Kelly: ‘We have to focus on third down’
Marek Mazurek | Wednesday, November 9, 2016
For the second straight week, Notre Dame will go up against the triple option, as the Irish face Army on Saturday in San Antonio.
Coming off a 28-27 loss to Navy this past weekend, Irish head coach Brian Kelly said his team’s mentality needed to go up against a run-first offense remains the same.
“We understand the demands that playing option football takes on our players, and I make sure that our schedule reflects the kind of needs that they have during the week,” Kelly said. “But [it will be a] tough game. You better be ready, because they’re tough-minded individuals at Army. So we’ll be smart with our players, but they know what’s in store. They just finished playing a very tough-minded football team in Navy, and they know that they’ve gotta prepare in a manner that allows them to go out there mentally and physically beat their opponent.”
Though the Irish led at halftime and pulled within one point of the Midshipmen in the fourth quarter, Navy was ultimately able to limit the Irish to just six offensive possessions. In the second half, Navy held the ball for over 20 minutes, and when facing Army, Kelly said third down is a key for his team.
“Obviously, we have to focus on third down,” Kelly said. “We gotta get off the field. We had a number of third-down situations where we didn’t get off the field. And we have to stay on the field on third down. We can’t have a foolish penalty. And so those right there are extremely important. In the red zone, we can’t settle for field goals, we have to score touchdowns. So those two right there probably stand out for me. Let’s say it is a six-possession game, we can still win the football game if we get off the field on third down and we’re more efficient in the red zone and we don’t have a foolish penalty.”
In order to get more possessions against Army, Kelly said he may look to throw the ball more, in order to get quick scoring opportunities. While the running game can be successful against an undersized defense like Navy or Army, Kelly said the running game often takes too much time off of the clock.
“And yeah, they’re going to give you some room, but they’re going to try to minimize big plays,” Kelly said. “So yeah, you scored five times, but it took you too much time. You know what I mean? So it’s a double-edged sword. You run the football, yeah, maybe you could knock them off the ball, but it’s going to take you a little while to score. … By the time you look up it’s the third quarter and you’ve got five possessions or four possessions. So you gotta balance all of those things as you’re trying to decide how to play a game against Navy.”
Last week, junior defensive lineman Daniel Cage did not play against the Midshipmen due to his not having cleared the concussion protocol. Tuesday, Kelly said Cage was going to see another doctor to receive additional treatment.
“[Daniel] Cage we’re going to send for further evaluation,” Kelly said. “He’s made some progress, but anytime that somebody’s in their second week and has not fully gone through the stages as we see them, we’d like to get a second opinion and make sure that everything is good. So we generally go to Dr. [Jeffrey] Kutcher, who has been really good as a resource for us, so we’ll have that appointment set up this week.”
Junior safety Drue Tranquill and freshman cornerback Julian Love both suffered head injuries Saturday, but Kelly said both hoped to practice Tuesday in non-contact roles and look to be cleared to fully participate in Wednesday’s session.
Field goal decision
Kelly again clarified his decision to go for a field goal with 7:28 left in the fourth quarter facing fourth-and-4 on Navy’s 14 yard-line Tuesday.
“I think each play is a little bit different, each game is a little bit different in terms of circumstances,” Kelly said. “I think what’s most important is getting the feel for each game in terms of what is needed to what I thought was needed to win a game. I don’t think you can think with a broad brush.”
“… We had, I felt, the wind and [with] the game circumstances at that time, it felt like the right thing to do.”