Goshen News, Goshen, IN

September 16, 2013

NOTRE DAME FOOTBALL: Kelly not concerned about the Irish ā€˜Dā€™

Defense struggling compared to 2012 unit

By DAVID VANTRESS
THE GOSHEN NEWS

GOSHEN — Despite the fact that Notre Dame labored Saturday night to pull out a 31-24 win against a Purdue squad that struggled to score points in its first two games, Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly doesn’t seem too concerned.

“If you look at last night, like I said, the pieces are starting to come together,” Kelly said on Sunday during his weekly conference call with the media.

“We’re still evolving.  It takes time.  Even if you’ve got guys that are veterans, we have some key positions that have some new players in it.  They’re coming together. ... Again, we’re playing great competition. We’re getting tested.  We’re making progress. I like to make progress through winning.”

And the Irish are 2-1 after the win over the Boilermakers in West Lafayette Saturday night.

But the defense has struggled: Three games into the season, the 22nd-ranked Irish (2-1) are giving up 23.5 points a game.

That’s nearly double last year’s average of 12.8.

Notre Dame is also surrendering 411 yards in total offense a game after holding opponents to 306 yards a game a year ago. Part of the struggles, Kely said, come from a team still looking for its identity.

“We’re still finding out who’s the middle linebacker, who’s playing safety, who’s playing wide receiver,” Kelly said.

“I mean, there’s a number of positions that we’re still trying to find ourselves at,” Kelly said.

One positive Kelly pointed to was the fact that the Irish held the  Boilermakers to 38 yards rushing on 21 carries.

Kelly said the Irish had great communication against Purdue. But the irish — who finished seventh in the nation last season in total defense —  are currently at No. 56 heading into Saturday’s game against Michigan State (3-0), which ranks 84th in total offense.

The Irish are making progress, however, Kelly asserted.

“When you’re playing tough competition, you’re being tested mentally and physically for four quarters, you’re definitely learning more about their personnel,” Kelly said  

“They’re being challenged.  I think you get a better understanding of your strengths and weaknesses.  ... Again, you know, going into now the fourth game, you know where you need to improve, the areas you need to continue to work on.”