SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Brian Kelly refuted the most damning criticism of his first Notre Dame football team: that it's no different from Charlie Weis' last Notre Dame football team -- given the opportunity, it'll find a way to lose.
With back-to-back losses to Michigan (28-24) and Michigan State (34-31 in OT), Notre Dame has lost six of its last seven games -- by two, five, three, seven, four and three points, with two overtime losses. Each one had a familiar refrain: if not for a play her or play there, the Irish could have won.
But Kelly wasn't buying it when asked about it at his weekly press conference this week.
''Not this group,'' he said. ''I've had teams that didn't know how to win. You could just tell. That's not this group. They know to win. They have to play cleaner. And championship teams do.''
''When you play evenly-matched teams and they play well, it comes down to a couple of plays. That's where we have to get to. It's not not knowing how to win. It's not giving up a 56-yard run or fumbling in the red zone like we did twice [against Michigan State].''
We'll see about that. The counter-argument is that all the qualities that convince Kelly this is not a team that doesn't know how to win are precisely the attributes that help define it as one. Both teams can fight hard and battle and refuse to lay down. But only one can win. That's how reputations are made.
Notre Dame's determination and resiliency puts itself in position to win. But when you give up 56-yard touchdown runs, lose fumbles in the red zone and get burned by fake field goals in overtime ... as Bob Davie liked to say, it is what it is.
In other words, all Notre Dame has to do to disprove the notion it is a team that finds a way to lose is to stop finding a way to lose.