Keys to Victory: Holy War 2012

image_gone Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Everett Golson (5) in game action. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish defeated the Stanford Cardinal by the score of 20-13 in overtime, at Notre Dame Stadium, in Notre Dame, IN. (Photo: Robin Alam / IconSMI)

Notre Dame is shipping up to Boston this weekend looking to improve to 10-0 for the first time since 1993 while avoiding letting Boston College derail another undefeated season as they did to the Irish in ’93 and again in ’02.  Here’s a look at what the Irish have to do Saturday night in prime time to prevent that from happening.

Let the kid play

Once Notre Dame opened up the offense some in the 4th quarter against Pitt, Everett Golson started to make plays with both his arm and his legs and seemed more comfortable than he was earlier in the game.  At the same time, we saw the good and the bad of a young quarterback when Golson threw a bad pass to the corner of the endzone that was picked off and nearly derailed Notre Dame’s comeback bid an perfect season.

Brian Kelly has tried like hell to keep Golson out of situations where he can make those kinds of mistakes, but at this point, it’s time for Kelly to let the kid play and live with the good and the bad.  Golson has done enough to earn the right to stay on the field even after he makes mistakes – his 14 point 4th quarter comeback has earned him at least much.  If the Notre Dame offense is going to start putting more points on the board each week, at least that much has to happen as well.

We will most likely see Golson make some head scratching mistakes at times – like his pass to Troy Niklas that was picked off – but he will also make some huge plays to move the Irish offense like his deep ball to Davaris Daniels on a good, old fashion scramble drill or one of his many scrambles when he couldn’t find an open receiver.

It’s time to take the training wheels off and let Golson sling it.

Don’t overlook Boston College

Did Notre Dame overlook Pitt?  Most likely.  Pitt is an improved team, but last week’s game shouldn’t have been as close as it was.  As much as Brian Kelly and the Irish staff might have praised Pitt after, it is tough to get a team up to play after as many emotional games as Notre Dame has had recently.  That being said, Kelly and staff need to find a way to make sure this team does not take Boston College lightly – given the history of this series that shouldn’t be too difficult.

For as much as we all know Boston College will be fired up this week and will play their best game of the season, this is still a 2-7 football team that Notre Dame should be able to roll as long as they don’t overlook the Eagles and go through the motions this weekend.

Don’t think about 1993 or 2002 too much

 All that being said, Kelly should not focus too much on those ’93 and ’02 games.  Yes, those are both great history lessons and the Irish players need to see what happens when you take a team too lightly in a rivalry game when you are trying to protect an undefeated season, but if they harp on ’93 or ’02 too much, it could make get the players a little tight.  Should Boston College come out fired up early and get an early score or two, the last thing that we need is the players to start to think “here we go again”.  Harping on those Boston College upsets too much could lead to that happening.  In the event BC comes out and does get off to a hot start, the players will need to have short memories and just continue to go about their business.

Stop settling for 3… or worse

Notre Dame’s red-zone offense was one of the reasons last week’s game against Pitt was as tightly contested as it was.  Notre Dame had four trips into the red-zone that resulted in two field goals and two turnovers including Cierre Wood’s fumble at the goalline that was recovered by Pitt in the endzone.  The two drives that ended with field goals ate up a ton of clock and consisted of a combined 32 plays meaning the Irish were controlling the line of scrimmage and moving up and down the field only to stall once they reached the red-zone.  Had the offense converted both drives into touchdowns, they would have been looking at a 14-3 lead that would have put the Pitt offense into a situation where the Irish defense could have teed off.

If Notre Dame is going to continue its perfect season, not just this weekend, but beyond, they have ti improve on its red-zone offense and that has to start this weekend.  Notre Dame needs to use this weekend and next to improve offensively in time for USC and a likely BCS bowl game.

Keep the road magic going

Notre Dame has played its best football of the season away from the friendly confines of Notre Dame Stadium – Navy in Dublin, Miami in Chicago, Michigan State in East Lansing, and Oklahoma in Norman.  Notre Dame’s five wins inside Notre Dame Stadium have come by a combined 22 points while its four wins away from home have been by a combined 112 points for an average margin of victory of 28 points.  Those four wins have also come against the likes of Oklahoma, Miami, and Michigan State – programs Notre Dame hasn’t been beating soundly in recent years.

Whatever the reason for Notre Dame’s success away from home is I don’t know, but they need to keep that magic going this weekend after failing to impress any pollsters last weekend with a three point overtime win against a mediocre at best Pitt team.  Notre Dame’s national championship hopes almost certainly hinge on at least one, possibly two, other undefeated teams losing, but until that happens the best we can hope for is some style points and anything less than a convincing win against Boston College will just give the naysayers more ammunition to use as proof for why the Irish aren’t as deserving as the other undefeateds.