I’ll say it again — you and I may not think Kirby’s manball approach is appropriate in all circumstances, but it’s hardwired into his DNA.
But a hard-fought game against the Irish will go a long way in building comfort and confidence in those situations for this year’s squad, particularly for players who haven’t been in that spot before.
“You look inside yourself when you get tested, and there were some guys that had to look inside themselves,” Smart said. “They had not been tested like that. How are they going to respond? They came out fighting.”
I don’t think it’s merely the case that if his team runs the gauntlet into the CFP at year’s end that Smart will turn around and point to how they held up when things got tight at the end against Notre Dame. I think it’s something he is happy to verify in the here and now, regardless of how the rest of the regular season plays out.
Best get used to it, in other words. If nothing else, you can’t accuse him of not forging a team identity.