Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly demands sense of urgency against Duke

Mike Vorel
South Bend Tribune

Brian Kelly demanded a sense of urgency … with a sense of urgency.

In his weekly press conference on Tuesday, Notre Dame’s seventh-year head coach used the phrase “sense of urgency” nine times, peppering it throughout his sentences like a period or a comma.

“We obviously compete unevenly, if you will, in a manner that I would probably characterize as we lack a sense of urgency in the way we play,” Kelly said of his unranked, 1-2 Irish exactly 54 seconds into Tuesday’s press conference. “We play in spurts. We play really well for a period of time, and then we don't play at the highest level necessary against really good competition.

“So finding that sense of urgency (is important), that attention to detail that's absolutely crucial to being a really good football team. We can't be the kind of football team that we want to be unless we play with a sense of urgency for four quarters. We do some really good things, and then we do some really sloppy things.”

In the college football rhetoric dictionary, “sense of urgency” is prominently displayed. Like air, you can’t physically see it, but you need it to survive.

But when you scrape away the bombast, what does it really mean?

“I just think there needs to be a sense of urgency in all aspects of our lives, whether it’s being somewhere on time or making sure everything is up to par in the locker room,” senior wide receiver and team captain Torii Hunter Jr. said. “In practice, we need to have a sense of urgency about getting as many plays in as we can.

“It’s definitely giving more effort than we already have and getting off to a better start, and I think that starts outside of the football field.”

In Kelly’s case, it boils down to consistent execution and attention to detail. His defense has stiffened at times, and hemorrhaged at others. His offense went roughly 30 minutes without a point in the loss to Michigan State.

And after the Irish rushed for just 57 yards and allowed five quarterback hurries last weekend, Kelly’s demanding more of a — you guessed it — sense of urgency from his retooled offensive line.

“We missed a couple of protections,” Kelly said. “We got a little sloppy on some protections that were easily some of the easiest protections that we have. That goes to that sense of urgency that we have to have all the time. There was some movement up front that we didn't handle quite well, and that has to get better.”

For a 1-2 team that entered the season with College Football Playoff aspirations, everything has to get better — in a hurry. That’s certainly the case for the Irish defensive line, which allowed 260 rushing yards against Michigan State and remains one of just two teams nationally that has yet to record a sack.

“Now, (nose tackle) Jarron (Jones) did some good things (against Michigan State), but he lacks a sense of urgency,” Kelly said. “Isaac (Rochell)'s got to let it go. We're waiting for him in pass (rush) to get that quarterback. He's so close, we want to see him go. Andrew (Trumbetti) played really hard and really physical.

“I mean, we're close to getting to where I stand before you and go, ‘All four of those guys, or all five of those guys played their very best.’ We want to get to that point. We're not there yet, but we're getting closer.”

Even junior quarterback DeShone Kizer — he of the nine passing touchdowns and four touchdown runs in three games this season — heard the echoes of Kelly’s sense of urgency alarm.

“He's got to play with more sense of urgency. He's one of those guys,” Kelly said. “We had seven plays in a row that were negative plays (against Michigan State) that are just unacceptable offensively. It's not just him, but he's running the offense, and there are plays that are out there to be made that we're not making.

“We come out in our first drive, and we look pretty good. We drop a ball and make a mistake, and we lose that urgency there for a while. We have to have that from the very beginning. That starts with the guy with keys in his hand who's driving the car, and he's got to have more of that.”

Against Duke on Saturday, Kizer has to have it. Kelly has to have it. Hunter has to have it. The offensive and defensive lines have to have it.

“Sense of urgency” is difficult to define, but it’s easy to notice when it isn’t there.

It’s one thing to say it. The Irish have to show it.


Twitter: @mikevorel

Notre Dame’s Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly talks to a referee during the Notre Dame-Michigan State NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. Tribune Photo/MICHAEL CATERINA