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Sep 27, 2010

Big Picture After 1-3: Growing Pains

In his post game press conference after our Week 4 loss to Stanford, Coach Kelly emphasized moving forward and continuing development.  He assured us that his players have taken ownership of this team and that everyone wants to be remembered as part of the process that will bring Notre Dame Football “back to where it needs to be.”

Kelly and his lads are working
to bring toughness back to the Fighting Irish

After 4 weeks that included 2 heartbreaking losses followed by 4 hours of frustration inside ND Stadium two days ago, it seems as though we are still a team without an identity.  The most recent chapter of the 2010 campaign saw us get outplayed by a clearly superior opponent.  There is no question that we are not on the same level as the teams with numbers listed next to their names.  So, where is our season headed?  What does the 1-3 start really mean?  How does it help us see the big picture?

It’s tough to tell.  It’s painful for all of us who want to see these players and coaches find a way to bring glory back to our program and hope back to our campus.  Prior to this season, Coach Kelly claimed that he needed to have a “5 minute plan” rather than a “5 year plan” at Notre Dame because he is expected to win right away.   His language provided a great upstart motivational soundbyte at the time, but as I look back on it now, I disagree with the “5 minute plan” metaphor.  Building a winning program takes longer than 5 minutes… I’m not saying it has to take 5 years (and I hope it doesn’t since I will only be a student for 2 more seasons after this one) but it is simply irrational for us to expect immediate success in the wake of sweeping changes.  It will take some time to instill the culture, the discipline, and the overall toughness that Kelly wants to bring back to Notre Dame.  Many changes must take place before we can see ourselves making strides back towards the top of college football, and those changes will take time.

Looking at our first 4 games from this perspective leads me to believe that our rough start can be summed up in two words: “growing pains.”  As Coach Kelly has pointed out, we have already played 4 very physical teams.  In the process, hopefully we have learned what kind of toughness it takes to win week in and week out against quality opponents.  Hopefully we have ultimately taken a step forward by taking three steps back…

It is now clear that the 2010 Fighting Irish will not be remembered as an elite team.  Even so, they still have a chance to be remembered as a team that sparked the revival of Notre Dame Football.  Sure, it will be painful along the way… but since when does anything worthwhile ever come easily?  As our coaches and players get knocked down and kicked in the face, they learn what it will take to pick themselves back up, strap their golden helmets back on, wipe the blood from their mouths, the mud from their faces, bear down, and earn it.  Step by step, this team can begin to realign the words "Fighting Irish" with the images of mental and physical toughness they once inspired.  It has been a painful start to a long process, but I do believe that tremendous changes have begun to take shape.  Dedication, discipline, and steadfast resolve are now the keys to bringing Notre Dame “back to where it needs to be.”

My advice to the Fighting Irish Faithful is this:  Don’t hang your head on Coach Kelly.  As painful as it is, try to be patient.  Try to look at the big picture and take this season for what it is, a starting point.  Try not to lose hope.  Try to keep the faith. It may not be easy, but the pain will make it that much sweeter when we do finally return to glory.  For now, it seems as though it’s going to take slightly longer than 5 minutes.  Here’s to hoping it doesn’t take as long as 5 years.


  1. In order to succeed, you must first be willing to fail.

  2. Change does take time. However, important people with lots of money aren't patient enough to see that. Our history of firing coaches before they can establish a new culture is evident. Money and angry alumni talk, nothing else matters. That's why so many people are frustrated. The current system fails everyone including those not involved with football. It goes beyond athletics. A cultural change needs to happen university wide.

  3. Todd...I hope you're right. Maybe we'll look back in a year and say these struggles were due to building the foundation.

    Anonymous...previous coaches weren't fired because of money and angry alumni. The "nothing else matters" is wins.

    TheNDleprechaun...Given that Dayne has averaged 50 passes in the past two games, I would argue that we have an offensive identity as a pass-first spread. I'd rather pass to score and run to win, and I hope the identity shifts to the balance that BK had in his first 5 seasons as a D-I coach, all of which his teams rushed more than they passed. Here's BK's take on Sunday: "I felt after the Michigan State game we established where we wanted to go offensively -- we took a bit of a step back in this (Stanford) game. We're in the process of evaluating the things we were missing in this ballgame." Read: running the ball effectively. So hopefully you're right and the identity will take a new, more balanced shape.


  4. As I look at this year, I'm starting to see something which I hope is a pattern. When coaches take over a team and the team has big success right away (Tyrone and Charlie) the teams are already ready for prime time, but when they need to build their own team, they fail. Coaches who come in and build it their way, seem to have great success (Holtz, Ara, Saban ect...) So have faith and if you've jumped off the wagon, were you really on it for the long haul in the first place, I doubt it. As for me? 1 and 11, 12 and 0 or anything in between, the Irish are my team and I'll be there every week rooting for our boys. Go Irish!!!

  5. i 'm sorry to say it, but it is over and has been for a long time. ND fans have been hearing "be patient" for 15 years and counting. Kelly's style of football will not work at ND. Kelly should go to Jim Harbaugh's football camp to see how real football is played. Stanford now plays the way the irish use to play. nothing fancy, just good old fashioned tough as nails football. the players ND usually recruits are those type of players. they don't need to be flashy. all the great ND teams were power teams. also his style doesn't give the defense any rest. Willingham and Weis both like to pass first and we know how those years went. until ND starts playing like the old ND they wiill remain in mediocrity

  6. the failure is not so much the coaching as it is the player's failure to step up and play well. the opponents who have beaten us during the last four years do not, except for usc, have more talent than we do. however, they do seem to have more desire to win. shame on the nd players.

  7. Nick Saban was 6-6 at Alabama during his first season there in 2007, and they also won their minor bowl game. I still see hope in what this one season can do for the next handful of seasons.

  8. To Todd: You must be willing to risk failure, true. You must also not be willing to accept failure, though.

    To Anonymous #1: The pressure that comes from our loyal fan base is definitely intense, hence my discussion of the “5 minute plan” doctrine that seems to be the norm at Notre Dame. I also agree that a culture based on instant gratification must be temprered by one of patience. I disagree, however, on your points that nothing matters but money and that our entire system is flawed. Despite recently losing our way in terms of success on the gridiron, we have a great thing going on at our university. I believe that we will find success as long as we strive to continue doing things the right way.

    To tendomer: Point well taken. In terms of an offensive identity, maybe I just need to get used to a system that never seems to look the same. Overall, though, I think we are yet to build an identity that we can rally around.

    To Jim: I love the dedication. I also agree that our current need to rebuild could be a blessing in disguise since it gives our coaching staff an opportunity to create a culture based on their own philosophies of winning. I think the comparison between Kelly and Holtz is spot on, but Nick Satan? I’d never wish that upon anyone…

    To Anonymous #2: I flat out disagree with your grammar, punctuation, capitalization, and sentiment that it “is over and has been for a long time.” I would like to see a more consistent balance between “thunder” and “lightning” styles at ND though.

    To Pete: I agree that our players have yet to play to their full potential. I wouldn’t say that they lack a desire to win, though. I can assure you they most definitely want to win. They just haven’t realized what it takes to do so yet.

    To Joe Q: Again with the Nick Satan reference?! I’m glad you have hope though…

  9. Pete's point is probably the crux. I agree our players are better than the non-USC opponents and definitely better than they've shown. One of BK's most pertinent quotes at his introductory presser was that the players "are going to play their very best for us." I am of the opinion that the very best for our guys is at least 11-1. Granted, BK's vaunted player development takes time and a certain degree of depth and luck.

    At QB, I think the inability to run Dayne (fear of re-injuring either the ACL or the head; plus the lack of a true backup) has totally handicapped our zone read running style. Not that one player should be an excuse, but Weis was unable to attract QB recruits because nobody wanted to sit behind two five stars in Jimmy and Dayne. I think some of that situational stuff will work itself out in time as the player development program kicks in.


2012 Notre Dame Football Schedule

2012 Notre Dame Football Schedule
DateOpponent / EventLocationTime / Result
09/01/12vs. Navy Dublin, IrelandW, 50-10
09/08/12vs. PurdontNotre Dame, Ind.W, 20-17
09/15/12at SpartyEast Lansing, Mich.W, 20-3
09/22/12vs. SkunkbearsNotre Dame, Ind.W, 13-6
Shamrock Series
10/06/12vs. Da UChicago, Ill.W, 41-3
10/13/12vs. TreesNotre Dame, Ind.W, 20-13 (OT)
10/20/12vs. BYU Notre Dame, Ind.W, 17-14
10/27/12at Oklahoma Norman, Okla.W, 30-13
11/03/12vs. Pittsburgh Notre Dame, Ind.W, 29-26 (3OT)
11/10/12at Backup College Chestnut Hill, Mass.W, 21-6
11/17/12vs. Fake Worest Notre Dame, Ind.W, 38-0
11/24/12at U$C Los Angeles, Calif.W, 22-13
1/7/13vs. AlabamaBCS CHAMPIONSHIP
(Miami, Florida)
L, :(