Suddenly the script has changed for the Notre Dame football team. A lackluster 28-6 win over Temple last week could be explained by youth and inexperience. Things are different now after Saturday night's 41-30 slap in the face loss at the hands of Michigan in front of 115,000 strong at Michigan Stadium.
"I think if we're in a position where we don't understand what it takes to win at Michigan, then we're missing the boat," Irish head coach Brian Kelly said on Sunday when asked if the game is a wake-up call for his team. "I think if you look at the game, we just have to play better (and) we have to coach better."
"You've gotta get back to work," Kelly continued. "You (have to) practice harder (and) you've gotta pay attention to detail. Look, when you're coming off playing for a national championship the bar is high, so the expectations are when you go on the road you don't lose to Michigan. That's really the standard that's set."
The standard and the expectation may be there, but the Irish lost for the fourth straight and possibly final time at Michigan Stadium with the series with the Wolverines set to end for at least a few years after next year's schedule meeting at Notre Dame.
Kelly addressed several other topics as well during his Sunday teleconference with the media.
On how Tommy Rees can bounce back...
"He's a competitor," Kelly said of his quarterback. "He wants to win and wants to get out there and help his football team win. He loves to compete (and) loves to play and that's always been part of his makeup."
Rees was 29-of-51 for 314 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions in Saturday night's loss.
On senior receiver and captain T.J. Jones, who played through injury Saturday...
"He had a slight shoulder sprain," said Kelly. "But (he) looked good today. He'll be able to practice on Tuesday."
Jones had a second consecutive good outing with team-highs of nine receptions, 94 yards and a touchdown catch.
"That's what you expect of your seniors and your captains in particular," Kelly said when asked about Jones playing through the second half injury. "On the road you've gotta have those guys step up and play for you."
On junior outside linebacker/defensive end Ishaq Williams...
"Primarily his job is in there to rush the quarterback," Kelly said. "He got a big sack for us."
In addition to collecting his first career sack, Williams also spent some time "spying" on Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner.
"That's not his primary role," Kelly said. "We had a couple of times where we had two-man and you've gotta keep somebody on Gardner obviously, but his primary role is going to be to get after the quarterback."
On saying after the game that the Irish will have to score more points this year...
"I think we can play a whole lot better than we played last night, that's for certain," Kelly said. "I guess what I'm saying is that we had too many opportunities offensively that we didn't turn them into touchdowns again. We settled for field goals."
"Last year we had to rely on our defense to win football games. I don't want to have to do that week-in and week-out. I think there's going to be some times where our offense is going to have to winsome ball games and this happened to be one of those nights where they made some plays, things happened their way and the quarterback was on and sometimes you've gotta go through some of those games."
"We did that last year on the back of our defense. I just felt like this was one of those nights where our offense had to bail out our defense. (I was) in no way saying our defense can't play championship defense. I think it can (but) it just wasn't this night."
On facing mobile quarterbacks like Devin Gardner...
"I think when it comes down to it, you're dealing with an offense that can run option as well as power," Kelly said of the Wolverines, who amassed 460 yards of offense. "We've gotta be prepared for a little bit of everything. At times we were not in good position to handle some of the option things. Like I said (Saturday) night, we're going to have to coach better (and) we're going to have to play better."
Gardner passing for 294 yards and four touchdowns and ran for 82 yards and another TD in the Irish loss.
On his team's mental and physical preparation to play on the road...
"Our guys have to understand week-in and week-out that you're going to get everybody's best shot and you can't play the way we played on the road and expect to win," Kelly said. "So, we have to be demanding and (pay) attention to detail - all those little things. My comments are, coaches, players (and) everybody has to understand that it's 34-30 with nine minutes to go in the game and we (have) a chance to win it and we've gotta be technically better. We've gotta be coaching better and playing better in crunch time."
On who the strong voice is that might pull the defense together...
"I think it's gotta come from the players," Kelly said. "Our coaches are going to continue to lead, but our players have to continue to mature and grow and our guys that have been there before have gotta take hold and continue to grow and mature."
"We're only two weeks into this thing. Our expectation is that these guys that are now the starters that had not started before and those guys that hadn't been playing a lot have gotta take hold and ownership in this defense. I think that's going to happen. It's a gradual process."
"If we're better in November than we are right now I'll be happy. We just have to continue to move forward."
On the reality he sees from his team after two games, compared to preseason expectations...
"You're learning, there's no question we're learning more about the offense and the defense and the special teams," said Kelly. "I'm not happy with the way things went on Saturday, but I look at our future and think that we could be a really good football team."
"Having said that, I've sat here some days and said oh my goodness this is going to be a long haul. I'm confident we can fix the things that need to be fixed and develop the players that need to be developed. I think that's the most important thing from my perspective."
On Tommy Rees and the run/pass balance in the offense...
"If he continues to grow in the passing game, they're not going to want to bring pressure all the time. He's going to give us some great run looks. That's really kind of where we're at right now is that we've gotta continue to grow in the passing game and if we do that, that's going to give us more opportunities to run the football."
On what will happen if George Atkinson does not improve as a pass catcher...
"He's gonna stand next to me on the sideline," Kelly said after watching Atkinson drop five balls Saturday night. "He's either gotta catch the football or he doesn't get scripted in those plays. George understands that if he's gonna be in the game he's gotta run the right route (and) he's gotta catch the football."
"Amir (Carlisle) has got to do the same thing," Kelly continued. "He's gotta run the right route and he's gotta run the football too, so we've got some work to do in that regard. That's the nature of the offense. We can't make them one-dimensional. They've gotta be able to do all those jobs."