SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The standard approach for a team like Notre Dame in its infancy under Brian Kelly against a dangerous quarterback like Michigan's Denard Robinson is simple: Keep him off the field.
''That's one perspective,'' Kelly said when asked if time of possession will be key against Robinson, who gained 383 total yards on 51 touches against Connecticut last week.
Quarterback Denard Robinson can be neutralized if he's kept off the field, or if Michigan falls behind.
''My other perspective would be, get up on them. Score a lot of points. Option teams don't like to fall behind. If they do and get off schedule, they have to do things they don't want to do.''
With that in mind, Notre Dame's game against Michigan today at Notre Dame Stadium could be particularly challenging for Kelly as he balances his aggressive nature as a football coach with the pitfalls of trying to do too much too soon.
Few coaches know the value of impressive, high-scoring victories early in the season more than Kelly -- he opened with 59, 34, 47, 40 and 52 points in his first five games at Cincinnati in 2007. But with an inexperienced quarterback in Dayne Crist, it's less likely to happen that quickly at Notre Dame.
''We have a lot of [the offensive menu] in, but we're not at the point where we're going to order some of the items I like to order,'' Kelly said. ''It's going to take some time, and we'll continue to progress and be as aggressive as possible.''
But he's not going to venture into reckless-abandon territory just to live up to his reputation.
''I want to win games,'' he said. ''So we're going to find ways to win games.''
Outscoring Robinson and the Wolverines is one option, but defending them is another. The challenge is for the Irish defense to take a big step in Week 2 after an impressive but imperfect debut against Purdue last week.
Kelly works mostly with the offense, but he has had his hands on the defense when properly challenged. In his second game at Cincinnati in 2007, he faced a similar challenge from up-and-coming Oregon State and running back Yvenson Bernard, who had rushed for 165 yards and two touchdowns in an opening victory over Utah.
Kelly put the focus on stopping Bernard, and the Bearcats responded by holding him to 30 yards on 16 carries in a 34-3 victory. Bernard finished the season with 1,214 yards (4.6 per carry) and 13 touchdowns -- he averaged 150 yards against five bowl teams. But against Cincinnati, he averaged 1.9 yards per carry and did not score.
As a quarterback, Robinson presents a tougher challenge. The sophomore from Deerfield Beach, Fla., rushed for 197 yards on 29 carries against Connecticut and completed 19 of 22 passes for 186 yards and a touchdown.
If the Irish can't contain Robinson, they at least hope to neutralize him by forcing turnovers. At Cincinnati, Kelly's 2007 team struggled against West Virginia's Pat White but forced two fumbles and one interception and nearly pulled off the upset, losing 28-23. Against South Florida, run-pass threat Matt Grothe had 457 yards of total offense, but Cincinnati intercepted him four times, returned one for a touchdown and upset the 20th-ranked Bulls 38-33.
''If you fall asleep on [Robinson] he can throw the football over your head, [but] he's a running back,'' Kelly said. ''The only way I know to take a running back out of play is to him him and make sure you tackle him. That's going to be the issue ... you have to tackle this kid.''
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