Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

September 04, 2018 at 9:37 pm.

Irish aim to live up to standard vs. Ball State

Notre Dame passed its first test of the season with flying colors with a decisive win over Michigan.

Now, No. 8 Notre Dame will turn its attention toward an in-state school that it has never played. The Fighting Irish (1-0) figure to be heavy favorites when they welcome Ball State (1-0) on Saturday afternoon at Notre Dame Stadium.

The matchup pits a feisty mid-major against a national powerhouse.

Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly is determined not to let his team relax after an emotional victory to open the season.

“We have a standard,” said Kelly, who is 70-34 in his career with Notre Dame. “They know what the standard is, and they have met that standard for eight months. They know the standard that we have here, what our mission is, what our process is, and we’ll continue to reiterate that on a day-to-day basis.

“We play Ball State, but for them it’s a nameless, faceless opponent in the way they go to work every day. They’ll know Ball State’s scheme. They’ll know their players. They’ll know tactically what they need to do, but overriding that is the standard they have to live up to as a program on a day-to-day basis.”

Questions swirled about the Notre Dame rushing attack going into the season after behemoth left tackle Mike McGlinchey and guard Quenton Nelson headed to the NFL, with each player being taken high in the first round. Running back Josh Adams also left, creating a void in the backfield.

Jafar Armstrong looked good in his first audition to replace Adams. He punched in a pair of touchdowns against Michigan.

“He did a lot of things on the football field for a first start,” Kelly said.

“He returned kicks. He was catching the football. He was picking up blitzers. He was running the football. He was in a number of different alignments. So we asked a lot for a first-time starter, so I think all that versatility in itself is quite a load, and I think he handled it very well with a great demeanor.”

Notre Dame also will look to stay consistent on defense. The Fighting Irish frustrated Michigan in the season opener, limiting the Wolverines to 58 yards rushing on three carries.

Ball State has a dynamic rushing attack led by James Gilbert, who ran for 100 yards and a touchdown in Ball State’s 42-6- win against Central Connecticut State a week ago.

“As a kid, I watched Notre Dame football, so for me it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get to play against them and go to their stadium, because I’ve never been there,” Gilbert told reporters after his season debut. “We’re pumped, we’re going to celebrate this win, then get back to work for Notre Dame.”