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Football: Cleaning it up

Douglas Farmer | Wednesday, September 22, 2010

After suffering a second last-minute loss, the Irish do not need to learn how to win. Notre Dame simply needs to play “cleaner,” Irish coach Brian Kelly said in a press conference Tuesday.

“We’re all frustrated. We want to win football games,” Kelly said. “We need to play cleaner … They play hard. They played with great physical toughness. We played tough. We’ve got to play cleaner.”

By cleaner, Kelly was referring to Notre Dame’s three turnovers on Saturday, two inside the red zone, and defensive lapses that led to big plays for both Michigan and Michigan State in the past two weeks.

“It’s not not knowing how to win,” Kelly said. “It’s playing the game at a level that you don’t give up a 56-yard run or you don’t fumble the ball or turn it over in the red zone like we did twice.”

In the two losses, the Irish have given up four scores of 29 yards or longer, and turned the ball over three times in each game.

“We’ve got to make those plays,” Kelly said. “But you ask me why you see there’s light at the end of the tunnel, it’s those things we know that we can correct … They’re very correctable, but those are areas that we have to do a better job with, and those are the things that you can look back and go, hey, there’s some points that you left out there that would have made it a different game.”

Aside from the mistakes that led to those four long scores, Kelly said he has been pleased with the defense’s play, especially the effort shown going up against a Michigan State team that relies on the run.

“What I liked about our defense that will carry the day is they played tough when tough was required, and that’s what we’ve been preaching,” he said. “Be tough gentlemen.”

Those “tough gentlemen” took Saturday’s loss personally, Kelly said, and that fact encouraged him.

“This group, [losing] hurts,” he said. “They want to win, and that’s why for me we just kind of stick with what we’ve been talking about since day one, and that’s stay together.”

Jamoris Slaughter update

Junior safety Jamoris Slaughter sprained his ankle during the season-opener against Purdue. Slaughter missed the second half of that game, all of the game against Michigan and only played two plays against Michigan State.

But, this week’s depth chart has Slaughter listed as a starting safety, and Kelly said he would stand by that expectation.

“[Slaughter] moved around a lot better,” Kelly said after practice Tuesday. “I’m very confident, after watching him move around today, that we’re going to have him ready for Saturday.”

While Slaughter was sidelined — along with fellow junior safety Dan McCarthy — Notre Dame only had two healthy safeties. When sophomore Zeke Motta’s helmet was damaged Saturday, Slaughter was Notre Dame’s only option, Kelly said.

“Zeke had an equipment problem. Jamoris ran in the game without anybody putting him in the game,” Kelly said. “So he’s anxious to get back out there.”