Notre Dame's Brian Kelly and LSU's Ed Orgeron offer their thoughts on each other's teams heading into the Citrus Bowl. Laken Litman/IndyStar
Nov 18, 2017; South Bend, IN, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish running back Josh Adams (33) is tackled by Navy Midshipmen linebacker Winn Howard (51) in the first quarter at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports(Photo: Matt Cashore, Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports)
- Notre Dame vs. LSU, 1 p.m. Monday, ABC
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ORLANDO, Fla. — Ed Orgeron was quick to disclose his game plan against .
During Sunday’s Citrus Bowl news conference, the LSU coach was jokingly asked to reveal secrets to his team’s preparation.
“Stop the run,” he said.
Brian Kelly chimed in: “Ditto.”
Everyone in the room laughed. Neither team’s strategy is exactly viewed as a covert operation. Stopping the run is what both Notre Dame and LSU need to do in order to win on New Year’s Day.
Notre Dame’s assignment will be to contain the . Guice, a projected 2018 NFL first-round draft pick, has rushed for 1,153 yards on 5.3 yards per carry with 11 touchdowns as a junior. He’s a physical back that Kelly has compared to former LSU star and current Jacksonville Jaguars back Leonard Fournette, but he’s been battling a knee injury this season.
Williams, a senior, rushed for 776 yards on 5.7 yards per carry with nine touchdowns. He’s an explosive back that bolted for a 54-yard run against Alabama’s No. 1 rushing defense — the biggest play, run or pass, the Crimson Tide gave up this season — to set up a Tiger touchdown.
The Fighting Irish have experience shutting down talented backs though. They’ve had success against some of the nation’s best in Nick Chubb and Sony Michel from Georgia (combined for 136 yards), L.J. Scott from Michigan State (61 yards), Ronald Jones at USC (32 yards) and did a good enough job containing Heisman Trophy finalist Bryce Love that he wasn’t the main reason why Stanford won that game (125 yards).
Daelin Hayes of Notre Dame is eager to play the Citrus Bowl. Laken Litman/IndyStar
Notre Dame has the nation’s No. 49 rushing defense, holding opponents to 153.2 yards per game. This is progress from last year’s unit, which ranked 72nd and gave up 182.4 yards a game.
Kelly on Sunday discussed some of the reasons why LSU is difficult to defend.
“Nothing compares to it,” he said of the Tigers’ offense. “The amount of shifting and motioning, you have to be on it. Your safeties have to be able to check, the communication is really the key here. When you’re making these checks, you’ve got 18-22 year olds trying to communicate to a bunch of guys that have their hand in the dirt and it becomes problematic at times. And that’s just the start of it.
“You’ve got Guice, you’ve got great receivers on the perimeter, one of the better offensive lines we’ve played — if not the best offensive line we’ve played — so add that to the mix and you can see what our problems are.”
That’s why the Irish have to get their power running game going, which is ranked seventh-best in the country. Josh Adams, who was dinged up the latter part of the season, is healthy and offensive coordinator Chip Long described his bowl preparation earlier in the week as “awesome.” Adams averaged 146.1 yards a game and 8.9 yards a carry through Notre Dame’s first eight games, but dipped to average 54.5 yards a game on 3.7 yards per carry over the last four. He finished the regular season as the nation’s 16th-best back with 1,386 rushing yards on 7.3 yards per carry and nine touchdowns.
LSU will be missing three defensive starters in pass rusher Arden Key and linebackers Corey Thompson and Donnie Alexander. Their replacements are a mixture of inexperienced freshmen and sophomores who will have to deal with Adams, a dual-threat quarterback in Brandon Wimbush, and Notre Dame’s veteran offensive line, which was recently named the best in the country.
Orgeron said managing Notre Dame’s offense without these star players will be challenging.
“Especially to know when to rush the passer, when not to rush the passer,” Orgeron said. “Obviously (Wimbush) is very dangerous when he runs the ball. His quarterback draws are the best we’ve seen. And then also the pulling guards. When those pulling guards come around, they’re always very, very physical. We have our work cut out for us at that position.”
Establishing the run early like Notre Dame did in September and October will take pressure off Wimbush in the passing game. Kelly warned, however, that his quarterback must make plays on the perimeter for the Irish to win. : Chase Claypool had shoulder surgery, while Kevin Stepherson and Alize Mack were suspended.
“I think we can put him in positions where, as we went through the year and got a chance to study the things that he does well, he’s thrown seven touchdown passes on drive routes to no interceptions. Things like that,” Kelly said. “When you do a deeper dive on the things he does well, we’re gonna feature much more of that. When you have a month to prepare, it goes to being smart with your quarterback because he’s got some work to do in the offseason.
“He’s a dynamic runner, he’s got great traits, he’s a competitor, he finds a way and wills his way into making plays, and now it’s up to us as coaches to put him in a good position to succeed.”
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