Chicago Sun-Times
with Mark Lazerus

Kelly: No changes forthcoming

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Just because his team has started the season 0-2 doesn't mean Brian Kelly is contemplating changes.

In fact, a season-opening loss to South Florida and Michigan's epic 35-31 win over the Fighting Irish on Saturday night have only convinced Notre Dame's coach to keep everything the same.

"You stay the course," he said. "I know that sounds cliché for everybody, but when you're building a football program, not just a team, you have to be consistent with your approach, and I believe in my approach. I believe in the things that I've seen tangibly occur in my tenure of 21 years of being a head football coach. We'll keep doing the things we're doing, and our players will continue to play hard, and that's the great thing about them. They compete, they love to play, they practice hard. We've just got to clean up the things on Saturday, and that will occur."

Even casual observers know what the problem is. The Fighting Irish have committed 10 turnovers --- including five in the red zone --- and 17 penalties in two games. If that trend continues, Notre Dame could easily be 0-3 with 15th ranked Michigan State visiting Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday night.

"It's still about attention to detail," Kelly said. "The first game we had some ill-timed personal fouls. I thought we cleaned that up in the second game. We'll need to continue to do that, obviously. But I still revert back to the body of work. They can see themselves getting better. They see it. They watched last year's film, and they look at this year and go, 'Wow, we've got to play better.'"

 Kelly said he's not tempted to make personnel decisions because he's still convinced the best players are playing. They just need to perform better in games and eliminate mistakes.

"We've played the very best players right out of the gate," he said. "I don't think this has been a situation where the other guy is not ready to play, and now let's get him in there because we're 0 and 2. I just don't see it that way. I see that we've got a chance, as I said in my opening remarks the first day that we had our press conference, I think we have a chance to be a really good football team. We're not; I get that. We're not. 

"I don't see any need to make any drastic moves or change. We're going to continue to do what we've been doing, and we're got to get our players and coaches to all coach and play better."

Kelly used receiver Theo Riddick as an example of how players have bounced back after disappointing performances. Riddick appeared visibly rattled after muffing a punt and bobbling another in the season opener. Although he was replaced as a punt returner by John Goodman versus Michigan, he played well on offense, catching six passes for 62 yards and two touchdowns, including a 29-yard pass from quarterback Tommy Rees with 30 seconds left that appeared to be the game winner until Michigan's Denard Robinson lead his team to an unlikely game-winning score.

Kelly is hoping Gary Gray rebounds similarly against Michigan State after the senior cornerback allowed three touchdown passes against the Wolverines, including the game-winner to Roy Roundtree with two seconds left.

He says his players haven't lost their confidence.

"You measure it as to how your guys handle adversity," Kelly said. "[If] we win that football game, probably the No. 1 story is Theo Riddick. It was palatable how disappointed he was in himself in his body language against South Florida, and he comes back and has a spectacular game, has a chance to win that game at the end. We're all talking about, wow, that's a great way to bounce back. 

"That's the resiliency of this group. That's why I like this team. Gary Gray is going to have a great game. He's going to play well. I like the way our guys go to work every day, I like the way they respond to challenges, and I don't sense or feel that at all amongst our football players."

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This page contains a single entry by Neil Hayes published on September 13, 2011 3:03 PM.

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