NOTRE DAME — Though Notre Dame and Arizona State don’t have much of a shared football history, the Irish certainly know Sun Devil head coach Todd Graham.
Though the two teams have only played twice in a 1998 and 1999 home-and-home series, Graham has had a history of harassing the Irish.
It was Graham who brought Tulsa from Conference USA to South Bend in 2010, stunning the Irish in a 28-27 win on their home field.
A year later, it was Graham’s Pitt squad who battled the Irish tooth and nail before falling in a 15-12 slugfest on Heinz Field.
Now Graham will face Notre Dame with his most talented team yet, an explosive Arizona State squad fresh off a 62-41 victory over USC on Saturday, Sept. 28. The No. 22 Sun Devils (3-1) will face the Irish (3-2) at AT&T Stadium in Dallas on Saturday.
While Graham has a more fully loaded offense under quarterback Taylor Kelly (105-of-171, 1,370 yards and 11 touchdowns) and a quartet of running backs averaging 146 rushing yards a game, Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly knows what to expect from the second-year coach.
“You’re going to get the quarterback lined up in an offensive set punting the football, swinging gate, offensively misdirection,” Kelly said. “Again, I go back to Tulsa and Pittsburgh and now at Arizona State, you’ve got a lot of different offensive and defensive looks. You’re not going to get a cookiecutter approach to playing the game in any one of those facets, and that’s been his kind of philosophy, if you will, and what he’s staked his success on, and he’s done a great job at it.”
A week after Oklahoma posted 35 points at Notre Dame Stadium, Kelly said the Irish won’t be able to afford to give up those big plays to an offense averaging 505 yards and 44 points per game.
“It comes down to, for us, if you look at the Oklahoma game, the two big plays that we gave up were critical,” Kelly said. “We can’t afford to give up any big plays. They catch the ball very well. They’re a team that will challenge you on the perimeter throwing the football, and you have to keep (Taylor) Kelly in check running the football, as well. He’s very capable through their zone read package of running the ball. Containing the quarterback, running the football, and obviously not giving up the big chunk plays.”
After missing the last two games due to a sprained ankle, starting defensive end Sheldon Day is expected to make a return this weekend.
Backup outside linebacker Ben Councell lost his appeal to overturn his suspension following a targeting ejection in the second half against Oklahoma. Councell will be suspended for the first half against Arizona State.