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The Journal Gazette

September 20, 2016 1:35 PM

Kelly: Irish need sense of urgency

CHRIS GOFF | The Journal Gazette

A more upbeat Brian Kelly preached the need for a heightened sense of urgency. The Notre Dame coach often provided terse answers on a Sunday conference call and at Saturday's postgame interview, sounding like he was exasperated with a 1-2 start.

But while Kelly opened Tuesday's weekly news conference with an acknowledgement of what has gone wrong, he also struck a more optimistic tone about getting it corrected and making something of this season.

"Obviously back to work for us," he said. "Bad start, three games into the season. Poor start, however you want to characterize it.

"We are 1-2. I'm a 1-2 coach. But there are four quarters in the season. The first quarter we did not get off to a good start. But there is plenty of time for us to come out of this in a very, very positive way. That's what we talked about over the last day or so."

Most college football teams reach a critical juncture in their season, where a sense of urgency is required. It's safe to say the Irish, who disappeared from the polls over the weekend, have reached that point.

"We lack a sense of urgency (so far)," Kelly said. "We play in spurts. We play really well for a period of time. Then we kind of don't play at the necessary level against the highest competition. We can't be the kind of team we want to be unless we play with a sense of urgency for four quarters."

Here's a rundown of the other points Kelly made Tuesday:

* Asked how he's addressed defensive issues in other years in his coaching career, Kelly said jokingly, "Score more points." The Irish are 94th in the 128-team FBS, allowing 32 points per game.

* Special teams have been a "mixed bag," according to Kelly. "Doing some good things," he said. "Got to clean up mistakes. Mistakes on special teams are causing us to really stub our toe."

* Any struggles on special teams, though, are apparently not from a lack of desire to be on them. Kelly praised the desire of guys to play on special teams, which hasn't always been the case. "A few years ago we had to beg them to be on special teams," Kelly said.

* The platoon at running back will continue with Josh Adams and Tarean Folston. "They're both going to share a lot of carries the rest of the year," Kelly said.

* Kelly said he's keenly aware of the fact Notre Dame is one of two teams in the country still without a sack. But he sounds reluctant to blitz very much. "If you bring pressure, you put pressure," he said. "How much pressure do you want to put on your cornerbacks and safeties?"

* Daelin Hayes, a freshman pass-rush prospect, could be part of the solution. Hayes was part of third-down substitution packages in the last game, a 36-28 home loss to Michigan State. "He's going to come along," Kelly said. "You're going to see more of him moving forward."

* Kelly singled out quarterback DeShone Kizer and defensive tackle Jarron Jones as players who need to play with more urgency.

* Kelly on his relationship with defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder: "Colleagues. We're trying to find the best solutions to what we have. He's coaching his butt off."

* Kelly on junior Nyles Morgan, in his first year as the starting middle linebacker: "Doing a great job of running our front seven."

* Kelly said the missed tackles basically come down to defenders being too anxious and lacking body control. "If we just put ourselves in front of the ball carrier and hang on for dear life," he said, "they're only going to get another yard or two."

* Kelly said it's most important that he be aware of what the defense is doing on a daily basis in practice and meetings, not necessarily that he steer it on a micro level.