Five things we learned: Notre Dame vs. Michigan

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I’m still stunned at what just happened and the end of the game is one of the more confusing, frustrating, and inexplicable endings to a football game Notre Dame fans have seen since the 2005 Notre Dame-USC game.

Let’s find some semblance of balance and figure out the five things that we learned:

1) Notre Dame needs to figure out how to stop the run.

The run defense for the Irish let them down. 191 yards rushing, including 107 from Brandon Minor and 70 from quarterback Tate Forcier. Jon Tenuta’s pressure defense couldn’t figure out a way to stop the Wolverines running game, and in the end, while the running game isn’t what we’ll remember, the five yards a carry that Michigan averaged is one of the biggest reasons why Michigan won.

2) Penalites will beat you.

Notre Dame couldn’t defeat the little yellow flag that ruined their afternoon. Countless big plays got called back on penalties, and while I can’t say that I agree with many of the calls that the refs made, Notre Dame needs to eliminate the self-induced mistakes if they want to be a championship team.

(The overturned touchdown call on Armando Allen’s screen pass touchdown will need to be explained to me tomorrow, because I’m done trying to figure it out today.)

3) Michael Floyd is an All-American.

I officially launched the Michael Floyd for Heisman campaign sometime during the second quarter, and the only thing that could slow Floyd down was the hard surfaced track surrounding the field at the Big House. Floyd’s 139 yards could have been more, and Michigan’s secondary had no answer for anything Floyd did. In the end, it’s a loss, but there’s no question that Floyd is one of the most explosive players in college football.

4) Tate Forcier is special.

As much as it pains Notre Dame fans to admit it, Tate Forcier is a special player. Forcier’s ability to create time in the pocket, to run with the football, and to handle the pressure that comes with big game situations is something that Michigan fans will immediately embrace. While Jimmy Clausen’s numbers might be more impressive than Forcier’s, the touchdown run and final drive down the field will be all that people remember when they think of this game in the years to come.

5) The vultures will start swirling.

We will now figure out what this Notre Dame team is all about. Vultures will swirl around Charlie Weis, and the uncomfortable questions will now start to be asked. Notre Dame will kick themselves for this loss, and Weis will be at the center of attention, especially for his decision to throw the ball twice when the Irish could have run the clock down with a running game that was incredibly effective. In the end, Notre Dame lost a game where they outplayed their opponent. That never looks good for a head coach. 

Five Irish players sign UFA contracts

Matthias Farley
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Notre Dame had seven players selected in the 2016 NFL Draft, trailing only Ohio State, Clemson and UCLA on the weekend tally. But after the draft finished, the Irish had five more players get their shot at playing on Sundays.

Chris Brown signed with the Dallas Cowboys. Romeo Okwara will begin his career with the New York Giants. Matthias Farley and Amir Carlisle signed contracts with the Arizona Cardinal. Elijah Shumate agreed to a contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

After missing two seasons, Ishaq Williams will be at Giants rookie camp next weekend as well, working as a tryout player. Expect Jarrett Grace to receive similar opportunities.

Count me among those that thought both Brown and Okwara would hear their names called. Brown’s senior season, not to mention his intriguing measureables, had some projecting him as early as the fifth round.

Okwara, still 20 years old and fresh off leading Notre Dame in sacks in back-to-back seasons, intrigued a lot of teams with his ability to play both defensive end and outside linebacker. He’ll get a chance to make the Giants—the team didn’t draft a defensive end after selecting just one last year, and they’re in desperate need of pass rushers.

Both Shumate and Farley feel like contenders to earn a spot on rosters, both because of their versatility and special teams skills. Shumate played nickel back as a freshman and improved greatly at safety during 2015. Farley bounced around everywhere and was Notre Dame’s special teams captain.

Carlisle might fit a similar mold. He played running back, receiver and returned kicks and punts throughout his college career. With a 4.4 during Notre Dame’s Pro Day, he likely showed the Cardinals enough to take a shot, and now he’ll join an offense with Michael Floyd and Troy Niklas.

 

Robertson picks Cal over Notre Dame, UGA

Demetris Robertson
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Demetris Robertson‘s decision wasn’t trending in Notre Dame’s direction. But those that expected the Savannah star athlete to pick the in-state Bulldogs were in for a surprise when Robertson chose Cal on Sunday afternoon.

Notre Dame’s pursuit of the five-star athlete, recruited to play outside receiver and hopefully replace Will Fuller, likely ended Sunday afternoon with Robertson making the surprise decision to take his substantial talents to Berkeley. And give credit to Robertson for doing what he said all along—picking a school that’ll give him the chance to earn an exceptional education and likely contribute from Day One.

“I am excited to take my talents to the University of California, Berkeley. The first reason is that the education was a big part of my decision. I wanted to keep that foundation,” Robertson said, per CFT. “When I went there, it felt like home. Me and the coaching staff have a great relationship. That’s where I felt were the best of all things for me.”

Adding one final twist in all of this is that Robertson has no letter-of-intent to sign. Because he’s blown three months through Signing Day, Robertson merely enrolls at a college when the time comes. That means until then, Kirby Smart and the Georgia staff will continue to sell Robertson on staying home and helping the Dawgs rebuild. Smart visited with Robertson Saturday night and had multiple assistant coaches at his track meet this weekend.

Summer school begins in June for Notre Dame. Their freshman receiving class looks complete with early enrollee Kevin Stepherson and soon-to-arrive pass-catchers Javon McKinley and Chase Claypool.

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.