Kelly: We must play our best game of the year to beat Oklahoma


Notre Dame propelled itself to an undefeated regular season in 2012 thanks in large part to a win on the road at Oklahoma last year, in what was arguably the program's biggest road win in 20 years.

"You are going to have to see a similar kind of effort," Irish coach Brian Kelly says of this week's rematch versus the Sooners. "We certainly know that--we've played Oklahoma before. We know what to expect. Our guys know what Oklahoma will bring to South Bend. This isn't a week where we worry about getting our guys' attention."

Notre Dame will host Oklahoma at 3:30 Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium. At his weekly press conference, Kelly admitted that he probably he probably couldn't praise the Sooners anymore than he was because he was that high on them.

"We finish off the month of September with another great challenge in Oklahoma," Kelly said. "Bob Stoops' team has been a benchmark for consistency and success. We have a lot of work to do, going up against a very skilled group. As skilled as I've seen in the country. They have an extremely talented wide receiver corp."

"I don't know any more superlatives that I can use. Just a very talented and well coached football team. We will have to play our best game of the season."

The Sooners are 3-0 and coming off a bye. The Irish are 3-1, coming off another close victory--this time over Michigan State 17-13. Over the last 13 months, the Irish have won every game that's been decided by a touchdown or less.

"I think it happens over a period of time," Kelly says when asked about his team's confidence to win a close game. "When we first got here, we weren't able to win some of those games. Now, it's the will to prepare and the belief to win. You still have to perform. We didn't perform against Michigan and we didn't win."

"There is definitely a positive reinforcement and belief they can win. We've won a lot of football games. That all go towards that belief that they can win, no matter what the circumstances are. It's still about 'you gotta make plays.'"

Once again, the Irish will face a quarterback that can run. This time its Blake Bell, who will make his 2nd career start at quarterback and his first ever road start when he arrives in South Bend this weekend. Kelly feels the Irish have improved in its ability to contain the dual threat quarterback as the season has gone on.

"A lot of it has to do with the ability to not give up big plays," Kelly explained. "You have to be sound and fundamental. You can't give up easy runs. When the quarterback is running the football, you have to make sure you are minimizing big plays."

Bell is best known for his running ability. As the backup QB to Landry Jones last year, he was used in the "Belldozer" package where he ran the ball in tight quarters down by the goal line. In fact, Bell rushed for a touchdown against the Irish last year. It was the first rushing touchdown the Irish defense gave up in 2012.

But Kelly feels Bell is capable of a lot more than just running it.

"He has nice touch on the ball.," Kelly says of Bell. "He looks like a thrower rather than a runner. He's a skilled passer of the football."

Kelly says the Irish will continue to look to use five different running backs, including freshman Greg Bryant who did not get a chance to rush the football against Michigan State.

"We have to run the ball better," Kelly says. "Everyone in this room and in the country knows that. It won't be easy against Oklahoma either. We just know we have to be better at it."

Irish defensive end Sheldon Day, who continues to nurse an ankle injury, is expected to practice on Tuesday and gradually do more as the week progresses, according to Kelly.

Countdown to Kickoff gets you started at 2:30 on Saturday on WNDU with the Irish and Sooners to follow at 3:30.


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