Broncos go for upset in South Bend
Harrison Smith is one of the leaders of Notre Dame’s defense, a
safety with an understanding of the game, a penchant for following
the football and a respect for what it takes to win.
A senior, he’s experienced the Irish’s up-and-down seasons the
previous three years under Charlie Weis. So with Notre Dame at 3-3
in Brian Kelly’s first year and facing a big underdog in Western
Michigan on Saturday, Smith is realistic about overlooking any
”We are not 6-0 and the No. 1 team in the country,” Smith
said. ”We are not at that place yet to where we can just roll in
to teams that we play.”
Kelly, who’s faced Western Michigan coach Bill Cubit three times
previously – twice at Central Michigan and in a bowl game with
Cincinnati – knows the Broncos will have a nothing-to-lose
From 2006-08, Western Michigan beat at team from a BCS
conference in each season.
”One thing Bill has done is he’s always had his football teams
ready for BCS opponents,” Kelly said. ”It’s a free shot. Doesn’t
cost anything and you pick up the check at the end of the game no
matter what happens. This is an opportunity to go to Notre Dame,
and obviously, get a great victory.”
When he was coaching in the MAC at Central Michigan, Kelly said
he took a go-for-it attitude when playing a bigger name school.
”We had every trick play in the book, we had every fake and
punt and kickoff and we just told our kids to go after it and play
hard and enjoy themselves,” Kelly said.
It’s just the third meeting between the schools and the first
since 1920, way before the inception of the MAC in 1947.
The Irish’s defense has been improving, especially in the red
zone, where last week they held Pitt to three points in the first
half after the Panthers got to the 20 three times.
Kelly’s spread offense has also gotten better as quarterback
Dayne Crist has picked up the nuances of the complicated system.
The schedule has lightened, too.
The game Saturday will mark the Irish’s first without star tight
end Kyle Rudolph, who was lost for the season to a hamstring injury
that required surgery. The Irish are also not sure if they will
have leading rusher Armando Allen, who has a sore hip and whose
status will be determined close to kickoff.
Kelly’s first season has been one of those not-quite-there-yet
experiences. The Irish’s three losses were to Michigan, Michigan
State and Stanford. The wins came over Purdue, Boston College and
He stresses each week how much room there is for his team to get
”We know who we are. We are far from a perfect team. We
struggle with consistency,” Kelly said. ”But we play hard and we
play to win for four quarters, and we are believing that we can
win. So as long as we continue to do those things, we know we are
moving in the right direction.”
For Western Michigan, the game could test them physically,
especially as it wears on.
”Like I tell the kids, if there is no reward out there then why
play the game?” Cubit said. ”I think it will be a great
experience. You hope at the end of the game you’re not decimated
Western Michigan (2-3, 1-1 MAC) relies on the versatility of
quarterback Alex Carder, who ran for three TDS last week in a
lopsided win over Ball State. He’s carried for four scores this
year while throwing for 10 others.
Cubit expects Carder to be smart with his running, but ready to
take that risk, too.
”If it’s a matter of getting third-and-one and fourth-and-one,
I know he’s not sliding. He’s going for it,” Cubit said.