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Football: Staying on task

Matthew DeFranks | Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Irish coach Brian Kelly has the perfect cure for the hype that comes with No. 11 Notre Dame’s highest ranking in six years.

The Irish (3-0) have a sign hanging that says four things: Don’t believe or fuel the hype, manage expectations, avoid the noise and speak for yourself.

“And they see that every single day. I put that up last year expecting that that was going to be something that we were going to have to deal with. And we’re dealing with it right now, and they have seen that now for over a year and a half,” Kelly said. “They know what that sign means. And they know if they want to continue to be successful, they need to continue to do the things they are doing.”

Notre Dame will have to corral its confidence when they face No. 18 Michigan on Saturday under the lights at 7:30 p.m.

The Wolverines (2-1) have defeated Notre Dame each of the past three years in the final 30 seconds of the game. Senior quarterback Denard Robinson has been the main nemesis of the Irish, scoring eight total touchdowns the past two seasons.

“As is the case with each game that we play, it’s a red letter game on everybody’s schedule and certainly a game that we are looking forward to as well,” Kelly said. “It’s Notre Dame, it’s Michigan, it’s great college football. But for me, we have not beaten them. That’s what I remember about this series.”

In last year’s game, the Wolverines drove 80 yards in 28 seconds, capped by Robinson’s 16-yard touchdown pass to senior receiver Roy Roundtree. Kelly said the Irish do not dwell on last year’s game.

“They don’t talk about it. They don’t talk about it at all. They just want to win. They just want to win games,” Kelly said. “There’s not much that we reflect on 2011. You know, there’s nothing really to reflect back on other than experiences gained for the positive.”

After its 20-3 win over then-No. 10 Michigan State, Notre Dame is off to its best start in 10 years – and the buzz around campus reflects it.

“My first comments [to our players] were, how did it feel getting patted on the back all day, wasn’t that nice, a nice change to go to class and not hear how bad you are or what you should have done or what you didn’t do; they told you a lot of good things,” Kelly said.

He said there is a fine line between being encouraged and fueling the hype. He also said those well wishes could disappear if the Irish don’t perform well Saturday.

“That’s a good place to be, but here is what you want to do if you want to be there next week. Because let me tell you what, if you don’t do that next week, you’ll be back where you were a few weeks ago,” he said.

Slaughter out, others in
Graduate student safety Jamoris Slaughter suffered an Achilles injury that will sideline him for the rest of the season during Saturday’s win. Slaughter’s injury comes after ones to junior safety Austin Collinsworth and junior cornerback Lo Wood. All three were expected to be major contributors in the Irish secondary this season.

Slaughter was playing his fifth season with the Irish. Kelly said Notre Dame is unsure if Slaughter will be eligible for a sixth year.

Junior linebacker Danny Spond returned to the Irish lineup Saturday against the Spartans after a head injury held him out of the first two contests. He recorded four tackles in the win.

Kelly said sophomore receiver DaVaris Daniels, freshman defensive end Sheldon Day and grduate student defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore are all probable to play Saturday.

Fenway a no-go
After reports surfaced about a possible game at Fenway Park featuring the Irish and Connecticut, Director of Athletics Jack Swarbrick said the rumors were false.

“We have work to do on our future football schedules, given the announcement last week relative to our upcoming Atlantic Coast Conference relationship,” Swarbrick said in a statement. “However, media reports today that we will play Connecticut in Fenway Park in 2014 are inaccurate.”

Kelly is a Boston native and said he favored the idea.

“You know me, I love Fenway Park.  I just don’t know if it’s big enough, you know,” he said. “Being a Boston guy, baseball has not been very good there, so maybe we’ll bring some football.”


Contact Matthew DeFranks at [email protected]