If this column is a day late, it’s not because of the ten hours spent getting from New York back home yesterday (I was in line at JFK security next to two people on the Delta flight to Moscow that turned around because of engine problems), but because there’s so few holes to pick at in our weekly good, bad, and ugly column following a convincing 27-3 victory against Army in Yankee Stadium. (Well, maybe it’s a little of both.)
The Irish got bowl eligible in style, doing so with a dominating performance in front of an electric crowd that witnessed the first football game in the new Yankee Stadium.
“We’re playing fast. We’re playing physical,” head coach Brian Kelly said after the game. “We don’t look like a team in November that is not physically stronger, not in better condition.”
Before we start talking USC, let’s take a look at the good, bad, and ugly from Notre Dame’s victory.
Bob Diaco’s defense. Forgive me if it’s repetitive, but here are a few facts that game from Army’s sports information department after the game.
- The 24 point loss was the largest margin of defeat on the season for Army.
- Army’s 174 yards of total offense was its lowest output in over two years.
- Army was held without a touchdown for the first time this season.
- Army’s leading rusher was held to just 30 yards rushing.
- Entering the game, Army QB Trent Steelman had thrown one interception in 99 attempts. He threw two in seven throws on Saturday.
After the game, Army head coach Rich Ellerson succinctly summed things up by saying “We didn’t play very well and we got clobbered.” In what was almost poetic justice, it was Ellerson who admitted that the Army coaching staff wasn’t prepared for the look the Irish gave them in the option, with the Irish playing almost exclusively in a four-man front.
In a wonderfully captured postgame celebration, Kelly singled out his defensive staff for a wonderful game plan, with the game ball going to defensive coordinator Bob Diaco, who held the Black Knights to just about half of their average yardage output.
I’ll admit that I’m really digging for bad things here, but the Irish need to get more out of their punt return game. While John Goodman has been sure-handed for the most part this season, he’s been mediocre on returns. His minus four yards on three punt returns and four fair catches continue a mediocre facet of some otherwise good special teams.
Against Army, it doesn’t hurt the Irish to get nothing in the return game, especially when you’re winning by multiple touchdowns. But for the Irish to win a game against a team like — oh, I don’t know — USC, they’ll need to break a big play in the return game, something Goodman hasn’t shown the ability to do this year.
I’ve got no reason to suspect it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Michael Floyd was back returning punts against the Trojans, who haven’t given up a touchdown yet in the punt return game.
(Honorable mention in the bad category: Tommy Rees’ interception in the endzone on the game’s opening drive, a throw that should’ve never been made.)
For a guy that gets claustrophic in tight places, there’s nothing that got me sweating more than the absolute chaos of the subway ride from Midtown into the Bronx. Train after train was packed to capacity, with impromptu “Here Come the Irish” chants leading the way. It had to rival any commute to Yankee playoff games and you’d have thought South Bend wasn’t in Indiana, but in one of the five boroughs with the number of Irish fans clogging the subway.
While the subway was tight enough, the scene at Time Square was incredible, with the Notre Dame band and Irish fans virtually stopping traffic thanks to it’s afternoon concert. You’d have thought the Beatles were in town or Dick Clark was about to drop the ball with the turnout.
If you’re looking for a photo that properly conveys the scene, the Gameday crew for Notre Dame took an incredible panoramic photo of the scene. I’m in there somewhere, hovering around the right side of the frame trying to get a snapshot for my faithful readers.