And in that corner… The Western Michigan Broncos


It’ll be a historic Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium, when the first ever Mid-American Conference team takes on Notre Dame when the Irish play the Western Michigan Broncos. The match-up marks the first time the Irish have played Western Michigan since 1920, with the Irish blanking WMU 53-0 in 1919 and 41-0 in 1920.

With little knowledge of the Western Michigan squad, we’re turning to the dynamic duo of Zeke Trezevant and Chris Willis, who cover the Broncos for the Western Herald, the student newspaper at WMU. Zeke is a senior communications major that’s the sports editor for the paper and Chris is a senior political science and media communication major that covers the Bronco’s beat.

Consider this a double-dose of Broncos’ expertise, as the Irish get their first look at a MAC team as their neighbors from Kalamazoo head south with a team very fired up for their first trip to South Bend in 90 years.

Inside the Irish: Assess the season so far. Are the Broncos playing up to expectations or have the opening five games been a disappointment?

Chris Willis: The Broncos are a team that’s still finding its identity. I would say
the season thus far has been disappointing, but we expect wins out of
our program.

Zeke Trezevant: So far, the season has definitely not been what I thought it would or
could be but thats because of the potential I know the team has.

ITI: It seems as if quarterback Alex Carder is the engine that runs the
offense — an offense that leads your conference. For those of us that
haven’t watched him play, can you compare him to another college
quarterback that plays in a higher-profile program?

CW: He’s really not comparable to any QB’s in college football that I can
think of. He can run and throw well, but he’s a first year starter, so
again, he’s still searching for his niche.

ZT: He has his own style to how he plays the game. The closest person I
could compare his style to is Greg McElroy from Alabama. McElroy doesn’t
throw the ball nearly as much as Carder does, but I think their styles
are similar.

ITI: Not so long ago, Brian Kelly was coaching in the MAC. It may have been before your time, but do
you think his experience within the conference is an advantage this Saturday?

CW: Yes, definitely. I feel that this goes both ways though. Although obviously Kelly has players that are far more superior.

ZT: Without a doubt. Coaches who have a familarity with a school is an
advantage in itself, being familiar with a particular coach helps even
more. I dont know how much it will matter this Saturday though. I’m sure
coach Bill Cubit has thought of ways around it.

ITI: Kelly seems to have great respect for coach Bill Cubit. What have you seen out of him in his five seasons in Kalamazoo?

CW: Heart, respect, tradition, and most important a great MAC record. I hope he stays for a long while.

ZT: I’ve only been here for going on three seasons, but what I’ve seen is a
coach who is down to earth. He’s a man’s man and knows how to work with
what he’s been given. We’ve been to three bowl games in school history.
He led us to two of them. I think that speaks for itself.

ITI: What does this game mean to Western Michigan? Is there a buzz on
campus? Will a lot of people make the trip to South Bend? Do students
and fans think the Broncos can spring the upset?

CW: It means a lot to be the first MAC school to ever play ND. There is a buzz, but we’re realist, so how happy can we really be?

ZT: This game means the world to WMU. Winning this game would be monumental
for the season, especially coming off of last week’s win. I do feel that
there is a certain buzz around campus. Its not overwhelming by any
means but I do think that the average fan knows we’re playing Notre Dame
and is excited about it. I’m not too sure how many fans will make it
out but we’ll show up. As far as the upset, I think any true Bronco fan
knows its a possibility. Crazier things have happened.

ITI: What’s the formula for a Western Michigan victory? Gut feeling on what happens?

CW: A flawless performance on all three facets of the game. not to
mention 200 + yards on the ground to keep the Irish off of the field.

ZT: I expect it to be a close game either way. I think it’ll be a somewhat low scoring affair, but we’ll see.

A special thanks to both Chris and Zeke for making time in their busy schedules for a little advanced scouting. For more on this week’s game from the Broncos’ perspective, check out their work in the sports page at the Western Herald.

Go for two or not? Both sides of the highly-debated topic

during their game at Clemson Memorial Stadium on October 3, 2015 in Clemson, South Carolina.

Notre Dame’s two failed two-point conversion tries against Clemson have been the source of much debate in the aftermath of the Irish’s 24-22 loss to the Tigers. Brian Kelly’s decision to go for two with just over 14 minutes left in the game forced the Irish into another two-point conversion attempt with just seconds left in regulation, with DeShone Kizer falling short as he attempted to push the game into overtime.

Was Kelly’s decision to go for two the right one at the beginning of the fourth quarter? That depends.

Take away the result—a pass that flew through the fingers of a wide open Corey Robinson. Had the Irish kicked their extra point, Justin Yoon would’ve trotted onto the field with a chance to send the game into overtime. (Then again, had Robinson caught the pass, Notre Dame would’ve been kicking for the win in the final seconds…)

This is the second time a two-point conversion decision has opened Kelly up to second guessing in the past eight games. Last last season, Kelly’s decision to go for two in the fourth-quarter with an 11-point lead against Northwestern, came back to bite the Irish and helped the Wildcats stun Notre Dame in overtime.

That choice was likely fueled by struggles in the kicking game, heightened by Kyle Brindza’s blocked extra-point attempt in the first half, a kick returned by Northwestern that turned a 14-7 game into a 13-9 lead. With a fourth-quarter, 11-point lead, the Irish failed to convert their two-point attempt that would’ve stretched their lead to 13 points. After Northwestern converted their own two-point play, they made a game-tying field goal after Cam McDaniel fumbled the ball as the Irish were running out the clock. Had the Irish gone for (and converted) a PAT, the Wildcats would’ve needed to score a touchdown.

Moving back to Saturday night, Kelly’s decision needs to be put into context. After being held to just three points for the first 45 minutes of the game, C.J. Prosise broke a long catch and run for a touchdown in the opening minute of the fourth quarter. Clemson would be doing their best to kill the clock. Notre Dame’s first touchdown of the game brought the score within 12 points when Kelly decided to try and push the score within 10—likely remembering the very way Northwestern forced overtime.

After the game, Kelly said it was the right decision, citing his two-point conversion card and the time left in the game. On his Sunday afternoon teleconference, he said the same, giving a bit more rationale for his decision.

“We were down and we got the chance to put that game into a two-score with a field goal. I don’t chase the points until the fourth quarter, and our mathematical chart, which I have on the sideline with me and we have a senior adviser who concurred with me, and we said go for two. It says on our chart to go for two.

“We usually don’t use the chart until the fourth quarter because, again, we don’t chase the points. We went for two to make it a 10-point game. So we felt we had the wind with us so we would have to score a touchdown and a field goal because we felt like we probably only had three more possessions.

“The way they were running the clock, we’d probably get three possessions maximum and we’re going to have to score in two out of the three. So it was the smart decision to make, it was the right one to make. Obviously, you know, if we catch the two-point conversion, which was wide open, then we just kick the extra point and we’ve got a different outcome.”

That logic and rationale is why I had no problem with the decision when it happened in real time. But not everybody agrees.

Perhaps the strongest rebuke of the decision came from Irish Illustrated’s Tim Prister, who had this to say about the decision in his (somewhat appropriately-titled) weekly Point After column:

Hire another analyst or at least assign someone to the task of deciphering the Beautiful Mind-level math problem that seems to be vexing the Notre Dame brain-trust when a dweeb with half-inch thick glasses and a pocket protector full of pens could tell you that in the game of football, you can’t chase points before it is time… (moving ahead)

…The more astonishing thing is that no one in the ever-growing football organization that now adds analysts and advisors on a regular basis will offer the much-needed advice. Making such decisions in the heat of battle is not easy. What one thinks of in front of the TV or in a press box does not come as clearly when you’re the one pulling the trigger for millions to digest.

And yet with this ever-expanding entourage, Notre Dame still does not have anyone who can scream through the headphones to the head coach, “Coach, don’t go for two!”

If someone, anyone within the organization had the common sense and then the courage to do so, the Irish wouldn’t have lost every game in November of 2014 and would have had a chance to win in overtime against Clemson Saturday night.

My biggest gripe about the decision was the indecision that came along with the choice. Scoring on a big-play tends to stress your team as special teams players shuffle onto the field and the offense comes off. But Notre Dame’s use of a timeout was a painful one, and certainly should’ve been spared considering the replay review that gave Notre Dame’s coaching staff more time to make a decision.

For what it’s worth, Kelly’s decision was probably similar to the one many head coaches would make. And it stems from the original two-point conversion chart that Dick Vermeil developed back in the 1970s.

The original chart didn’t account for success rate or time left in the game. As Kelly mentioned before, Notre Dame uses one once it’s the fourth quarter.

It’s a debate that won’t end any time soon. And certainly one that will have hindsight on the side of the “kick the football” argument.



Navy, Notre Dame will display mutual respect with uniforms

Keenan Reynolds, Isaac Rochell

The storied and important history of Notre Dame and Navy’s long-running rivalry will be on display this weekend, with the undefeated Midshipmen coming to South Bend this weekend.

On NBCSN, a half-hour documentary presentation will take a closer look, with “Onward Notre Dame: Mutual Respect” talking about everything from Notre Dame’s 43-year winning streak, to Navy’s revival, triggered by their victory in 2007. The episode will also talk about the rivalries ties to World War II, and how the Navy helped keep Notre Dame alive during wartime.

You can catch it on tonight at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN or online in the same viewing window.

On the field, perhaps an even more unique gesture of respect is planned. With Under Armour the apparel partner for both Notre Dame and Navy, both teams will take the field wearing the same cleats, gloves and baselayers. Each team’s coaching staff will also be outfitted in the same sideline gear.

More from Monday’s press release:

For the first time in college football, two opponents take the field with the exact same Under Armour baselayer, gloves and cleats to pay homage to the storied history and brotherhood between their two schools. The baselayer features both Universities’ alma maters on the sleeves and glove palms with the words “respect, honor, tradition” as a reminder of their connection to each other. Both sidelines and coaches also will wear the same sideline gear as a sign of mutual admiration.​

Navy and Notre Dame will meet for the 89th time on Saturday, a rivalry that dates back to 1927. After the Midshipmen won three of four games starting in 2007, Notre Dame hopes to extend their current winning streak to five games on Saturday.

Here’s an early look at some of the gear: