Notre Dame football: Physical matchup awaits Irish

South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND - One of the biggest things Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly took out of last Saturday's win over BYU was how his team played physically and with a tough temperament.

"We'll need to continue that and build on that," Kelly said.

The 8-3 and 25th-ranked Irish travel to Palo Alto, Calif., to face 9-2 and eighth-ranked Stanford Saturday. The Cardinal have built a reputation as a physical team that is stout defensively, and has developed a punishing running game.

Stanford is led by running back Tyler Gaffney, who has rushed for 1,296 yards and 16 touchdowns in leading the offense.

"He's just a guy that physically can pound the football," Kelly said.

Defensively, Stanford ranks 22nd nationally overall, allowing an average of 348 yards per game.

"Pick whoever you want there," Kelly said in talking about the number of stout defenders Stanford has.

Kelly said Tuesday that center Nick Martin suffered an MCL tear in his knee in last Saturday's win and will be out approximately six months, meaning he will miss spring practice. Kelly does, though, expect him back for next season.

Matt Hegarty will start at center against Stanford with Conor Hanratty serving as his backup.

Notre Dame leads the series 18-9 although it is 6-6 at Stanford Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7:05 p.m. (Eastern) and the game will air nationally on FOX.

Notre Dame Head Coach Brian Kelly talks to his team during the game college football game between Notre Dame and Brigham Young on Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013, at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend.