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Five things we learned: USC 31, Notre Dame 17

Oct 23, 2011, 1:57 AM EDT

Crist fumble USC

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The stage was set for magic. Notre Dame Stadium was electric, bringing the evening to life on the type of crisp autumn night that football was meant to be played on. In Southern Cal and Notre Dame, two of college football’s most storied programs had the perfect canvas for another classic match-up. Only one team forgot to show up.

Playing the role of scrappy underdog, Lane Kiffin’s USC Trojans walked into South Bend and knocked the Irish to the mat early and often, soundly beating the heavily favored Irish 31-17. The win was as shocking as it was complete, with the Trojans dominating on both sides of the ball and capitalizing on critical Irish mistakes during a second half that saw Notre Dame and the home crowd a yard away from rallying back to life.

Yet it was Kiffin’s team that had the answers on Saturday night, as the Trojans were the team able to better shelf the distractions and concentrate on simply playing winning football.

“Our whole thing this week was not about the hype,” Kiffin said. “It was about the prep. It was about preparing really well and finishing games off and not letting the other stuff get involved.”

The Trojans certainly did that, putting together their most complete game of the season and dashing any big-picture hopes the Irish had for the season.

Here’s what we learned in Southern Cal’s 31-17 victory over Notre Dame on Saturday night.

Notre Dame’s defensive front seven got thoroughly dominated by Southern Cal.

It was a sign of things to come. After forcing a three and out on Notre Dame’s first series, USC took possession of the ball and ran the ball right into the teeth of Notre Dame’s defense. Marc Tyler burst through the line of scrimmage for 15 yards on the Trojans’ first play and from there it was off to the races. USC needed the cagey play of Matt Barkley to extend the drive on 4th and 1, when a pump fake took Prince Shembo off his feet for an easy first down, but the drive was pure brute force by a Trojan team that came in ranked 77th in the country running the football. On the 13 play, 66 yard drive, the Trojans only passed the ball twice, with sixty yards coming on the ground before Barkley dumped an easy pass to Randall Telfer for the touchdown.

Without injured senior Ethan Johnson manning his defensive end spot, the Irish suddenly look very average against the run. Aaron Lynch and Stephon Tuitt may be the most heralded duo of defensive linemen to come into Notre Dame in two decades, but as every down players they looked over-matched against a much maligned Trojan offensive line. The Trojans ran the ball for 219 yards Saturday night, with diminutive Curtis McNeal running for 118 yards and Tyler chipping in 67 a week after dislocating his shoulder.

The power running game allowed the Trojans to dominate the time of possession battle nearly two-to-one, and the running game opened up a deadly play-action passing game that Notre Dame struggled to counter. For the Irish, the struggles along the line of scrimmage come at a terrible time, with Navy on the horizon.

For the first time in a long while, the Irish defense looked helpless against the Trojans, who finished the game with a ten-play drive that rode the back of Curtis McNeal for all ten carries. With everyone in the stadium knowing USC was going to run the ball, McNeal averaged 4.7 yards a carry until Kiffin mercifully allowed the clock to run out at the Irish two yard-line.

It’s back to the drawing board for Notre Dame, with the clocking ticking before Navy — the No. 4 rushing team in the country — comes to town.

With the game’s momentum finally back in Irish hands, catastrophic turnovers sealed the Irish’s fate.

It was setting up for a drive that could’ve gone down in Irish lore. With Tommy Rees nursing a hyper-extended knee, senior quarterback Dayne Crist was called into duty, and he kept the Irish moving down the field, completing four of five passes including a crucial fourth down conversion to Tyler Eifert.

With the Irish not missing a step, Crist had steady nerves as he pulled the Irish within yards of the endzone and a tying score. After Andrew Hendrix charged the ball down to the Trojan one yard line, Crist lined up under center. From there, Notre Dame’s worst fears revealed themselves.

Crist never got a handle on Braxston Cave‘s snap, and the fumble squirted out of Crist and Cierre Wood‘s grasp before Trojan safety Jawanza Starling scooped it up and ran 80 yards for the back-breaking score. For the second time this season, the Irish found themselves on the verge of a momentum stealing touchdown, only to have the most painful punch in football catch them in the proverbial jaw.

“To turn the ball over in the ridiculous fashion that we have, I just — it just makes me crazy,” Brian Kelly said after the game. “I just don’t understand how something so easy can come out the way it does.”

That it happened this time to Crist was particularly heartbreaking. It was the hard-luck senior’s storybook opportunity — the Southern California native thrown into duty against his hometown team. After getting nothing but bad breaks for four years at Notre Dame, Crist had the opportunity to earn one special moment and unfortunately coughed the ball up.

Under the lights, USC’s stars were better than Notre Dame’s.

Going into the game, everybody in the stadium knew that the Trojan offense depended on Robert Woods and Matt Barkley. Yet the junior quarterback still connected with his dynamic wide receiver 12 times for 119 yards and two touchdowns, the second sealing the game for the Trojans.

Just as important for the Trojans was the supporting cast of guys like McNeal, Tyler and freshman Marqise Lee, the latter two both playing through injuries that had them questionable even to suit up.

“You have Marc Tyler, a fifth-year senior and Marqise Lee, a true freshman, and for both of them to come with the same attitude immedaitely after their injuries — they said, the whole time, I’m playing,” Kiffin said after the game. “And really our doctors after last week’s game did not think those guys would play. They willed themselves to play today.”

Lee didn’t make a difference in the stat sheet, but he kept the Irish defense honest opposite Woods. More important than that, Barkley’s ability to buy time in the pocket and make things happen with his feet made life next to impossible for Notre Dame. He played close to flawless football, completing 24 of 35 passes for 224 yards and three touchdowns.

On the opposite sideline, the Irish couldn’t get any of their key players on track. Falling behind early took Notre Dame’s ground attack out of play. Tommy Rees and Michael Floyd struggled to connect, with the deep shots the Irish took falling incomplete.

“We were out of sync and rhythm,” Kelly said. “We had Mike two or three times and we didn’t connect with him.”

On the defensive side of the ball, Manti Te’o and Harrison Smith played nice games on paper, but neither made the impactful play the Irish needed. Desperate for a big sack or a forced turnover, none of the front line players on the talented Irish defense could come up with anything against a Trojan team that dominated the Irish both on the ground and in the air.

Notre Dame’s traditions have been updated. But the team on the field can’t take another step back.

The first night game in 21 years might not have been a success on the field, but it provided the best atmosphere the Irish have had at home in a long time.

“I thought the crowd was more electric that the times I was here before, even in 2005,” Kiffin said after the game.

After a week of demanding their supporters’ best, the football team didn’t do their part. With a week off to prepare, the stage got too big for the Irish, as uncharacteristic play on both sides of the ball dug the Irish a deep hole they could never get out of. The offense sputtered out of the gate, the defense played sloppy and made critical mistakes. Coming into the evening 12-1 after an off week, Kelly wasn’t interested in questioning how he handled the extra time to prepare.

“You know, generally I’m going to fall on the sword nine out of ten times,” Kelly said. “But I know what I’m doing on a bye week. I’ve had great success. I know what it looks like. And for us to come out and be less than what we should be, I’m not happy about it.

“But I’m certainly not going to go back and second guess the way I’ve prepared over 21 years in a bye week. Sometimes there’s some accountabilituy from everybody — coaches and players alike — and sometimes it falls on, as a group, all of us. They just didn’t play as well as they needed to play.”

The night start turned the stadium into a madhouse. The Irish pumped in the Dropkick Murphys, Ozzy Osbourne (a dozen too many times), the White Stripes and others. In may make the traditionalists angry, but it served its purpose. Unfortunately, for that purpose to matter, the Irish need to play better football when the spotlight is shining, otherwise it’s all for naught.

While the football game is lost, Kelly and his staff must salvage both the weekend and the season.

For those wondering, there is no true correlation between the Irish’s result on the field and getting a recruiting commitment. Manti Te’o visited Notre Dame for the Irish’s dreadful loss to Syracuse. Michael Floyd watched USC clobber the Irish. The recruits that were here on official and unofficial visits saw everything that was good about Notre Dame on Saturday, and sometimes the shortcomings on the field can help make a coaches recruiting pitch even more persuasive. That said, there is no more important 48 hours for the Irish football program than the next 48. The coaching staff still has dozens of important recruits in town that need attention, and some of those players will be the future of the football program.

Just as important, the coaching staff will spend Sunday putting together the gameplan for Navy, a game that still haunts this football team a year later. With the Irish 4-3, they can kiss any chance at a BCS birth goodbye, yet there’s still much to play for even with the Irish out of Brian Kelly’s hypothetical playoffs.

“I’m not worried about that,” Kelly said of their dashed BCS dreams. “Their gift bag won’t be as big. The fact of the matter is, they have got to play Navy and they have to get ready in a short period of time. So the moment for us, it never gets too big. In other words, we don’t think in big picture terms. But those guys, all they know is, Monday is not going to be a great place to be around me. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, that’s what they are thinking about. They are not thinking about those bigger picture items.”

It’s probably for the better. On a night where the stage was set for a classic, sneaking a look at that big picture is what got the Irish players in trouble to begin with.

120 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. mitchmr - Oct 23, 2011 at 1:06 PM

    Well, I’m an ‘SC grad and obvious fan; however, I was somewhat amazed at Notre Dame’s arrogance going into the game, especially since ‘SC has dominated this series of late. There’s no doubt that both teams have a lot of talent, so it does come down to the coaching and preparation in my mind. And, part of that challenge is to properly identify your opponent’s talent and develop strategies to either counter or offset it. While I’m sure I didn’t catch all the hype and interviews leading into the game, I did see Kelly making some remarks that I thought were very short-sighted and, perhaps, ignorant–maybe it was just arrogance; I’m not sure. The first was his response about whether he thought it was more important to stop Barkley or Woods. He immediately responded that it was about Barkley, all but dismissing Woods. It takes two great talents to have the success that the tandem of Barkley and Woods enjoy. Woods very much reminds me of Steve Smith and I think will have the same level of success in the NFL. And, while Barkley certainly has alternatives to Woods, there’s no one I would rather see with the ball in their hands in the open field than Woods; he also is incredibly adept at slipping past defenses and finding the open spot, just like he did in the end zone yesterday. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I agree Barkley is incredibly talented and will also be an NFL star; he absolutely has to be defended against, but to ignore Woods or just treat him like another receiver would, in my mind, have been a huge coaching mistake.

    The second comment that struck me, and yes was insulting to a good team, was when I heard Kelly say something to the effect that beating ‘SC wouldn’t matter if ND still lost to Navy. Maybe it was an intentional slam on Kelly’s part to belittle ‘SC as if he was looking past them to the Navy game, but it only made him sound inept to me. There is no comparison between the level of talent on ‘SC and on Navy–and I mean no offense to Navy. The Academies are rarely able to recruit the top talent because of their military service commitments. Anyway, regardless of the intentions of Kelly’s comments, it certainly came off as either ignorant or arrogant. Based upon how badly Kelly was out-coached in this game, I’m leaning towards pure ignorance. If anything, ‘SC had a reason to look past Notre Dame to Stanford next week, who in my mind is a Top 5 team. Not sure what the polls will say, but with losses by Oklahoma and Wisconsin this week and another dominant performance by Stanford against another Top 25 team (Washington), Stanford is certainly in the national title hunt. In fact, one of the posters here suggested that ‘SC will fall flat next week against Stanford and that may well happen. It’s a home game for ‘SC, so I certainly hope not, but it will take ‘SC’s strongest effort to go blow-for-blow with Stanford. Nevertheless, unlike Kelly’s comment, I didn’t hear a single word out the ‘SC camp about the Stanford game. It was all about the pride and tradition of playing in “this great rivalry!” It’s all about respect.

    Miscues and turnovers are a part of the game. I don’t know what would have happened if Crist hadn’t fumbled, but there’s a good chance ND would have tied up the game at that point, or at least gotten a field goal. There’s no doubt that was a significant turnaround in the game and the momentum; however, that one mistake did not change the fact that ‘SC was dominating the game and time of possession with a very balanced offense that ND simply had no answer for. In the end, ND only managed 10 points on offense, while ‘SC pulled back to not run up the score to 38 points, or 31 points on offense.

    Yes, Kiffin completely out-coached Kelly and, yes, Kelly was 100 percent wrong to blame his players! A good leader knows where the buck starts and stops. It is kind of a shame that all the reporting is more about ND losing (getting upset) than ‘SC winning, but hopefully that will change once the coach’s poll and bowl sanctions are lifted next year. What will happen to ‘SC next week against Stanford? I don’t know. I would be happy if ‘SC just played to the same level it played yesterday against ND with Kiffin’s excellent coaching and preparation. Stanford is an outstanding team and I think we’ll need some of that “Irish luck” to upset them, but I’m remaining true and faithful to our cause. Our defense is improving game to game and I think it will take a Herculean effort on their part to make it happen–to slow down the Heisman Trophy font running candidate enough for us to go blow-for-blow with Stanford. Of course, if the Irish were looking ahead of ‘SC, maybe it should have been to their last game of the season!

    Good luck to ‘SC and Notre Dame!

    • tedlinko - Oct 23, 2011 at 1:58 PM

      You make some reasonable points. However, you’re taking both of BK’s quotes out of context. Kelly was asked which player was more important to stop. He could have responded with some politically correct, well they’re both great players…yadda yadda. But he didn’t he responded that the key was stopping Barkley. He pointed to the guy’s veteran leadership, and essentially said he’s the guy that makes the offense go. It wasn’t a diss to Woods at all — but Woods needs Barkley to get him the ball — on the other hand if you shut down Woods, Barkley still has other weapons. It was just an honest opinion by Kelly, and a reasonable point.

      As to the second quote, Kelly was responding about whether SC was the biggest game of ND’s year. His comment was that the goal was a BCS game, which essentially required running the table. His point, and again it was a valid one — was that even if ND beat SC, if they then went out an lost their next game (it happens to be Navy) that would derail their goal. He was simply saying that they needed to play consistently — one game at a time. Of course, that’s all now a moot point because the didn’t do that last night.

    • runners00 - Oct 23, 2011 at 3:20 PM

      I thought both questions were rigged in the sense that no matter what answer Kelly provided, in retrospect people would criticize the answer. For example, suppose he says that Woods — stopping Woods — is the key to the game. “What?” You would say. “Barkley? Do you not respect Barkley, a likely first round pick?!” The game plan was to make SC run. That strategy worked in the sense that Barkley wasn’t throwing the ball down the field for the entire game. If you take away two key turnovers, SC leaves South Bend with 17 points on the board. That is not too bad, especially since ND had 59 two weeks ago against an admittedly far inferior opponent. The problems, of course, stemmed from our inability to stop the run (and from our unwillingness to actually run the ball). We stopped the run very well against most previous opponents (aside from AFA). But SC was able to dominate up front, on both sides of the ball, which is why we couldn’t run and why we couldn’t stop their run.

      Secondly, you’re taking Kelly’s answer about Navy out of context. He said all week that SC was our rival. He correctly noted that we’re some schools’ rivals (such as MSU and Purdue) but for us, USC is the most important game we play every year. Kelly made that point. He then mentioned that it was essential to avoid a letdown against Navy. So, any victory against SC would not matter if we followed it up with a loss to Navy. I hardly think that this is arrogance.

      All of that said, the biggest surprise last night came in the form of depth. SC was losing guys left and right and their backups – and their backups’-backups — were better coached than our kids. Kelly’s only been there a season and a half. But, we need better recruits and we need to coach all of them better. Whether it’s Michael Floyd running a very weak route (after another very weak route) and then complaining about a no-call for pass interference, or it’s Tommy Rees telegraphing an interception late in the game, we’re inferior. I see SC’s running backs getting hit at the line of scrimmage and still getting five yards. They’re much, much better at this stage. Everyone talked about how “talented” we are and I think we have some talent. But I also think we under-perform and, most importantly, I think we are not very deep. This lack of depth allows foolish penalties and weak arm tacklers to continue to play.

  2. irishman72 - Oct 23, 2011 at 1:14 PM

    Man what a heartbreaker that was last night! I thought that ND looked very very flat on both sides of the ball and with 2 weeks to get ready for this game i think we all expected a bit more fight out of the boys on the field. Hats off to S Cal they did what they needed to do and we could not stop them all night, running through our d line like it was a picket fence……Can somebody please explain to me when its3rd and 3 are Db’s play 7 yards off the receivers??? Maybe i am just dumb or have no football savy but it just dose makes sense to me. I think it is time to put Hendrix in full time and start running the offense the way b kelly wants to run it and please, please somebody explain to me why he took him out and put d cryst in there at that time in the game….all i could do was look at the tv and say “oh shit” hoping that a tall blade of grass would trip him up! Better put this behind them real quick or navy will come in there and run for 500 yards……Just at a loss for words today but tyring to keep the faith..LETS GO IRISH……

    • subwayalum - Oct 23, 2011 at 7:18 PM

      What happened? The gost of John Makay rode into south bend on the trojan horse. Knute did not get out of the gate. The I formation 3 running plays right, 3 running plays left and a few slant passes was all old John needed. Those who live by the spread, die by the spread.

      Subway alum

  3. ndgiants11 - Oct 23, 2011 at 1:26 PM

    Not sure if anybody saw this, but USC players have been less than quiet in their comments after the game:

    From USC’s Chris Galippo: “They just quit. That’s what Notre Dame football is about. They’re not anything like USC.”

    • 36irish - Oct 23, 2011 at 3:10 PM

      The entire quote
      “At the end there, when they didn’t call those timeouts, they just quit,” USC linebacker Chris Galippo said. “And that’s what Notre Dame football’s about. They’re not anything like USC.”

      • runners00 - Oct 23, 2011 at 3:45 PM

        Perhaps people on Kelly’s staff can appreciate the quote for what it is: a reflection about the major differences between SC and Notre Dame at this point.

        Every time we play SC, I come to appreciate how important depth is. They have a ton of it. If a player makes a ridiculous penalty that grants the opponent a first down, such as what happened to the Irish a few times in the first half, the player’s replaced by someone just as talented. At Notre Dame, right now, we have some very talented guys at skill positions and then we have decent players who fill out the starting staff. But the bench is not as strong as SCs – not even close, actually.

      • ndgoldandblue - Oct 23, 2011 at 8:46 PM

        Hmm…I don’t remember, in my recent memory anyway, any Notre Dame player being as disrespectful in victory as Galippo here. I guess the old adage of being humble in victory and gracious in defeat doesn’t apply to rule-breaking institutions like USC. Tis true, the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike. But just remember, Chris, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same. There is such a thing as karma, and when it eventually comes back to bite you in the ass, we actually won’t enjoy seeing you receive your comeuppance…because we’re not classless like you.

      • 4hrchubby - Oct 24, 2011 at 10:44 AM

        Oh please ndgoldandblue, enough already with the “rule breaking institutions” stuff, as if USC is one of few with the problem….if you knew anything about College football, you would understand it is HUGE problem at all institutions, and yes even our beloved team has had it’s problems in the past.

        Try reading this 5 part series about the problem.

        Here is a quote from the article:

        “Is it possible these days to win a national championship at the highest level in major college football without cheating?

        In the 75-year history of the wire service era, research showed that it is nearly impossible. Among the schools that have won titles since 1936, when human polls became the accepted form of determining the sport’s champion, only Penn State and BYU have never had a major violation in football.”

        It is an eye opening series of articles.

      • ndirish10 - Oct 24, 2011 at 6:37 PM

        Could this comment enrage Manti to stay with the Irish for his senior year? I sure hope so. GO IRISH!!! Beat Navy!!!

  4. 36irish - Oct 23, 2011 at 2:22 PM

    A few of the bright spots. Couldn’t find any others. Special teams play was good even though the punt return avg. won’t change. Turk had his best game and Brindza was outstanding. #34 is stud.

  5. gatordomer - Oct 23, 2011 at 2:33 PM

    Kelly was 12-1 after bye weeks. How many of those wins were against USC?

  6. mitchmr - Oct 23, 2011 at 4:10 PM

    All points well taken. As I said, I didn’t see all the pre-game interviews and activity, so I take back my comments about arrogance or ignorance. I do think Kelly could have answered the question about Barkley and Woods better to suggest that from a coaching perspective he took them both into account. The only reason I emphasize that is because I thought Woods was not covered well on many plays. While I’m happy about that, it made me recall Kelly’s comments and think that he underestimated Wood’s talent from a coaching and preparation perspective. It was a good game and I wouldn’t be surprised if both teams came into next year’s game ranked.

    • bostonjan - Oct 23, 2011 at 8:09 PM

      I appreciate your comments, it’s interesting to hear/read the perspective of a USC fan. Perspective is reality; in football and perhaps most everything else. I’m a diehard ND fan, so my perspective (and view of reality) is quite different than what you have stated.

      As mentioned above/earlier, if you read Kelly’s comments during last week in total context, I didn’t sense arrogance or taking USC for granted….anything but. He asserted that USC is the most important rivalry for ND; and that he and his staff didn’t need to say a word about the tradition, rivalry, etc. to any player. Each player was completely aware of the history. What I heard in just about every Kelly comment last week is that he and his staff emphasize the importance of keeping the focus on execution – what you can logically control – and NOT getting too high (emotional) for any given game. Play each game one at a time, don’t look past anyone.

      From this ND’s fan perspective, Kiffin’s comment about the simplicity of ND’s offense and defense could be very easily perceived as arrogant. Keith wrote about this in one of his columns – explaining that Kiffin had embraced “coach speak” in most interviews; despite attempts by interviewers to get some bulletin board material. Apparently Kiffin quickly added that while the Irish offense and defense were quite simple, the ND staff coached the players well; and that it would be no cakewalk for USC – or words to that effect. Both (all) coaches obviously work hard at being savvy in all media interviews – a big part of big time coaching.

      Of course Kiffin can comfortably stand behind his “simple” statement given Saturday’s result. As Churchill (and later Manti) have stated, the victors get to write history.

      As far as coverage of Woods, I perceived that ND placed less emphasis on Woods in direct relationship to USC’s success at establishing dominance at the line of scrimmage and establishing the run. It was a matter of necessity and not disrespect. Keith addressed it quite well above. It doesn’t get much more simple than that – the game is won or lost at the line of scrimmage. In golf, put for dough, drive for show. Every other sport has it’s truism.

      This year USC outplayed ND, pure and simple. It started with line play – hats off to the men from Troy. There are other factors (see below), but this was the “game changer”. See ya next year.

      I will toss something out that I truly expect you, other USC fans, plus any ND detractors to perceive as sour grapes and whining (and yes, I’d like some cheese with my whine). The officiating by the Pac 12 was a disgrace. Right from the first pass play to Floyd, the Pac 12 officials flat out choose to ignore any pass interference by USC – especially against Floyd. Even (former defensive back with admitted DB perspective or bias) announcer Maylock stated that the interference was so obvoius that he couldn’t overlook it – fail to comment – as much as he is the defender of all things defensive backs in most every play.

      It’s not too difficult to cover an All American receiver if the officials are willing to let the defenders do as they will. Maybe the ND defenders didn’t get as much latitude in covering Woods as did the USC defenders in covering Floyd. Let the tape reviewers have the final word.

      The officiating will significant impact the flow and result of the game. If you don’t accept that, stop reading – we’re too far apart in perception to intelligently communicate. Let the officials take (or allow USC to illegally take) ND’s top receiver out of the game (even without double coverage), and it’s a whole different ballgame.

      It didn’t stop with illegal coverage of Floyd. I saw (granted my perception) repeated holding penalties by USC that went uncalled. ND made some really stupid penalties (Calabrese taunting personal right up there) at some really bad times; but even the announcers commented that the calls were very close – even the Calabrese call – and I never saw a close one go in ND’s favor, especially at a critical point of time in the game.

      Why are officials affiliated with any conference? Pac 12, Big 10, SEC, ACC, etc. These are NCAA games and everything should be done to have the officiating as unbiased as humanly possible. Make them all NCAA officials without any conference paying them. I’ll never accept that who pays you doesn’t impact your perspective. Not in sports, not in business, not in any aspect of life that I have observed. ND doesn’t own the monopoly at getting bad calls (reference Navy’s game vs East Carolina this week and the no TD call in the last 38 seconds of the game, resulting in Navy’s loss). There are reports of this every week, in every conference. I just perceive that as an Independent ND gets far more than it’s fair share of biased officiating against them/us.

      If anything, the officiating disparity will likely dictate the necessity of ND joining a conference. Either that or publish the names and addresses of the officials…………(just kidding, seriously, this isn’t European soccer).

      On a different post, let’s talk about making student athletes actually attend classes – instead of preparing for upcoming games via film, weight room, whatever. Boy would I like to see a semi professional football league set up for athletes that really don’t care about getting a college education; and have the option to start getting paid for their intended future career……….

  7. jerseyshorendfan1 - Oct 23, 2011 at 5:00 PM

    I ran into a friend after the USF game who lamented how quickly the season was over. Well, last night our season truly did end for all intents and purposes. It really doesn’t matter if we beat Navy now, or anybody else for that matter. We will not be ranked, we may only have the chance to play in an inferior bowl game and we probably lost out on a few nice recruits. we had the chance to be great but we were totally outplayed by a team that wanted it more. (Notice I said we there, BK, not they). Mediocrity sucks.

    • txbeej - Oct 23, 2011 at 6:57 PM

      Eh, the part of the season where you could dream about Notre Dame being a BCS team is over, but it’s still important to the fans, players, and recruits to finish this up as strongly as possible.

      Anyway I hope the players aren’t feeling sorry for themselves, because even at 2-5 I bet the Navy guys come out ready to fight, accustomed as they’ve become lately to kicking Notre Dame’s butt.

    • runners00 - Oct 23, 2011 at 8:40 PM

      Your comments, of course, are exactly why the SC kids say that Notre Dame quits. It’s an attitude that has existed here since the Holtz era. Despite all the bowl losses and the BCS blowouts, you and your brethren are still obsessed with the notion that IF we don’t win a title, the season is a complete loss. Hogwash.

      I want to smoke Navy. I want to learn from the SC game and beat up on Stanford, too. I want a guy to get hit — just once — behind the line of scrimmage and make it five yards. SC did that all night yesterday. We need to do that in every game, on every down.

      Fans like you don’t do the program or the recruits or the university any good for giving up on a season that still has at least five games left.

      • c4evr - Oct 23, 2011 at 9:15 PM

        Simple reason it hasn’t existed since the Holtz era is because each man to lead ND since has failed to motivate and inspire young men. Fans like you continue to harbor unreasonable aspirations in spite of the mounting evidence to the contrary.

      • jerseyshorendfan1 - Oct 24, 2011 at 6:23 AM

        Allow me to clarify a little bit. All games matter and should be played to the utmost of our abilities. I would also like to see us smoke Navy and beat up on Stanford. The point I was making was that the goal of the season, to reach a BCS game, is now unattainable. Kelly acknowledged this prior to the game, saying we’d need to win out and that beating SC wouldn’t matter much if we go out and lose to Navy in the next game. We needed to win them all and that is a lot of pressure to put on a team. I think you will actually see the team play a little looser now and probably better, now that the pressure is off. And finally, please spare me the “fans like you” commentary after this post…….you’re mad at the team, not at me and I forgive you.

      • runners00 - Oct 24, 2011 at 4:55 PM

        No, actually, I dislike your suggestion that it’s acceptable to quit on a season because we can’t make a BCS bowl game. The team frustrates me, too (as does the preparation for the game). I mean, we couldn’t tackle their backs. They have a 5-foot-7-inch back who couldn’t be stopped behind the line no matter how many of our 6-foot-3-inch linemen had him in the backfield. It’s awful.

        But the notion that we should throw in the towel because we lost to Southern Cal (and Michigan and South Florida) is crazy. We have five winnable games to go. And I want to win all of them. Every ND fan should want to win all of them. We should play the best players to win all five remaining games. If that means that Crist plays or it means Rees plays or it means Hendrix or Golson play, I don’t care. But, we have to play to win.

    • danno27 - Oct 24, 2011 at 6:17 PM

      Art, I agree with you on this point at least: mediocrity sucks big time. Hopefully being a Notre Dame fan gets you less time in purgatory, because it feels like purgatory after losses like this one.

  8. tedlinko - Oct 23, 2011 at 5:13 PM

    No way around it. This one hurts. Michigan hurt because we dominated the game for 3 quarters and then imploded — letting it get away. But this one — against a bitter rival — and our guys got pushed around on both sides of the ball.

    This hurts so bad both because it’s USC AND because it was a wake-up that this team isnt’ there yet.

    That said, the people who all of a sudden are saying that Kelly is overmatched and ND doesn’t have enough talent and we’re headed for decades of mediocrity, etc, etc, need a little perspective.

    In Lou Holtz’ second season, the Irish started out 3-0, and just DOMINATED MI, MSU and Purdue. Expectations built until a week 4 loss at Pitt. But then the Irish reeled off 5 straight wins and rolled into Happy Valley to face Penn State an impressive 8-1. After narrowly losing a heartbreaking 21-20 , they headed to Miami with ideas of proving they were back. But a 24-0 beatdown later (and it wasn’t that close) it seemed clear that they weren’t there yet. They followed that up by getting kicked around the Cotton Bowl 35-10 in Tim Brown’s last game.

    At that point it didn’t feel like the Irish were quite back yet — but I don’t have to tell you what happened next. Just 23 straight wins including the 1988 National Championship and a 12-1 season the following year.

    I’m not saying that BK is Lou Holtz. But I am saying that some of you people are hitting the panic button a little hard here. To me, this team looks a lot more like the 1987 squad than Charlie Weis’ 2006 squad, which also looked good til a BCS beatdown — then went 3–9 the next year.

    • ndgiants11 - Oct 23, 2011 at 5:36 PM

      Great points. This really hurts now, but Kelly asked for patience, and as much as I don’t want to be patient, he asked, and he shall receive.

      • tedlinko - Oct 23, 2011 at 9:52 PM

        – Ara won his first Nat’ Championship in his THIRD season.
        – Devine won his in his THIRD season.
        – Holtz won his in his THIRD season.

        I’m not saying BK will win it next year. I am saying that having a little patience and perspective is justified (not that I want to be patient any more than you do.)

  9. mondzy805 - Oct 23, 2011 at 8:15 PM

    Fight On, Trojans.

  10. jpkphila - Oct 23, 2011 at 8:16 PM

    The real bad news about this and other recent losses is that once again ND has made a poor coaching decision. I thought Brian Kelly was the guy, but the performance of the team under his leadership the past two years, coupled with his obviously poor leadership both on the field and in the press room, tell me that the sooner he goes, the better off ND will be in the long-term. A few things I reluctantly see with BK that spell trouble are:

    1) Poor leadership skills both on and off the field.

    A true leader, whether in sports, the military or otherwise, would never demean his team the way BK does both on and off the field. I was shocked hearing him blame the players for the SC loss. And did you see the way he cut down Calabrese on the sidelines after Calabrese made a great tackle and was wrongly flagged for excessive celebration. Calabrese was obviously and rightfully furious with the coach for dressing him down when the coach should have maybe had a quiet word with him about not giving over-zealous officials a chance to throw the flag and then sent him back out with a boost in morale instead of undercutting him.

    2) ‘Odd’ play-calling

    First of all, I’m so tired of seeing BK play games with the quarterbacks – you’ve got a smooth drive and a rythmn developing with the quarterback on the field and he breaks it up by switching quarterbacks mid-drive. He basically screwed up what looked like it would have been a shore touch down capping off the drive with Crist at quarterback, sending in another quarterback to execute what was clearly a broken play. Then he sends Crist back in to, as he told a reporter, fake a hand-off to a running back and throw a drop pass in the end zone. You’ve got too very good running backs in Wood and Gray and you need to play stupid games like that from the 1-2 yard line. ‘Stupid’ is the only word that fits for those kind of calls, which I see Kelly doing all the time.

    I blame Brian Kelly for Crist’s fumble for jerking quarterbacks around like he did – you got to have a rythmn going between the quarterback and the center to avoid those kinds of problems – I put that one 100% on Brian Kelly – too bad for Dayne Crist as he was getting in the groove before BK screwed things up.

    It’s too bad, but ND has made another bad choice in a head coach. BK will do a better job than the last 3 or 4 losers since they canned Lou Holtz (big mistake), but he’s not going to be the next great ND coach. My guess is he won’t be around much beyond his 5-year contract if someone really tops and interested in ND becomes available.


    • 1historian - Oct 23, 2011 at 9:40 PM

      the stupid music every spare second didn’t help, the pretty, frilly new helmets didn’t help.

      They beat up on Purdue and Air Force, both of which are expected.

      Then they show up flatter than a turd against Southern by-God CALIFORNIA and get beat up. Football games are won and lost up front and ND was beaten on both scores. They have the talent but they don’t have the toughness, which is what wins football games. Is it Kelly’s fault that they caved against SC? I don’t think so. It’s the players’ fault, and if they don’t realize it there’s nothing that anyone can do. There is no leadership out there. It’s wonderful and inspiring to read how God told Manti to go to Notre Dame, but that sure doesn’t win any games.

    • dochrd - Oct 24, 2011 at 1:52 AM

      I agree with your comments about Kelly’s management of quarterbacks. What was he thinking? Crist gets yanked two quarters nto the season. Then last night, with no notice, comes in for Rees and drives ND down to the three yard line. He’s got MOMENTUM. He’s IN A GROOVE. What happens? BK yanks him for one play, then sends him back in. The momentum is destroyed, the nerves are rattled, the ball is fumbled.

  11. rarmitt - Oct 23, 2011 at 8:47 PM

    typical ‘Phila’ fan over-reaction to a win or loss. You’re a moron or just really ignorant to suggest Kelly is the wrong guy after 1 season of recruiting.

    • c4evr - Oct 23, 2011 at 9:26 PM

      No, Phila is actually on to something… But he left out the most important strike against Kelly – that his players tend to lay down in critical moments. And do you also intend to call me a moron when I remind you that Holtz took a team of Gerry Faust recruits to a Natl Championship IN HIS 2ND SEASON. Holtz took less and produced more. Kelly, with three years of top 10 recruits, is busy throwing his guys under the bus and hurling expletives. Andyet you ‘enlightened’ fans continue to claim he’s the right guy for the job.

      • tedlinko - Oct 23, 2011 at 9:41 PM

        Well I’m not going to call you a moron However, if you are going to call people out, you should probably at least try and get your facts straight. Holtz won the National Title in his THIRD season, not second. He wen’t 5-6 in 1986, 8-4 in 1987 (and got blown out to end the season in Miami and again vs. A&M in the Cotton Bowl) before going 12-0 in 1988.

        Holtz did have some Gerry Faust recruits but two solid classes of his own (plus the transitional class) before he won it

      • rarmitt - Oct 24, 2011 at 9:03 AM

        i digress with the comment and should heed my own advice re: blog ‘call outs’. Nevertheless, im tired of the talk of BCS games when the Irish beat service acadamies and the calls for the coaches head when they lose to very competitive teams. Let’s be clear, Holtz winning was in a completely different era of college football and is an apples to orianges comparison. Kelly was spot on calling out his team – look at the 1:1 matchups accross the defensivve line on SC run plays – they got their asses handed to them plain and simple. That has nothing to do with defensive schemes .

    • jpkphila - Oct 24, 2011 at 6:12 PM

      Maybe you haven’t noticed how teams turn around on a dime when they get a good coach. Holtz in ’86 is one example; Urban Meyer at Florida another; Saban at Alabama; Carroll at USC; maybe now Kiffin at USC; Navy etc. – it’s all about coaching at that level as well as in the Pros. ND gets and has always gotten top talent but they have done nothing at all with it for almost 20 years now – pathetic, and ‘yes’ – it does come down to ‘the coach’!

      p.s. While everybody is talking about ND playing so poorly, lets remember that SC only scored 3 ‘honest’ points in the 2nd half. If Kelly hadn’t screwed up Dayne Crist’s rythmn with that ‘stupid’ idea of revolving QB’s, ND would have won that game hands down. I put this one on Kelly and I’ll bet money that Lane Kiffin was laughing up his sleeve at Kelly’s decision to switch QBs inside the 5 yard line. That was a really dumb move that cost them the game, and if Kelly were the man some think he is, he would have taken the heat for that loss instead of blaming his players – whom I think are some pretty great football players!

  12. kgirish - Oct 23, 2011 at 9:44 PM

    A few thoughts:
    Special Teams: Irish win
    Offensive Line: Trojans win
    Defensive Line: Trojans win
    Secondary: Trojans win
    Turnovers:………here we go again (3 of ’em): Trojans win.
    Man…I’m tired of losing to the big dogs and hearing about BCS bowl games.
    My Irish Kool Aid tastes terrible right now, but I believe! ]
    Go Irish!
    Hope is the last thing to die

    • bostonjan - Oct 24, 2011 at 10:22 PM

      If you think the Kool-Aid tastes terrible, try the Magnesium Citrate (30 oz) I had to drink Sunday night in preparation for a colonoscopy on Monday. Terrible going down, and unmentionably terrible coming out – as you youngsters will learn as you reach the tender age of requiring a colonoscopy about every 5 to 7 years……

      Perhaps appropriate penance for the evel thoughts/wishes I had for all things USC……

      In hindsight (no pun intended), the Sunday night experience was probably the best remedy for getting this game out of my system. I’m back to the Irish Kool Aid tonight and looking forward to the Navy game.

      Be optimistic, keep the faith, things are getting better.

      Any news on the reactions by the attending recruits, anyone?

  13. 1historian - Oct 23, 2011 at 9:44 PM

    Remember BK’s pet phrase – Right Kind of Guy – RKG? The RKG we need is the guy who steps up and takes charge. I remember Chris Zorich back in the late 80s. It was said that his teammates were afraid of him and that was one of the reasons they played so hard.

  14. 1historian - Oct 23, 2011 at 9:48 PM

    Holtz won it all in his 3rd season, not his 2nd.

    If Kelly is going to turn this thing around there will be one game that they win that they are not supposed to.

    Stanford would be nice

  15. ndgoldandblue - Oct 23, 2011 at 10:58 PM

    I actually liked the Kelly hire at the time because of his record and ability to win with lesser talent at his disposal. I guess I’m not ready to bail on the guy. Even now, I still think that not too many coaches could have done more at this point (and that includes recruiting). Really, only three coaches come to mind that I would rather have coaching Notre Dame: 1) Saban, 2) Meyer 3) Chip Kelly. And none of those three guys would leave their respective positions (even Meyer’s position of happy retiree) for Notre Dame. I know that a lot of people think that Saban is a jerk, but the guy is one heck of a coach. Anyway, I digress. But, I’m curious, if you guys could have anyone to coach the Irish (has to be the present, so no Rockne votes), who would it be? Would our current coach get your vote? Of all the realistic possibilities (because the aformentioned three men wouldn’t coach the Irish), who would be better?

    • 9irish - Oct 24, 2011 at 12:17 AM

      I think it’s way to early to throw the guy under the bus, to be honest. He’s definitely blunt, I’ll say that…maybe too publicly but…what the hell. One of those coaches is a realistic possiblity in the future, but I hope we don’t need that. I think they way over hyped this game, fired up USC…should’ve played the damn thing at 3:30 like usual, without the dog and pony show. Also, fumbling on the one (or whatever) is bad, having them pick it up and run it 90 yards in the other direction twice is kind of peculiar, if you ask me.

      Go Irish

    • kgirish - Oct 24, 2011 at 8:01 PM

      Joe Paterno! just kiddin’ I would love a coach like him that will be around for 50+ yrs….instead of new coach every 3-5yrs…..that’s not how you build a program. I think Coach Kelly is the right guy, but if you can’t teach the fundumentals of not turning over the ball NOBODY will turn this program around. Irish will dominate this weekend! They might give up a lot of yards, but should look like the Air Force game.

  16. ndfootballfan4life - Oct 23, 2011 at 10:59 PM

    It’s hard to commit to the run game when you suddenly find yourself down 17 and USC’s offense is ripping off 7-8 minute drives on our defense. I don’t remember a drive where our defense stopped USC on their side of the 50.

    • ndirishguy - Oct 25, 2011 at 2:52 AM

      No it’s not…Lou Holtz did it all the time. Perhaps one of the reasons we were down 17-0 is this glaring halftime statistic…..6 rushes, 17 yards. I don’t care what kind of system you run, you aren’t going to win games averaging 3 carries a quarter!!!

  17. ndfootballfan4life - Oct 23, 2011 at 11:06 PM

    There are so many things that I would like to comment on after driving 4 hours to watch the Irish lay an egg, but I will keep it short. ND is an average team. They are not a good team who has had some bad luck. Good teams do not continually make the mistakes that ND does. They are a mediocre 4-3 team. The only thing that gives me hope is that Kelly is playing with starters who are mostly Weis recruits. If ND is playing like this in 2-3 years, then I’ll worry.

  18. acerman - Oct 24, 2011 at 2:18 AM

    the sixth thing we should learn is that there are 700 million people in china who dont care which team won or lost…….. go irish

  19. alsatiannd - Oct 24, 2011 at 9:34 AM

    100 comments and nothing about the refs? Not anymore. I’m going cranky old-school on stripes. The refs should have kissed us after the game because they made rough unpleasant love to us for most of it. Calabrese gets flagged for hurting someone’s fee-fees, yet a defensless Rees gets 280 pounds of take-that on his knees. Thanks for avoiding the hit. Floyd got straightjacketed but no call. A lateral that replays showed did not go backwards (sure, it’s a stretch, but makes me feel better, na-na-a-boo-boo.) Three game changers, and one call that really wouldn’t have mattered; the damage had already been done to Rees.

    Honestly though, I expected more from our program on Saturday, top to bottom: admin, coaches, and yes, even the players. Cliched and contrived atmosphere, a coach’s game plan that had no schwerpunkt (a concept out of blitzkrieg meaning “focal point”), and no player that rose above it to make it all not matter.

    It wasn’t a Weis-level of suck, but it hurt just as much because we’re so close. Which recruit saw that game and is going to know that he’s the one to put us over the top?

    • jpkphila - Oct 24, 2011 at 6:46 PM

      It’s not ‘recruits’ that are going to put you over the top – it’s ‘the coach’ that’s going to put you over the top.

      Why are people talking about ND recruiting – how about Michael Floyd, Kyle Rudolph, Jimmy Clausen, Manti Teo, Tommy Rees and countless other top athletes who came to ND only to be let down by inferior coaching.

      Do you really think that Urban Meyer or Jim Harbaugh or other proven coaches would not have elevated ND’s game? I’m not trashing Brian Kelly – but I’ll tell you something, I was a big supporter of Brian Kelly until I saw how he humiliated his players, himself and the ND program by his sideline performance in the South Florida game. That showed unmistakably that Brian Kelly lacks the personal qualities to be a great ND coach.

      You need to be tough as nails with your players, but you need to be able to do it without losing their respect – BK fails that test in my mind. If it’s available online somewhere, look at how Calabrese basically turned his back on Kelly and walked away with a furious look on his face for being dressed down for doing his job. I’m not sure that Brian Kelly has this team’s respect – and that’s fatal for a leader in any position! They’ll never be a Gerry Faust / Bob Davies / Tyrone Willingham team under Brian Kelly, but they’ll never be a great ND team like they were (for a while) under Holtz, Parseghian, Leahy – the great ND coaches – BK doesn’t cut it in that league!

  20. ndirish10 - Oct 24, 2011 at 6:55 PM

    Something nudged me when our beloved Irish lost to South Florida. Then something pinched me when ND lost to Michigan. Something slapped me right across the face when our Irish lost this weekend to sc. At first I thought it was the wife as I always stay glued to the TV whenever the Irish are on, and could care less what happens in my surroundings. When I asked her she denied any action on her part. This is when I realized reality had hit me, let me tell you, it felt like a punch to the gut. I have to learn that it will take time and patience is key.

    • jpkphila - Oct 24, 2011 at 7:12 PM

      p.s. A final comment and then I’m outta here – for the sake of Brian Kelly, his family, the University of ND and most especially for us subway alumni, I hope I’m dead wrong about Brian Kelly. I like the comment that I saw from Harrison Smith (maybe my favorite ND player) today regarding the team giving up on the season – to paraphrase, he said bluntly that anyone that doesn’t go out and play ‘balls out’ (he didn’t use that expression) every remaining game of the season shouldn’t be on the team to begin with! No matter what happens with the remainder of the season, I’ll always have a lot of respect for this year’s players – a group that I think is an outstanding group of athletes and a credit to ND!

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