Despite blowout loss, Notre Dame here to stay

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Despite blowout loss, Notre Dame here to stay

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Braxston Cave had a simple declaration to make as Notre Dame players came to grips with a 42-14 drubbing at the hands of Alabama.

"Notre Dame's back," Cave said. "Not how we wanted to (play) tonight, but we're back."

Being back doesn't mean being on Alabama's level, though. Plenty of Irish coaches and players talked about the gap between themselves and Alabama, which won its third championship in four seasons Monday night.

Auburn was the only team to break Alabama's stranglehold on the Coaches' Trophy since 2009. But two years after coaching Auburn to a BCS Championship win over Oregon, Gene Chizik was fired. After a meteoric rise, his program came crashing back to earth without its transcendent quarterback in Cam Newton.

That's one way to build a program, one which succeeds on the back of a star player. That's not how Brian Kelly has built Notre Dame. This is a program built to last, to succeed well into the future.

"We would certainly like to think we're not going to take a step backwards," offensive coordinator Chuck Martin said. "That doesn't mean we're going to play in the National Championship game every year, obviously that's very difficult. But the fact we can show up in the fall and that can be a realistic goal, we want to be in the BCS every year and hopefully get back to this game, and hopefully get back to this game where we play a lot better when we get here."

Manti Te'o is done at Notre Dame, as is the case for Cave, Tyler Eifert, Kapron Lewis-Moore and potentially Cierre Wood, who will decided whether to return for his senior season in a few days.

But Notre Dame has the nation's top-ranked recruiting class entering the program this year, a group stocked with the kind of "big skill" guys coach Brian Kelly and his coaching staff have targeted. Plus, Notre Dame will return plenty of talent, led by guys like offensive lineman Zack Martin, defensive end Stephon Tuitt and defensive tackle Louis Nix.

"We would certainly like to think we're not going to take a step backwards," Martin said. "That doesn't mean we're going to play in the National Championship game every year, obviously that's very difficult. But the fact we can show up in the fall and that can be a realistic goal, we want to be in the BCS every year and hopefully get back to this game, and hopefully get back to this game where we play a lot better when we get here. That's the goal, no doubt, at Notre Dame."

And, if you're looking for a positive from the BCS Championship, Everett Golson held serve, completing 21 of 36 passes for 270 yards and a touchdown against a defense that completely took away the threat of Notre Dame's running game.

"We got a lot of guys returning, a lot of guys who didn't play this year who can play," wide receiver DaVaris Daniels, who caught six passes for 115 yards against Alabama, said. "The future looks bright for us."

The clock is now ticking on the current BCS format, which will go away after next year's championship game. It'll be replaced by a four-team playoff, while Notre Dame has a tie-in with the Orange Bowl and a partnership with the ACC that'll assure the program won't be left behind. For all the consternation over Notre Dame's relevancy half a year ago, there's no questioning it now.

"When you start winning around here, you start to see what it does to the community, what it does to the fans and how it rejuvenates college football, and you realize that this program, this university means so much more," offensive lineman Chris Watt said. "And when Notre Dame's on top, college football's better."

For now, though, Notre Dame will go back to the drawing board. They now have a first-hand look at what the best college football program in the nation looks like -- and even before Monday's game, Kelly talked about getting Notre Dame to Alabama's level.

"Your program is defined in consistency, and Alabama is that model," Kelly said. "I concede to that. It's where we want to be."

No other team is there, though. Alabama is alone atop college football in terms of success as a program. Oregon is closer than anyone else, but Notre Dame is getting there.

Notre Dame couldn't make the giant leap to Alabama's level in South Florida. It'll take plenty of small steps, but this program is confident they'll get to that point.

"Obviously we didn't finish the way we wanted," Cave said, "but these guys coming back are going to be here to take the next step and finish the right way next year."

Mike Tirico and Dhani Jones join Notre Dame's NBC broadcast team

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USA Today Sports Images

Mike Tirico and Dhani Jones join Notre Dame's NBC broadcast team

Newly acquired NBC analyst Mike Tirico will serve as the play-by-play commentator for three Notre Dame games this season, NBC Sports announced Tuesday.

Tirico, who left ESPN after 25 years and joined NBC in May, will call Notre Dame's games against Nevada, Michigan State and Duke in September.

Lead announcer Dan Hicks will be on assignment for NBC Sports' coverage of the Fed-Ex Cup Playoffs. Hicks will return to his post for Notre Dame's final four home games of the season, including Stanford, Miami, Army and Virginia Tech.

After his time covering Notre Dame, Tirico will serve as the host of NBC's Football Night in America.

It was also announced that Dhani Jones will join the NBC pregame and halftime analyst Liam McHugh. Jones spent 11 seasons in the NFL after playing linebacker for the University of Michigan.

Notre Dame adjusts to schedule disruption of Sunday opener

Notre Dame adjusts to schedule disruption of Sunday opener

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- It’s been 20 years since Notre Dame last played a non-Saturday regular season game, which was a 14-7 win at Vanderbilt on Thursday, Sept. 5, 1996. A good chunk of Notre Dame’s current roster wasn’t born yet when that game took place. 

So Sunday night’s season opener against Texas presents some logistical challenges for Notre Dame not only for this week, but in having next week’s Nevada preparation shortened by a day. 

Coach Brian Kelly, though, does have some experience opening a season on a day that isn’t the usual Saturday. Kelly’s Cincinnati Bearcats beat Rutgers on Labor Day in 2009, then had to get ready for a game five days later (which fortunately was against FCS side Southest Missouri State, resulting in a 70-3 Cincinnati win). 

Notre Dame gave its players Monday off this week and won’t leave for Austin until late Friday. Saturday will then have the team’s usual Friday activities, with a bonus that players won’t have to get up early to go to class before traveling — they’ll already be there, so they can sleep in and get more rest before playing on Sunday. 

“I like it,” Kelly said. “I think the guys enjoy getting a little extra rest, extra treatments. And so I think it comes at a good time for our team.”

Where the challenge lies is next week, when the team won’t get back to South Bend until the early hours of the morning Monday. Classes are in session at Notre Dame on Labor Day, and then practice, film study, meetings, etc. for Nevada still has to fit in the usual Tuesday-Friday window, though that will probably have to be tweaked a bit. 

“Generally where it affects you more is on that next week is where you really have to be careful,” Kelly said. “Because we'll get back in at 4 a.m. Monday and then we play Nevada that Saturday. So my concern is usually around the flip side of it, because you adjust your schedule a little bit.”

Brian Kelly hasn't settled on Notre Dame's starting QB vs. Texas

Brian Kelly hasn't settled on Notre Dame's starting QB vs. Texas

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — We know both DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire will play against Texas, but has coach Brian Kelly decided on who takes the first snap Sunday night in Austin?

“Nope, haven't figured that out yet,” Kelly said. “I mean, we're both doing the same things that we've been asking them to do, and that may be something that we discuss in the locker room. It's not really an issue for us right now. It's not something that we've contemplated.”

There’s far more prestige than importance in being named Notre Dame’s Week 1 starting quarterback given Kizer and Zaire will rotate in and out of the offense under the lights at Darrell K. Royal Stadium. There isn’t a concrete plan to get each player a certain amount of reps, and deciding who takes a snap or series will “be more by feel,” Kelly said.

Kelly said he doesn’t need to leave Austin with any separation between Kizer and Zaire and ideally would be able to play both based on situations and the flow of the game. There could be that separation, though, but that’s not what the seventh-year Irish coach is hoping to get out of Sunday evening.

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So how both play will be far more important than who takes that first snap.

“If they both play dynamically and feed off each other, my ideal situation would be I'm playing them both because they're both playmakers,” Kelly said. “And if we can find a way that they both can feed off each other, help our offense to be the productive offense that we want it to be, I'd love to see them both play.

“You know, nobody seems to think that this can happen, but we're going to give it a shot.”