By DAVID VANTRESS
THE GOSHEN NEWS
SOUTH BEND —
Notre Dame’s football team and coach Brian Kelly have scant time to savor Saturday night’s season-opening 28-6 victory over Temple.
It’s Michigan week.
The No. 14 Fighting Irish (1-0) travel to the Big House this Saturday for an 8 p.m. matchup with the No. 17 Wolverines (1-0).
“I haven’t seen it as one of those traditional rivalries,” Kelly said Sunday afternoon during a conference call with area sports media. “I see it as one of those great football games Notre Dame plays … a great regional game. I spent a lot of time in Michigan.”
Michigan coach Brady Hoke commented earlier this season that Notre Dame was “chickening out” of the series between the schools. This year’s meeting will be the last currently scheduled game between the school.
Kelly shrugged off that criticism. “We’ll work hard to get them back on the schedule,” Kelly said. The demands of the Irish’s new association with the ACC will make that a challenge, Kelly added.
On the injury front from Saturday night’s game, Kelly said wide receiver DaVaris Daniels has a slight groin pull, and that was the only significant injury resulting from Saturday’s game. Daniels was held out in the second half.
Daniels played well on Saturday, Kelly said, and is expected to be available against Michigan.
“We’ve got a number of receivers who can give us big play ability, and DeVaris is one of them,” Kelly said.
Kelly said he was encouraged by a number of things he saw from his team on Saturday, especially on defense.
“It’s going to be a long season, and we’re going to need a lot of guys to contribute,” Kelly said.
Kelly said freshman QB Malik Zaire, who was out with mononucleosis last week, could be back at practice this week, pending the results of lab work.
Kelly was not happy with the kicking game this week with a pair of missed field goals. Nick Tausch and Kyle Brindza each missed kicks.
“We can’t have a technically bad kick,” Kelly said. “We’re going
to make a decision this week and see where we go … We’re asking Kyle to do a lot. He’s going to be counted on a lot in the kicking game for us.”
Brindza is the Irish’s punter and kickoff specialist as well.
Brindza’s first career punt went 47 yards. He finished with five punts for a 41.2-yard average.
Kelly said over the years, not much has changed in his relationship with his quarterbacks. Jack Hall, his first quarterback in his first head coaching position at Grand Valley State in Michigan, was on hand Saturday to see his old coach get his 200th career victory.
“I don’t have to drive the bus and pack the lunches any more,” Kelly said. “But the quarterbacks know me as a guy who’s going to be involved with the offense and a guy who’s going to be working closely with them.”
Senior quarterback Tommy Rees was pleased with his performance on Saturday, but knows he has much to work on as the season rolls on.
Rees was 16-of-23 for 346 and three TDs with – wait for it – no interceptions.
Rees said there were a few throws he would like to have back, but he was especially pleased about not throwing a pick. “Obviously, not turning the ball over gives you the best chance to win,” Rees said. “That’s been a point driven into me for a long time. I’m a senior now. I understand a lot of the nuances of playing. That’s something that you’ve got to continue to strive for.”
Ten freshmen played for Notre Dame against Temple including Jaylon Smith (started); Max Redfield; William Fuller; James Onwualu; Cole Luke, Corey Robinson (started), Issac Rochell, Greg Bryant, Tarean Folston; and
Devin Butler. … Sophomore Chris Brown had three catches against Temple for a career high in receptions in a single contest. He had two catches all of last season. His 57 yards receiving was one more yard than his previous career total of 56 yards. … Junior tight end Troy Niklas had his longest career reception at the end of the second half with a 66-yard touchdown catch. His previous long was 30 yards against Purdue in 2012. It was his second career touchdown in a Notre Dame uniform as Niklas takes over for the departed Tyler Eifert, who is now in the NFL with the Cincinnati Bengals.