Kelly points to lack of toughness, ‘atrocious’ weather in explaining loss to NC State
Renee Griffin | Tuesday, October 11, 2016
Irish head coach Brian Kelly led off his teleconference on the day after his team’s 10-3 loss to North Carolina State with a comment on the play that ended Notre Dame’s final offensive drive, a misfired snap by Notre Dame junior center Sam Mustipher.
“I don’t know that there was anything [we could have done to make snapping better],” Kelly said. “The conditions were atrocious, so snapping the football was difficult, to say the least. It was just atrocious conditions to snap a football in. It was difficult for him or anybody that was asked to snap a football given the conditions.”
The weather was the most dominant force of the game, with Hurricane Matthew causing ceaseless rain and, consequently, a total of 10 fumbles between the stagnant Irish and Wolfpack offenses.
Kelly said he was simply following orders from the ACC on whether to play the game as scheduled, move it or delay it until Sunday, when the skies cleared up significantly.
“If we could have went over to the indoor facility, I think Dave [Doeren, Wolfpack head coach] and I both would’ve preferred that. Those calls are outside our purview,” Kelly said. “They tell us to play the game and we’ve got to play the game. Certainly I think when you’re coaching and preparing, you want to put your kids in a position that they can obviously succeed.”
Though Kelly attributed many of the offense’s struggles to the weather, he also said that the loss to N.C. State repeated a pattern that appeared in the past three losses as well: a failure to finish crucial drives.
“We’ve had the ball in each one of our losses on the offensive side of the ball with a chance to either win or tie the game,” Kelly said. “Against Texas, we had the ball when the game was tied with three minutes to go — we didn’t make a play. Against Michigan State, four minutes to go in the game — we went three and out. Against Duke, we had the ball with a minute and a half and went four plays and out. Again, we were first and ten on the 18-yard line with to minutes and 43 seconds — we couldn’t execute. It’s really just about having that demeanor and toughness and that will that regardless of the circumstances, we’re going to get it done.
“The players are fine; coaching is fine. There is just a fine line between winning and losing, and we’re not making or executing as a unit. Not any one person but as a group, we’re not executing effectively in the closing minutes to win football games.”
The run game was lacking Saturday, with the Irish recording 59 yards to the Wolfpack’s 157. Kelly said he wanted more production there, but emphasized that turnovers were the larger problem.
“I think it’s easy to look back on things and wish I did that,” Kelly said. “ … Yeah, I want to run the ball more effectively in those situations, but I’m not going to second-guess what we do either. If we start doing that, then we’re going down the wrong track.
“We’re going to win or lose together, and I think the most important thing is: When we get our opportunities, we can’t have self-inflicted wounds. We had a number of those on Saturday.”
Kelly said that, along with finding toughness late, developing the defense would be a key focus of the remainder of the season.
“We want to keep getting better on defense, making progress there,” Kelly said. “You know, we’re doing some good things on offense. I like our personnel. I like what we’re doing.
“We just lack that ability right now, that maturity, that toughness, that thing that you can’t put your finger on, that ‘it.’ We got to have that late in the games.”
The team will now make a push for 6-6, with a tough slate ahead, to qualify for a bowl game that would give the younger players valuable extra practice time, Kelly said.
In the meantime, Kelly said the criticisms that come with having a 2-4 record don’t bother him.
“[The noise] doesn’t affect me. I have to make sure it doesn’t affect the assistant coaches, doesn’t affect the players,” Kelly said. “ … You’re going to have some adversity. If you cave to adversity, then how strong are you really? I’m looking for guys that are strong, guys that bounce back higher when there is some adversity. I’m not looking for guys that will crumble at the first sign of a little bit of adversity.
“Yeah, 2-4 is unacceptable — not where we want to be. But I’m looking for guys that want to be a solution and not worry about what other people think or say.”