Brian Kelly admits he's personally quite excited to bring his 7-0 Irish to Norman this week to face the 5-1, 8th ranked Sooners of Oklahoma.
"This is why you coach at Notre Dame," Kelly said of the extra juice you get going into this week.
“Our kids are certainly excited to play Oklahoma--a great program, tradition. Coach Stoops has done what we are hoping to do here.”
Oklahoma is a remarkable 79-4 at home over the last 13 years.
That’s where we want to be," Kelly said of what Oklahoma is doing. "We want that consistency year in and year out. We’re not there yet. We are trending towards there.”
Kelly feels in year three of his program, Notre Dame is making the strides to move its program to the next level.
"We're getting to that point where we don't do many things that cause losing," Kelly explained.
The 5th ranked Irish struggled to beat BYU at Notre Dame Stadium Saturday night 17-14. After the game, Kelly said his team needed to enjoy the win more. He's also consistently talked about the importance of enjoy the journey.
“If I doesn’t become fun for you, you lose your edge," Kelly said Tuesday. "The teams that have success in November, enjoy the process. We don’t come over here and have smores and camp fires, you still have enjoy the process.”
"I've had teams that really enjoy the process, and that's how it is with this group. They're fun to be around."
Everett Golson returns at quarterback for the Irish this week after sitting out the BYU game due to a concussion suffered against Stanford. Golson was cleared to play against the Cougars but Kelly gave it extra precaution. Golson went through a tough cardio workout Monday and Kelly said Everett did a very good job with that.
"He's excited to play against Oklahoma and we expect him to play well," Kelly said.
Even Kelly would admit, the Sooners have the edge at quarterback with veteran Landry Jones.
“He’s gotten into a good rhythm," Kelly says of Jones. "He hasn’t been disrupted very much.”
Kelly says Notre Dame can't allow Jones to get comfortable or he can pose major problems for ND. Kelly feels the Sooners have the best group of wide receivers Notre Dame has faced this season.
“We’re quite aware of their ability to get vertical. We take great pride in
being able to minimize those plays.”
“It starts with our front seven, forcing teams to be off schedule. We have been very good against the run."
This game could very well come down to turnovers and special teams. The Irish are one of the top teams in the country on turnover margin but have struggled on special teams.
When asked about a grade for special teams this season, Kelly joked "A+", later admitting he didn't really mean that.
Kelly says the Irish are who they are on punt returns due to a lack of depth. He says injuries caused players to be moved around quite a bit and the team may not get much better in that area until next season.
He does feel they need to do a better job on kickoff returns. Kelly feels the unit must give George Atkinson III more room to run in space. Atkinson ran back two kickoffs for touchdowns last season but hasn't come close to breaking one this season.
With the exception of some missed field goals, Kelly feels the kicking game has been solid.
Notre Dame and Oklahoma kickoff at 8pm Saturday in Norman.