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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, September 19, 2017 1:40 pm

Kelly embraces history of ND-Michigan State series

CHRIS GOFF | The Journal Gazette

As Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly reminded everyone today in his weekly news conference, games against Michigan State are part of the Megaphone series.

"We need that Megaphone back," Kelly said.

Last season, the Spartans came to Notre Dame and escaped with a 36-28 victory. Saturday, the Irish (2-1) visit Spartan Stadium seeking payback.

"It's loud," Kelly said. "It's a raucous environment." 

This really has been a great series over the years. That includes 78 all-time meetings and some classic games. Who could forget the Little Giants stunner of 2010 or the so-called Game of the Century in 1966?

Since 1949, there have been only six seasons the two programs have not met.

"A lot of pride, a lot of tradition," Kelly said.

Here's a deeper roundup from the coach's media session:

* As for the 2017 edition of Michigan State, Kelly admitted it's hard to glean a whole lot from the Spartans' two games, wins over small-conference competition, but he likes the defense. "It's a stout defense," Kelly said. "It's a really good defense."

* It wasn't that surprising Kelly fielded questions about quarterback Brandon Wimbush. Although he's been beastly in the running game, Wimbush's completion percentage is just 50.5 percent.

"He needs to settle down a little bit and let his feet set," Kelly said. "I have absolutely no questions about his ability to play at the highest level at Notre Dame and help us win a championship."

Kelly acknowledged Wimbush has felt "a little bit of nerves" in his first season as a starter. "He's got that will and want and desire to win," Kelly said. "I love coaching a guy like that. We're three games into this. These questions are totally natural for a first-year starter. I think you'll continue to see progress week to week."

* Being able to play high snap totals has been key for Jerry Tillery, Notre Dame's top defensive tackle. "His conditioning level is really good," Kelly said. "He's worked extremely hard in the weight room. He's dedicated himself. He was doing a lot of things last year. He's really focused on football, and it's showing on Saturdays."

* Wide receiver Cam Smith, who sat out over the weekend when the Irish won at Boston College, should be "100 percent" this week, according to Kelly, after battling an ankle issue last week in practice.

* At the end of the news conference, Kelly was asked how he assesses football IQ in recruits and offered an interesting insight into what he does on the recruiting trail. "I like to talk to them about other sports," Kelly said. "I get a little nervous when anybody doesn't know anything about any other sport." The coach said basketball, baseball and the rest are more connected to football than one would think.