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The good, the bad, the ugly: Notre Dame vs. Boston College

Nov 20, 2011, 9:48 PM EDT

Tommy Rees BC

For all the bellyaching that’s followed the Irish’s imperfect 16-14 victory over Boston College, a chaotic Saturday in the college football world should’ve given people plenty of reminders that no victory should be assumed and simply surviving is sometimes accomplishment enough.

That was No. 8 Virginia Tech surviving a fourth quarter rally by mediocre North Carolina to get the win on Thursday night, while No. 20 Southern Mississippi got beat by a 3-7 UAB team. Friday night brought another surprise as Iowa State — yes, Iowa State — took down mighty Oklahoma State, the No. 2 team in the country with the inside track to the BCS Championship game, in stunning fashion in double overtime.

In case that wasn’t enough for you, three other top ten teams tumbled on Saturday, with Oklahoma losing a shocker to Baylor 45-38, and Clemson getting drilled by 24-points to North Carolina State, a team that just a week ago lost to Frank Spaziani‘s Boston College club. And of course, who could have missed USC’s upset of Oregon in Eugene, where the Trojans withstood the Duck’s furious rally from down 24 points late in the third quarter to miss a 37-yard field goal attempt to force overtime as time expired. For those interested in burying the Irish for not doing the same to the visiting Eagles, the transitive property will put you back in your britches pretty quickly.

Still, there’s no doubt the Irish missed an opportunity to jump up the polls. But rest easy, grumbling Irish fans. The Irish will have all the chances in the world to make a statement this Saturday, when they’ll get their shot at Andrew Luck and the No. 4 Stanford Cardinal (who got all they could handle from the 6-5 Cal Bears last night, holding on for a not-so-impressive 31-28 victory.)

As Thanksgiving approaches and the season’s final regular season game awaits, let’s take a look at the good, bad, and ugly from the Irish’s 16-14 Senior Day win against Boston College.

THE GOOD

* The opening drive. Say what you want about the offensive performance the rest of the afternoon, but the game’s opening drive was a beauty. The Irish mixed the run and pass, with Jonas Gray carrying the load on the ground. The Eagles helped the cause with a personal foul penalty, but the Irish had success on first down, converted both third downs, including a 3rd and 1 for a 26-yard touchdown run by Gray.

* Tyler Eifert‘s one-handed catch. Just a play after Michael Floyd couldn’t come down with a one-hander that would’ve walked him into the end zone most likely untouched, Eifert made a ridiculous grab on a flag route thrown over his shoulder. The reception covered 37 yards and put the Irish in David Ruffer’s field goal range.

* David Ruffer was clutch. The fifth-year former walk-on finished his career at home in style, making three clutch field goals when the Irish needed them, and getting back on track as the season comes to an end.

* Robby Toma. His diving catch was of the one-handed circus variety, and dug the Irish out of a deep hole. He and Rees also connected for a big-time throw and catch on a 27-yard strike into a tight hole in the BC zone that dug the Irish out of their own end as well. (He also caught the cherry hop on BC’s onside kick attempt, all but icing the game.)

Toma’s play in the slot is giving Kelly a chance to explore the idea of Theo Riddick at tailback at Stanford, helping out a depth chart now in serious trouble with George Atkinson and Cam McDaniel the only options behind Cierre Wood.

“I think we’ll look at all of those possibilities,” Kelly said. “We’re into a one-game season, so to speak, when it comes to Stanford. We’ll sit down as a staff and first of all see what Theo is able to do physically and decide whether he can go into a running back position and help us out. We haven’t made that decision but we’ll certainly consider it.”

* Big sticks. Manti Te’o added another huge hit to his highlight reel, drilling a running back out of the backfield and planting him on his back in the first quarter. Jamoris Slaughter also came off the edge twice to deliver a few bone-crunching hits. First, Slaughter broke free on a blitz to stuff a third-and-one in the backfield. His next big hit on quarterback Chase Rettig didn’t count, with the refs whistling a false-start dead but the crowd noise covered the whistle. (Score one for pump-up music.) Even though Slaughter lost a strip-sack, a free shot like that and five free yards is a fair trade every time.

* Louis Nix. The sophomore played a very nice football game, making a lot of noise in the offensive backfield and chipping in five tackles from his nose guard spot. Nix is going to need to be a force against Stanford if the Irish want to contain the Cardinal offense.

* Troy Niklas. You want versatility? The freshman made a tackle on a kickoff, played linebacker, then filled in for Stephon Tuitt as the inside pass rusher down the stretch, laying out Rettig on a 4th down throw that fell incomplete.What a weapon Niklas will be in the years ahead.

* Here come the freshman. At the very least, the Irish look like they’ve found three potential impact defenders in this recruiting class with Aaron Lynch, Stephon Tuitt and Niklas, with guys like Chase Hounshell and Ishaq Williams showing promise as well.

* Good Ben Turk. Give the kid credit — he kicked the Irish out of trouble more than a few times, booming both traditional and rugby punts for an average of 44 yards.

BAD

*Bad Ben Turk. Three touchbacks is just too many, and you can’t land a pooch punt in the end zone.

* Play-action pass defense. If you’ve got a pit in your stomach about this coming Saturday, it should be because of the Irish’s struggles defending the play-action pass. It’d be disingenuous to say that Chase Rettig had a successful day against the Irish, but when he did make throws, he did it with the linebackers heading downhill in pursuit.

The Irish linebackers — Manti Te’o included — need to do a better job in pass coverage, or Luck and the Cardinal will have a big day throwing at the holes in the Irish’s zone coverage.

* Come on, Tommy Rees. You can’t throw that screen pass interception. Credit Max Holloway for a very nice read and play, but the sophomore quarterback blindly threw a middle screen, always a recipe for disaster. While we’re picking out Rees’ shortcomings, here’s hoping Tommy has gotten in deep ball inaccuracy out of his system. If he’s got Michael Floyd streaking open down the sideline against Stanford, he’s got to hit him.

Rees got away with another interception when he rolled right and threw to a heavily covered Tyler Eifert around the goal line. It’s probably time to put the half-field reads away for the year in the red zone, as Rees has made some poor decisions on the move.

* The special out (or jerk pattern). Bobby Swigert just abused the Irish from the slot, beating linebackers, corners and safeties on pretty much the exact same pattern. When you’re playing an offense as remedial as the Eagles, you’ve got to do a better job taking away the things you’d expect them to run, especially with a receiver like Swigert in the slot.

* The punt return game. I give up. I just don’t get it. I can tell you for certain that Mike Elston is an excellent special teams coach. But I can also tell you that the punt return unit is an absolutely joke. Right now this unit is in plain old “don’t screw up” mode, but would it be too much to ask the Irish to block one or two of the gunners running down the field? Would it be too much to ask John Goodman to show just a shred of competency in determining whether or not to call a fair catch? Against Boston College, the return game killed the Irish, an equal collaborator with Eagles punter Ryan Quigley on putting the Irish in terrible starting field position.

This spring should be dedicated to fixing the return game. Sure, spread punts, rugby kicks, and all sorts of other rule tweaks have punt returns down around college football. But at this point, it’s just getting ridiculous.

* Kyle Brindza really struggled on kickoffs. The moment got too big for the freshman who got a sudden case of the snap hooks in the second half. After a solid season of kickoffs, Brindza has lost consistency in the second half of the year, and he inexplicably sent two kickoffs out of bounds — at a crucial point of the game — and had a third that would’ve gone out that would’ve given the Eagles three starts from the 40-yard line.

* The refs got hoodwinked by a fake injury when Eagles running back Rolandan Finch, saved his team a timeout with a well-timed case of a mysterious ailment.

* Gotta look for the ball Zeke Motta. Just because you’re beat in a one-on-one situation doesn’t mean you need to panic when chasing  Swigert near the goalline. The pass interference call set up the Eagles for their late touchdown.

UGLY

* The flu bug absolutely decimated the Irish this week, and it’s still lurking around. Brian Kelly and his staff are taking no chances.

“Our training staff is in the process of cleaning the meeting rooms, the weight room, talking to players about their roommates,” Kelly said. “We’re actually on full alert because we’ve had so many guys affected by it at this point.”

It’s the wrong time of year for the Irish to go into Palo Alto less than full strength, especially with the injuries that are limiting the roster right now.

* It’s just unfair to see Jonas Gray’s career end the way that it did. While Kelly tried to keep his hopes up last night, it’s clear the MRI results are just a formality that’ll tell the coaching staff just how badly Gray’s knee is hurt.

“We don’t have the MRI results, but it’s pretty apparent that he has a significant knee injury,” Kelly said. “The MRI would probably confirm what we know as to be, as I mentioned, a significant knee injury.

The horrible injury came on a swing pass to Gray near the Irish sideline. Rees hit Jonas in stride, but he was met by freshman Manny Asprilla, who put his helmet just below Gray’s knee.

There was no stoppage in play for the hit and Gray actually picked himself off the turf and walked off under his own power, working his way quickly to the bench before the extent of the injury became known. It’s a sad ending to a triumphant season. The knee injury won’t erase all the good that Jonas put on tape this year, but it’s certainly a setback for a senior that turned around his career this season.

  1. somebadhatharry - Nov 20, 2011 at 10:25 PM

    Good article Keith. I don’t think I can add anything, you pretty much covered it all. Nice job pointing out the fake injury. Everyone in the stadium but the refs knew what was going on. I love how the kid just jumped up and ran off the field after flopping in the huddle.

    • 808raiderinparadise - Nov 21, 2011 at 6:59 PM

      Was the pitt and BC games the same or what!? LoL

  2. 9irish - Nov 20, 2011 at 11:01 PM

    Biggest thing we are all in agreement with, I think, is the special teams. It is killing us. It is just bad.

    • jomilly - Nov 20, 2011 at 11:18 PM

      its sad how our punt return doesnt attempt anything but a fair catch even when there is room to run, looks like a bunch of scared girls back there. Pull there scholarships, send em to the girls volleyball team.

      • dmac4real - Nov 21, 2011 at 12:26 AM

        Sou you would like to pull scholarships from Manti Te’o, aaron lynch, ethan johnson, louis nix, Tuitt, Gary Gray, Robert Blanton, Dan fox, Carlo Calebrese, Troy Niklas? If you havent notices. Our defense does not leave the field on 4th down, it just gets down into punt formation.

      • jomilly - Nov 21, 2011 at 2:04 PM

        dmac, yet again really dumb comment, I guess goodman is on defense too. Last I checked he is the fair catch king. Or do you still want to be an idiot and bring up the entire D. Nice try thanks for being dumb.

      • notredamegrad - Nov 21, 2011 at 2:15 PM

        jomilly, dmac4real is absolutely right. The whole defense stays on the field for punts except for one guy, and Goodman drops deep to field the punt. Goodman CAN’T return punts, not because he “looks like a bunch of scared girls back there” (seriously?), but because ND’s defenders don’t block any of the punting team’s gunners – he HAS to fair catch the punt, or wave it off.

      • dmac4real - Nov 21, 2011 at 4:00 PM

        Thats because the D has become the punt return team. But your just the kind of dumbass that doesent ever realize things like this. All you do is bitch and moan about the team, not even looking at the actual game im guessing. Btw read NDgrad’s comment. Your wrong bro. Thanks for trying.

  3. somebadhatharry - Nov 20, 2011 at 11:27 PM

    Problem number one with the punt return team as Keith said is that Kelly is so paranoid that the opposing team is going to run a fake punt. Kelly keeps the defense out on the field a majority of the time, so they are only concerned with defending a possible fake instead of attempting to set up any type of a return. Something needs to be done here.

    • kmendoza88 - Nov 21, 2011 at 1:44 PM

      We also have at least 2 guys on every return instructed NOT to go for a punt block – why not just pull them back to the line to cover? Or better yet – actually pressure the punter!

  4. jimbasil - Nov 21, 2011 at 12:51 AM

    Fighting a flu bug can’t be understated, and if many of the Irish team was under the weather because of it, then there is a solid reason for ND looking out of sorts all night long, bar the opening drive. That said, it doesn’t explain the poor performances in sooooo much of their play all season long. vs BC the QB made lousy throws at times when he could have and should have run for a first down. And the fusty play calling in general just drags on the Offensive talent at ND. Floyd had the most impressive play all night even with the incredible catches by Toma and Eiffert, with his change of direction run behind the line (no one saw that one coming including ND fans) that came as a result of a bad play call. It’s difficult knowing I’m to slurring a win, but there has got to be a point where everyone including the coaches get it all togehter for a full sixty. There is far too much talent on this Irish squad to keep squandering opportunities for getting better as a team – not just the players but the coaching staff included.

    That said, Toma is a bright spot (I’ve been a Toma believer from day 1) and if it weren’t for Jonas, it’s hard to imagine ND would have this many wins. I feel absolutely lousy for this kid. As a fan, I thank him for his grit in turning his career at ND around.

    • notredamegrad - Nov 21, 2011 at 11:02 AM

      It is really unfortunate that so many have been hit with the flu, but interestingly, all the players named to have had it are on defense (Tuitt, Blanton, Smith), and our defense played great against BC – it was our offense that lagged (apart from the opening drive). Kelly said another player came down with it since Saturday; here’s hoping the rest get by without getting sick.

      I think it’s unfair to describe this team as exhibiting “poor performances in sooooo much of their play all season long.” This team is 8-3 with only two genuinely close wins (maybe 3, if WF made you nervous, but our D played lights out in the 2nd half). They absolutely blew up Purdue, Air Force, Navy, Maryland, and dominated MSU (currently ranked 11th in the AP poll), in a fashion not seen at ND for years (when was the last time ND put up over 45 points against 3 separate opponents in a season?). They outplayed UM (currently ranked 17th in the AP poll), until ND’s defense struggled in the last 10 minutes of the game. They got legitimately beat by USC (ranked 10th), but USC also beat top-ten Oregon and nearly knocked off top-ten Stanford in OT. Describing “soooo much of their play” as poor doesn’t acknowledge how excellent they’ve played for much more of the season. Yes, they need to be more consistent and there are clear ways in which they need to improve across the board, but with what they’ve committed themselves to at the QB position and with the injuries sustained late in the season, the Irish have done an excellent job this season, particularly in overcoming the early season turnover problem.

      The offense has the potential to be much more potent with all the weapons they have in Floyd, Eifert, Toma, Wood and Gray (though no longer), and a solid O-line, but the play calling has to work with what they have in Tommy Rees. He’s not going to run; he’s not going to be accurate outside the pocket; he’s not going to hit the deep ball often; he’s going to make some poor decisions throwing into coverage. He’ll hit most of the short to mid-range passes, though. This constrains the offense, but it’s the choice Kelly made after the USF game.

      I actually was a bit disappointed in Floyd’s play vs. BC, especially after the drops against MD. He’s so good at making tough catches, and he HAS to make them when Rees gets him the ball out in space so infrequently. I know he’s a team guy, but I wonder if he’s frustrated at all by the constraints placed on his play this year by the limits on our passing game.

    • irish4006 - Nov 21, 2011 at 6:58 PM

      Jonas does have eligibility left, right? I am not sure just one season of good performance can land him in the NFL with certainty. Coming back for a fifth year may be a good thing for his career (and of course, for ND).

  5. trbowman - Nov 21, 2011 at 4:00 AM

    BEAT STANFORD.

    • newyorknd - Nov 21, 2011 at 11:30 AM

      Who put a ‘thumbs down” on this one?

      • 9irish - Nov 21, 2011 at 12:35 PM

        Must’ve been Ty Willingham

  6. norcalirish - Nov 21, 2011 at 5:25 AM

    “Rees got away with another interception when he rolled right and threw to a heavily covered Tyler Eifert around the goal line. It’s probably time to put the half-field reads away for the year in the red zone, as Rees has made some poor decisions on the move.”

    TOTALLY agree. This was what I was getting at a few stories ago with my Rees Rollouts (R) comment.

  7. mattnef - Nov 21, 2011 at 8:24 AM

    I’m waiting for someone to ask Kelly to address the third down defense used by BC of rushing 2 and dropping 9 and what it did to Rees. He was helpless back there and despite a pocket that looked like it could last for a minute he would scramble out of the pocket into the path of a defender. I understand QBs are taught to have a clock in their head, but that clock has to be adjusted when you have two DL vs. five OL (that have given up very few sacks on the year). And just how slow is Rees? He can’t run forward for a couple yards instead of just throwing the ball away? I don’t know if Kelly and Rees were just unprepared for this defense and will come up with something this week or if this is a true achilles heel and Stanford is smiling ear to ear yesterday watching the tape.

    • 9irish - Nov 21, 2011 at 12:25 PM

      you know that was something I noticed a few times, too. He would scramble out of the pocket even when he could just stand there Tom Brady style in the pocket. Scratched my head a few times.

    • ihatemistate - Nov 21, 2011 at 4:08 PM

      mattnef-I agree completely about Rees running the ball once in awhile-Number 1, the opposing team gave him all kinds of running room because they know he’s not going to run, Number 2, give your teammates a break and run the frickin ball once in awhile, grow a set! Also, anxious to see George Atkinson at runningback this week, always thought he’d be great at it and wondered why they never had him running the ball in the first place.

  8. ndfanwabashman - Nov 21, 2011 at 8:36 AM

    The Good: The crowd. It was actually loud inside the stadium. This is usually the kind of game (late in the season against a bad opponent) that used to make ND stadium feel like a funeral home. Maybe it was the music, maybe the cold weather kept all the blue-hairs away. Either way, it was fun and a nice treat to not get yelled at for standing up.

    The Bad: Eifert had a good one handed catch, but I believe that was his only one. We sometimes talk about how the coaches need to find a way to get Michael Floyd the ball, but how about the best tight end in football.

    Rees making something out of nothing. My girlfriend commented how when the play breaks down ND is screwed. I agree in that I can’t remember one time this season when things didn’t go as planned and Rees was able to make a play. I know the coaches have him in full “don’t screw it up” mode, but that’s not going to work against a good defense as we saw Saturday.

    The Ugly: The referees. They were bad on both sides of the ball. Poor calls and they took way too long to make up their mind. I couldn’t tell if that’s the same crew they’ve been using all year, but that group can stay at home in the future.

    • NotreDan - Nov 21, 2011 at 10:40 AM

      That was an ACC crew. Not nearly as bad as when they have to use a Big 10 crew.

      • nudeman - Nov 21, 2011 at 10:52 AM

        Uh, NotreDan?

        You resigned from here (in disgrace) last week in a petulant fit.

        Why are you back?

      • domer77blowsgoats - Nov 21, 2011 at 11:48 AM

        Uh Nude-dusky?

        You resigned from here about 4 weeks ago in a toddler tantrum and got biotch smacked by Keith last week…

        Why are you back? Union on strike? Cost of heating oil drop?

        But hey, as always, thanks for the wonderful contributions to this board!

    • waydomer - Nov 21, 2011 at 3:56 PM

      The Good: The crowd. It was actually loud inside the stadium. This is usually the kind of game (late in the season against a bad opponent) that used to make ND stadium feel like a funeral home. Maybe it was the music, maybe the cold weather kept all the blue-hairs away. Either way, it was fun and a nice treat to not get yelled at for standing up.

      Agree for the most part, but the ushers were still at it trying to subdue the crowd. I was in section 21, and the ushers came down and warned and was ready to toss a guy, just for trying to get a wave going. Not a big fan of the wave and the guy was a bit of a dork, but still he wasn’t doing anything that required usher intervention.

  9. michigandomer1984 - Nov 21, 2011 at 9:32 AM

    Thank you again for your balanced coverage of the team. I feel you call it like you see it; both the positive and negative. Your perspective is so refreshing from the continual vicious attacks posted on NDNation. Within the last 24 hours for example, Hipster thought “(Kelly) showed some glimmer of brain function”, and BeijingIrish thought “There is nothing positive about Kelly” and was upset that NDNation isn’t “flaming with indignation and calling for him immediate sacking” because of the BC game. It seems like they should read the first 3 paragraphs of your article. I will also bet it is these same “ND supporters” who would have rather hired one of the coaches of the losing teams (Stoops most likely), and would be calling for his head now as well.

    • johnnd1985 - Nov 21, 2011 at 11:52 AM

      I am one that wanted someone else hired. In my case, I would have liked to see Pat Fitzgerald from Northwestern. He is probably at the most difficult place to get talent in the Big 10 but still puts out competitive teams. He’s in a better conference than the Big East, and the last guy who came from Northwestern did pretty well. But Kelly is now the coach, and while I think he’s made more mistakes than I can count, we can’t keep switching coaches. So far, he does not learn from his mistakes often, but we can only hope that he starts. If he doesn’t, we’re looking at perenial mediocrity.

      • runners00 - Nov 21, 2011 at 12:56 PM

        I agree that Fitz would have been a good grab.

        The problem that was revealed during our last coaching hire is this: not only do a lot of coaches in big-time conferences NOT want this job, taking the job is not necessarily in their own interest. I believe that Fitzgerald was rumored as a candidate but, nearly immediately, he denied any interest. Sure, Northwestern doesn’t bring in nearly as many faithful at the gate and on TV that the Irish do. But they don’t have to. They have Ohio State and Nebraska and Wisconsin and Michigan and the like to help pay their bills.

        The conferences have tried to level the financial playing field with Notre Dame by sharing revenue, improving outlets for revenue (BTN), and the like. And it’s working in the sense that it is going to be genuinely difficult for ND to get someone from the Big Ten or from the SEC in the future. Big 12, I think, is still available but the programs within that league are not all equal (i.e. doubtful a TX coach would show up in South Bend). Big 10 and SEC are different; their coaches are very well compensated and, in Northwestern’s case, not necessarily super-high-pressured positions.

        I think ND tried to get the best coach who was available. And I don’t think that Pat Fitzgerald was available. He’s got a good gig at Northwestern. The Big Ten is not a stepping stone. It’s a resting place. I could be wrong, but I believe that Fitzgerald will have to be fired for him to leave NW.

      • johnnd1985 - Nov 21, 2011 at 2:03 PM

        I think some Big Ten schools are stepping stones if a coach wants a chance to win the National Championship or a major conference title. At the very least, Northwestern, Indiana, Minnesota and Purdue would be.

      • johnnd1985 - Nov 21, 2011 at 2:06 PM

        Also, I think Kelly said he wasn’t interested either.

      • nudeman - Nov 21, 2011 at 3:05 PM

        john
        I don’t see what your objection is to Kelly. Perfect? No. Especially the handling of the QBs, in the opinion of many here including myself.

        But think back to the last Charlie year, 2009. They were TERRIBLE. And that was after he’d had them for 5 years. The program is headed in the right direction. They’re vastly better and more talented today than at the end of 2009.

      • runners00 - Nov 21, 2011 at 5:05 PM

        I don’t agree.

        Mississippi’s head coach made $2.7million per year. He won 2 games in his last 28 in the SEC. 2. So, if Ole Miss performs well, the head coach stays and mades $2.7. If they stink, like now, the head coach leaves.

        The big ten is the same way. These guys all make big, big bucks — even when they aren’t successful. So, to think that we would land a Big Ten coach is pretty 1980s-speak. Things are very, very different now, with the BCS and with all the big, big money in college football. If you’re winning at Indiana, you get paid a lot and they keep you. The same is true at Minnesota. Iowa’s actually a perfect example (as is Wisconsin). Both schools are now top-tier schools in the Big Ten and both pay their coaches a ton of cash. Unless there is a Notre Dame connection — an alumni, for example — it’s doubtful that a coach would leave for the ND job.

        We have to get someone on the way up. Urban was the guy at Utah, until Florida got him instead of us. But once he was making big bucks at Florida, it was/is highly unlikely that he’d leave to come to South Bend. It’s a lateral move with some real risk. College football is a strange place these days. Look at Oregon. Look at Wisconsin. Look at TCU. All these schools now are flush with cash either because of their conference arrangements with the BCS and bowl games or because they’ve been to the BCS and kept a lot of cash. Makes it hard to see getting a coach at the peak of his career

      • johnnd1985 - Nov 21, 2011 at 6:02 PM

        Nude,
        First, I have to admit that I really wanted Charlie to get us back, and I think he did a lot to help turn the corner. Without his recruiting classes, we’d still be in the toilet. That being said, he just never made the adjustment from pros to college kids, especially in development, so he had to be replaced. Now, we have Kelly, and while I think he’s too stubborn for his own good, he’s moved us up another notch. Still not elite, but we’re vastly improved. My concerns with Kelly’s hiring come from his lack of big game experience and the offense he runs. I HATE the spread option. It’s a gimmick offense that helps programs with lesser talent. But ND doesn’t get lesser talent (props to Charlie and Kelly for that). We can line up in a pro set and beat just about anyone, and eventually we will be able to beat anyone (not there yet). I’m afraid that eventually, pro caliber players, especially QB’s won’t want to come to ND and play in a system that does not help them get to the pro level. I was pleased last year when he started to pound the ball more and play more physical football. I think he did it out of absolute necessity, freshman QB with little experience, but at least he’s continued. I can only think of how much better we could have started last year if the game plan empahsized more physical play from day one. With all of that, I just wonder if he’ll lead us to continuing 8-4/9-3 type seasons or get us to the promised land. I’m not sure which it will be, but if it’s not the latter, we won’t keep getting elite talent.

      • johnnd1985 - Nov 21, 2011 at 6:14 PM

        Runner,
        I agree that lower level schools in the Big 10 and of major conferences can be resting places. I don’t want the guy who’s resting. I want the guy who wants to win National Championships. Coaches don’t stay at those programs for National Championships, they stay because the satisfied with where they are and are fat and happy. I don’t think Pat Fitzgerald will stay satisfied going at best 8-4 but usually worse. TCU isn’t contending for the top spot every year. Neither are Oregon or Wisconsin and they have become perenial top 4 in their conferences. As for Urban, he went to Florida because they had more talent than us. He saw 2007 coming and he saw how long it would take to bring ND back.

      • runners00 - Nov 21, 2011 at 6:55 PM

        One last comment on this: John you’re placing a lot of value in a pursuit of a national championship. I think a lot of big-time college football coaches understand how complex and difficult it is to win a national title. There’s only one. And you have to win a lot of games — 12 — during the regular season and you have to show up and win the bowl game. Tough.

        Most are motivated by success and the prospects of success. 9-3 is successful. 10-2 is successful. And it’s not a title, but it’s a successful season. So if you’re at a school that has the resources to get you a title or to make you successful, you’re not going to leave unless you view the Notre Dame job as a step up. So, Charlie viewed it as such. So did Davie and Willingham. But my hunch is that Stoops didn’t. Urban probably did but saw the Florida job as a more appealing step. Perhaps Fitz viewed it as such, though I think it’s more of a reach in his case because of where he was at Northwestern (and in his normal personal life).

        But let’s not kid ourselves: nobody on a big stage — say Nick Saban or Les Miles or Bob Stoops — is going to say, “That Notre Dame job is my dream job!” The only way that happens is if these people are ND alums or otherwise have a strong connection to the university — or the university ponies up big, big bucks to get them. And I’m not talking about $1.5million or whatever. With a guy at Ole Miss making $2.7, you have to think in that range. It’s borderline insane to give a first-year coach that kind of dough.

      • johnnd1985 - Nov 22, 2011 at 9:25 AM

        Runner,
        I never said, nor did I ever think, that we would get Stoops, et al. To paraphrase the words of the Blues Brothers, why would those dudes give up those high paying gigs to resurrect ND? That’s why I think looking at successful, relatively speaking, guys at mid to low tier programs in big conferences (SEC, Big Ten, Pac 10, Big 12, maybe ACC-but would want a coach from a higher level school.) Places like OU, Ohio St., Michigan, USC, Texas, LSU, Auburn, etc. are destination jobs.

      • nudeman - Nov 22, 2011 at 10:33 AM

        John
        Water over the dam at this point but Charlie was good at one thing: Bringing a pro style offense to ND after years of offensive incompetence from Ty and Davie. But he ignored defense (except for T’eo), line play on both sides of the ball, and conditioning.

        Bottom line: Other than a few talented skill guys, he left a smoking abyss behind.

      • johnnd1985 - Nov 23, 2011 at 1:53 AM

        Nude,
        I’m not talking player development. But, almost every starter from the beginning of the year was a Weis recruit. Besides the defensive line, only a handful of Kelly recruits get any serious playing time on offense or defense, and most of the those are from Kelly’s first/Weis’ last, depending on how you look at it, recruiting class.

    • domer77 - Nov 21, 2011 at 12:36 PM

      Michigandomer1984,

      You are spot on. However, in the future you will be well served to note the lame and often conflicting, profanity laced contributions of Nudeman. You would think he’s a real McCoy and Tommy Rees a pure blood Hatfield. Not to mention a charter member of both the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street. Nice.

      • nudeman - Nov 21, 2011 at 3:09 PM

        funny how you and goat always seem to shopw up here at the same time.
        just sayin’ …

      • domer77 - Nov 21, 2011 at 3:45 PM

        And you and notredamegrad and 9irish and countless others. You are truly a deranged individual. One consistent message though…You are generally wrong, incapable of change, negative to the point of hilarity and have an incredible insight into what everyone already knows….and a very thin skin. Speaking of which, you “tailgating” with the Sandusky’s again this weekend?? Here Boy, Here Boy :)

  10. nudeman - Nov 21, 2011 at 10:11 AM

    Keith,
    How can you possibly say Mike Elston is a good special teams coach? In ONE GAME I saw:

    – What, 9 punts by BC? Total return yards: 0
    – Ben Turk, after a tough call by Kelly to punt from the BC 40, bombs one into the endzone. On the fly. Easily could have been a big contributor to the Irish losing this game
    – What, 3 BC punts downed inside the 6? Or was it 4? Or 5?
    – Kyle Brindza kicks back to back kickoffs out of bounds. Narrowly missed a third.

    The performance of the special teams coach is judged by performance. With the exception of a couple George Atkinson TD returns, they’ve been terrible most of the year.

    How in the world can you say Elston is doing a good job?

    • notredamegrad - Nov 21, 2011 at 10:37 AM

      This was a particularly bad game for ND’s ST, but BC also had a hero of a punter out there placing the ball perfectly inside the 10 on almost every shot. Our kick off returns and kick off coverage have been really strong throughout the year (including, on the one hand, going for TDs, and on the other, forcing and recovering fumbles, like against MD). Turk and Ruffer started out inconsistent, but have both gotten dramatically better across the season. Brindza started great, but has lost a bit of consistency; still, he’s a true freshman whose done a very good job overall this season, so I’ll put up with a few bad kick offs.

      They’ve given up on returning punts, and part of that, as said above, is due to excessive concern over fake punts and moving to plan B after Theo muffed it and lost his punt returning duties. I think Goodman, with the exception of the one muffed punt vs. MSU, has been extremely reliable, and it seems like whatever confusion there may be over when to call a fair catch may be due to coaching. For example, the first two punts that landed inside the 10, he waved off, as he should; but after that, he caught every punt, including those that landed inside the 10. I don’t know why he would switch from waving them off to fair catching those unless he was instructed to. Goodness knows he didn’t have an inch to return anything against BC, so I have no problem with him not trying to.

      • nudeman - Nov 21, 2011 at 10:57 AM

        It’s not just Goodman and the “return” itself. It’s the whole approach to the punt return unit.
        Couldn’t they at least BLOCK SOMEBODY and give Goodman a chance for, oh, say … maybe a 6 yard return?

        With the way they’re approaching punt returns, Devin Hester wouldn’t be able to gain any yards.

  11. don74 - Nov 21, 2011 at 11:30 AM

    Regarding punt returns. Since we are not going to run any back why not rush 11 and try for a block? OK, rush 10 and let Goodman fair catch. Since we don’t set up a return and we are generally getting lousy field position why not try it once or twice per game.

    • nudeman - Nov 21, 2011 at 12:34 PM

      Actually not a bad idea. Might as well go all out for a block.
      Although that does make them a little vulnerable to a fake.

      But they really need to do something different. To just give up in this phase of the game is weak.

  12. dmacirish - Nov 21, 2011 at 12:39 PM

    because blocking punts is so much more difficult then trying to just block the man – most miscues on punt blocking result in a roughing the kicker and a first down instead of getting the ball in bad field position.
    MARK MY WORDS BECAUSE YOU HEAR IT HERE FIRST – Kelly has been hiding a significant amount of offensive plays and special teams is in on it to. No need to show all the cards when you can beat the teams otherwise. Huge breakout day for all the areas “we” are concerned with when we play the Cardinal.
    **Please note if you are a Stanford coach or player – I am just kidding about the above and we only have what has been already shown in our playbook. P.S. Also, there is no reason for us to expect a huge breakout day for Hendrix because we have definitely not protected that card.

    • waydomer - Nov 21, 2011 at 4:34 PM

      Good to know the only reason we lost to USC was Kelly was holding it back to save it for Stanford.

      • dmacirish - Nov 21, 2011 at 4:45 PM

        we lost because dc fumbled a handoff and it went downhill from there. think it was because of punt returns (or lack thereof?) anybody with an ounce of common sense recognizes that coach kelly has got to have something up his sleeve for this game – remember the shenanigans last year? Harbie running all over the field celebrating, kicking a field goal when the game was already out of reach and like a minute left? there is some stuff that we have been waiting to see and it will be shown this week. I am sure Stanford expects it – but doesn’t really know what it is. go irish.

      • notredamegrad - Nov 21, 2011 at 5:14 PM

        dmacirish, we lost to SC because they played very well and the whole ND team, offense, defense, and special teams, played poorly through the whole game. Yes, that fumble was awful, but we only got near the red zone when Crist was at QB – our offense did nothing with 8 other possessions and our defense couldn’t stop SC from putting up points all night.

      • waydomer - Nov 22, 2011 at 11:44 AM

        Let’s get this right dmacirish. Kelly has been spending time thinking about and saving plays to try to get even with a coach, who isn’t even there anymore.

      • dmacirish - Nov 23, 2011 at 7:50 AM

        I will respond on Sunday with “I told you so”. That is all.

  13. don74 - Nov 21, 2011 at 5:55 PM

    I try to read the comments 2 to 3 times a day. It’s a good diversion and certainly raises a smile, occasionally a chuckle and every once and awhile a LOL. We are 8 and 3, going into the last game and I seriously doubt we are going to see anything we haven’t seen before, except perhaps Theo in the backfield. Back in August I had us 10-1 on paper going into this game. As the cliche goes, they don’t play em on paper and we are 8-3.

    Kelly had a smile on his face after BC and it didn’t seem like relief. He appeared happy with the outcome and very proud of the team. Before the season, SBTribune’s Eric Hansen predicted 9-3. I think this team is right where it’s supposed to be. I am hoping for a crazy great effort against Stanford resulting in a season capping win. It’s time the Irish ruined someone’s season just like so many of ours have been ruined.

    I posted earlier about rushing 11…..I know it’s not feasible and the 2 times we went all out block we had 2 game changing roughing the kicker calls, but can’t we keep it light. After all we are rooting for the team from the best institution in the country, with the classiest fans, great traditions and Division 1 STUDENT atheletes.

    Tommy is going to be Tommy, Dayne will ride the bench in CA and maybe Hendrix will get to do something special. I hope the stars align and MF gets a ball on his hands in stride while he is heading downfield. It seems our guys get the ball on their hands for the screens and the crossing routes. I can’t remember a receiver running downfield with daylight ahead and getting the ball. Maybe Saturday. Once the stars align for offense I am also hoping the moon is in phase and our LBers, even our All American, clog a passing lane or two and our DB’s don’t don’t blinded as they turn to find the ball so it doesn’t hit them in the back as they run through a receiver. Our kickoffs will be in bounds and through the end zone and our punter will have a Wing-like performance with balls landing inside the 5. Oh yeah, the column next week is going to be The Good!

    Have a Happy Thanksgiving and root hard Saturday.

  14. ndirishguy - Nov 22, 2011 at 4:50 AM

    We have to be the only college football team in the country whose punt return unit is designed to set up the Fair Catch.

  15. acieu - Nov 22, 2011 at 5:07 AM

    Amazing how ND fans get excited about mediocrity! We are at best just OK.

  16. fitz79 - Nov 22, 2011 at 11:50 AM

    Good points Keith. You could add to your list of surprises how Alabama struggled against FCS Stanford. South Carolina struggled until late against FCS Citadel. And Florida at one point was down by 15 points to FCS Furman in Gainesville! We at ND have never even sunk so low as to play an FCS team, ever! For all the whining that’s been going on we still escaped with a tough win over a tough rival, BC. Now it’s time to go pull off a big upset ourselves and demolish Stanford! Go Irish!

  17. hyde - Nov 22, 2011 at 3:02 PM

    Keith, with all due respect, who in the world put Southern Miss at #20?! A Conference USA team that has no good wins AT ALL. They lost to Marshall (5-6) earlier in the season. All of the other teams (Iowa State, Baylor, NC State, USC, and Cal) you mentioned have winning records, something that BC doesn’t have. So, your argument doesn’t hold. The cold hard truth is that ND doesn’t have a playmaker at QB. That’s why ND looked bad. I wouldn’t be surprised if Stanford plays nickel the whole game and dares ND to run.

    • johnnd1985 - Nov 23, 2011 at 2:00 AM

      They’ll rush 3, cover the short and intermediate zones and dare us to throw over them. That’s what BC did, but Stanford has more talent. At least, their D isn’t as good as last years.

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