The good, the bad, the ugly: UConn

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The weekly good, bad, and ugly is starting to feel like a death march, but we’ll solider on into a much needed Thanksgiving week. (What will Notre Dame fans be thankful for this year?)
But before we get to that, let’s look back at the latest heart-breaking loss for the Irish. Without further ado, here’s the good, bad, and ugly from Notre Dame’s 33-30 double overtime loss to the Connecticut Huskies.

THE GOOD

When the Yankees won their first World Series since 2000, the popular nickname bandied about for Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, and Andy Pettite was the “Core 4.” Well the Irish’s Core 4 of Jimmy Clausen, Armando Allen, Golden Tate, and Michael Floyd certainly played excellent games. Allen, Tate, and Floyd all went over the 100 yard mark, and Clausen threw for 329 yards and two touchdowns, adding a third score on the ground. While the final score is all that matters, these four offensive stalwarts put up massive numbers, and Golden Tate is certainly deserving of an invitation to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony, even if the Irish finish at .500.

The Irish also got gutty performances from Ben Turk and David Ruffer. Turk rallied after a woeful stretch and launched 5 great punts, averaging 47 yards a kick. And Ruffer’s story could be one of legend if it weren’t for the swoon of the Irish. Kicking in the dorm leagues last year, Ruffer not only took over kickoff duties, but has filled in more than capably after Nick Tausch went down with a leg injury. Ruffer has made every kick since trotting onto the field, and nailed a clutch 37 yard field goal in overtime that could’ve been a game winner if the defense held the Huskies.

THE BAD

Where to start? The Irish gave up 100 yard games to Jordan Todman and Andre Dixon, and were incapable of stopping an offense that was thoroughly one-dimensional. Worse yet, was the personal foul by Sergio Brown. Long one of my favorites, Brown has had a terrible two game stretch, missing several key tackles against Pitt, and committing the inexplicable penalty that jump-started the hibernating UConn offense.

The kick coverage groups were also woeful. Usually held back by subpar kicking, both the punt and kick cover teams gave up big returns, one going for a touchdown the other going for 31 big yards. Honorable mention goes to Notre Dame’s red zone offense, once again only getting three touchdowns in six tries, a percentage that is just not good enough when push came to shove.

THE UGLY

Reality. Notre Dame’s coaching staff most likely spent their last Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium. After 8 games, even with two disappointing close losses, the Irish were sitting at 6-2, and still had BCS aspirations. Three games later, the Irish are 6-5, and will be heavy underdogs at Stanford.

As Charlie Weis said in his press conference yesterday, “I’m the head football coach. Who else is responsible? Ultimately it falls on my shoulders.”

Expect the curtain to fall for a last time on the Weis era next Saturday at Stanford.

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.