For the fourth time in seven seasons, Notre Dame suffered a second defeat in the month of September, which eliminates the Irish from playoff contention barring a catastrophic turn of events nationwide.
In interviews with Notre Dame’s captains/leaders of the team, we asked them to share with us the message to those in their position group, on their side of the football and to the team in general.
We also asked them to express their thoughts on the strengths/assets upon which this football team can build over the final nine regular season games. And finally, what parts of their individual game they would like to improve upon.
• OLB-James Onwualu: “Just keep working to get better every single day. Obviously, we didn’t start the season exactly how we imagined. But we don’t want to be a team that after losing a game or two, we go down hill.
“We have a lot of guys with high character, and no matter what, we’re a competitive defense. You don’t have to say much to them. Keep getting them to compete and remember that we’re representing the University and our families.”
• OT-Mike McGlinchey: “Coach Kelly has given us the sense of urgency and it’s something we need to buy into: get your job done no matter what the circumstances.
“Bring that attitude to practice and constantly work on improving and becoming what we’re capable of being. It’s that sense of urgency that we need to bring to our improvement.”
• DE-Isaac Rochell: “I told everybody to put his head down, grind until December, and then we’ll have another conversation. If you look at it too big picture, you lose sight of what’s important. Take a game-by-game approach, put your head down and grind.”
• WR-Torii Hunter, Jr.: “To the receivers, it’s that the team is counting on us to make plays. If we’re not doing what we’re supposed to do, it’s hard for the offense to operate. If a team wants to load the box, we have to be counted on to be able to make plays and spread them back out.
“As far as the team goes, we have to be more consistent, practice harder, and practice with attention to detail.”
• MLB-Nyles Morgan: “Being a Mike linebacker, that’s a role that requires leadership anyway. If you’re the Mike linebacker, you’re the one talking the most, you’re the one telling people what to do and what not to do.
“What I’m doing is making sure guys don’t think we’re a bad football team or a bad defense. It’s just a few plays here and there. Keep pushing, keep getting better.”
• CB-Cole Luke: “My message to the team is the same as when we started in Culver. This opportunity is not going to be here forever. Football is four years of your long life, four years at Notre Dame. Playing football here is such a short window. Don’t take it for granted. Make the most of it.”
• RB-Josh Adams: “Here’s what we can control -- how hard we work and how fast we play. Hopefully by setting the tone, other people will follow. Just keep working.”
• Hunter: “We are making plays. We can make plays. We’re capable of that. But it’s just a consistency thing that really needs to improve. We have the ability and we have done it, so now it’s consistency.”
• Rochell: “The biggest thing is the attitude and resiliency. I love playing with the guys. I tell Nyles every game, ‘I love playing with you.’ Jerry (Tillery) had a great game against Michigan State. There are still a lot of good things to take from the start of the season and capitalize on.”
• Onwualu: “I feel good about a lot of things, one of them being the effort and how committed the guys are on defense. You watch the film and there’s no question about effort. You see a guy like Jarron Jones running down the field and making a tackle. So you’ve got to be proud of that. It’s something you can build off.
“You just try to keep working on it every week. As long as the effort is set in stone, you try to do better in practice and work on the things we haven’t done as well.”
• McGlinchey: “As far as the running game, I don’t think we have had too many difficulties. (Even against Michigan State), we were pretty solid in what we did and how we executed.
“Obviously there were a couple plays where we didn’t execute to our best ability. But for the most part, I thought we played pretty well up until the point where we got behind and couldn’t put up the rushing numbers we want to.”
• Morgan: “One thing I like the most is a lot of the reason we’ve been down is just a few plays. Overall, we are solid on our concepts. Maybe we’ve missed a few tackles, but playing good ball is just those key plays we have to make.”
• Luke: “A lot of young guys have showed how they can play in big environments, such as Julian Love. We have had some negative things happen to us starting out 1-2, but a lot of positives have shown. Our effort has been second to none, and I think we can piggyback off that.”
• Adams: “As an offense moving forward, we can definitely be more consistent. We can definitely start off stronger. We can definitely have bigger plays at the beginning of the game. Even when we do those things, we can push it that much further.”
• McGlinchey: “The biggest thing for me is to not worry about things I can’t control. I’ve always had that edge where if I’m not doing it right, it’s hard not to focus on the negative. It’s not anger; it’s more of spreading myself too thin. I have to focus on what I need to do, which is recognize the lineman across from me, see what he’s doing and play ball. I think that’s gotten in the way of my play a little bit this season.
“Football is a game that we put our entire lives into, but at the end of the day, it is a game. You have to recognize that and have fun with it. When we fell behind by a couple scores against Michigan State, it was like, ‘All right. Let’s go play football and see what happens.’ Just stop worrying about things. I have to go back to work and trust the process. That’s how I’ll have my most success.
“It’s like an AA meeting; you have to admit (the problem) and keep working on it.”
• Onwualu: “In my game, I feel like I’ve made the plays that have been presented to me. Just continue to make the people around me better and continue to expand my game into different areas where we might be hurting a little bit.”
• Hunter: “I need to be able to always be counted on to be open. Sometimes I may slip up or not be as open as I should be. I need to be someone who is open constantly and can be counted on to be where I need to be.”
• Rochell: “Playing with better pad level and more consistency. Finish on the pass rush.”
• Morgan: “Work on my pass coverage and blitz ability. We all have to get to the quarterback. When they come out in weird formations, that’s when my job becomes crucial because I’ve got to close it the right way and slide it back this way. When they come out in the weird stuff, that’s what I’ve got to figure out quickly. Keep watching more film.”
• Adams: “Finishing runs, which is something every great running back needs to do. Not getting tackled by one man. You have to pride yourself on being a running back that can make plays out of nothing. Pass protection has to be at the top of your list if you want to be an all-around player.
“I misread a protection (against Michigan State) and I didn’t get a guy I was supposed to. It’s one thing if you see him and miss. But if you don’t recognize it right away, that’s a big problem. That’s something I have to recognize better.”
• Luke: “Everything. I always want to be a better player. I can’t say anything specific. Just be a better all-around cornerback.”