SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Notre Dame wide receiver Will Fuller finds it hard to believe the eighth-ranked Fighting Irish are underdogs at home against No. 14 Georgia Tech.
“That’s really disrespectful that we’re the underdogs and they’re coming into our house,” said Fuller, who has four touchdown catches in two games. “We’re pumped up for it.”
A major reason the Irish are underdogs is because sophomore DeShone Kizer will make his first start at quarterback after Malik Zaire fractured his ankle against Virginia. Kizer, who threw the game-winning touchdown with 12 seconds left last week, was asked when he got comfortable running the offense.
“I can’t say I’m completely comfortable now,” he said.
Coach Brian Kelly said the Irish will run the same offense with Kizer, and Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson isn’t expecting any significant changes.
“I do not think you can change much. I am pretty sure they will just run their system. That is what they do,” Johnson said.
Meanwhile, Kelly is worried about the wrinkles Johnson will throw into his triple option offense that is averaging 457.5 yards and 67 points a game, which puts Georgia Tech No. 1 and 2 in the nation, respectively. Since the Yellow Jackets haven’t had to show too much of their offense in those two games, the Irish staff has reviewed Georgia Tech games back to 2012.
“Navy last year brought out some stuff that they did in 2009 with bunch packages that outflanked our defense. So, yeah, we’re not taking anything for granted,” Kelly said.
Other things to know about the Georgia Tech-Notre Dame game:
EXTRA MOTIVATION?: Johnson, who coached at Georgia Southern for five seasons, including two Division I-AA national championships, apparently wasn’t happy when Brian VanGorder ditched the triple option when he became coach there in 2006. VanGorder, now the defensive coordinator at Notre Dame, reportedly said he wanted to bring the offense “into the 21st century.”
USA Today reported in December that Johnson, then still coaching at Navy, was so upset he called Georgia Southern wanting to schedule a game so he could “beat the hell out of Brian VanGorder.” Johnson said this week all he said was when he heard VanGorder talk about bringing the offense into the 21st century, his response was: “There’s a record there. Go shoot for it.”
Georgia Southern went 3-8 that season and VanGorder left for a job with the Atlanta Falcons.
Johnson said this week that the story had been overblown, saying he wasn’t sure if he had ever met VanGorder and has never coached against him.
“Then everybody made a big deal out of it,” Johnson said. “There’s not a lot to that, I don’t think.”
SHORT YARDAGE WOES: Despite averaging 5.4 yards a carry overall, the Irish have struggled in third down with less than 4 yards to go, going 0-for-8 through two games.
“It’s definitely something we’ve been looking at. It’s definitely something we know we need to improve on,” left tackle Ronnie Stanley said.
RUDY RECALLED: This year is the 40th anniversary of the game where Notre Dame’ walk-on Rudy Ruettiger got in against Georgia Tech, inspiring the 1993 film “Rudy.” Former Notre Dame walk-on, linebacker Joe Schmidt, said he watched the movie in the past two or three weeks, calling it a “great movie” and adding it has “one of the greatest soundtracks of all time.”
Georgia Tech defensive lineman Adam Gotsis isn’t as big a fan.
“I watched half of it. I feel asleep during it,” he said.
RARE HOME UNDERDOG: Notre Dame has been the underdog at home 26 times in the last 25 seasons, according to gambling expert R.J. Bell of Pregame.com. In only five of those games have the Irish been ranked in the top 10, and the only other time the Irish were underdogs when in the top 10 and ranked higher than their opponent at home happened just last season when No. 14 Stanford was favored by 2.5 points over the ninth-ranked Irish. Notre Dame won 17-14.
PULLING RANK: Notre Dame is 10-0-1 vs. Georgia Tech when ranked in the top 10.
STREAKY QB: Justin Thomas has thrown touchdown passes in six straight games, the longest streak by a Yellow Jackets quarterback under Johnson. The school record is nine straight games by Reggie Ball, who started the streak against Notre Dame in 2006.