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.

Kizer named MVP at annual ECHOES awards

echoes
@NDFootball Twitter
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DeShone Kizer was named the Monogram Club’s Most Valuable Player for the 2016 season at the 96th annual Notre Dame football awards banquet. Kizer was voted team MVP by his teammates, after throwing for 2,925 yards and 26 touchdowns and rushing for 472 yards and eight scores.

He was one of 15 players honored with an award at the “ECHOES,” with the following accolades being given:

Equanimeous St. Brown, Offensive Player of the Year.
James Onwualu, Defensive Player of the Year
Greer Martini, Next Man In award
Drue Tranquill, Rockne Student-Athlete Award
Cole Luke, Nick Pietrosante Award
Isaac Rochell, Lineman of the Year
Quenton Nelson, Offensive Lineman of the Year
Scott Daly, Special Teams Player of the Year
Alex Bars, Newcomer of the Year, Offense
Nyles Morgan, Newcomer of the Year, Defense
Ben Stuttman, Scout Team Player of the Year, Offense
Jonathan Jones, Scout Team Player of the Year, Defense
Mark Harrell, Father Lange Iron Cross
Tyler Newsome, Irish Around the Bend

 

 

Notre Dame names 7 captains for 2017 team

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)
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Notre Dame named seven captains for the 2017 season, the most to wear the ‘C’ in school history. Quarterback DeShone Kizer, linebackers Greer Martini and Nyles Morgan, offensive linemen Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson, safety Drue Tranquill and walk-on receiver Austin Webster were all given the honor.

McGlinchey returns in the role, the 22nd different two-time captain in the program’s history. New to the job are the rest, including Kizer, who has yet to make a decision on if he’ll return for 2017 yet.

After worries about the team’s leadership heading into the 2016, the naming of captains in the immediate aftermath of the season is a change—Brian Kelly not naming his team’s official leaders into August training camp last year. It’s not an unprecedented move for Kelly (he named Harrison Smith and Michael Floyd team captains at the banquet following the 2010 season), though it points to some changes—some subtle, others not—that’ll likely take hold after a four-loss season.

Webster, a rising senior reserve wide receiver from California who has yet to register a stat in a Notre Dame uniform, made his debut as a sophomore in 2015 against UMass, is the first active walk-on to receive the honor.

 

Irish land blue-chip OL Aaron Banks

aaron-banks
Tom Loy, Irish 247
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Notre Dame received the commitment of 4-star offensive tackle Aaron Banks on Friday afternoon. Picking the Irish over a national offer list that included Michigan, Tennessee, and local programs USC and UCLA, the 6-foot-7, 335-pound Banks reminded all that even if the Irish only won four games this season, Harry Hiestand is still one of the premier offensive line coaches in the country.

Banks made the commitment from a ceremony at his high school in El Cerrito, California. And when he picked the Irish, he added to Notre Dame’s impressive offensive line haul, joining Dillan Gibbons, Joshua Lugg and Robert Hainsey — a key piece of the puzzle moving forward.

Banks is a consensus 4-star recruit and a Top 200 prospect. He took an official visit to Michigan in November, but has been a long-time target of Hiestand’s, visiting South Bend in September and welcoming Brian Kelly and Hiestand into his home after the USC game.

As a big recruiting weekend gets started at Notre Dame, the annual Echoes Awards will serve as the beginning of an important home stretch for a program without a bowl game. As Kelly still looks to lock in a defensive coordinator, not to mention other staff changes still in the air, Banks takes back some of the lost momentum, a key commitment heading into a holiday dead period before a furious finish leading into the first Wednesday in February.

Banks is No. 18 in the Irish recruiting class. He’s an early-enrollee, ready to hit campus within weeks and compete on the interior of the offensive line during spring ball.

Zaire says thank you to Notre Dame

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - SEPTEMBER 12: Quarterback Malik Zaire #8 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish rushes past defensive end Mike Moore #32 of the Virginia Cavaliers in the third quarter at Scott Stadium on September 12, 2015 in Charlottesville, Virginia. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish won, 34-27. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Getty
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Big week for The Observer. Not just for its advertising revenues, but for the classy gesture that outgoing senior quarterback Malik Zaire made this week.

Thursday’s edition included a letter to the editor from Zaire, who took to the student newspaper not to make headlines around the internet, but rather to thank the university for his experience in South Bend.

While Zaire’s time at Notre Dame is drawing to a close, he will leave as a proud alum. So while he’ll play football next season at another university, Zaire wrote the following in Thursday’s issue:

Dear Notre Dame students and staff,

My life changed for the better the moment I stepped onto the University of Notre Dame’s beautiful campus. The one goal I had set in my mind to achieve was to become a better man, a Notre Dame man. After growing through many trials and triumphs, the thing I’ve learned most from my experience was that if you don’t believe in yourself first, then no one else will. I believed in becoming a better man and succeeding through any circumstance, and I can say that I’ve truly accomplished that. I often refer to the famous quote from the movie “Catch Me If You Can” that was well put by Frank Abagnale:

“Two little mice fell in a bucket of cream. The first mouse quickly gave up and drowned. The second mouse wouldn’t quit. He struggled so hard that eventually he churned that cream into butter and crawled out.”

I’ve put my heart, soul and passion into the University, the football program, the South Bend community and the Irish community worldwide. I have the unbelievable honor to represent this University to the fullest as a student and soon-to-be alumni. Thank you to the amazing students and staff that I’ve met through the years for helping me grow into the person I’ve always wanted to be. I love the Irish and will always be an Irish alum no matter where I go! I look forward to keeping in touch. Let’s change the world!

Go Irish!

Malik Zaire

Senior
Dec. 7

Zaire is expected to compete for a starting quarterback job next year as a graduate transfer. He’s reportedly taken a visit to Wisconsin and plans to visit North Carolina as well, just two of several programs on the radar as Zaire looks to step in and win a starting Power 5 job.