Sandwiched between two ranked teams, the Brigham Young Cougars are said to represent a classic trap game for Notre Dame. But I’ll give you two guys, Coach Brian Kelly and linebacker Manti Te’o, who say it ain’t.
It is no coincidence that Kelly and Te’o are the two guys who give the longest press conferences every week, for as Coach and coach-on-the-field, they have come to mutually command the respect of the players which assures a rare one-two punch in guarding against a letdown.
In BYU, they both see a physical team similar to Stanford. The Cougars are seventh in scoring defense and fourth against the rush, and will no doubt force starting quarterback Everett Golson to prove he can beat them, by passing and not turning the ball over.
As Kelly says, “[Golson's] got to understand when to cover up the football. He’s got to understand when to get down…and we are going to continue to make sure that we hold him accountable.”
On the other hand, Kelly also said that Golson’s last four plays of the Stanford game, including a beautiful TD throw to Tyler Eifert “that he wasn’t able to make in the beginning of the year” were the best four he made that day and shows “that he continues to improve.”
Meanwhile, if the BYU defense is good, the Irish defense is better. Second in scoring defense and first in red zone “D,” the Irish have not allowed a rushing touchdown in eight consecutive games, or any type of TD in the last four.
Notre Dame has limited each of its past five opponents to less than 300 total yards, and between the new-found energy of lineman Kapron “Kap the Captain” Lewis-Moore and the surprising four interceptions of Junior CB Bennett Jackson (tied for fourth in the country in this category) the defense has improved so much that the “D” has come to stand for something else.
“Our main thing is dominating,” explains Te’o. “As defense we want to dominate. [And] the best way to do that is to keep the points down.”
Thanks to guys like Te’o, Kelly’s plan to win at Notre Dame, as he has elsewhere, is starting to come together. “There are guys who love to win,” reveals Te’o, “but for me, my hate to lose is greater than my love to win.”
The Stanford game proved Kelly and Te’o have infused this team with their “hate to lose” philosophy, and they won’t lose Saturday either. Golson will continue to improve, and the defense will finally allow a touchdown, just the thing to make them even more ornery going into the Oklahoma game.
Final score: Notre Dame 24, BYU 10.