NOTRE DAME — There won’t be a break for the Notre Dame offense between Stanford and Oklahoma’s staunch defenses.
If anything, things won’t get much tougher than the defense the Irish face this weekend.
BYU (4-3) may not have the accolades and rankings the Irish, Cardinal and Sooners enjoy, but the Cougars can boast the No. 3 run defense, No. 7 scoring defense and No. 5 total defense in the country.
“It’s another physical football team that plays great defense,” Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said of BYU. “They have won a couple of close games this year on the backs of their defense.”
In the first seven weeks of the season, BYU has given up more than 13 points only twice: In a 24-21 loss to Utah and last week’s 42-24 loss to No. 8/8 Oregon State.
BYU’s defense is helmed by linebackers Brandon Ogletree and Kyle Van Noy. While Ogletree is putting up Manti Te’o-like numbers with 57 tackles, 10 for loss, Van Noy has contributed 11 tackles for loss and eight sacks.
“They are not as big and as long as Stanford’s players but play just as hard and just as physical,” Kelly said of the BYU defense. “A little quicker, maybe a little bit better in space than the Stanford players, but they play a very similar scheme.”
Cougar coach Bronco Mendenhall is also looking for a defensive showdown and a chance for his team to redeem itself after giving up 42 points to Oregon State.
“Notre Dame is very good on defense,” Mendenhall said. “I’m anxious for our defense to perform like they did the first six weeks and not as they last week. Our main focus is to get them to perform again the way I know they’re capable of.”
GOLSON STILL OUT
As of Tuesday afternoon, Everett Golson had still not been cleared to play following a concussion he suffered against Stanford.
According to Kelly, the sophomore quarterback had passed balance tests and an exam that measures light sensitivity and agitation but still had not passed a computerized cognitive test.
Golson went down late in the fourth quarter against Stanford on Saturday and was replaced by Tommy Rees, who went on to lead Notre Dame on a game-winning drive in overtime.
Kelly said Golson was to retake the test again Tuesday.
“There is a protocol, there are standards, and they are independent of the head football coach,” Kelly said. “(The doctors) come to me and tell me when he’s ready to go.”
Kelly said Golson is “making great progress” and expects him to return in time for Saturday’s game against BYU, even if he doesn’t practice today.
“He could practice on Thursday and be ready to help on Saturday,” Kelly said, though it’s unclear if Golson would be the starter if he doesn’t return until Thursday.
While Golson recovers, Kelly said he is splitting reps 60/40 between Tommy Rees and Andrew Hendrix.
“I’m going to have three quarterbacks ready to play on Saturday,” Kelly said.