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Football: Irish expect Eagles’ best

Matthew DeFranks | Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Despite being double-digit favorites in its past two home games, No. 4 Notre Dame has squeaked out three-point wins in contests against BYU and, most recently, Pittsburgh.

In the 29-26 win Saturday, the Irish (9-0) needed a two-point conversion, three overtimes and a missed field goal to secure a victory over the pesky Panthers.

Irish coach Brian Kelly said he liked the way the team prepared but not the way they played.

“I told the football team that they had the heart of a champion in the way that they battled through triple overtime,” Kelly said. “But now that we understand that we will fight in battle, we’ve got to have the head of a champion, too. The head of a champion understand that each and every week you’re going to get the opposition’s very best.”

The Irish will hit the road to face Boston College (2-7) on Saturday at 8 p.m. In five home games this season, Notre Dame has won by an average of 4.6 points. But away from Notre Dame Stadium, the Irish have won by 28 points per game.

Kelly said each game becomes tougher as the season progresses.

“This group has not been 9-0, so they have learned about how difficult it gets as you get down to just a few games left in the season,” Kelly said. “Everybody can make their season beating Notre Dame.”

The Eagles enter Saturday’s game ranked 116th (out of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams) in rushing defense, giving up almost 234 yards per outing. They also rank 119th in both sacks and tackles for loss.

Kelly said the Irish still need to play their best.

“This is new territory for them and they’re learning,” Kelly said. “I sensed and felt in talking to our guys that they clearly understand that they can’t play the game any less than their very best if they want to win. So I think that message resonated.”

Golson bounces back

Sophomore quarterback Everett Golson returned in the win over Pittsburgh after a brief benching to lead Notre Dame to a 14-point comeback in the fourth quarter.

“He hadn’t been in that situation where I felt like when I looked at him he was ready to get back in there,” Kelly said. “He was ready to get back in the game and knew what he needed to do.”

Golson finished the game 23-for-42 for 227 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He added 74 yards, a touchdown and a two-point conversion on the ground.

In the fourth quarter and overtime periods, Golson accounted for 164 of 223 total yards, nearly 75 percent.

“That quarterback will be the one that drives [the offense],” Kelly said. “He’ll have athleticism. He’ll have the ability to throw the football. He’s a [redshirt] freshman. I’m reminded of it every single day.”

Golson had been pulled from games against Purdue and Michigan, and he missed the end of the Stanford game and all of the BYU game with a concussion.

Kelly said Golson has had to adjust to being taken out.
“He’s walked through every game he’s played,” Kelly said. “He’s been the best player on the field. He’s dealing with, you know, ‘This is the first time I’ve ever been taken out of a game.’”

Injury updates

Junior offensive tackle Tate Nichols may miss the rest of the season with a knee injury, Kelly announced. Nichols did not play in his first two seasons and has seen action in just one game this year.

Junior nose guard Louis Nix is fully recovered from a bout with the flu, but Kelly said a few players are still battling illnesses.

Contact Matthew DeFranks at mdefrank@nd.edu