Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct 9, 2021

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 53 of 55

54 OCT. 9, 2021 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED I f you were at Soldier Field and had your attention on the ball, then you probably missed it. FOX color analyst Joel Klatt admittedly did. But Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly saw the whole thing. The Irish punted the ball to Wisconsin with less than six minutes remaining in week four's 41-13 victory. Still a two-score game at the time, eve ry ya rd wa s va l u a b l e . Notre Dame punter Jay Bram- blett booted a 52-yard kick to the Badgers' 14-yard line — a job well done. Kelly, though, ultimately gave Wisconsin 15 free yards w i t h a n u n s p o r ts m a n l i ke conduct penalty. In that junc- ture of the game, was giving up that substantial amount of field position worth it? To some coaches, maybe not. To Kelly, absolutely. Es- pecially when it involved the player who just a few days later was named the No. 2 overall 2022 NFL Draft prospect by ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. Junior safety Kyle Hamilton was pinned to the ground by two Wisconsin players after Bramblett's punt. The play had been blown dead half a field length away when the Badgers finally got off of him and ran away. Kelly sprung onto the field and emo- tionally questioned the officials if they saw what occurred. Apparently, they didn't — just like Klatt and plenty of other fans from both sides that turned to Twit- ter or message boards to get the rundown. The Irish coach bore the punishment for a crime he didn't commit. But in doing so, he showed that the man who is in his 12th season at Notre Dame (tied with Knute Rockne for the longest tenure ever by an Irish head coach) is far from finished. Fifteen yards in a game that could have still gone down to the wire meant nothing when put up against protecting his player. The way he followed up on the inci- dent in his Monday press conference — nearly 48 hours later — also proved that there's plenty of fire left in the nearly 60-year-old. Kelly reaches that mile- stone on Oct. 25. "We had it pretty clear," Kelly said. "When two guys take a run at someone, I guess it's not targeting. If you try to stop somebody from going in the end zone, I guess that's targeting. We just don't have it right yet, and your eyes should tell you what's going on. Some- times we hide behind the rulebook. "It wasn't officiated in the manner I thought it should have been. They thought because I went three feet on the field, I should get a flag for them not officiating it correctly." Hamilton described the play on his podcast, "Inside The Garage." "The D-lineman who is in the middle of the punt block wraps outside and comes to hit me in the back," he said. "And the other dude is pushing me, pushing me, and they throw me to the ground." Hamilton said he got up and made eye contact with the ref. "I don't see any yellow?" he remembered asking. Hamilton said he was not surprised to see Kelly go as far as getting flagged to stand up for him. He said he appre- ciated it. In his third season with the program, the stand- out defender knows what his coach is all about. When Kelly stands up for his guys, 15 penalty yards turn into country miles on the re- cruiting trail and a feeling of trust and security in the Notre Dame locker room. "He's the best at creating culture," Hamilton said on the podcast. "He creates physi- cal stuff that we can grab onto when we need it. Like quotes if we need to dig in when we're having a bad practice or that sort of day. He has an explana- tion for everything, and I feel like everybody buys into that. "Sometimes it may come off as cheesy or corny, but at the end of the day everybody rallies around certain phrases and the way he's running the program. I feel like it's been that way consistently since he's been here. It's why he's been so successful and will continue to be." That won't be the last time Kelly stands up for one of his guys no mat- ter what it takes. As he held his com- memorative game ball — the one di- rector of athletics Jack Swarbrick gave to him in the locker room for passing Rockne's all-time wins record — high in the air with his players gathered happily around him, he assured the room there will be many more moments of sticking up for the Blue and Gold. "This is just the start," Kelly said. "Let's keep doing this." ✦ GOLDEN GAMUT TYLER HORKA Brian Kelly proved during his record-setting win over Wisconsin that he's far from finished as the Fighting Irish's head coach. PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER One Sequence Showed How Much Kelly Cares Tyler Horka has been a writer for Blue & Gold Illustrated since July 2021. He can be reached at

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Blue and Gold Illustrated - Oct 9, 2021