SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Name-calling is the least of Notre Dame's worries these days.
Irish coach Brian Kelly again downplayed claims by some USC players that Notre Dame "quit" in the final minutes of the Trojans' 31-17 victory Saturday night, saying Tuesday that his players have no room to complain after such a lopsided loss.
"Our guys know what happened. They got their butts beat," Kelly said. "They didn't play very well, and that comes with it. You get what you deserve."
After opening the season with back-to-back losses, Notre Dame (4-3) appeared to be on the right track again with four straight wins, the last two in blowout territory. Even after giving up two quick touchdowns to the Trojans, the Irish were on the verge of tying the game late in the third, advancing to the USC 1. But Dayne Crist fumbled the snap, and the Trojans returned it for a score. Two more turnovers ended whatever comeback hopes the Irish had, and USC ground Notre Dame down with a final drive that lasted nearly seven minutes and featured 10 consecutive runs by tailback Curtis McNeal.
Some USC players said afterward they were surprised Notre Dame didn't call a timeout during the final drive, with Trojans linebacker Chris Galippo flat-out saying the Irish had quit. USC quarterback Matt Barkley echoed that on a Los Angeles radio show on Monday, saying it seemed as if the Irish had given up.
Kelly said he did consider calling a timeout during USC's drive, but the timing never seemed right.
"I think we were in a number of second and shorts, and where the ball was -- I don't know, intuitively, instinctively, I didn't pull the trigger on a timeout," he said. "It had nothing to do with, 'Hey, we quit,' or 'We give up.' "
Galippo apologized Monday, and USC coach Lane Kiffin also called Kelly.
While Kelly said he appreciated Kiffin's call, he's not overly concerned with the Trojans' trash talk.
"Words don't mean much. We don't spend much time on that," he said. "We got beat, and they can say whatever they want."
What does concern Kelly, however, is how his team prepared for USC, a highly charged rivalry that took on even more hype than usual because of a rare night game at Notre Dame Stadium.
The Irish had a bye the weekend before playing USC, and Notre Dame was on fall break last week. Instead of getting crisper and more focused with the extra rest, however, the departure from their routine left the Irish out of sorts.
"During the week, it was a bit of a battle because there wasn't that regimen," Kelly said. "I could sense it. I screamed about it. I yelled about it."
Even the energy and electricity in the stadium didn't help. Notre Dame was outgained by a whopping 128-14 in the first quarter alone, and trailed 17-0 a few minutes before halftime.
"I think we all saw by the way we played in the first 20 minutes of the game, we didn't play the same way that we played all year," Kelly said. "So I told our team yesterday, 'I'll take full responsibility for the preparation. You need to take full responsibility about the way you play and the level that you need to play at.' "
Those are lessons the Irish are still learning in their second year under Kelly -- lessons that will only come with experience.
"I think they have to be in that situation and see where maybe they didn't rise to the occasion and find out why. What are the reasons why you weren't able to be the best when your best was needed?" Kelly said. "So I think they've got to experience it. I think that's the best way of teaching it. And then building off that, which we'll do all this week."
Notre Dame now plays Navy (2-5), which ran all over the Irish in last year's 35-17 victory at the Meadowlands. Notre Dame had no answer for the triple option or Navy's unbalanced line as the Midshipmen rushed for 367 yards, a Navy high in a rivalry that dates back 85 years.
It was Navy's third win over Notre Dame in four years, and gave the Midshipmen consecutive victories for the first time in 49 years.