In anticipation of one of the biggest college football games of the season, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly met with the media on Tuesday to discuss his team's trip to Norman this weekend. Kelly paid one of the biggest compliments possible to Bob Stoops and his football teams when asked about the strength of the Sooner program.
"That's where we want to be. We want that consistency. Year in and year out you know Oklahoma is going to be part of the conversation. And that's where we want to get our football program. We're nowhere near that yet. We think we're moving in the right direction. We're trending the right way. But I think the hallmark of great programs is that consistency, the consistency that we saw here for a number of years that we haven't seen, we want to be able to bring that back. And that takes time. And that takes a lot of winning. And that's why there's so much pride and tradition in their program as well."
He continued his praise of the Sooners when asked specifically if Oklahoma's loss to Kansas State makes them less of a team than what they've been in year's past?
"No. Collin Klein is an outstanding quarterback, dual threat quarterback, extremely after it in throwing the football, and he's just a very patient runner. But I think Kansas State played very good defense. And I think it starts with if you look at Oklahoma in the last few weeks, just putting up so many points, you're not going to win those games. So it's going to start on the defensive side of the ball for us and to keep the points down, and then obviously find a way to get some scores. And it's going to be hard on both ends. I think we're going to see two teams that are going to be really pushing hard to get points on the board on both sides."
Oklahoma's offense has exploded over the last three weeks with a combination of speed, balance and power. Kelly was asked if he's seen something different in the Sooner attack since the Kansas State game?
"Certainly. I think there's a confidence level. You can see it in the receivers, the quarterback, and Landry has been very effective and efficient with the football. Made big plays. They're balancing their running game in there. Certainly their offense has evolved since the first week against UTEP to where they are today. So I'm sure they're calling the same plays. There's a similar routine in terms of what they're doing. But there's a lot more confidence in the group."
Everyone knows that better play from the quarterback position has been the key to the resurgence of the Sooner offense but I would also echo what Kelly said, in the better protection has led to a better Landry Jones because it has allowed him to get into a rhythm.
"I think the normal progression of the quarterback. He's gotten into a good rhythm. He hasn't been disrupted very much. And I think, like most good quarterbacks, if you can get into a good rhythm and you're not disrupted, you're going to be pretty effective. You can see that's been the case."
Because of that, Kelly knows that getting pressure on Landry Jones will be huge for the Irish on Saturday.
"I can tell you if he's in a rhythm like most good quarterbacks, he's going to be difficult to beat. It doesn't mean we're going to blitz every guy when we get off the bus, but there's certainly going to be a way we're going to have to disrupt his timing a little bit. And hopefully we can do it by putting him in some predictable passing situation software. So it's pretty clear. This is a very talented player that if he gets on a roll and set his feet every play, you're in for a long day. So we clearly know the challenges in front of us and what we need to do. And I would just tell you this: It's not just Landry Jones, it's any really good quarterback. If you let them sit back there and set their feet at this level, you're going to have a long day."
On the other side of the ball, Kelly did a huge favor for Oklahoma's recruiting.
"If you're out there, and I hate to give any recruiting advantages, you want to play safety at Oklahoma because those guys are free to play. You know, they play a lot of man coverage. So the safeties are free to come down and support the run. It's part of what their defensive philosophy is. So he's all over the place. He's got some freedom in the passing game, but primarily he's in there to be a run fit player, and he does a very good job at it."
Finally, one of the biggest match-ups of this game will be Blake Bell vs. an Irish defense that has not allowed a rushing touchdown this season.
"it's first and goal from the five, we're going to have a hard time keeping them out of the end zone. And so they bring them in, they bring them in in scoring opportunities, it's a great short yardage offense. And he's big. He's physical. You're running behind a very good offensive line. So I would tell and I told our defensive coaches this: If he's on the field, we're going to have to do something really extraordinary, because he's a tough guy to stop. So, again, I think the way they use them, the circumstances and when he goes into the game, he's been very, very effective, especially in their short yardage goal line offense."