When Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly was fighting for Grand Valley State to win consecutive Division II national championships in 2003, he began to have trouble keeping the Lakers focused on the game and not the hype.
And that was when one Detroit newspaper covered the team.
Kelly did win that second consecutive championship for GVS, but as he talked Tuesday with not one reporter but nearly fifty, does his quote, ‘‘It’s the same noise…just on a larger scale,’’ ring true?
Hall of Fame Notre Dame coaches, including Lou Holtz, have fallen to the October Stanford Cardinal challenge, so it is not just hype to cite this as perhaps the biggest game of Kelly’s coaching career.
This challenge is probably best summed up unknowingly by defensive end Stephon Tuitt, arguably Kelly’s most-improved defensive player — but still only a sophomore starting consistently for the first time.
‘‘It is possible to avoid; just don’t pay attention to it,’’ Tuitt argued before abruptly arguing the other side saying, ‘‘but that’s kind of hard because people are emailing me and sending me text messages. It’s exciting to be a part of that.’’
On the positive side, Kelly notes that the Notre Dame seniors, led by linebacker Manti Te’o ‘‘haven’t beaten Stanford, and [they are] the one team that has beaten us physically,” and the veteran Irish players responded magnificently against Michigan, who going into this season had beaten Notre Dame three times in a row also.
On the negative side, the Stanford defense allows only 77 yards per game on the ground, plus, according to Kelly, ‘‘[t]hey’re difficult to run the football on, and it’s hard to get the ball downfield, because the quarterbacks are under constant pressure.’’
This means not only that redshirt freshman Everett Golson won’t have as much time to throw the ball downfield, and definitely won’t be able to run the ball thirty consecutive times, as the Irish did to close out the game against Miami.
But if the last word at Notre Dame goes to those fans interceding at the grotto, everywhere else around the country the final say before Saturday goes to the oddsmakers in Vegas.
And they, sensing the “noise” has at very least affected Notre Dame’s younger players, have dropped the spread by which Notre Dame was favored from ten points Monday to nine Tuesday to eight Wednesday morning.
And, at this point, there’s little doubt the point spread will get even tighter before kickoff. But “what though the odds be great or small,” if Kelly can just keep his young Notre Dame players from getting tighter as he once did at Grand Valley State, not only will the Irish beat the Cardinal, but the grotto pray-ers will defeat the Vegas gamers as well.
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