SOUTH BEND – Everything is a little different in a time of pandemic, especially the wins.
The celebrations are different than year’s past, with physical contact limited as much as it can be. When postgame alma maters are sung, the players are not close by swaying to the rhythm of the song, but responsibly distanced.
These aren’t extreme responses to COVID-19, they are necessary, and Brian Kelly knows that. He just watch his team go 21-days without a game thanks to an outbreak of COVID-19 that was fueled by a few details that went awry.
The Notre Dame head coach even said earlier this week that a celebration on the field spread the virus to a few players.
So to watch his Irish’ team win a game on Saturday at home, even though there were a few signs of rust early, meant just a little bit more considering what the program has dealt with since their last triumph on September 19th.
“Just to be here talking about a victory is really satisfying given the fact that just about 10 days ago we had 36 guys that were unavailable to us,” said Kelly of the 42-26 triumph over Florida State to go to 3-0 on the season. “In short order to prepare our team and have our guys be selfless and take care of themselves and put themselves in a position to win a football game today, I couldn’t be more proud of our group, our coaches, our support staff.”
Especially his running game, which shook off a bad first play to continue their strong efforts so far in an unusual 2020 season.
Led by Kyren Williams’ 185 yards on the ground, Notre Dame was able to build a lead, rally, then pull away from a competitive Seminoles’ team for a 16-point victory. The running back, who fumbled on his first carry of the game which lead to a Florida State field goal, would score twice on the night and average 9.7 yards a carry.
Fellow running back Chris Tyree, averaging 9.4 a touch on 11 carries as he finished with 103 yards and a 45-yard score of his own in the victory. The Irish churned up 385 yards on the ground with four total touchdowns in their third victory of the year.
“Because they have really good guys blocking for them. There’s five guys up front. There’s receivers blocking for them,” said Kelly of the running game. “There’s tight ends that are blocking for them. We got a lot of guys that are doing a lot of pretty good work for the backs.
“Then they’re making good, decisive cuts, seeing things very well. It’s a combination of all those things. Good backs that are making really patient cuts, letting the offensive line do their work.”
It certainly helped to reward the Irish for a lot of work off it, and produce a victory that wasn’t quite like the others in program history.