SOUTH BEND – Not only would Notre Dame fans like to get inside the head of Kansas State football coach Bill Snyder, but so would the faithful followings of Texas Tech, Kansas, and especially Texas.
That is because ever since Snyder's Wildcats got by eighth-ranked Oklahoma (24-19) a month ago, the last three of the aforementioned programs have been steam rolled by the explosive Sooners by an average margin of 36 points.
And now the fifth-ranked Fighting Irish (7-0) are next in line. Notre Dame will visit Oklahoma (5-1) today at 8 p.m. (EDT on ABC).
“We know the challenge in front of us,” Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly said. “Our players understand that it takes great execution and it will take a great effort on Saturday.”
A level of execution and effort that thus far only third-ranked Kansas State has been able to reach. Kelly explained that one of the main reasons for the Wildcats' success was the fact that they may have the best player in college football.
“(Kansas State's) Collin Klein is an outstanding quarterback, a dual threat quarterback,” Kelly explained of the leading candidate for the Heisman Trophy. “He's extremely accurate in throwing the football, and he's just a very patient runner.”
However, Kelly can't develop his own quarterback (first-year starter Everett Golson) overnight, so his team is going to have to rely on a different component to shock the experts and gain a victory in Norman.
“I think Kansas State played very good defense,” Kelly said. “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.”
Kelly spoke at length about the Wildcats' game plan on Thursday and here is what he said about those keys to an Irish victory and how that will translate for Notre Dame:
Kelly: Kansas State kept the ball away from Oklahoma.
Translation: Golson has to play better than he has against the other two decent programs that he's faced this season. Against Michigan, Golson was benched early after playing horrendously, and against Stanford he fumbled three times.
The Irish sophomore can't turn the ball over, the Irish have to be able to run the ball successfully and they can't afford to go three-and-out very often – if ever.
Matching play for play
Kelly: Kansas State kept the game close.
Translation: The Notre Dame defense has to limit the Sooners (fifth best scoring offense in the country) to field goals and generate turnovers, because the Irish probably won't score themselves very often. If the Irish defense allows Oklahoma touchdowns, this game is over. Notre Dame can't get into a track meet with this team on its home field.
Kelly: Kansas State got the game into the fourth quarter.
Translation: If Notre Dame is still in the game after 45 minutes of play, then the game plan of running the ball, eating clock, minimizing turnovers, good special teams play, and tremendous defense has worked so far. And the longer that this team is in this game, the more it'll believe that it can pull off the most impressive win by this program since beating third-ranked Michigan in 2005.
“We believe that,” Kelly said. “We believe that is one of the strengths of this team. This group believes that all they need is 'Give us a shot and we'll find a way to win the football game.'”