By DAVID VANTRESS
THE GOSHEN NEWS
It was quite a party at Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly’s house Saturday night as the Irish mentor and a group of family and friends watched the dominoes fall that led to Notre Dame ascending to the No. 1 spot in both polls on Sunday.
No. 1 Kansas State and No. 2 Oregon both lost Saturday night after Notre Dame defeated Wake Forest, 38-0.
But when all was said and done, Kelly and his team are back to work getting ready for this Saturday’s season finale on the road at USC.
A visit to the training room on Sunday made the Irish coach feel pretty good about his team’s focus.
“I kind of wanted to get a sense,” Kelly said during a conference call with the media on Sunday. “I was down in the training room when the guys were popping in today. They all to a man know that it doesn’t mean much if you’re No. 1 for just three or four days. So they understand the importance of the USC game. I was happy to see that they had that kind of maturity to know that it’s all about how we play against USC.”
Kelly voted his team No. 1 last week, and this week, the rest of his peers in the USA Today Coaches Poll agreed.
“I just felt like as it relates to our football team, I was just being consistent with my rankings. I told our team that I felt like they were the best team in the country because I knew more about our team than the other two, and now we’ve been given this opportunity. We’ve got to make the best out of it by beating USC.”
That, Kelly said, is something his team knows.
Meanwhile, Kelly made a low-key pitch for senior linebacker Manti Te’o to win the Heisman Trophy.
“I think he should win the Heisman Trophy, provided we continue to win, and as it relates to Manti, he doesn’t talk much about it,” Kelly said. “He’s not focused on those things, he’s focused on the things that we all know that are important to him, and that is his team and how we play on Saturday. I’ll push for him. I think he should win the Heisman. But he’s not really focused on that.”
The Irish’s ascendancy to the top spot in the nation is sure to create even more buzz both on campus and in South Bend.
But Kelly and his Irish intend to keep their eyes on the prize.
“I’m sure there’s a great deal of excitement, but again, we’ve got to hit the pause button here and realize that we’re not doing this to be No. 1 for three or four days; we’re doing this because we want a consistent program that is in the hunt every year,” Kelly said.
“That’s really the focus of this program.”