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Kelly quells Georgia talk, discusses Virginia matchup

| Friday, September 27, 2019

Notre Dame football head coach Brian Kelly sat down with Notre Dame men’s basketball announcer Jack Nolan to discuss last week’s loss to No. 3 Georgia and the upcoming game against No. 18 Virginia. With the Georgia game behind them, Kelly said he is tired of the moral victories attributed to the Irish.

“I’m kind of tired of hearing about, ‘Nice job.’ I’m at that point where I’m kind of offended by it,” he said. “You’re not in this business to get pats on the back, you’re in it to win football games, and, quite frankly, we didn’t play well enough, we didn’t coach well enough. We’re at that point now where we have to play better, we have to coach better and we have to win games.”

After the loss, the seven Irish captains called a players-only meeting to regroup the team and make sure everyone was on the same page. Kelly said he was proud of his captains, but now is the time to stop talking and start doing.

“I think that’s great but, come Tuesday, you know, talk is enough. Let’s do the little things necessary to beat a really good Virginia team, and there are specific things that you have to do,” Kelly said. “So, we can continue to talk about all the things that we need to do, but we’ve got to go out and do them, too. Again, I’m encouraged by the way we prepared, but they’ve got to go out and decide that this is a football team that can sustain this week in and week out. And I told them today that they have to be determined that this is a game that really defines who they are, and they clearly understand that.”

Speaking of the team’s mentality, Kelly said he’s satisfied with where his team is following the disappointing loss.

“I’m not concerned about where their headspace is relative to the way they’ve prepared this week, but you still have to go out and earn it,” Kelly said. “You get what you deserve; you still have to come back. What you did last week has no merit — you can’t take it with you, you have to go back out and do it.”

Kelly is also happy with the players’ physical status after a gritty, aggressive game against the Bulldogs.

“We’re fine physically. We didn’t see [injuries] in terms of the testing of our players all week,” he said. “Our legs are great, our weight training was great this week, we had great lifts. No, we’re in a great space there in terms of the physical. There’s nobody on the injured list from the game, so there’s no surprises there. We got some guys back. [Sophomore running back] Jahmir Smith is back, we’ve got [sophomore wide receiver] Braden Lenzy back, we’ve got [junior wide receiver] Michael Young back … so health is not an issue at all. And when you’re physically in a game like that, when you’re physically the aggressor, you’re not taking a lot of shots [but] you’re giving them, and our guys felt great on Tuesday at practice.”

Kelly praised senior quarterback Ian Book specifically for the way he played, especially considering that he has not been the starting quarterback for very long.

“I thought Ian did some really good things,” Kelly said. “I think he would probably tell you that there are some things out there that he wishes he could have back. But this was his 13th game as a starter, so that’s one complete year. You know, Brady Quinn had almost 50 starts — you can’t put him in Brady Quinn’s class, 50 starts compared to 13. Tommy Rees had 30 starts. So, if you try to compare him to some of the great quarterbacks here at Notre Dame, I don’t think it’s really fair. He just hasn’t had enough time. He’s got really high-end skills at the quarterback position, he just doesn’t have enough playing time, and as he continues to play the position, he continues to see the field and he’ll continue to experience situations, I think he’s only going to improve, because he understands the game, he understands the offense very well, and you’ll see him improve from week to week.”

Ann Curtis | The Observer
Irish senior quarterback Ian Book drops back to pass during Notre Dame’s 23-17 loss at Georgia on Sept. 21. Book went 29-47 for 275 yards, 2 TD and 2 interceptions through the air in his 13th career start.

Now that the Bulldogs are in the rearview mirror, the Irish have shifted their focus to the Cavaliers, and Kelly has noted the things his team must do to defeat a tough opponent.

“Everything runs through [senior quarterback Bryce Perkins], you’ve got to contain him. You’ve got to make sure that you tackle,” Kelly said. “They’re physical on defensive, they bring pressure. You’ve got to be able to do some things to defeat a really good scheme. Virginia’s a very well-coached team, they trust what they’re coached and we’re going to have to play to our strengths, and that is, we have very talented players but we have to be able to do the little things the right way. … We didn’t do enough of the little things the right way, and I think our attitude was great this week. We prepared really hard, but it comes down to execution, all 11 players playing together. We’ll be, as a football team, committed to that end. I don’t think that’ll change all year, but our players are going to have to go out and make plays.”

All said, Kelly is ready for his team to move on, take one game at a time and do what is necessary to be a successful football team.

“That’s what this is about, is preparing our football team and playing at a higher level this weekend against a really good Virginia team. That didn’t happen last week, and we need to be determined and focused on the things that are necessary to win in football games,” he said. “We didn’t do enough against Georgia to win that game, and it’s important that this week, as coaches and players, we do the things necessary for us to beat a really good Virginia team.”

The Irish will kick off against the Cavaliers on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Notre Dame Stadium.

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About Hayden Adams

Hayden is the former sports editor of The Observer. When he's not working toward his four majors (physics and film, television & theatre) and three minors (journalism, ethics & democracy), you can probably find him hopelessly trying to save his beloved Zahm House from being wiped out. He plans to attend law school at a TBD location after graduation.

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