In the minutes after Notre Dame's first regular-season defeat in two seasons, captain TJ Jones said the Irish's 41-30 loss to Michigan was a wake-up call. But on Sunday, coach Brian Kelly said he does not see a group whose focus has been deterred in the aftermath of a dream 2012 season that saw his team run the regular-season table.
He just saw a team that made a few mental errors.
"No, I mean 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," Kelly said during a Sunday teleconference. "I think if you look at the game, we've got to play better, we've got to coach better. I don't think there's any big-picture relevance to those [quotes] other than you've got to get back to work, you've got to practice harder, you've got to pay attention to detail.
"And look, when you're coming off playing for a national championship, the bar is high, and so the expectations are, when you go on the road, you don't lose to Michigan, and that's really the standard that's set. I don't think there's anything that you would read into it relative to these guys not doing what's asked of them."
Separating 2012 from 2013 has been a point driven home by Kelly throughout the headline-filled offseason, with the fourth-year Irish coach taking the team off-campus for the first week of fall camp and even letting an expletive slip last month when talking publicly about putting last season's "stuff" behind them.
Kelly said that he never picked up on any lack of focus or a deviation from the plan in place during camp or in the lead-up to the program's finale at the Big House, and he is confident that the Irish have the personnel in place to move past the loss and still have a successful season.
"What I told our team after the game might have had an effect on the way they had gone into the press conference," Kelly said. "I told them they needed to be smarter and more disciplined 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and they may have inferred that I was talking to them in a manner I had no intention. They've practiced hard, they've worked hard. My point to them is, if you're going to win on the road, you've got to be smart.
"We weren't smart enough in the times we needed to be -- we let the ball outside the defense, we didn't fit plays correctly, we didn't pass off into man coverages the right way; we just weren't smart sometimes and we weren't disciplined enough. And so I was talking about how to win a game at Michigan we had a chance to win, and our guys are so conscientious and such great kids, and sometimes they read a little bit too much into things."
Notes: Kelly said that Jones suffered a slight shoulder sprain Saturday but looked fine Sunday. ... Asked about George Atkinson III, who had several drops Saturday, Kelly said: "He's got to stand next to me on the sideline. He's either got to catch the football, or he doesn't get scripted in those plays."