Kelly rallies the troops

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With the Irish staring a ranked opponent in the eye and sitting at 1-2 after two last-second defeats, Brian Kelly has turned the focus inward for his team.

“Nobody feels sorry for Notre Dame at 1-2,” Kelly said. “It can’t be, ‘Well, gee,
we deserve this,’  we don’t deserve anything. We deserve what we get. And
we’re 1-2 and we need to do something about it. It goes back to having
that tenacity in us that we can’t let anybody take food off our table.”

Those are the kind of words that should be a rallying cry for a football team that just as easily could be sitting at 3-0 and playing one of the premiere football games of the weekend. While the Stanford-Notre Dame game isn’t short of subplots, Stanford will be working receiver and special teams weapon Chris Owusu back into the kick return rotation, but will likely be without leading wide receiver Ryan Whalen, who dislocated his elbow and will probably miss Saturday’s contest.

Whalen’s loss is likely Notre Dame’s gain, especially with Jamoris Slaughter and Dan McCarthy both likely available in the secondary. Kelly discussed what having better depth in the secondary will help the Irish defense do.

“Start with
the inability on third-and-three-to-five to play some multiple coverage
looks. We’d like to play a little man, a little roll zone, we’d like to
do some other things. It’s not as easy to convert in those situations.
Having a little more depth at that position allows you to do a lot more
and keep the offense guessing, especially in third and medium.”

While playing the pass on 3rd and medium is important, in no uncertain terms, stopping the Stanford running attack is going to be the most important thing for the Irish defense. That job falls into the hands of defensive coordinator Bob Diaco and the front seven of Notre Dame’s defense.

While Diaco’s troops haven’t statistically shown they can play great run defense — clocking in at an ugly 99th in the country — there’s reason to think “the arrow is pointing up.”

For those of you that recognize that Charlie Weis-ism, Brian Kelly also took us back to the CW days with his word choice on what he wants to see out of his team.

“You take each position, and you look at the things you need to continue
to develop at. Then, if you really look at it, what we’ve been talking
about is, the best word I can use is a nasty kind of tenaciousness to us
that we’ve got to play with,” Kelly said. “That no matter what happens, we have to
find a way to win. We play hard, we’ve been doing the right things,
that’s all well and good. Now it has to be, look it, we gotta fall on our
sword, we gotta come back and play this game with more toughness and
more tenacity than we’ve ever played with before.”

I don’t think Notre Dame fans are excited to hear about the return of nasty, but the message certainly rings true.