Notre Dame-Stanford Notebook: Top Five Topics
Seeking their first 5-0 November since Knute Rockne’s final season in 1930, the 9-2 and No. 15 (Associated Press) Notre Dame Fighting Irish will face the reeling 4-7 Stanford Cardinal Saturday afternoon (4 p.m. ET/1 p.m. PT) on FOX.
Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly’s Monday press conference included these topics:
1. To End A Streak
Notre Dame is 0-5 at Stanford since 2009, which is tied for the third-longest losing streak ever by the Irish on another team’s home turf.
That in and of itself is an attention getter and motivating force for Kelly, who is 0-4 at Stanford Stadium. The fact that the Cardinal is 4-7 and on a three-game losing streak, plus it has lost four of the last five, is overshadowed by that history.
Besieged by injuries that now have the Cardinal starting three true freshmen along the offensive line, Stanford ranks 110th nationally in scoring offense (21.5 points per game) among 130 Football Bowl Subdivision teams, and is 92nd in total defense.
Former five-star quarterback Davis Mills has played in place of the injured K.J. Costello, and both provide a threat through the air. But the once-vaunted ground attack ranks only 123rd nationally with 104.4 yards per game.
“Both quarterbacks are outstanding, so we can’t change what we’re doing,” Kelly said of game planning for both. “We can only go on who they are as a football team offensively at this point. And it’s one that is going to be successful through the air.
“Both of those quarterbacks can throw the football, so we’ll have to prepare as if either one of them is starting and set our game plan accordingly.”
It’s a sharp contrast from playing two of the top five rushing teams (Navy and Boston College) the past two weeks.
2. Keeping On Schedule
With Thanksgiving break coming up, there will be no classes at Notre Dame on Wednesday. In its annual holiday trip to California, the Fighting Irish have their Thanksgiving meal at home as a team on Thursday before departing later that afternoon for the West Coast.
“We’ll try to keep our practices about the same time because we’re going to play at 1 p.m. Pacific Standard Time, which is 4 p.m. back here,” Kelly said. “We’ll try to keep our practices around 4 p.m. to keep the clock the same. But it will be a little bit lighter in terms of their load.
“We don’t want to upset the routine. We did that a little bit earlier in the year [versus Michigan] and that didn’t seem to work out very well.”
3. Not A “Perfect 10,” But …
Since going permanently to a 12-game regular-season schedule in 2006, this could be the fifth time the current 9-2 Notre Dame team reaches the 10-win milestone prior to the bowl game: 10-2 in 2006 and 2015, and 12-0 in 2012 and 2018.
Ten wins in the regular season is not the ultimate aspiration, but it is a good benchmark to at least remain a top-10 program while striving to get higher.
“We don’t put a number on it,” Kelly said of defining success. “We simply say that we want to graduate champions. And we want champion performances from our football team in our program each and every year.
“What that looks like, sometimes we don’t have control over that. We don’t have any control what bowl game we go to per se. We don’t have control over who the top four teams would be even if we felt like we had a championship football team.
“So, it’s building a standard and what that expectation should look like in terms of how your team plays week in, week out.”
He did acknowledge that a 10-2 regular season is “a pretty high bar.”
“To win 10 out of 12 games each year, given the kind of schedule that we play … if you had that stock, you’d probably be pretty happy,” Kelly said.
4. Personnel/Two-Deep Update
Senior wide receiver Javon McKinley was not listed on this week’s two-deep chart released by Notre Dame. He suffered a foot injury at Duke Nov. 9.
Sophomore defensive tackle Jayson Ademilola will be evaluated day to day after incurring an ankle sprain versus Navy Nov. 16. He was withheld from action versus Boston College.
Kelly indicated that senior right guard Tommy Kraemer, who suffered a knee sprain at Michigan Oct. 26, has been pretty much ruled out from playing in a bowl game. The hope is he will be cleared for full work in the spring.
Freshman defensive end Isaiah Foskey is expected to be in the rotation versus Stanford in nickel packages. He was held out of the Navy and Boston College games so that he would not burn his freshman year of eligibility that does not allow one to play more than four games. The Cardinal passing attack fits his wheelhouse and skills set.
“We think he can be a very special player,” Kelly said. “Certainly we wouldn’t have saved him for this game. We feel like the pass rush is going to be very, very important.
“… We think he can influence the pass rush for us in a positive way.”
5. ‘Failure Isn’t Fatal’
As much as the stench from the 45-14 loss at Michigan Oct. 26 has remained in the air, closing with a 5-0 November has Kelly waxing philosophically.
“When we talk about failure, we also talk about the other side of that, and that is this elusive thought of perfection — because we're not after that either,” he said. “We’re after excellence. … And so we just try to keep it real as it relates to, in life, there isn't perfection.
“You strive for perfection, never really getting there. And there’s always going to be failures. It’s how you deal with them.”