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Kelly addresses performance at Michigan, moves on to Virginia Tech

| Tuesday, October 29, 2019

After then-No. 8 Notre Dame’s 45-14 defeat at the hands of Michigan on Saturday, Irish head coach Brian Kelly addressed the media in his weekly press conference. Kelly emphasized the team’s need to get back to work to not let one loss define the season.

“I’ll start off with certainly the best thing for our team is to get back on the practice field and begin getting ready for Virginia Tech. It’s certainly best for our team to focus on what’s gotten us the success over the past three years and building back our identity as a football team, and that is focusing on our process and the standards that we have set and the program,” Kelly said. “We got away from that this past weekend, and we’ll work diligently in putting those things back in the forefront and exhibiting that this Saturday against a very good Virginia Tech team that’s playing very, very well. Certainly on pace to find themselves at the top of the league.”

Kelly pointed out reasons the Irish were beaten so handily in Ann Arbor and ways they will need to be better against the Hokies.

“We have to be better. It was all around. I mean, there were new lines of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Look, the basic tenants of this game haven’t changed,” Kelly said. “You control a line of scrimmage, you really have a great chance of winning football games. Michigan controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides.”

Despite the defeat, the Irish will seek to get back to their identity by doing much of the same. Many have questioned senior quarterback Ian Book’s performance in recent weeks, but Kelly has no doubts about his starting quarterback, emphasizing that it was a team loss.

“Any time the quarterback doesn’t play up to a standard that he has, that others have for him, he’s going to be in the spotlight. It comes with the position. You know, I don’t know that anybody really played well or coached well on Saturday, including me,” Kelly said. “Is it fair? Sure. I think it is fair criticism of everybody, including me. I think we all have to coach better; I think we all have to play better.”

Anna Mason | The Observer
Irish senior quarterback Ian Book scrambles with the ball during Notre Dame’s 45-14 loss to Michigan on Oct. 26. Book finished 8/25 for 73 yards and one touchdown.

The Irish will put that loss in the rear view, Kelly said, and focus on getting a win against the Hokies to avoid back to back losses for the first time since 2016. When asked about what has changed since then, Kelly focused on culture.

“There are a lot of changes we have made within the program. With our identity, our standards within the program to make certain. Obviously, we were dealing with an interim defensive coordinator, there were a lot of different things,” he said. “As I mentioned earlier at the outset, this is about our football team getting back to their identity and the standards that have gotten them to this point. We got away from it. It is time to get back to it.”

The starting offense had a difficult time moving against Michigan, partially driven by the departure of junior wide receiver Michael Young into the transfer portal. Kelly emphasized that sophomore receiver Lawrence Keys and senior receiver Javon McKinley will need to step into bigger roles to pick up the slack.

“They all have to be involved. I thought it would be nice to catch a couple of balls here and there,” Kelly said. “We got Lawrence in the game, might have been a little bit of a low throw, but we would like to see him make that catch. We have to keep getting him in competitive situations. We know what Javon can do — obviously he’s really good on the outside. I just think that they all have to be in the rotation in some fashion so we’ll continue to get them involved as we move forward. They’re younger players, but for Javon, he’s young in experience, but older in terms of being in the program. They all have to be involved, and we have to keep working them in there.”

With the College Football Playoff window shut and Notre Dame football skeptics out in full force in the media, the team will need to remain focused in coming weeks. Kelly believes his squad knows how to remain focused on winning.

“They’re used to it. I mean, they know they have to avoid the noise. They won’t be defined by one game. They’ve got a great opportunity in the month of November,” Kelly said. “They can be remembered by winning the month of November. They win the month of November; the noise will change. All will be happy.”

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