FORT WAYNE – Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly told reporters Tuesday about two priorities for the next two weeks after the team’s BCS bowl aspirations were dashed by Saturday’s 28-21 loss at Pittsburgh.
Kelly wants his 7-3 team to get healthy during the bye week and send the seniors out with a victory in Notre Dame’s final home game against BYU (6-3) on Nov. 23.
They’ve got four quarters left in Notre Dame Stadium, Kelly said. They’re going to be a huge part of the history of Notre Dame and helping us to four bowl games, a national championship (game). We are going to do everything in our power to make certain that our seniors go out winners at their last game at Notre Dame Stadium.
To help the seniors leave with a victory, the Irish are not practicing this week as the team’s injury list continues to grow.
Kelly said center Nick Martin suffered a boxer’s fracture, a break at the knuckle, on the hand the junior snaps the ball with against Pitt and played with the injury for the last three quarters. Kelly said Martin should be able to play with a cast in the final two games.
Notre Dame defensive linemen Jarron Jones and Isaac Rochell each suffered ankle sprains against Pitt and are wearing protective walking boots. Kelly said Jones and Rochell are day to day.
Kelly also said he was hopeful to get linebacker Ishaq Williams and defensive lineman Kona Schwenke back for the game against BYU. Schwenke, who suffered an ankle injury against Navy on Nov. 2, had his cast removed Tuesday, and Williams had the knee injury he suffered against Air Force on Oct. 26 downgraded from a Grade 2 to a Grade 1, Kelly said.
The guys that I would be practicing, we need, Kelly said of not holding a practice this week. They need to play considerable amount of time for us against BYU and Stanford (on Nov. 30). We’re just at that point. It’s in my estimation we could have a situation of diminished returns and put us in jeopardy, so we’re conditioning them pretty hard Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday will be the bulk of our work.
Kelly said he isn’t worried about his team not finishing the season strong as the Irish will have to wait to see which conferences are unable to fill their affiliations to give Notre Dame a spot in a second-tier bowl.
Whether it’s a BCS bowl game or not a BCS bowl game, it’s still about week to week at Notre Dame, Kelly said. Whether you’re playing for the national championship or not, it’s really one game, trying to get to a national championship, next year obviously, playoffs. Whether you’re playing in Miami or New Orleans or whatever the destination is, they’re all runner-up games.
It’s really about the next game and winning the next game. That’s the focus of this team and in particular our seniors.