Coach: Irish need to make bowl

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SOUTH BEND, IND. (AP) - It’s the job and life Brian Kelly wanted. He knows the expectations. His first Notre Dame team started 1-3 and heads were shaking. The Irish then ran off three straight wins and fans were beaming.

Then comes a lopsided and weakness-exposing loss to Navy and here comes talk of another 6-6 season, the same record under Charlie Weis a year ago.

Somewhere there’s a difference between being toasted and being roasted. The Irish are trying to find it.

Kelly’s pitch is that the Irish are committed to making their players better and that is happening, even if that doesn’t always show on Saturdays.

And with a 4-4 record entering Saturday’s game against Tulsa _ a must-win if there ever was one this season _ his goal is to get Notre Dame in a bowl game, not just for the experience but for the extension of practice time it would afford.

“It’s an important goal. We need those 15 practices,” Kelly said Tuesday when he announced that another Irish standout, nose guard Ian Williams, will be out 4-6 weeks with a sprained knee ligament.

Whether Williams could make it back in time for a postseason game is not known. He was injured in Saturday’s 35-17 loss to Navy. Kelly said surgery is not required.

Getting to a bowl game is vital, especially with a team still trying to master a new offense _ the spread _ and a different defense in the 3-4.

“Those 15 practices are important. So, you know, getting to a bowl game allows you more time with your players. I need more time with our guys,” Kelly said. “Our coaches need more time with our players. …it’s important to the development of our program.”

Notre Dame’s defense got run over by Navy’s triple option and Williams was forced out in the third quarter with a sprained left medial collateral ligament. The 6-foot-2, 305-pound senior, the anchor of the Irish’s defensive line who has 37 tackles, has appeared in 45 games over the course of his career.

Ian was double-teamed virtually every play so he was in there battling on every play. It’s hard to really look at any particular block and say, well, that was, you know, high-low,” Kelly said. “I didn’t feel that way. Our coaches didn’t feel that way. And he was in there the battling a couple of guys virtually every play.”

Sean Cwynar and Hafis Williams are going to have fill in for Ian Williams.

The injuries have been mounting, especially ones involving the hamstring.

Linebacker Carlo Calabrese also had to leave Saturday’s game with a hamstring pull. Star tight tend Kyle Rudolph is lost for the season after having surgery to repair a torn hamstring. Star wide receiver Michael Floyd didn’t play last week because of a sore hamstring, an injury that also dogged offensive tackle Taylor Dever. And freshman receiver TJ Jones has experienced fatigue in a hamstring.

So, are the Irish literally hamstrung or what?

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