09/30 16:46 CDT Notre Dame faces first tough test vs. Stanford
Notre Dame faces first tough test vs. Stanford
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) --- Ninth-ranked Notre Dame is about to face its stiffest
challenge this season.
After beating four teams with a combined record of 7-11, with none of those
opponents' victories coming against Power Five conference teams, the Fighting
Irish (4-0) on Saturday host 14th-ranked Stanford (3-1), which has the nation's
top-rated dense. The Cardinal also has beaten the Irish four of their last five
So it's the first real test for a young Irish squad coming off a sloppy victory
over Syracuse where they won despite five turnovers. Coach Brian Kelly said he
doesn't think of the game against Stanford in those terms.
"We really focus on how we need to do to get better. We turned the ball over.
We gave up some big plays on the perimeter. We focus a lot more on that stuff
than the bigger picture issues," he said Tuesday, adding the focus of the
coaching staff is developing players. "We are not an experienced group and if
we sway too far from working on getting out of our breaks and taking a direct
snap, because we may fumble it, we're going to be in trouble. So that's where I
really have to stay as a task master when it comes to those details."
The Irish are ranked higher than the Cardinal but are one-point underdogs, just
the second time since the start of the 2011 season that an opponent has been
favored over the Irish at Notre Dame Stadium. The other time was last season
against Oklahoma, when the Irish were 3.5 point underdogs. The Sooners won
That was the only home loss for the Irish in the past 16 games after starting
6-5 at home under Kelly. He attributed the improvement to a number of factors,
including having better teams and making changes to the team's pregame routine,
such as practicing at the stadium on Thursday and moving the pregame Mass from
the morning of the game to the previous afternoon.
"At Notre Dame, there's a lot that goes on and probably just setting what I
feel like is a really good schedule for our guys that doesn't overload them and
then really, getting them to feel comfortable and relaxed at home," he said. "I
felt like early in my time here, we were a little uptight and maybe trying to
do too much. I think we have relaxed and played a lot more comfortable and
really look at it as a home-field advantage."
Two year ago, the Irish beat Stanford with a goal-line stand in overtime to win
20-13 and send their confidence soaring as they improved to 6-0 during an
undefeated regular season. Kelly said that 2012 squad just believed they would
win close games, also beating Pittsburgh in overtime.
"Each year is a different group," Kelly said. "So we have not been in that
situation yet here."
The Irish have scored 30 or more points in their opening four games, the first
time they've accomplished that since the 1943 season, when they won a national
championship. The Irish also haven't allowed more than 17 points, so none of
the games has been close and the Irish have been behind this season for fewer
than three minutes.
That's expected to change as the Irish face Stanford and then play at
top-ranked Florida State in two weeks.
NOTES: Kelly said he doesn't know whether the results of disciplinary hearings
for five players being held out of practices and games while the university
determines whether they were involved in academic impropriety will be released
one at a time or all at once. Honesty committee hearings are scheduled for this
week, but Kelly said he doesn't know when decisions might be made. Even after
the players are informed, the players have a week to appeal. Kelly wouldn't say
whether any of the players have asked him to appear at their hearings.