The good, the bad, the ugly: Boston College

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Yesterday’s 20-16 win got Notre Dame back into the Top 25, but still left much to be desired. With the offense kept in check by a solid defensive game plan and good field management, the Irish once again had to fight and scratch to win a football game. With Notre Dame’s maligned defense forcing five turnovers, and Golden Tate and Jimmy Clausen leading the offense, the Irish find themselves at 5-2 and a trip to San Antonio next weekend.

Let’s take a look at the good, bad, and ugly of yesterday’s win.

THE GOOD

Notre Dame’s rushing defense. By game, here is the averaging rushing attempt against the Irish: 5.3, 5.0, 4.2, 2.8, 4.5, 3.7, 2.4. That’s a trend that’s going in the right direction. Yesterday, facing the reigning national player of the week who just came off a 264 yard day, the Irish shut down Montel Harris, holding him to just 38 yards on 22 carries. More amazing, if you throw out his 14 yard run, the Irish held Harris to 24 yards on 21 carries. That’s some great running stuffing defense. Also a huge plus for the defensive front is the ability to get contributions from a variety of players. In comments today, Weis talked about the ability to roll players through on the defensive line.

“We’ve been trying to get to this point where the more people that we
can count on, I know Cwynar played a bunch, I know Filer played a
bunch, and that was the intent going in. I think that maybe one of the
reasons why we’re getting more production out of the defensive line is
because we’re doing that and keeping some fresh bodies in there and not
being worn out.
The more guys that you can put in that you can count on, the better it is for being fresh down the stretch.”

A lot of credit is due to new defensive line coach Randy Hart, as well as star graduate assistant Bryant Young. What was thought to be a weak spot for the Irish defense has turned into a pleasant surprise.

Bonus coverage in the good category goes to Golden Tate, Jimmy Clausen, and Armando Allen, who had a gritty day on the ground running the ball for the Irish.

THE BAD

Notre Dame’s passing defense. As I mentioned last night, the passing defense didn’t get much better. This isn’t an achilles heel for the Irish, it’s an bleeding ax wound. If the Irish can’t get this figured out, there is a zero percent chance they win out. 10 Ten explosive plays by air for the Boston College offense and once again, the story remains the same: quarterbacks and wide receivers are putting up career days against the Irish secondary, with Dave Shinskie and Rich Gunnell taking their turn yesterday.

While the Irish snatched three interceptions from Shinskie, they left a few more on the field. And while the change to Sergio Brown at free safety paid a few dividends, it certainly wasn’t the fix that some hoped it would be. Notre Dame hasn’t been able to generate a pass rush with their front four, and they haven’t proved they can cover when they bring blitzers from the linebackers or secondary. There was improvement, but it’s hard to call what happened last night in the air a good thing.

THE UGLY

The W. It was an ugly win that had people bellyaching across campus, in living rooms, and on the internet. (Especially on the internet.) Yet winning ugly is a good thing, and is a step in the right direction for the Irish. Notre Dame exorcises the Boston College demons after six straight losses to their Catholic rivals, and even though it was too close for comfort yet again, the Irish walked out of the stadium with their fifth win in seven tries.

While the offense was hardly clicking on all cylinders, the Irish had another turnover free game, and have committed only five on the entire season, ranking second in the country in the stat. The Irish also won their fourth 4th quarter comeback victory, which is a school record. A win is a win is a win. If you don’t believe me, just ask Alabama and Iowa, two teams that needed all 60 minutes to escape from inferior opponents. 

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.