Chicago Sun-Times
with Mark Lazerus

Notre Dame defense is playing with fire

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It's a good sign for Notre Dame that when Brian Kelly cracks the whip at halftime, his defense responds. That he had to do it against Western Michigan is not such a good sign.

IfIf there was a flaw in the Irish's 44-20 victory over the Broncos on Saturday in South Bend, it's that this defense had to be poked and prodded, cajoled and scolded and read the riot act if necessary to play up to its potential. The idea on defense is to play with emotion. It helps if it's instinctive. When you need a shot of Brian Kelly twice a game, eventually it'll catch up to you. 

I have yet to step foot in Notre Dame's lockerroom, but the numbers seem to indicate Kelly's impact at halftime. 
 
In five of Notre Dame's seven games, the defense has been noticeably stout at the start of the second half: three-and-outs against Purdue (one yard), Michigan (two yards), Pittsburgh (six yards) and Western Michigan (minus-5 yards). Boston College gained nine yards on five plays on it first second-half possession. Stanford was held to a field goal (10 plays, 49 yards).
 
The only time Notre Dame's defense crapped out at the start of the second half was against Michigan State, when Edwin Baker scored on a 56-yard run on the second play of the third quarter. My guess is that after allowing seven points in the first half against the Spartans, the defense didn't get the same talking-to it got on Saturday.

The problem with depending on the coach for inspiration is that it creates an emotional level that's difficult to maintain. Kelly is really good at getting players to respond to him. But it's a lot easier when he doesn't have to raise his voice. 

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This page contains a single entry by Mark Potash published on October 17, 2010 12:35 PM.

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