ND strolls, not focused on implications
November, 11, 2012
By Matt Fortuna | ESPN.com
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- Brian Kelly saw the question coming way before his team's 21-6 methodical thumping of Boston College.
Did you tell them about Alabama?
"Oh no. No, no, no. Absolutely not," Kelly said with a chuckle Saturday night, minutes after his team improved to 10-0 for the first time in 19 years. "No, we didn't talk about Alabama. No."
Kelly, who has insisted he will not politick during the Irish's BCS title game run, would much rather stick to the course, relish his 24-hour rule and be glad he walked out of another game victorious -- a happy homecoming for the Massachusetts native.
Style points? Who needs them?
"No," he said when asked if he wished Notre Dame put on a better show for the beauty contest that is the BCS race. "We're going to work on wining against Wake Forest and take care of what we can take care of, and then when it's all said and done, we'll see where we are.
"So we really can't waste any of our energy. You see how hard it is to win in college football. We can't worry about those things. We have to focus on what we can do, and that is win it on the field. If people don't like us winning, I don't know what else to tell you."
Kelly has been down this road before, getting shut out of the title game with a 12-0 Cincinnati team in 2009. That was his last Cincinnati team, as he made the leap to Notre Dame before the Bearcats' Sugar Bowl loss.
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images"Oh no. No, no, no. Absolutely not," Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. "No, we didn't talk about Alabama. No."
Logic says bigger benefits come with a jump from a resurgent Big East program to the most storied team in this sport's history -- and more than just the paycheck. But here Notre Dame sat entering this week at No. 4 in the BCS, trailing Alabama, Kansas State and Oregon.
At his weekly news conference five days before his team's 10th win, Kelly was asked if he could have envisioned the scenario the Irish are in this season after he left Cincinnati. He cited Alabama's and Oregon's recent track records in saying that no, he was not shocked those schools got the benefit of the doubt over an Irish team that has gone BCS bowl-less the past five years.
That BCS bowl streak is virtually assured of ending with this double-digit-win season, but is more on the way after the Crimson Tide fell to Texas A&M earlier in the day? The one school Kelly did not mention during his Tuesday presser, Kansas State, also improved to 10-0 Saturday and could be No. 1 when Sunday's BCS rankings are unveiled. Until the past 24 years, before Bill Snyder took over, the Wildcats' tradition was essentially the polar opposite of Notre Dame's.
For a man with a political background, Kelly's insistence on worrying about only his team has been pretty remarkable, and it looks to have had his desired effect on the players.
"We were focused on BC, so we didn't have time to concern ourselves with other games," Theo Riddick said, "because if we lose, it's all out the window. We were focused on our game. To hear that [Alabama] lost, it is what it is."
The focus after Notre Dame's game was on a team that won a game as soundly as possible. Two lost fumbles were all that slowed an offense that moved efficiently for much of the night, as the Irish converted their first 10 third-down plays and engineered scoring drives of 90, 87 and 65 yards off their first four possessions.
That all three scores were touchdowns, not field goals, was a needed step for a Notre Dame team that's biggest weakness might just have been red zone efficiency, evidenced by last week's eight trips that yielded just three touchdowns.
The other big step came from quarterback Everett Golson, who continues to perform great on the road and seemed to pick up from where he left off last week when he led the Irish out of a 14-point fourth-quarter hole.
He, too, would rather discuss his eighth career start, which finished with a line of 16-for-24 passing for 200 yards and two touchdowns. He added 39 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries.
Golson conceded that not getting into the title game after winning every game would be disappointing. But he said he turned off the Alabama game earlier when the Tide were losing, and he is not thinking big picture as it relates to his team's improbable run in his first year under center.
"I believe so," he said of this being a special season, "but you can't really look forward to anything like that or you'll kind of drop the ball and not stick to the course. My head is just down, just sticking on, just preparing, trying to get the next one."