Michigan concocted a really sad “Revenge Tour” this year even after they lost their season opener to Notre Dame. That tour ended with one of the most embarrassing losses in their program’s history to Ohio State. Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly, on the other hand, has actually been on a revenge tour of sorts as he’s guided the Fighting Irish to a 12-0 regular season and their first playoff berth in program history. Friday he added another stop to that tour by being named the Dodd Coach of the Year.
Two years ago people were calling for Brian Kelly’s at Notre Dame. I was one of them. After the 4-8 disaster of 2016 I just didn’t see anyway Kelly would change what he needed to change to turn the program back around. Well, we all know by now that he did what was necessary and here we are on the eve of the first College Football Playoff game in Notre Dame’s history.
Adding the Dodd Award is just another stop for Kelly on his own little personal “revenge tour”. It started last year actually when his extreme makeover Notre Dame edition ended with a 10-3 record that included blowouts of Michigan State, USC, and NC State in addition to a thrilling bowl victory over a vaunted SEC opponent, LSU.
It continued in September when he finally got the best of David Shaw and led the Irish to an easy win over The Cardinal. After years of squandering 4th quarter leads to Stanford, Notre Dame put their foot on the gas in the 4th quarter and blew them out in a 38-17 victory.
During that 2016 debacle, Virginia Tech ruined Senior Day with a come from behind victory in South Bend. This year Kelly took his squad into Blacksburg and didn’t blink with another blowout. This time it was 45-23.
Northwestern didn’t get to Notre Dame in 2016, but they did in 2014 in another game where the Irish collapsed late in the game and essentially handed the Wildcats a win in Notre Dame Stadium. This time around it was the Irish who owned the 4th quarter in a 31-21 win on the road in Evanston.
Ironically, the Michigan game this year wouldn’t technically count as a stop on this revenge tour since the last time Notre Dame faced Michigan under Kelly’s guidance was 2014 when the Irish embarrassed the Wolverines 37-0*.
The Dodd Coach of the Year Award isn’t the only coach of the year honor Kelly has collected on the way. Earlier this month his revenge tour made stops with the Home Depot Coach of the Year and AP Coach of the Year Awards as well. He became the only three time recipient of the Home Depot Coach of the Year with the honor this year – two of those came during his time at Notre Dame.
Hopefully this tour keeps on rolling and this isn’t the last stop along the way. Notre Dame has a daunting task on their hands tomorrow with Clemson in the Cotton Bowl, but the Irish have shown that they can play with anyone the last two seasons even if the media and the oddsmakers aren’t giving them any chance.