Here are three keys to watch as Notre Dame (1-1) tries to recover from last week’s disheartening 20-19 loss at home to Georgia (2-0). The loss knocked the No. 24 Irish out of the rankings. The Irish are lucky kickoff is at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Boston College (1-1). A night game might have added to an inspired atmosphere benefiting the Eagles.
Brian Kelly’s demeanor: Watch how Notre Dame’s players handle adversity on their first road trip of the season following their leader’s Georgia postgame video that went viral. When head coach Brian Kelly lost his cool over a question he didn’t like, he reminded us of the old Kelly with the angry sideline temper from his first seven years.
He was supposed to be a new man this year. He gave up play-calling duties to new offensive coordinator Chip Long and was more engaged with the full roster. The new Brian Kelly lasted only one game, a season-opening win over Temple.
How did his players view their leader’s condescending response to a reporter’s question? Will they keep their cool and move on to the next play following a bad call? Or will they retain their frustration and allow one bad play to snowball and cost them the game?
Kelly’s snarky comments drew so much national attention the Big Ten Network switched from breaking down upcoming Big Ten games. BTN analysts Gerry DiNardo — a former Notre Dame player and head coach at Vanderbilt, LSU and Indiana — and Les Miles, a former Michigan player and head coach at Oklahoma State and LSU, both were highly critical of the coach in South Bend, down the road from BTN’s Chicago-based studio. They both raised the question of how his players will respond to his actions.
Boston College turnovers: Boston College opened the season with a soft touch, defeating Football Championship Subdivision member Presbyterian, 51-7. It was the program’s fourth straight victory after beating Maryland in the Quick Lane Bowl for a 7-6 record. Although there obviously isn’t much to be read into the Presbyterian romp compared to facing Notre Dame, don’t dismiss the Eagles based on last week’s 34-10 loss to Wake Forest in their Atlantic Coast Conference opener.
Boston College hurt itself with turnovers. Wake Forest took a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter on a four-play, 26-yard touchdown drive; the Demon Deacons expanded the lead to 31-10 late in the third quarter on a two-play, two-yard touchdown “drive.”
Boston College’s defense was more than respectable, holding Wake Forest to 151 yards rushing and 158 passing. The Demon Deacons are one of the ACC’s most improved programs. Last year’s young roster finished with a 7-6 record that included a win over Temple in the Military Bowl.
Notre Dame’s offensive line: Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush accepted some of the blame for three sacks for 24 yards against Georgia. One was a blind-side hit that caused the fumble which ended Notre Dame’s comeback hopes on the Irish’s final possession. Give the redshirt sophomore “leadership credit” for that. He said he has to get his linemen in the right protection.
But Notre Dame has four returning starters up front, anchored by left tackle Mike McGlinchey and left guard Quinton Nelson as future NFL Draft picks. McGlinchey can’t give up a blind-side sack in the fourth quarter at home. Additionally, running back Josh Adams is a junior who has to be able to pick up pass protection breakdowns up front.
Notre Dame needs to control the ball to limit the big-play pressure on Wimbush this early in the season. Against Georgia, the Bulldogs controlled the ball 32:42 to Notre Dame’s 27:18. Boston College’s defense is led by All-American defensive end Harold Landry, who could have been a draft pick if he had left school early last season.
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