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Football

Kelly discusses NC State preparation, Adams’ Heisman campaign

| Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Coming off Notre Dame’s biggest win over USC since 1977, Irish head coach Brian Kelly was happy with his team’s performance this past weekend.

“Obviously pleased with our performance on Saturday,” Kelly said. “I think what we talked about was the net differential in points from last year to this year, then coming back and winning this year in the fashion that we did is indicative of all the work that they put in over the past year.

“Our football team knows what they need to do to continue to be successful. Now it’s my job and our staff’s job to continue to see that that preparation and that mindset, you know, continues to evolve and develop on a day-to-day basis. … It’s been 50 years since a Notre Dame football team has won in that kind of fashion. At the same time, it happens so rarely, you have to understand how you’ve prepared so well, you don’t want to change anything.”

Facing the Wolfpack

Notre Dame (6-1) next faces No. 14 North Carolina State this coming weekend. After falling in their season opener to South Carolina, the Wolfpack (6-1, 4-0 ACC) have rattled off six straight wins, including a road victory over then-No. 12 Florida State. NC State also boasts the sixth-best run defense in the country, and Kelly is certainly not taking the matchup lightly.

Irish junior running back Josh Adams, left, accepts the handoff from junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush during Notre Dame's 49-14 win over USC on Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium.Anna Mason | The Observer

Irish junior running back Josh Adams, left, accepts the handoff from junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush during Notre Dame’s 49-14 win over USC on Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium.

“They do a great job of holding onto the football, sustaining drives and scoring,” Kelly said. “I think they average 3.2 points per possession, which is really, really good. They’ve got a number of weapons on offense. … This is a defense that’s very stingy against the run. They do a great job schematically of putting their guys in a very good position. You have to be worried about special teams with their ability to return kicks and punts, as well. We’ve got our hands full in all three facets.

“A deserving team where they’re ranked, no question about it. It’s going to be a great challenge, one that our guys know they’ll have to play very well to win the football game.”

The Irish faced off against the Wolfpack in Raleigh, North Carolina, last season, in a wild game that occurred despite the impact of Hurricane Matthew. With the game tied 3-3 in the fourth quarter, North Carolina State blocked an Irish punt and returned it for a touchdown to go up 10-3, a lead it would never relinquish. For Kelly and Notre Dame, the very nature of the game and the conditions it was played in, which included driving rain and 45 mile-per-hour winds, isn’t even a factor in preparing for the Wolfpack this time around.

“You know, we didn’t even look at the film,” Kelly said. “It wasn’t even part of our breakdown because it really didn’t give us anything. It was a poorly designed game plan by me. There was nothing there that we really wanted to go back and look at.

“We’ve changed our punt protection since that time, which obviously the punt was a huge play in the game. There’s really nothing that we could garner from that game. It really didn’t show truly who they were or who we were in that game because you just didn’t have the ability to exert force against the ground and be explosive and powerful.”

For Kelly, the disappointing loss was a microcosm of last season.

“When it rains it pours,” he said.

But this year, the Irish are back to their winning ways. And while the danger to be complacent, especially after a big win over rival USC, may arise, Kelly said the Irish are dialed in.

“Our mission from day one is to win a national championship,” Kelly said. “ … Look, you know, USC lost the game. They go home and get to play for the Pac-12 championship. That’s great. We don’t have anything else to play for. We’ve been in the Playoffs since we lost to Georgia. Every game is a Playoff for us. Everybody is talking about, you know, getting to the Playoffs, getting to the Playoffs. Every game we play is a Playoff game. Our guys don’t know it any other way.

“Everybody else seems to have caught on with this idea that Notre Dame is playing for a Playoff spot. We don’t have anything else to play for. That’s what we play for. We’re an independent football team, and our mission is to graduate all of our players and play for a national championship. That’s all we have. It’s not really any different than it was yesterday or the day before or last week.”

Adams

Against the Trojans, junior running back Josh Adams continued his impressive campaign on the ground this season, amassing 191 yards on 19 carries and three touchdowns. Despite posting impressive numbers, Adams has only just begun to creep into the Heisman conversation. For Kelly, however, there’s still plenty of time for the junior to add to his resume.

“Coming out of last year, we were a 4-8 football team. Even though he had two really good games, a great game at the end of the year, the Heisman is meant for, and this is how our team understands it, individual awards go to really good teams, too,” Kelly said. “Penn State was a really good team last year. Those that were in running for the Heisman all had good years last year. Notre Dame did not have a very good year. We have to earn everything this year.

“Again, we still have a lot of football left. We’re making up for lost ground. He’s got to continue to play well. Notre Dame’s got to continue to play well. I think if you just hold your ballots until the end of the year, we’ll see where it falls from there.”

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About Tobias Hoonhout

Toby is a junior PLS/Economics double major from Smithtown, New York.

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