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Brian Kelly says Notre Dame defense has cleaning up to do

Elijah Shumate Fitzgerald Toussaint

Elijah Shumate, Fitzgerald Toussaint

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan wide receiver Jeremy Gallon caught a pass over the middle of the field.

Notre Dame’s Bennett Jackson and KeiVarae Russell converged to try to tackle Gallon near the Irish’s 30-yard line.

The key is “try.” Gallon spun away from the cornerbacks and stayed on his feet.

Safety Matthias Farley also was in the area but couldn’t get a hand on Gallon. Safety Elijah Shumate arrived a moment later but ended up crashing into linebacker Dan Fox as Gallon galloped 61 yards for a first-quarter touchdown.

The sequence was an extreme example of the rough night for Notre Dame’s defense in the 41-30 loss to the Wolverines on Saturday.

“I think we can play a whole lot better than we played last night, that is for certain,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said Sunday of the team’s defense.

Michigan had 460 yards of offense. Notre Dame has surrendered at least 350 yards in both games this season. Opponents reached that mark twice last year.

“We’ve got new players,” Kelly said. “We’ve lost some talented players for sure, but I think we’ve got some guys that are learning some new roles. Dan Fox is in the ‘mike’ linebacker position. We’ve got a true freshman [Jaylon Smith] playing drop. We’ve got a new safety combination. You’ve got some new players that are growing

“We’ve got to coach some things up. We’ve got to clean some things up fundamentally. I like our players, and we’ve just got to continue to develop who we are. I think I would feel a lot differently moving forward if I didn’t feel like we had the players necessary to have a good defense and the level of the defense that we’re going to need with the schedule that we’re going to play. We’ve got to clean some things up, and I’m confident that we will.”

The offense has to do its part, Kelly said, by scoring more points.

The unit reached the end zone twice Saturday. The third touchdown came on an interception in the end zone by defensive end Stephon Tuitt. Kyle Brindza made three field goals. Quarterback Tommy Rees had 314 passing yards, two touchdowns and two critical interceptions.

“We had too many opportunities offensively that we didn’t turn into touchdowns again,” Kelly said. “We settled for field goals. [We were] very close to being able to put enough points on the board, where last year we had to rely on our defense to win football games. I don’t want to have to do that week‑in and week‑out. I think there are going to be some times when our offense has to win some ballgames. This happened to be one of those nights where [Michigan]made some plays. Things happened their way, and the quarterback [Devin Gardner] was on and sometimes you’ve got to go through some of those games.

“We did that last year on the back of our defense. I just felt like this was one of those nights where our offense had to bail out our defense, but in no way [am I] saying our defense can’t play championship defense. I think it can. It just wasn’t this night.”

Notes: Brian Kelly said wide receiver TJ Jones suffered a “slight shoulder sprain” in the game but should be available for practice Tuesday.

◆ Notre Dame fell to No. 21 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll.

Email: lpope@post-trib.com

Twitter: @lamondpope



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