Brian Kelly‘s weekly Tuesday press conference came early, a Sunday kickoff and a holiday Monday making it even tougher to get past the season-opening loss to Texas. But even if a faulty camera made for some interesting press conference shenanigans, Notre Dame’s seventh-year head coach is moving on.
For the Irish, that means putting Texas behind them. That also means a head coach preaching the message of finishing the job to his young team, a reminder that it was Notre Dame that gave up a fourth-quarter lead after roaring back from a 17-point deficit.
So with Nevada rapidly approaching, Kelly and his team are turning the page.
“The message to the team yesterday was about closing and finishing, and hard-fought games on the road against quality opposition you’ve got to finish,” Kelly said. “That’s what we did not do in this game, we didn’t finish and that will be a ‘watch word’ for this group as we move forward.”
For most, the immediate question was Kelly’s starting quarterback. But with the calendar compressed, Kelly still hasn’t formally discussed the job with the two candidates. While that’ll lead to some grumbling by fans and outsiders who saw Sunday night in Austin as a decisive vote for DeShone Kizer’s candidacy, Kelly doesn’t expect this to linger on.
“Look, they’re both really good players. I think we could all agree in this room. Now it’s not about anything else but how you accept your role,” Kelly said.
“He’s got to prepare himself as if he’s the starter. So I think all of that is about your attitude and how you accept that role and how it’s embraced. That to me is the most important element of this.”
Questions about Notre Dame’s defense continued Tuesday. When asked about his team’s scheme and their ability to slow down the Longhorns, Kelly thought his team’s issues were less about communication and handling Texas’ up-tempo attack and more about executing the game plan.
“Tempo was not a factor this the game for us. Our guys played a lot of plays in very humid conditions. It wasn’t an issue in terms of communication,” Kelly said. Our mistakes were one where we weren’t in the wrong coverage or the fronts…. It was just—we’ve got to execute better, tackle better.”
In a similar tone, Kelly seemed to dismiss some of the criticism directed at defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder. Echoing comments he made the day before during his media teleconference, Kelly once again preached patience as he pushed back at the idea that VanGorder’s job status should be in question.
“It’s great conversation for everybody to have, but it’s so short-sighted of what really happened in the Texas game,” Kelly said, when asked if he thought he had the right man for the defensive coordinator job. “If we’re 10 or 11 games into the season and we have to outscore everybody, I’ll take the questions, you know? And I would say, ‘fair enough.’
“We’re in game one of a brand new offense that we saw for the first time, and we got ten guys that went to the NFL off this team. So I just think we’re jumping the gun. If we’re ten games into this and we’re giving up 50 points a game, I’ll have to answer your questions. Right now, as I said yesterday, I think you all should relax a little bit.
“I think our defense is going to be fine.”