Winning not only focus for Irish in Pinstrpe Bowl preparations

Winning not only focus for Irish in Pinstrpe Bowl preparations
December 10, 2013, 4:45 pm
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On a grand scale, Notre Dame won't play for much later this month against Rutgers in the Pinstripe Bowl. But in the big picture, the next few weeks do hold some importance for the 2014 Irish.

"You're running a business and an organization for 365 days a year," Kelly said Tuesday in a press conference at Yankee Stadium. "(Not going to a bowl) would be like you're closing down the business for a month. And that's not good for business."

Notre Dame has already had one bowl practice and will have nine more prior to its Dec. 28 date with Rutgers at the home of the Yankees. Preparing players to win the game is just one goal -- for Kelly, those practices provide him with a look into the future.

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Defensive end Stephon Tuitt said bowl practices in 2011 helped vault him from being a promising prospect to a force on Notre Dame's defensive line. That's just one example -- but Kelly said Sunday he was able to get freshman quarterback Malik Zaire 20 solid reps in the team's first bowl practice.

Those reps weren't there for Zaire and some of the other high-ceiling members of Notre Dame's last recruiting class.

"The young guys get a lot of work -- (wide receiver) Torii Hunter and Malik working together today," Kelly said. "(Safety) Max Redfield played virtually all seven-on-seven. That would probably be equally as important."

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Kelly said there's a momentum factor, too, in winning the Pinstripe Bowl. While it may not be great, at the least a win could mean Notre Dame finishes the season in the top 25. 

"It's not a catapult into an undefeated season by any means, I don't want to overstate that," Kelly said. "But it does make a good feeling going into the offseason (winning) that football game."

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