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The good, the bad, the ugly: Western Michigan

Oct 17, 2010, 9:29 PM EDT

Before we put Saturday’s 44-20 victory in the rear-view mirror, let’s talk about what was gained from the win against Western Michigan, the first MAC opponent to play the Irish in Notre Dame Stadium.

The Irish were able to pull out their first three-game winning streak since early last season, erasing the three-game slide that put the Irish season in danger after only four game. They were able to continue developing depth along the offensive line, with reserve linemen Mike Golic, Chris Watt, Alex Bullard, Lane Clelland, and Andrew Watt getting significant playing time, in addition to tackle Matt Romine starting for a second straight week at left tackle.

Between depth building along the offensive line and a group of freshman playing significant minutes, the Irish made the most of their first (and likely) last game against a MAC opponent in South Bend.

Here’s a look at the rest of the good, bad, and ugly from Saturday’s victory over Western Michigan. 


Running backs Cierre Wood and Robert Hughes combined for 162 yards on just 19 carries, effectively controlling the clock in the second half and wearing down an undersized Western Michigan defense. Wood’s 39-yard touchdown run was the longest for an Irish running back since Hughes galloped for 45 yards against Stanford in 2007, and was the longest touchdown run for an Irish running back since Ryan Grant broke a 46-yarder against the Cardinal back in 2003.

While Wood was held a yard shy of the century mark, he was able to establish a rhythm running the ball, and afforded Brian Kelly and the offensive staff the chance to rest Armando Allen, who only played briefly as he nursed a hip flexor injury.

“He’s a guy that needs to get into the flow of the game,” Kelly said about Wood. “At
times you wonder some of the things he’s doing out there, but once he
got enough carries, he showed, obviously, that he’s got great athletic
ability and it was fun to watch him.”

Wood was able to get those carries because the Irish offense called his number more often after halftime.

“Coach Kelly really couldn’t say anything to me at halftime because I
only got one carry in the first half,” Wood said after the game. “In the second half I decided that
whenever I got the balI I was going to make something happen.”

Wood showed his big-play ability with his burst around the right end for a touchdown. He also showed great elusiveness as he pin-balled his way through Bronco defenders making some electric cuts in the open field.

This is the time of year that Wood will be a valuable change of pace for the Irish, and his development will be crucial for the Irish.

Robert Hughes also reminded the coaching staff that he’s a viable option in the backfield, running with purpose, power, and great pad-level as he powered the Irish offense through the fourth quarter. With the Irish struggling on first down, Hughes is a great option to get the Irish offense in 2nd-and-favorable situations, a potential option against a Navy defense that’ll be out-sized at the line of scrimmage this weekend.


The Irish committed nine penalties for 80 yards, easily their sloppiest game of the year, and a considerable step back for a disciplined unit that had been one of the least penalized teams in college football.

That lack of discipline showed up particularly in the first half, with both the offense and defense missing assignments and playing lackluster football. Western Michigan quarterback Alex Carder was able to pick up good yardage by throwing against inside linebackers Manti Te’o and Carlo Calabrese, something opposing coaches will likely notice with cornerbacks Darrin Walls, Gary Gray and Robert Blanton playing at a high level.

Kelly mentioned in his postgame comments that both Te’o and Calabrese made bad decisions when defending curl patterns, and it’ll be important for both linebackers to fix those mistakes down the stretch, with teams like Utah and Tulsa likely throwing the ball early and often against the Irish defense. 

(Honorable mention bad: Dayne Crist’s fourth quarter interception, a laser-like throw that was behind tight end Mike Ragone and tipped into the air for a WMU interception. Crist has got to develop some touch on his underneath throws, and rockets like that have some fans worried that while he’s got a canon for an arm, it only delivers balls one way — not necessarily a good thing for an offense that relies on precision and accuracy.


The injuries are starting to pile up for the Irish, and this time it’s wide receiver Theo Riddick that’s going in for an MRI on a tweaked ankle.

“Theo was in a boot today,” Kelly revealed on his Sunday teleconference. “He’s going to have to probably get an MRI. The X-ray was clean and the
MRI would tell us if there’s any further damage there. We’ll do that

Riddick’s injury means Kelly will likely reshuffle his receivers.

“TJ Jones would probably be the guy who would move in there,” Kelly said today. “Goodman would then go to X. I’ve always tried to put the top four guys
on the field. Toma would back up the Z, Bennett Jackson would
back up the X.” 

Riddick’s injury will just add more defensive attention to Michael Floyd, and the offense’s productivity will depend on Jones’ ability to learn the slot position.

Jamoris Slaughter is also suffering from ankle pain, with Kelly ordering another MRI for Slaughter after his ankle has been slow to respond to treatment. While Zeke Motta has stepped up in Slaughter’s place, the Irish would be better served having Slaughter opposite Harrison Smith, especially in a game against Navy, where play-action throws will depending on the safety biting on the run fake, something both Zeke and Harrison have been known to do.

  1. Art vandelay - Oct 18, 2010 at 12:07 AM

    I was impressed with Cierre Wood on Saturday. He has great vision of the field and the ability to make defenders miss. Crist, however, was lackluster. Even his TD throw to Floyd to start their first possession was under thrown causing Floyd to have to adjust and wait for the ball. Crist seems to be afraid of throwing an INT and I’ve noticed that on any route longer than 15 yds, he will usually skip the ball to his receiver. He needs to build some confidence, play with a little swagger and just air it out and get some air under the ball. Lastly, with all the shake ups at receiver, I note that we don’t see Kamara mentioned anywhere…..wazup wit dat? Is Duval that far off of BK’s radar?

  2. ND Geek - Oct 18, 2010 at 12:53 AM

    Maybe I just haven’t payed enough attention in the past, but I personally think the officiating belongs with the “Ugly” from the game (and all season long, really). This actually seems to be a larger issue across college football, but since I mostly watch Notre Dame, I can only really comment on that. The most ridiculous calls from the WMU game that stand out in my mind are 1: the so-called offensive pass-interference on T.J. Jones, 2: the non-call of kick-catch interference against ND, and 3: The non-call of defensive pass-interference on the Floyd end zone pass.
    First, the pass interference call. I was at the game, and when the original ref signaled pass interference, he very clearly signaled towards the WMU end zone. Watching the replay on DVR after the game, you can definitely see the ref signal this. You can also see #7 for WMU get tangled up with Eifert. Granted, this wasn’t covered well in the broadcast so I couldn’t tell you who initiated it, but the original signal was WMU.
    Second, at the game I thought we got away with one on the punt where we had a couple guys bump the punt return man. Watching the replay, we definitely should’ve been flagged for interference here.
    Finally, watching the game live, I was in the opposite end zone of the Floyd non-call, but it definitely looked like he was tripped/tackled. Watching the replay, again, it only reaffirmed my live impression. The defender was clearly making an attempt to tackle Floyd, so unless they’re ruling that uncatchable (which, if he’s not tripped, it would’ve been pretty close I think), that looks like pretty cut and dry pass interference.

  3. ed murphy - Oct 18, 2010 at 9:39 AM

    Keep running robert hughes

  4. Chris - Oct 18, 2010 at 10:22 AM

    Kamara left the team. He’s enrolled at UCLA.

  5. Nick - Oct 18, 2010 at 10:33 AM

    funny he is at ucla, I couldve sworn #18 was in the game during mop up duty.

  6. PJ (Michigan) - Oct 18, 2010 at 10:47 AM

    I thought it was Shaquille O’neal who transferred to UCLA.
    Or am I confusing him with Dwight Evans, who left ND to play for the Red Sox?

  7. Bill - Oct 18, 2010 at 10:52 AM

    Shaq Evans left for UCLA…..Kamara was in the game briefly Saturday, but not sure where he is on the depth chart.

  8. jj - Oct 18, 2010 at 11:59 AM

    Home cookin refs? Those of you who watched the BC-FSU game saw the home cookin at Seminole stadium. One BC receiver had his helmet grabbed and pulled while going up for the pass. Open field, two refs, no call. Five minutes later the BC safety kept the FSU receiver from pulling in a pass already in his hands. Oh ye, yellow flag day. In the ND-WMU game, the refs at least balanced out their dumb and dumber calls.

  9. WES HOLTZ - Oct 18, 2010 at 4:51 PM

    So glad to see hughes get a chance finally, Always been a big fan.

  10. jj - Oct 18, 2010 at 10:51 PM

    The ugliest of the ugly has to be the spread offense itself. Holtz’s teams won games by running it down people’s throats – which, by the way, is perfectly suited to the type of players ND gets year in and year out. The spread operates best with lean and fast athletes, otherwise known as the SEC. The Irish have traditionally won their games at the line of scrimmage and the last time they consistently did that was under Holtz. Don’t get me wrong, I hope Kelly pulls it off and God bless him if he does, but the rushing game must become a priority and not an obstacle to the spread. And can someone please tell me why BK had Nate Montana running on nearly half his snaps?? Unless he has a thing against Joe and wanted to punish his kid?? It’s just getting tiresome each week to hope we can hang on to get the W – going back to Willingham’s second season – when I distinctly remember only having that feeling once or twice a year, and usually against the Hurricanes and FSU when a #1 ranking was on the line.

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