Brian Kelly: “We need to find a sense of urgency”
Marek Mazurek | Wednesday, September 21, 2016
Though the Saturday loss to No. 8 Michigan State left Notre Dame with a 1-2 record through its first three games, Irish head coach Brian Kelly on Tuesday stressed the fact that there is more football to be played this season.
“Obviously, a bad start to our season,” Kelly said. “[A] poor start, whatever way you want to characterize it. Three games into the season, nobody wants to be where we are, but we are 1-2. I’m a 1-2 coach. We’ve got to work to get better.
“There’s four quarters in the season, and the first quarter, we did not get off to a good start. But there is plenty of time for us to come out of this in a very, very positive way. That’s what we talked about over the last day or so.”
The biggest reason for the team’s sluggish start is its failure to play with a lack of urgency, Kelly said.
“We obviously compete unevenly, if you will, in a manner that I would probably characterize as we lack a sense of urgency in the way we play,” Kelly said. “We play in spurts. We play really well for a period of time, and then we kind of don’t play at the highest level necessary against really good competition. So finding that sense of urgency, that attention to detail that’s absolutely crucial to being a really good football team, and we can’t be the kind of football team that we want to be unless we play with a sense of urgency for four quarters.”
Defensively, the Irish gave up over 35 points per game and surrendered 501 yards of total offense last week to the Spartans. Irish defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder has come under increased scrutiny over the last few days, but Kelly said he does not feel the need to become more involved with the defensive side of the ball in practice.
“Well, I have to be able to know that everything in the program is being taught, being effectively communicated on a day-to-day basis,” Kelly said. “So physically, does that mean on the practice field I have to stand on the defensive practice field to get that done? No, it doesn’t mean that.
“I don’t need to be on the defensive side of the ball, coaching tackling. I’m very confident that I’ve got good coaches to do that, but I’m the head coach, and I’d better be certain that I know exactly what’s going on in all facets of my program — offense, defense, special teams, recruiting, all of those things. But from an optic standpoint, I don’t need to be standing on the defensive end of the field to make sure that gets done.”
Tensions between Kelly and VanGorder appeared evident after television cameras captured a heated discussion between the two on Saturday, but Kelly said the argument was just part of coaching football in a high-stress environment.
“If we were up 55-0, we’d probably have no interaction conversations, but there’s going to be conversations on the sideline because it’s on national TV,” Kelly said. “I have great respect for all my coaches. They have respect for me. We have a chain of command. If I don’t like something, I’m going to make my opinions known. It’s just business as usual. It’s not personal. It’s about getting it right, and, again, it’s my office. So I think, if you have a camera in your office, there will be those moments that we all have that people would ask what was going on.”
On offense, Kelly said the running game was mostly effective against Michigan State, but said a few missed blocking assignments hindered it.
“Our first half, we had pretty good balance in what we wanted to do,” Kelly said. “We carved out the kind of run game. We were inconsistent in our performance, certainly, and then we only ran the ball twice in the fourth quarter and kind of got behind and never were really able to settle in.
“There were some things that we clearly have to get better at. There was some movement up front that we didn’t handle very well. There were some pressures that the ball needed to get thrown out and the ball not run — all correctable errors. I don’t stand here right now worried about our running game. I believe our running game is going to be where it needs to be.”
The Irish tallied only 57 yards on 25 carries on the ground Saturday and found themselves relying on the passing game as the game went on. When the Irish do go to the air, Kelly said he expects junior quarterback DeShone Kizer to step up and play with a purpose.
“He’s got to play with more sense of urgency. He’s one of those guys,” Kelly said. “We had seven plays in a row that were negative plays that are just unacceptable offensively. It’s not just him, but he’s running the offense, and there are plays that are out there to be made that we’re not making. We come out in our first drive, and we look pretty good. We drop a ball and make a mistake, and we lose that urgency there for a while. We have to is have that from the very beginning. That starts with the guy with keys in his hand who’s driving a car, and he’s got to have more of that.”