SOUTH BEND, Ind. —
“We had guys trying to do other people’s jobs and not taking care of their own business,” Kelly said. “So this week was about you get what you demand, and do your job. I know those sound like some pretty standard watch words. But we didn’t reinvent any defense; we didn’t create any new schemes. We just demanded more and expected more from our players and got it on Saturday.”
On the offensive side, the Irish are trying to find a rushing game. Against the Spartans, the Irish used four ball carriers but no one had more than nine carries until Cam McDaniel took over in the fourth quarter as the Irish tried to run out the clock and finished with 44 yards on 16 carries. Through four games, the Irish are 99th in the country at 114 yards a game rushing.
That’s 75 yards a game below last year’s average and is on pace to be the third lowest total in school history. The only two seasons that were worse were in 2007 (75 yards a game) and 2008 (110) under Charlie Weis.
But Kelly said part of the reason for the rushing problems is that opponents are putting more players near the line of scrimmage and challenging the Irish to throw.
He also said he knew the Irish had to depend on the pass against the Spartans.
“You’re not going to win running the ball against them,” he said.
So with a struggling offense and an improving defense, maybe the game ball going to the kicker shouldn’t be a big surprise. But Kelly said he couldn’t remember if he had ever given a game ball to a punter before, saying it was easy because of how important Brindza’s punts were.
“Even with the missed field goal, he was able to affect the game by punting the ball so effectively in the fourth quarter,” Kelly said.