Opponent perspective: What Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly and players said about Wisconsin – 247Sports

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Icon Sep 25, 2021

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Arguably none of the Wisconsin Badgers’ games this season has more storylines than the one they’ll play Saturday against Notre Dame. Or at least it feels that way.
A pair of ranked programs — the Badgers at No. 18 and the Fighting Irish at No. 12 — meet at historic Soldier Field in a matchup that’s long overdue. These two teams have met 16 times previously, but not since 1964. Notre Dame leads the all-time series with an 8-6-2 mark, including a win at Soldier Field in 1929. This matchup feels more delayed considering Wisconsin and Notre Dame were to play at Lambeau Field last season. The coronavirus pandemic wiped out that contest, which will now take place in 2026.
This game has a well-documented subplot that’s been on many minds for months. Jack Coan played in 25 games with 18 starts at quarterback for the Badgers. He transferred to Notre Dame in January, and he’ll try to beat many of his former teammates and current friends Saturday afternoon.
Both sides have somewhat downplayed the uniqueness of the situation. Which team has the edge with familiarity has also been a moot point. And to top it off, the Badgers, of course, are winless in their last six games against top-25 teams.
As Badger247 wraps up what’s been a busy week, here’s what Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly and players said about this weekend’s matchup.
Kelly on Jack Coan and familiarity he has with Wisconsin:
You don’t get too much intel from those things in terms of what he knows about Wisconsin. I’m not a big believer in that. Like hey, do you know the signals? You got to play the game. Jack is a competitor. He loved his time at Wisconsin, but it’s a new chapter for him. He’s, like I said, very mature, level-headed. He wants to beat Wisconsin, but he wants to beat Cincinnati the following week and the week after, so I think we can make as much as we want and make it a story. In the building, it’s not that much of a story to him.”
Kelly on Wisconsin’s offense, defense:
Graham Mertz at quarterback, he’s got all the tools. He’s got arm strength, he can run, he’s athletic. He certainly has some weapons around him. Chez Mellusi transfers in, he’s an outstanding running back. They’ve got the physical fullback, Ferguson at tight end and veteran receivers that are smart and well-coached. So, you can see the theme here, smart and well-coached. That takes you to the defensive side of the ball. Jim Leonard, outstanding defensive coordinator. He’s got some big fellas upfront. It starts with Benton at the nose, who’s a great two-gap player. He’ll be difficult. We’ll have to do some things in terms of neutralizing him. He’s very difficult. I think as instinctive and disciplined of linebackers that we will see this year. Well coached, smart, disciplined, physical, all the things that we all know about Wisconsin, but they come to light every game you watch.”
Linebacker Drew White on the challenge Wisconsin’s offense presents:
“I would say they’re physical at the point of attack. It’s going to be a physical game, and I think that’s what it’s going to come down to. And then discipline. Being in your gaps and assignment sound. Wisconsin does a great job of opening up creases. The running back is really good at finding those creases. Anybody that’s out of position, they’ll make you pay for it. I think that’s the point of emphasis for this week.”
Safety Houston Griffith on Wisconsin’s running backs:
“It’s a program I respect a lot. They’re a team that knows how to run the football and controls the possession of the game. They’re big, they’re smart and they play aggressively. It speaks to the success they’ve had in the past. It should be a good game. It’s going to be physical, and we’re going to have to hunt.”
Offensive lineman Josh Lugg on the Badgers’ pass rush:
“They’re going to play more three-down than we’ve traditionally seen,” Lugg said. “We’ll be prepared for that. They have experienced guys upfront. They’re going to be good players, but we’ll be ready to execute our fundamentals at a high level.”
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