SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The only break Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly wants the Fighting Irish players taking this week is from classes.
Midterm exams and a hard-fought win over No. 22 Stanford are behind them and a big game is looming next week on the road at 10h-ranked Oklahoma. Still, Kelly said he doesn’t expect the fifth-ranked Irish (6-0) to overlook this week’s game against Brigham Young (4-3).
“I think it’s a trap game each week if you think that you can take a breather,” Kelly said.
The Irish aren’t sure whether they will have starting quarterback Everett Golson, although Kelly said he expects him to play against BYU. Kelly said Golson still needs to pass the computer part of his cognitive testing following the concussion he sustained against Stanford before he’ll be cleared to play.
Kelly said missing practice Tuesday shouldn’t hamper Golson’s preparation too much, since he was limited in practice the previous two weeks because of turf toe and a shoulder injury. Kelly is preparing Tommy Rees and Andrew Hendrix to play just in case.
If Golson isn’t ready to practice until Thursday, it would limit some things Notre Dame could do passing against BYU, Kelly said.
BUY coach Bronco Mendenhall said the Cougars will have to wait and see who plays.
“It’s more adjusting on game day the best you can. We’ll prepare for the best of what they both do and then we’ll see what happens,” he said.
Mendenhall said he’s not concerned about whether the Irish might be overlooking the Cougars.
“Right now I’m just worried about improving our team, so who knows what their mindset is?” he asked.
Irish players said following the win over Stanford they wouldn’t be overlooking BYU or anyone else.
“We can’t be focusing on being 12-0,” linebacker Manti Te’o said. “We can only focus on 7-0 and 8-0 and so on and so forth.”
Tight end Tyler Eifert said the coaches make sure the Irish remain focused.
“The coaches do a good job of keeping us humble and reminding us that it’s not easy to win in college football and to take every game seriously,” he said.
Kelly said although the Irish may be sleeping in a bit later during the fall break while other students are away from campus, he is tightening things up to make sure they know this is not an easy week.
“If that locker room is a mess, there’s going to be a long practice today — and they know that. If the game room looks like a pigsty, it’s going to be a long practice today,” he said. “My point is this: I think they are all trap games, every single one of them, if you take a breather. But if you just stay on the course, continue to do what you’re doing, we’ll be fine.”
Kelly said anyone watching him on the sidelines can tell he has more confidence that his team knows what he expects from them. He has a much calmer demeanor this season compared to the occasional tirade he showed last season.
“This just didn’t happen, you know,” he said. “This is demanding, that mental and physical toughness. The pride and tradition of Notre Dame football will not be left to the weak, the timid or the non-committed. That’s in our locker room. That was put up the first day I got here.”