Sharpley: Don't fall into the trap game trap

Evan Sharpley
NDI Correspondent

By the time last Saturday was over, the Nos. 2, 3, 4, 6 and 8 teams in the nation had all gone down.

Excitement, much like 2012, is starting to increase with each Notre Dame victory. I am not one to compare one season to another, but the similarities between 2012 and 2014 are interesting to say the least.

Almost two years ago to the day, I sat down, much like today, to pen my thoughts. At that time, the Irish held a top 5 ranking in the BCS, having played games in Ireland and Chicago, were 6-0 for first time since 2012, and had a primetime matchup versus the Oklahoma Sooners directly around the corner. However, Brigham Young University was on the schedule before the Oct. 27, 2012 Oklahoma game.

This year, the Irish are hovering near the top five in the nation with a 5-0 record, have played games at MetLife Stadium and Lucas Oil Stadium, and have an impending matchup in Tallahassee, Fla. on the 18th of October against the Florida State Seminoles. Of course, thereis a game this week against the Tar Heels from North Carolina.

Trap game?

I don’t believe in the conventional definition of trap games, and in my opinion neither does Brian Kelly. Every week has the possibility of being a trap game if a team does not prepare mentally and physically.

Since we are going down memory lane, let's once again look back to 2012 when Kelly was asked about trap games. He mentioned in his 2012 press conference leading up to the BYU game that trap games occur when players and coaches forget how to “go to work.” Let’s be honest, teams are only as good as their last game. Celebrating success and learning from disappointment is critical to great teams.

Not every win this year has been pretty, but, most important, the Irish have won every game. Players care less about how they win, rather IF they win. A winning mentality breeds more winning. Players begin to play at a level that they dream of. In 2005, with a new coaching staff at Notre Dame, I was part of a very special team, minus two heartbreaking losses to Michigan State and USC in the regular season. Week in and week out, we continued to play at a high level, and that play encouraged others to do the same.

Over my career I have been able to be part of highly successful teams. Unfortunately, I was also on very unsuccessful teams. What I learned from seeing polar opposites is the importance of team chemistry. Team chemistry is established from high quality leadership from the coaching staff and from the players.

When it isn’t there, that void is felt. It isn’t something that can be created out of thin air, or forced. Rather, it is something that is developed in spring football, during summer workouts and in fall camp. As the season progresses, the bond increases in large part to defining wins or heartbreaking losses (i.e. 2005). There is a cohesive bond that, at times, is difficult to explain. When a team has it, as a player, you know it's there and it can accomplish legendary results.

Coach Kelly, and his staff, have created an atmosphere in the locker room and on the playing field that allows players to develop a high level of team chemistry. Each team is unique and must find the right balance of give and take between everyone in the program.

This measurement is usually a large indicator of success. To this point, we have seen the Irish look quite unstoppable. Conversely, at other times, the Irish have played to the level of their competition. There must be a balance between these peaks and valleys in order to establish and maintain a consistent level of play. Momentum can be contagious and the Irish must keep it active. Go Irish!

In addition to his weekly column, former Notre Dame quarterback Evan Sharpley previews upcoming games each Friday at 7:50 a.m. on WSBT's JT in the Morning Show (960 AM and 96.1 FM). On Mondays, Sharpley co-hosts WSBT's Notre Dame Football Final, which airs from 9-10 a.m. He'll also be an occasional contributor to WSBT's Weekday SportsBeat and Gameday SportsBeat radio programs. Sharpley owns and operates Sharpley Training in Mishawaka.

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly exits the field following the 17-14 win over Stanford on Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014, at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. (SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)