Notre Dame can likely sigh a breath of relief this week, with UMass the opponent Saturday, between matchups against Georgia Tech and Clemson. You just won't hear those sentiments out of the Irish this week.
"It's a big transition from Georgia Tech to UMass, specifically what they do on offense with shifting and trading and formations. It's a nightmare in terms of what we're going to have to get ready for, and then defensively preparing for both three-down and four-down and a veteran secondary, as well," said head coach Brian Kelly, who added that the Minutemen are one of the best teams in the Mid-American Conference. "[They're a] well-coached football team and one that we'll have to play well if we expect to win."
UMass is 5-33 in its last 38 games, but head coach Mark Whipple is improving the program during his second stint there. The team fell just short, 25-23, of beating Temple on Saturday.
Notre Dame enters its second game with sophomore DeShone Kizer at quarterback. He efficiently led the Irish offense to a 30-22 toppling of Georgia Tech at home Saturday, completing on 21 of 30 passes for 242 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
"There are some fundamentals that need to be cleaned up," Kelly said. "Ball security, I was a little bit concerned with the ball being a little bit loose at times. Ball came out one time, a screen situation, where it was intentional grounding, but we've got to eat that. I think there was another time on a run where the ball came out at the end of a run.
"[We need to] tighten up those things a little bit. Tighten up his footwork a little bit. He was off in some accuracy in some lower throws that we'll work on hard this week.
"We've got to be a little bit better with our cadence. He pauses a little bit too much in his verbal cadence."
On Kizer's lone turnover, the interception on a fade to junior Corey Robinson, Kelly explained the two shared the blame for the giveaway.
"First of all, Corey has to stay outside," Kelly said. "When Corey saw the corner jump outside, he immediately worked back inside. … However, prior to that, [Kizer] should have seen the safety that was aligned on the back side of the formation. Once he saw that safety lined up weak, which is his movement key on the play, that would have got his eyes to the front side and saw man-to-man coverage, and that's where the ball should have went. It should have went to [junior slot receiver] Torii Hunter on the corner route to the front side."
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• Robinson has caught four passes for 45 yards through three games, which is a disappointment with many expecting him to take a step forward in the offense this season.
He ranks fourth among receivers in snaps (67 compared to Will Fuller's 183, Chris Brown's 118 and Amir Carlisle's 79) and is just ahead of Hunter's total of 65.
Kelly, however, is not concerned.
"We were looking at it, as well, in terms of production," Kelly said. "It's just the luck of the draw in terms of when he's in and he just - he got the calls when he was in the game at that time. It will all even out statistically. It generally does and we think it probably will."
• Kelly reiterated that he plans on playing freshman quarterback Brandon Wimbush "sooner rather than later." Wimbush was warming up on the sidelines while the Irish led 30-7, but once the Yellow Jackets made a late run to cut the score to 30-22, Kelly didn't want to put him in and let something "crazy happen."
With the Irish currently 27.5-point favorites over UMass, this might be the perfect week to insert Wimbush into the game.