Sunday’s roundup: Kelly not panicking over defense

Tom Coyne
Associated Press

South Bend, Ind. — Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly is getting frustrated at explaining why his defense is struggling so mightily.

The Irish defense has missed far too many tackles in losses at Texas and at home against Michigan State, giving up more than 239 yards rushing and 500 yards total offense in each and a combined 86 points in those two games. The Spartans averaged 6.4 yards a play in a 36-28 victory Saturday night.

Kelly, who after the loss to Texas said critics of his defensive staff needed to “tap the brakes and relax,” took a more urgent tone Saturday night after another disappointing defensive performance.

“Those are the guys we have. We can’t trade them. They’re not getting cut. We recruited them, so I don’t want to hear anybody … I told our staff, ‘Those are our guys, so we’ve got to get them better.’ We’ve got to put them in better position to make plays,” Kelly said.

The Irish (1-2) had a chance to get the ball back twice in the final two minutes but gave up big plays on third down. The Irish rank 102nd in the nation in total defense, giving up 439.3 yards a game, 99th in rush defense and 103rd in pass efficiency defense. The Irish don’t have a sack.

Kelly said Sunday he and his staff have to do a better job of teaching and communicating and find ways to develop players more efficiently. He said he has confidence in defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder and his scheme. He said someone on his staff with access to his Twitter account had inadvertently liked a Tweet that said it was time for him to shake up his staff because “Clearly it’s not working #FireVangorder.”

Florida turns to Appleby

Florida is turning to former Purdue quarterback Austin Appleby in its key Southeastern Conference clash at Tennessee on Saturday.

“All our guys have good arms,” Florida coach Jim McElwain said. “We’ll stretch the field … We’re not going to change as far as throwing the ball down the field.”

Appleby, a graduate transfer, played in 17 games, with 11 starts, in four years at Purdue. He threw for 2,777 yards, with 19 touchdowns and 19 interceptions. He also ran for nine scores.

Although Appleby has done this before, including a start at Nebraska in 2014, there’s really no telling how he will handle sold-out Neyland Stadium (102,455) on Saturday. It will be loud, obnoxious and arguably the most difficult place for anyone to make their first Southeastern Conference start.