In the minutes following Saturday’s 41-30 loss to Michigan, Notre Dame head coach repeated the phrase “smarter and more disciplined” regarding his team several times. After a day to watch the game film and digest the team’s first regular-season loss since Nov. 2011, Kelly’s mantra remained the same during his weekly Sunday teleconference.
Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly emphasized the need for his team to become "smarter and more disciplined" than it has been in the opening two games.
“I think if you look at the game, we just have to play better and we have to coach better,” Kelly said. “I don't think there is any big picture relevance to [quotes about a lack of energy in practice] other than you've got to get back to work. You've got to practice harder. You've got to pay attention to detail.
“Look, when you're coming off of playing for a national championship, the bar is high. So the expectations are when you go on the road, you don't lose to Michigan, and that's really the standard that is set. I don't think there is anything that you would read into it relative to these guys not doing what's asked of them.”
Kelly said the defense must improve, but added that he does not doubt its ability to do so. Mobile quarterbacks have tormented the Irish defense in the first two weeks of the season.
“We settled for field goals [against Michigan] and were very close to being able to put enough points on the board where last year we had to rely on our defense to win football games,” he said. “I don't want to have to do that week in and week out.
“I think there are going to be some times when our offense has to win some ballgames. … We did that last year on the back of our defense. I just felt like this was one of those nights where our offense had to bail out our defense. But in no way of saying our defense can't play championship defense. I think it can. It just wasn't this night.”
Senior wide receiver TJ Jones left the game with a slight shoulder sprain before returning. Kelly said he “looked good today” and will practice Tuesday.
“TJ’s a senior captain,” Kelly said. “That's what you expect from your seniors and your captains in particular. On the road, you've got to have those guys step up and play for you. We've got a lot of guys that play for Notre Dame that have had to go in in similar circumstances and tough it out like that. But it was certainly that's what you expect from a TJ Jones.”
Kelly addressed a controversial decision from Saturday, when he elected to decline a holding penalty with Michigan backed up in its own territory in the second half. A play later quarterback Devin Gardner scrambled for a first down and the Wolverines later scored a touchdown.
“Yeah, I thought about it,” Kelly said. “I felt that I think it was third-and-eight or I thought third and long, we could get off the field in that situation. Taking another down away from Gardner at that situation and forcing him to be precise in third down situation. I thought in that situation that we'd get off the field.
“In retrospect, it didn't work out. Those are the decisions you make earlier in the game that you feel like your defense is going to get you off the field.”