Photo by Rick Kimball/ISD
Notre Dame Football

Irish Seek Clear Communication

October 21, 2019

It left Brian Kelly sick.

It was only last month, but Kelly vowed then to fix any lingering issues.

The scene was at then-No. 3 Georgia and Kelly’s Notre Dame squad had struggled its way to a season-worst dozen penalties for 85 yards.

Crowd noise dramatically impacted the typically poised Fighting Irish offense, which committed three penalties on its first nine snaps and closed the game with four false starts and a pair of additional 15-yard personal foul penalties.

Kelly immediately pointed a finger at himself, the Notre Dame coaches and said he “made a terrible miscalculation” for having not done more to steel his team for the noise inside Sanford Stadium.

The No. 7 Fighting Irish (5-1) get their first chance since the Georgia loss to display those road-environment improvements Saturday at No. 19 Michigan (7:30 p.m., ABC).

“It will be loud and certainly, communication will be very, very important for us,” Kelly said Monday during his weekly press conference.

Overall, Notre Dame’s communication hasn’t been much of an issue this season with quarterback Ian Book behind a mostly veteran offensive line. The Fighting Irish have been penalized 16 times in their two road games; just 22 in four home games.

Nonetheless, Notre Dame averages barely six penalties and 43 penalty yards per game, the latter good enough for 14th-lowest in the nation.

Still, Kelly is taking no chances with Saturday night’s primetime visit to Michigan Stadium. The Fighting Irish, coming off their final bye week of the 2019 campaign and with a 19-2 record after open dates under Kelly, are entering their second week of augmented preparations for the Wolverines (5-2).

“Well, we started our cadence, non-verbal cadence, last week,” Kelly said. “I learned that that's something that requires much more repetition, so that was learned [from the Georgia game].

“We're not going to make that same mistake twice. I think, you know, our guys are really tuned into understanding that the atmosphere will be loud and that you cannot be distracted if you are interested in executing at a high level. If you're distracted, then you're not in the right place emotionally, and our guys are pretty locked in on that.”

The Wolverines are coming off an emotional, 28-21 loss at Penn State that all but removes them from College Football Playoff consideration with two Big Ten losses through their first five league games.

Still, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh knows the Notre Dame series as both player and coach.

“It’s a big game,” Harbaugh told reporters on Monday, adding that he believed there had been discussions about keeping the series active. Notre Dame won last year’s contest, 24-17, in both teams’ season-opener.

For Notre Dame, the focus is on itself. Michigan opponents have been penalized 33 times inside Michigan Stadium through the Wolverines’ first four home games.

“We'll continue to talk about it during the week,” Kelly said, “but I think that they got a pretty good understanding of that.”

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