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  • Rational Exuberance with Secret Sauce on the Side

    by SEE

    (The Rock Report) – The last time Notre Dame was in this rarified air, the season hadn’t even started. In 2006 the Irish were the consensus #1 choice in pre-season rags, 2nd in the AP and 3rd in the coaches’ poll.  The only problem was that the team hadn’t played a game and achieved that ranking based on hype alone (hence my caution of the  Irrational exuberance that built up around the program.)  In contrast, it is a wholly rational exuberance we’re experiencing in 2012.  Notre Dame built its ranking game by game and point by point, overcoming what most thought was the toughest schedule in the country to climb from the depths of the unranked in the AP Poll and 24th in the coaches poll to #1.

    ND built its case with goal line stands, last second heroics, unheralded players, heart and daily determination.  This team deserves all the accolades thrown its way to this point; they have been earned on the field.

    The coaching staff deserves praise for keeping the team focused throughout a very tough opening 8 games culminating with the hardest three game slate on the schedule. It doesn’t take much, as Kansas State found out, to lose when every team views you as their national title game.   That’s why you have to focus on the day-to- day.

    When I wrote about Weis lacking the Secret Sauce (the ability to motivate) I noted how great coaches consistently found a way to get their teams focused.  Lou’s stories are legendary from one-on- one talks to sandbagging reporters to visualization sessions.  Ara’s ploys ranged from coming out to practice in rags to dupe the competition ( as he did at Miami (Ohio)) to the famed Phantom letters at ND.

    Consistently great coaches have to find a way to keep kids focused and motivated.  Doing it week in and week out is a massive chore, which is why I like how Kelly’s staff has made it simply part of what they do every week.  He gets the team focused on the smaller parts of the puzzle rather than get caught up in the big implications of the game.  Each game the staff focuses on a different message, this last week it was understanding the difference between enthusiasm and emotion so that players wouldn’t come out full of emotion only to run out of energy.

    “It went very well for us. I think our seniors really understood the difference between enthusiasm and emotion,” Kelly said after the game to NBC’s Alex Flanagan. “They played with great enthusiasm. They had fun. This is the way you should play college football.”

    You can tell they get through because the players often perfectly repeat the message pushed by the staff in their pre and post-game interviews.  And more importantly, it worked at Cincinnati and it’s working at Notre Dame.

    Different weeks have different gameday messages, but each day of the week has the same message. Every Monday Kelly gets the team to move past the last game by focusing on the mental aspects of the upcoming game.  On Tuesday, practice is about physical intensity.  Wednesday is about getting quality repetitions and then on Thursday they strive for practice perfection.  One day’s message builds on the next until they reach focus Friday and the things they’re going to focus to win on Saturday.

    It’s the day to day focus that leads to the week to week success that leads to undefeated seasons.

    Said his former advisor, Jeff Genyk:

    “Here’s Brian’s secret: He gets his players able to execute at a high level in Tuesday and Wednesday practice, and in their mind, it’s just like the fourth quarter of the game. He gets his teams to be unconsciously competent. What that means, to me, is to be able to execute at a high level when pressure and adversity comes.”

    In the end, the secret is pretty simple.

    35 Responses to “Rational Exuberance with Secret Sauce on the Side”

    1. Just saw this on the schedule on NDNation home page. Guess no one believes in jinxing their own team…

      ND 50 Navy 10
      ND 20 Purdue 17
      ND 20 Michigan State 3
      ND 13 Michigan 6
      ND 41 Miami 3
      ND 20 Stanford 13
      ND 17 BYU 14
      ND 30 Oklahoma 13
      ND 29 Pittsburgh 26 (3OT)
      ND 21 Boston College 6
      ND 38 Wake Forest 0
      N24 @ Southern Cal 8pm ABC
      J07 TBA

      • I agree! To the administrators of NDNation: please remove this from the site.

        • It’s been that way for awhile …

        • Bob Howsam, Jr. says:

          Agreed. What a ridiculous mistake for a coaching staff otherwise doing such a masterful job.

          • Although I don’t believe in “jinxes”, the coaching staff had nothing to do with this. It’s on THIS site, NDNation.

            • Bob Howsam, Jr. says:

              Wow, really? Sorry for the shot across Kelly’s bow. This site needs to fix this … now.

            • Mike Coffey says:

              If you really believe our inclusion of a January 7th date on the website football schedule is in any way going to affect the outcome of the game on Saturday, well…….

      • I noticed that well before the events of next week actually put us at #1 and thought it was a humorous little find. I’m as nervous as anyone — yes, there is still one more game to win — but there’s nothing wrong with a little hopeful humor.

        • Mike Coffey says:

          What he said. I added that in after we beat BC.

          • All for humor, but my first reaction was not to give any motivational ammunition to USC should one of their folks stumble across this. Crazy, I know.

            • Bob Howsam, Jr. says:

              Spot on. My philosophy has always been pride comes before the fall. Evidently Coffey missed this in scripture.

            • Mike Coffey says:

              If coming to our site is what they need to get fired up before this game………

    2. Yeah the secret is that Kelly is a great and experienced coach…..i think he is on his way to his 4th or 5th undefeated regular season in his career. No matter what happens from here on out he has set the bar super high just as he expects it. I cant wait for the next game and then the one after that. After we dismantle USC then we will be underdogs as the number 1 ranked team for the NC. It sets up the perfect scenario to motive the team with the no one repspects us card. I want Alabama as they are the cream of the SEC and the crop in CFB. Who better to end the SEC championship run then the glorious men of the golden dome……once again, and I am actually old enough to remember what this means….

      WE ARE ND!!!!!!!!!

    3. gettysburgirish says:

      Great coaches, regardless of the sport, teach players to focus on the process and trust that the outcome will take care of itself. Excellent post!

    4. KellyIrish says:

      Kelly clearly gets “it”.

      I was at the Boston ND Alumi clud tailgater at Boston College. Mike Iannello was there and said a few words to the crowd. He said after he had finished up his 5th year Weis was let go and Kelly came in. He said one of the first things Kelly did was to put a rope around the ND in the middle of the locker to signify that it was sacred ground and was not to be walked on by anybody. Mike talked about how that was just one subtle message to the team about respecting Notre Dame and how doing the little things right every day leads to success in everything they do.

      He practiced what he preached. The media have been on him at his last several post game press conferences trying to bait him into politicing for Notre Dame to be in the NC game. Kelly stuck to his line of thinking stating over and over again all he wanted to do was to get better in the next week.

      Do the little things right and the wins will follow.

      Rockne knew it, Leahy knew it, Parseghian, Devine and Holtz all knew it. Kelly does as well. He has succeeded everywhere he has coached. And, he is succeeding now.

      For all the “experts” who for years have said the Irish should join the Ivy League. Well Kelly has the #1 Graduation Rate as well.

      Goi Irish!!

      • GraceHallChapel86 says:

        I think it goes higher and deeper: Hesburgh believed in Notre Dame football greatness. Malloy did not. Jenkins does.

        Faust was Hesburgh’s Mulligan. Weis was Jenkins. But never did either one intend, by those choices, what Malloy did by hiring Davies and Willingham.

        Kelly is an outgrowth of right leadership at the top. As long as ND’s leadership at the top believes ND needs to be great on the field, the right coaching staff will be hred, and Notre Dame will win–nationally.

        • The timing was serendipitous. ND was in a “you can’t screw this up” position. Brian Kelly represented the perfect backstop if the Admin couldn’t get a Meyer/Saban. Kelly had proven himself to the right level and, for once, gave ND access to a great coach who wanted to come and was available.

          You can have a great leader and still not get a great coach. Hesburgh, many would argue, ushered Leahy out the door and hired Brennan and Kuharich.

          I think Fr Jenkins commitment can be seen in all of the other changes made to make the program great covered in fixing Notre Dame football.

          I do think you’re correct in that the first problem was Monk’s lack of commitment to football, Notre Dame found itself in an unusually fortuitous situation wrt coaching.

        • Maloy gets too often treated unfairly on this board. I was there during the Davie and Willingham years and, yes, they were painful beyond words. Yes, Maloy emphasized academics over athletics. But I don’t think he purposefully tanked the football program. His choice of George O’Leary to turn around the program after firing Davie was one that might have brought us back to #1 last decade. I blame Kevin White and his athletic department for the botched background check and panicked hiring of Willingham. Ultimately Maloy was responsible for hiring White and everything ND, and his football record was abysmal, but to say he intentionally tanked the football program and did not believe in ND football greatness is unfair to the man.

    5. The HUGE difference between this team and the two Weis teams that played in the BCS is the vast improvement between game 1 and game 11. Sure the defense has been superior all season, which we did not have in 2005 or 2006. But think about the progression of the offense. Little by little Golson has been released and allowed to do more. Think about the play calling from Michigan to now. How many designed runs were called in the first 3-4 games vs. what we saw against Pitt and BC. The option to Wood last week was a big play coming off the counter to some of the options run by Goldson in previous weeks. While we did not score a huge number of points against BC, our 3rd down efficiency and Golson’s passing was outstanding. A far cry from Purdue.

      If we can get by this week, I think we will win it all. What will this offense look like in a bowl game after Kelly has 15 practices to go back and work on fundamentals and install additional wrinkles in the gameplan? Think of the reads Golson has missed on open receivers in games. There is no reason to think, based on what we have seen, that he will not continue to progress. Think of all the explosive plays we have left on the field this year because of a misread or missed throw. We are seeing fewer and fewer.

      • Bob Howsam, Jr. says:


        I wouldn’t say there’s been vast improvement between games 1 and 11. If you think about it, it’s been one step forward two steps back. There were quite a few games we failed to show up and should have lost but didn’t.

        The Pitt game was the ultimate Hail Mary. I lit two or three candles in the grotto before the failed kick off the flame of Jesus in my heart, which thankfully is a transferable inferno.

        The Stanford game was another gift from God … did I tip the balance by going to confession and confessing my sin of cursing Brian Kelly for failing to unleash the power within … Everett Golson … the day before the game … I don’t know … but the goal line seemed line the bridge too far that day …

        All I know is … this team is going to win it all … and, oh, by the way, don’t be surprised if Tommy Reeses Pieces throws the TD that seals the deal.

        It’s just that kind of year.

        A National Championship by any other name … is still … a National Championship.

        Go Irish!!!

        P.S. Max Redfield … dude … are you hearing this?

    6. Great article and discussion. Personally, I think that ND is headed in the right direction. The day I met Brian Kelly in December 2009 (on a flight leaving Tampa), I knew he was the right choice. You could see it in his eyes and by the way he spoke. I would love nothing more than to see the Irish stick it in Southern Cal’s collective face and then march into Miami and take the crystal ball from Alabama’s (and the SEC) hands!

      • Bob Howsam, Jr. says:

        99% of Irish fans – perhaps you were in the 1% – were opposed to the Kelly hiring.

        I remember – like it was yesterday – touting this guy and pretty much everyone telling me I was a complete horse’s [amb] ass [ador Rice]

        • That opinion was a little NDNation centric. Most of the college football world thought he was a very good hire. The expectation of landing Stoops colored the glasses of many.

    7. Brian in Cleve says:

      Beat USC. That is all. Sat night at 8pm is ALL that matters at this juncture.

    8. Consider this about Kelly—he is 2 wins away from 200 career wins. Only Mack Brown, Spurrier, Ault, and Beamer have more among active coaches and they are all 10 years older than him or more.

      Weis constantly lost games where he had double digit leads. The team also fell apart down the stretch the last two years. Whether they have greatly improved or not, or had a few close calls along the way, they have played solid start to finish.

      Kelly has also done a solid job of recruiting which is going to build depth in the “third phase” which has been costing them field position all year. It is tough to win with running and defense when your punt and return game is so poor, but they have hung in there.

    9. All comments about motivation and winning instincts are right on and Kelly is responsible and deserves a lot of credit. C Weiss did not motivate and did not reach expectations but for all the CW haters lets be fair. He got things going in the right direction for the first time in a decade by bringing in elite talent. Yes it might have been mostly offensive skill positions but look at this team right now and thank him for Teo (no one thought he would come to ND ) and all the other seniors who are fantastic players and leaders. Kelly is making them better and doing a great job. Weiss must be credited with getting the Eifert, Riddick, Wood, Motta, Lewis More, Martin, Fox,Slaughter and many others to campus. Not to mention Floyd, Tate, and Rudolph etc etc. This redeeming quality was critical to the success of the current program.
      Now if only we could get a few folks to play well on any aspect of special teams……

      • C Weiss was able to get 5 star skill players to come to Notre Dame, no question about that. But his failures after that are, in my opinion, what cost him his job. He fell in love with these 5 stars and did not recruit depth behind them or other players to replace them if they backed out of a committment. Floyd, Tate and Riddick all used up 4 years in 4 years. Who did he recruit to be ready to play when Floyd and Tate left? Why was there no experience waiting in the wings. Compare that to Hendrix (Kelly get), Golson, Kiel at QB and Zaire coming in for 2013. For the first time in a long time, there is depth at wide receiver and tight end across mutliple classes. The offensive and defensive lines are deep.

        Add to lack of depth building during recruiting the fact that, again in my opinion, players never seemed to get better under Weiss. Is that a function of the first problem? I don’t know. Perhaps expecting all of your incoming 5 stars to start from Day 1 is a bit of a mistake in that there is never time for player development, only time for game planning. To me it is refreshing to see a freshman like Chris Brown come in and be able to contribute in a positive way while learning how to play Division I football. TJ Jones, DD, Riddick and Eiffert can carry the bulk of the load and the freshmen receivers can contribute as needed and where their skill sets provide added value.

        The Kevarie Russsells will become the acception rather than the rule as Kelly continues to have recruiting success at many positions year in and year out while continuing advanced player development.

      • Give Weis his due also for taking the ND job, which at the time he was hired was not an attractive position to take…

    10. Rarefied, not rarified.

    11. Oh boy, Maxi pads is talking trash. Gotta put him down.

    12. Can someone explain to me how USC, without their starting QB, is a 7 point favorite? Who are these bettors?

    13. CharlieHough says:

      Great article. Can someone please explain Ara’s Phantom letters?