The good, the bad, the ugly: Nevada

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(The Good, The Bad, The Ugly will be a weekly Sunday feature that will put the previous week’s game to bed.)

This is my final wrap up post on the Nevada game. I think as Notre Dame fans, it’s time we turn the page and begin preparing for the big showdown with Michigan in the Big House. That’s not to say that the game yesterday is something we should forget. It isn’t. It’s something that we tuck in our wallet, maybe like that twenty-dollar bill we found in the laundry basket, something that puts a little extra spring in our steps and reminds us that things might be looking up…

I don’t think anybody could be asking for more today. The Irish should be making a leap up in the top 25, and another dominating performance this weekend could propel the team into an echelon where people might stop thinking Lou Holtz is nuts.

Here we go with “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.”

THE GOOD:

The opening play was a great sign of what was to come. The Irish came out attacking, looking to get a large chunk of yardage. The throw wasn’t there, Clausen didn’t force it, the offensive line held its ground, and Jimmy turned the play into something positive. From then on out, the offense was clicking. Mister Michael Floyd was one bad dude. Golden Tate’s catch down the sideline and his elusiveness was apparent any time the ball touched his hands. Kyle Rudolph’s catch on 3rd and 16 for a 19-yard touchdown catch was awesome (although he’s going to get a tongue-lashing for his ball security on his first catch). The fact that Notre Dame out-rushed the vaunted running game of Nevada was also a huge plus.

The defense was also exemplary. Anytime you hold a team to zero points is a great thing, and the first shutout of the Charlie Weis era was against a team known for its explosive offense. Forcing three turnovers against a veteran Nevada offense is a great sign of things to come from this Jon Tenuta/Corwin Brown collaboration.

Finally, the preparation for this game was phenomenal. Notre Dame only committed three penalties for 35 yards, didn’t allow a sack, and looked crisp. As Weis said, “it went pretty much like clock work.”

THE BAD:

It’s hard to find anything too bad about yesterday, but the fact that Vai Taua ran for 114 yards on 18 carries has me a little worried. The Irish most likely won’t be tested by a power running game next weekend in Ann Arbor, but the need to stop the run will be imperative if the Irish want to beat a team with a power running game like Michigan State.

Seeing James Aldridge go down also has to be classified as bad news, although Weis sounded pretty optimistic about the injury when talking about it to the media.

“He bruised his shoulder,” Weis said. “I don’t think it’s going to be anything major. But we’ll have to wait until I see the doctors tomorrow after, you know, we’ll see him today and see them again tomorrow and they’ll tell me where we are.”

THE UGLY:

The Nevada Wolf Pack. It’s hard not to feel bad for Nevada and its coach Chris Ault, who was apologetic to Charlie Weis yesterday during the post-game handshake.

“As I told him, I’m sorry we didn’t give him a better game so we could see what his ballclub is like.”

It’s tough to tell if Ault’s Wolf Pack were overwhelmed by a better team, overwhelmed by the magnitude of the game, or a combination of both. In the end, the Wolf Pack walked away with an appreciation of the experience, even if the game was a let down.

“”Great experience,” sophomore running back Vai Taua said. “At the end
of the day, that’s what we have to look at. It was a great experience
and we won’t get another shot like this so I’m going to enjoy it.”

Sheldon Day drafted in 4th round by Jaguars

North Carolina v Notre Dame
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Former Notre Dame captain Sheldon Day didn’t have to wait long on Saturday to hear his name called. The Indianapolis native, All-American, and the Irish’s two-time defensive lineman of the year was pick number 103, the fourth pick of the fourth round on Saturday afternoon.

Day was the seventh Irish player drafted, following first rounders Ronnie Stanley and Will Fuller, second round selections Jaylon Smith and Nick Martin, and third rounders KeiVarae Russell and C.J. Prosise.

Day has a chance to contribute as he joins the 24th-ranked defense in the league. Joining a draft class heavy on defensive players—Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack and Yannick Ngakoue already picked ahead of him—the front seven will also include last year’s No. 3 overall pick Dante Fowler, who missed the entire season with a knee injury.

Scouted by the Jaguars at the Senior Bowl, Day doesn’t necessarily have the size to be a traditional defensive tackle. But under Gus Bradley’s attacking system (Bradley coordinated the Seahawks defense for four seasons), Day will find a niche and a role in a young defense that’s seen a heavy investment the past two years.

Smith, Martin, Russell and Prosise all drafted Friday night

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 13: William Fuller #7 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Nick Martin #72 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrate a touchdown during the game against the Purdue Boilermakers at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 13, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
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Jaylon Smith, Nick Martin, KeiVarae Russell and C.J. Prosise were all selected on Friday, with four Irish teammates taken on the second night of the NFL Draft. As mentioned, Smith came off the board at pick 34, with the Cowboys gambling on the injured knee of the Butkus Award winner. Nick Martin was selected at pick 50, joining former teammate Will Fuller in Houston.

The third round saw Russell and Prosise come off the board, with Kansas City jumping on the confident cornerback and the Seahawks taking Notre Dame’s breakout running back. It capped off a huge night for the Irish with Sheldon Day, one of the more productive football players in college football, still on the board for teams to pick.

Here’s a smattering of instant reactions from the immediate aftermath.

 

 

Jaylon Smith goes to Dallas with 34th pick

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 07:  Jaylon Smith #9 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrates by wearing the hat of team mascot, Lucky The Leprechaun, following their 42-30 win against the Pittsburgh Panthers at Heinz Field on November 7, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
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Jaylon Smith’s nightmare is over.

After watching his football life thrown into chaos with a career-altering knee injury, Smith came off the board after just two picks in the second round, selected by the Dallas Cowboys with the 34th pick. His selection ended the most challenging months of Smith’s young life, and come after cashing in a significant tax-free, loss-of-value insurance policy that’ll end up being just shy of a million dollars.

No, it’s not top-five money like Smith could’ve expected if he didn’t get hurt. But Smith isn’t expected to play in 2016.

And while there was a pre-draft fascination that focused on the doom and gloom more than the time-consuming recovery, it’s worth pointing out that Dallas’ medical evaluation comes from the source—literally. After all, it was the Cowboys team doctor, Dr. Dan Cooper, who performed the surgery to repair Smith’s knee.

Smith joins Ezekiel Elliott with the Cowboys, arguably the two best position players in the draft. While he might not be available in 2016, Smith will be under the supervision of the Cowboys’ medical staff, paid a seven-figure salary to get healthy with the hopes that he’ll be back to his All-American self sooner than later, especially as the nerve in his knee returns to full functionality.

Will Fuller brings his game-changing skills to the Texans offense

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 07: Will Fuller #7 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish catches a pass before running into the endzone for a touchdown in the second quarter in front of Avonte Maddox #14 of the Pittsburgh Panthers during the game at Heinz Field on November 7, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
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In all the weeks and months leading up to the NFL Draft, one key tidbit linking Will Fuller to the Houston Texans never seemed to come up. The relationship between Brian Kelly and Bill O’Brien.

The two coaches share a high school alma mater, a friendship that made the due diligence on Notre Dame’s prolific playmaker easy. And it was clear that after all their research, Houston was aggressive in their pursuit of Fuller, trading up to make Notre Dame’s All-American the second receiver off the board, triggered a run at the position.

“He was a guy that we felt strongly about,” Texans general manager Rick Smith told the team’s official website. “We didn’t want to take a chance on not getting him. We were aggressive. We went and made the move.”

That move made Fuller’s decision to leave Notre Dame after three seasons a good one. While it’ll require the Irish to rebuild at a position where Fuller served as one of college football’s best home run hitters, it gives Houston a vertical threat that can extend the top of a defense for a Texans offense that was serious about finding some solutions for a team already in the playoff mix.

Yes, Fuller has work to do. Completing the easy catch is one big area. But for all the pre-draft talk about his limitations, Brian Kelly took on some of the criticism head-on when talking with the Texans’ media reporter.

“Some people have compared him to Teddy Ginn, that’s not fair. He can catch the ball vertically like nobody I’ve coached in 25 years,” Kelly said (a sentiment some hack also laid out). Teddy Ginn is a very good player, but this is a different kind of player. If you throw the ball deep, he’s going to catch the football.”

Fuller is never going to be the biggest receiver on the field. But while most of the banter on his game focused on the negative or his deep ball skills, expect Fuller to find a role not just running deep but unleashed in the screen game as well. After the Texans spent huge on quarterback Brock Osweiler and have invested in fellow Philadelphia native and 2015 third-round pick Jaelen Strong, Fuller wasn’t selected for the future but rather expected to be a day-one piece of the puzzle.

“This will change the speed on offense immediately,” Kelly said. “It was not ‘Hey, let’s wait a couple of years’. It was ‘Let’s go get this right now’ and I think Will will do that for them.”