The Notre Dame football team’s rapid ascent from a 4-8 record to No. 3 in the College Football Playoff rankings, complete with a seven-game win streak and victories over rival USC and top-15 opponent N.C. State, has thrust the Fighting Irish into the spotlight.
It would be easy to see how some Notre Dame players might have gotten caught up in the Playoff hype. However, the Notre Dame players who have spoken with the media seem to refute that notion. Last week, Josh Adams, Greer Martini and Nyles Morgan all said they didn’t bother to watch the reveal of the first CFP rankings of the season.
So, why did Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly say he thought some Irish players were distracted entering the team’s Week 10 game against Wake Forest?
Kelly said it was not external distractions, like the team’s ranking, but internal distractions that caused the Irish defense to, in Kelly’s words, “not play very well.”
“We just didn’t prepare in the manner that we prepared in the other weeks,” Kelly said.
Some of those distractions, according to Kelly, are inevitable. Kelly said Tuesday that prior to the Wake Forest game, senior rover Drue Tranquill had several school assignments that caused him to stay up late on Thursday and Friday night.
“Drue had three engineering projects, and he was up until, you know, two, three o’clock in the morning,” Kelly said. “Those are distractions.”
Star running back Josh Adams, too, had several exams last week, according to Kelly. Kelly said that is simply part of “the life of a college student at Notre Dame.”
While those academic responsibilities likely impacted the Irish against the Demon Deacons — Adams carried the ball just five times for 22 yards — Kelly suggested that the most damaging distractions resulted from a sense of complacency heading into a matchup with an unranked team after two straight wins against top-15 opponents.
“It’s the internal distractions where they start thinking about: Oh, you know, maybe — maybe I don’t have to play quite as hard this week; maybe I don’t have to get all the nutrition and sleep I need this week; maybe I don’t have to play quite as hard this week, and it’s the internal distractions,” Kelly said.
Whatever the cause of the distractions, Kelly vowed to get them fixed prior to a primetime showdown at Miami. He also noted that, unlike teams such as Ohio State and Penn State, Notre Dame is lucky to have learned its lesson about being distracted in its preparation without having been upset.
“Many coaches are in press conferences talking about how those distractions cost them a loss,” Kelly said. “It didn’t cost us a loss.”
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