SOUTH BEND — Let’s talk about practice.
It’s all the Notre Dame football players and head coach want to talk about as they try and recover from a 45-14 beatdown at the hands of Michigan on Saturday night in Ann Arbor.
“You don’t win or lose a game on Saturday — you lose it throughout the week,” redshirt junior safety Alohi Gilman said. “So the biggest thing we’re focusing on is the process of, throughout the week, what are we doing day-to-day? And as a leader, as someone who’s a captain for the team, all the captains and the leaders on this team are trying to get back to, ‘What did we do wrong throughout the week?’
“We did some things throughout the week that we have to do better, and that’s focusing on the process, focusing on our traits of who we are, and that’s what we’re doing.”
All the No. 16 Fighting Irish can do is focus on themselves as they get ready for Virginia Tech on Saturday in South Bend.
“We had a really good practice (Tuesday),” junior tight end Cole Kmet said. “We did some things. We were moving the ball during practice against our scout team. They were going hard, trying to bat balls down, rip the ball out, stuff like that. Just going back to what we do: being physical in practice with some speed and all that stuff.”
Senior defensive end Julian Okwara noticed an uptick in physicality in practice Tuesday as well.
“Everyone was very physical, everyone running to the ball,” Okwara said. “I think everybody’s just ready to get better and move on from Michigan. We knew that wasn’t us. We’re just ready to move on from that and get better every day.”
Being more physical is something both the players and coaches have preached in the aftermath of the 31-point loss to the Wolverines. Notre Dame was manhandled on both sides of the line of scrimmage against Michigan, which was most apparent in the rushing yards category.
The Wolverines outrushed the Irish, 303-47, on the wet field at Michigan Stadium. Michigan had 57 rush attempts to Notre Dame’s 31.
“Michigan was all over the field,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. “We got what we deserved, and Michigan outplayed us. They outhustled us. They were more physical. They outcoached us. And those things, unfortunately, are the realities of it.”
“They outplayed us. I know that,” Okwara added. “I think we just need to move on from that and get better every week. I think, right now, we’re just focused on Virginia Tech, practicing and working hard and working on ourselves.”
Junior offensive lineman Robert Hainsey said there’s three areas the offensive line focuses on: effort, assignment and technique. Hainsey said the first of those areas is what they need to work on most this week.
“We go out there and we just practice hard. You hit hard, you hit every play and you make sure you finish your blocks to the whistle,” Hainsey said. “For us, you finish your pass (protection) until the quarterback throws the ball, and you continue to work like we know how to work. We know what we need to do, we know how we need to practice to be a great offense and we’re practicing that way.”
Kelly and the Irish know they can’t change what happened against Michigan. That’s why there’s an added emphasis to move on from that game and get ready for a 5-2 Hokies team that’s won three games in a row.
“The best thing for our team is to get back on the practice field and begin getting ready for Virginia Tech,” Kelly said. “It’s certainly, for our team, focusing on what’s gotten us the success over the past three years … and that is focusing on our process and the standards that we have set and the program.
“We got away from that this past weekend, and we’ll work diligently in putting those things back in the forefront and exhibiting that this Saturday against a very good Virginia Tech team.”