Notre Dame looking to finish strong vs. USC

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Notre Dame will take a victory. Any victory.

Three straight losses will do that to a team.

“They’re excited to play USC [Saturday]. But they want to win a football game, so I think if it was Alabama A&T, they’d be excited just with the opportunity to get a win,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said Sunday. “That’s really important to them, finishing with the win, and it’s sweeter because it’s USC, too.

“Playing that last game against USC is going to be memorable for all these guys. But the thing that they’ll carry the most is to try to get a win in their last game. That is the most important thing.”

Kelly saw some positive moments in the most recent loss, 31-28 to Louisville. But there weren’t enough to stop Notre Dame’s (7-4) skid. The defeat included a missed field goal that would have tied the game with 51 seconds left in regulation.

“We needed a little bit better hold, and we needed a little bit better kick,” Kelly said. “I don’t think it’s all on the holder, and I don’t think it’s all on the kicker. It was a combination of both.”

It was the latest bad break for a team that has dropped four of five.

“We’re 10 points from three more wins, right? Florida State, [then] we lose in overtime [against Northwestern], and then we miss a field goal here to go to overtime. Very easily, this team could be in a totally different position so that’s college football, you know? They’re very close. We needed to make a play here or there, a kick here or there, and it’s a totally different look on it,” Kelly said.

“But it doesn’t change the fact that the effort that these kids have been giving has been outstanding with the loss of five players and a ton of freshmen having to play. I’m proud of what they are doing for me, and that is playing with great effort.”

That was one of the encouraging signs.

“We would have liked to have made a play here or there, and blocked a little bit better, tackled a little bit better. But we got everything out of these guys,” Kelly said. “Like I said to them after, we asked them to control two things, and that was their effort and to play with a great attitude, and they certainly did that.

“We’ve got a lot of inexperienced guys that are trying to get the job done the best they can. I’m really proud of what they did. They played a lot cleaner. We obviously had one interception. But we could have done a better job coaching [quarterback] Everett [Golson] on that play, too. I would say we played cleaner, but what I was really proud of was their effort and their attitude.”


Twitter: @lamondpope

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