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Five things we learned: Stanford 28, Notre Dame 14

Nov 27, 2011, 1:54 AM EDT

Andrew Hendrix Stanford

When you laid out the checklist of things Notre Dame needed to do to beat No. 4 Stanford on Saturday night, the objectives were quite clear. Limit mistakes, win the battle at the line of scrimmage, and eliminate turnovers — bedrock principles for winning football games.

Yet from the opening minutes of the Irish’s 28-14 loss to Stanford, things went wrong. Two penalties on the first two offensive plays. Missed blocking assignments. A quarterback running for his life. Failed red zone opportunities. A defense that tried to keep their team in the game.

“We got off to a bad start,” head coach Brian Kelly said after the game. “We battled our butts off. But against a good football team, that’s not good enough.”

That bad start spotting Stanford 21 points was just too much to overcome, as Andrew Luck‘s four touchdown passes gave the Irish their first November loss under Kelly. It ends a once-promising regular season at 8-4, finishing the year on a downbeat, as the Irish await their bowl assignment.

Let’s find out what else we learned during No. 4 Stanford’s 28-14 victory over the 22nd-ranked Fighting Irish.

The Irish offensive line got manhandled by the Stanford front seven.

A week after Boston College gave defensive coordinators a blueprint for bogging down the Irish passing game, co-defensive coordinators Jason Tarver and Derek Mason created their own, continually blitzing linebackers and pressuring the quarterback, something the Notre Dame offensive line couldn’t handle.

If dropping eight and nine men into coverage worked for the Eagles, bringing eight men and pounding the interior of the offensive line worked even better for Stanford. The Cardinal got five sacks and stuffed the Irish running game, limiting Notre Dame to under two yards a carry, and flustering both Tommy Rees and Andrew Hendrix throughout the game.

After a sterling month of October, the Irish offensive line is clearly missing center Braxston Cave, and after an admirable performance against Wake Forest, it’s clear that Mike Golic Jr. isn’t the same player as the man he replaced. It all starts in the middle and Golic struggled throughout the game and for the first time this season, the Irish offensive line seemed to get overwhelmed, with both the running and passing games stuck in neutral and struggling to match Stanford’s intensity early.

Whoever the Irish end up playing in a bowl game (and most of the college football world is anticipating a Florida State – Notre Dame date in the Champs Sports Bowl), defensive coordinators will likely challenge the Irish front with pressure. Regardless of injuries, Ed Warinner‘s group needs to refocus their efforts and protect the quarterback.

***

We’ve got ourselves another quarterback controversy.

For the second time this season, Kelly made a quarterback change at halftime. This time, he might have launched an even bigger quarterback debate.

There’s a little more than a month between tonight’s game and any bowl game the Irish end up in, giving us plenty of time to debate just who should start the season’s final game. But with Hendrix finally given a chance to run the Irish offense, supporters of the athletically gifted sophomore saw all they needed to proclaim him the right man for the job.

His numbers are far from impressive — 11 of 24 passing, one touchdown and one very poor interception, but Hendrix sparked the Irish offense with both his running and throwing, driving the Irish to two second-half touchdowns and showing off a skillset that many Irish fans have been clamoring for all season.

The decision to give Hendrix a shot could’ve been interpreted a number of different ways: A kickstart to a heated QB battle in 2012, the final bitter pill for Dayne Crist, or Kelly simply looking to give the Irish a spark. However you interpret it, the Irish offense opened up, all while Hendrix reminded fans and coaches of the growing pains that come with a young quarterback seeing things for the first time.

It’s clear that Hendrix allows the offense to incorporate the option and use the quarterback as another weapon in the running game. It’s also clear that even though Hendrix can make all the throws, he’s far from being able to execute them properly. Still, the sophomore showed a ton of poise, made some nice passes and showed himself to be a powerful runner that’ll likely make this offseason a very interesting one.

Kelly said that “anything’s possible” for the bowl game, and he likely has no interest in deciding his quarterback until he’s done recruiting on the West Coast this week. But with the 2011 season book-ending halftime quarterback changes, we’ve created the main storyline for the next few weeks, not to mention the long offseason months before the Irish kickoff next September.

***

All things considered, the Irish defense held up well against the mighty Stanford offense.

While you can’t say they shut down the Cardinal, the Irish did hold Stanford to 28 points, the first team to hold them to less than thirty points all season. While Luck threw for four touchdown passes, he was continually under duress, and the Irish defense forced two turnovers and came close to having three more as an undermanned defense played pretty admirable football against an offensive front that has been very good all season.

It wasn’t Robert Blanton‘s finest hour as the senior cornerback struggled in the first half, committing penalties and getting beat in man coverage multiple times as Stanford sprinted out to a 21-point halftime lead. But the secondary tightened considerably in the second half until Zeke Motta slipped in broken coverage as Luck iced the game with a 55-yard touchdown pass to tight end Coby Fleener.

Without senior defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore and freshman Stephon Tuitt, the Irish relied on Aaron Lynch to anchor one defensive end position and while the freshman didn’t get a sack, he was in the backfield quite a bit and chipped in a team-high five solo tackles including one for a loss on the evening. The Irish defense provided the closest thing to offense in the first half, with Darius Fleming intercepting a luck screen pass and rumbling into the Cardinal red zone, only to have the Irish fail to get seven points when Rees missed Theo Riddick on a quick out pattern and David Ruffer inexplicably missed a chip-shot field goal.

They might not have won the game for the Irish, but Bob Diaco’s defense played well enough to win on Saturday.

***

Stanford’s playing surface is an embarrassment.

That a university with some of the world’s finest facilities can’t grow grass that withstands Northern California’s climate is beyond embarrassing. And that’s all you can call the natural surface inside Stanford Stadium, in horrific shape after some rain and three straight home football games turned the football field into a mud pit.

Both teams had to play on the same surface, but the grass clearly hurt Notre Dame more than Stanford. The Irish looked hesitant and a step slow, and a spread offense relies on the ability to make plays in space at full speed, something the Irish just couldn’t do when they slipped and slid all over the football field.

Notre Dame equipment manager Ryan Grooms knew full well that his players would need long cleats and excellent footwear to get through the football game. But there isn’t a cleat on the planet that could keep the Irish from sliding or falling, with a very unscientific hand count revealing a dozen plays affected by someone in an Irish jersey slipping and falling. That’s just too many players in a football game to be changed, and Stanford needs to take a bulldozer to their field and find a solution now, because it’s absolutely unacceptable.

***

Wins and losses are the ultimate barometer, but there’s been plenty of progress made this season.

Nobody is throwing a parade for an 8-4 regular season, clearly a disappointing end to a season that rightfully had BCS aspirations. The Irish played their four worst games on the days where the spotlight was the brightest: An opening loss in a made-for-ESPN storyline that had the Holtz family incredibly proud, a fourth-quarter implosion that catapulted Michigan’s season, the home dud against USC under the lights, and stubbing their toe in the first half against Stanford. Four opportunities to show this program is making progress, and four slip-ups that have some Irish fans asking those big-picture questions that get thrown around far too often amongst Domers.

Next season, the Irish will need to replace the engine of their offense and three-fourths of their secondary. They’ll say goodbye to two starting offensive linemen and two starting defensive ends. There are NFL question marks around players like Tyler Eifert and Manti Te’o, two integral pieces to the Irish puzzle and two weapons that the Irish desperately need as they head into a meatgrinder of a schedule.

That said, it might be difficult to see it now, but the team is getting better. At one point in the second half — a half where the Irish held Stanford to seven points and 131 yards — the Irish lined up Lynch, Louis Nix, Troy Niklas and Ishaq Williams along the front four, with the four freshman all looking to be a huge part of a defensive renaissance that will help turn this program’s fortunes around. One of the biggest question marks surrounding Kelly and his staff was the ability to bring in top-flight recruits. The coach has proven skeptics wrong quickly, but more importantly, he’s also shown himself to be a very good talent evaluator, a far more important skill in recruiting.

For all the complaints about Crist and Rees — two quarterbacks Kelly inherited that didn’t fit his offensive system — the Irish took great steps forward this year on the offensive side of the ball, only to kill themselves with lapses in execution that doom a team when they play a quality opponent. While the sample size is incredibly limited, seeing Hendrix run the football and move the offense on the ground shows you that Kelly will eventually find the right quarterback for his offense, even if it takes him a few extra weeks to identify him.

As the Irish coaching staff take dead aim at skill position players that’ll infuse the depth chart with youthful talent the way last year’s recruiting haul helped the front seven of the defense, we’ll get a clearer look at what Brian Kelly wants his football team to be.

“I’m more interested in getting a football team that will compete for four quarters,” Kelly said after the game. “The rest of that stuff’s going to come. We’ll get the other things. I want guys who love to compete. Compete like they did tonight. I’m disappointed in the loss. We got off to a bad start. It came back to bite us in the end.”

Four losses are certainly disappointing, and incremental progress isn’t the kind of thing that wakes up the echoes. Yet there’s plenty of reasons to think things are getting better for the Irish, even if the ledger for wins and losses doesn’t quite show it yet.

121 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. txbeej - Nov 27, 2011 at 12:13 PM

    Please let Hendrix start the bowl game. Please please please.

    • oldestguard - Nov 27, 2011 at 1:22 PM

      He will

  2. dmac4real - Nov 27, 2011 at 12:50 PM

    Will somebody give me a valid reason as to why BK should even be considered for the hot seat in his second year? Really….

    • dmac4real - Nov 27, 2011 at 12:53 PM

      BTW…weve lost to the # 4, 9, 17 ranked teams in the country. All in all that doesn’t look to bad as we are still clearly rebuilding.

      • kgirish - Nov 27, 2011 at 1:11 PM

        Well I wish fans would have stopped after we started 0-2 about being a BCS team….if we were 10-2 (won the USF and Michigan games)…our team would have gotten into BCS game and gotten beatin’ down like our teams with Coach Weis

      • jommy995 - Nov 27, 2011 at 2:53 PM

        This team didn’t get beat down. But for turnovers, it was very competitive in each of the losses. Defensive improvement is impressive. Offense starts to look legit with a runner at QB.

    • oldestguard - Nov 27, 2011 at 1:29 PM

      Once he gets his type of QB in place ( Hendrix ?? ) things will get rolling on both side of the ball, and the NDNation will calm down.

      Hope to get a good glimpse of that in the Bowl game.

      The “journey” can be a bitch sometimes, but it makes “getting there” all the more enjoyable !

      • nudeman - Nov 27, 2011 at 2:23 PM

        oldestguard,
        I am still a Kelly believer and think the overall trajectory here is “up”.

        Having said that, I can see why people question Kelly.
        Let’s look at the 4 losses:
        1) USF: Should have been a beat down, but inexplicably ND was error prone and “flat” in a HOME OPENER.
        2) Michigan: Inexcusable. More turnovers, bad coaching decisions on UM’s final drive. Just threw this one away
        3) USC: ND comes out completely flat against arguably their biggest rival. Home game, helmets, national TV and 50 recruits there and they were flat? Are you fu**ing kidding me? Oh, and lost the game thanks to more penalties and turnovers
        4) Stanford: Big game, more mistakes. The disorganization inside the red zone was stunning. Gerry Faust-esque

        There wasn’t a single game where they were overwhelmed talent-wise. USC and Stanford had MORE talent; but not overwhelmingly so.

        So I think people are right to question Kelly’s ability to get a team “up” and coach error free football.

        I still support him, but have more questions now than 3 months ago.

  3. brendanfitzgibbons - Nov 27, 2011 at 4:02 PM

    I have to second the sentiment that I saw a lot of really good things in the second half of this game and am very optimistic about NDs future. I thought Andrew Hendrix, while getting off to a slow start played really really well. Let’s remember this was his 13 or 14th snap this season and he was out there against the 5th best running defense, successfully running the option and throwing bullets.

    The reason why our offense has been stagnant at times is because Brian Kelly hasn’t had the type of quarterback he needs to run the spread. I’m not ready to say that Hendrix is the man for that but he is definitely a step in the right direction. Tommy Rees had two turnovers in less than a half and should have had a third on the very first play of the game. I am baffled why people continue to defend him as a viable solution to NDs offense. He had two or three key misses and let’s is honest, had he stayed in the game he mostly likely would have had two or three more. Tommy Rees has now had three key fumbles in games and as much as everyone wanted to crucify Dayne Crist for his fumble, Tommy Rees had three. I cant remember a time when ANY quarterback at Notre Dame has done that in one season!

    I am still a Brian Kelly believer and I definitely believe the future of this team is incredibly bright. Depending on who starts the bowl game, we will win and will recruit well this off season. Most importantly Brian Kellys teams get better. And that is what separates him from Weis and Willingham. He teams progress, they get better and they adjust to their personnel. My only issue with Kelly is the quarterback situation. We should have been playing Hendrix, Golson or Crist games ago. But going forward this team shows a lot of promise and Im excited for the years ahead.

  4. fredshaheen - Nov 27, 2011 at 4:13 PM

    Generally teams respond in game situations the same way they practice. I have a suspicion that Coach Kelly’s practice demeonor is similiar to what the public has been given glimpses of during games.

  5. hotcarnut - Nov 27, 2011 at 4:31 PM

    I see a lot of progress in this year’s team. Despite what people want to hear, Notre Dame is on the right path and Kelly is the right coach. We were in every game this season, and if we’d had a decent quarterback (still don’t understand pulling Dayne Crist after a single half) we would have been 10-2 instead of 8-4. We still need depth on the defensive line, but the young kids got valuable experience. We definitely need an upgrade at wide receiver in terms of depth. Floyd is great, but he couldn’t do it all by himself and he’s moving on to the NFL. Brian Kelly and Co. can recruit with the best of them. They finally have a training table, an outstanding strength and conditioning program, and stability among the offensive and defensive coaching staffs. It may only be a 1-win improvement versus last year, but I don’t think there’s any doubt that this year’s team is much better overall than last year’s crew. Hopefully next year we’re looking back and saying the same thing: the team was better than last year. That’s what building a program is all about, and I think Brian Kelly and his staff are doing just that.

    • guster222 - Nov 28, 2011 at 5:04 PM

      I hope you are right on the recruiting. Kelly had a really good year and I hope he keeps that up. But 1 year does not make a great recruiter. Weis had a really good year early on but wasoverall deficient in some key areas. Kelly has go get some skilled players in the defensive and offensive backfield. I think he needs to get more speed in the middle of defense – LBs and safeties. That seemed like a weakness for the last few years. The defense seems to really struggle with that short to mid range passing game in the middle. I think it is a lack of coverage speed but maybe it is their defensive schemes??

  6. kiopta1 - Nov 27, 2011 at 4:37 PM

    Why do so many ND fans either want to sack a coach for not winning a NC in 2 years or wanting to coddle FOOTBALL players from their football coach. Kelly may yell a little too much but I like that he is tough, blunt, and passionate about this team and the types of young men he wants. I don’t blame him for getting angry when experienced players continue to play like freshmen in their first game. I also want players who have the skill, discipline , and passion to execute for 4 quarters.

  7. ihatemistate - Nov 27, 2011 at 4:58 PM

    Did anyone else notice the camraderie after the game between our players and Stanford’s? That was pretty cool. Too bad they didn’t show our team sing the school song though. I was bummin.

  8. surly1n1nd1anapol1s - Nov 27, 2011 at 5:19 PM

    Losers frequently whine about the playing surface.

    • papadec - Nov 27, 2011 at 11:36 PM

      The announcing team (mostly Musberger) was doing the complaining about the field. I don’t recall anyone, on either team, that was playing the game do any complaining about the field or playing conditions.

      • 9irish - Nov 28, 2011 at 4:07 PM

        Yep, I agree. It was just a subject of drama for Musberger. They both played on the same field. Notre Dame went face down in muck several times, but that’s just the way it was.

  9. leftcoastirishfan - Nov 27, 2011 at 7:10 PM

    As I work on my 16th post thanksgiving turkey sandwich, I wanted to pose a few questions to the Irish faithful
    1, why does the cardinal have better cleats than the Irish?
    2, did the Irish warm up on that playing surface?
    3, how many kickers do we need on our roster?
    4, do we need any kickers on scholarship?
    5, how many games (seasons) are you willing to sacrifice in order to find the right QB?
    6, how many mediocre seasons does Kelly get before we take our entertainment else where?
    7, should Kelly fire his Special teams coach?
    8, should Theo move back to RB?
    9, who are the 2012 senior captains?( our tebow)
    10, is Lynch the only defensive player with swagger?(stonebreaker,bolcar,tuck,smugala,Terrell,lyght,young,zorich) JTNAF

    I was there last night, 40% Irish fans at least. Crowd was not an issue at all.
    Rees miss to Theo was wide open. Poor execution. That was a sure TD and a momentum changer.
    Missing a 13 yard FG just pisses me off

    Hate to say it but I agree with the nude. Moral victories only lead to new coaching assignments.

    • papadec - Nov 27, 2011 at 11:41 PM

      Stanford doesn’t have better cleats. Both teams were wearing the longest cleats allowable by the ncaa.

  10. discnerd - Nov 27, 2011 at 8:08 PM

    I’ll take a crack at a few of these:
    1) I don’t the Cardinal had better cleats, but had more experience trying to cut on the surface. They knew what moves they could, or couldn’t do on that surface. They ran more in straight lines and did more stutter steps when changing direction. These changes in mechanics are subtle and not what you can pick up in a couple hour warm-up which I think addresses number 2.
    Stanford also probably had more opportunity to practice on sloppy fields during the week since their practice field probably has similar issues since I’m guessing it is kept up in a similar fashion. I’m not sure that discing and flooding the practice field at ND just to simulate the playing surface at Stanford would be a wise decision. It would lead to an increase in injuries (imagine inadvertent splits) and would ruin the practice field until sometime next summer.

    4) I would argue two, but they are both designed to be scholarships spots won by walk-ons, with the exception of rare cases where someone has proven exceptional accuracy and distance at a high level in HS.

    5) I’m not sure putting Hendrix in was completely a permanent benching of Rees at QB. Rees came out of a drive due to his back getting driven into the ground and never looked the same for the rest of the game. My guess is that his back was messing with his mobility and vision and his throwing motion. He tried to gut through it, but may have had a talk with a coach at half-time that led to the decision to go with Hendrix.
    Why didn’t they go with Crist? I don’t know, but as another dropback passer, he also would have been a mostly stationary target for the Stanford D-line. Hendrix at least had the option of running away from the front seven by design, and probably got more time with the first team than Crist did during practices because ND had some plays set up for him.
    I half expect a two QB attack in the bowl game with some plays where both Rees and Hendrix are in. (Backwards pass from Rees to Hendrix on what appears to be a bubble screen who then throws to Floyd deep?) Also allows Hendrix to be the power runner to replace Gray.

    • nudeman - Nov 27, 2011 at 8:29 PM

      “My guess is that his back was messing with his mobility and vision and his throwing motion”

      Huh????

      What “mobility”? What “throwing motion”?

      Good kid, plays hard, not without his attributes, but he isn’t the guy.

  11. guster222 - Nov 27, 2011 at 11:30 PM

    ND has made some good progress this year. Credit should go to Kelly but also remember how many upperclassman this team has.

    What concerns me about Kelly is something that looks like a stubborn streak. His whole attitude last year after his bad Tulsa call was distrurbing but I gave him some leeway on that one. This year his staunch support on Rees as starting QB is mind boggling. Rees may call good run audibles but at too many times he has looked very bad.

    Golic and the O-line did not help his cause but Rees looked like a scared rabbit after the hit. He seemed to be moving his back just fine to get rid of the ball as quick as possible Saturday. And he has had too many missed throws and interceptions this year. I still don’t get why Kelly had Rees rolling out at a regular basis this year and last. I can’t remember seeing a QB that looked worse than Rees throwing on the run. Those rollouts diminished as the year went on but still had too many, for too long.

    Kelly can say all he wants about Crist not looking good in game time but Crist looked much better in his games last year than Rees did this year. Crist did not play last year with the offensive line, RBs or WRs that Rees has this year. The line is better (they looked against Stanford like they did for the 1st half last year), Wood and Gray are way better than they were last year and Floyd, Jones and Roma are all better than last year. And remember, Kelly gave Crist the job in the fall. A bad quarter in game 1 that was not entirely Crist’s fault and he rides the pines. Rees has 3 fumbles along with all his bad throws and interceptions this year. Hendrix looked interesting but he was clearly inexperienced. Kelly changed the offense last year for Rees. But Crist did not seem to get the same benefit in his time. He had to play last year with a worse team and in much more of a spread offense.

    It all looks to me like Kelly made the switch and has been very stubborn in defending that switch. I know we don’t see the practices and Kelly should know his team the best. But then I wonder why Crist got the job to start the year and I think about that Tulsa stubborness and worry that the team suffered this year at QB because of a coaches ego?

    • ndtoronto - Nov 28, 2011 at 5:55 PM

      guster222,

      i agree with you 110%! I like what kelly has done thus far, EXCEPT for the qb management…i just don’t understand why kelly is so much more lenient towards rees than crist, even though crist is the senior…if rees was this freshman phenom who would soon lead notre dame back to glory, than i would understand kelly would prefer him over crist but obviously that is not the case as we have all witnessed this season…heck this was probably rees’ last game in a ND uniform unless kelly makes a boneheaded move and plays him in the bowl game instead of hendrix (obviously kelly will never crist play b/c he thinks he belongs only in garbage time “rolls eyes”)

      kelly did in fact let his ego get in the way of this season by letting rees be the starting qb…he didnt want to switch back and deal with another qb controversy especially if crist outplayed rees, which would have happened FOR SURE if crist got the chance in a full game as the starting qb.

  12. joeschu - Nov 28, 2011 at 9:24 AM

    I know I said I was done, but this is the most excited I’ve felt about the program since before the USF game.

    Let’s get the most important thing out of the way first. Although neither of them have proven the right long-term solution at QB for ND, Dayne Crist and Tommy Rees are two of the classiest representatives of Notre Dame I have ever seen. In situations where they both could have checked out, or worse, they could be seen supporting Hendrix on the sideline. While their coach is busy carrying on like a madman on the sideline, the cameras caught both Dayne and Tommy coaching up Hendrix during a time out. You could see both of them on the sidelines imploring their head coach to get the play in quicker so we didn’t have to waste another time out. Despite being mishandled and thrashed about, these guys continue to conduct themselves with admirable class and poise. I know I’ve been hard on the play of both these young men, but everyone should step back a second and applaud them for their tremendous character.

    From a play perspective, that 2nd half was a work of art. We looked so much better. If Motta doesn’t slip, we can start the whole, “Andrew Hendrix is 1-0 in halves he’s given more than a few token snaps,” story line. The offense just feels so much more dangerous with a guy out there who’s a threat to run if you send the blitz and go man on the back end. It also is amazing to see a guy really zip the out pattern with some heat on it. Importantly, all of this was done when he was only given a “package” of preparation. Imagine if he’d get the reps in the game plan during the week! My only question is: why did we have to get to this point to find this out? Kelly talks about players needing game experience and “scar tissue” to be ready to perform at a BCS level. Why weren’t we getting Hendrix his earlier? I’ll never understand BK’s thinking on this issue.

    I do have one nit to pick with KA’s (otherwise excellent) coverage. Keith has done a good job all year trying to remind everyone that young QB’s occasionally throw bad picks as part of the maturation process. He mostly did this to defend the play of a sophomore QB who had started 12 wins. When a sophomore QB with 12 snaps over cooks a throw to his TE on a rollout, you can’t call that a “one very poor interception.” He overthrew the ball, it was tipped, and turned in to an easy pick. I’ll take that over dropping the ball while in the pocket any day! I know there’s a need to counterbalance the calls for Rees’ head, but come on, that was hardly a “very poor” play when compared to the balance of the half.

    The other bright ray of hope shining out of that messy field was that the D actually played pretty well. Diaco had a good game plan, forced some TO’s and held them under their average. To say we were short-handed on that side of the ball would be a gross understatement. No KLM, no Tuitt, and no depth in the front 7 against a very physical team. Fox played his best game of the year (by far), and I thought we looked competent on defense. 28 is below their total on the year, and we handed them a few extra possessions with turnovers (again). Depth on the front 7 and new recruits for the back 4 could make this defense dangerous (to something other than a 4th quarter lead in Ann Arbor) in years to come.

    My only hesitation is the same one that others’ have shared. I’m not convinced BK is ready/right for the big time. I’m far from calling for his head or warming his seat, but he’s still solidly in the “undecided” category for now. His program certainly appears to be heading in the right direction, and I’ll take a slow build over the Weis/Willingham flash in the pan, but there are still some Davie-like concerns here.

    It’ll be fascinating to see how the bowl situation plays out and how the QB derby goes next off-season.

    • guster222 - Nov 28, 2011 at 4:33 PM

      Excellent, excellent point about Crist & Rees showing such class. Kudos to them.

  13. irishfan2791 - Nov 28, 2011 at 9:56 AM

    Brian Kelly is Notre Dame’s head coach, and its going to stay that way for (I hope) a long, long time. The guy is an old school football coach with a new school playbook. He is tough, he screams and yells and gets in your face when you dont do something right, but how often do you see him voice his displeasure and then calm down and coach the kid that just made the error, 99% of the time. The guy recruits really really well, when you have as many freshmen as we do contributing on the defensive side of the ball it speaks to the coaching staffs ability to go out and find the guys with the tools to get the job done and then coach them into fantastic football players, can you imagine our front four, next year?????? how about two years from now???? SCARY and dare i say SECesque, If Manti sticks around for another year I think this defense will be just fine. And with it being evident that we will have a spread quarterback who we will win because of, rather than in spite of (REES) this offense is going to be unstoppable. I am so extremely excited for this team in the coming years its amazing to me that we can even think about putting Kelly on the hot seat at this moment.

  14. hyde - Nov 28, 2011 at 10:56 AM

    Who is the other starting DE that won’t be coming back? KLM is eligible for a 5th year.

    Hendrix was much more effective against a high caliber defense than Rees (6 of 13 for 60 yards 0 TD 1 INT and a fumble) ever was. See USC 2010 and 2011. Not sure why there is a pro-Rees bias on this blog.

    I’m sure Rees will start the bowl game because he’s 12-3 as a starter. Wink, wink.

    • leftcoastirishfan - Nov 28, 2011 at 5:58 PM

      EJ

  15. JP O'Flaherty - Nov 28, 2011 at 1:06 PM

    I would go a step further than stating there is valid reason for a QB controversy, I believe the subject of inept coaching should also be in play. In every BIG game the Irish had this year, they had arguably the most talent and the highest paid coaching staff. Yet, as has been a continuing pattern since Lou Holtz retired, the Irish have been out coached.
    Even Lou’s son Skip Holtz out coached Kelly and his staff in the opening day loss. Most of these teams (with the exception of Michigan and USC) fail to recruit as well as the Irish. Based on this fact, according to the experts, the Irish should have the dominant talent level on the field. However, winnable game after winnable game, the Irish make stupid mistakes, foolish turnovers etc. etc..
    Maybe, the Irish should have pulled the trigger and outbid the Buckeyes for the services of Urban Meyer ( a proven BIG Time Winner). ND has had enough talent for years to beat Michigan State, Purdue, and most of the teams on their schedule, but it is the stupid play calling and/or mistakes that take the Irish out of the game early on (i.e. South Florida).

    • leftcoastirishfan - Nov 28, 2011 at 5:57 PM

      no JP is right Kelly should be 25 and 0 right now. Fire his as$.. nothing but National Championships from here on out. I wonder if Skip is looking for a new job?

    • guster222 - Nov 28, 2011 at 9:22 PM

      In every big game the Irish had this year, they had arguably the most talent…..What????? More talent than USC, Michigan and Stanford? Maybe you could argue slightly more than Michigan but no way did they have more talent than USC or Stanford. USC lost some players but they are still loaded. And Stanford has quietly assembled a lot of talent on the field. ND’s O line looked bad for a very big reason – Stanford has a talented and experienced defensive front. And I don’t know how you can even include Mich State and Purdue in the same sentence on talent. MSU has been perennial underachievers for the talent they have had for years. Maybe ND has a little more than MSU but I don’t think the gap is as wide as you suggest. Yes, they had a lot more talent than Purdue, AF, Navy and some others. But as much as we would like the Irish to have elite talent, they just have not recruited like Alabama, USC, Ohio State or others over the last 5 years.

      I agree the coaching staff has made some play calling mistakes but that will happen in any given season. And I was critical above on some of Kelly’s moves but your note made it seem like he was playing with LSU level talent this year and they underachieved. I still have reservations on Kelly but at this juncture, he seems like a step up from WIllinagham, Davie & Weis. I guess I just want another Lou Holtz to lead the Irish. I hope Kelly can be that succesful.

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