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Another week, another playmaker to watch

Liberty v North Carolina

Liberty v North Carolina

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Last week, Notre Dame beat Stanford thanks to shutting down Stanford’s Ty Montgomery. The most explosive athlete on the Cardinal roster, Montgomery had already put together some highlight reel moments this season, showcasing a 40-inch vertical and game-breaking ability on special teams.

Kelly talked a little bit about that success, with Montgomery only able to gain 14 yards on his five rushing attempts and 12 more on four catches.

“It was a must. We had some musts, so that was part of our musts,” Kelly said. “Then it becomes enacted within our game plan. It’s important to know your opponent, and your strengths of your opponent. So I think we enacted the appropriate game plan and our guys knew where he was. We set some defensive things in motion to attend to that. And then I think we had some players that can certainly challenge him.”

This weekend, the Irish face another one of the elite game-breakers in college football in Ryan Switzer. As a first-team All-American as a true freshman, Switzer returned five punts for touchdowns last season, an incredible accomplishment, especially when you consider Notre Dame’s punt return game the past few seasons.

A week after a game plan that focused on shutting down Montgomery, you’ve got to expect a similar plan dialed up for Switzer, who leads Carolina receivers in yards and catches but has only found the end zone once.

“Ryan Switzer is a Wes Welker type in the slot,” Kelly said. “You know, Robby Toma with a little bit more speed. Very savvy. Gets open. Catches the football extremely well.”

Switzer has done more than catch the football, earning three carries and throwing a touchdown pass earlier this season. And while the Heels have yet to go out and win a football game that wasn’t expected, Switzer sounded like a guy that believed he and his teammates could come to South Bend and pull out a victory.

“I know people are getting really tired of hearing how close we are,” Switzer told “We are really close to being not just a good offense, but a good team. We just have to put everything together, a full game together, but what better time to do that than this weekend.”

A young offensive line has been part of the problem for Carolina. And defensively, they’ve struggled to stop anybody, giving up 42 points a game. With the offense needing to carry the load to keep the Tar Heels in the game, Switzer gave his impression of the Irish defense, a group they studied in film sessions earlier this week.

“They’re very physical and very fast, but I don’t think they’re anything we haven’t seen this year with Clemson and Virginia Tech,” Switzer said. It’s going to be another challenge on the road against a Top five team and against a great defense. Like any game, we see some things that we like and some things that we can do.”

Switzer has yet to break loose on a punt return this season, with his 21 returns averaging just a shade under five yards per attempt. But a week after Kyle Brindza had to be careful with his kickoffs to Montgomery, he’ll have to make sure he does an excellent job punting the football.