Kelly discusses injury report, Playoff hopes
Daniel O'Boyle | Tuesday, October 31, 2017
Junior tight end Alize Mack was diagnosed with a concussion during Notre Dame’s 35-14 victory over North Carolina State on Saturday and will enter concussion protocol, Brian Kelly revealed during his Sunday postgame teleconference. However, the remainder of the Irish injury concerns are likely to be ready to play this week against Wake Forest.
Mack went down with an apparent head injury after junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush threw a pass near the sideline that Mack couldn’t hold on to, and the tight end did not return to the game.
“Alize had what was diagnosed as a concussion, so he is in our concussion protocol,” Kelly said.
Senior defensive tackle Jonathan Bonner and senior linebacker Nyles Morgan also left the game at points with injuries but went on to return, and Kelly said the pair should both be ready to face the Demon Deacons (5-3, 2-3 ACC). Wimbush also appeared hurt on a third down play, but he did not miss an offensive snap for the Irish (7-1), and Kelly said he should not be restricted this week.
“Bonner sprained his ankle, a lateral sprain,” Kelly said. “It’s not a high ankle. X-rays are negative. We’ll make sure he is protected, but he should not be limited. He’ll be a go for Saturday. Morgan, he’s had some chronic shoulder throughout the year. It’s just a matter of protecting him during the week, but he’ll be fine and ready to go.
“Brandon had a left ankle sprain, mild. No restrictions for him. He felt good. Checked in today, felt good. He’ll enter tomorrow’s workout with no restrictions.”
Sophomore running back Tony Jones Jr., who left Notre Dame’s Week 6 game against North Carolina with an ankle injury, suffered a hip pointer during the game against the Wolfpack (6-2, 4-0 ACC) but also returned to the game. Kelly said it was frustrating to see Jones suffer another injury.
“This ankle has kind of bothered him,” Kelly said. “He’s fighting through it. He ends up getting a hip pointer during the game, which really, you know, set him back. He got back involved and fought through it.
“It’s just been one of those things where he’s getting a little frustrated, is the best way to describe it. I think he was a little bit better today. We just got to get him in a good frame of mind and get him off and running because he’s a really good player.”
The Irish victory springboarded Notre Dame to No. 5 in the AP poll, and potentially a top-four spot in the College Football Playoff Committee rankings, which are to be released Tuesday. Chances of making the Playoff if the Irish can win their remaining four games appear to be strong, but Kelly said that while his team certainly hasn’t been able to avoid the hype that has surrounded their surprising success through eight games, the way he prepares the team remains the same as it has been all season.
“As they’ve won games each and every week, they’ve gotten more recognition,” Kelly said. “Last week after the USC game, more recognition. They recognize that. They’re aware of that. We’ve made them aware of the fact that there will be more noise as you continue to win. That’s immaterial to what our process is. Our process is to refocus on what’s important now. What’s important now is our preparation. They’re really good. They’re trusting their training. The training started back in January. This is really nothing new for us. They’ve handled it well so far.”
The Irish offense started the season at a breakneck pace, scoring in under a minute on its opening drive of the season and possessing the ball for less than half of each of its opening five games, even though four of those games were comfortable victories. But while results have remained strong, Notre Dame’s time of possession has vastly increased since then, as offensive coordinator Chip Long’s unit has moved at a slower pace. However, Kelly said this was not a change in philosophy, but just a way of handling the games the way they played out.
“It’s more about the way the games have been playing out,” Kelly said. “We were pleased with our tempo in the game. As you can imagine, we had 22 of our last 28 plays that were runs where we slowed the clock down. We intentionally, from about — I think there were about three minutes left in the third quarter, through the entire fourth quarter, we did not use any tempo on offense. This game in particular, we’ve had a number of those games, late in the third and fourth quarter, where we’ve completely slowed down.
“The games and the way they have gone have dictated it. But when we’ve needed to play with tempo, I’ve been pleased with that this year.”
The Irish will meet the Demon Deacons on Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium. Kickoff is at 3:30 p.m.