Winning Time?

After more than three weeks of sideshows, social media discourse, and repetitive discussion of irrelevant topics outside the lines, Notre Dame appears re-focused on the 60 minutes that matter on Saturdays.

Brian Kelly held his weekly Tuesday press conference today, but the second-year Irish head coach was in no mood to ponder topics resting outside the field of play. In preparation for Notre Dame's upcoming contest with Wake Forest, Kelly deferred most big picture questions to focus on the task at hand: Game Nine.

To wit:

Regarding another prime time, historical matchup: "I've heard that before, and we recognize that it's going to be a great atmosphere, but we get that everywhere we go, so our guys are prepared," Kelly said of the notion that this is one of the biggest (landmark) games in the history of Wake Forest's 31,000-seat stadium. "They know that Wake Forest is going to play their best. Regardless of what the size of stadium is, it's all in your preparation and how you play the game."

Or how about the fact that, unlike six of Notre Dame's last seven opponents, the next two foes will be new to the staff and its players.

"I think if it was earlier in the year, there (could be) a little bit of uncertainty," Kelly said before channeling his predecessor. "You are who you are going into the eighth and ninth game. There is so much film, you know what I mean?

"This is what they do; this is how they do it," he said of an overview most coaches share through two months of a season. "They're not going to come out and be so far away from profile. Earlier in the year you may get that."

As for his team's psyche in the wake of a Twitter-dominated weekend and 56-point outburst vs. Navy, Kelly refused to bite.

"Every Monday I have to gauge our football team. I have to feel the pulse of them," Kelly began. "Big win, big loss, you know, all those things. So every Monday I try to gauge our football team, just like I did this Monday, and then we go to work from there."

And could he explain the prevailing emotion of the squad? Good, bad, indifferent?

"No. I mean, I could just tell you that I'm on this every week. It happens every Monday," he reiterated. "You know, if you can't get the sense of your football team, they just – might as well stay at home and teleconference it."

(Note: I don't know what that means, either.)

But after a month of home games, home distractions, Kelly and his crew must be relieved to hit the road again, right? After all, don't we all go a little stir crazy at times?

"I probably would have given that some thought, but we're so far into it right now, you know, that we're developing in areas that go to winning," Kelly said. "We've played well on the road. I like our maturity on the road. We're really focused. So I didn't talk much about that (of late). I have in the past with other teams. But I think, you know, nine games into the season, they know what to do and how to do it."

The Irish are 2-1 on the road this season and 6-3 away from South Bend in Kelly's tenure.

Family affair and a November to Remember?

Team captain Harrison Smith received a bit of extra post-game press this weekend. As one of six players released to speak with the media following the 42-point victory over Navy, Smith noted that he was among several players who spoke at a team meeting Friday as the players and coaches cleared the air regarding Kelly's Thursday comments in which he divided the team into two camps: his recruits, and those of the previous regime.

Smith was apparently joined by numerous sage voices to quell the internal issues the squad faced.

"Well, you know, I'm not going to get into too much about this. I think you're making one guy sound like he was the man," Kelly said when asked about Smith's role. "You know, we had 108 guys in the locker room plus coaches.

"So, you know, I think more than anything else, those things stay in the locker room and we don't single out any one individual."

Kelly even balked at what appears to be a relevant statistic; one dear-to-the-hearts of long-suffering Irish fans: He's won a remarkable 11 straight in November; 13 consecutive including regular season December contests dating back to 2007 in Cincinnati.

How has he maintained such lasting late-season success?

"You would have to be here. I mean, it's not just one thing," Kelly explained. "There is no answer to it. It's just our approach every day. The way we weight train, condition in the summer, the way we practice; all those things have a net effect.

"The relationships that are built with the players, and they know that we've got their back when we get to November," he continued. "So all those things play a part in how you play in November.

"You've got to play good football. Let's face it. All those things are great. They sound great, but you got to play well in November, too. So your practices have got to be right on, and I think we've done a pretty good job. We'll see how it goes this November."

If Kelly produces another unblemished November, nearly every Irish fan will forget last week's revealing dust-up regarding Charlie Weis' remaining recruits (42 current rotation members) and those recruited by the current staff (11 regular/part-time rotation members and special teams contributors including walk-ons Chris Salvi and Ryan Kavanagh).

If the Irish finish 9-3 to conclude the regular season, all questions would then be answered – pertinent and trivial alike. Top Stories