Mike McGlinchey: Notre Dame failed to prepare like champions

Al Lesar
South Bend Tribune

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Leave it to an offensive lineman to inject context and perspective into a convoluted situation.

Mike McGlinchey is a guy who has been trained to accept any challenge head-on. That’s what the 6-foot-8, 310-pound left tackle does every day for the Notre Dame football team.

He’ll do it often Saturday against Syracuse, but the senior captain will likely have an extra hop in his step.

McGlinchey’s mission is to be a component of the Irish solution to the 1-3 dilemma, not part of the problem.

The other day, he came as close as anyone to putting a finger on the root of the recent malaise that has infected the program.

“You always kind of feel like you're doing your part, but when you have to look in the mirror and it comes down to it, you wake up pretty fast when you're 1-3,” McGlinchey said. “We realize that what we felt, like what we have felt that good preparation is, hasn't been good enough. We will continue to ramp that up and continue to fight for the best play that we can.

“It's about getting that understanding throughout the entire football team, whether you're a freshman or a fifth-year senior, that preparation is the most important thing in this game. Games aren't won on Saturdays in September. They're won in January in the weight room or in the summer doing your drills. Then, each week it's won Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday when you're on the practice field.

“If you can prepare the right way, prepare harder with the guys that we have on our team, I'm pretty confident that we can get our jobs done a little bit better.

“It's a mindset, like everything else. You have to put everything that you can into each drill, each snap, each everything in this game. You can't overlook any detail. You can't leave any stone left unturned.

“It's so important that you prepare as a champion just as much as you want to play like one. Maybe that should be our new mantra, but it's coming down to that intensity about the littlest things possible.

“There was a lack of that, but I think we're young, and guys have to get that understanding through experience. If that experience comes through hard times like we're in now, then so be it.

“We gotta keep moving forward. There's still a lot of football left to be played.”

Great insight from the big guy. But, why now? Why is a veteran just stepping up three losses into the season and suggesting there has been a problem? 

Shouldn’t coaches, analysts, grad assistants … somebody … have noticed that there doesn’t seem to have been a focus – or, as head coach Brian Kelly called it, “a sense of urgency” – on the practice field before the season unraveled in September?

“No matter whether you're in contention (for a national title) or not, the approach should be day by day,” McGlinchey said. “That's probably a little bit of what got us (on) the wrong track is not doing day by day.

“Guys were too worried about different things that they shouldn't have been worried about. It has a huge part of what you do focusing on one specific play, one specific day of practice, and not looking forward to Saturday when it's Tuesday afternoon and you're in the middle of a 24-period practice.

“It's not conducive to becoming a better football player and a football team. The exact approach that needs to be done is a day-by-day approach, no matter whether you're 1-3 or 4-0.

“That's what we try to do each and every day, especially up front on the offensive line – kind of go back to basics and understand that football is an entire process. It's not just show up on Saturday and play ball. It's a game of intense, intense preparation. (Now), we have to go back to basics on how to do that and continue with that mindset. We'll be better off for it.”

If what McGlinchey said was true, it seems like someone fell asleep at the switch. In the meantime, a season trickled away.

How did one head coach, nine assistants, four analysts and four grad assistants not notice?

All that’s left now is damage control.

Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey (68) looks to block Duke’s Jordan Hayes (13) during the Notre Dame-Duke NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. Tribune Photo/MICHAEL CATERINA