Lesar: 5 Keys to the Notre Dame-Duke matchup

Al Lesar
South Bend Tribune

Here are the five keys to watch in Notre Dame's football matchup with Duke, Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium:


Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly has talked all week about his team’s need for a sense of urgency. The time for talking is done. This is an opportunity to see if the Irish picked up on the message. Kelly said he saw that his players had taken too many plays off against Michigan State. Finding a new intensity level will go a long way toward Notre Dame moving at the tempo necessary to give Duke some problems.


Duke is a team with plenty of problems – the Blue Devils have 10 turnovers (eight fumbles) in three games and haven’t hit a field goal yet (0-for-3). But they have some dynamic players the Irish must contain: Safety DeVon Edwards already has six career kickoff returns for TDs; Edwards and defensive tackle A.J. Wolf already have six sacks; last year, running back Shaun Wilson had a rush, reception and kickoff return of more than 80 yards.


Duke’s redshirt freshman quarterback Daniel Jones has been one of the bright spots of an offense that has had its share of struggles. He has thrown 111 passes (completed 68 for 800 yards and two touchdowns) and has been intercepted twice. Somehow, Notre Dame needs to figure out how to put some pressure on Jones and disrupt his decision-making process. The Irish haven’t collected a sack yet this season. This would be a good time to change that.


Notre Dame needs to start – and finish – this game with a renewed focus on the running game. The circumstances of last week’s loss to Michigan State caused the Irish to stray from that plan a bit. However, did deviating from the focus of running the ball ultimately lead to the trouble they ran into in the second half against the Spartans? ND’s offensive line didn’t have a chance to truly out-physical the Spartan defensive front. With a weight advantage at every position, it’s an opportunity to dominate.


One of Kelly’s favorite sayings is, “You can’t start winning until you stop losing.” This is an opportunity for Notre Dame’s leaders, guys like Torii Hunter, Jr., Mike McGlinchey, DeShone Kizer, Cole Luke, James Onuawalu and Isaac Rochell – just to name a few – to exercise their leadership roles and provide the accountability and responsibility to get through this rough start to the season.

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly has preached a sense of urgency to his football team this week as a key to a bounce-back performance against Duke on Saturday. (Tribune Photo/MICHAEL CATERINA)