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Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly looks forward to ‘historic’ Michigan matchup

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly yells his team during second half an NCAA college football game against Temple South

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly yells to his team during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Temple in South Bend, Ind., Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013. Notre Dame defeated Temple 28-6. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

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Updated: September 3, 2013 9:23PM

SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Brian Kelly looked to shift the attention for Saturday’s showdown against Michigan back on the field.

But first, the Notre Dame coach wanted to make one thing clear.

“This is a great and historic rivalry that we’ll be playing this Saturday, so let’s get that out of the way right away so we don’t have to answer any more questions about this rivalry,” Kelly said during his weekly news conference Tuesday. “We’re excited about this game, we’re excited about playing it. This will be decided by the players on the field, and the preparation that goes along with it. So we can stick with that and dispense with the nonsense.”

There has been plenty of off-field chatter leading up to the top-20 contest.

In May, Michigan coach Brady Hoke said Notre Dame was “chickening out” of the series. Next year’s meeting will be the last for some time. The schools had extended their series through the 2031 season, but it was on a three-year rolling basis. Either school had the option to opt out with three years’ notice. Notre Dame did just that before last year’s game in a letter from Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick to Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon.

Sunday, Kelly said he hadn’t seen the game as “one of those historical, traditional Notre Dame rivalries.” Hoke responded Monday, saying it was a historic rivalry “to us.”

“People have made a lot of [Hoke’s ‘chickening out’] comments. Look, he’s talking to his alums. I didn’t take anything from it,” Kelly said Tuesday. “I know Brady, he’s never been one to show disrespect to anybody or anything. It’s really for me, about two programs that share a boarder, that it makes sense to play.

“It’s just, there are some many complexities with our schedule and with our agreement with the ACC that it’s difficult and frustrating. I can see the frustration that would be there. He’s a first-class guy.”

As for the game itself, Kelly pointed out the talent that Michigan has on both sides of the ball, beginning with quarterback Devin Gardner.

“He reminds me of [former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback] Randall Cunningham back there,” Kelly said. “He can throw it, he’s tall, he’s athletic. He runs the ball very well.”

Gardner had 162 passing yards and 52 rushing yards in Saturday’s 59-9 win against Central Michigan. He rushed for two touchdowns and threw one touchdown pass.

Wide receiver Jeremy Gallon had four catches for 47 yards and the one touchdown reception. He has at least one reception in 27 straight games.

“He’s an outstanding wide receiver and a big-time playmaker,” Kelly said.

Kelly called Taylor Lewan “one of the best, if not the best, offensive linemen.”

“A lot of offensive players, great depth,” Kelly said of the Wolverines, “and they utilize their weapons.”

Notes: Notre Dame is ranked No. 14 and Michigan is No. 17 in the latest Associated Press top 25 poll released Tuesday. … Kelly said wide receiver DaVaris Daniels would practice Tuesday. He suffered a “slight groin” injury Saturday against Temple. … Third-string quarterback Malik Zaire has not been cleared, as of Tuesday. Last week, Kelly said the freshman was recovering from mononucleosis.


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