One difference is at quarterback. At Central Michigan he had an inexperienced quarterback learning the spread offense for the first time in Kent Smith. At Cincinnati he had Ben Mauck, a transfer from Wake Forest who not only played in 21 games and started 11 in college, but also had been a prolific spread-offense quarterback in high school.
But at both stops -- and at Grand Valley State as well -- Kelly's teams improved significantly as he added more players into the program who suit his offensive and defensive philosophies. Kelly is flexible enough to work around the talent he has -- he recently indicated he would have molded his offense to fit Jimmy Clausen's skills rather than the other way around had Clausen not left for the NFL last year. But at Notre Dame he's trying to fit a lot of square pegs into round holes. It really showed against Navy.
''Right now the things that are taking place are behind closed doors,'' Kelly said. ''You can't really see them, unless you're with me every day.
''I like where we're going. I'm probably one guy that's not going to blow smoke -- we're doing things I want to do internally. Where does that show itself? Absolutely in year two and three and four and five and six, you're going to see that on the field.
''I know what we're doing. I like where we're going. I don't like losing football games along the way. But our guys were ready to play [against Navy]. They were prepared in a manner that we felt was going to get the job done. But clearly that didn't happen.''