Dwallstackle

The good, the bad, the ugly: Army

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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.

THE GOOD

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.

THE BAD

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.)

THE UGLY

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.

Five Irish players sign UFA contracts

Matthias Farley
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Notre Dame had seven players selected in the 2016 NFL Draft, trailing only Ohio State, Clemson and UCLA on the weekend tally. But after the draft finished, the Irish had five more players get their shot at playing on Sundays.

Chris Brown signed with the Dallas Cowboys. Romeo Okwara will begin his career with the New York Giants. Matthias Farley and Amir Carlisle signed contracts with the Arizona Cardinal. Elijah Shumate agreed to a contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

After missing two seasons, Ishaq Williams will be at Giants rookie camp next weekend as well, working as a tryout player. Expect Jarrett Grace to receive similar opportunities.

Count me among those that thought both Brown and Okwara would hear their names called. Brown’s senior season, not to mention his intriguing measureables, had some projecting him as early as the fifth round.

Okwara, still 20 years old and fresh off leading Notre Dame in sacks in back-to-back seasons, intrigued a lot of teams with his ability to play both defensive end and outside linebacker. He’ll get a chance to make the Giants—the team didn’t draft a defensive end after selecting just one last year, and they’re in desperate need of pass rushers.

Both Shumate and Farley feel like contenders to earn a spot on rosters, both because of their versatility and special teams skills. Shumate played nickel back as a freshman and improved greatly at safety during 2015. Farley bounced around everywhere and was Notre Dame’s special teams captain.

Carlisle might fit a similar mold. He played running back, receiver and returned kicks and punts throughout his college career. With a 4.4 during Notre Dame’s Pro Day, he likely showed the Cardinals enough to take a shot, and now he’ll join an offense with Michael Floyd and Troy Niklas.

 

Robertson picks Cal over Notre Dame, UGA

Demetris Robertson
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Demetris Robertson‘s decision wasn’t trending in Notre Dame’s direction. But those that expected the Savannah star athlete to pick the in-state Bulldogs were in for a surprise when Robertson chose Cal on Sunday afternoon.

Notre Dame’s pursuit of the five-star athlete, recruited to play outside receiver and hopefully replace Will Fuller, likely ended Sunday afternoon with Robertson making the surprise decision to take his substantial talents to Berkeley. And give credit to Robertson for doing what he said all along—picking a school that’ll give him the chance to earn an exceptional education and likely contribute from Day One.

“I am excited to take my talents to the University of California, Berkeley. The first reason is that the education was a big part of my decision. I wanted to keep that foundation,” Robertson said, per CFT. “When I went there, it felt like home. Me and the coaching staff have a great relationship. That’s where I felt were the best of all things for me.”

Adding one final twist in all of this is that Robertson has no letter-of-intent to sign. Because he’s blown three months through Signing Day, Robertson merely enrolls at a college when the time comes. That means until then, Kirby Smart and the Georgia staff will continue to sell Robertson on staying home and helping the Dawgs rebuild. Smart visited with Robertson Saturday night and had multiple assistant coaches at his track meet this weekend.

Summer school begins in June for Notre Dame. Their freshman receiving class looks complete with early enrollee Kevin Stepherson and soon-to-arrive pass-catchers Javon McKinley and Chase Claypool.

Sheldon Day drafted in 4th round by Jaguars

North Carolina v Notre Dame
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Former Notre Dame captain Sheldon Day didn’t have to wait long on Saturday to hear his name called. The Indianapolis native, All-American, and the Irish’s two-time defensive lineman of the year was pick number 103, the fourth pick of the fourth round on Saturday afternoon.

Day was the seventh Irish player drafted, following first rounders Ronnie Stanley and Will Fuller, second round selections Jaylon Smith and Nick Martin, and third rounders KeiVarae Russell and C.J. Prosise.

Day has a chance to contribute as he joins the 24th-ranked defense in the league. Joining a draft class heavy on defensive players—Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack and Yannick Ngakoue already picked ahead of him—the front seven will also include last year’s No. 3 overall pick Dante Fowler, who missed the entire season with a knee injury.

Scouted by the Jaguars at the Senior Bowl, Day doesn’t necessarily have the size to be a traditional defensive tackle. But under Gus Bradley’s attacking system (Bradley coordinated the Seahawks defense for four seasons), Day will find a niche and a role in a young defense that’s seen a heavy investment the past two years.

Smith, Martin, Russell and Prosise all drafted Friday night

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 13: William Fuller #7 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Nick Martin #72 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrate a touchdown during the game against the Purdue Boilermakers at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 13, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
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Jaylon Smith, Nick Martin, KeiVarae Russell and C.J. Prosise were all selected on Friday, with four Irish teammates taken on the second night of the NFL Draft. As mentioned, Smith came off the board at pick 34, with the Cowboys gambling on the injured knee of the Butkus Award winner. Nick Martin was selected at pick 50, joining former teammate Will Fuller in Houston.

The third round saw Russell and Prosise come off the board, with Kansas City jumping on the confident cornerback and the Seahawks taking Notre Dame’s breakout running back. It capped off a huge night for the Irish with Sheldon Day, one of the more productive football players in college football, still on the board for teams to pick.

Here’s a smattering of instant reactions from the immediate aftermath.