Brian Kelly can make history on Saturday.
A win for the Notre Dame head coach over Wisconsin would give him more wins as the Fighting Irish head coach than anyone who has ever held the same position before him.
Kelly passed Lou Holtz and Ara Parseghian last season. He passed Frank Leahy the season before that. He sits tied at 105 wins with perhaps the greatest of them all, legendary Knute Rockne, going into the game against the Badgers at Soldier Field in Chicago.
If Kelly’s No. 12 Irish (3-0) beat No. 18 Wisconsin (1-1), he will notch his 106th career victory in his 12th season at Notre Dame. He’ll be on track for his seventh double-digit win season in South Bend and his fourth in a row.
Those were hard to come by when he accepted the job ahead of the 2010 season. Notre Dame had two double-digit win seasons in the 16 years before Kelly came along. FOX Sports radio host Colin Cowherd asked former Irish quarterback Brady Quinn earlier this month what has allowed Kelly to right the ship and restore a winning culture at a place that is always supposed to have one.
“He’s been there long enough to where he’s found out the identity of what they can recruit to and how they can play to that,” Quinn said. “You’d be hard-pressed to find an offensive lineman, a tight end that doesn’t want to go to the university of Notre Dame.
“So then behind that now, you’re able to find a graduate transfer in Jack Coan who is smart. They know how to operate a system in which he can go ahead and exploit different things he sees out there on the field.
“And you’ve got running backs who want to go there because they’re running behind NFL offensive linemen. So I think the biggest thing he’s been able to do is identify the type of players, the characteristics that they need to allow them to have an advantage and play to a certain identity once they get on the field.”
Less than a week after Quinn made his comment about running backs wanting to play at Notre Dame, the No. 4 running back recruit in the country in the class of 2023, Sedrick Irivin Jr., committed to Notre Dame. Maybe he’s onto something despite the Irish offensive line’s shaky start to the season.
Former college QB Joel Klatt on Notre Dame QB Jack Coan
Former Colorado quarterback and current FOX Big Noon Saturday color analyst Joel Klatt joined Cowherd’s show this week to discuss Notre Dame versus Wisconsin.
Naturally, Cowherd asked why graduate senior Jack Coan has looked better in an Irish uniform than when he was with the Badgers from 2017-20.
“You could argue that,” Klatt said. “But part of the reason he is at Notre Dame is because they felt like this Graham Mertz, who is their quarterback, was going to be a higher ceiling player than Coan is. Mertz hasn’t really panned out in that regard, but they were clamoring for Mertz because he was more highly recruited than Jack Coan.
“Coan has been very good for Notre Dame, and he has actually given them a little more in the passing game and the explosive passing game than they had with Ian Book. And I don’t want to take anything away from Book. He was a winning quarterback.”
Coan has thrown for 276 yards per game with eight touchdowns and two interceptions in three starts at Notre Dame. He threw for 194.8 yards per game with 18 touchdowns in five interceptions in 14 starts with Wisconsin in 2019, his last full season starting for the Badgers.
Klatt, like anyone else who has watched Notre Dame through the first three games of the season, has been able to pinpoint what has been the Irish’s weakest link. Coan has been sacked 14 times. The Irish rank tied for 125th nationally in sacks allowed per game.
“They’ve had such a great run of offensive linemen, but now they’ve got a lot of young guys who will be great,” Klatt said. “In two or three years, this Notre Dame offensive line is probably going to be as good as anybody in college football. Top two, three line in college football. But right now, they’re getting their feet wet.
“They’ve dealt with some injuries. So that’s what Coan is having to deal with, trying to play quarterback behind an offensive line that’s not quite giving the same production as they had a couple years ago.”
Klatt will be on the call with play-by-play announcer Gus Johnson and sideline reporter Jenny Taft when Notre Dame and Wisconsin kick off at noon ET on Saturday.
• Learn more about our print and digital publication, Blue & Gold Illustrated.
• Watch our videos and subscribe to our YouTube channel.
• Sign up for Blue & Gold’s news alerts and daily newsletter.
• Subscribe to our podcast on Apple Podcasts.
• Like us on Facebook.