SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Manti Te'o's 21 tackles were the most by a Notre Dame player in four years. Still, the talented inside linebacker couldn't stop the Irish from losing yet another game, this time to Stanford
Sick of losing? You better believe the Irish are.
Taking a 1-3 record to Boston College after 17 losses in the previous three seasons, the players and coaches echo this refrain: They're close to turning it around. Until they do, there will be no relief in the locker room or meeting rooms in coach Brian Kelly's first season.
Defensive coordinator Bob Diaco had an analogy for the Irish's struggles in this age of instant gratification. He said developing a winning program is not to be confused with the likes of instant popcorn, microwave dinners and hot-out-of-the-oven doughnuts where "you can just go in and it magically happens."
"Well, this is going to take some time as coach Kelly develops a system," he said. "They (the players) know that. And we're going to do it the right way."
Safety Harrison Smith sums up the feeling of many of his teammates by saying it's almost like life or death when it comes to winning at Notre Dame. He says that's just how it has to be.
"After some of the losses that we've had, you can see it in everyone's face that not that we're actually dying, but that's what it's like," Smith said Wednesday. "We have to win. We want to win. That is the only reason we're here."
Te'o's tackles last Saturday were the most since Chinedum Ndukwe made 22 against Air Force in 2006. Te'o, the star of the Irish defense, said he could have done even better, citing a facemask penalty he was called for against Stanford.
"Nobody plays a perfect game," he said. "There are a lot of opportunities or a lot of times where I got stuck up on blocks."
And if the fans and many followers of Notre Dame football across the country bare taken aback by the dismal start, the players feel even worse.
"I think if anybody's more frustrated about our record and how we've done, nobody's as frustrated as ourselves," Te'o said. "And if you were in our locker room, especially this past week, we talked and it does not feel good."
This week, the Irish will be meeting a Boston College team that may go with freshman Chase Rettig at quarterback in his first start, replacing the struggling Dave Shinskie.
"We take any quarterback the same. We approach any quarterback the same," Te'o said.
"But, of course, whether it's a quarterback, an O-lineman, a linebacker, your first appearance in a college football game is going to be very different than the last time you stepped on the field, which would have been in high school. So that quarterback will probably be a little shocked, a little anxious and of course excited. So we'd try and take advantage of that."
Notre Dame quarterback Dayne Crist, who has now started four games in his career, could be a little more emotional himself this week — thanks to instruction from Kelly, who told him it's OK to show what he's feeling at times.
"He explained to me there are certain times when you've got to wear stuff on your sleeve a little bit more. And it's OK to respond negatively and be upset about certain things," said the normally cool and calm Crist.
"So that is something that I'll definitely try to incorporate as well. ... If things aren't going well, showing guys that I'm upset and letting guys see that I'm upset. ... Not necessarily saying it, but showing it through body language."
Standout tight end Kyle Rudolph, who was limited to one catch in the 37-14 loss to Stanford, said his sore hamstring is improving and he should be full strength Saturday against the Eagles.