SOUTH BEND – Brian Kelly is no Sun Tzu, but Notre Dame's coach seems to have borrowed philosophy from the Chinese general. In “The Art of War,” one of history's most revered books on military strategy, Tzu advised, “Know the enemy and know yourself.”
In his eighth year as Irish coach, Kelly still turns over every leaf to understand his team's opponent. What's new is he and his staff added an extra wrinkle this year. Every week, there's a self-scout element to getting ready for each upcoming game.
This is a look in the mirror, an inward turn so that Kelly can see his own players' tendencies the way an opponent might. This is “knowing yourself” the way Tzu suggests.
“We went to a different mode this year,” Kelly said. “I wanted to self-scout each week, so we've self-scouted each week. Before I used to self-scout (after) five weeks, and maybe there were some tendencies here and there, but we're now self-scouting weekly.”
The 21st-ranked Irish (4-1) earned their third straight win with Saturday's 52-17 rout of Miami (Ohio) but have room to grow. They need only ask their coach.
“Now we really have come full circle in terms of what I was asking them to do,” Kelly said. “Now this is about consistency in performance and then cleaning up some of the things that we know are our weaknesses. We've got to get better at tackling. We've got to be able to play the ball in the air. We've got to be able to obviously pass the ball with a higher efficiency.”
Few understand Kelly and the Notre Dame program better than Miami coach Chuck Martin, an Irish assistant from 2010 to 2013.
He believes this year's edition is capable of special accomplishments.
“We certainly didn't run into a bad Notre Dame team,” Martin said. “They have a very good team this year. They're playing the game the right way, and they're only going to get better, I think.”
Even though his RedHawks were outgained 503-377, Martin said his first experience as an opposing coach in Notre Dame Stadium was “better than he hoped.”
“The outcome wasn't better than I hoped,” Martin said. “Being in the stadium is always good for me. I love what they did with the renovations. Totally different. They hit a home run, inside and outside.
“I've been to Notre Dame many times in my life, but I saw a ton of people, not just coaches and players, but tons of ushers. I probably (visited with) 40 ushers that I haven't seen in four years that I used to see on a weekly or daily basis. That part was fun to see a bunch of people that you really love.”
Kelly said he enjoyed his reunion with Martin, too. It was just the second all-time meeting between the programs.
“We'll be rooting for Chuck Martin and Miami,” Kelly said. “Obviously he's a special friend of mine. We wish them the best.”