Earlier this week, I said these words: “The lead-in to this game [against Miami] feels an awful lot like the 2015 game at Clemson.” The Irish were College Football Playoff Contenders. The Tigers were undefeated. The Irish played in a hurricane versus Clemson. They’ll be playing against a bunch of Hurricanes on Saturday.
It seems like Notre Dame fans have seen the previews of this movie before. The Irish have had their fair share of opportunities in the national spotlight over the years, after all. Most of those opportunities have fallen by the wayside. Once again, however, the Irish and Coach Brian Kelly have been given an opportunity for a do-over. The Irish have the opportunity to heal the wounds left by agonizing road losses to Florida State, Clemson, and Stanford, just to name a few.
In sports, so often perception is reality. Brian Kelly is a really good football coach. Notre Dame is a really good football team. That’s the reality. But if the Irish fall to Miami Saturday night, the perception will be that Notre Dame, under the direction of Kelly, is a mediocre program that chokes under the pressure of the brightest of lights.
But, for some reason, this Irish team has a different feel.
Parseghian’s Influence Makes the Difference
In August, legendary Notre Dame coach Ara Parseghian passed away. The Irish have worn “ARA” across their helmets in memory of perhaps the University’s most famous coach, who preached the same message of domination Brian Kelly is preaching now. Parseghian urged his team to push their opponents to their breaking point. In addition, he printed the words “We have no breaking point” on the last page of his playbook. Coach Kelly must have borrowed that page.
Since their loss to Georgia in the second week of the season, there hasn’t been much of a let-up in Notre Dame’s relentlessness to punish opponents. Coach Kelly and company have been vocal that their goal isn’t simply winning–it’s domination.
That mindset of domination is the difference in this Notre Dame team. It’s why they will win on Saturday.
It seems clear that Kelly has taken particular inspiration from Parseghian this season. In addition to his message to his team, it seems as if Kelly’s re-invention as a coach was directly influenced by the man who would send him hand-written notes after every game. When speaking on what he learned from Parseghian, Kelly said it was Parseghian’s “innovative style” that influenced him most: “He was going to fit his offense and defense to players that he had. He always was about his players first and his plays second.”
Kelly certainly has been more of a man of the people this season. It has made all the difference on the football field.
Kelly will reach a milestone on Saturday–it will be the 100th game he has walked the sideline as the head coach at the University of Notre Dame. But it will be another milestone that he will be chasing. Kelly will be looking to lead his team to its first road win against a top-10 team since the Irish beat Oklahoma in Norman in 2012.
With a singular goal of domination in mind, the Irish will look to silence any remaining doubters on Saturday.