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with Mark Lazerus

October 2012 Archives

It's been a long time since Notre Dame's second unit saw the field at the end of a 41-3 laugher against Miami at Soldier Field. In the three weeks since, the Irish have rallied to beat Stanford in overtime in a brutally physical battle, rallied to hold off BYU in a grueling affair, and knocked off eighth-ranked Oklahoma in an intense, high-pressure road environment.

That kind of stretch takes its toll.

"It catches up to you physically," Irish cornerback Bennett Jackson said. "But (strength coach Paul Longo) and the coaches do a great job of getting us in the ice tub, limiting reps here and there, and not throwing too much at you. Your body feels it, though. It's Week 10 or whatever week it is -- you lose track -- but I think we're doing a good job handling it."

The Irish may be feeling it physically, but they insist there's no mental fatigue as they head into a stretch of games that should -- in theory -- approximate Miami more than Oklahoma.

"We do a great job, we get a lot of reps in practice and prepare for physical, long games," tackle Zack Martin said. "Everyone's out there working and sweating, dead tired at practice, so I think we do a good job of conditioning ourselves in practice for the games. We have a lot of depth at positions that enables us -- if someone gets beat up -- to have someone that can step in, too.

"Those games are fun," Martin continued. "The Stanford game, BYU, Oklahoma -- it doesn't get much better than that. We love those kinds of games, and getting those hard-nosed victories we didn't get in the past."

That said, the Irish probably would welcome a few less taxing games over the next three weeks, with 4-4 Pittsburgh, followed by a trip to 2-6 Boston College, and then the home finale against 4-4 Wake Forest. Of course, the last four games against Pitt have all been nail-biters decided four points or less. Pitt won in 2008 and 2009, ND won in 2010 and 2011.

"No week's easy," linebacker Carlo Calabrese said.

Brian Kelly came to Notre Dame with a history of using fast-moving, quick-strike offenses. But this year, the Irish ground game has been very effective at controlling the clock. The Irish are 14th in the nation in time of possession, and dominated the clock for key stretches at Oklahoma.

That said, Kelly wants to see the Irish run more plays while holding the ball. He pointed to quarterback Everett Golson taking too much time off the play clock before calling for the snap, and said the coaches need to call more plays that don't require a check at the line of scrimmage.

"The time of possession versus the amount of plays that you run are numbers that we look at," Kelly said. "We want our time of possession to equal a certain amount of plays. And we're falling a little behind that matrix. We need to continue to possess the football but we have to run more plays."

The goal is to get the amount of plays per game above the 60s, which is what Notre Dame is averaging.

"We've got to accelerate the play call, personnel groupings -- we're running a lot more personnel groupings," he said. "Last year, we were set in our rotations. Some of it's coaching, and the other part of it is we've got to run some plays that you don't check, that you call and haul. And we've got to get our quarterback not walking around out there. He's got to move a little bit quicker.

Brindza "shaking" Kelly's confidence with missed kicks

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Notre Dame fans couldn't have felt terribly comfortable when Kyle Brindza lined up for a 44-yard field goal with the Irish clinging to a precarious 10-6 lead early in the fourth quarter against Oklahoma on Saturday night. The opening drive of the third quarter ended with Brindza pulling a 35-yarder wide left, leaving that same 10-6 score. This, one week after Brindza missed two field-goal attempts in a narrow 17-14 win over BYU.

But Brindza came up big, going from goat to hero with the big 44-yarder, then a huge 46-yarder late in the fourth quarter to make it a two-possession game at 23-13.

"I told him on the sideline, 'I'm proud of the way you hung in there,'" Irish coach Brian Kelly said. "Some may have hung their head, but he bounced back and came back strong for us."

That said, Kelly made it clear to Brindza that the sophomore needs to be more reliable, as he was when he made 10-of-12 kicks in Weeks 2 through 7, after replacing Nick Tausch.

"I said to him, 'I'm proud of you. But you're shaking my confidence. Don't do it anymore," Kelly said. "And he promised that he

Notre Dame's victory over Oklahoma on Saturday night pushed the Irish up to No. 3 in the latest BCS standings, the highest the Irish ever have been.

But if the four remaining high-profile unbeatens -- No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Kansas State, No. 3 Notre Dame and No. 4 Oregon -- all finish the season without a loss, the Irish likely will find themselves watching the national championship game and wondering what could have been had the new four-team playoff began this year instead of in 2014.

The Irish are ranked ahead of Oregon by a scant 0.0011 points. But Notre Dame has three weak opponents in a row coming up -- Pittsburgh, Boston College and Wake Forest -- followed by the season-finale at USC, damaged goods after falling to Arizona on Saturday, the Trojans' second loss of the season. Oregon is the consensus No. 2 in the human polls, and still has three quality opponents left -- No. 11 Oregon State, No. 14 Stanford and No. 17 USC, as well as the potential Pac-12 title game -- to try to impress the computers. If Notre Dame and Oregon both win out, the Ducks almost certainly would finish the season ranked higher than the Irish.

The Irish haven't been earning many style points for their grinding, hard-fought victories over the likes of Michigan, Stanford, BYU and even Oklahoma, a game that was tied in the fourth quarter before the Irish pulled away. Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said earlier Sunday that he's not going to go out of his way to put up big numbers in an effort to influence the rankings.

"In an ideal world, yeah, if all of your games were blowouts, that is the way you'd want them to be designed," he said. "But I don't think that there's any actual conversation, or the way we practice or prepare that would get that to be something that we even talk about. So the reality of it is, it's clear that you want to win your games and you want to win them in convincing fashion. But there is nothing that we'll do practically that will emphasize that in any way. It kind of becomes a moot point for us to even discuss it."

Kansas State will be heavy favorites in all of its remaining games, too -- Oklahoma State, at TCU, at Baylor, Texas -- and the Big 12 doesn't have a championship game.

Top-ranked Alabama faces No. 5 LSU this week in a game that could potentially shake up the standings dramatically.

For Notre Dame's sake, Kelly said his team won't be sweating the polls, especially with four weeks left in the season.

"We'll lose if we start listening to national championship and the BCS; we'll lose a football game," he said. "They're a pretty smart group. They know that if they stick with what we've done and stick with the process of preparing for Pittsburgh, they'll be fine. But if they start thinking about all these other things and listening, we'll lose."

Notes and quotes from Notre Dame-Oklahoma

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Some notes and quotes in the wake of Notre Dame's 30-13 victory at Oklahoma on Saturday night:

Bend, but don't break

The first couple of Oklahoma series were likely horrifying for Notre Dame fans to watch, as Sooners quarterback Landry Jones picked apart the Irish with intermediate passes to wide-open receivers, taking advantage of a big cushion provided by the Irish secondary. 

But Irish coach Brian Kelly said that was defensive coordinator Bob Diaco's plan all along. 

"We structured the game plan to keep the points down," Kelly said. "We were willing to give up yardage in the passing game to keep the points down. We're not, offensively, at a point where we can outscore a team like Oklahoma. I thought Bob Diaco and the defense did a great job with the plan, we stuck with the plan, and it turned out to be a good one."

Indeed, Jones threw for 356 yards, but was kept out of the end zone as the Irish repeatedly bent, but never broke.

Hitting his spots

Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson got an earful from coach Brian Kelly after throwing a ball low and outside to tight end Tyler Eifert in the third quarter on third-and-short, leading to a missed Kyle Brindza field goal. 

"We were talking about individual man-to-man throws," Kelly said. "Tyler Eifert's 6-5, and I wanted the ball positioned up and away from the defender. He tried to lay it down. And he threw it a little later to T.J. (Jones) over a defender who buzzed underneath, T.J. made a big catch, and it was consequently a drive we capitalized on." 

Golson said he got the message.

"Sometimes I've got to let him be 6-5," Golson said. "I can't throw low balls to him."

Go long

Golson's 50-yard strike to Chris Brown following Oklahoma's game-tying fourth-quarter touchdown was the game's biggest play. And it was somewhat surprising given how well the Irish had controlled the clock with long, methodical, ground-based drives. 

Kelly's explanation?

"I wanted to win the game," he said. 

Golson gains perspective

Golson has seen his share of snaps from the sideline this year, with Tommy Rees seeing plenty of action over the course of the season. But the redshirt freshman said sitting out last week's BYU game while recovering from a concussion suffered against Stanford wound up being a blessing in disguise.

"It had a tremendous effect," Golson said. "Just kind of seeing it outside of you actually being out there really helped me, seeing it from the sideline perspective. It made me realize a couple of things we need to work on. That's what I felt we did this week in practice." 

More Heisman talk

Kansas State's Collin Klein is the front-runner for the Heisman Trophy, but Irish linebacker Manti Te'o continues to make his case. He had 11 tackles, a big third-down sack in the first half, and a game-sealing interception of a tipped pass late in the fourth quarter. 

"That's not for me to decide," Kelly said. "I tell you what, he represents all the things that the Heisman Trophy espouses -- integrity and character and a great football player. But I think Manti's more interested in beating Pittsburgh."

Final: Notre Dame 30, Oklahoma 13

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NORMAN, Okla. -- It all changes now for Notre Dame. Saturday night's defining 30-13 victory over Oklahoma -- no, at Oklahoma -- speeds everything up. It's no longer about wondering if Everett Golson is ready to handle being the quarterback at Notre Dame, it's about wondering just how good he can be. It's no longer about avoiding the noise, it's about making a lot of it. And it's no longer about going to a BCS bowl game, it's about going to the BCS bowl game -- the national championship game.


Golson, Notre Dame's beleaguered redshirt freshman quarterback, coming off a concussion that forced him to sit out last week, took command of the huddle with nine minutes to go in the fourth quarter. The record crowd of 86,031 at Memorial Stadium was shaking down its own thunder after the dormant Sooners offense woke up and tied the game 13-13 on Blake Bell's 1-yard touchdown run -- the first rushing touchdown surrendered by Notre Dame all season. But Golson, a guy who admitted to succumbing to the pressure at home against Michigan, a game in which he was yanked in the second quarter, came into his own on the next drive.


His beautiful 50-yard pass to Chris Brown over the top set the Irish up at the Oklahoma 15. And after stalling out in the red zone all day -- heck, all season -- Golson hit Theo Riddick and Tyler Eifert to set up third-and-goal from the 1, then shoved his way into the end zone, shoving Notre Dame into the national championship conversation.


It's a shocking development. Shocking because the Irish (8-0) entered the season facing an unbeatable schedule with a presumably beatable secondary and a rookie quarterback. Shocking because the Irish entered this game as 11-point underdogs, nothing more than high-profile fodder for Oklahoma's offensive threshing machine. And shocking because, well, the Irish looked absolutely overmatched early on.


Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones (35-of-51, 358 yards) shredded the Irish defense in the first quarter, facing no pressure in the pocket and seemingly no coverage in the defensive backfield. But OU's first two very impressive drives yielded just three points. And when Cierre Wood busted through the middle for a 62-yard touchdown run two snaps after the Sooners' field goal, he gave the Irish more than just a 7-3 lead. He gave them confidence and calmness in the storm of Sooners fans at Memorial Stadium. When the Irish forced two straight punts after that, the crowd quieted, and the Irish slowly took control of the clock, and of the game.


The Irish held a tenuous 10-6 lead into the locker room, and came back out with a purpose -- running the ball down the Soooners' throat. They opened the second half by driving 60 yards on 11 plays in nearly seven minutes, but Kyle Brindza pulled a 35-yard field goal wide left, a seemingly crushing blow.


But the Irish defense responded by forcing a punt, and the Irish offense responded, too, driving from its own 3-yard line to the Oklahoma 27 for a 44-yard Brindza field goal -- another character-defining drive for Golson, who showed off skills, savvy and toughness. He finished 13-of-25 for 177 passing yards, with 54 rushing yards.


And when Oklahoma showed new life by tying it up with 9:10 to go, Golson showed his killer instinct. After the go-ahead score, Manti Te'o -- who else? -- sealed the win with a diving interception of a tipped ball, and ND added a 46-yard Brindza field goal and a 15-yard Riddick TD run, sending the Irish into a three-game stretch of weak opponents, and a potential 11-0 record when they travel to USC for the season finale, a game that -- remarkably -- could have everything on the line.


Third-quarter update: Irish holding on to 10-6 lead

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Notre Dame took control of the clock, if not the game, in an impressive, but frustrating third quarter.

The Irish racked up 126 yards on two drives, running the ball right down Oklahoma's throat. But the first Irish drive of the half went 60 yards on 11 plays, only to end in a missed 35-yard field goal attempt by Kyle Brindza. The Irish defense responded by again bending but not breaking, as Landry Jones completed six straight passes, but the drive stalled at the Irish 36.

A punt gave the Irish the ball at their own 3-yard line, and Everett Golson began what could be the defining drive of his young career. A 16-yard run and a 22-yard pass to DaVaris Daniels flipped the field, and the Irish kept marching. Golson took a hard hit from Tony Jefferson on a short run and had to leave the field for third-and-7. But backup Tommy Rees came in and promptly hit Daniels for an 11-yard pass, setting the Irish up with first-and-10 from the Oklahoma 27 to start the fourth quarter.

Second-quarter update: Irish take 10-6 lead into half

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Once again, Oklahoma passed at will. Once again, Notre Dame escaped with minimal damage.

The Irish took a 10-6 lead into halftime of Saturday's showdown with No. 8 Oklahoma after the Sooners drove 74 yards before settling for a 30-yard field goal. Landry Jones moved up to sixth all-time in passing yards in NCAA history with three more passes of 13 yards or more. With second-and-goal from the 4, Oklahoma brought out big Blake Bell and the "Belldozer" package. Bell ran it in untouched for what appeared to be the first rushing touchdown yielded by Notre Dame all year, but a holding penalty wiped it out.

Another self-inflicted wound -- a third-down dropped pass -- forced the Sooners to kick the field goal.

Previously in the quarter, after the teams traded punts, redshirt freshman quarterback Everett Golson -- looking poised and sharp -- led a nice Notre Dame drive that ended in a 34-yard field goal by Kyle Brindza. Golson had two third-down conversions through the air, and scampered for 9 and 8 yards on a pair of designed quarterback runs. But on third-and-2 from the Oklahoma 17, Golson failed to capitalize on a big running lane right in front of him, and instead scrambled back and threw the ball out of bounds, forcing the Irish to settle for the field goal and a 10-3 lead.

Notre Dame out gained Oklahoma on the ground 106-3, but Jones threw for 194 yards on 18-of-27 passing, compared with Golson's 55 on 5-of-11 passing.

With venerable Memorial Stadium rocking and Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones picking apart the vaunted Notre Dame defense, the Irish appeared poised to fulfill all those predictions that had the eighth-ranked Sooners blowing the fifth-ranked Irish out of Norman, and the national championship picture.

One Cierre Wood run changed that.

Wood broke through the middle for a 62-yard touchdown run and Notre Dame took a 7-3 lead into the second quarter.

Wood's run came after the Irish defense had two bend-but-don't-break series. On the first one, Jones completed four passes in the first 60 seconds, running the no-huddle to perfection and befuddling the Irish defense. But a bad snap while Jones was calling an audible went for a 19-yard loss, and the Sooners had to punt. On the next series, the Sooners again raced down the field, but the Irish defense stiffened in the red zone, and a Louis Nix III tipped pass on third down forced Oklahoma to settle for a 29-yard field goal.

Two plays later, Wood busted loose and gave the Irish the lead, briefly quieting the raucous crowd of 82,000-plus.

Pregame thoughts from Notre Dame-Oklahoma

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Greetings from Oklahoma's Memorial Stadium, where the eighth-ranked Sooners host No. 5 Notre Dame in the Irish's biggest game in years. A win entrenches the Irish in the national title picture and sets the stage for an 11-0 squad to visit USC in a monstrous season finale, assuming the Irish take care of business against Pitt, Boston College and Wake Forest, which they should easily. A loss renders the rest of the regular season largely indifferent, as Notre Dame is all but assured of going to a BCS bowl -- not the title game, though -- whether it's 11-1 or 10-2.

Notre Dame is unbeaten and ranked higher, but the Sooners are 12-point favorites in Vegas, and based on talk radio out here in Oklahoma, the Sooners are expected to blow Notre Dame out of the stadium. So what has to happen for the Irish to pull off the "upset"?

1. ND's defense has to keep the game within reach. The Irish simply don't have the type of offense that's going to be able to put up 30-some points against a defense like Oklahoma's (12th in scoring defense, 15th in total defense). The Irish are second in the nation in scoring defense, as no opponent has scored more than 17 points against them. Notre Dame can win this game 17-14. It can't win this game 31-28. Keeping Landry Jones uncomfortable in the pocket is key.

2. ND must be able to run the ball. Yes, Everett Golson fared well in his only other hostile environment, but Michigan State is no Oklahoma. There's no way of telling how Golson will respond to the hype and pressure (he admitted it got to him at home against Michigan), especially in his first action in two weeks. The Irish offensive line, and Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood (George Atkinson III, as reported first by late last night, is officially inactive with the flu) will have to be able to control the clock and do the heavy lifting for the Irish. Oklahoma is allowing 138 yards per game on the ground, so it's not an impossible task. But it's an absolutely necessary one.

3. ND must convert in the red zone. As tackle Zack Martin said earlier in the week, 10 points in four red-zone trips isn't going to cut it. You can escape BYU with such a performance, but not Oklahoma. That means Golson needs to make the right reads at the line of scrimmage, the tailbacks need to run within the blocking scheme, and the Irish line can't commit any pre-snap penalties. In other words, the Irish have to be more fundamentally sound inside the 20, and punch it in a few times. And when they don't, Kyle Brindza needs to split the uprights, something he's failed to do twice last week. Again, you can escape BYU playing like that. Not Oklahoma.

4. ND must protect the football. This one's always true, but it's especially magnified against a team like Oklahoma. The Sooners are so strong on offense -- averaging 52 points over its last three wins -- that even with a stout defense, the Irish can't afford to give the Sooners short fields to work with.

Of course, none of that is rocket science. It's Notre Dame's formula for success regardless of who the opponent is. But against a team the caliber of Oklahoma -- and one playing as well as Oklahoma is right now -- there simply is no margin for error. At their very best, the Irish can beat Oklahoma. Anything less, though, and all those talk radio hosts and callers might be proven right.

Notre Dame defense has that deep down body thirst

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While Notre Dame's offense continues to struggle in the red zone, the Irish defense has no such problems. Notre Dame is second in the nation in red zone defense, allowing just four touchdowns and six field goals in 19 red-zone situations.

So what drives the Irish defense at the end of those long drives? Nose guard Louis Nix III -- the sage of South Bend, the pigskin prophet -- said it's simple: thirst.

"You get sick of being on the field so long," Nix said. "Something tells you, 'Just get off.' You just get tired of it. Get off the field, you're so tired, you're ready to just go and sit on the bench and get some water and these guys are trying to score, and you have to stop them in order to get some water. If you want water, you have to stop them."

Anything else?

"No, you just have to want the water," Nix said. "You want the water that bad, you're going to want to get off the field."

Irish brace for first true road game in six weeks

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There's only person on the Notre Dame roster, according to Theo Riddick, who has first-hand knowledge of what a game at Oklahoma's Memorial Stadium is like. But Cam McDaniel's experience -- he attended a game there once as a kid -- doesn't really provide a heck of a lot of insight.

But the Irish have an idea what they're in for on Saturday.

"Norman? That's where dreams go to die, I heard," said nose guard Louis Nix III. "We'll see about that."

Remarkably, this is Notre Dame's first true road game in six weeks, since a 20-3 win at Michigan State on Sept. 15. And it's only the Irish's second true road game this season -- Navy was technically the home team in Ireland, and Notre Dame was technically the home team in Chicago against Miami.

"Been six weeks," Riddick said. "We're all excited for this game. We hear the environment is crazy, and it's something we're very much looking forward to."

Some players actually prefer being on the road -- and the natural us-against-the-world mentality it fosters -- than the creature comforts of home.

"I like road games," linebacker Prince Shembo said. "I like when people come and they have stuff to say, everyone's against us. I like that feeling. I think it'll be a great atmosphere."

Shembo said it's not hard to get fired up in a hostile environment.

"I just like seeing middle fingers," he said. "When we're in the bus and you see middle fingers pointed at the bus, it fires you up. I don't like that. Me, personally, I would never flip anybody off. But they're flipping me off, so I take that seriously."

Redshirt freshman quarterback Everett Golson has actually fared better on the road than he has at Notre Dame Stadium. Two of his best games were at Michigan State and at Soldier Field. Tackle Zack Martin said that's not uncommon for players to be at their best on the road.

"It's very exciting to go on the road in a big-time game," he said. "It doesn't really get much better than that. We have guys on this team who played in the biggest college football game ever last year at Michigan. I don't see how it gets much more hostile than that. So everyone on the team is used to playing in situations like that."

Louis Nix keeping his quarterback dream alive

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Notre Dame nose guard Louis Nix III wants a chance to beat Oklahoma backup quarterback Blake Bell.

"I would love a one-on-one matchup with him," Nix said. "I think it'd be fun."

But really, Nix wants a chance to BE like Bell, the Sooners' 6-6, 254-pounder featured in the so-called Belldozer package.

Maybe call it the Earth Louver? The Cement Nixer?

"The Irish Chocolate package," Nix said, referring to his Twitter persona. "One of these days, (Irish coach Brian Kelly) might come around, he'll give me the ball. I'll get in there on fourth-and-1 or whatever. When I do it then, he'll just keep giving it to me. I might throw it around a little bit."

Nix, naturally, was the comedic star of the NFL Films special on the Irish that aired before the Stanford game two weeks ago. He regaled the media with the tale of his youngest brother, who did a report in school about how he was related to the starting quarterback at Notre Dame.

Nix wants to turn that report into non-fiction.
"If they put me at quarterback, he'll be right," Nix said. "His teacher can't say, 'No, he's not (the quarterback).' I want to make my brother right. He said it wrong, but if I'm at quarterback, his presentation should get an A."

And no, he's not kidding. 

"I do want to get in at quarterback one time in my life," he said.

Hey, who'd be able to stop him? Other than Brian Kelly, that is.

Kapron Lewis-Moore hails from Weatherford, Texas, a little more than a half hour west of Fort Worth. So while this weekend's trip to Norman, Okla., isn't exactly a homecoming for the Notre Dame defensive end, it's still Big 12 country, so he'll feel right at home.

"I need some more teammates to give me some more tickets," Lewis-Moore said. "I'm real excited. I haven't seen my mom in a long time, and my mom and sister are going to be out there. So I'm pretty excited to see them. It'll be good to be close to Texas."

Lewis-Moore returns to his home region as one of the most important pieces of a defense that ranks among the best in the nation, and which hasn't allowed a rushing touchdown all season. The defensive line's leader in tackles in both 2009 (as a defensive tackle in a 4-3 scheme) and 2010 (as a defensive end in the current 3-4 scheme), his senior season ended abruptly when he suffered a knee injury against USC in the eighth game of the season. Back for a fifth year, the 6-4, 306-pound behemoth -- he was a wiry 230 pounds when he arrived in South Bend -- Lewis-Moore has 23 tackles and two sacks through seven games this season.

He's also a captain and one of the emotional leaders for the Irish.

"He has done so much as a football player," ND coach Brian Kelly said. "He came in, he was an undersized player, really, for the role in which he has right now. Physically, he's in the best shape of his career here in his senior year, which says so much about him. And he's been an incredible leader for us. I think the thing that stands out more for me is he's also been a consistent emotional leader for us. He always brings an energy to practice. He always brings an energy to the games, and that's been really important for our football team. So he's worn a lot of hats, and that's clearly a reason why we are where we are, because of a guy like this."
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said Tuesday that redshirt freshman quarterback Everett Golson passed his cardio test on Monday with no trouble. That was the final hurdle to clear for Golson to return to action after suffering a concussion in the fourth quarter against Stanford and sitting out the BYU game.

Kelly said Golson "feels great" and is "100 percent."

"I know this: He's excited about playing at Oklahoma," Kelly said. "And we expect him to do well."

The athletic Golson, of course, presents significantly different challenges to a defense than does pocket passer Tommy Rees. Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops is bracing for those challenges.

"He's a guy that, it's been said a lot and it's true, when there isn't anything there he has a knack for breaking tackle or making somebody miss him and runs around so he can buy extra time and scramble and wait for someone to work open or take off and run it himself," Stoops said. "He's got excellent feet that way."

1999 Notre Dame game a turning point for Oklahoma

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The only players at Notre Dame and Oklahoma that weren't in elementary school the last time the teams met are the ones that were in kindergarten at the time. When the Irish visit Oklahoma's Memorial Stadium this Saturday night, it'll be the teams' first game against each other since 1999. But there's one guy who distinctly remembers that game -- Sooners coach Bob Stoops.

Hard to forget blowing a 30-14 lead and losing 34-30. Especially when it's your first year as head coach.

"I was asked this morning what I remember about it, and I said I remembered getting up by 17 points and not knowing how to win," Stoops said on Monday afternoon. "I told my staff when we got home from the game, I said our guys hadn't ever been up on anyone by 17 points."

That 1999 team went 7-5 -- Oklahoma's first winning record in six seasons. And despite the collapse, that strong performance against Notre Dame was a sign of things to come for the Sooners, who went on to go 13-0 and win the national championship in 2000. They've been a perennial power ever since.

Stoops pointed to that Notre Dame game as a learning experience for his team and his program.

"I know we weren't satisfied about it," he said. "We were up 17 points and I look around and see a bunch of guys laughing and giggling and knew they had no idea. We still had a whole half (to go), and sure enough we didn't know how to keep it."

Notre Dame's Kelly stands by Brindza after rough day

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Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said Sunday that his offense needs to stop settling for field goals after getting bogged down in opponents' territory.

But the Irish need to actually make those field goals when they are attempted, too.

Kyle Brindza, who entered Saturday's game against BYU 10-of-12 this season, missed his first two attempts. The first was a 40-yarder wide left on the Irish's opening drive. The second was a 28-yard chip shot late in the second quarter that could have cut BYU's lead to 14-10 heading into the locker room. The latter miss wasted an energizing 27-yard run by Theo Riddick on which he dragged seemingly half the BYU defense on his back.

Riddick called his run "irrelevant" because the Irish didn't score any points off of it.

"You've still got to finish," Riddick said.

Kelly said Brindza just had an off day.

"He was just off on his line a little bit," Kelly said. "You know, it's such a skill that you have to be right on. He's got a great makeup. Mentally he's a tough kid. He's not afraid of the big moment. And those are all the things that I'm concerned with the most. And I never saw a crack there at all. He was a little off on his technique, and he knew it, and he'll work hard on it in terms of correcting it this week. He's got the makeup to be a guy that you can keep rolling out there."

Nick Tausch, who handled placekicking duties in the opener against Navy

Kelly acknowledged that Tausch's injury might have been more serious than he originally thought.

"That could be true," Kelly said. "I think any time you have a kicker who is dealing with a muscle injury, especially a hip flexor rotator, you're messing with somebody's routine, technique. He's coming back. He's much stronger kicking the football now. But again, the door was opened for Kyle to go in there, and we're pleased with where we are with him."

News, notes and quotes following ND's win over BYU

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Emptying the notebook following Notre Dame's 17-14 victory over BYU on Saturday night.

Still streaking
Defensive end Stephon Tuitt shrugged off the end of Notre Dame's streak of 17 quarters without allowing an offensive touchdown. Sort of.

"Still not a rushing touchdown," Tuitt quickly pointed out, reminding everyone that the Irish have yet to allow a TD on the ground this season.

Kapron Lewis-Moore said the Irish defense wasn't fazed by the first score, a 6-yard touchdown pass from Riley Nelson to a preposterously wide open Cody Hoffman in the back of the end zone. BYU scored again 2:18 later after a Tommy Rees interception.

"I don't think it was shell-shock, we've just got to keep believing in ourselves," Lewis-Moore said. "They scored a touchdown and we just had to make the necessary adjustments. It doesn't hurt the confidence at all. Everybody on the defense feels like we're a great defense."

Splendid Spond
Outside linebacker Danny Spond had a strong game for the Irish, breaking up two passes, getting a tackle for a loss, and sealing the victory with an interception with two seconds left in the game.

"He's been so consistent," Brian Kelly said. "We don't even take him off in nickel -- I don't know if you guys know it, he plays corner. Here is a guy that's playing corner in our nickel package and running with the No. 2 (receiver). ... He has been physical at the point of attack. Teams that have wanted to get outside -- I could go on and on. The kid has been tremendous. He's been an unsung player on our defense and we appreciate him."

Fellow linebacker Manti Te'o agreed

"It's huge," Te'o said of Spond's play. "You saw him come up big at the end and you can see him just get better and (he) continues to help our team win."

Cougars miss their chances
BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall lamented several missed opportunities that could have swung the game in the Cougars' favor.

"I was proud of our team, we were one or two plays short from being able to come away with a victory," he said.

The biggest of those chances came in the fourth quarter, right after Notre Dame had taken a 17-14 lead on George Atkinson III's 2-yard touchdown run. On first down from the Irish 46-yard line, Hoffman somehow got some 10 or 15 yards behind the entire Notre Dame secondary. But BYU quarterback Riley Nelson missed him badly, short and to the right.

The Atkinson touchdown was another chance to make a play. Safety Joe Sampson had Atkinson 1-on-1 just inside the goal line, but Atkinson made a nifty move to get past him cleanly on the third-and-goal play.

"I think plays like that are what I was referring to -- when one or two plays away from coming away with the win," Mendenhall said. "Those would be two good examples, where Cody was open and we did have an unblocked player at the point of attack that just didn't make the tackle."

Final: Notre Dame 17, BYU 14

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Notre Dame escaped BYU's trap -- but barely.

Coming off a dramatic overtime win over Stanford, and a week before a huge Top 10 showdown at Oklahoma, the Irish did exactly what they said they wouldn't -- come out flat. But with Everett Golson sidelined after suffering a concussion, and with Tommy Rees largely ineffective after a strong first quarter, the Irish rode their talented trio of running backs to an ugly, but critical 17-14 comeback victory on Saturday.

Against the vaunted BYU defense -- ranked third nationally against the run -- Notre Dame racked up 276 rushing yards. Theo Riddick was the star, rushing for a career-high 143 yards on just 15 carries. Cierre Wood also broke the century mark, with 114 yards on 18 carries.

With Notre Dame trailing 14-7 in the third quarter, Riddick pushed through the pile, narrowly kept his knee above the grass, and broke free for a 55-yard gain, setting up a 24-yard Notre Dame field goal that cut the Cougars' lead to 14-10.

After the Notre Dame defense -- which saw its 17-quarter streak without allowing a touchdown come to an end in the second quarter, when it allowed two TDs in 2 minutes, 18 seconds -- forced a three-and-out, the Irish again marched down the field. Rees hit T.J. Jones for a 31-yard pass on the first play of the drive, and Riddick's 19-yard bull-rush up the middle set up George Atkinson III's 2-yard, go-ahead touchdown run.

After one more defensive stop, Notre Dame was able to kill most of the last six minutes with Riddick and Wood. BYU got the ball back with 22 seconds left at its own 20, but Danny Spond picked off a Riley Nelson pass to seal it with two seconds left.

Notre Dame attempted just three passes in the entire second half. 

Early fourth quarter update: Notre Dame takes the lead

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Notre Dame continues to have its way with the vaunted BYU rush defense. After Theo Riddick -- who now has a career-high 141 yards -- busted free for a 19-yard gain for another first-and-goal opportunity, George Atkinson III made a nifty move on BYU safety Joe Sampson to score from 2 yards out on third down, giving the Irish the lead for the first time in the second half.

Notre Dame has 224 rushing yards so far.
Notre Dame cut into BYU's lead in the third quarter, but missed a golden opportunity to tie the game.

Facing first-and-goal from the BYU 8 after a 55-yard run by Theo Riddick, Notre Dame ran three straight run plays for a total of 1 yard, and had to settle for a 24-yard field goal by Kyle Brindza -- his first make of the game after missing twice.

On the previous drive, BYU again moved the ball well, but a 47-yard field goal attempt by Justin Sorenson missed badly.

The Irish have rushed for 183 yards against the nation's third-best run defense -- Riddick has 119 on 11 carries -- but don't have much to show for it. After a strong first quarter, Tommy Rees didn't completed another pass until a 31-yarder to T.J. Jones to open the current drive -- just his second pass attempt of the third quarter.
Notre Dame's remarkable defensive streak ended at 17 quarters without allowing a touchdown.

Its next streak lasted 2 minutes, 18 seconds.

BYU took a 14-7 lead into halftime by scoring two second-quarter touchdowns -- the first touchdowns yielded by the Notre Dame defense since the fourth quarter of the Purdue game on Sept. 8. First, the Cougars rode Jamaal Williams into the Notre Dame red zone, then took advantage of a late hit by Matthias Farley to set up a 6-yard touchdown pass from Riley Nelson to Cody Hoffman, who was all alone in the back of the end zone.

Three plays later, Tommy Rees' pass hit DaVaris Daniels right square in the hands, and the tipped ball was intercepted by linebacker Kyle Van Noy at the Notre Dame 30. BYU quickly moved downfield, scoring on a 2-yard pass from Nelson to Kaneakua Friel.

Notre Dame kicker Kyle Brindza missed his second field goal attempt of the game, a 28-yarder with 2:30 left after a strong drive quarterbacked by both Rees and Andrew Hendrix.

Before the touchdowns, Notre Dame had made 11 straight red-zone stops.
All-America tight end Tyler Eifert has been the forgotten man in the Notre Dame offense for much of this season.

But Tommy Rees remembers him.

Rees, starting at quarterback for Everett Golson (concussion), completed four passes to Eifert for 73 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown pass with 1:30 to go in the first quarter as the Irish took a 7-0 lead into the second quarter. Rees is 6-of-7 for 86 yards.

Rees hit Eifert on a 33-yard pass on the Irish's opening drive, but the drive ended in a missed 40-yard field-goal attempt by Kyle Brindza. BYU moved the ball very well on its opening drive, but a 16-yard sack by Stephon Tuitt was followed by Manti Te'o's fourth interception of the season (the ND record for linebackers is five).

Tommy Rees to start at QB for Notre Dame

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Tommy Rees will start at quarterback at Notre Dame today against BYU.

With Everett Golson suffering a concussion in the fourth quarter of last Saturday's win over Stanford, the quarterback situation has been up in the air all week. Golson failed his cognitive test on Monday and didn't pass until Tuesday, returning to practice on Wedneday. The late start to his week, plus his gradual progress throughout the week, prompted Irish coach Brian Kelly to spend much of the week preparing Rees and Andrew Hendrix, in case Golson couldn't play. Kelly said on Thursday it would be a game-time decision, and the official announcement wasn't made until less than a half-hour before kickoff.

Golson has started every game this season except for the Miami game, when he was benched for the first four plays as punishment for arriving late to a team meeting. Rees has relieved Golson in victories over Purdue, Michigan and Stanford.

During pregame warmups, Rees was working with the first team, while Hendrix worked with the second unit. Golson was on the field and throwing, too, but Kelly told NBC right before the game that Golson will not play.
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said Thursday that he won't decide on which quarterback will start against BYU until the day of the game.

Redshirt freshman Everett Golson, who has started all six games this season, suffered a concussion in the fourth quarter of Saturday's overtime win over Stanford. He returned to practice on Wednesday, but Kelly said he's playing it safe and returning him to action gradually.

"I want to see Everett for 48 hours," he said. "I don't think there's a cookie-cutter approach to concussions."

Kelly said that if Golson can't play, either Tommy Rees or Andrew Hendrix could start.

"Game-time decision," he said. "Andrew had a good week. They're all at that level where I can consider them."

Kelly insisted he was just being cautious with Golson, whom he said performed better Thursday than he did on Wednesday. Friday's practice will be mostly red zone work, and Kelly will continue to evaluate his progress.

"We're monitoring his health," Kelly said. "This is about health and safety. This isn't about who the starting quarterback is."

Golson cleared, will resume practice today

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Notre Dame announced this morning that redshirt freshman quarterback Everett Golson "successfully completed concussion testing Tuesday and has been cleared by team doctors to resume practice activities today."

Golson had suffered the concussion after a helmet-to-helmet hit during the fourth quarter of Saturday's overtime victory against Stanford. Irish coach Brian Kelly said yesterday that Golson was no longer symptomatic, but had failed his cognitive test and would have to re-take it today. Tommy Rees and Andrew Hendrix split the snaps in Tuesday's practice, with Kelly estimating it would be "probably 60-40" in favor of Rees.

Golson's concussion could open door for Andrew Hendrix

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With Everett Golson out of Tuesday's practice, and his status going forward dependent on whether or not he passes a cognitive test today (he failed Monday), Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said that Tommy Rees would get about 60 percent of the snaps in practice, with Andrew Hendrix getting 40 percent. 

Kelly was quite confident that Golson -- whom he said is no longer symptomatic -- would be good to go for Saturday's BYU game. That said, on the off chance Golson has a setback and is unable to play, Rees is likely to get the start. But Hendrix would be poised to see some time under center, too, to give the Irish that running threat that Golson brings.

"We are going to get three quarterbacks ready," Kelly said. "But we already know what Tommy is capable of doing. We know he just needs to clean up on some of the finer details. Andrew hasn't gotten a ton of work, and if Everett can't go till Thursday, then maybe we have to bring it down a little bit. But wh ave to make sure that you have to defend a running quarterback that can run. That's going to be part of the game plan."

Hendrix has not played since mop-up duty in the opener against Navy in Dublin on Sept. 1. He was 4-of-5 for 53 yards, and ran six times for 20 yards. He appeared in five games last season, most notably a start against Stanford in the season finale, in which he was 11-of-24 for 192 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He also ran for 111 yards on six carries -- including a 78-yard touchdown run -- in his debut against Air Force.
After dealing with midterms and Stanford preparations all last week, i's fall break at Notre Dame. But Brian Kelly is making sure very little changes as his team prepares for BYU this Saturday.

"We keep it to 20 (hours)." he said. "We don't want to change the routine. We bring them in. We don't want them sleeping till 1. We got them out here right now, we had brunch at 11. They have some captain-led film study today. We're keeping them around, but we don't want to turn it into a situation where the've got to be here, like an NFL team. We want them to relax a little, as well."

Kelly was asked if he thought the quiet campus would help the Irish avoid the dreaded "trap game" by not hearing classmates chatter about the Irish's No. 5 ranking, and the looming showdown at Oklahoma next Saturday. 

"Nope," Kelly said. "I think it's a trap game each week if you think that you can take a breather. If you think, 'I can take a breather now, it's mid-semester break.' We're screwing things down tighter. If that locker room is a mess, it's going to be a long practice today. And they know that. If the game room looks like a pig sty, it's going to be a long practice. My point is this: I think
they're all trap games, every single one of them, if you take a breather. If you just stay on course, continue to do what you're doing, we'll be fine."

Notre Dame-Oklahoma game to kick off at 7 p.m. central

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Notre Dame will play its fourth prime time game of the season next week (Oct. 27) in Oklahoma.

ABC announced today that the game between the fifth-ranked Irish and the ninth-ranked (in the BCS) Sooners will kick off at 7 p.m. central time in Norman, Okla. Notre Dame's game at Michigan State was a 7 p.m. (central) start, while its games against Michigan at home and Miami at Soldier Field were both 6:30 p.m. (central) starts.

Irish coach Brian Kelly said last week -- while preparing for his first 3:30 local time start in nearly a month -- the kickoff time doesn't really affect his team's preparation on game day.

"It was the only time we did it, I'd probably be a little more concerned about the night game vs. the day game," Kelly said. "But we've done a lot of it. I think we feel comfortable with either schedule. The times when I've been concerned in my career has been those noon starts, because you're really jump-starting your schedule then."
It looked like a great play by Matthias Farley. Stanford coach David Shaw had other ideas.

With Saturday night's game at Notre Dame Stadium tied 10-10 in the fourth quarter, Stanford drove all the way to the Notre Dame 3-yard line. Facing third-and-2 from the 3, the Cardinal handed the ball to Stepfan Taylor, who was met in the backfield by an untouched Farley for a 7-yard loss. Stanford had to settle for a 27-yard field goal by Jordan Williamson.

Shaw said his team had heard a whistle from the stands, and had given up on the play. And he was none too happy about it, saying it was a common occurrence in South Bend.

"That's why our guys stopped playing," Shaw said. "It was verified, it was heard. The play did not stop. ...  The whistle came from the crowd. I don't know what can be done about it. I've heard from many people it's happened here a few times."

Farley said he never heard a whistle.

"I did not hear a whistle, no sir," he said.

And did he realize Stanford had given up on the play?

"I was pretty focused so I wasn't concerned about it," he said.

Irish coach Brian Kelly also said there was no whistle. And he shrugged off Shaw's suggestion that it's happened before in Notre Dame Stadium.

"Look, I will tell you that I've been in a lot of stadiums, and very rarely do you hear a whistle," he said. "I hear my name a lot, but I usually don't hear a whistle. So I don't know where that came from."

Halftime thoughts from Stanford-Notre Dame

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OK, armchair coaches everywhere: What would YOU do? Everett Golson has fumbled a snap, he's fumbled a handoff, and he's fumbled in the end zone to give Stanford a touchdown and a 7-3 halftime lead. He's nearly been picked off twice, and he's nearly been tackled for a safety twice because he held on to the ball too long.

But what would Tommy Rees be doing against this Stanford defense? Besides picking himself off the turf over and over again? Golson has been under heavy pressure all game, and has used his athleticism to elude several sure sacks -- sometimes making ill-advised throws, but sometimes actually creating some offense. Rees is less likely to make the foolish plays, but he's less likely to make a play out of nothing, too. It's a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't situation for Brian Kelly.

The best answer is option three: Run the ball. Run it, run it, and the run it some more. No easy task against the stout Stanford defense, but every drop-back has been an adventure, and many of them have been disasters.

Notre Dame's defense -- the half-closing two-minute drill aside -- has been its usual tremendous self so far, and can still say it hasn't allowed an offensive touchdown in 14 quarters. But Notre Dame's offense -- no matter who's taking the snaps -- has to figure something out here in the second half. Golson had a very nice bounce-back drive following the Stanford fumble recovery in the end zone, marching the Irish into chip-shot field-goal range before a bad snap rendered it moot. So he'll likely get the call to start the second half. The Irish need more of that Golson. and less of the freewheeling guy who's been playing fast and loose with the ball.

Otherwise. Notre Dame's path to a BCS bowl game is going to get an awful lot tougher.

Notre Dame notes and quotes

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Some quick notes leading up to Saturday's big game against Stanford:

--- Theo Riddick, who watched from the sidelines as Cierre Wood and George Atkinson III sliced through the Miami defense in the second half last Saturday, is good to go for this week's game. His elbow injury caused him no trouble this week, according to coach Brian Kelly.

"He had a good week," Kelly said. "He ran extremely well all week, and didn't take any reps off."

--- Everett Golson dubbed the Irish's three-headed monster at tailback "RB3." But there's a fourth tailback who's fared well in some mop-up duty this year. Cam McDaniel had 55 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries against Miami. In his other late-game appearance, he had 59 yards on nine carries against Navy.

"We have four running backs, it's hard to get them all touches," Kelly said. "We're struggling to get those three guys (the ball). Cam McDaniel is a heck of a running back. We have no hesitation of putting him in the game. We only have one football, that's the problem."

--- The Irish will be wearing pink gloves and socks during the game, and the coaching staff will be wearing pink hats, in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It's a topic particularly near and dear to Kelly's heart. His wife, Paqui, is a cancer survivor, having waged to bouts with breast cancer -- one in 2003, and again in 2007. Their charity, the Kelly Cares Foundation, supports research and prevention.

"It's center to our life story as a family," Brian Kelly said. "It means something to everybody. It's always a personal story. Somebody's always been touched by cancer in their family or extended family. We all share the understanding of what that pink means."
Notre Dame wide receiver T.J. Jones seemed surprised Wednesday evening to learn that ESPN draft guru Todd McShay had listed him as a fifth- or sixth-round draft pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. Jones, just a junior, was one of 10 Irish players McShay had tabbed for the spring draft, and one of three with eligibility remaining.

Jones was certainly flattered.

"Oh, definitely," he said. "That's been a dream of mine since I can remember, to play in the professional football league. Every now and then you wonder where your life could be headed if you do the right things."

Jones has emerged as one of Everett Golson's favorite targets. His 15 catches is second-most on the team behind tailback Theo Riddick, and his 183 receiving yards trails only DaVaris Daniels and Tyler Eifert. He's also emerged as a leader in the wake of Michael Floyd's departure for the NFL.

"It's just the fact that we don't have another Michael Floyd here anymore," Jones said. "Last year, it was him. When we were in a tough situation, and we needed someone to be an example, we looked to Michael Floyd. So I chose for myself to be that example."

Floyd's absence also means there are 100 more catches to go around. Last year, Floyd was the star, with the rest of the receiving corps serving as little more than a supporting cast.

"You wouldn't really defer to him, but you couldn't get mad when they threw him the ball 12 times a game because he would catch it in triple coverage," Jones said. "It didn't matter, he was going to catch the ball. You wanted to get the ball, but at the same time, you understood why and you were OK with getting the touches you got."

Irish coach Brian Kelly said the biggest reason Jones has emerged as a starter from a crowded field of contenders is his commitment to becoming a "complete wide receiver." That means blocking, too -- something Jones did little of in high school, and largely eschewed in his first two seasons at Notre Dame.

This year has been different, and that's why he's on the field.

"I think the difference between T.J. this year and last year is his focus on being a complete wide receiver in all phases of the game," Kelly said. "Vertically, he ran a great come back route Saturday where he was precise in and out of his break and he's been a much-improved blocker. In all phases
there is a commitment on his end to be the complete player."

Said Jones: "I understood this year that blocking can be just as important as catching the ball. You definitely need to have a little grit about yourself when you block, or else it's going to be a long day. I play with grit on the field. I'm silent about it, I don't voice it. But the attitude in my head is, if I want something, I'm going to go get it."

Whether that includes a pro career remains to be seen. For now, Jones is flattered, but doesn't have time to be thinking about it. He's just glad to be contributing, and to be playing what he called his "best football."

"Like Coach Kelly said, for us to keep succeeding, we need to be together as a team," he said. "We can't stray off. Certain guys can't be worrying about draft stock, especially this year in the season, and me being young."

Rees starts while Golson sits after rules violation

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About 48 hours after Brian Kelly told reporters on Thursday that redshirt freshman Everett Golson would start Notre Dame's game against Miami at Soldier Field, Notre Dame announced that Tommy Rees will get the start instead, with Golson benched for an unspecified team rule violation.

Golson was on the field and in uniform for pregame warmups, and a Notre Dame official said he is eligible to play during the game. He just won't start.

It will be Rees' 17th career start. Golson had started all four games this season, but Rees had closed out the Purdue and Michigan wins (he made a cameo in mop-up duty at Michigan State). For the season, Rees is 11-of-19 for 150 yards, with no touchdowns and no interceptions. He picked up his first career rushing touchdown against Michigan, after relieving an ineffective Golson (3-of-8, 30 yards, two picks).

Rees appeared in every game for the Irish last season, going 269-of-411 for 2,871 yards and 20 touchdowns. But his 14 interceptions and subsequent arrest after an off-campus party in May opened up the quarterback position, and Golson beat out Andrew Hendrix in training camp.

For the season, Golson is 50-of-89 for 641 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions. He also has two rushing touchdowns.

Gaudy uniforms bother fans a lot more than players

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Perhaps no Notre Dame player has his finger on the pulse of Notre Dame fans quite like Louis Nix III, Twitter icon and Facebook discussion enthusiast. And the star and director of YouTube's "Chocolate News" knows exactly what most of you think about the gaudy uniforms the Irish will be wearing Saturday against Miami at Soldier Field.

"Knute Rockne is rolling over in his grave and all that type of stuff," Nix said.

Here's the thing, though: "I like them personally, and I don't care much about people's opinions," Nix said. "I've got to play in them, and I enjoy them. I think it's a good change-up. It's like once a year. It's not really a big deal to me. I think they're real nice and I can't wait to play in them."

The off-center, two-tone helmet with the oversized, forward-facing leprechaun seems to have drawn the most ire from Irish fans. Of course, the uniforms are for the younger generation -- the ones that can't get enough of Oregon's day-glo unis, for example -- not the older set. 

But frankly, even most of Notre Dame's players offered up a collective shrug. 

"The uniforms, really, I don't really care what I put on," cornerback Bennett Jackson said. "It doesn't really bother me much."

Defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore agreed.

"I'm not a big uniform guy," he said. "I've seen a lot of different uniforms. I'm just ready to play."

But when a reporter suggested that maybe Lewis-Moore found them as over-the-top as many fans do, the captain quickly went into damage-control mode, like any good politician would.

"I think they're nice," he quickly said. "They're real nice jerseys."

And the helmets?

"Helmets are nice, too," he said with a wry smile. "I like the helmets."

The way coach Brian Kelly sees it, Halloween simply is coming a little early for his football team.

"I love them," receiver Robby Toma said. "Me and Coach were talking earlier. He said October's the month when kids get to dress up. So it's our one time to dress up and we're going to enjoy it."

Tyler Eifert has one catch over his last two games. It was a big one -- a 38-yarder late in the fourth quarter that essentially sealed Notre Dame's 13-6 win over Michigan two weeks ago -- but it was the only one. 

t's not exactly what Notre Dame fans -- or Eifert, for that matter -- had in mind for the All-America tight end after he spurned the NFL to come back for his senior season. Eifert had 63 catches for 803 yards last season, but only has nine for 158 so far this season.

It's certainly not by design. Without Michael Floyd on the field, opponents have targeted Eifert as the Irish's No. 1 receiving threat. A relatively meager passing game with a rookie quarterback in Everett Golson hasn't helped, either.

"Teams are looking for me," Eifert said. "I don't think Coach would design the plays not to give me the ball. We run the plays and the ball goes where it's supposed to be and the other guys have to step up."

Golson and Tommy Rees indeed have spread the ball around. Tailback Theo Riddick leads the team with 14 catches, while T.J. Jones has 11, and Eifert, DaVaris Daniels and Robby Toma have nine each. Eifert has been used as a blocker more, too, to help give Golson more time.

"Whatever, wherever I'm at, whatever the play is, that's what I'm going to do to the best of my ability," Eifert said.

Offensive coordinator Chuck Martin said last week that he wants Eifert to get the ball more. Of course, he'd like to get the ball to anyone at this point. The Irish rank 86th in the nation at 211 passing yards per game.

"Yes, definitely, no question," Martin said. "We'd like to get more involved in the passing game. I don't think it's as much right now a product of Tyler not being involved in the passing game as much as how efficiently we can throw the ball in certain situations. And make good decisions and get the ball where it needs to get to. Trust me, Tyler's been doing awesome and he's been an unbelievable competitor and teammate. But we're just a better team in the ball gets in (Number) 80's direction more. It's certainly not by design that the ball's not getting to him."

Eifert admits to a little frustration at his situation. But it's quickly tempered by the team's success.

"As a competitor and someone that wants to make plays, I'd rather be getting the ball," he said. "But when you're 4-0, there's not a whole lot you can complain about."

Nix nixes "Catholics vs. Convicts" hype

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Yes, nose guard Louis Nix III was born in 1991, a few years after the height of the old Catholics vs. Convicts rivalry between Notre Dame and Miami. But nobody in the Notre Dame locker room knows more about the Hurricanes than Nix, a Jacksonville native who grew up a Miami fan.

But while all the other Irish players -- most of whom only know about the great Jimmy Johnson-coached Miami teams of the 1980s from the ESPN "30 for 30" movie, "The U" -- are saying that rekindling the rivalry Saturday at Soldier Field is exciting, Nix brushes it aside.

It's just not the same, he said.

"I hear it every day," he said. "Everybody tells us about the big rivalry, the Catholic vs. Convicts. To be honest with, I think that's over with. That was years ago and nobody even thinks about it. In the hearts of Notre Dame fans, that might be a big game. Me? My team? I think we just see it as another game we got to play hard at."

One big reason Nix doesn't think the rivalry's all it's cracked up to be? Recent history. Notre Dame's last national championship was in 1988 -- when the Irish beat Miami when the Hurricanes went for two rather than a tie -- and Miami has just one (2001) since 1991.

"We hear everybody and every Notre Dame fan and everybody around here talking about it, so you'll get enough of the history about that," Nix said. "I think I know a lot about it. I don't think it's that much hyped up cause both programs have been in a slump for a while, and Miami has really turned its program around from being 'convicts'. They're a great program now."

Of course, it's nothing new for Notre Dame fans to delve into the team's illustrious past for inspiration -- or to get nervous every time the Irish get close to recapturing that status as one of the nation's elite. At 4-0 and ranked No. 9 in the country, Nix thinks that's just happening again.

"People are just worried, like they always are," he said. "We haven't gone 5-0, 6-0, or whatever in a while, so people are like, 'Oh, God, I hope they don't get too hyped up, or come out sluggish, or don't take Miami seriously, stuff like that."

That said, Nix is hearing plenty of chatter from back home regarding Saturday's game at Soldier Field.

"A lot of people telling me we're gonna get our ... no, I can't say it," he said with a laugh. "A lot of people talking smack. Half the people I know are obviously Florida State, Miami or Florida fans. So I hear a lot of that, but I don't waste my time arguing with them. I'll just show them Saturday, play a good game, hopefully come out with a win."

ACC announces future hoops scheduling format

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The Atlantic Coast Conference today concluded its fall meetings today and announced its scheduling plans for whenever Notre Dame officially joins the conference in all sports other than football. 

The ACC will continue playing an 18-game basketball schedule, with each team having two "partners" with whom they are guaranteed a home-and-home series every year. Notre Dame's partners will be Boston College and Georgia Tech, meaning the Irish will play in Boston and Atlanta every season. Each team also will face every team in the conference at least once each year, with two rotating home-and-home opponents.

Every team in the league will participate in the ACC Tournament, which will be held Wednesday through Sunday of championship week. 

Also, the league announced that the 12 teams with the best RPI from the previous season will participate in the annual ACC-Big Ten Challenge. 

No adversity, no problem for Kelly

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Notre Dame is the only team in the country that has yet to trail in a game this season. But there are enough guys on this team that have been through more than their share of rough patches in their college careers, so Irish coach Brian Kelly isn't too concerned with how his team will handle adversity, if and when it comes.

"Our guys, they've got enough battle scars over the last few years, especially our seniors, and they've bounced back quite well," Kelly said. 

Kelly pointed to the Purdue game, in which the Irish squandered a late lead, only to march down the field for the game-winning field goal, a drive orchestrated by backup quarterback Tommy Rees. Kelly also noted that when the Irish absolutely needed a big drive to close out wins against Michigan State and Michigan, they did just that.

"We haven't had the full-blown, down-three-scores (situation), and come through that way," Kelly said. "I don't know if you have to."

Everett Golson isn't a finished product yet. And until he is, he might not finish games.

"It's a work in progress," Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said of his redshirt freshman quarterback. "An analogy I like to use is, he's still cooking. (But) we've taken him out of the oven."

Out of the oven and into the fire, Golson has received mixed reviews during Notre Dame's 4-0 start. He managed the game well against Navy, Purdue (despite being pulled in favor of veteran Tommy Rees for the game-winning two-minute drill) and Michigan State -- protecting the football and showing flashes of the athleticism that made him such a tantalizing fit for Kelly's offense. But he was miserable against Michigan, throwing two first-half interceptions before being benched in favor of Rees.

Kelly has been adamant that Golson is his starting quarterback. But he's obviously not shy about going to Rees if the situation warrants. That's up to Golson and how much he continues to progress.

"It's about him understanding what we want for him and then, clearly, him understanding what we need from him," Kelly said.

Kelly said Golson's confidence has not been affected by the quarterback rotation, and that the young QB understands that there will be growing pains.

"That's all part of the progression," Kelly said. "He's got a lot of pride. He's not a guy that I feel lacks confidence, but he's certainly quite away that there's a learning curve that has to continue to develop. When you're taking a highly skilled player that is a great competitor, they're never going to be deflated relative to confidence. They're going to gain more confidence as they understand what they're seeing. He's a guy that has confidence, but he'll continue to build on that as he continues to learn."

Golson hasn't been made available to the media since before the Purdue game, but Kelly said that's not to protect Golson. Kelly cited a busy workload, in both football and class, for Golson's conspicuous absence.

"We're not trying to hide him," Kelly said. "But I'm not going to make him available to you every day. He's got a lot going on being the quarterback as a freshman at Notre Dame."

That said, Kelly said he's in constant contact with Golson -- before and since the Michigan game -- and that those discussions are all part of the process.

"That's player development at its core," Kelly said. "If you're not having those conversations with him about those kinds of games, or (in) the lead-up to those games, you're not doing your job as a coach. If you just let him sit by himself, do something else. Eighteen- to 21-year-olds sometimes don't have answers to the questions you may ask or I may ask. But it's important you're communicating and working through any of those rough spots."

"I don't want to get too philosophical," Kelly added later, "but it's constant conversations on a year-to-year basis. In a year, we'll look back on it and say he came through this and he did OK."

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