The Brigham Young Cougars face the Notre Dame Fighting Irish this weekend in South Bend, Indiana. During his weekly press conference, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly fielded several questions about his team and this week’s opponent. Before any questions were asked, Kelly made a surprise comparison in his opening remarks of BYU to the teams in the Big Ten conference.
“So BYU, physical football team. Again, we don't leave the Big Ten,” Kelly said. “It's another physical football team that plays great defense. They have won a couple of close games this year on the backs of their defense.
“Offensively, they have got some big bodied wide receivers, a quarterback who is a senior who can certainly make plays, well coached, and certainly from our end, we'll have to play well or we'll get beat.”
The physicality of this BYU team was a recurring theme during the press conference. When asked about how Kelly planned to rebound from the physical game just played against Stanford, he said this was business as usual.
Kelly said, “I really look at our schedule and talk about, you know, Purdue; I talk about Michigan State; I talk about Michigan; I talk about having to play them week in and week out, and that physical brand of football.
“BYU, as I mentioned in the outset, is that same kind of team. We have responded well. I don't know that we know how to play any other way, but to have that kind of effort necessary.
“So I think if we had played a bunch of spread teams coming into this game, we would probably be a little bit more concerned about it but we have already played this kind of physical brand.”
Kelly was asked specifically about BYU linebackers Brandon Ogletree and Kyle Van Noy.
Regarding Ogletree, Kelly stated, “First of all they put him in a position where he can play downhill, physical.”
He had much more to say about Van Noy, particularly in comparison to Manti Te’o and the two players’ skill sets and roles in their respective defenses.
“Both of them set their defense,” explained Kelly. “Both of them are adjusters. So they are generally asked to do a little bit more in the passing game relative to coverage.
“So I think that that's probably where we see the similarities. … If they were asked to be guys to get after the quarterback, I think they are both very capable.
“I actually see Van Noy more as an edge player; of course that's where he plays. I think the way they ask him to play, he gets the opportunity to get after the quarterback much more than Manti.
“But you know, he's a guy that is relentless like Manti. Look, the great players have the same traits. It's just they are played at different positions, but they certainly could be interchangeable. I think if you ask me the difference between the two specifically, I would want Manti running downhill hitting the guard, and I would want Van Noy exactly where he is rushing the quarterback off the edge.”
As for the entire BYU defense, Kelly added, “The rest of their players are outstanding. They are not as big and as long as Stanford's players but play just as hard and just as physical. A little quicker, maybe a little bit better in space than the Stanford players, but play a very similar scheme.”
As complimentary as he was towards the BYU defense, Kelly isn’t concerned about being unprepared for the defensive schemes Notre Dame would see from the Cougars. Although he has yet to face BYU in his three seasons at Notre Dame, Kelly thinks he has a good understanding of how BYU will play.
Kelly said, “The hardest game for us to prepare for offensively was the Purdue game, because we had a new defensive coordinator, had no film, he had been in the Canadian Football League. We had no idea how it was going to go. Bronco has been the defensive coordinator for some time there. I mean, we know how they are going to play the game and conduct the game. So I think that's less of a concern.”
The Fighing Irish have a couple of distractions this week that could prevent them from playing well. The students are out of classes for fall break this week, and family is in town for the Hawaiian players on the team, including Manti Te’o, Kona Schwenke, Chris Badger, and Robby Toma. They also have a big road game in Norman next week against No. 9 Oklahoma.
Kelly is aware that BYU could be a trap game for his team, but he is confident that won’t be the case.
“They are trap games if you forget how to go to work and do those things,” Kelly explained. “We've already talked about it with our team, and we'll make sure that we do everything to prepare the right way.”
Part of preparing “the right way” includes respecting the BYU offense. Cougar fans may be disgruntled over what they have seen on offense, but Notre Dame is taking nothing for granted.
In reference to the Riley Nelson led Cougar O, Kelly noted, “Good, physical, offensive line. Big bodied receivers that can put you in a tough position. It's a good football team. It's a solid football team. They have made some mistakes along the way, have had some close losses. They are 21-21 in the fourth quarter against Oregon State who is a Top 10 team.
“So you know, say whatever you want. Our kids turn on the film and look at BYU and go, that's a good football team. We are not turning on the film and looking at a team where the kids go, oh, these guys can't play. They are physical, play hard and play for four quarters.”
The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at email@example.com