Upon further review, it sure would have been nice if Notre Dame and N.C. State had waited a day. The post-hurricane weather in North Carolina was sunny, with temperatures in the mid-60s, on Sunday.
But that was the ACC’s call, Irish coach Brian Kelly said: ``The ACC controls it.’’
There’s no guarantee better weather would have made a difference, and there’s certainly no whining about playing in sideways rain that made the sloshing the same for both teams.
The reality is, Notre Dame is in a very tough place. At 2-4, many of its hopes and dreams are off the table. And the nightmare scenarios for the remaining six games are pretty scary. They start with desperate but talented Stanford on Saturday. Miami, Virginia Tech and USC are still to come. And why leave out Navy, which just stunned Houston?[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]
And yet. . . as a coach in a 12-game sport, Kelly has been here before. And he insists he’s tuning out all the gloom and doom.
``Doesn't affect me,’’ Kelly said. ``I have to make sure it doesn't affect the assistant coaches, doesn't affect the players. And I'm sure they hear a little bit of it, so it's really just my job to make sure we work on getting our team better each and every week.’’
Who’s the culprit? The coaches? The players? The execution? The play-calling? All of the above?
``Everybody has struggles,’’ Kelly said. ``Everybody goes through some tough times. You're going to have some adversity. If you cave to adversity, then how strong are you really? I'm looking for guys that are strong, guys that bounce back higher when there is some adversity. I'm not looking for guys that will crumble at the first sign of a little bit of adversity.
``Yeah, 2-4 is unacceptable. Not where we want to be. But I'm looking for guys that want to be a solution and not worry about what other people think or say.’’
The flip side of the negativity is that ND still has the same personnel that was considered a playoff contender six weeks ago. And if the remaining schedule is looking formidable, what is ND, chopped liver?
I’m not going to tell you that I expect a miraculous turnaround. When a team fires its defensive coordinator in September, it’s never a good sign.
I see a combination of ingredients. The coaching, from scheme to fundamentals, has left a lot to be desired. Players aren’t making plays they’d normally make. ND has been catching opponents—and weather—at the wrong times.
And all the setbacks have sapped the team of its confidence.
The Irish could use a truck-load of Joe Maddon’s ``Try not to suck’’ T-shirts. preferably in green.
Maybe Joe could give them a sign that says it, too. This ``Play like a champion today’’ doesn’t seem to be working out.
On the other hand, strange things happen at Notre Dame. For example, the first year I was on the Irish beat, in 1984, the team lost three straight to fall to 3-4, and was facing a very ominous trip to a very solid LSU next.
With some heroics from linebacker Cedric Figaro, the Irish upset the Tigers. I can still hear sportswriters chirping, ``Figaro! Figaro! Figaro!’’ in that Bayou press box.
The next week, the Irish barely survived Navy 18-17 with a Keystone Kops goal-line stand in New Jersey. I can still hear the mutterings of naval officers in the bowels of the Meadowlands stadium.
So. . . while this year’s Notre Dame situation looks grim, it’s very difficult to know.
That’s why college football is so fun to watch.
Some things I’ll be watching, beginning with the Stanford game: Is Notre Dame tackling well? Is the offense executing fundamentals like, you know, hiking the ball?
The biggest thing I’ll be keeping an eye on, from here on out, is where Kelly is at in all of this. Is he on top of things, or getting weary of the relentless pressure? Are his bosses onboard? Are the fans?
That’s often the key. You can lose games. But when you lose the fan base, that’s the end of the trail.[/membership]