Controversial fumble key ingredient in Navy upset


If you were to diagram the anatomy of an upset, Robby Parris’ fumble on the third play from scrimmage could qualify as the first crucial piece needed for a Navy victory. The only way Navy was going to win this football game was for Notre Dame’s offense to give up possessions, and starting in the first hundred seconds of the game, Navy got that wish.

With Jimmy Clausen flushed to his right, he found Parris squatting in the right flat just across Navy’s side of the fifty. Parris caught the low throw, then was quickly wrapped up by cornerback Blake Carter, who pulled Parris awkwardly down, his helmet popping off and the ball coming loose.

The referee’s whistle blew no fewer than ten times before linebacker Ram Vela scurried over, first closing in on the play before hopping onto the ball as Robby Parris hobbled off without his helmet. Yet without a replay board in the stadium, Navy smartly challenged the ruling on the field.

The Big East replay official overturned the ruling on the field, awarding the football to the Midshipmen. Twelve plays, six minutes, and two crucial fourth down conversions later, Navy lead 7-0, bleeding half of the first quarter away in the meantime.

When asked about the overturned fumble during his press conference Tuesday, Charlie Weis was understandably rankled.

“The whistle had blow,” Weis said. “What I was disputing is that they blew the whistle and stopped the play
and then there’s a rule, a seldom called rule about a fumble after
continuous play even though the whistle had blown. So I mean it’s not a
question whether the whistle had blown. The whistle had blown.

“So this isn’t like your normal ball’s on the ground everyone goes and
scrambles and gets it. About five or ten seconds later the guy goes and
recovers it. They had called it down. They were just moving forward.
They got challenged and got overruled by — I know the rule number and
everything about continuous play.

“But I’m saying to myself: You blew the play dead. Five seconds later they go recover the ball and now it’s a fumble? But there is a rule about continuous play. Now, that rule does exist.”

After watching the replay, it’s pretty easy to see Weis’ point. Parris made no effort to fall on the loose ball as the whistle had clearly sounded, and no referee threw a bean bag or signaled anything other than that the play was clearly over.

Taking things a step further, here’s the text straight from the NCAA Football rulebook.

Rule 12-3-3-b states:

A ball carrier judged to have been down by rule when the recovery of a fumble by an opponent or teammate occurs in the immediate action following the fumble and is prior to any official signaling that the ball is dead.

(Note 1: If the ball carrier is judged down by rule and the replay official does not have indisputable video evidence as to which player recovers the fumble, the ruling of down-by-rule stands.)

(Note 2: If the ruling of down-by-rule is reversed, the ball belongs to the recovering player at the spot of the recovery and any advance is nullified.)

After watching the play a dozen times, it’s pretty hard to say with certainty that the fumble was recovered in the immediate action following the fumble. Vela was eight yards away from the play when the tackle was made, and while he was in continuous motion, it’s pretty tough to call Vela hopping on the ball an immediate action, especially since he’s the only player (or referee) on the field to even notice the loose ball.

While it’s certainly not the only reason Notre Dame lost the game on Saturday, it’s another one of those pivotal plays that seemed to have gone against Notre Dame this season (especially on their home field).

To his credit, Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo sensed the importance of this opening drive, burning two timeouts, converting two fourth downs (not to mention overcoming a 2nd and 14 and a 3rd and 10), before Dobbs snuck the ball over left guard for a touchdown.

Navy needed a crucial early turnover to spring the upset, and thanks to Parris’ fumble, Vela’s heads-up play, a bold challenge by Niumatalolo, and a interpretive replay official, Navy got what it needed.  

Report: Tarean Folston won’t return for fifth year

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl

Tarean Folston will declare for the NFL Draft. The senior running back, who has a fifth-year of eligibility available after a medical redshirt in 2014, will instead turn his focus to preparing for the professional ranks. Irish Sports Daily’s Matt Freeman broke the news, confirming the decision with Folston.

The departure wasn’t totally unexpected, though Folston was also a candidate for a graduate transfer. But after running for 1,712 yards over four years, the 214-pound back will hope an NFL team takes a shot on him, likely looking at tape of Folston the underclassmen to make their evaluation.

The Cocoa, Florida native burst onto the scene as a freshman against Navy when he ran for 140 yards on 18 carries in the Irish’s 38-34 win. He was Notre Dame’s leading rusher in 2014, running for 889 yards and 5.1 yards per carry  and six scores in 2014.

Expected to do big things in 2015, Folston’s season lasted just three carries, a torn ACL suffered against Texas in the season opener. After Josh Adams emerged that season, Folston fell behind him in the depth chart, getting just 77 carries in 2016.

The move clarifies a depth chart that looked to be unchanged heading into next season. But with Folston’s exit, rising sophomore Tony Jones will join Adams and Dexter Williams in the rotation. Fellow sophomore Deon Macintosh and incoming freshman C.J. Holmes will also compete for playing time.

Quenton Nelson will return for his senior season

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 17: Quenton Nelson #56 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrates after a 10-yard touchdown reception by Corey Robinson against the USC Trojans in the fourth quarter of the game at Notre Dame Stadium on October 17, 2015 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Brian Kelly’s talked about the rare 6-star recruit: Harrison Smith, Manti Te’o, Michael Floyd, Zack Martin. Well, add Quenton Nelson to the list. Notre Dame’s starting left guard has made it official that he’ll return for his senior season.

The New Jersey native adds another key building block to the Irish offensive line, returning with Mike McGlinchey to anchor Harry Hiestand’s unit. Like McGlinchey, Nelson had an option to be selected high in next year’s NFL Draft, staying in school even after receiving a second-round grade from the NFL’s Advisory Board, per Irish Illustrated.

Nelson took to social media to make the news public, with the NFL’s declaration deadline set for January 16.

“Excited for this team to grow every day this offseason by putting in nothing but hard work and grinding together. When we reach our full potential, look out. I’m right behind you Coach.”

Nelson was named a team captain for 2017 at the year-end Echoes Awards Show. He earned second-team All-American honors from Sports Illustrated and was rated by ESPN’s Mel Kiper as the No. 1 offensive guard in the 2017 draft class, a grade he’ll likely carry into next season.

Clark Lea formally named Linebackers Coach


Notre Dame formally introduced new linebackers coach Clark Lea on Thursday. The press release for the 35-year-old  included the following quote from the new assistant who has worked at Bowling Green, UCLA and Wake Forest, and rejoins Mike Elko in South Bend.

“I’m humbled to be a part of the Notre Dame football program,” Lea said in a statement. “It’s an honor to represent such a prestigious academic institution, and to be a part of this program’s rich tradition of athletic excellence. I’d like to thank Jack Swarbrick and coach Kelly for this tremendous opportunity. I’m excited to get to work building relationships with our players, and do my part in helping coach Kelly execute his vision for the program.”

That work has already begun, with Lea on the prowl as the recruiting dead period ended and the rebuilt Irish staff hit the road. Yesterday, Lea was with defensive coordinator Mike Elko visiting commit David Adams, a key piece of the Irish puzzle on the defensive side of the ball. That starts a mad rush that’ll keep Lea’s belongs in boxes until after the first Wednesday in February, as Elko and his reshuffled defensive staff open their recruiting board, finding replacements for a handful of de-commitments and pieces that’ll fit Elko’s scheme.

If there’s any reason for optimism after a tough few weeks in recruiting, it’s the young staff that Kelly has assembled. The youth movement includes not just Lea, but the 39-year-old Elko. New offensive coordinator Chip Long is just 33, moving to Notre Dame after one season at Memphis. Running backs coach Autry Denson just turned 40 while special teams coordinator Brian Polian is practically long in the tooth at 42. (All that comes before the expected announcement of 25-year-old Tommy Rees.)

Lea’s pedigree is rock solid, earning kudos in 2012 for his work as Linebackers coach at Bowling Green, Football Scoop’s Linebackers Coach of the Year.

“Clark is a wonderful addition to our staff,” Kelly said in the release. “Obviously, he brings a substantial amount of knowledge about coach Elko’s defensive system — having worked with Mike at both Bowling Green and Wake Forest. Clark has demonstrated throughout his career an ability to not only identify unique talent in the recruiting process, but also develop that talent into high-production linebackers. As a former student-athlete, he will relate exceptionally well with our kids and provide tremendous mentorship throughout their careers at Notre Dame.”




Reports: Lea, Alexander added to Irish coaching staff

ASU Sports Information

Brian Kelly is adding to his rebuilt coaching staff, reportedly finalizing deals with Wake Forest linebackers coach Clark Lea and Arizona State assistant DelVaughn Alexander. Lea will reunite with Mike Elko and coach linebackers and Alexander will coach wide receivers. While both hires are still going through formal university vetting, the Lea hire has long been rumored before being reported by SI’s Pete Thamel. broke the news on Alexander, before multiple outlets confirmed the report.

In Lea, Elko brings a piece of his coaching staff with him to South Bend. The 35-year-old spent last season working in Winston-Salem and spent three seasons at Syracuse before that. He worked with Elko and Demon Deacons head coach Dave Clawson at Bowling Green and has spent time as an assistant at UCLA as well. He earned three letters at Vanderbilt, a 2004 graduate.

Alexander is a veteran presence to help replace Mike Denbrock and fill his void coaching receivers. He’s also a coach with first-hand knowledge of new coordinator Chip Long, having worked alongside him in Tempe under Mike Norvell. The move also comes in time for the reopen of the recruiting season’s home stretch, bringing a capable West Coast recruiter to the staff at a time when Notre Dame’s 2017 class is leaking a bit of oil.

Alexander played wide receiver at USC, playing for Larry Smith and John Robinson, before breaking into the coaching ranks there as a graduate assistant. He’s also had stops at UNLV, coached for Jim Harbaugh at San Diego, and spent significant time at Wisconsin and Arizona State where he coached multiple positions, taking over tight ends after Long left for Memphis.