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Notre Dame Football

Notre Dame HC Brian Kelly More Concerned With Pitt Than Protocols

October 19, 2020
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As big of a challenge as going on the road for the first time in a 2020 College Football season dominated by COVID-19 is, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly is confident the logistics are planned out well enough that he can worry about Pitt more than anything else this week.

“We’ve got a great support team that has looked at all of the things necessary for us to be successful on the road relative to the travel and accommodations,” Kelly said during a call with reporters on Monday afternoon. “Now, we can focus on a really good Pittsburgh football team. They’re always well-coached.

“(Pitt head coach) Pat Narduzzi knows defense and Mark Whipple is one of the best offensive coordinators in the country.”

After opening the season 3-0, the Panthers come into Saturday’s contest with the Irish having lost three straight, including a one-point loss to NC State and an overtime loss at Boston College after missing an extra point. Last week, they lost 31-19 to Miami.

“We’re facing a team that is certainly stinging after a couple losses in close, tough games,” Kelly said. “Going on the road to Heinz Field, that’s obviously a difficult place to play.

“Last time we played (in 2018), we had to squeak out a tough victory in the last minute, so we know what to expect from a really well-coached, tough and physical football team.”

Pitt was without its starting quarterback Kenny Pickett against the Hurricanes. Pickett missed the game with an ankle injury and backup Joey Yellen started in his place, completing 22 of 46 pass attempts for 277 yards and a touchdown without an interception.

“Pickett is a really good player,” Kelly said. “He's an NFL player. He's a guy that can throw it and has great escapability. I expect him to play.

“Going with Yellen, we thought he did a really nice job. He pushed the ball down the field, made big plays and kept plays alive. They didn't cash some drives in and they had to settle for some field goals, but was very impressed with the way he played as a young player going in there. The moment didn't look too big for him.

“I was impressed with his first start at Pitt."

But like Kelly said, Pickett is expected to be back this week and was listed atop the depth chart Pitt released on Monday afternoon.

John Quackenbos
The Irish thought Pitt’s top receiver could help them on defense.

The Panthers’ leading receiver is freshman Jordan Addison, who comes into the game having caught 38 passes for 444 yards and three touchdowns. Kelly and the Notre Dame staff are plenty familiar with the Maryland native, having offered him a scholarship out of high school, but the Irish pursued him as a cornerback while he saw himself more as a receiver.

“We liked his length as a corner,” Kelly said. “We were looking for longer corners and he kind of stood out for that perspective. It didn't work out for other reasons.

“I think he's going to be a premier player in this league. He's coming into his own. I think they're finding he's going to be that kind of player. He's going to get bigger, stronger and more physical, but he's a fine player right now as a true freshman. He's only going to get better…obviously, he can play other positions as well. We're finding out he's going to be one of the top receivers in this league for a few years."

Kelly expects a blue-collar opponent this weekend.

“A Pat Narduzzi football team is tough, rugged and they're always going to play Notre Dame hard,” he said. “They've got some game-wreckers on defense. They're going to get after the quarterback and play physical. They're well-coached and also play great special teams. They've kept themselves in some games and won some games because of special teams.

“Well-coached, tough, physical and they've got some game-wreckers on defense. That'll keep you up at night.”

 
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