Notre Dame faced its first deficit of the season Saturday. Its quarterback was knocked out on the final drive of regulation. The Irish defense was tasked with stopping a strong ground game that had first-and-goal inside the 5-yard line in overtime.
Emerging victorious the way they did was a cumulative effect, Brian Kelly said Tuesday, a three-year process that displayed more toughness than luck.
"Did you see me on the sidelines at all last year?" Kelly said. "This is a process. This just didn't happen, you know, overnight. I mean, this is demanding, that mental and physical toughness. The pride and tradition of Notre Dame football will not be left to the weak, the timid or the non‑committed. I mean, that's in our locker room. That was put up the first day I got here.
"So this is a process of developing that physical and mental toughness, and along the way, having some scars where maybe it wasn't as evident. So this has just been a process of getting to this point and now they see that. Now it's not just words in the locker room. It's not just a creed with a bunch of words. They are actually filled in now because it's starting — you can see it's starting to play in how they go to compete each week."
Kelly's infamous, purple-faced sideline tantrums from early last season have gone by the wayside with a team that has matured and better understands what its coach expects.
"I think in terms of, you know, being here three years now, they know what I want from them on game day," Kelly said. "They know the physical toughness I want them to play with, the concentration; you know, this has been a process, and it has to start with the head coach.
"Unfortunately, sometimes it doesn't play out as good TV. But the fact of the matter is, we needed to set expectations of the way we wanted our program to move. We are moving in that direction and it doesn't require me to have to have those kinds of conversations."
No second-guessing: Kelly has not received an explanation for the officials' ruling on the final play of Saturday's game — not that he asked for one.
"We simply feel like we had made that play," he said. "We had guys in position to make the play. If the whistle had not blown, we feel like we were in good position to continue the play. We heard the whistle and the play was over. Look, there's a number of plays that could have went either way; Everett's fumble which was a huge play, it appeared that he stepped out of bounds. You could microcosm the whole game and look at different things. The fact of the matter is that the game was officiated, it went to replay, and it was a great game."
Goodman better: Receiver John Goodman is expected back after an epidural last Tuesday that forced him to sit against Stanford. Kelly said Goodman was an "emergency" guy Saturday.