Notre Dame's Matthias Fairley only looking ahead

Tom Coyne
Associated Press

South Bend, Ind. — Notre Dame senior defensive back Matthias Farley has learned to let things go after his share of ups and downs.

Farley arrived on campus with just two years of experience as a receiver after switching from soccer to football in high school. The senior from Charlotte, North Carolina, watched from the sidelines as a freshman unable to break into the Fighting Irish lineup.

The following spring he switched to safety and was thrust into a starting role early because of injuries. He played solidly and made several big plays, including intercepting a pass to set up a field goal and making a key sack to help force overtime in a win over Stanford as the Irish went undefeated in the regular season two years ago.

Big things were expected, but he struggled last season with missed tackles and his playing time decreased. He later disclosed he was dealing with nagging shoulder issues. With the emergence of Max Redfield at safety, Farley was moved to cornerback in the spring by new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder.

He's more interested in looking ahead.

"As a young player, you often times get caught up on the last play or a perception someone might have of you based on how you perform. I think it's huge to just be able to let that roll off your back, take it for what it's worth and work to improve," he said. "You can't harp on the past."

Farley said he never doubted his abilities.

"You have to understand if you weren't good enough to be at Notre Dame you wouldn't be here," he said.

He's thrived this fall as the nickel back. Coach Brian Kelly describes him as a savvy, opportunistic player. He's sixth on the team with 32 tackles and tied for the lead on the team with 3.5 sacks, 6.5 tackles for loss and three interceptions. He said knowing how to play both safety and cornerback has helped.

"I have a good understanding of how things fit together and getting a lot of reps since coach VanGorder's been here," He said. "And really buying into what they've asked of me. I think that's huge to me."

The defense struggled last week in a 55-31 loss to Arizona State, which tied for the fourth most points ever given up by Notre Dame. Although two of those touchdowns came against the offense, and three other turnovers put the defense in difficult situations, the defense knows it needs to do better when put in difficult situations, Farley said.

"It's just a mentality that has to be improved on that once you're back up in the red zone, you really have to dig in and be that much more focused and tighten coverage and get more pressure quicker," he said. "So have that mentality and understand what could come at you."

The biggest thing the 15th-ranked Irish (7-2) have to do against Northwestern (3-6) on Saturday is forget about last week, Farley said.

"I hadn't thought about it until you guys asked me about it," Farley said. "In this game, you can't harp on things not going your way because it happens when you play long enough. It's on to the next one."