Brian Kelly pointed out to his players on Monday that it's a good feeling to go to class and get patted on the back for a job well done. He told them, however, it's important to remember all the hard work it takes it start a season 3-0 and what it will continue to take for the Irish to continue to win.
"We're 3-0 but we didn't give out any rings to anyone," Kelly told reporters Tuesday as the hype began for the huge night game against Michigan at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday night.
"We have to continue to grow as a football game," Kelly explained. "Our guys know how we got to this point."
Kelly liked the mental toughness, the controlling of the line of scrimmage and the outstanding special teams coming out of the 20-3 win at Michigan State, the first for the Irish over a Top 10 team in a decade.
Kelly says he put a sign into the Notre Dame Football building a year ago to become a motto for the Irish players to live by---in order to keep things in perspective as winning comes.
The sign says:
1) Don't believe or fuel the hype
2) Manage expectations
3) Avoid noise
4) Speak for yourself
So far, the message is working Kelly says.
"Nothing has seemed to change and I don't want it to change," Kelly explained. "There is no different feeling than we're back to work."
This week's motto is simple: Beat Michigan. It's something Kelly has not done since become the Notre Dame head coach.
"For me, the only thing that comes to mind is we haven't beaten them the last two years," Kelly said when asked about the Notre Dame-Michigan rivalry.
Of course, no one can forget last year's heartbreaking loss to the Maize & Blue in their first ever night game at Michigan State that saw the Irish lose in the final seconds. It's something, Notre Dame would like to forget and it's something they aren't reminding themselves of.
Kelly says the players don't talk about last year's Michigan game at all.
"They just want to win games," Kelly says, pointing out that there isn't much reflection on 2011 at all.
What Notre Dame can forget about last year's game or the one the year before is the play of Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson.
"He'll play his best against us," Kelly said of Robinson, who the Irish contained for three quarters last year before Shoelace took over in the 4th quarter. "He's a superior football player. He's a difference maker."
Two years ago, Robinson ran over the Irish--quite literally---rushing for 258 yards in a 28-24 win at Notre Dame Stadium.
Kelly feels the key to success against Robinson is simple: don't give up big plays. It's easier said than done.
The Irish may finally have their quarterback who can begin to give Michigan fits in Everett Golson.
Kelly hasn't given Golson the full load of 'checks' and plays that veteran and former starter Tommy Rees can do. But Kelly says Everett can do a lot that Tommy can't too with his athletic ability.
"He's very skilled and very smart," Kelly said of Golson's continued growth. "He just doesn't have very much experience."
Kelly, meanwhile, has plenty of experience facing Hoke dating back to Kelly's days at Central Michigan and Hoke's days at Ball State.
Saturday marks their 4th meeting.
"In terms of a wrestling match, he's as big as he's every been," Kelly joked. "He's going to be beat me on that one."
Kelly called Hoke a very talented coach who has adjusted well at each school he's coached at.
Saturday's night game versus Michigan will mark almost 30 years to the day of the 1st ever night game at Notre Dame Stadium, also against Michigan.
Celebrating 125 years of Notre Dame football, the Irish will honor the 1977 National Championship team. 62 players will be on hand for the 35-year anniversary.
Also, Irish coaching legend Ara Parseghian, who led the Irish to national titles in 1966 and 1973, will carry in the flag for the game.
---Kelly says he isn't sure if 5th year safety Jamoris Slaughter will be eligible for a 6th season or not. Slaughter was lost for the season with a ruptured Achilles. Kelly says the Irish are looking into it but it's to early to comment on.
--With Slaughter out, Zeke Motta becomes the unquestioned lead of the secondary. Kelly: "It’s probably one of the most remarkable developments from year two to year three in that sense."
--Kelly says Kapron Lewis-Moore is fighting through pain with a calf issue but will play play Saturday. "He's at that point between being hurt and being injured."
--Kelly says receivers John Goodman and Robby Toma have turned into very reliable options. Kelly says they weren't in the past but now truly are. He says Toma is "consistent" and someone you can "rely on."
--Kelly refers to WR DaVaris Daniel and DL Sheldon Day as "probable" to play against Michigan this week.
--Kelly, a Massachusetts native and longtime Red Sox fan, on a possible game at Fenway Park vs UConn: " "I love Fenway Park but I just don't know if its big enough." Kelly says they don't want a Northwestern-Illinois situation like what happened at Wrigley Field but said if they can make it work, "I think it'd be cool."
--Jack Swarbrick on media report of Fenway Park game in 2014: "We have work to do on our future football schedules, given the announcement last week relative to our upcoming Atlantic Coast Conference relationship. However, media reports today that we will play Connecticut in Fenway Park in 2014 are inaccurate"