Another College Football Playoff is upon the Fightin’ Irish. The 107th Rose Bowl is in a different location. After the the way 2020 went, there is no surprise that game is being relocated to Arlington Texas, AT& Stadium. The journey to this point started back in 2018 in the College Football Playoff game against Clemson. The emotions in the locker room that evening is the driving force that has gotten this team to where they are today.
Over the past two years this team has faced much adversity. The adversity hit critical mass this season. A season that had an opening game in Ireland against Navy and ending with USC, ended up with a season opening against Duke and culminated with an ACC Championship against Clemson. Heck, If not playing Clemson once was not good enough, playing them twice was quite the feat.
This game is about teams from different ends of the spectrum. You have a formidable always ranked in the CFP in Alabama and a team that needs to to go out and prove themselves a contender in Notre Dame. Even the way these two teams carried themselves through the press conferences this past week were completely different.
On the Notre Dame side, they carried a humble, appreciative to be there approach to the conferences. On the Alabama side of the press conferences, the players seemed to be walking through the paces of the event. The press pool was even more focused on the 2017 signing class and talent versus the focus on the game. This is the absolute big difference that separates the two schools, a focus on team versus a focus on individuals. At some point the the team focus needs to prevail, similarly to David and Goliath. I say expect the unexpected. It’s time for Notre Dame to start the “right the wrongs of the past tour”, and it starts with Alabama.
Coach Kelly Press Conference
“First of all, it is such a great honor to be here at the Rose Bowl. Obviously we want to thank the
great city of Dallas and partnering with the Rose Bowl to give us this unique opportunity to play this game.”
“As I had said earlier, it was so important for us to make certain that we got our players’ parents to be part of this special game. And again I want to thank the College Football Playoffs for making this happen. And so on behalf of Notre Dame, a really big thank you for putting this together to allow our student-athletes the opportunity to really be celebrated by their families, to be at this game here at AT&T Stadium.”
“So, once again, thank you to the Rose Bowl, Capital One and certainly the College Football Playoffs and, as I said, the great city of Dallas for giving us this opportunity to play this game.”
“Now on to the game. We’re very excited to be back here. And this is, for us, a journey that we’ve been on since June. Our players have come through like all other teams that have been on this similar journey, through so many things during the pandemic.”
“And I couldn’t be more proud of a football team. I’m sure Coach Saban feels the same way, and anybody that’s
been asked these same questions, how they feel about their football team. This is a unique team, a bond that you build with a team that’s unlike any others when you go through the things that we’ve had to go through relative to COVID and testing and changing your lifestyle and habits.”
“And I just love this team, and I love what they’re about. And I can’t wait to watch them play. They’re going to
perform at a high level. They’ll need to because this is an outstanding football team. And, again, want to
congratulate Alabama for, again, being here and being part of the playoffs.”
“And we know the challenges in front of us, but we welcome those challenges. That’s why we go to work each and every day to put ourselves in this position. And we’re going to keep knocking at the door. We don’t listen to the narratives about what Notre Dame can and can’t do.”
“We’re just excited that we’re going to keep banging at this door and we’re going to get through. We’re going to keep putting ourselves in this position. And we’re excited about the opportunity that we’ve got for us tomorrow.”
Media Question: “There’s always been a long association between Alabama and Notre Dame, dating back to Frank Thomas was the roommate of George Gipp, I believe, and then he was the head football coach of Alabama, of Coach Bryant. Coach, you have Jay Bramblett from Tuscaloosa, your punter. Howard Cross III, his dad, Howard Cross scored a touchdown against Notre Dame in ’86. And then Lance Taylor, the running back coach. How did all those associations materialize?”
Coach Kelly Response: “Well, I think when you talk about historic and tradition, Notre Dame, Alabama, those two schools are going to keep coming up. And when you talk about the names that you brought up, they’re going to gravitate towards those great programs.”
“And so I think there are always going to be connections between the great programs in the country. Whether it’s Alabama and Notre Dame or it’s Notre Dame and USC, there’s always going to be some kind of connections or Alabama and some of the other great programs around the country. Obviously Alabama and Clemson comes to mind with Dabo.”
“So I think there’s always going to be those connections with the great programs throughout the country.”
Shake Down The Thunder Sports Question: “The last question is a great segue into my question with the WIN
acronym. That kind of work for the team all season, how does the WIN acronym — What’s Important Now,
What’s Important Next — work as the window tightens the season?”
Coach Kelly Response: “Well, in a lot of different ways. What’s Important Now is certainly our focus — not being distracted by guys going to the NFL, are they coming back, when will I get a chance to see my family again, what’s the schedule look like next week? When we win, are we off a couple days? So you can understand that that acronym in relative terms doesn’t necessarily always revolve around football.”
“Anything that can distract any of us, right, and that being a schedule, for example. And our guys need to know sometimes what’s next, as well as what’s the next 24 hours look like. So it applies in so many areas. When we’re dealing with young men that want to know what’s the next 14 days look like for me. Am I going home? Are we staying here for Christmas? What’s the schedule look like? Those are important conversations to have as well.”
Coach Saban Press Conference
“We’re certainly excited. Our team is very excited about having the opportunity to play in the
Rose Bowl sponsored by Capital One. It’s kind of an honor for us to play against a very well-coached Notre Dame team. Brian Kelly’s team has had an outstanding season. A very, very good team.”
“Our team has had a really good week of preparation, and we’re kind of looking at this because of the sort of unusual season that we’re having even for bowl games. Just going today as if this is a normal road trip for us, but certainly not a normal game for us and something our players are excited about and really fortunate to have the opportunity to play in the College Football Playoff.”
Player Press Conference
Going back to the earlier statement about team versus individual. Kyle Hamilton’s response couldn’t be more different than Najee Harris response to a similar style a question. It’s a testament to how Notre Dame Football recruits. I will take a thousand Kyle Hamilton’s any day.
Media Question: “You were an elite recruit, I think that’s fair to say. And I’m going to make an assumption that you lived in a world or sort of occupied a world where you had interactions with other elite recruits through camps and things along those lines. I’m wondering if you can provide a little bit of insight. It does very much seem like the kids who are recruited at that level all sort of end up at the same schools, or there’s a very small
number of schools that seem to interest recruits at that level. Did you sense that when you were with kids who were being recruited at that level, that everybody seemed to have Georgia, Alabama, Clemson, Ohio
State, maybe Notre Dame in there? And I guess the other part of it, do you have any sense of why?”
“Kyle Hamilton Response: Yeah, definitely. I mean, those schools are blue bloods of college football. It’s like going to Duke for basketball or Kentucky, or Kansas for basketball. It’s a professional factory. If you go there your chances of getting to the NFL are lot higher than if you go to mid-major or other schools.”
“I think kids lucky enough to be in that position understand that and understand what they can do if they do well in college to hopefully provide for their family and their loved ones.”
“I think that provides a big boost to those schools because they have a reputation, including us, of just putting guys in the league and making kids’ lives better and making their dreams come true, stuff like that.”
“I think ultimately what separated Notre Dame for me is the academic aspect, because football is going to end at some point. And I want to know that I’ll be well educated and well connected throughout the school. I think Notre Dame provided the best opportunity for me to do that.”
“So I think that’s what separates it from every other school in the country, just the fact that we are a perennial College Football Playoff team along with the fact that we’re a top 15 school in the country academically.
“I think the blue bloods they’re attractive to high recruits and even lower recruits who they deserve to go to schools, but I think that may be the reason why highly recruited kids choose those schools.”
Najee Harris Response
Media Question: “:At Alabama, the 2017 class that you were potentially going to be a part of when you were making your decision?”
Najee Harris Response: “Going back to recruitment, I didn’t like it. It’s too much attention, way too much attention for me. I think I just showed up here, I just showed up, I didn’t even tell them I was coming here. I just showed up, I was tired of it, I popped up at the airport with Tua. And I didn’t even know all the recruits that was here.”
“So first day of practice, I seen all these recruits I knew in high school. I look around I’m like, man, we’ve actually got a pretty good recruiting class here.”
“And, I mean, obviously it showed up in the championship game freshman year and now ever since. I think it took off. Coach Saban did a really good job of recruiting. And hopefully we get to bring one home, Naty home.”
Keys To a Notre Dame Rose Bowl Victory
The offensive line needs to protect Ian Book. The line needs to allow the opportunity for the pass game to develop and to make the necessary gaps for the run game. Zeke Correll and Josh Lugg need to deliver the ball cleanly to Book. The last couple games delivery has had an impact on the game resulting in drive stops and loss of yards. Touchdowns versus Field Goals is a must. Alabama is going to get their points in the game. Controlling the ball on offense will aid in keeping Mac Jones and his weapons off the field. Execution of the game plan must include plays that works towards the Fightin’ Irish “triple threat” offense it has in it’s arsenal. Mental mistakes will be costly against an Alabama defense.
The Irish defense has been tenacious all season. In the words of Coach Lea he sums up the defensive side of the ball, “And I know that sounds a little cliché, but I think what I want to point out is just when guys function as 1 of 11, it streamlines their processing in snap. And when you streamline processing within a snap, you’re able to play at your physical best, because you’re just exerting your strength and power through your technique.”
“So I think obviously focus on execution, focus on being 1 of 11, focus on playing fast and physical, getting to our technique faster than the opponent is a part of it. And obviously, as the games get bigger and the opponents get better, when you have small lapses or small issues, they become big and you can get exposed really quickly.”
“So we have to be on point. This is a really good offense we’re playing. And we’re excited to go at it with them. But we’re definitely going to have to shore up some things on our end and, again, play to our level best.”
The Wrap Up
There is nothing more this team can do but execute the way they have all season. The ACC Championship needs to be in the rearview mirror. Personally the Clemson loss was good for this team. This team has the mental toughness that is needed to beat Alabama. Playing this game should be all muscle memory. The practices were probably more difficult than the game will be. The fourth phase of the game is going to be the deciding factor and that phase is the mental aspect of executing against Alabama.
Cheers and Go Irish ☘🏈🌹🌩