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Irish Insights

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Injuries and other thoughts from Kelly

Former Bishop Dwenger standout John Goodman stood in for Notre Dame running back Armando Allen on punt returns Saturday against Michigan State.

Goodman returned four punts for 25 yards.

Irish coach Brian Kelly said Goodman was needed because Allen dislocated a finger.

"Goody's really sure-handed," Kelly said. "Obviously, he doesn't have some of the acceleration, but he's very sure-handed. I thought he did great job for us coming in a hostile environment."

Punt return depth isn't a problem for the Irish, but for the second game in a row, safety depth was a concern.

Dan McCarthy, who is battling a hamstring injury, didn't play against Michigan State, and Jamoris Slaughter, who is nursing an injured ankle, was only available for a few plays.

"We'd like to get (Dan) McCarthy in, we just can't seem to get over the hump where we feel he can play fast enough for us on the back end," Kelly said. "That's something that's taking time, longer than we had hoped. We're not going to put him out there if he can't run the alley and do the things we ask the safety to do. We are a little thin on that back end..

"(Slaughter) went in on an emergency situation, gave us a couple of snaps, but he's not ready either. Hopefully just time is going to come out on our side and get some of those guys back."

Other than the safeties and Allen's finger, Kelly said the team is just using a lot of ice bags after Saturday night's game.

Here are more thoughts from Kelly:

On how the team will bounce back from its second loss in a row: "It stings, it hurts, there's not much you can say after a loss like that. There's nothing that is going to make anybody feel any better. Other than, do you want to come back and work on getting better? We'll know on Monday where that is. My guess is these guys have a lot pride, just as our coaches do, and we're going to come back to work and continue to put ourselves in a position to close out and win games."

On his message to the team after Saturday's loss: "What do you believe? Do you believe in each other, do you believe that if you continue to work hard that you're going to see the success?

"It's like anything else in life, if you work hard, and you stop believing that you'll see success on the other end, you're probably not going to work as hard. This is strictly about life here. In terms of, are you going to keep working hard? Because if you do, you're going to see success. That's what you do after a tough loss like this."

On the Irish's run defense that gave up some big run plays but also came up with some big stops against the Spartans: "Just going through the film itself, we had the one big run. The 56-yard touchdown run where we just gap released a couple of guys, didn't stay disciplined in our fits. They had 42 carries for I think for 147 yards. We will take that any day. It is always one play. It has never been the cumulative as much as it has been a big play here or there. The Michigan game, you know, we hold Michigan scoreless for 30 some odd minutes, and then, obviously, a couple of big plays. For us it has been carrying that play after play after play, and then having one breakdown here or there. That's how you get beat.

"All in all, I'm not concerned about our rush defense as much as we got to do a better job of not giving up the one run, the one big play. That's really what has hurt our defense over the last couple of weeks."

On what needs to be fixed on defense: "They are playing as hard as they can play. the problem we are having is we are having a bust here or there. We are getting everything out of our kids. They are battling. They battled in overtime when they knew that in a short field you are going to run the football. The really, obviously, did a great job in that situation.

"Look nobody is happy here. Nobody enjoys being where we are. But our players are playing as hard as they can on the defensive side of the ball."

On the need to execute better: "All of the other things that surround a 1-2 football team, the real important thing is to execute better. So, you don't put yourself in position to defend the 2-point play in overtime. That's what I will be focused on most of the week. Getting our team to execute better on every opportunity that we have offense, defense and special teams. That's what coaches do. That's what I've done all my life. I will continue to do that here. And we will put ourselves in a better position at the end of the games."

On going for it on fourth-and-1 midway through the fourth quarter, which ended with quarterback Dayne Crist gaining two yards but fumbling the ball: "I just felt like we had the right matchup. We had really what I felt was a really high percentage opportunity. We just didn't get it done. If I had to do it all over again, and I had the same look and same formation, I would've done it again. We just didn't make the play in that circumstance that we should have. We will in the future."

On fans reaction to the loss and if he feels any pressure: "I think that comes with the territory. I don't think that you have any head coaching position, whether it's Notre Dame or anywhere else, and sit around worrying about what other people think. You're going to work every day trying to get your football team to be best they can be.

"Am I surprised? No. That comes with the high profile of the Notre Dame job or any other high profile job. There's obviously a lot of them out there. I don't spend much time thinking about that. Got a lot of work to do on our football (team)."

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