Of all the positives that emerged from the lopsided win over Rutgers, Brian Kelly was happiest with the way his team responded to a difficult challenge going on the road for the first time this season, part of a continuing pattern that he cited all during the preseason of his players doing the little things off the field that he says contribute to winning championships.
“We had 26 first-time travelers,” Kelly said. “They didn’t know where the buses were. They didn’t know at the hotel that you pick up the key. It was new. Our seniors and our veterans did a great job of making it seamless. We were on time for everything. The biggest concern you have as a football coach is the uncertainty about how your team is going to handle themselves when they go on the road.
“I told them Sunday night, I brought them together and said, ‘Listen, I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow but you’re doing all the little things right to be successful. They were disciplined on (Monday) because they had been disciplined leading up to it.
“Out of the gates, they’ve done a nice job. They clearly have the right things in place for us to continue to be successful. Now we like to touch the stove when it’s hot once in a while, too, so it’s a work in progress, but the bottom line is that our guys are doing the little things right and they have been to be successful. We need to keep duplicating that week after week.”
Kelly said that focus on off-the-field details is a byproduct of the continuity that comes from a coaching staff being in place for several years.
“It has a lot to do with the consistent message from week to week that they know what to expect from me,” he said. “They know what the standards are so that they can pass that on to the other guys and say, ‘Hey, listen, you’re not going to get away with that. Don’t even try that because that’s just not going to work. You need to do it this way.’ It’s all part of it.”