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Image from: AP Photo/Jonathan Daniel

Overall (Grade C-)

I am confused. Was the Navy game the abnormality or was the game against Purdue. Should we expect the sloppiness, questionable game plan and overall crappy play from last weekend or the crisp, physical, impose your will type game from the opening weekend.

This was as far from what I was expecting than one can get. I understand all the statements about ‘doing what the defense gives you’ and not running against 7 and 8 man fronts. It is very defensible and solid strategy. However, those statements did not translate into a solid game plan. The staff (ie B. Kelly) out themselves in a corner with this plan. Only luck and T. Rees saved the Irish this weekend.

Where were the RB screens and draw plays to counter some of the pass rush. Make the Purdue d-line think for a bit, instead of letting them just rush the passer.
Which leads me to…

The Bonehead Call(s) of the Day:
The empty sets. If you let the opponent know that you are not going to run, it makes their job easier…At least put the RB out there for the threat of a delayed handoff or screen or option.

Offense (Grade C-):
QB (Grade B-): Another solid game for a 2nd start. The pass rush got to him a couple of times and seemed confused with all the reads. Maybe a simpler game plan? The fumble was his fault. Needs to improve on his internal clock. Some of the big plays were a result of his legs. Made some throws that Tommy could not make.

RBs (Grade B): Did not play much. Riddick showed good toughness. Where was GAIII? Our most explosive player, got a few carries. When given the opportunity the RBs showed good speed and go the yards.

O-line (Grade D): Yeeeh. They got out-muscled, out-played and overmatched. Dumb penalties, miscommunication and lack of focus. They all looked slow and weak.

WRs and TEs (Grade C+): TE #80 is the only option at receiver. Many times the receivers were matched 1:1 with 1 or no safety help. They could not defeat their man. That is not a good thing. They need to improve…

Defense (Grade C+):

DL (Grade B+): Solid effort by the line. Some of them went down with injuries but Tuitt was there to pick up the slack. Highlight of the season so far. It will be very tough to run against this line.

LBs (Grade C): My biggest fears are starting to materialize. These LBs are very weak in coverage. Calabrese and Fox looked slow. Always a few steps and seconds from the play. They are good in run support, but pass defense is questionable at best.

DBs (Grade C): Another good learning experience. Purdue WRs were not elite but not bad either and the DBs were able to hang for the most part. Encouraging sign. The safeties, especifically Motta left a lot to be desired.

Special Teams (Grade C): Kicking was mediocre again. Another missed FG, even though the critical chip shot was made.

Coaching (Grade D): Big step back. Hopefully this is a part of a big master plan. Because taking this game as it is…..wow, this will be a long season

This is cool from The Turning Point

 

Here’s what Brian Kelly said about Purdue this past Tuesday.

I saw this and thought some people who missed the game may want to watch it. Here you go:

Image from: AP Photo/Barry Cronin

Overall (Grade B+)

Impressive outing from the Irish. It was as a good start as one could have hoped. The coaching staff surprised me by utilizing the strengths of this team and not stubbornly stick with ‘scheme’. What a great start to the season and raised hopes to all fans.
The Irish did its job and won convincingly. The talent on both lines was evident. They played with purpose and aggressiveness. That is what every single ND fan expects. In addition, the plan to ease Golson into live action was perfect. Not too many reads and simple throws.
The old formula of running the football worked and the superior lines on both sides did the job.
I loved the fact that the staff used the basics to win this game. Looking ahead there are some tough opponents that will test this team. However, if the staff sticks to the strengths of this team, Notre Dame will be able to compete.

The Bonehead Call(s) of the Day:
Nitpicking here, but ND needs consistent place kicking. Missing 2 PATs is not acceptable. Time to hold open tryouts…

Offense (Grade B+):
QB (Grade B): Solid start to the season. He has a nice touch on the football and great wheels. We did not see him run much but it is refreshing to see that he has ‘escapability’. Golson is always looking downfield and his arm is pretty good. This was a simple game plan but at the sametime it was awesome to see the fade thrown properly. He has minor issues to correct but those were common rookie issues.

RBs (Grade B+): Wow, is ND loaded at RB or what? And the starting RB was not even playing. T. Riddick looked real good. He has great feet and the power to lower the shoulder and get the tough yards up the middle. He might not have the size of Jonas Gray or R. Hughes, but the desire is there. GAIII looked explosive and ND’s threat to take to the house at every moment. The tough test comes in the next 3 games. Can they pick up the blitz?

O-line (Grade A): Dominating. Used their size and chemistry to overpower Navy. The only small issue was pass protection on blitzes. Who has the call of sliding protection? Going forward, can they pass protect for longer periods for the deep passing game?

Run blocking, nothing to share. Just keep doing the same…

WRs and TEs (Grade B): Their run blocking was superb but otherwise not asked to do much. Of course, TE 80 got his TD on a fade…That play is unstoppable. TJ Jones looked very good in traffic and weaving on the WR screens.

The big question still remains: Can they stretch the field?

Defense (Grade B+):

DL (Grade A): Great effort by the D-line. Run D was superb. It will be very tough to run on this line. They looked huge and very athletic. Tuitt is a monster.

LBs (Grade B): Solid outing by this group. Good tackling and great run support. Is it me or does #5 looks even faster? He looks lean and mean. He was already an outstanding LB in run support but looks better in pass coverage. Shembo looks solid as a rusher and Ishaq is ready to burst. Disruptive and quick.

DBs (Grade B): Their primary objective was run support and not give up the big play. They accomplished that. A lot of one-on-one coverage was sued to free up the safeties for run defense. It showed at times and that is ok. This was a learning experience. They will learn technique but one thing is sure, can’t teach fast. Russell and Jackson looked plenty fast.

Special Teams (Grade C): Kicking was mediocre. Can the handle the pressure of FGs when PATs are toss ups at best? PR was somewhat better. At least ND is not fair catching 100% of the time

Coaching (Grade B+): Best game plan of the Kelly era. Hopefully they will keep it simple against a very tough Sept.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen:

As always, the usual acknowledgement of the many changes that have come to all of us. Funny that through the years some of the changes have gone from graduation and weddings to births and toddler b-days. Congrats to all!

Now, onto the preview for the 2012 Fighting Irish of Notre Dame:

Overview:
This coaching tenure has managed to drain all the goodwill that I had for this program. Last year gave us a disappointing season, where the Irish continued to make mistakes on and off the field. Everyone took a bite from the mediocre sandwich. There wasn’t a signature moment or game that made everyone think that ND was on the upswing. As in years past, ND fans were waiting for the other shoe to drop (See: Michigan 2011, USC 2011, Stanford 2011 and FSU 2011).

The 2012 version is under a lot of pressure. The head coach is under notice that the time is now to deliver the goods or leave town. But, the staff didn’t do themselves any favors by missing on recruiting DBs. Also, the disciplinary mishaps have shorthanded this team. The questions have changed a bit, from the theme remains: Can the starting QB make 15% less mistakes? Can the D generate a resemblance of a pass rush? Will the DBs not be the 2012 version of Clifford Jefferson and Brock Williams? Can the head man be less egotistical and rely on his running game?

And finally, can this team make the fans not wait for the other shoe to drop? Is that too much to ask?

2012 Notre Dame Season:

Game 1: #25 Notre Dame (0-0) @ Navy
The Fighting Irish opens at #25 on the pre-season polls. The opening game is being held in Dublin, Ireland. The HC has been complaining about it for some time. I don’t think is such a bad idea. Better marketing ploy than the Shamrock Series uniforms.

Back to the game, this will be Golson’s first start and he has only 2 jobs: throw less picks that Rees and just hand the ball to the RBs. Easily achievable since throwing the football for more than 10 times would be 5 too much. By just running the rock, it solves a major issue: it makes the game shorter and ND can get back on the plane faster.
Hopefully, ND practiced defending the triple option and has watched tape from last year’s victory. No worries, Manti is back and he shuts down the FB dive and the pitch at the same time. Golson does enough to secure the win.

Golson: 10-16 for 126 and 1 TD. Riddick: 27 carries for 108 and 2TD’s

Final Score: Notre Dame 31 – Navy 16

Game 2: Purdue @ #25 Notre Dame (1-0)
The pollsters are not impressed and ND stays at 25. The bad news is that Wood is still suspended. The good news is that Purdue is in town. This game will be a good way to prep Golson to the upcoming games. Last week, the Irish took advantage of the size differential and this week it should not be any different. Run the footbaw. Whatever Purdue has, it won;t be enough to keep up with ND’s offense. There is too much firepower on the side of the Fighting Irish and the D holds the spread enough for the W.

The RB duo is suberb, running for 235 and 3 TD’s, and Golson runs/passes to the tune of 75 on 10 carries and 137 and a TD.

Final Score: Purdue 20 – Notre Dame 34

Game 3: #23 Notre Dame (2-0) @ Michigan State
The climb up the polls is negligible. This game will be the first true road game for Golson. It will be a night game against a top 10 defense. All this translates to delay of game penalties, the occasional phantom holding call and general confusion on the ND sidelines. Hate to say this, but every fan will be waiting for the shoe to drop, and it does. Golson throws that late INT that breaks the camels back. Manti can’t do it all as Sparty’s power running game proves to be too much.

MSU 30 – ND 27 Golson – 18 of 40 for 225 with 1TD and 2 INT. C. Wood runs for 108 and 1 TD.

Final score: Notre Dame 27 – Michigan State 30

Game 4: Meechigan @ Notre Dame (2-1)
Two words: Snap and Heave. Can the ND coaching staff solve this complex offense? The Notre Dame D and mainly Manti will be able to control the running game and the other skill players. The question will be if the DBs can turn and knock down the passes. To make matters worse, the game will be ‘under the lights’, something that makes me nervous. A rivalry game on primetime does not bring the best from the Irish. The opponent will be fired up and the emotional drain could be dangerous. The Snap and Heave proves to be too much for the staff. Another loss to Meechigan.

Golson: 22-42 for 289 and 2 TD’s. Wood goes for 119 on 27 carries and 2 TD’s.

Final Score: Meechigan 38 – Notre Dame 31.

Game 5: Da U at Notre Dame (2-2)
The pressure is officially set to unbearable levels. Losses to the schools from the state up north is not something that the alums were looking for. To make matters worse, they weren’t looking to seeing ND in those awful looking uniforms that ND will wear for this game. In addition, this contest will be held in Chicago where a very large contingent of ND fans live. The expectations are going to be high as the fans want a win for this rare visit and to set the boat on the right course.
The Irish are playing well but the small details are dooming this team. The rookie mistakes by Golson are decreasing but not fast enough. Is time to start Kiel and build for the future?

The atmosphere will be electric and the Irish roll. The running game carries ND to the tune of 230 yards and 3 scores.

Final Score: Miami 17 – Notre Dame 27

Game 6: Stanford at Notre Dame (3-2)
The good news is that Andrew Luck is gone. The bad news is that the power running game is still strong at Stanford.
Even though Stanford are breaking a new QB, their O-line will be dominant.Our D-line won’t be able to hold, as the Cardinal unleashes a power running game that ND can’t stop.

Stanford dominate the time of possession and pull away in the 2nd half. 4 in a row for them.

Final Score: Stanford 31 – Notre Dame 20

Game 7: BYU at Notre Dame (3-3)
So, the season has gone up in smoke and B. Kelly is fighting for his future at ND. The excuses are flowing like the Amazon, but the alums are hearing none of it. Even though the Irish are playing well, is just not playing well enough to beat the teams with equal or better talent. At least BYU is slight lower talent level and that helps ND. It won’t be a walk in the park. Golson gets banged up and Rees comes to the rescue.

Rees (in relief) 12-20 for 176 and 1 TD

Final Score: BYU 16 – Notre Dame 24

Game 8: Notre Dame (4-3) @ Oklahoma
Just 1 word: Yikes.
The Sooners will show ND how a spread no-huddle offense looks like. Visiting one of the top teams in the nation in primetime. The Sooners like to throw the ball and ND has a converted WR and a freshman starting as CBs. This could turn ugly in a hurry and it does. Move along, nothing to see here. Just carnage.

Stats: Too ugly to list them

Final Score: Yikes

Game 9: Pitt at Notre Dame (4-4)
Well the season is not going as planned, at least for the players and coaches. The fans kinda expected these results. The Irish come to this game licking their wounds and ready to beat a team with inferior talent. This game won’t be easy as the Panthers will be ready and the season is taking their toll on the team. Kelly is faced with a dilemma: Build on the future with Kiel or stick with Golson and Rees in relief. The HC decides on the latter and the Irish squeaks by the Panthers. Solid game by C. Wood and the QB rotation is featured.

Golson: 11-19 for 158, 10 rushes for 52
Wood: 25 carries for 169

Final Score: Pittsburgh 24 – Notre Dame 27

Game 10: Notre Dame @ fredo (5-4)
Personal Policy
W

Game 11: Wake Forest at Notre Dame (6-4)
The Deacons paid the return visit. These marquee matchups give a chance for ND to work some of the kinks in preparation for the showdown with SC. The Irish play very vanilla and it shows. This game is very close, but the cold finally get to the Southern folks who find it strange that the temperature dipped below 50F.
I cannot find anything more interesting to write. Season went in the dumps and this opponent does not conjure a classic.
The question remains: How many TDs does Barkley need to throw against ND to win the Heisman?

Final Score: Wake Forest 20 – Notre Dame 31

Game 12: Notre Dame @ SC (7-4)
Last year SC dominated the line of scrimmage and overpowered ND. Not even Ozzy could stop it. The 2012 Trojans are loaded on D and have the usual stable of skill players. Not to mention the #1 QB in Barkley. Will this turn ugly by the 2nd Quarter? Not so fast my friends…
ND plays inspired footbaw and the little option game throws the Trojans off guard. The Irish CBs play the games of their lives. The game is close in the 4th Q and there is a chance that ND might pull the upset.
Again, it is USC with the veteran QB. Golson makes a mistake and USC prevails once again…

Final Score: Notre Dame 21 – USC 31

Regular Season: 7-5 NR

ND goes on to some low tier bowl and the fanbase is asking for Kelly’s head. The offseason will be an interesting one, filled with intrigue and pressure.

I’m ready!!!

Image from: AP Photo/Ezra Shaw

Overall (Grade D-)

The disappointing 2011 season ended with another dud. It was everything that 2011 was, all bundled up into 1 game. While the awful play from T. Rees was somewhat expected, the inability of the head coach to send in plays on time was not surprising and the turnovers were waiting to happen, Brian Kelly’s decision to play Hendrix instead of Crist will go down as the defining moment of the year. This action summarized what B. Kelly stood for and that is himself. He rather save face and be stubborn than give Notre Dame its best chance to win. All his decisions and statements have been made to distance himself from blame. It is always someone’s fault or the player’s fault or my system works or my players are motivated.

All the great coaches have 1 thing in common: pure desire to win, irregardless how it is done. To use all available tools to win 1 game. Who do you think Nick Saban, Urban Meyer or even Les Miles would put in place of Rees? Yep, so would everyone else. Even my better half, who doesn’t know anything about football, knew what the right call was.

Winning a game for Notre Dame is higher than proving a point. Notre Dame pulling a W is a lot higher than putting your players in.

I expected a lot more from B. Kelly as person and as the head coach.

Positives:

  1. Season ended. Just a disappointing year.
  2. Mike Floyd and Tyler Eifert. We are going to miss these guys
  3. A. Lynch and L. Nix. Great motors and effort. Nix was held a lot this game.

Negatives:

  1. Coaching. Is there any redeemable quality?
  2. Coaching. This loss in on you
  3. Coaching. Not playing your QB is a sure way to lose your upperclassmen respect

The Bonehead Call(s) of the Day:

The obvious: Playing Hendrix ahead of Crist

The obvious II: In college football, there is a thing called ‘Play Clock’. It starts winding down to 0, usually a few seconds after the previous play is over. It is important to note that once this ‘Play Clock’ displays 0, the ref will stop the game and assess a delay of game penalty. This is not good. A good way to stop the ref from assessing the penalty is to call a timeout, but the downside is that you might run out of timeouts when you really need them.

The best way to counter this ‘Play Clock’ is to get your team and the play ready to go before the time expires. It is advisable to have the play in with about 15-20 seconds left so that the team has time to set up and ensure that there is enough time for adjustments.

Offense (Grade D):
Tommy Rees (Grade F): Every ND fan was waiting for the time when Tommy would hit the wall. It was a matter of time. No one thought that it would be this ugly. He was lost, and once pressure was constant, he fell off the cliff.

Andrew Hendrix (Grade C): Came in relief. Brought a new dimension. Showed a good arm with ok accuracy. Made some bad decisions, typical for young players. On the other hand, also showed guts and made difficult throws. Displayed a good set of wheels. Maybe Kelly needs to teach all his QBS to step into the pocket. He has good potential.

RBs (Grade C-): The running game was non existent, although Wood ran hard. Stanford did a good job in closing the running. Riddick was not effective either. The field conditions did not help.

O-line (Grade D): Together with SC game, one of the worst performances of year. It reminded me of the Ty Willingham’s years. Multiple false starts, complete confusion, no physicality and blown assignments.

WRs and TEs (Grade C): Another solid performance by the usual suspects. Thank you , #3. ND fans have been spoiled for the last 6 years of great WRs. Who will step up in 2012? ND is in trouble if Eifert leaves.

Defense (Grade D+):

DL (Grade C-): With all the injuries, this was an ok showing. The 1st half was ugly, but they were able to make some adjustments and shut down Stanford for about a quarter.

LBs (Grade D+): Again, I was a bit disappointed. They missed tackles and they looked slow.

DBs (Grade D+): I liked their aggressiveness but at the same time they did not looked good in pass coverage.

Special Teams (Grade D-): Ruffer, cannot miss the chip shot.

Coaching (Grade F—–): What a mess! Just the playcalling fiascos earns an F. Good playcallers think ahead 2 to 3 plays. 1 play sets up the other. I don’t know what Kelly is thinking, maybe is time to give up the play calling duties.

Image from: AP Photo/Michael Conroy

Overall (Grade B-)

This was supposed to be a celebration for the seniors and instead, it once again became another exercise in frustration and what-ifs.

It was very tough for me to see Jonas Gray get hurt and not because he is the central piece of the Irish running game. He had finally seen the light and was playing to the full extent of his talents. I was really pulling for him and was hoping that he would eventually get a shot at the next level. I hope he has a speedy recovery and eventually tries to play in pro football.

With that in mind, it was also very difficult for me to see Dayne Crist on the sidelines. This guy is a fine representative of the university and handled the benching with dignity. He deserved a better treatment from B. Kelly. Here is hoping that he finds a nice spot in a different program (Florida, perhaps?) and reaches his full potential.

Now, back to the game

Eventually, opposing coaches will figure out T. Rees and Brian Kelly. It was a matter of time. The plan was simple yet masterful. It consisted of a 2 prong strategy. The first was to confuse T. Rees and stop the Irish passing attack (which consists of passes between -10 to 20ish yards). In order to do that, fredo dropped 7-8 in coverage, clogging up the short to middle range. It essentially shut down the passing game. They forced T. Rees to look at the deep routes and the middle of the field. He was highly inaccurate and made some bad decisions, which shaked his confidence. Once that was accomplished, they turned to shutting down ND’s rushing attack. It almost worked. ND was capable of breaking through a couple of runs and a few short passes. That was the difference in the game that was dominated by both defenses.

Guess what ND will see against Stanford?

Positives:

  1. Roby Toma. Making the case to move Riddick to RB
  2. D-Line. Solid pass rush and outstanding against the run
  3. T. Eifert. Clutch player with WR hands. Hope he stays

Negatives:

  1. T. Rees. Below average
  2. LBs. Expecting more
  3. Coaching staff. No Plan B to counter 8 man drops?

The Bonehead Call(s) of the Day:

How about inserting either D. Crist or A. Hendrix to stop the 8 man drops with a few QB runs?

Offense (Grade B-):
Tommy Rees (Grade C-): That was not his best effort. He made bad decision after bad decision. He’s deep balls were very inaccurate on deep balls. He lacks physical skills that almost cost ND 2 picks. The gameplan is out there to stop ND’s offense.

RBs (Grade B-): Sad to see Gray get hurt. Wood is good but the 1-2 punch was great. Towards the end, Wood was able to get the tough yards. Gray is just a notch better.

O-line (Grade B-): Good pass protection even with just 3 man rushing. Got pushed around a bit in the run game.

WRs and TEs (Grade B+): Besides #3, #80 and Toma, did anyone else play? Going to miss #3 next year. Hoping T. Eifert stays for senior year. Without those 2, WR’s and TEs is highly suspect.

Defense (Grade B):

DL (Grade B+): Great effort by this group. Stout against the run and good in pass rushing situations. #19 is relentless. If Tuitt or Nix play to their abilities, watch out.

LBs (Grade B-): Not too crazy about their performance.Run D was good but was surprised at their inability to defend the pass. Is this Manti’s final year?

DBs (Grade B): Good outing. Played a bit more aggressive in the 2nd half. They took some chances and fredo did not make them pay.

Special Teams (Grade B+): The FG unit has returned to its old self. The punter is in the good category as well. .

Coaching (Grade B-): Not a lot of confidence, knowing that Stanford and Andrew Luck is next.

Image from: AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

Overall (Grade A-)

It took me a few minutes to get used the images being shown on the screen. It was a bit distracting. I was not the only one. My better half, not knowing what the new helmets and uniform looked like, provided her own commentary, “Wait, the facemask and the rest of uniform don’t match.” This brings us to to my next point.

I am ok with different uniforms, colors, throwbacks, etc. It is the next wave of tools used in recruiting. I get it and I think it would be somewhat cool to see. But, Notre Dame can do it using a bit more discretion, common sense, class and better execution. This version was clearly a marketing ploy (aka money grabber). Also, make a stand or apply consistent standards. If Notre Dame keeps yapping about how the gold helmets are a representation of the dome, blah, blah…and then they show those ugly versions, then something is not consistent. Are the helmets a representation of the Golden Dome or just a part of the uniform that can be used for ‘enhancements’. I believe it cannot be both. My vote is to keep the helmets untouched (current shiny version is pretty good), and leave the rest for the Adidas to make some money on.

Now, back to the game.

It is November and you what that means? B. Kelly stops grab bagging and reverts back to what this team is built for, running the football. Maybe we can Jedi mind trick B. Kelly into thinking that it is always November and maybe ND will have a chance to lose 1 or 2 games a year.

This contest was a no contest. The Irish imposed their will and finished the Terrapins when they had the chance. One could not have asked for more. The running game was working perfectly. The passing game was a great compliment/weapon. The defense was stout against the run, the pass rush was good and S/T made significant improvements (except punt returns).

All in all, it was performance that we all knew Notre Dame was capable of. They have been on this consistent mode for 3 games. Let us hope that it continues through the bowl game!

Positives:

  1. Roby Toma. He is the perfect compliment to #3.
  2. RBs. Another great performance
  3. O-Line. Borderline elite
  4. D-Line. Stout against the run and solid in pass-rush

Negatives:

  1. Helmets. Enough said.
  2. T. Jones. I’m expecting more
  3. Punt return

The Bonehead Call(s) of the Day:

Stating the obvious. The helmets. Whose going to own up to this? Swarbrick? Adidas? Fr. Jenkins?

Offense (Grade A):
Tommy Rees (Grade B+): He had a solid game. He was put in a situation where he could be successful. He’s still a bit worrisome that eventually teams will figure out how to defend ND in the 0-20 yards. Can he stretch the defenses when it matters?

RBs (Grade A): Great performance by both RBs. Ran hard with great vision.

O-line (Grade A-): Gave up 3 sacks, but still a dominating performance.

WRs and TEs (Grade A): R. Toma emerged as a true slot WR. #3 looked a bit bored out there (he had a couple of drops), but still dominated. Eifert is just a stud. This is a position of worry if no one emerges to take Floyd’s place and Eifert leaves early.

Defense (Grade B+):

DL (Grade B+): The return of E. Johnson really helped shoring up the run defense. #19 is pretty good even when hurt. D. Fleming off the edge is unblockable at times.

LBs (Grade B-): The run defense is pretty good. They are good gap fillers. The passing defense leaves a lot to be desired. They all look very slow.

DBs (Grade B+): Solid outing. Lo Wood was opportunistic on the bad throw. There was good run support. They played a lot of soft coverage. There is another chance for redemption in 2 weeks.

Special Teams (Grade B+): The FG unit was solid. The punter has improved dramatically.

Coaching (Grade B+): They had the team prepared and able to close off an opponent. Another chance against a quality opponent comes in 2 weeks.

I know the helmets weren’t a grand slam according to everybody, but I liked them. Here’s how they were made. Whether you like them or not, it is still impressive how they made them.