What to do on a bye weekend?


Never mind the football team, I think collectively Notre Dame football fans need a break after the heart-stopping fashion that the Irish started the season. Not that I’m looking forward to a weekend off, but there’s a bit more calm as Saturday approaches, a bit more openness to my schedule. That mid-afternoon block that is usually reserved for intense watching of the Irish has now been filled with… what exactly?

Consider this a guide to Irish football fans on what to do with their open Saturday.


This is critical. If there’s a monotonous task that needs doing, get it done. Rake leaves, clean the garage, volunteer to take kids to the park, or go with the girlfriend to see “The Time Traveler’s Wife,” it shouldn’t matter. By any means necessary, make sure that your calendar is cleared for a good 8 hours next Saturday surrounding the USC game. (I’m adding a few hours before for the prerequisite “get in the zone” time or tailgater if you’re lucky enough to be there, and a good solid three-hours postgame to either celebrate or mourn a loss.) Take advantage of the fact that for the first time this season, you’ll have a Saturday where you weren’t either worried about the Irish or pulling your hair out while watching the team play.


If you don’t have anyone to suck up to, take some time and watch some of the Irish’s future opponents. Want to see if BC’s new 25-year-old quarterback Dave Shinskie is the real deal? Check him out against the rugged Virginia Tech defense. Want to feel better about yourself? Watch Washington State get waxed by Arizona State. You could always cheer for Navy as they take on Rice, or watch two future opponents square off as UConn and Pitt play mid-afternoon football in the helter-skelter Big East. (And if you need a nap, you could just tune in for Wanny’s offensive series’… that should do the trick.) It almost might pay to check out Stanford, who could present a final roadblock on Thanksgiving Saturday.


Sometimes it’s even more fun when you don’t have a dog in the race. The Florida-LSU game has plenty of compelling storylines, even if I’m absolutely tired of the Tim Tebow injury angle. (I’d be shocked if he doesn’t play…) Can Ole Miss take out Alabama and throw the SEC into disarray? Will Wisconsin be able to move the football against the Buckeye defense and stop a mobile quarterback like Terrelle Pryor? Will Michigan lose its second game in a row playing in the unfriendly confines of Kinnick Stadium? (I’m still trying to decide if another Michigan loss is good for the Irish.) Every conference offers a compelling matchup: Will Bobby Bowden quell the uprising that has Seminole fans storming the gates? Will Sam Bradford beat the rust and lead the Sooners over a Robert Griffin-less Baylor Bears? Can Air Force beat TCU so I don’t have to listen to the madness any more?


For many of us, fall weather could soon be leading to winter, which means that as the days get shorter, the opportunity to do much of anything outside is dwindling. It might be a good day to turn the TV off, go for a jog, throw the ball around, or do something that doesn’t include yelling at your flat-screen TV.

(And if that doesn’t appeal to you…)


Tough to beat playoff baseball, even if your team is out of it (or doesn’t have much of a shot to beat the hated Yankees) and you’re watching for love of the game. Still, baseball in October will never get old. 

Sheldon Day drafted in 4th round by Jaguars

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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)

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)

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)

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.”