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The good, the bad, the ugly: Boston College

Oct 3, 2010, 7:59 PM EDT

Reaction to the Irish win last night is running about as hot and cold as the Irish offense was last night. For as many fans that are enthusiastic about Notre Dame drubbing rival Boston College at Alumni Field — something the Irish haven’t been able to do since 1998 — there are just as many people complaining about the inconsistency that continues to plague this team as it evolves.

“I didn’t come in thinking that we were ready for the national championship game,” head coach Brian Kelly admitted after the victory. “But the process for us has been exactly what I thought it would be. We’re developing a mentality and a toughness, a physical and mental toughness, that all the teams that I coach want to display. We just have to work really hard on that principle.”

While Kelly rattles the eardrums of his players ingraining that philosophy, he also continues to mold a team into the likeness he desires. While the methods surprise many that expected a buttoned-up coach that matches the man they see in press conferences and public appearances, the leader of the Irish is as fiery as the last coach beloved by Notre Dame Nation, a man named Lou Holtz.

The Irish win was in many ways a perfect outcome for Kelly and the coaching staff. A dominating victory that featured exceptional play by both the offense and defense in spurts, but enough teachable moments that reaffirm the weekly message this coaching staff preaches.

Let’s take a look at the good, bad, and ugly from Notre Dame’s 31-13 victory over Boston College.

THE GOOD

An Irish defense that was labeled “high school” by ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit on ESPN’s College GameDay, absolutely stifled the Eagles’ offense. Praise certainly should be heaped on the rush defense of the Irish, but what’s not to be discounted is the Irish defense’s ability to hold the fort down when they’re forced into immediate action — something that’s happened too often with the Irish offense turning the ball over more often than they’d like.

“They did a great job the last couple of weeks with turnovers,” Kelly said this afternoon. “Against Stanford we turned the ball over on a sack fumble and held them to a field goal. We’ve been very resilient on what we consider those crucial moments, sudden change we call them. Our defense has been very good against sudden change.”

In a second quarter that saw the Irish offense attempt to give back much of what they did during the opening minutes, Bob Diaco’s troops held strong, limiting Boston College to only one of six on third down even thought the Eagles held the ball for 10:43 in the second quarter.

Kelly has been open about his pleasure in the defense’s play so far this season, even if the stats didn’t prove it. Saturday’s performance was a nice step in the right direction for the Notre Dame defense, who will need to continue with the improvement they showed on Saturday.

(Special Mention in the good category goes to true freshman Bennett Jackson and Prince Shembo, who both made an impact on the game — Jackson on the opening kickoff and Shembo in pass rush situations.)

THE BAD

It’s hard to be too hard on any facet of the Irish, but it’s clear that the Irish passing game is still a work-in-progress. Dayne Crist looked great in the opening drives of the game, but his 4.5 yards per attempt is sub-par in an offense that has as many weapons as the Irish do.

It’d be unfair to complain about a quarterback that’s played as well as Crist has in the first five starts of his career, but Kelly has made it clear that Dayne needs to master the spread system if he’s going to lead the Irish back to prominence.

“He’s gotta be a spread quarterback or he can’t be
the quarterback here. Period. We’re running the spread offense and he’s
gotta be a spread quarterback,” Kelly said. “If he can’t do that, he can’t be the
quarterback here. He’s all in. He’s 100 percent in. He had a great week
of practice and preparation. We’ve begun to build on that process of
developing him as a spread quarterback. He’s not there yet, but he’s
developing. He’s shown signs. I think we’re going to get better each and
every week.”

The transition hasn’t only been difficult on Crist, but also front-line players like Michael Floyd and Kyle Rudolph. Floyd and Crist missed on a sight-adjustment that nearly turned into an easy interception for BC, and while many assumed Kyle Rudolph’s lack of production was because of defensive schematics, Kelly acknowledged that even his tight end is going through some growing pains.

“He’s getting better too at learning where he fits within the offense as well,” Kelly said of Rudolph. “There’s some things he has to continue to work on… He’s usually in tight coverage situations. They know where Kyle Rudolph is. You’re not going to get Kyle Rudolph one-on-one without tight coverage on him. He’s evolving as well within our offense… but it’s a process for Kyle as well.”

THE UGLY

It was an ugly victory Saturday night, and if that’s the only ugly that Irish fans have to deal with, then everybody should get in line to sign up. While a faction of Dame fans downplayed the game the Irish played, consider what Boston College head coach Frank Spaziani said after the game:

“First of all congratulations to coach Kelly and Notre Dame, they did a good job,” Spaziani said. “They came in here and licked us schematically, physically, every way. They really played a very good football game.”

After three very downtrodden weeks that ended in Notre Dame defeats, Irish eyes are finally smiling.

“Happy happy happy. Everybody’s happy in Notre Dame land,” Kelly said after the game. “Our
players wanted to win badly. They worked hard at it, I’m happy that
they got a win, but they know they’ve got a long way to go. But they’re
doing the right things to get there. We’ve just got to keep grinding.
We’re not there yet. But we’ll go to work every day and continue to work
on those things to get us better.”

  1. Mark - Oct 3, 2010 at 11:04 PM

    What?? No messages of “fire Brian Kelly, he’s a worthless bum of a coach” and “what a bunch of gutless wonders that football team is??”
    No doubt they’ll be back at the first opportunity to trash ND and ND football for any perceived shortcoming.
    But for now, with whatever blemishes: ahhhhhhhhh!

  2. Ben T. - Oct 3, 2010 at 11:19 PM

    So the only options are (a) enthusiasm or (b) complaining? How about cautious optimism?
    It was great to finally win a game in quasi-convincing style. I haven’t felt “safe” with a lead since the WSU game last year. That being said, BC fielded a pretty terrible team last night. Our defense played well, yes, but the BC QB’s were downright awful.
    I think our D has generally risen to the challenge and I am encouraged by the play of Teo and Carlo especially. The inconsistency on the offensive side is understandable, but still leaves me feeling uneasy. I think we all wanted to see us put up 42 points, but we just aren’t there yet.
    I’m still bitter about ’93, so last night felt great. The win will also hopefully set the tone for next week. Bring on the Panthers!

  3. terry - Oct 4, 2010 at 6:58 AM

    nothing special, as BK says there is lots to do, Crist didn’t impress me, where is Hughes?, they started fast then BC fought back and then ND took control back, mistakes on both sides of the ball, but it was a WIN on the road, against BC – first time in 12 years.
    I’ll take it
    p.s. – Ben T – they lost in ’93 because the year before when they played BC at ND they rubbed it in. There are times when team a beats the s..t out of team b but when team a rubs team b’s nose in it team a has to pay for that. Specific instance – 3rd quarter (’92) ND ahead by about 37 points, the ND punter goes back to punt, fake punt, he runs for a first down, and then the camera catches him on the sideline laughing with his teammates. That is rubbing it, that is terrible – as in non-existent – sportsmanship and the gods (note small g) notice that and impose a curse on team a. The ramblings of an old man, I grant you, but it is true.
    Sum up – ’93 was a payback for ’92 and ND deserved what they got.
    Story – just before the ’92 game the BC coach asked his players – “how many of you were recruited by Notre Dame?”
    Not a hand went up.
    BC 18 ND 0.

  4. YANKEES1996 - Oct 4, 2010 at 11:06 AM

    Just got back to the States in time to actually see this one and I was happy with the result but not thrilled with the game overall. The Irish do seem to be struggling to put together 60 good minutes of football. I guess the mental toughness edge that Coach Kelly talked about could help in this area. I am glad to see him being tough on Crist however and if he is progressing that is good, I do not think he is the man to lead this squad, but what are you gonna do? This was a win and it was against a team that they should have beaten so there is a little confidence building up and that is also a good thing. Good Luck guys keep working hard and make us proud!

  5. jafpug - Oct 4, 2010 at 12:12 PM

    Let’s not get to high and mighty about BC. They were the ones who trashed our locker room after a win in South Bend. They have had their fair of classless behavior on many occasions. I think this was a little payback in some respects.

  6. orrsra - Oct 4, 2010 at 12:19 PM

    Coach BK is beginning to shed the Faust skin and Crist is showing more emotion, that’s what I see. A win is a win, for example ND was a slip away from beating MS two weeks ago. Enjoyed Sunday now it’s Monday, a new week. I am not ready to jump for joy yet, but I am becoming more of a believer after seeing BK & Crist show some emotions. We need to get 4 quarters like the first against BC in order to destroy Pitt. GO IRISH

  7. Noel - Oct 4, 2010 at 3:15 PM

    The 1st quarter looked real good, the Offence had a great quarter. Then the brakes came on….. wow, what a shocker. To sum up all the bad things, ND just needs to stop turning the ball over. Fumbles and interceptions are killing us, . The game could have went the other ways if BC had an experenced QB. After the first quarter I was hoping for a blow out win…. (+30 points), a win is a win, I would like to see more consistancy with the Offence. I do like the fact that Kelly is vocal about players srewing up, it’s old school and I love to see a coach with noticable passion for the game.

  8. Iggy - Oct 4, 2010 at 5:02 PM

    Here’s a thought: The 3 teams the Irish lost to are a combined 14-1 (I believe). Michigan has an amazing qb, MSU just beat Wisconsin at home, and Stanford has a very good team. Here is the time in the schedule where the Irish can work on their game and put some wins together. They have had one of the tougher schedules so far, so as a fan of an Irish team that is learning how to play the way BK wants them to, I can’t complain too much. Do I wish they were 4-1? Sure. But they are 2-3 and if they keep working on their game, then they might be able to finish 7-5 or 8-4. Let BK continue to teach his style, mold his players, and bring his type of recruits in and they could be a very dangerous team in a year or two.

  9. BS win - Oct 4, 2010 at 5:09 PM

    A win is a win, but until ND can exercise it’s will on the other team, it’s going to seem ugly. They need to establish something physical and aggressive on the offensive side of the ball, or no one is going to fear them. They need run the ball directly at the defense and win that battle, for example, what Stanford did to ND. They don’t need to do it all game, but maybe 6 or 7 times during the game. We need to show the other team, that we can beat them with our superior talent and with our physical play. As good as Allen might be, they need to use Hughes to punch the defense in the mouth an half a dozen times during the game, i.e. Bettis and Culver.

  10. gregizzo - Oct 5, 2010 at 1:07 AM

    I can believe Keith here, after the Stanford he was ready to throw Brian Kelly under the bus. After an ugly victory but a victory his praise is a little lacking. Consider this if ND can pull off a win next week against Pitt they would be 3-3 with the lighter part of the schedule ahead. Finishing 8-4 is possible which would be mean a bowl game that would be huge in Kelly’s first year. I suppose 9-3 would be bigger but that would mean a win over USC…maybe…ND needs to make some huge strides before they can deliever that kind of win.

  11. ND422 - Oct 5, 2010 at 1:44 AM

    gregizzo, don’t forget about Utah. They have a solid team as well. I’m predicting one more loss the rest of the year and I’d rather it be anyone but USC…..even with all the screaming and yelling from all the fans that would come with it. It would be a beautiful finish to a season, a long awaited streak to be over, and a fresh start to what I see of good things to come. I can’t wait until Nov 27th and I’m hoping the Irish continue to improve throughout the year. We’ll all be watching closely. But as they say…one game at a time. Pitt is toast.

  12. Irish Fan - Oct 5, 2010 at 4:38 PM

    Pitt is going to kill us.
    Our coaches are incompetent and our players are cowards.
    Plus, God hates us for covering up all the priest sexual abuse scandals.
    We are in for another long season. At least we are used to it.
    Go Irish.

  13. jnj nj - Oct 6, 2010 at 9:23 AM

    I thought Ethan Johnson and Trevor Robinson were going to be dynamite this year–hasn’t happened–both carrying injuries?

  14. ljmcm - Oct 6, 2010 at 12:20 PM

    Our coaches aren’t incompetent. God couldn’t care less about who wins a football game. Sexual predator priests care only about their own sexual gratification and not football, and yes we could be in for a long season.

  15. spankmonkey - Oct 6, 2010 at 2:26 PM

    I think boston college is pretty good
    Right up there with Pinconning School for the Blind
    Is it a crime to hope ND plays some football
    Such a waste of time the paste couple games
    How could ND beat any Big 10 team
    So, how about a whimpy east coast school
    Ultimatly theys gots to win
    Can’t wait for this weekend
    Kepp up the good work

  16. Atlanta Domer - Oct 7, 2010 at 8:26 AM

    This is one of the most boring ND web sites out there. It is static. Why is it that NBC, the broadcast partner for Notre Dame, can’t do a better job of giving us fresh stuff EVERY DAY? This should be the most robust ND web site on the planet. They have total access to coaches and information. Where are the writers for this site?
    Keith Arnold posts one long story and then walks away for four days. Hello?

  17. D Paul - Oct 11, 2010 at 7:03 PM

    Fron a BC fan in St. Louis, congratulations to Brian Kelly on a job well done. He was “in the face” of each and every one of his players the entire game. They loved it. Most of his players are just not that good. However, they just don’t know it. It is the height of motivational psychology. Nevertheless, as the fan of a team which has now been “blown out” three straight weeks with Florida State next, using BC as a “yardstick for progress” may not exactly be the best indicator.

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