After losing four straight games, Notre Dame point Tory Jackson wondered whether a fight in practice would be needed to fire the Irish up before Saturday's game at Pittsburgh. On Tuesday, Jackson almost got his wish.
"It was intense the last couple of days. Almost a fight the other day, we need it," said Jackson. "We need it because especially going on the road we've got to learn how to be tough and have that toughness. Especially on the road, it's going to be a fight, a dogfight."
Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey brought his team back to work at 6 a.m. on Tuesday morning, just hours after losing to Marquette on Monday evening. After a short morning workout, Brey had the team come back in for an afternoon session on Tuesday.
Brey gave the players Wednesday off before bringing them back for another day of double-sessions on Thursday.
"What we actually did was just try to work on some stuff," said Brey. "We had to have some fundamental sessions on Tuesday morning and [Thursday] morning, just working on some things that maybe you can get away from in the heat of game preparation.
"It wasn't throw the trash cans around the gym, but I thought it was a time where we needed to come in and just try and get some reps in some areas where we haven't gotten reps."
Brey stressed that the early morning sessions were more to get his players' attention than to punish them.
"We've done them when things have gone well too sometimes," he said. "Certainly it heightens the sense of urgency. It gives you a chance to work on some things that are not in a typical practice session."
The morning sessions are not as long as the afternoon practices, but the Irish still get work.
"It's not for two hours, but you get a good 30 to 45-minute session and then you can come back in the afternoon and get a good practice session in," he said.
When he was in his first season as head coach at Delaware, Brey received some advice from legendary Delaware football coach Tubby Raymond.
"He said, ‘I've not seen a lot of games won on Thursday, but I've seen a hell of a lot of them lost,'" Brey recalled as he talked about not pushing too hard. "We need some bounce on Saturday afternoon, we need some life in those legs."
Brey's mood at practice gave the players an understanding of how their coach's thinking.
"I think it's my demeanor and my approach. Sense of urgency obviously is up, but my demeanor during those 30-minute, 45-minute sessions has not been challenging manhood," said Brey. "It's been here's some things that we've got to work on and here's some things I want us to work on and get better."
Brey did add that he will get into his players when he believes that is necessary.
"I did that a little bit in the locker room after the game and I've done that in practice at times," he said. "I pick my spots strategically with guys."
Luke Harangody received this week's message clearly.
"It's not like coming in and getting yelled at every morning," said Harangody. "I think it's just coming in and getting some extra work in."
But Harangody admitted that it is weird waking up and heading to practice so early in the morning.
"Especially with a big school load going on right now and the Big East, it's kind of crazy. But I think it's good for us at the same time," he said. "We're getting a lot out of it. After the day's over you feel like you've accomplished something and I think we're getting more confident as we get up to the Pittsburgh game."
Kyle McAlarney thinks that the squad is getting plenty out of the extra practices.
"I think that they've been very good for us because it's more of a statement thing," said McAlarney. "It's more of an, ‘All right, we need to get a lot of work in. We need to get better, so we need two-a-days today.' I think that that's helped us."
Shooting has been a major problem for the Irish recently, but the Notre Dame staff believes that the best way to work on that is just to keep playing.
"I don't think you ever sit there and specifically grab a guy who's been a pretty good shooter and sit there and start to talk to him about his release," Brey said. "I mean you just don't do that, I never have done that."
There is not much coaches can do to make shots fall.
"Guys that can shoot the ball have been able to shoot the ball since they were seven. Guys aren't made great shooters all of a sudden in college," said Brey. "Matt Carroll can shoot the ball, I'd love to see his stroke when he was five in CYO."
Shooters tend to work out of their struggles on their own.
"They've all gone through times where they can't make a shot. They have their own ways, probably like golfers, of going through and working through stuff," Brey said. "Some of them maybe don't go in the gym, some of them go in the gym and shoot thousands of shots. I think you've got to let them find it without shaking them up too much."
Even with the change to the practice schedule, Brey does not want too much shaking up of anything.
"You try and balance changes and not going crazy where your guys think, ‘My God, what's coach doing?'"