AP Photo/Darron Cummings
A third consecutive weekend has passed where the Irish squared off against a familiar rival, failing again for the second game in a row to earn a victory.
Earn is the operative word at this junction in the season and course of the program under its new Head Coach, Brian Kelly. Manti T'eo addressed the 'E' word earlier this year when he said that Coach Kelly changed the mentality of the team from Notre Dame owing them to them owing Notre Dame.
A sense of entitlement suffocated the program in the previous five years under Charlie Weis, who was most concerned with his offensive guys and getting them to the NFL rather than preparing the entire team in a succint and coherent manner.
Make no mistake about it, Coach Kelly is still in the early stages of transforming his program into the mindset of wanting to earn respect, rather than expecting it. Putting pen to paper is not as easy as it sounds, though.
As the Irish sit at 1-2 through the first quarter of their season it is clear that there is much work left to be done. Reckless turnovers, an inconsistent offensive attack, and a secondary unit still mostly out of position are among the most glaring deficiencies.
But where this team differs from recent years past is in its heart and, more importantly, its lack of entitlement. While the culture is still being adjusted the attitudes of players have already started to change (for the better).
No, I knew what I was going to get from them after the game. Look, you can't
fake losing, okay. You can't fake hurt after a game. So when I looked through
the locker room, I could tell who the phonies are, and I know the guys that it
really hurts, and those are the guys that play for me, because if it really
hurts, they want to change the way they feel about it. If it doesn't hurt, it
doesn't matter what you say to them anyway. You can say anything and it doesn't
really matter to them. This group, it hurts. They want to win, and that's why
for me we just kind of stick with what we've been talking about since day
one, and that's stay together.
What Kelly was trying to explain is that it is not that his team lacks the will or desire to win, it is that they just have not learned how to yet.
Does this remind anyone of legendary Irish coach Lou Holtz? He is famous for explaining the path his Irish team undertook from when he first took over the program in 1986 to winning a national title three years later. Transposition cannot do it justice so have a listen to the speech below.
Are Kelly's Irish going to replicate what Holtz's Irish accomplished? While it is impossible at this juncture in the Kelly era to confirm he follow the same path one thing is for certain: Brian Kelly is not Lou Holtz.
Make no mistake about it, Kelly is no Holtz clone, nor would he want to be, yet Kelly has been tasked with restoring the Irish program to heights last experienced in the Holtz era. He employs a different attack and schemes than Holtz did but there is, however, one basic characteristic both coaches share in common: attention to detail.
In the successful organization, no detail is too small to escape close attention.
Lou Holtz may be the author of that quote but Brian Kelly is certainly a student of it. You have likely heard the stories of how he changed the culture in the players' locker room by diagramming precisely where each article belonged or how hats and jewelry are prohibited there.
To Coach Kelly there are no items too minute to warrant his scrutiny. Every detail is important. Our players are learning that, too, but they are currently stuck in the 'wanting to win' stage instead of 'knowing how to win' stage.
Hold your breath a little while longer while Kelly provides his players with the tools they need to not only know how to win, but to actually go out on the field every day and do it.