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Notre Dame Football

Kelly sees leadership, players' buy-in shine in FSU win; injury updates

September 6, 2021
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Within hours of his team's first preseason practice, Brian Kelly felt particularly good about the leadership qualities on display from his 12th Fighting Irish squad.

Deep, Kelly said, and he wasn't referring to any specific position but rather to the number of leaders the team possessed in its ranks.

Kelly couldn't have expected that leadership to be so severely tested Sunday night – not in the form of a squandered, 18-point fourth-quarter lead on the road in an hostile environment.

But that's where it was, as Notre Dame tried to avoid what would have been an historical meltdown-loss.

The Irish steadied themselves, maintained their footing and finally got a defensive stop – in the form of a missed field goal in the first overtime session.

Four plays later, Jonathan Doerer made the Irish a winner with his 41-yard field goal.

Kelly, whose team had not played on the road in front of a crowd as large as Florida State's since Oct. 26, 2019, was bothered when he didn't see more joy in the Notre Dame locker room.

“So when I called them up, there was no outward feeling of satisfaction, which I think was crazy,” he said. “Winning's hard, it's too difficult. We put in so much time, we had to fly with COVID protocols. We were in tents out on a parking lot in Tallahassee eating our meal. We had to fight through overtime. We got back this morning at 4:30 in the morning. My point is: winning's hard. Enjoy the victory. And then critically analyze what we need to do to continue to get better.

“I want our guys to enjoy winning, because it's so hard to do. And then understand if we want to get to where we want to get to, and that is be part of the Playoffs, we certainly have a lot of work to do.”

Kelly doesn't want his team to deviate from the process – stabilized through Kelly's tenure and elevated to new levels of consistent on-field success since 2017 – but does want his players to understand their personal choices had them in the position to win Sunday's game.

“Couple things, one, like I laid out to you, all the things that they do, the sacrifices that they make in the summer, in not going home, not seeing their families and going to class,” Kelly said. “Having to go to bed early and eating the right foods and making the right choices and all of that puts them in a position.

“Just because you work hard, that's no guarantee that you win. There's no, 'OK, we worked hard. We're supposed to win now.' You have to do all these other things, and so they do that. They just need to understand that that process that they've been so focused on is what they need to continue to do. And we get back on it today and stay focused on that process.”

INJURY UPDATES

Paul Moala will be lost for the season after rupturing an Achilles tendon Sunday against the Seminoles; it's the second straight season cut short by an Achilles injury for Moala, who has now torn the tendon in both feet. He also was injured each time against Florida State.

Blake Fisher and Shayne Simon are scheduled for MRIs this afternoon, though Kelly doesn't expect either scan to reveal significant structural damage, he said.

Kevin Bauman is having surgery to place a screw in his leg due to a non-weight-bearing injury. Baumann, Kelly said, could return in six weeks if the surgery is successful and there are no complications in rehab.

OL DEPTH?

When Fisher went out and could not return in the second half against Florida State, Michael Carmody was the next man up for the Irish at left tackle.

Kelly said beyond Carmody, two players had logged the work to be positioned for the next wave of linemen.

“Tosh Baker and (Joe) Alt will definitely be the next two,” Kelly said of the redshirt-freshman Baker and true-freshman Alt. “We have confidence in both those guys, that they can come in and play at a high level for us.”

 
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