Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly was concerned after Notre Dame defeated BYU 17-14 that his team didn’t have a “great feeling” in the locker room as the nation’s No. 5 ranked team.
Did BYU expose something? Did his team take BYU too lightly because Oklahoma is looming next week? What was it?
“The thing that was concerning for me the most is when our guys came in, and I didn’t sense a great feeling after winning a tough, tough football game,” said Kelly. “And that’s a team that won ten games last year. That’s a bracket-buster team team in basketball parlance, that’s a darned good football team. Our kids hung in there and won the football game. So we are really pleased to be 7-0.”
Kelly relied on the physical superiority of both his offensive and defensive line in this game. It worked in the 17-14 comeback victory over the Cougars.
“It was pretty clear that we were going to be able to control botrh sides of the ball on the offensive line and defensive line. And you know, really stuck with our game plan. Came in here wanting to run the football. I thought we we controlled that quiet well. I think we rushed for 270 yards, so I think controlling the football for us and playing great defense in the second half has been our formula for winning and we are not going to go away from that.”
For the Cougars, I thought Riley Nelson improved on making smarter plays (throwing the ball away in pressure and running out of bounds). He played well enough to get a win. What he didn’t do is make two huge pass plays, one in the first quarter to Friel and then the pitch-it-in-the-ocean wide open miss to Cody Hoffman in the fourth quarter.
But that seems to be the norm in big games with Nelson and it didn’t change in this game. I do think BYU’s offense is making progress. A healthy Nelson against Utah and Boise State would have made a difference, maybe wins. But he should never half played injured because it subtracted from an already limited player.
No that he is playing smarter and is healthier, BYU could run the table if they can get Georgia Tech on the road. That is a tall order but it is not impossible.
BYU moved the ball on Notre Dame and everybody in the press box that covers the Irish didn’t think that would happen. They thought this game would be scoreless for BYU. Nelson was 22 of 36 for 177 yards with 2 touchdowns. He had one legitimate pick and the other was a last-gasp throw-a-way at the end.
I will say this, BYU’s final games will depend on how Riley plays. If he makes enough plays, BYU wins. If he doesn’t, they could lose next week and at San Jose State.
It hurt BYU’s offense that they lost center Braden Hansen in the third quarter. Why? Because, with a smaller center in the game, Notre Dame left its 4-3 and went to a 3-4, giving them more of a pass rush on the edges. Hansen was coming on, not only as a leader but a signal caller with blocking assignments on the line. It is big if he can recover from what is a groin muscle pull.