By DAVID VANTRESS
THE GOSHEN NEWS
SOUTH BEND —
After a hard-fought, come-from-behind 17-14 victory at home over BYU Saturday night, it’s on to a much-anticipated matchup with No. 8 Oklahoma for the No. 5 Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
The Irish (7-0) travel to Norman next Saturday night for a prime-time contest against the Sooners (5-1).
But on Saturday night, Kelly wanted his team to take a moment to savor a gut-check win — something he said he didn’t see when the team came into the locker room after the game.
“I think the thing that was concerning for me the most is when our guys came in, and I didn’t sense a great feeling after winning a tough, tough football game. And that’s a team that won 10 games last year,” Kelly said. That’s a bracket buster team in basketball parlance, that’s a darned good football team. Our kids hung in there and won the football game.”
The Irish are finding ways to win games when they aren’t playing at their best — something Kelly sees as a major step forward for his team.
“I want them to know, that, listen, you can’t win games by 28 and 30 points,” Kelly said.
“You need to find ways to win. That’s who we are. There’s a lot of teams around the country that have made their programs on winning 7 6 and 13 7. It’s just who we are; embrace who we are, I guess is what I’m saying. We just keep fighting, keep playing and we’ll find a way to win.”
Rushing game excels
Senior running back Theo Riddick (143 yards) ran for more yards against BYU than any other running back this season.
His 143 yards are the most by a Cougar opponent since John White of Utah had 174 on Sept. 17, 2011.
Patience was the key to his big day, Riddick said.
“It showed out there. I think we all took advantage today,” Riddick said.
“We were fortunate today to have great success running the ball and do what we had to do to get a victory.”
The Irish racked up 270 yards on the ground against the BYU defense, which came into the contest third in the country against the run (68 yards per game).
Senior running back Cierre Wood also cracked the century mark, with 18 carries for 114 yards.
Halftime adjustments made all the difference for the Irish, Wood said.
“We knew going into it that we were going to be the more physical team,” Wood said. “We were shooting ourselves in the foot in the first half. Everyone knew it and everyone was on the same page. In the second half we made the adjustments and got it done.”
Defense moves on
BYU’s second-quarter TD on Saturday broke a streak of 17 straight quarters without an offensive TD given up by the Irish defense.
But graduate defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore said since the team won, losing the streak was no big deal.
“You’ve got to believe in the system, and everyone does believe in the system,” Lewis-Moore said.
“Everybody is 100 percent in. I mean, people are going to get their points in, you just got to stick together. We’ve got great leadership on the sidelines, and we just stuck together and got the win.”