Sunday, September 11, 2011
Kelly: 'I still believe in this team'
By Matt Fortuna
A previously unthinkable 0-2 start does not have Brian Kelly ready to give up on Notre Dame two weeks into the second year of his tenure as the Fighting Irish's head coach.
Not when his team has put up 1,022 yards of total offense, production outdone only by the head-scratching mistakes that have led to 10 turnovers and 17 penalties over 120 minutes of game action.
Brian Kelly says it's the little things that are keeping his team from reaching its potential.
"I think when we came out of preseason camp we felt like we had the chance to be a good team," Kelly said during a teleconference Sunday. "And so when you put that modifier in front, 'chance,' to be a good team, I can see those things in practice, I can see those things in the development of our players. But that chance to be a good team is everything you just mentioned — those turnovers, the little detail things. And until we can clean up those detail things, we can't be a good team.
"I still believe in this team, I still believe we'll be a good football team. But the chance to be a good team is all the things that we're doing right now. We're not giving ourselves a chance to be a good football team."
The challenges of getting a team over the hump may draw greater pressure at a school such as Notre Dame, the third-winningest program in FBS history and a team that had its sights set on a BCS bowl two short weeks ago.
Kelly downplayed that notion, saying he has come across challenges at each one of his three previous head-coaching stops.
"Not one school is the same," he said. "I had challenges at all the schools that I've been at in terms of getting a team over those inherent challenges, and there are inherent challenges here. But we'll get through those as well. And the product that we're putting out on the field, I understand we've gotta win and our players wanna win.
"We're not, we got a chance to be a good team. We can't be a good team until we take care of the little things that are popping up. It's pretty clear that until we get those things taken care of on Saturdays, we'll be a mediocre football team."
When asked if he felt the Irish were close or far from being a good team, Kelly pointed to the demanding early-season schedule, saying his team's mistakes were magnified because of the spotlight it was playing under.
Other schools, he said, have gotten by unscathed by the public.
"We've made so many mistakes against two pretty tough teams coming out," Kelly said. "Again, as you see the schedule, Ohio State's playing Toledo. I mean, teams are playing easy games early on in the schedule. We don't get that luxury. We gotta go play in front of 115,000, and those mistakes get, obviously, they're more glaring against opponents that are physically pretty good as well.
"I believe that we're gonna be a good football team. We won't be until we clean up the little things that keep popping up on Saturdays."
-- On personnel matters, Kelly said tight end Mike Ragone (knee) and linebacker Danny Spond (hamstring) would undergo MRIs. He also said the staff decided to move Theo Riddick from punt returns because it thought both those duties and his wide receiver duties were too much for him.