it’s a solid defense that we can win with. Kelly said. We uncharacteristically gave up two big plays (in Saturday’s 35-21 loss to Oklahoma) that we’re not accustomed to giving up. We’re solid as a defense.
The Irish are scoring at nearly the same rate as last season, averaging 25.4 points this season compared with 25.8.
But Notre Dame does not have the same balance when it averaged 412.2 yards last season. The Irish averaged 189.4 rushing yards and 222.8 passing yards in 2012.
The Irish average 380.2 yards this season, and they are averaging 244.8 passing yards and 135.4 rushing yards.
We have to find our balance there offensively, and I think that for me is where we’re really pulling our hair out is trying to find that balance from an offensive standpoint, Kelly said.
We’re going to play, I believe, well enough defensively to win the rest of our games. We’ve got to get ourselves where we have enough balance offensively to run the ball and throw the ball effectively.
Notes: Kelly said the appeal of the first-half suspension against Arizona State for backup linebacker Ben Councell, who was called for targeting in the second half against Oklahoma, was denied. Defensive end Sheldon Day, who hasn’t played the last two games because of a sprained ankle, should be available Saturday. Kelly said Notre Dame is looking into how its games at Air Force on Oct. 26 and home against Navy on Nov. 2 could be affected by the government shutdown.