Irish learning to defend against option
Notre Dame's struggles against Navy's triple option last season have been well documented. Now that Notre Dame's defense has played all three service academies during a 12-game stretch bridging two seasons, however, coaches have a better idea of what to expect from option teams.
"We had this big binder, and it's truly a three-ring binder, and we just keep adding to it in terms of what we are going to see," Kelly said. "We saw a lot of unorthodox things with Air Force. For instance they went tempo, no huddle, but they went tempo like they had never gone before, and so we could not check into some things. Just more familiarity with what option teams want to do against us; it just adds to the three ring binder for us."
While the Irish have learned some specific lessons to help them against option teams, the biggest difference might be the coaching staff and younger players having more experience against it.
"Everybody seems to want to play on balance against us, so that's the flavor," Kelly said. "It's adjusting all of the responsibilities to on balance. As you know, the Navy game was an on balance offensive line that they had never shown before and we struggled adjusting to that.
"Now everybody wants to run on balance against us in the option game. Army did it. Air Force is doing it. Those are the adjustments. We made some really good adjustments on the field and on the sideline and went back to some techniques we had used before, and more than anything else, it's just being more familiar and more comfortable with option football."
Kelly's defense gave up an eyebrow-raising 565 yards in a 59-33 win over Air Force at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, although the Falcons picked up 141 of those on two late scoring drives against reserves long after the outcome had been decided.
"Option football is about keeping the points down, and that mentality is what we talked about," Kelly said. "Any time we now enter a week where we are preparing against option, yards have nothing to do with the outcome. It's keeping the points down. Quite frankly, if we don't jump off side on fourth-and-one and if we don't give up a fake punt, we are even lower in the points."
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