Blue and Gold Illustrated

Preseason 2014

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

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Page 73 of 152

BY LOU SOMOGYI I t is an expression that might be the ultimate football cliché: Defense wins championships. Does it really in today's world where most of the rule changes the past several decades — no head slaps of offensive linemen, no bumping re‑ ceivers beyond a certain point, etc. — have shifted to the offense? In four of last year 's championship bowls, Central Florida defeated Baylor 52‑42, Clemson upset Ohio State 40‑35, Oklahoma stunned Alabama 45‑31 and, in the championship showdown, Florida State eked past Auburn 34‑31. Such scores were not evidence that defense propels championships. Then again, the last three national title winners — Florida State in 2013, and Alabama in 2012 and 2011 — also led the nation in scoring defense. Notre Dame's Cinderella run to the 2012 title game was made possible by a defense that finished second to Alabama in the fewest points allowed department, and the same with LSU in 2011. Michigan State's stunning 13‑1 campaign last year was spearheaded by a defense that was third nationally in fewest points allowed. But the football times, they have been a changin' — and Notre Dame has not quite kept pace. During the Ara Parseghian era at Notre Dame (1964‑74), his greatest athletes, with rare exceptions, were moved to defense because of a sim‑ ple premise: "If the opponent doesn't score, you don't lose." None of his defenses finished lower than 15th in total yardage. Parseghian's belief was that offense could always be manufac‑ tured (in his last six years the highest drafted skill position player on offense was quarterback Joe Theismann in the fourth round), but defense had to be a constant. Brian Kelly had the same view‑ point upon his arrival at Notre Dame in 2010. Defense became a foremost priority on the recruiting trail, which reaped huge dividends during the dramatic march in 2012. While defense always will remain essential, Kelly recognizes that in to‑ day's game — and maybe 2014 spe‑ cifically with a reconstructing defense — he cannot consistently call upon it MORE HORSEPOWER? Brian Kelly believes it's time for the offense to ride high

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