With three quarters of the season behind them, Notre Dame finally comes to a point of some much needed rest. Injuries have plagued the Irish all season and the bye week was long over-due. Controversial play calls and defensive schematics have come into question from time to time this season. The Fighting Irish finally now have a chance to regroup.
The bye week isn’t just a chance for the Irish to rest their wounded players. It’s also a time for reflection on the games played and preparation for those to come. The season of injury plagued inconsistency, as I call it, is nearing its end. The men of blue and gold now have just three games left in part one of the Kelly era. To the Irish faithful this will hopefully be a time of change. No, this isn’t the Obama administration, but I’m still keeping hope alive.
Coming into the bye week ND has posted a sub-par record of 4–5. There’s no question that losing some of their best players to injuries has affected the outcome of a lot of these games. But there’s also been poor play calling at times and offensive and defensive strategy that has been questionable.
If Stanford is dropping eight into coverage, then why not try to take what they’re giving you and use a little dink and dunk offense on occasion to gain yardage? It’s not pretty, it doesn’t show up on the highlight films, but it can be effective at times. What could it have hurt? With the injuries on offense, why wouldn’t Kelly try to use the size of the O-line to wear down Navy on the ground? As well, it’s obvious that the defensive strategy wasn’t working early on. So why not try and change it?
There’s always the argument of “what if?” In this case I argue “what was that?” If MSU needs a long field goal from an inexperienced kicker to tie the game and send it into double overtime then why not play it safe? Put some pressure on the kicker, but don’t give up a game winning TD to a trick play because no one on the field has even the slightest idea that it might happen. And then there’s Tulsa. I don’t think anything really needs to be said.
The past is the past. Regardless of the miscues, there is nothing that anyone can do to turn these losses into wins. No amount of bitching and moaning will change the outcome of those games. We can’t do anything about the past. All we can do is work on the present situation in order to properly prepare for the future.
I would assume at this point in the season Kelly is now realizing the position that he is in. On one of the grandest stages in college football there is no doubt that he has all eyes on him. I would like to believe that most of those still want him to succeed, but I’m well aware of the ones who have already called for his head.
He was brought to Notre Dame to win games and in his first season as head coach of the Irish he’s definitely getting a taste of the perils and strife that coaching at this level bring. Sometimes the expectations aren’t realistic and it’s hard to get away from that. Regardless of those expectations—progress needs to be seen.
Kelly and team have a week off and are now heading into what may be the biggest contest of the season. The final three games against Utah, Army, and USC. These final games aren’t just about wins or losses, it’s about how much fight is left in this program.
The season isn’t over yet. Some would say at this point it’s far-fetched, but if by some grace of God they were able to come out of the final three games with two more wins then I would consider it a moral victory finishing 6-6. The team can still qualify for a bowl game. Sure, not any they would have hoped for, but an extra game nonetheless.
The Irish are beat up, injured, and worn down. And I’m sure even embarrassed to a certain extent. The break they are receiving this weekend is greatly needed. There have been too many issues on both sides of the ball this year and too many questions about the direction of this program that have gone unanswered. Yes, the season hasn’t gone according to plan at this point. But, there is still time to show there is some resolve left in the program.
As the Irish go into these last three games of the season they need to show that they have properly prepared for their opponents. Plan accordingly with their coaching strategy and execute game plans to the best of their ability, injuries and all. Win or lose, this needs to be shown to the Irish hopeful as well as the doubters to prove that the new coach can resurrect this program from the down times of more than a decade back to the prominence that so many want to see.