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Kelly: Hard to stomach Irish loss

9/12/2010

The most important meal of the day didn't sit well with Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly on Sunday, less than 24 hours after a 28-24 loss to Michigan.

It was the first time since Nov. 17, 2007, when West Virginia knocked off Cincinnati, that Kelly lost a regular season home game. And once again Rich Rodriguez was the coach to spoil Kelly's fun.

"You know, I made that comment this morning at a breakfast we had with recruits that I'm not really sure how to handle myself here this morning after a loss," Kelly said. "But I can tell you it doesn't feel good, and I'm sure that this mood will not change until we get a chance to win again."

Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson had his way with the Irish defense, racking up 502 yards of offense and officially announcing his Heisman Trophy candidacy. But it was the Wolverines' game-winning drive, with run-first Robinson completing passes at will, that irked Kelly.

"At the end of the day, where we feel like we need to do a better job is obviously in zone coverage,” Kelly said. “What we have to do this week is we have to win football games. And that means, quite frankly, we've gotta execute better, we've gotta line up in the right position, we've gotta be assignment correct and that happens on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. We're going to make sure that gets coached hard during the week and there won't be any smiling faces around here until we get a win.

"What is not on the shoulders of Denard Robinson is when they're in no-back and they can complete the football into the short field. That's on us. We have players in a position, they've got to make those plays. We've got to be able to coach that and we've got to get our players to do a better job in that situation."

Notre Dame operated without starting quarterback Dayne Crist for most of the first half after the junior complained of blurred vision after a blow to the head during his team's opening touchdown march. Crist returned in the third quarter and finished with 277 yards and a pair of scores. He threw one interception, the third of the day for the Irish, who couldn't get much going with backups Tommy Rees and Nate Montana.

Kelly said he has no intention of drafting freshmen Andrew Hendrix or Luke Massa into action, but he'll continue to develop Rees, who enrolled last spring, and Montana, a junior who spent last season toiling at the junior college level.

"We're not going to play Massa and we're not going to play Hendrix," Kelly said. "So I've got to get ready those two kids [Montana and Rees] -- flat out. That's my job, I'm going to see to it. We're going to have to do things a little bit differently during the scripting of our No. 2 reps to make certain that I've got a package that they can handle. It was too much for them [Saturday]; they can't take the same plays that our first group does. Doesn't mean we can't put a successful package for them, but it's got to be different for those two guys and I've got to get that done this week."

Getting receiver Michael Floyd more catches is also something Kelly would like to work on.

"We’ve got to move him around,” Kelly said. “As you know, any time he was into the short field he got doubled over the top. So, you saw in the second half we started moving him to the field, we freed him up. Couple of opportunities where he needs to catch the ball as well. It works both ways. He's got to catch the ball a couple of times where he should have caught it and we've got to keep working on ways to get him the football in different looks."

Kelly went on to address the health of his team as it prepares for Saturday's game at Michigan State:

On Crist: "He had swelling in the left side of his face from when he hit. When he ran the ball before the first touchdown, where he got the big gain, he kind of hit the ground and a helmet hit him at the same time and he picked up some swelling after the game. It was more of a contusion that kind of got him a little off-balance. He wasn't clear. It wasn't a concussed situation. So we monitored it, we looked at him today, he was really clear.

“But at the end of the day, the evaluation of it, he grew up in the second half. He showed poise in the pocket that he hadn't showed to this point. He really matured in the second half of this football game."

On fifth-year senior center Dan Wenger: "When he was diagnosed as having another concussion, [he] was put through the normal battery of tests in making that assessment. Our doctors deemed it necessary to hold him from contact for three weeks. So we are in that cycle of waiting for three weeks. It will be a family decision where we go from there relative to him going back out there or not. So that's not a decision we're going to make for another three weeks."

On senior linebacker Steve Paskorz: "Paskorz will have surgery. His knee will need to be repaired and that surgery will take place this week. So he'll be lost for the season."

On special teams/defensive line coach Mike Elston, who missed Saturday's game: "We're still going through a battery of tests to find out what this virus is that's knocking him out. I think he gave, last count, 72 vials of blood to try to figure out what this virus is. We're hoping to hear some hard news on it here Monday or Tuesday. I can tell you this, Mike, he's been, from an energy standpoint, he's been fighting this virus for a while. He's had good days, bad days, but I'm not going to get into any of the specifics right now."