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‘The Brian Kelly Show’: Kelly highlights individual efforts in season-opener

| Friday, September 18, 2020

Notre Dame football head coach Brian Kelly and men’s basketball announcer Jack Nolan returned Thursday night for the season premiere of “The Brian Kelly Show.” The format has changed from last season with the duo hosting remotely and without their customary live audience in the new Irish practice facility.

After introductions, the two proceeded to revisit Notre Dame’s season-opening win over Duke by a score of 27-13.

“It’s always about, you know, where can you get better,” Kelly said. “I mean, what things did you learn about your football team that’s going to allow you to prepare on Tuesday when you get back out on the practice field?”

From his perspective, Kelly saw some good and bad out of the Irish offense, part of which is due to Duke’s passing game improvements with the addition of Clemson transfer quarterback Chase Brice.

“I think from a defensive standpoint, probably the attention to detail, there are some things there that we probably weren’t as disciplined as we needed to be,” he said. “Some of the big plays that we gave up are uncharacteristic for us on the defensive side of the ball. … Their passing game is so much better than it was last year when we played them. They were really struggling to throw the football last year. This year, obviously, with Brice, they are a much better team when it comes to throwing the football, but he’s very sore today, too. I mean, he took a lot of hits, we got to the quarterback, we harassed him. And you know, he was under 55% throwing the football.”

Kelly said he is pleased with the way in which the defense remained stout on the goalline.

“I think the other thing we did better than we did last year, much, much more scrappy in the red zone this game in the sense that we kept them off the scoreboard in terms of touchdowns,” he said. “Certainly they kick some field goals, but we were resilient down there, and I think  that’s what we have to continue to do.”

One standout player from the Duke game, Kelly said, was sophomore edge rusher Isaiah Foskey who recorded his first career sack on Brice in the red zone.

“We’re so blessed that we’ve got the kind of depth that when you look at our depth chart, it looks like he’s third-string, but he’s actually a very, very fine player,” Kelly said of Foskey. “I think everybody knows that. And to have that kind of depth with Isaiah Foskey playing in the rotation just tells you a little bit about what we can be defensively when we get our attention to detail and focus down to where it needs to be.”

Another impact contributor was senior linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, who led Notre Dame in tackles with nine and forced a key fumble which was recovered by the Irish.

“That’s the kind of player he is,” Kelly said of Owusu-Koramoah. “I think you see him on special teams, he shows up with a great opening tackle on the kickoff that’s kind of sets the tone. Again, he’s a guy that continues to get better. He’s still got some work to do in his game, he knows that, from a consistency standpoint, but boy, he’s a guy that we love having on our team.”

On the offensive side, Kelly was pleased with the play of freshman tight end Michael Mayer, whose physicality has earned him the locker room nickname “Baby Gronk” in reference to former Patriots and current Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski of the NFL.

“I don’t know who exactly came up with it, but if you take the big third-down conversion where he broke through the tackle, I could see where it came from,” Kelly said of the nickname. “But he’s just a very talented young man, and I think he’s well respected by everybody. … Really, really excited about where he’s going to be this year. It’s just he needs some more time and more reps, but he made a nice couple of really big plays for us in this game against Duke.”

Sophomore running back Kyren Williams also flashed potential with a game-high performance rushing and receiving for more than 200 all-purpose yards, and Kelly believes he can make an even bigger splash down the road.

“I think he’s got an incredibly long way to go in terms of his development, and I’m happy for him,” he said. “I know our entire team is happy for the success that he had, but I think he’ll tell you that he’s got a lot of growth ahead of him. … He’s going to attribute a lot of this to the offensive line and those people around him that gave him this opportunity, but it’s going to be nice to see his growth over the course of this year.”

Converted running back and current wide receiver Avery Davis recorded the lone receiving touchdown for the Irish against the Blue Devils, one of two receptions he had on the day. Kelly praised the senior for the way he has taken his Notre Dame career in stride with several position changes.

“Good for Avery. You know, he started as a quarterback, we moved him around a little bit,” Kelly said. “He was on the defense, running back and really trying to find a place for him where he can contribute, and boy did he contribute on Saturday. One-on-one coverage goes up and takes a 50-50 ball away. And then obviously a big third-down conversion for us as well. … When the game’s on the line, he’s a guy you want to look for.”

As for the current quarterback, graduate student Ian Book received his fair share of criticism for his performance against Duke, but Kelly tried to stress that what is most important is the final result.

“I think anytime you talk about your quarterback, you want to talk about winning, and Ian Book wins,” Kelly said. “Can he play better? Yes. Can I coach better? Yes. … I think we evaluate ourselves critically here in this building. But we also look at the fact that winning is what the byproduct is, and we want to win football games. We’re going to get back at it this week, we’re going to look at the things that we need to get better at and we’re certainly gonna do them. I think when you talk about Ian Book, the nice part about it is he’s a winner.”

Allison Thornton | The Observer
Irish junior tight end George Takacs pushes through a pile of Midshipmen defenders during Notre Dame’s 52-20 win over Navy on Nov. 16 at home. Takacs made six appearances for the Irish last season. 
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About Hayden Adams

Hayden is the former sports editor of The Observer. When he's not working toward his four majors (physics and film, television & theatre) and three minors (journalism, ethics & democracy), you can probably find him hopelessly trying to save his beloved Zahm House from being wiped out. He plans to attend law school at a TBD location after graduation.

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