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Football: Mr. November

Andrew Owens | Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Following a 56-14 thumping of Navy on Saturday, Notre Dame begins its final third of the season at Wake Forest aiming to continue the success of Brian Kelly-coached teams in November.

The Irish coach, who is 21-6 in his last 27 games in November and December, currently boasts a 13-game winning streak in November, a stretch that includes a 3-0 finish to the 2010 regular season.

“I think if you’re mentally strong in November, your body feels good, your mind is right, you have a chance to carry that over on Saturdays,” Kelly said. “So we want to keep our guys fresh. We keep our practices to a minimum. We really try to take care of our guys from an injury standpoint and give them the best care.

“But I think my philosophy is always about how you finish and not how you start. Clearly our teams have played well in November. You know, each year is a different year.”

Wake Forest (5-3) will present a challenge for Notre Dame (5-3) defensively with its several playmakers, Kelly said.

“I think [their receivers are] the strength of their football team,” he said. “There’s no question. [Redshirt junior receiver Chris] Givens is a playmaker. With [redshirt sophomore running back Josh] Harris and [redshirt senior Brandon] Pendergrass at the running back position they’ve got a quarterback now with a little bit more experience. Obviously getting the ball to their playmakers is how they call the game.

“Each and every week we get different players, we get different skill sets,” Kelly said. “This is a deep and talented group that we’re going to be challenged with on the back end of our defense and on our linebacking corps. We’re going to have to obviously get the ball out of their hands quickly.”

Kelly said the focus is on defeating Wake Forest, rather than developing a “road warrior” mentality with three of the final four games of the regular season away from Notre Dame Stadium.

“We’re so far into it right now, you know, that we’re developing in areas that go to winning,” he said. “So we played well on the road. I like our maturity on the road. We’re really focused, so I didn’t talk much about [developing a mentality]. I have in the past with other teams. But I think, you know, nine games into the season, they know what to do and how to do it.”

The Demon Deacons and the Irish will kick-off in Winston-Salem, N.C., on Saturday at 8 p.m.

Contact Andrew Owens at aowens2@nd.edu