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Five things we learned: Florida State 18, Notre Dame 14

Dec 29, 2011, 11:47 PM EDT

Floyd Florida State Champs

If you could boil down one game to encapsulate a season, you might have something that looks like the Champs Sports Bowl. During Notre Dame’s 18-14 loss, the Irish turned just about every conceivable emotion for a football fan on its head– ecstasy to agony, confidence to frustration, bravado to helplessness.

At times, the Irish looked like the BCS contender many thought they were entering the season. The defense absolutely overwhelmed Florida State’s offensive line, beating quarterback E.J. Manuel to a pulp while limiting the Seminoles to single-digit rushing yards for much of the game. Offensively, the Irish cobbled together just enough in the second quarter to control the line of scrimmage, running Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood, targeting Michael Floyd and Tyler Eifert, even mixing in the running of Andrew Hendrix with the passing of Tommy Rees.

Then the game flipped, and as it did too often this season, the snowball built, and the Irish tumbled out of control. The Irish weren’t able to overcome three interceptions, two coming in the Florida State endzone. The secondary that played so well swarming to the football failed to do its job when the throw went over its head. And after having what looked like a comfortable 14-0 lead, the Irish gave up the final 18 points of the game, turning a potential ninth victory against an impressive opponent into a logic-defying fifth loss of the season.

“The turnovers were again a large reason for us not to be able to win this football game,” head coach Brian Kelly said after the game. “It’s been the case all year. It started at South Florida, and continued to show itself throughout the entire year.”

This football team showed us what it was all season, and then proved it one last time on Thursday night, making the same mistakes that doomed the Irish all year. Let’s find out what we learned during the Champs Sports Bowl, the crushing finale to one of the most frustrating seasons the Irish have played in a very long time.

***

The Irish will never be a successful team if they can’t solve the quarterbacking situation.

There aren’t many teams good enough to turn the ball over three times and beat a good football team. Notre Dame proved that, one-upping themselves by having Rees throw two of the interceptions in the end zone while Hendrix set up the Seminoles deep in Irish territory when he hit Florida State linebacker Nigel Bradham in the chest. Any aspirations the Irish had to be an elite football team went down the drain with the team’s quarterback play, and three crucial interceptions against the Seminoles put the focus straight on that issue for head coach Brian Kelly.

“It’s nice to be able to talk about a Notre Dame football team that plays championship defense, because they did that today,” Kelly said. “Now we’ve got to get our offense to obviously play at that level as well. That will be the next step for our football program. Getting our offense to play at the same level that our defense is evolving to.”

Even if Rees went out and threw for 400 yards and five touchdowns, the competition at quarterback would’ve been open heading into spring practice, and Rees’ struggles against another elite defense adds yet another data-point for those who don’t believe the sophomore quarterback has what it takes to lead the Irish back into the elite of college football.

Kelly sticking with Rees for much of the bowl game shows you that while Tommy still makes maddeningly bad decisions interspersed with some impressive throws, Kelly thought he was the best guy to protect a fourteen point second half lead. But for those thinking that just because Rees was the guy for the Irish throughout the 2011 season he’s the guy for next year, fear not.

“I’m going to evaluate everything that I do and how we do it,” Kelly said. “Because the offense just has to get better.”

Expect all three quarterbacks on the roster to get a shot at running this offense. And while Andrew Hendrix certainly has a skill-set that uniquely qualifies him to take over, the guy that has the most potential still hasn’t taken a snap. In Everett Golson, Kelly has the prototype triggerman for what he needs to run his optimal offense. Whether he’s ready to run the show or not remains to be seen.

The quarterback position got derailed in the season’s opening minutes, and ironically Dayne Crist’s undoing initially wasn’t his own, but rather Jonas Gray’s goalline fumble. From there, the senior quarterback was tentative, missing more throws than he made, and making a critical red zone mistake before going scoreless and into halftime down 16 points in his one half of football.

We’ll never know what Dayne Crist would’ve done if he came back out after halftime. But there’s good reason to believe that whoever was playing quarterback was gap filling for Golson or Hendrix, two guys better suited to run the offense. Even with an Irish win and flawless quarterback play, this would’ve been the top story of the spring. But the Irish collapse behind center tonight all but assured it.

***

After playing aggressively for most of the first half, calling off the dogs killed the Irish defense.

When Lou Holtz questions your strategy, you know you’ve got reason to be second-guessed. But even Dr. Lou was wondering why the Irish stopped blitzing in the second half, giving E.J. Manuel time to throw the ball and an overwhelmed offensive line time to catch its breath.

After spending much of the first half running for his life, Manuel settled down and had a nice second half, completing a few deep circus catches over Irish cornerbacks Gary Gray and Robert Blanton, pulling the Seminoles back in a game that they were dominated in for much of the evening.

After going up two touchdowns, it seems that the Irish were content to go back to their base defense, forcing the Seminoles to earn their yards and they guarded against the big play in zone coverage. But by allowing Manuel time to breathe, they enabled the FSU offense to make the big play, with wide receivers Bert Reed and Rashad Greene catching touchdowns to lead the Seminoles back and Kenny Shaw giving the secondary fits as well.

It’ll be lost in the shuffle, but safety Jamoris Slaughter played his best game in an Irish uniform from a hybrid linebacker position, racking up two sacks as the Irish pass rush pressured FSU relentlessly. Aaron Lynch also dominated the team he almost played for, adding 1.5 sacks and spending much of the evening chasing Manuel down in the backfield. Stephon Tuitt rallied back from an illness that derailed the end of his season to play another excellent game, giving the Irish front seven some really impressive building blocks for next year.

Holding the Seminoles to under 250 yards is a good day at the office and placing the blame for this loss on the defense is particularly foolish, especially considering that Bob Diaco‘s troops put up half the team’s points with a forced fumble by Manti Te’o and scoop and score by safety Zeke Motta. But after two seasons at the helm of the Irish defense, Diaco will need to evolve this defense next season, taking advantage of the horses he has up front, especially when he won’t be able to lean on a veteran secondary.

***

With Michael Floyd departing, the Irish are going to have to find offense from somewhere.

After making a circus catch on a jump ball in the corner of the end zone for his 37th career touchdown catch, Michael Floyd‘s Irish career ended on the sideline when his teammates needed him the most, unable to get back into the game after suffering an injury securing the ball after beating talented FSU cornerback Greg Reid for a ball that seemed destined for Reid’s hands.

The senior wide receiver, who broke the game’s first big play with an early 41 yard punt return that set the Irish up in FSU territory, seemed dinged up before the touchdown catch, after a big collision on the Seminoles sideline with safety Lamarcus Joyner, who collided with Floyd and cornerback Xavier Rhodes, sending his teammate out for the game with an apparent knee injury.

“He’s just an incredible competitor,” Kelly said of his star receiver. “This is my 22nd year and I’ve had great players, guys that have gone on to have great careers in the NFL or doctors and lawyers, you remember the guys that overcome. The guys that compete and battle. He did that today.”

Floyd didn’t play the best game of his career, limited to just five catches for 41 yards, dropping a deep ball that could’ve gone all the way early in the game and being overthrown on another deep throw where he had his man beat. But Floyd’s departure from the field in the game’s final quarter gave Irish fans a grim look at what this offense will look like without it’s star receiver.

It might be hard to recognize for Irish fans, but Floyd is the only receiver on the roster that keeps defenses honest. The Seminoles secondary didn’t seem concerned with anybody other than Floyd and tight end Tyler Eifert, with the Irish’s all-time leading receiver the number one priority for a secondary that suffered multiple injuries in the game. Yet without Floyd in the game, the Irish couldn’t take advantage of the depleted secondary, and it was John Goodman acting as the deep threat for Rees, targeted in the endzone on the game’s defining interception.

Reinforcements are coming, with Deontay Greenberry one of the most important commitments on the Irish board right now and the Irish still in the hunt for some blue-chip, college ready talent. But after watching four years of the Irish’s most dominant wide receiver in school history, the Irish offense will need to find someone to fill the very large hole Floyd leaves behind.

***

Tyler Eifert has a tough decision to make.

With Floyd graduated and heading to the NFL, the spotlight is now on tight end Tyler Eifert to decide whether or not he’ll return for his senior season at Notre Dame or follow in the footsteps of Kyle Rudolph and exit Notre Dame after three seasons and declare himself eligible for the NFL Draft.

Eifert led the Irish with six catches and 90 yards in a losing effort, taking a few bruising hits while making tough catches for big gains from both Rees and Hendrix. The solid performance capped off a season with 63 catches — and Irish record for tight ends and the best season in the NCAA — while also being named a Mackey Award finalist. Reports say Eifert has heard he’s graded out as a second or third round player, not as good of an assessment Rudolph received last year, but good enough to make the decision difficult for Eifert and his family.

Talking to the Chicago Tribune after the game, Eifert knows he’s got a choice to make.

“I mean, there’s not much more information I can get to make a decision,” Eifert told the Tribune. “I think I have pretty much everything I need. It’s just a matter of what I personally want to do and figuring it out.”

If Eifert returns for just his third season of competition, the Irish will have a proven offensive weapon to build around, and someone to keep defenses honest. He’ll also have a chance to work on his physicality, the area of his game that likely drags his draft grade down a round or so. If he doesn’t, the Irish might look to see if Mike Ragone‘s eligible for an injury hardship waiver and a sixth year, or work quickly to get freshman Ben Koyack and sophomore Alex Welch ready for action, with no tight end currently on the recruiting radar.

Unwilling to make any proclamations after a difficult loss, Eifert has to make a decision before the January 15 deadline.

“I’d like to figure out what I’m doing as soon as I can,” Eifert told the Tribune, “but it’s not really a decision to rush.”

***

After rolling into last offseason with momentum, it’s time to batten down the hatches and get to work.

The unprecedented forward momentum the Irish took into last year’s offseason didn’t propell the Irish to 2011 greatness. So perhaps a stinging ending to a frustrating season will help refocus a football team that absolutely needs to do better at the little things that differentiate a 8-5 football team from one that finds itself in a BCS bowl.

Fans will always grumble and question whether the men in charge are the right ones for the job. Back-to-back 8-5 seasons likely add members to that bandwagon, a group that always has strength in numbers among the Notre Dame faithful. But Brian Kelly and his coaching staff are going nowhere, and while they’ll face lower approval ratings than they had last offseason, they need to continue their dogged chase to transform this football team.

“We know what we need to do,” Kelly said. “We’ve already talked about it. The players that are going to be back for the 2012 football season will be committed to getting that end done.”

After transforming a defense that destroyed Charlie Weis’ career at Notre Dame, Kelly will look at the flaws of his offense. Hired as an offensive innovator, Kelly will now look to improve a unit that played the bowl game short its offensive coordinator and will likely be filling the hole from within.

“We have to get our offense better,” Kelly stated. “When I say better, I’m not talking about the way our guys compete, I’m talking about, we turn the ball over. And we cannot win football games at the highest level if we continue to turn the ball over. The coaches have to get better. The players have to get better. And we need to solve this issue if we’re going to be an elite football team.”

While the next three months will be dedicated to fixing problems that doomed this football team, the next 35 days will be dedicated to finishing strong on the recruiting trail. After identifying the frailty of his defensive front seven, Kelly’s built a unit that can stack up with the rest of the BCS contenders.  Now it’s time to upgrade the deteriorating skill positions on the team, bulking up both the wide receiving and defensive back coffers with hopes that the staff has identified game-ready talent that’s able to step in and compete.

Once again the vultures will swirl above the football program, wondering if Brian Kelly is the right man for the toughest job in college football. That’s what happens when you lose football games the way this team did, and give away a bowl game to a traditional rival like Florida State. But after getting ahead of themselves in a season lost to maddening inconsistencies, the Irish will have five perfect examples (USF, Michigan, USC, Stanford, and Florida State) of why they need to keep focusing on the task ahead instead of what’s behind them. It may be hard for those of us watching on television or the stands, but for a football program with a singular goal, the frustration of 2011 will likely power this group into 2012.

110 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. irishdodger - Dec 30, 2011 at 10:58 AM

    To add salt to the wound, it sounds like Shepard & Greenberry are flipping to USC. I’ll be shocked if we hold onto Darby as well.

    • mediocrebob - Dec 30, 2011 at 11:23 AM

      Whered you get this information?

    • runners00 - Dec 31, 2011 at 9:03 AM

      myth/fantasy for you.

  2. mediocrebob - Dec 30, 2011 at 11:20 AM

    People are still blaming the coaches, huh? Well, my friends, at some point you all need to realize that BK is the best coach we’ve had since Holtz and that we aren’t getting a better coach. BK wanted this job. Nobody else does or will anytime soon . At some point all of these 4 and 5* players should be held accountable. Is Kelly perfect? No. Les Miles isn’t either but he’s in the NC.

    Also need to realize that all of the Weis kids (minus Te’o and Eiffert) don’t know how to win. They’re used to losing. Kelly will bring the Irish back.

    Rees will not be the starting QB next year. It will be Hendrix or Golson. As far as Kelly goes, give the guy a chance to build the program. It’s only year 2. I think he has a better idea of how to do this than anyone posting on here.

    • newyorknd - Dec 30, 2011 at 11:30 AM

      I’m as frustrated as the rest of you on this site, but Bob does have some good points there. I’m not saying Kelly’s not open to criticism for some of his decisions this year, but, sadly, this IS an improvement over the Weis years.

      • nudeman - Dec 30, 2011 at 1:22 PM

        I can’t believe I’m writing this, but I’m not so sure about that (that this is an improvement over Weis years)

        There is every reason to expect BK would get things right at ND. I’ll concede he’s done a good/very good job recruiting and I’ve been in his corner consistently.

        But now it’s time to look back. This is what we have:

        – Another 8-5 year
        – Terrible mismanagement of the QB position that turned into a circus with the LEAST talented guy starting
        – At the bottom of the heap in turnover margin and penalties
        – Stunning 4th qtr collapses against FSU and Michigan and totally FLAT against USC at home.
        – Another QB controversy heading into next Spring
        – No wins over a top 10 team. Again. Just a bunch of Ws over 2nd rate programs (except MSU)

        There is NO progress on the field. NONE.

        With their #1 go-to WR gone, the possibility of a rookie QB running the show (God forbid Rees wins the job again) and an absolutely devastating schedule, next year could be very very tough, and I don’t care how many guys named Greenberry, Sheperd, Russell or Darby they recruit.

      • dmac4real - Dec 30, 2011 at 2:04 PM

        @Nude……8-5 is better than 6-6, and i cant disagree with you that the QB management has been poor, but he was not given much to begin with. He was given one scholarship QB to start with, and he obviously did not mesh well with Crist. He had to use CW’s recruits at QB, and we saw last night and all season how that is gone. He did not do a great job, but he was not given much. The 4th quarter collapses were miserable, no doubt about it, but lets look at this. UofM is a BCS team, Florida State is one of the fastest teams in the nation and USC is ranked #5 if not for their Ban.

        To say there is no progress on the field is honestly quite ridiculous. The defense has done a complete 180 from the CW era. This defense got screwed over all season by the offense, and still came out fighting. When kelly was hired, did you honestly expect a defense this good? No, not a soul did. But he has completely changed that side of the ball. If you dont see progress there, I honestly have no idea what games you are watching.

        Next on the offense. There is progress there too, and its basically undeniable. Look at the O-line, they were great all season long. They have definitely improved since the weis era. The running game is obvious proof. This is the best running game weve had in the 2000’s. Cierre Wood is a 1000 yard rusher, and two years of eligibility left. Jonas Gray looked phenomenal this year, and showed obvious progress. Michael floyd no longer just became a deep threat but progressed into a possession receiver, with first round skills. To say there is no progress anywhere is irritating

        Now do i think next year is going to be a drastic improvement? Probably not. Like you said its going to be a struggle. But there is progress, and at least that is a positive. I typically respect your opinion, but this one got to me.

      • danirish - Dec 30, 2011 at 3:20 PM

        I agree with nudeman. Barely get the W over mighty Boston College and Pitt! Nudeman – you forgot the awesome punt returns this year!

      • txbeej - Dec 30, 2011 at 4:00 PM

        Perhaps you’ve forgotten that Weis was 19-6 with two BCS bowl appearances in his first two seasons?

      • domer77 - Dec 30, 2011 at 6:09 PM

        Nude Punk

        I have neither the time nor the inclination to respond to all absurdity. You are a complete idiot to think there has been no progress on this football team. Weiss is a horrific head coach who could develop no talent, had zero leadership and an ego the size of Kansas. Kelly surpasses his ego and is an embarrassment on the side line, but at least he can walk from Sacred Heart to the stadium without keeling over. Please, please take your “talent” elsewhere next year. You are a repetitive, cantankerous old man who detracts daily from this blog site. Go root for a team that your truly support. It certainly isn’t the IRISH.

        Domer 77

      • terryb101 - Dec 31, 2011 at 10:56 AM

        yall being too hard on nudeman, maybe you dont want to hear the truth i dont know , but he is mostly correct, with that said, this team under kelly should improve to a top 10 team, its only his 2nd year.. and you cant go by wins and loses. you need to look at HOW they are playing, you can play bad(as in year in and year out,not just one game) and win(but you are still bad), which isnt good, or you can play good and lose, which isnt as bad as it seems, at least you know you are playing good, this is why i hate it when people say “its a win i’ll take it” or ” a win is a win” ..no it isnt…8 and 5 is better than 6 and 6? depends on who you have beaten and who you have lost to..regardless of the ints. if they would have cont. playing defense in the second half like they did in the first(i guess the defensive coach thought that they had already won at halftime) ,they would have won..seemed everytime they had time to throw the ball deep, the d backs always had their backs to the qb trying to catch up to the rcvr. they never knew when the ball was there to knock it down..so with the slow d backs we had, they should have kept blitzing….the big problem with the defense is, when the game is on the line, they usually fail…hence the “we dont look like we are getting any better” sayings.. “””Weis was 19-6 with two BCS bowl appearances in his first two seasons?””” yeah he did good with the players that were left to him. didnt he?..one thing tho is, it seems that if you say something bad about the irish then you dont like them. never been able to figure that one out..it appears that only the fans who live in fantasyland and think that if they only say good things about the team then somehow the team will play up to their fantasy wishful thinkings.well im sorry, i expect them to play good, and patting them on the head and giving them all a ribbon for doing what is expected of them just isnt my style..ND will get better under kelly just give em time..you guys have a nice new year and and keep the faith

      • garfdog9 - Dec 31, 2011 at 1:02 PM

        I cannot figure out why we have a three star team with all this four star talent.

        I’d like Kelly to bring a strong offfensive coordinator from the outside and turn the keys over to him.

        I’d like someone to explain to me the consensus view that Diaco is good at what he does. What justifies that? Michigan and FSU have caused me serious concern that he isn’t ready for prime time.

        Let’s join the Big 12 for all sports.

        Let’s get field turf.

        Let’s get the Jumbotron.

    • danirish - Dec 30, 2011 at 3:17 PM

      Ten bucks that Rees is the starter next year. According to Kelly, he seems to be the only one who “gets it” whatever that is.

      • newyorknd - Dec 30, 2011 at 4:32 PM

        Hey, I’m not saying I like what I see on the field. I expected more out of this team and BK. But the defense is better under BK than Weis. The O-line is better under BK. It’s not the level of improvement anyone expects, but to say there is NO improvement is wrong.

      • nudeman - Dec 31, 2011 at 10:34 AM

        I predicted this earlier.
        He loves Rees. Wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see #11 start the season.

        More importantly, why are we to believe that next year this team with the SAME COACH and most of the SAME PLAYERS will stop turning the ball over, committing stupid penalties, giving games away and underachieving?

        I am now beginning to believe BK isn’t the coach we thought and hoped he was.
        Yes, THEY WERE THAT BAD.

        They might as well have had flashing red neon signs over their helmets that said “WE ARE A POORLY COACHED TEAM AND WE WILL BE GIVING YOU EVERY CHANCE TO WIN THIS GAME”

  3. mediocrebob - Dec 30, 2011 at 11:22 AM

    You’re all so dramatic. Relax

  4. irishdodger - Dec 30, 2011 at 11:30 AM

    Scout is reporting that Shepard is no longer 100% committed & could go either way. The kid posted something about letting the world know in Feb which makes no sense if he’s an early enrollee.

  5. runners00 - Dec 30, 2011 at 11:34 AM

    I was somewhat excited about the Kelly hire. Then I see guys that can really coach — guys like Saban and Meyer — and I know it is a long road. That said, Kelly is only finishing his second year in the big time (no offense to Bearcat fans but Cinci ain’t the big time). Really.

    Saban, in his second year in the big time at Michigan State, was 6-6. Heck, in his third year he was 7-5. But eventually he caught on and learned a great deal of what it takes to succeed at this level. It’s not easy. It takes 22 excellent players and at Notre Dame, those excellent players have to be remarkable students. And those excellent players have to play to their ability.

    To that end, I don’t want to hear or read another word about Mike Floyd’s athletic ability. He drops important passes in key moments. Great receivers don’t do this. He lets up in key situations, resulting in interceptions, overthrown passes or just plain incompletions. He’s a great kid and someone who will probably do well in life. He’s certainly overcome a lot of adversity. But, let’s not confuse this with being a Sunday receiver. He’s not a Sunday receiver. He’ll get drafted but someone will notice what we’ve seen these past few years and they’ll cut him. That will allow him to use that Notre Dame degree to go into something fun and exciting, which will be great for him. But it won’t be catching football passes for a living.

    The jury’s out on Kelly. We lost four games this season to strong opponents on our schedule: Florida State, Stanford, Michigan and USC. We also lost to a miserable South Florida squad in what can only be remembered as the weakest effort any Notre Dame squad has put forth in the last decade (and that is saying something, considering that we lost to Syracuse at home on senior day and we went 3-9 one season). This team should have destroyed South Florida (and BC and Pitt). There are a lot of talented athletes who underperformed. But in this game, we had FSU figured out when we were up 14-0. Blitz. Make the offensive line stop us and if they can’t, keep sacking the quarterback. We backed off – and their athletes shined.

    Now it’s on to recruiting, where we need to shore up some very talented kids and get them to bring this program all the way back. Losing 18-14 to Florida State in what was essentially a home game for the ‘Noles isn’t the worst thing. But it was the way that we lost that is so frustrating. We should have been able to hold them off. I don’t know that we’re better than they are – our quarterbacks are not big-time college quarterbacks – but our defensive players are so dominant, with the right game plan we should have won this game.

    • ihatemistate - Dec 30, 2011 at 3:42 PM

      You are spot on about Michael Floyd..way overrated. And then for him to duck out of the last game with an owie and stand on the side lines really pissed me off. I’m sure the pros were watching that too.

    • dmac4real - Dec 30, 2011 at 3:49 PM

      No idea how you can say that about MF3.

    • ndtoronto - Dec 30, 2011 at 5:16 PM

      that td catch in the bowl game seemed like a pretty crucial catch in a key moment in the game don’t you think?
      btw, if MF is hurt he’s hurt…if he goes on the field he becomes a liability…so plz stop saying that he wussied out.

      • runners00 - Dec 30, 2011 at 7:46 PM

        It was a good catch but I stand by my comment. Floyd at any other school would be a guy who’d be thought of as a decent receiver. At ND he is a first rounder because he’s got a lot of exposure, a network behind him and etc. There are many good college receivers every year and yet every year people say that Floyd is this incredible receiver. His numbers, particularly against solid opponents like USC, Stanford and Florida State, are not that impressive and those are the types of athletes he’d compete against at the next level.

        The drops in the first half were difficult — including the TD catch that Rees should have had. Floyd’s just so nonchalant out there.

      • ihatemistate - Jan 1, 2012 at 7:35 PM

        I agree totally with Runners, sorry but I think Floyd got overhyped and wasn’t as good as made out and yes I do think he wussied out at the end of the game. Good luck to him though.

  6. don74 - Dec 30, 2011 at 11:37 AM

    KA starts by saying the game was a microcoism of the season. I think the season has been a lesson in reality regarding how far down this program was and how much more we have to do. We can put the blame on Kelly, Weis, Willingham, Davies, the administration, Res Life, the weather in South Bend, the impatience of the fans. It doesnt matter. The once great ND program is not among the elite in CFB. We can get there but yesterday’s game and for that matter this season proved it’s not a simple fix. It’s not the QB,(yes we need someone to step up and play the position the way this offense needs it to be played), it’s not the DB’s, it’s not the RB’s, or the training table, the field or the environment. It’s everything. When are we going to admit the program has been in decline for 20 years. One or two recruiting classes is not going to turn this around. Is Kelly the guy? Who knows? But for those that think Meyer, Stoops, Lombardi or whomever can drop in and turn this around overnight, think again. We have not beaten a top 10 team since ?????, I don’t remember. When was the last upset?

    I will continue to root, go to a game or two, watch em all, read the blogs and hope for the best. If the administration wants to have a winning football program, there will be a winning football program. I get the sense the powers that be understand CFB is at a crossroads and the only way ND FB stays relevant is to be among the elite. I expect things will get better but not next season.

  7. oldndgrad - Dec 30, 2011 at 11:43 AM

    Outcoached again. My impression of Kelly now is that he’s an arrogant, egotistical, stubborn fool. Even yesterday before the game some tv sports reporters were making fun of him. Crist was screwed and yet showed much class. If only BK had that kind of class. Why play a mediocre qb when you have a 5 star with potential NFL qualities on the bench. If that doesn’t workout then develop Hendrix, who has much potential. I’ve been saying this all yr —we can’t beat top 10 teams with Turnover Tommy at the helm. I feel sorry for Tommy, he shouldn’t have been put in that position all yr. Some great comments on the game here which I won’t repeat but it seems to me that many alum here understand a gameplan, that should have been continued, better than the coaches. IT WAS OBVIOUS. I wonder if Diaco was 2nd guessed by Kelly and why not revert back when things were falling apart. With so much time their qb looked like an All American and doomsday was inevitable. Unless Golson turns out to be special, it’s going to be a long season next yr. despite the influx (finally) of super defensive guys.

    • nudeman - Dec 30, 2011 at 11:54 AM

      I started the year 1000% behind Kelly.

      But I blame him more than any other single player/coach/factor for a horsesh** year.

      1. At the bottom of the NCAA in penalties and turnover margin.
      2. Took the QB position which should have been an area of strength and turned it into a year long circus.
      3. Had his team come out flat in big games and frequently play down to the competition level.
      4. Has them in position to have another QB circus next year with a crushing schedule.

      These are not the characteristics of a well coached team or a well run program.

      As Don said this program has fallen so far it is sad. Maybe things have passed them by. And even worse, they’re nowhere close to being “back”.

      Next year just could be worse.

      • runners00 - Dec 30, 2011 at 1:57 PM

        The thing about Kelly is this: he has to realize that we expect no penalties or turnovers (and definitely no dumb turnovers on 3rd and 6 after you stop them). That is what we expect.

        I am not saying that things are getting worse. I don’t think they are. But I do think that to win in South Bend, you have to run a very, very tight ship. We expect it. We demand it. And you cannot have a tight ship if you have guys getting fifteen yard flags for late hits — after making key stops.

        I don’t know what it is. I am at a loss. But, if things really, really, really don’t change — if we don’t stop the turnovers and we don’t stop the penalties — next year could be a 4-8 type of season. Teams will know Kelly a lot better. And there seems to be a bit of a tougher schedule next year than this year. So, we’ll see. But the change has to come to South Bend. I mean, the culture of losing and of losing against teams that are about the same skill level or slightly better, has to go.

      • dmac4real - Dec 30, 2011 at 3:47 PM

        @runners…Read his postgame comments. He basically said turnovers are unaaceptable, and hes going to look at the coaches, then the players.

      • runners00 - Dec 30, 2011 at 7:48 PM

        But why are the turnovers happening. TOs are not little things. Penalties — particularly during big moments — are not little things.

  8. barneyzonk - Dec 30, 2011 at 12:44 PM

    i’ve heard eneough about bk1997 a small knot came into my belly
    not to worry bob davie is here,he will take us to greatness
    the knot became larger and hurt more.
    lets hire ty, he will lead us o the size of the knot
    hire an alumni that will surely do it
    its the size of a baseball,groan
    colonel swarbrick comes along
    now we are surely headed to utopia
    bk is heredont need to worry now.
    the size of a grapefruit
    and getting bigger
    all you smart folks have tried to convince me
    that things will be alright
    but all i can go by is the size of that knot and
    the pain in my belly

    thanks.

  9. bringbacktonyroberts - Dec 30, 2011 at 1:11 PM

    As an ND and Bears fans, it is painful to watch similar coaching blunders and mistakes week after week.

    Here is my take from the game:

    1. Our Defense will be VERY good next year. Our front seven will be among the best in the country, and if we get Darby and Tee, our secondary should be pretty good as well. Most importantly, we are getting faster on defense. I am used to seeing over-matched Irish defenses get burned by quicker skill players. Well, that will be no more. The sky is the limit for this unit. The only thing that can stop them is stupid mistakes (penalties), injuries, or Diaco taking his foot off the gas.

    2. Tommy Rees is not a starting QB. No mobility and a pee-wee arm are bad enough. But what infuriates me about Tommy is his decision making. There have been great QB’s with mediocre “measurable” skills like arm strength and 40 yd time. What they have is the ability to not force things that aren’t there and make the “right” throw. Sometimes I wonder if Tommy thinks he is Aaron Rodgers. The times he throws into double and triple coverage make me sick. I often wonder what he sees before he throws the ball. Plus, he has had a year and a half to work on his “reads” and decision making and has gotten WORSE. There are only so many times he can say “I’m going to work on improving that.” Here is an idea: don’t throw into double coverage in the red zone!!!! Learn to throw the ball away. I was reminiscing yesterday about Jimmy Clausen’s last year. Every pass that left his hand I had 95% confidence would be completed. With Tommy, I assume every pass he throws will be picked. Finally, Tommy needs to stop stepping into pressure. I often wonder if he likes being sacked. Because whenever the pressure is coming at him, he curls up into the fetal position. I want a QB who at least tries to avoid pressure or throw it away. The dopey look Rees has on his face all the time reminds of Rex Grossman after one of his vintage 4 INT games.

    3. We need a replacement for Jonas. I love Cierre, but we need a back that can take a pounding and dish some punishment out. Theo and Cierre look very fragile carrying the ball and I’m not sure if either one could handle a full season.

    4. TJ Jones needs to step up. If Eiffert goes, we are screwed. Our WR disappeared yesterday after Floyd went out. John Goodman? Seriously. How does this guy have a spot on the roster. Vince Wilfork looks faster. TJ has the skills, he just needs to break out. If he bulks up I think he will gain some confidence and begin to assert himself. On the two TD catches by FSU all I thought to myself was: If Eiffert is gone, we have no one who can make a catch like that.

    5. BK needs to change up whatever he is doing motivation wise. I wish I could hear what he says behind closed doors. It seems like whatever he is saying and doing is not working. We have a star studded team that should be 12-1. Every game except Stanford we should have won. Yet here we are. Kelly talks a good talk about “cleaning things up” and “not turning the ball over” but we have yet to see that come to fruition. It just amazes me that a team so mistake prone continues to make stupid plays in the last game of the season. Not one of the INT was a good play by FSU, they were all gift wrapped by our QB’s. We need realize we are good enough to beat anyone but realize our limitations and play ND football. That means not throwing into triple coverage. That means hitting 47 yd fgs. That means saving a couple sacks a game by getting rid of the football.

    Onward and upward gentlemen. It’s been a roller coaster season, let’s hope we right the ship.

    • pudgalvin - Dec 30, 2011 at 2:47 PM

      Boy, that was a vintage Bears loss, huh. Looked like Moses Moreno out there yesterday. Have you have seen three worse int’s in a single game?

    • ndtoronto - Dec 30, 2011 at 5:31 PM

      ye it really pisses me off when rees crawls into fetal postion (lol) when pressure comes…like c’mon throw it away or escape the pocket (OH YEAH I 4GOT REES IS AS MOBILE AS MY GRANDMA)…yes when i see rees play i reminisce about the weis teams with stud qbs (clausen and quinn) but crappy defences…now our defence is stellar but our offense is slackin b/c of our qb liabilty…”sigh”

    • Jennifer - Dec 30, 2011 at 5:44 PM

      What about the ladies?

  10. irish2011 - Dec 30, 2011 at 1:36 PM

    Alot of valid points but remember people we are fans only. Not the coaches,players or AD. As much as I want the ship to be right I also want to remember why we love ND!! I will take seasons like this over past coaches(weis , Ty , davie) seasons. The talent level has never been higher BK will get it done. For am I proud to say I am a ND fan!

    • bernhtp - Dec 30, 2011 at 2:12 PM

      I am still a BK fan. He seems smart, represents the university well, has a great resume, has been recruiting well, and I trust he will figure it out.

      I understand that people as beside themselves with the fourth quarter meltdown, but I will forever be an ND grad and fan.

      • ihatemistate - Dec 30, 2011 at 3:50 PM

        Make me hurl. When you come out of your stupor let us know.

  11. danirish - Dec 30, 2011 at 3:33 PM

    I would like to give a big congrats to Michael Floyd – he is, without a doubt, the man (even with the drop) Now, please God, can the Chicago Bears draft him?

    • ihatemistate - Dec 30, 2011 at 3:55 PM

      Yea he was really “the man” leaving the game when they needed him most. Didn’t look like he was hurting too bad to me. If you’re going to come out of your last college game at ND when your team needs one touchdown to win, you had better be reething in pain or at least act like it. I would bet $$ even if he gets drafted he won’t pan out. He’ll either get in trouble or be hurt all the time. I know it’s harsh but I really do believe that.

      • danirish - Dec 30, 2011 at 4:51 PM

        Not going to knock a kid with every receiving record on teh books. Without Floyd, the Irish stay home during bowl season. With Kelly’s track record of “WTF” calls I wouldn’t doubt he was pulled – I’m sure he wanted to be in.

        My one concern in the Pro’s is that he will have lots of money and time with no one to watch over him and he does get in trouble. I hope to God that does not happen.

        But I’ll never question his heart ina football uniform

  12. oldndgrad - Dec 30, 2011 at 4:10 PM

    ihatemistate, you’re right. Don’t know if it was him or the coaches but he should have insisted to be in there at the end, even if only as a decoy. It might have opened things up for a score.

  13. irish4me - Dec 30, 2011 at 5:20 PM

    Five Things I Learned:
    1) Tommy Rees is accountable for his many turnovers. He apparently doesn’t internalize any of his previous mistakes. 2 times against FSU he throws into multiple coverage on the FIRST down and gets picked. It’s mind boggling, does he think in the moment that he has 4 plays to make the TD and doesn’t remember that an interception removes the other 3 chances? He hasn’t the innate ability to feel the pressure, he never attempts to run, rarely steps up into the pocket or throws the ball away, takes the sack every time. In short I have run out of patience for Mr. Rees, I was a big supporter last year, I liked him over Dayne (I was wrong) and rooted for him to get the starting nod.
    2) Brian Kelly is a great recruiter; he knows what fits into his scheme and the kind of players that he wants in his system. A quick look at his boys who make up the Defensive front seven will bear this out; they are to a man outstanding. His take on the QB position is puzzling at best, I believe he thinks Tommy is a winner and cooler under pressure than Dayne (which is probably true), but Hendrix by all accounts has so much more promise, why not take the time to develop that? This kid Hendrix is a Pre-Med major and he can’t learn a playbook? The thing about Kelly from my perspective and of course the disclaimer is, I don’t know Brian Kelly, and it’s all an impression. It’s unfair, but this is what I “see”: Kelly seems to be a very stubborn Irishman as evidenced by the “get used to it” comment after the Tulsa loss last year that was completely on him. I think he got a lot of blowback after yanking Dayne Crist with only one-half of football in Game 1 this season. Instead of taking a step back to evaluate that decision, he dug his heels in and Tommy Rees was issued a license to become a virtual turnover machine. For some strange reason Tommy can turn the ball over at will but Crist and Hendrix can not, and that has me wondering and a lot of others on this blog wondering as well. If this was at Cincinnati he wouldn’t be getting all of the negativity and pressure from fans and I believe he would come to the right decision about Tommy a while back but he’s dug his heels and…. I do have faith in Kelly as an evaluator of talent, my problem or should I say I believe his problem may lie in the on-the-field decisions during the battle. Diaco has the defense playing perfectly with stunts and blitzing and someone, either Diaco or Kelly calls off the dogs with disastrous results that leaves me yelling in vain at a deaf TV screen to blitz, It’s on Kelly there to override that decision.
    3) It takes at least 3 or 4 seasons after a new coach takes over to get his system in place. ND has been in a downward spiral for quite some time now and patience is the cure here. Patience and Recruits that is, and I believe that Kelly is good at that. SO relax everybody.
    4) Bob Diaco is a really good Defensive coordinator, when he has a plan as in the beginning of the FSU game yesterday, we should stick to it. It was working perfectly!! Why mess with perfection?
    5) I see the schedule next year and I cringe, but everyone on that schedule will have a different team and will have lost important players just like us. The good thing is The Irish will have lost their secondary and no one can tell me that’s a bad thing.
    6) One last extra note here, if Michael Floyd had caught that perfectly thrown ball and scored a TD, this all would have been a different day today.
    Please hire an experienced Offensive Coordinator for next year and let’s keep rooting for our boys in Blue and Gold.

  14. acieu - Dec 30, 2011 at 6:24 PM

    All this passion over a horse manure football program.

  15. charliegirl1 - Dec 30, 2011 at 7:35 PM

    Don’t know exactly why, but I have a feeling nudeman looks a lot like Jerry Sandusky

    • nudeman - Dec 31, 2011 at 11:46 AM

      Not even close
      More like Richard Gere with a touch of Greg Norman

  16. bernhtp - Dec 30, 2011 at 9:39 PM

    God! ND lost to a ranked team by four points when Vegas said we should have lost by three. You’d think the world came to an end. Let’s put this into perspective: http://youtu.be/Xyh-JpWdGmQ?t=34s

  17. tony34343434 - Dec 30, 2011 at 11:12 PM

    we all talk about recruiting, and it is very important, but when you think about it, over the past years we lost to:
    Uconn, Cuse, Tulsa, Navy, South Florida, to some weak michigan teams and add any I forgot.

    TCU and Boise are becoming powerhouses, all with far less highly rated recruits than we have, and BK has done a great job recruiting and it is only his second year.

    But, the X’s and O’s are something missing, Michigan went 10-2 with far less talent than we had and maybe a tougher schedule than us. Why are they getting it done, and i hate to say it, and i hate Michigan, why are they ahead of us on the curve.

    it is not academics either because stanford is doing it too.

  18. irish2011 - Dec 31, 2011 at 8:50 AM

    Just read an article on bleacher report that sheppard is picking between ND n USC out of a HAT!!!!

    • runners00 - Dec 31, 2011 at 2:26 PM

      If all he wants is football, Sheppard will likely take SC. But I don’t buy it. I have to think that Shep will take ND. The value of the degree at Notre Dame — particularly for a kid with strong academics like Tee Sheppard — far outweighs the degree from Southern Cal.

      • c4evr - Jan 1, 2012 at 1:58 AM

        Anybody else here tired of the ‘Academics Card’ being played when ND needs an edge in recruiting. i long for the days when legends and football tradition separated ND from the pack… now it’s a gaggle of 3-star RKG’s that at least will have a prestigious degree once their football days are over.

  19. runners00 - Dec 31, 2011 at 9:10 AM

    We need to relax. I have posted very critical comments about BKelly and this season. For sure, things did not work the way that we thought they would. But we have to be patient enough to let Kelly’s approach take hold. We’re tackling better than we ever did under any coach since Holtz. We forget this stuff. But don’t you remember those horrible plays where we’d have a linebacker in the flat with the chance to make a play just before a first down, only to miss a tackle and watch the receiver run twenty-five yards? How about the screen passes that went for fifty yards? We haven’t seen that this season. One reason: we have a strong defensive front. Some were recruited by Kelly. Some weren’t — but all tackle better under Kelly than they did under Weis.

    The offense will come around. We know that it will. Everywhere Kelly’s gone he’s been successful. We just have to chill a bit and be patient and let Kelly’s system of better players and better plays work itself out. I know that we should have beaten Michigan and we should have beaten FSU and we played poorly against some other teams. We should not be satisfied. But it’s not magic. I mean, we have to be patient, get some replacements for some good players who are leaving the program. Things will work out.

    • nudeman - Dec 31, 2011 at 12:08 PM

      I’d like to share your optimism, but I don’t. Certainly not in the near term.

      They go into next year with no QB and the same coaching staff that coached them to the bottom in terms of turnover margin and penalties. Oh yeah, they also play OK, UM, MSU, Stanford, and USC next year.

      They started this season on a horrible note, ended it on a horrible note and in between spit the bit every time they went up against a quality opponent. Progress is measure in Ws and Ls. You think Kelly has a bonus in his contract for attracting 4 and 5 star recruits, or new helmets? Doubt it. The only bonus clauses he has are for games won, BCS Bowl invites and National Championships.

      This year was a huge disappointment.

      • runners00 - Dec 31, 2011 at 2:11 PM

        It was a disappointment. Second years sometimes are disappointments. As I mentioned before, Saban was 6-6 in his second year at MSU. He was 7-5 in his third year, too. Holtz had the same problem.

        There are ups and downs, as a coach learns to coach games at this level, where many opponents can beat you on any given day. You are right to point out the difficult schedule next year. That said, hopefully Kelly has learned enough from these first two seasons to really build on what we’ve started here. The blocking and tackling is a thousand times better than in the Weis years.

        We need a quarterback and we appear to have one who redshirted this year (or, perhaps Hendrix will be the lead in 2012). We’ll need a big back, but we signed a couple of big backs already. So, I agree that this was a disappointing year but we did win some close games that we lost last year. And we did play much, much better on defense (we’re the only team to shut out FSU in the first half since 2009).

        We need better offensive performances all around, but particularly at quarterback and at receiver. And Kelly needs to call a better game, which I think will happen as he adapts to the speed at this level. I know he blamed the kids following the SC loss, but if you look at how fast that team was/is, you have to question the play-calling, particularly early in the game (such as not establishing the run). And against Michigan, when we had our foot on their throat, you have to question the play calling there, too (I.e. some sort of prevent that did nothing to prevent anything). It was a disappointing season, but we were in position to win ten or eleven games. That’s much better than most of the Weis years (it goes without saying, though, that coaches will adjust to our play calling, too, so we cannot be satisfied with it at all). Let’s finish strong on the recruiting front and get out there next year and play harder.

    • c4evr - Jan 1, 2012 at 2:36 AM

      Beg to differ runners00, Holtz’s trajectory was 180 degrees from where BK sits now. Holtz took over a Gerry Faust team that went 5 – 6 (they were blown out in 4 of those games) in 1985 and finished with what looked like no real progress at 5 – 6 in 1986. But lets look at the games from that year… outside of #2 Alabama, Lou lost to 5 other teams (3 ranked in the top 8 & 1 other in the top 20) by a TOTAL OF 14 POINTS. The following year, he improved to 8-4 (still with Faust recruits, mind you) beating 3 RANKED TEAMS along the way to an 8 -1 start before losing the last three to Penn State, a #2 ranked Miami team, and Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl. And the third year he won it all. That’s turning a program around. This on the heels of 5 consecutive 5-loss seasons. If you want to talk culture of losing, it rivaled anything that Weis instilled. Firstly, the key is that Holtz was a great coach, recruiter, AND MOTIVATOR. Kelly does nothing to inspire his troops – unless you consider throwing them under the bus in the media or pointing out that they are not his recruits and that simple fact somehow makes them less capable or dispassionate athletes as suitable motivation tactics. Lou also understood what made Notre Dame great in the first place… North-South running and controlling both sides of the line of scrimmage. Secondly, the spread offense at ND is like putting Britney Spears in a nun’s habit – not a good fit. And the glittery gimmicks, a jumbotron?, & rock-n-roll like you hear at hockey games…please. Hate to say it, but his legacy may leave more of a black eye on ND’s history/tradition than any of the other recent, infamous misfires of the past decade and a half. LH once said, “The man who complains about the way the ball bounces is likely the one who dropped it.” And I heard BK complaining about a lot of things this past season.

  20. jerseyshorendfan1 - Dec 31, 2011 at 12:07 PM

    By the way, nobody’s really mentioned how we got hosed on that fsu “catch” that was reviewed in the booth. If you watch the replay closely, the fsu receiver is on his back still trying to gain control of the ball when his shoulder clearly is out of bounds. I believe that this play, when it was ruled a catch, set them up for the go-ahead score. Why is it that we always have a critical call or three, every game that doesn’t go our way? Anyway, the real calls that drive me crazy are the ones Kelly makes, like throwing on first and goal from the four yard line and Rees not having the good sense to throw the ball away instead of throwing into double coverage for the pick. Why is it so frustrating to watch this team always?

    • runners00 - Dec 31, 2011 at 2:01 PM

      Oh no doubt — that was not a catch. In fact, I actually got up and walked out for a few minutes during the “official review.” Could not believe that anyone with any objectivity would have concluded that was a catch And on 3rd and 6. Horrible call by officials.

      It’s frustrating to watch this team because they have athletes and talent, unlike some other teams we’ve watched in the past, and yet they play around with these opponents largely because they turn the ball over way too often and they get penalized too often, too.

      By the way, has anyone read the amazing book, “The Art of Fielding”? I swear, what is happening to the shortstop in the book – the lead character – is what happened to Crist earlier and what happened to Rees all season (i.e. inopportune interceptions/throwing errors).

    • 9irish - Dec 31, 2011 at 6:06 PM

      man….I wasn’t sure about the catch (well, I didn’t think it was) I think it was based on having to overturn what they already called….anyway…they were actually running the ball on them. and then you get down there and start flinging the ball around in traffic? this is a recurring problem, to say the least

  21. dutch31 - Dec 31, 2011 at 12:45 PM

    Kelly should forget about the Mad Hatter from California. He needs to spend new years eve in NJ trying to convince The dbs Wright and Schumate from Don Bosco Prep to attend ND. They are ready to play right now, fresh off 2 straight National titles.

  22. jonathanfesler - Dec 31, 2011 at 5:59 PM

    All righty then! I’ve read all the posts and I think everything has been covered! I’m a life long Irish fan! I bleed Blue and Gold!! Can’t wait for next year! Time to start picking up on the basketball team!! Final thought “the footbball team didn’t do really that bad for a school who’s best known for their women’s basketball team!!!

  23. acieu - Dec 31, 2011 at 6:41 PM

    Is it now nine straight bowl losses for the Irish. Does that equal a record?

    • irish4me - Jan 1, 2012 at 1:32 AM

      acieu, run on home to mommy. she doesn’t allow you to play with the big boys. The Irish had won their 2 previous bowl games, Einstein,

  24. thefiesty1 - Jan 1, 2012 at 1:11 PM

    When is the last time ND won a bowl game? 10,12, 15 years? Just not that relevant anymore.

    • ndtoronto - Jan 1, 2012 at 4:05 PM

      December 31st 2010 – Sun Bowl

      ND – 33
      Miami – 17

  25. almoose - Jan 4, 2012 at 9:10 PM

    Kelly just does not have the Big Game knowledge. He went with Rees who looks scard when he is about to be hit. Needs another qb and also needs to hold himself accountable!

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