Kelly discusses team mindset, Brandon Wimbush heading into first road game
Tobias Hoonhout | Wednesday, September 13, 2017
Coming off a close home defeat to No. 13 Georgia this weekend, Irish head coach Brian Kelly addressed several areas, including junior Brandon Wimbush’s development as a quarterback, Notre Dame’s mentality heading into next week’s matchup against Boston College and its growth on defense.
Although the junior quarterback struggled to have an impact against the physical defense of the Bulldogs (2-0, 0-0 SEC) on Saturday, Kelly was confident Wimbush would grow exponentially moving forward.
“I think game recognition, what he sees in the game, then trusting the teaching,” Kelly said of the areas of Wimbush’s game that have been developing. “You have your teaching, and you go through it during the week, then it happens in the game. Just trust what you see and go with it. Don’t be indecisive. Be decisive, trust it and go with it.
“ … I think that’s probably the biggest learning curve for all young quarterbacks, is that at times they become a little bit — they think a little bit too much instead of just trusting it and going with it. Just trust your teaching.
“ … He learned a lot from that game. I think it will be a springboard for him.”
While the Irish (1-1) lost to Georgia in a manner that mirrored many close games last season, Kelly remained optimistic that this year, things will be different.
“I really like our team. I think it’s a totally different scenario,” he said. “ … I stay in the present. In the present, I really like the way our team is put together. I don’t think much about last year. I think about how our team played on Saturday. So my vision and my eyes are on how that team showed grit and toughness, didn’t back off.
“ … I just loved our sideline. Being able to walk up and down the sideline and sense, you know, their fight, how they felt about the game.”
Heading into the team’s first road matchup with Boston College (1-1, 0-1 ACC), Kelly stressed the importance of staying focused on the task at hand, despite faltering the week prior.
“We just let them know about it relative to last week’s opponent,” Kelly said on the mental preparation. “This is really for the younger players to understand the Boston College-Notre Dame rivalry, two Catholic institutions. But more importantly, we don’t want to talk about it any more than that. It’s really about developing a mindset in your program that this is about dominating your opponent regardless of who it is.
“ … It’s okay to know the history and how they’re going to play you, who Boston College is, the respect that you have for them, how they play Notre Dame and everybody plays that way. But really this is about having a mindset going into this football game.”
And with road matchups, mental preparation is everything, according to Kelly.
“Everything you do relative to your routine and how you prepare and how you practice should put your players in a position that when they go on the road, they compete in a fashion that no distractions should interfere with the way they compete,” Kelly said. “If they’re easily distracted, then they don’t have the kind of focus that you’ve been building with your football team … being locked in and tuning out all of those distractions, playing the game in the manner that you’ve been trained.”
Notre Dame passed the eye test against Georgia, as the Irish held the Bulldogs’ outstanding duo of senior running backs in Nick Chubb and Sony Michel to a combined 136 yards on the ground. Mike Elko’s unit gave up significantly less yards and points than at the same point last season, while also having five sacks through two games, good for 36th nationally. Kelly said he believes the unit is only going to get better.
“Defense is by and large about a confidence and a belief,” he said. “Our players believe in what we’re doing defensively, have got great confidence in the players around them, that they’re going to do their job. When you have that dynamic going forward, it certainly is going to allow you to continue to grow as a defense.”
Kelly noted that graduate student wide receiver Freddy Canteen is doubtful for this weekend after picking up a shoulder injury against the Bulldogs. Junior receiver Chris Finke is listed as a starter after catching three passes for 36 yards Saturday.