Skip to content

The good, the bad, the ugly: Notre Dame vs. USF

Sep 4, 2011, 11:28 AM EST

Tommy Rees USF

In the end, the final score is all that matters. South Florida 23, Notre Dame 20. But the Cliff Notes version of this game wouldn’t begin to tell the whole story, and while there’s plenty of bellyaching around ND Nation today, there’s only one single-sentence argument that I’ll listen to if you’re pinning this game on a sole issue: Turnovers.

One of the many reasons football is a great game is because it’s an inherently fair one. Notre Dame may be a great football team. One game won’t cement my opinion either way. But there aren’t many teams — or any in today’s college football world — that can lose the turnover margin 5-0 and the Irish got zero points in their first four possessions inside the Bulls ten yard-line.

There was a lot of good, plenty of bad, and unfortunately, too much ugly in the Irish’s opening 23-20 loss to South Florida.

Let’s get it over with.

THE GOOD

When you go back and look at the tape of this game, there’ll be an annoying amount of good in this game. That’s what happens when the offense moves the ball for 508 yards, Notre Dame gets a 100 yard rusher, a 100-yard receiver, and a great game from Tyler Eifert.

It’ll happen when the defense holds an offense to chip shot field goals and one touchdown and only 254 yards. So here are three good things from the loss.

Michael Floyd. A season after Brian Kelly and Charley Molnar struggled to take advantage of their best offensive player, the coaching staff found new ways to get the ball to Floyd, who became Notre Dame’s all-time catch leader with 12 receptions yesterday — a career high — along with 154 yards and two touchdowns. He’s now only 14 yards behind Golden Tate for most in school history and needs one more 100 yard game to tie Tate’s record of 15.

“I think Michael Floyd is a great player on film,” Skip Holtz said after the game. “I think he’s a lot better live than he is on film. I think he is one of the special players in college football.”

Floyd might not put up the gawdy yards-per-catch numbers that he did in Charlie Weis‘ offense as the vertical threat opposite Tate, but he’s become a more complete receiver, and he showed it yesterday.

Cierre Wood. For those worried about Wood, fear not. The junior averaged just under five yards per carry, running for 104 yards on 21 attempts, and had 44 yards through the air, including a nifty catch and run to open the game. Against a defense known for its speed, Wood still looked electric, and his 100 yard game was the first of the Brian Kelly era.

Louis Nix. In his first game as a college football player, Nix had seven tackles from his defensive tackle position and looked every bit as immovable as many Irish fans thought he was. I’ll have to go back and watch the tape, but the defensive line looked good.

THE BAD

Let’s just rip the band-aid off and do this quick and dirty.

* Jonas Gray’s fumble. With both Steve Filer and Carlo Calabrese on the field as jumbo-package blocking backs, the 230-pound senior just can’t lay the ball on the turf. The error was a surgical strike to the psyche of the team.

* Ben Turk’s punting. In warmups, Turk boomed the ball, launching high spirals into the humid air. During the game? Well, the opposite.

* Dayne Crist’s decision making. I try to limit my Top Gun references to every day life, but Dayne Crist is Cougar. He’s just holding on too tight. Credit Kelly for making the tough call and sending Rees to Miramar.

* Personal Fouls. There’s a thin line out there on defense, but team leaders like Gary Gray, Ethan Johnson and Harrison Smith can’t be the ones making stupid plays.

* TJ Jones’s header. If you’re running a crossing route, you’ve got to be looking at the quarterback when you clear past the linebackers. Jones’ helmet deflection into the arms of a Bulls’ defender ranks up there with Jimmy Clausen‘s back-breaking interception that bounced off the No. 3 on Michael Floyd’s back.

* David Ruffer’s missed chip shot. The fifth-year senior was the epitome of clutch last year. Then he misses his a 30-yard field goal that ended up being the difference in the ballgame.

* Notre Dame’s Public Address team. With the play-clock running and the Irish looking at a 3rd-and-one, PA announcer Mike Collins decided to warn the entire stadium of a severe storm that would eventually evacuate the stadium. Not surprisingly, the Notre Dame offense didn’t get the snap off in time, and a delay of game pushed the Irish back five yards, and Crist sailed a pass high over Floyd, causing the Irish to punt.

On a day where Declan Sullivan‘s parents helped present the flag before the game, Notre Dame did plenty of good things, and it was an impressive feat clearing an 81,000 person stadium twice. But there are times to make serious announcements — not when a team — let alone the home team — has the ball and the game is live and in action.

THE UGLY

Notre Dame’s quarterback situation. It took exactly 30 minutes for Brian Kelly to blow up his preseason plans, and while Kelly didn’t hesitate to make the decision, he didn’t take the decision lightly.

“We didn’t expect to have to make this move obviously,” Kelly said. “So it’s going to require us to obviously evaluate the quarterback situation and make another decision. This was a step back for us as it relates to where we thought we were going. We certainly did not believe or think that we would have to make the decision that we made today.”

I said it yesterday, but the Irish can’t go back to Crist, not after Rees took the offense and moved it down the field. But with Crist as the starter, the four-man positional chart makes sense. With Rees at the helm, it doesn’t.

There’s a very real chance that Dayne Crist has taken his last snap at Notre Dame. It’s a shame because by all reports, he’s a wonderful leader, a great kid, and a perfect ambassador for Notre Dame. He’s also a senior that’s still struggling to see and register things at the speed they need to be done. Even when Crist thinks he’s making a smart play — sliding safely instead of taking a big hit — he does it before he crosses the first down marker.

Crist didn’t play terribly, but his interception in the end zone, a feathered underthrow to Theo Riddick into coverage, is the reason why Kelly can’t keep Crist in there. If you can’t trust your senior quarterback to make good decisions in the red zone, you can’t trust him.

 

 

 

 

  1. papadec - Sep 5, 2011 at 10:06 PM

    I have read enough of this cry baby bullsh** about Coach Kelly yelling at the 17-22 year old kids. The coaching staff put in a lot of hours preparing for & coaching this game & season. The players that screwed up – deserved to get their butts chewed out. The recruits at Parris Island and other basic training camps are also 17-22 years old. I doubt if the Drill Instructors will stop their yelling as they train & coach those recruits into manhood. Time to man-up.

  2. ndbcs2013 - Sep 5, 2011 at 10:27 PM

    Sorry, but I could not give a $h!t if kids are being treated worse in a million different places in this wonderful world (relative to this question, that is). The ONLY question that matters here is does it help ND win games, now and in the future? I believe that it doe NOT help to have Kelly literally freaking out on the sidelines. Yell at the kids, fine. But act like a leader that is in control of the situation.

    Kelly did not look in control of himself on Saturday, and the team certainly did not play with discipline either. Coincidence, or an avoidable problem??

    • oldestguard - Sep 5, 2011 at 10:55 PM

      This is actually a very good point, as to me the issue is not the act of yelling or getting in a guys face or choice of language. Rather, it’s – as a coach are you taking control and is it effective control.

      I don’t pretend to know what the relationships are between the coaches and the players, and I really believe in Kelly and I think his time at ND will be special when it’s all said and done. But at moments of that game, he looked a little bewildered and out of control to me. Now I was also blowing a gasket and swearing up a blue streak at my TV, but I think the head coach, especially, has to maintain some definite level of control out there, or it can slide down the hill very quickly.

      It’s not the noise level or language choice thats important, it’s the way you handle it – as a point of firm Cause, or as a point of emotional Effect. ( think Ditka in his later coaching years )

      I still see a 3-1 Sept record and 9-3 or even 10-2 are still on the table.

  3. frankbjr - Sep 6, 2011 at 12:02 AM

    Out of all the comments, you seem to have hit all the important issues the best.

    Brian Kelly, grow up and grow up fast…there is only so much berating a kid can and will take. You represent one of the most prestigious universities and sports program in this country. Learn to carry yourself in a mature manner, or go back to where you came from.

  4. dbldmr - Sep 6, 2011 at 8:23 AM

    As we were walking back to the parking lot after two delays and a torrential downpour near the South Dining Hall my old roommate (from the late 60s) said that the team simply didn’t look prepared. Perhaps it’s Good Old Days syndrome, but I have to agree. Ara’s teams were able to adjust and rarely lost games they should have won.

    TCU in the past few years is a team that does more with less than just about any college team. My beloved alma mater, however, seems to do less with more.

    Hope things change this weekend against U of M.

  5. irishinmichigan - Sep 7, 2011 at 11:46 PM

    Let’s go Irish! Beat Michigan. USF is in the past. Show your fans what your really made of now! Make us proud! Routing for the Irish IN Michigan!

Leave Comment

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!