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Kelly savors 1st win, Michigan up next for Irish
Question of the Day
SOUTH BEND, IND. (AP) - Brian Kelly relaxed after his first victory at Notre Dame as only a coach can. He tuned in to some more football, catching the second half of a game involving the school he led to an unbeaten record last season.
After a long day of football and ceremony in which he helped sing the fight song in the locker room following Notre Dame’s 23-12 win over Purdue on Saturday, Kelly says he watched the second half of Cincinnati’s game against Fresno State.
What he’ll be looking at this week is how to handle an improved Michigan team that beat Connecticut in its opener and will present a formidable challenge for an Irish defense that made a solid showing against the Boilermakers.
Kelly said in a Sunday conference call he saw no “gross errors” against the Boilermakers, although top receiver Michael Floyd fumbled around the 2 after catching a pass from Dayne Crist. Had he hung on and completed the short trip to the end zone, the Irish would have taken a 27-3 lead in the third quarter.
“Most of these are things that we can get better at from week one to week two,” Kelly said.
Notre Dame’s depth, especially on defense, was a factor. Starting linebacker Darius Fleming and backup linebacker Prince Shembo were troubled with cramping Saturday, and starting safety Jamoris Slaughter sprained an ankle.
But the Irish gave up only 10 points _ another two came from a safety. They had four sacks and two pass interceptions, one by nose tackle Ian Williams after cornerback Gary Gray tipped the ball. But there were also missed tackles, including several by standout middle linebacker Manti Te'o.
Notre Dame was able to rotate defensive linemen and keep its front fresh. It did the same with its two running backs. Backup Cierre Wood was able to break off some nice runs while filling in for starter Armando Allen, and the duo combined to rush for 151 yards.
The Irish used six freshmen Saturday and eight other players made their first career appearances. The two-deep was really that and using numerous player can help the energy late in games that close.
“We felt like going in the strength of this team could be its depth and it proved to be that way on defense,” Kelly said.
“We’re going to keep our guys fresh. I know that some philosophies would just have you stick with our 11 guys that are No. 1s. We truly try to develop it differently here. We want guys to all feel like part of their victories. … There is no sense in putting guys out there dog tired.”
T’eo tied for the team lead with nine tackles Saturday along with fellow linebacker Carlo Calabrese and Gray. But there were others he could have made.
“He was all over the place,” Kelly said. “He swung and missed a lot out of the strike zone, which was uncharacteristic for him. He was in great position so many times … He just has to slow down a step.”
Notre Dame won’t be able to afford missed tackles Saturday against Michigan, especially with Wolverines’ quarterback Denard Robinson running the offense. Robinson used his speed to run for 197 yards while passing for 186 in a 30-10 win over UConn.
Kelly said he watched his former team at Cincinnati as a way of winding down. He led the Bearcats to a 12-0 regular season a year ago before leaving for South Bend. Cincinnati lost to Fresno State on Saturday, ending its 18-game regular-season winning streak.
By Matt Kibbe
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