Notre Dame prepares for SEC matchup with Georgia
Tobias Hoonhout | Wednesday, September 6, 2017
Heading into Notre Dame’s first home game against an SEC school in 12 years, Brian Kelly said his team is relishing the chance to play a team with as much notoriety as Georgia and its second-year head coach Kirby Smart.
“Certainly have a great deal of respect for Kirby Smart, and certainly know him from his days at Alabama when we played them obviously in the national championship game,” Kelly said. “Experienced coach, has done a great job at Georgia … we’ve got a well-coached football team coming into town, a talented football team.
“ … This is the great part of being an independent football team in that you get these kinds of games, getting a chance to play against a team that’s regarded as one of the very best in the SEC. So our guys are excited about the challenge and looking forward to Saturday night.”
Georgia (1-0) is the first SEC opponent to play Notre Dame (1-0) at home since 2005; the last two times the Irish played a team from the conference occurred in postseason games. In 2014, Notre Dame defeated LSU in the Music City Bowl, but lost the National Championship to Alabama in 2012. For Kelly, however, chances to play teams as talented as those from the SEC serve as a great opportunity, regardless of the final score.
“I think you walk away from those games, and you certainly know that the talent level that you’re going up against,” he said. “But you also know that it still comes down to your preparation and execution and that you’re capable of beating those teams. Certainly we weren’t capable of beating Alabama [in 2012]. But we did against LSU [in 2014].”
“I think the takeaway is that your preparation and execution, you can beat, you know, with a Notre Dame football team anybody that you play.”
The biggest news of the day came on Notre Dame’s end, where Kelly revealed that sophomore transfer Alohi Gilman’s eligibility appeal had been denied by the NCAA, ending the chance that the former Navy safety would play for the Irish this season.
On the injury front, both junior defensive lineman Micah Dew-Treadway and graduate student tight end Durham Smythe are progressing nicely, Kelly said. Dew-Treadway participated in full practice on Tuesday, while Smythe practiced in a non-contact role.
Against Temple, the Irish dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, as the Irish ran for more than 400 yards offensively, while registering 11 tackles for loss on the defensive end. For Kelly, both stem from Notre Dame’s mentality instilled by its new coordinators.
“Chip Long was talking about a physicality and a demeanor in running the football [when he arrived]” Kelly said. “It wasn’t about how many yards we were going to amass in total offense. It was about how we were going to exert our will in terms of running the football. So this is really just more about creating a mindset and building on that mindset. Look, we’re in game one, OK. We have to continue to build on this mindset. But it started in January. It didn’t start in August.
“ … It’s been the same message that these guys have heard every day. It’s been demanding, not demeaning, and we’re going to continue to demand that new line of scrimmage defensively, taking the football away defensively, and from an offensive standpoint, a mentality, a toughness in terms of running the football.”
Against Georgia, however, the Irish will have their hands full. On the offensive end, the Bulldogs were the only team to have two running backs ranked in the top-15 nationally, and both Nick Chubb and Sony Michel have returned this year. Defensively, Georgia also returns a number of key contributors, including the team’s entire front-seven from last season. For Kelly, it’s strength against strength, and so ultimately controlling the line of scrimmage will be the key to the game.
“[It’s] Georgia’s offensive line against our defensive line and vice versa,” he said. “They’re going to feature both their backs. We’re going to feature our running game, and somebody’s going to come out on top. So it’s going to be an old-fashioned kind of find out who’s got that grit and determination, because somebody’s going to have to find a way to run the football late and control the line of scrimmage.”