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Notre Dame’s victory over Wake Forest is a tough sell for Brian Kelly

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly left argues call second half Notre Dame's 24-17 wover Wake Forest an NCAA college

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly, left, argues a call in the second half of Notre Dame's 24-17 win over Wake Forest in an NCAA college football game in Winston-Salem, N.C., Saturday, Nov. 5, 2011. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

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Updated: December 8, 2011 8:11AM

Resurrecting Notre Dame football is a process. But most fans hoped coach Brian Kelly would be far enough along by now that a win against a Wake Forest program that has one more bowl appearance (nine) than the Fighting Irish have national championships (eight) wouldn’t be considered a turning point.

That’s how Kelly painted Notre Dame’s 24-17 win over the Demon Deacons on Saturday. It was a tough sell. Not everybody was buying.

“What I said last night was during this journey towards getting to a consistent performance, once in a while you have got to gut one out,” Kelly said. “You really just have got to dig down deep. That’s what I saw. This team really, really dug down and they clearly stayed together no matter what to get the job done.”

The problem with Notre Dame football is that reality doesn’t match expectations. That has been especially true this season, when hope soared after Kelly’s team won its final four games last season, and spiked when a BCS Bowl berth this season seemed realistic.

The reality is, Notre Dame defeated a talented, well-coached Wake Forest team that it should have beaten. With 2-7 Maryland and 2-7 Boston College up next, there’s no real shot at redemption until the season finale, and defeating Stanford on the road will be a tall order.

For the immediate future, baby steps will have to suffice.

“I want winning to become a habit,” Kelly said. “I don’t want it to be something that comes and goes. We want to get to that level where we expect to win each and every week. We’re not there yet, but we’re on that journey.”

Kelly disagreed with a reporter who suggested his team looked lethargic in the first half, and was exasperated when asked about inefficiencies in the passing game, which produced 166 yards.

“Is there a negative to everything? We just won a football game on the road,” he said. “Really, what kind of question is that? Really, what do you want me to say? What’s the answer? We won 24-17 against a good football team and you want to know what’s wrong with the passing game? You know what’s wrong with it? The coach doesn’t call good plays. How’s that? There’s nothing wrong with it. We’re fine. We just won a good game.”

It was a win, all right. But when you’re Notre Dame, and you have to sell it as hard as Kelly did, you’re not where you want to be.

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