This is why you wait until it’s over. As baseball great Yogi Berra said, “it ain’t over ‘till it’s over.” That phrase definitely proved true of Brian Kelly and the 2010 Notre Dame Fighting Irish. In two short months, Kelly is on the fast track to doing what he was hired for last year – bringing respect back to South Bend.
Think back to the night of October 30th. Kelly, sitting in his South Bend office, was fully indoctrinated in Irish stress. His team had just lost a game at home to Tulsa on an awful play call. Dayne Crist, the starting quarterback, was done for the season, giving way to an 18 year old freshman who looked nothing but awful in the few snaps he had taken.
Add in the gravity of losing team employee Declan Sullivan to a video stand tragedy earlier in the week in practice, the flak that Kelly was taking from the incident, and it must have become clear why so many had recently failed in the position he now occupies.
Then Kelly separated himself. Then Kelly proved why he is the right man for one of the most demanding jobs in all of sports. Instead of folding like so many before him had in the face of adversity, Kelly rose up. Kelly soared where others had shrunk.
It was in a senior day win over Utah when the program showed the first signs of a fight they haven’t had since Lou Holtz patrolled the sideline. Then came a predictable, but important pounding of Army at Yankee Stadium. The laughable losses of the past three years had washed away the taste of the previously familiar lesser quality opponent beat down.
The regular season ended with a win over USC in L.A that could not have been more significant. It was the first big road win of Brian Kelly and quarterback Tommy Rees’s careers. Behind and not playing well late in the game, the Irish got out of dodge with a last second win in a stadium that had been a house of horrors for years.
But all that would have been in vain had Notre Dame come out and laid a stinker on the field in El Paso on New Year’s Eve. They didn’t. In fact, the 33-17 thrashing of the Miami Hurricanes put an appropriate bow on 2010. The message: things are looking up.
Rees continued his strong case to start in 2010. 195 passing yards, two touchdowns, and zero interceptions acted as a veritable dare to his head coach – “go ahead, start someone else.”
The run game was stout, something that was lacking for most of the year. Robert Hughes carried the load with 84 yards on 27 carries and Cierre Wood continued to show his promise with 84 yards on 11 carries.
Hughes and Reese are clearly the future of this offense. Any retardation of that development would be counterproductive.
Perhaps Kelly’s greatest accomplishment was the transformation of a side of the ball that isn’t even his specialty. Defensively, the Irish were a different team after the Tulsa loss.
The unit intercepted Miami four times, three of them going to Harrison Smith. In the last four games, the Irish defense was aggressive, but not to a fault, opportunistic, and all around dominant.
Don’t let the final score fool you, this game wasn’t close. Miami showed little fight in the first half, leading to a dominant performance reminiscent of the 2008 Hawaii Bowl. That bowl was arguably Weis’ biggest win.
Here’s hoping that a 2009 Sun Bowl victory is only page in the BK at ND comprehensive bio, not the one highlight.
If the last five weeks are any indication, it won’t be even close.
About the Author
Written by Jordan Lauterbach
Jordan Lauterbach began his career in sports media when he was just 15 years old at WKWZ - Syosset. He hosted a sports talk show for nearly four years before moving on to WCWP - Brookville in 2006. Lauterbach currently hosts a sports talk show every Wednesday night from 9pm - midnight (eastern) and a College Football talk show on Saturday mornings from 11am - 12:30 (eastern) (can be heard online at wcwpsports.com and on Long Island on 88.1fm). Follow me on twiiter: jlauterbach1