Re-focused Irish send seniors out with win

Re-focused Irish send seniors out with win
November 23, 2013, 5:45 pm
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. — On Monday, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly had a feeling he was going to see a pretty good performance from his team against Brigham Young on Saturday. Coming off a bye week in which the banged-up Irish didn't practice, Kelly pitted his No. 1 offense against his No. 1 defense in 11-on-11 work — and the energy in that practice gave him an indication that a repeat of the Pitt game wasn't going to happen.

Kelly's inclination proved right, as Notre Dame beat BYU, 23-13, Saturday amid high winds, cold temperatures and swirling snow on senior day. Beginning with that Monday practice, Kelly said he and his coaching staff preached a "single-minded focus" that wasn't present leading up to a 28-21 loss at Pitt.

"I think you always get what you demand, and we were demanding it from our guys in everything they did from the way the locker room looked to every meeting we went to," Kelly said. "We went back to saying, look, you can't start winning until you stop losing. … And not that there was a major breakdown, but it was more of a focus on making sure that our guys were doing the little things the right way."

Notre Dame didn't play a flawless game against BYU, but didn't commit many egregious mistakes. Tommy Rees was picked off in the end zone, but it was Notre Dame's lone turnover. BYU had four possessions inside the Notre Dame 30 and only netted 13 points. Cam McDaniel had his first career 100-yard game, while DaVaris Daniels re-emerged with six catches for 107 yards and a touchdown.

While Notre Dame left plenty of points on the board — the Irish had six possessions inside the BYU 35 and only came away with 16 points — the offense made enough plays to win, something that couldn't be said about the Pitt game.

[MORE: In last home game, Dan Fox leads Notre Dame defensive charge]

For example: Midway through the fourth quarter and holding a seven-point lead, Rees hit freshman Corey Robinson on a slant to convert a third-and-four into a first down. That drive ended with Kyle Brindza banging home a 51-yard field goal, putting Notre Dame up by 10.

"We didn't execute on every play, which we want to do every week," wide receiver T.J. Jones said. "But we're definitely closer than we were last week. We played a lot better, we executed more, we stopped their offense more than we did last week, and that's what we should've been playing like."

A strong defensive showing buoyed Notre Dame, with linebacker Dan Fox (nine tackles, two TFLs, one sack, one pass breakup) and nose guard Jarron Jones (seven tackles, one blocked field goal) leading the charge. It's the kind of overall showing Kelly thought he team has been capable of, but hasn't shown on a consistent basis this year.

On senior day, it showed through. Players credited that Monday practice with putting them in a good position to showcase, one last time, a better brand of football.

"They had a chance to go out and show in their last home game the kind of football team that they really are," Kelly said. "I thought they did that today against a very good opponent in BYU."