Notre Dame football: Irish look to rebound against ASU

Bob Wieneke
BWieneke@SBTinfo.com

SOUTH BEND - Notre Dame's defense allowed two long touchdowns last Saturday to Oklahoma, two big plays that helped the Sooners post a 35-21 win. Arizona State put up 62 points and 612 total yards in a 62-41 win over USC.

The key this weekend when Notre Dame (3-2) plays 22nd-ranked Arizona State (3-1)? It's pretty clear.

"We can't afford to give up any big plays," Irish coach Brian Kelly said Tuesday. "Eliminating the big play defensively is absolutely crucial to our success."

The Irish and Sun Devils meet Saturday night at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, the fifth installment of ND's Shamrock Series, a home game played at a neutral site. AT&T Stadium is the home of the Dallas Cowboys.

ND and ASU have not met since 1999, long before Kelly and current Sun Devils coach Todd Graham took their current jobs. There is, however, a recent history between the two.

Graham led Tulsa to an upset victory at ND Stadium in 2010, Kelly's first season at Notre Dame. A year later, with Graham at Pittsburgh, where he coached one season, Kelly and the Irish prevailed.

"(We're) very familiar with their styles of offense and defense," Kelly said.

Kelly said Tuesday that starting defensive end Sheldon Day, who has missed the last two games because of an ankle injury, is progressing. Day was listed as the starter in the depth chart released Tuesday.

"He's better than he was last week," Kelly said. "We think he's going to be able to help us this weekend."

Kelly also said that linebacker Ben Councell must sit out the first half of Saturday's game after being ejected in the second half of the Oklahoma loss because of a personal foul for targeting. Notre Dame had appealed the ruling but it was denied. Romeo Okwara will back up starter Jaylon Smith in Councell's absence.

Notre Dame is 71-21-3 all-time in NFL stadiums, including 20-7-2 in current NFL stadiums. The Irish have won nine of their last 10 games at an NFL stadium, dating back to the 1995 season.

ND and ASU have met twice, with Notre Dame winning in 1998 in Tempe and the following season in South Bend.

The game kicks off at 7:42 p.m. (Eastern) and will air on NBC.

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly watches during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Oklahoma, Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013, in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)