This is Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly’s favorite time of the year.
No, not because of the drop in temperatures or the holiday frenzy that’s due to start any day now — if it hasn’t already.
It’s November, and Kelly rarely loses in November.
“It’s not just one thing. There is no answer to it, it’s just our approach every day,” Kelly said Tuesday. “You’ve got to play well in November, too. So your practices have got to be right on, and I think we’ve done a pretty good job. We’ll see how it goes this November.”
Kelly has a 51-13 career record this month, and you have to go back to a 2007 game against West Virginia for his last loss in November or December.
That’s a 15-game winning streak for anyone who’s counting, and you can be sure the Irish (5-3) and their fans are as they head to Wake Forest (5-3) for Saturday night’s game.
Though a lopsided loss to USC ended any chance Notre Dame had at a BCS game, a strong finish would earn the Irish a postseason invite somewhere and, more importantly, give them an additional month of practice.
Notre Dame’s next three games are against teams with a combined 9-15 record. It finishes the regular season with a trip to No. 4 Stanford, one of six unbeatens left.
“Yeah, we would like to start better, there is no question. But I think my philosophy is always about how you finish and not how you start,” Kelly said. “Clearly our teams have played well in November. (But) each year is a different year. Our starting defensive end is out. We’ve got injuries, like other teams. But I know the kids, when they go to practice today, they’re mentally and physically ready to play.”
This is the first meeting between Notre Dame and the Demon Deacons, and Wake Forest is giving it the kind of hype usually reserved for a Tobacco Road basketball rivalry.
Wake is billing it as “one of the biggest games in the history” of 43-year-old BB&T Field, and some seats near the 50-yard line behind the Notre Dame bench were going for more than $350 Tuesday.
That kind of buzz gets little more than a yawn from the Irish, who play in front of almost 81,000 at home and are used to being the biggest game on all of their opponents’ schedules.
For the Demon Deacons, though, this will be an entirely new experience
“We’re not playing Oklahoma here, but they are Notre Dame, so you definitely get more excited and more of a hype-type high,” said Wake Forest nose guard Nikita Whitlock, who has been fielding ticket requests for this week’s game since before the season started.
“Everybody knows who Notre Dame is. They play on national TV every week. They’ve got about 30 movies out about just Notre Dame. Who doesn’t know Notre Dame? So the electricity’s different there.
“I think one of the biggest challenges of Notre Dame is putting all of that in the back of your head. Put that in the back of your head and just play,” Whitlock added. “They’re not any different than any other team.”
The Demon Deacons have lost two of three since upsetting then-No. 23 Florida State, including a 49-24 loss to North Carolina last weekend. The Irish have won five of six after opening the season with back-to-back losses, but this is their first road game in a month and first trip outside the state of Indiana since Sept. 24.
But Kelly said he’s not concerned with that.
“We played well on the road,” he said. “So I didn’t talk much about that. I have in the past with other teams, but I think nine games into the season, they know what to do and how to do it.”
It is November, after all.
Notes: Kelly said it’s too soon to say whether DE Ethan Johnson will play this week. Johnson has missed the past three games with an ankle injury.