The gun-slinger mentality in Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly may have been curbed for the most part during this perfect season of football, but it hasn't entirely been eliminated.
Kelly came to South Bend three years ago with a reputation of explosive offenses and a carefree approach to play calling. It got him in trouble early in his Fighting Irish tenure, but it made him look like a genius in Saturday's 30-13 win at eighth-ranked Oklahoma.
Two years ago, Kelly made the decision to have a true freshman quarterback (Tommy Rees) attempt a pass into the end zone against Tulsa in the waning seconds, when a relatively easy field goal would have sufficed in securing a victory.
“You better get used to it,” Kelly boasted as he stood there with a 28-27 defeat to the Golden Hurricane hanging around his neck. “Because that's the way we're playing.”
Through this season of eight victories without a defeat, Kelly has been fairly cautious in his play calling. Against Brigham Young the third-ranked Irish threw the ball just three times. However, in the most unexpected time in last Saturday's win over the Sooners, the ol' Kelly bravado awoke.
Oklahoma had just marched down the field to tie the game at 13 early in the fourth quarter and the 82,000-plus hometown fans were going berserk. Instead of Kelly doing the expected and trying to methodically drive down the field, score, yet not leave an abundance of time on the clock, he took a “let's go for it” approach and had quarterback Everett Golson hit freshman receiver Chris Brown for a 50-yard gain on the second play of the drive.
“I wanted to win the game,” Kelly explained. “I thought that we needed to throw the football and get a big chunk play.”
Though it was Brown's first and only catch of this season, Kelly had seen some defensive looks from the Sooners that made him feel a bit daring.
“I wanted to win and there was no way that we were going to turn down that opportunity,” Kelly said. “We had some of those (opportunities) against BYU and we didn't throw them. We knew coming into (Oklahoma) that we were going to have to hit some plays down the field.”
So will these types of aggressive play calls become a regular sight for Irish fans?
“The passing game still needs to improve,” Kelly said. “We had where we consider four, maybe five opportunities that we left out there in terms of throwing the ball. So we want to see a higher passing efficiency in that respect. And then I think you're correct in assuming that what we need now is to put together a string of games back to back. I think those are the two things that we're going to ask from Everett in terms of his progress.”