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Tuesday, September 20, 2011
With break looming, Irish not looking ahead

By Matt Fortuna

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- After finally getting in the win column Saturday against a ranked team, Notre Dame can turn its attention to Pitt, followed by Purdue, then Air Force, then six more teams on its schedule, four of which are unranked.

Tempting, no?

"I'll worry about that when they win six, seven, eight, nine in a row," Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly said of looking ahead. "We're certainly not at that point yet. We have not been infected with success yet. I'll know when that happens. We need to win more, we need to be more consistent and attention to the detail things."

Two losses to start the season have given Notre Dame ample opportunity to put the brakes on getting ahead of itself, even if the slow beginning to 2011 could, in part, be attributed to a tough early season schedule. The Irish's first three opponents have a combined 8-1 record, two of them are ranked and the other, Michigan State, was ranked before falling to Notre Dame on Saturday.

No. 23 USC and No. 5 Stanford are the only ranked opponents remaining on the Irish's schedule. Every other team the Irish will face has at least one loss. Boston College, which Notre Dame will host for senior day Nov. 19, is off to an 0-3 start.

Still, it's not like Kelly is in his players' ears reminding them of everything that went wrong two weeks into the season.

"They know," he said. "They know where they are. We try to correct everything that occurs as we move forward. So we don't go back to those things relative to what happened in the past, other than we try to correct those mistakes and then move forward. They know where they are. I know where -- we're all trying to get better based upon being a 1-2 team."

Kelly said after Saturday's win that his team needed validation sooner or later after a pair of close defeats, and his message to them was simple: Finish.

The message now, he said, is to try to carry that same chip on their shoulders with win No. 1 is out of the way.

"Continue to develop in practice, continue with the same kind of mindset," Kelly said. "You can't come to practice now that you've won a game and feel as though, 'OK, we've arrived,' because we certainly haven't.

"There are a lot things that we need to get better at if we're gonna be a consistent winner. Right now, they know that they've got a lot of work ahead of 'em. So I want to continue to see that same kind of focus and attention to the way we practice and then carry that over into Saturday."