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IBG: Can the Irish keep the train rolling?

Sep 6, 2012, 4:48 PM EDT

ibg_nokelly3

I don’t think anybody expected the Irish to steamroll Navy for the second straight season. Behind the rock solid offensive line play and an impressive performance by Manti Te’o’s defense, Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo called the Irish the best Notre Dame team he’d seen in 15 years.

Nobody knows how to take advantage of momentum less than the Irish lately, making Saturday’s date with Purdue another wild guess. Will Notre Dame follow the same formula as last Saturday, and repeat the drubbing they put on the Boilermakers last year? Can Notre Dame head into Michigan State undefeated, making for a pretty great primetime showdown in week three, before another one against the down-in-the-dumps Wolverines?

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet.

After last week’s thrilling debut, we’re back with another Irish Blogger Gathering. This time, I’m asking questions to our friends at Her Loyal Sons. Ryan Ritter — also known as NDTex — fielded my queries.

Here. We. Go.

Obviously, this season got off to a much better start than last year, with the Irish taking control over an undermanned opponent and dominating them. Nobody loves to jump to conclusions more than Irish fans, so in that spirit, give me your three best and worst takeaways from the 50-10 drubbing of Navy.

BEST

1. The offensive line dominated. Watching Navy get pushed back five yards on just about every play. I’m a big believer that teams are built in the trenches and then outward so I was positively giddy over what I saw from them against Navy.

2. Speed. Not just from our skill players like George Atkinson III or Theo Riddick, but from guys like Stephon Tuitt. We had a 300+ lineman outrun Navy and even non-ND fans were in awe. Notre Dame may just have that “SEC speed” that talking-heads were convinced the Irish would never have again.

3. The entire confidence of Golson. Even after the interception, he didn’t seem phased. Sure, we ran the ball a lot, but how many times have we watched a bad INT be followed up by additional mistakes at QB? Another play that stood out to me was the blind-side sack that he took early in the game. Not only did he somehow not fumble, but the next play he was rushed again and instead of making a panicked throw, calmly went out of the pocket and tried to get as much yardage as possible. It’s still quite early, but he doesn’t look like an inexperienced QB right now.

WORST

1. Dumb mistakes reared their ugly head again. Botched extra point attempts and a very, very bad INT by Golson. None of them were too costly, but Irish fans are going to be a sensitive bunch, myself included, after 2011’s disasters. These are flashbacks I’d prefer not to have.

2. Even though, I’m not in a panic mode, our secondary did not play well at all. Granted, the defense was selling out on the option, meaning no safety help for the young CBs, but watching Navy receivers easily burn them definitely didn’t give me any warm and fuzzy feelings.

3. Golson’s INT — yes, I’m going to mention this twice. Part of it is because I have very little to complain about, but the INT really was that bad. I don’t know if it was hubris or a horribly bad read that caused it, but you simply can’t stare down a receiver and then throw it into double coverage. Ask Tommy Rees how well that works out.

After not exactly lighting the world on fire in the secondary, the Irish defense will now play an offense with a quarterback whose primary skill is throwing the football. How do you expect the secondary to play Saturday afternoon?

To be perfectly frank, much better. As I said in the previous response, the CBs had practically zero safety help. It was all one-on-one, leave CBs on an island type coverage for the most part. That simply won’t repeat against Purdue.

Purdue will allow us to go back to our base defense and run normal coverage schemes once again. In fact, Notre Dame started to do this in the second half and lo and behold, we got Manti Te’o his first pick.

We’ll be far from perfect and I fully expect this young secondary to take a few lumps during Purdue and throughout the season, but that’s to be expect really with any defense. I mean, even Alabama gave up some huge plays on Denard Robinson floaters.

The Irish didn’t show much offensively in their victory over Navy, throwing the ball less than 20 times and relying on a back-to-the-basics ground attack. Any new wrinkles you expect to see against Purdue, or is Chuck Martin saving some bullets for East Lansing and the Wolverines?

I think Brian Kelly and Chuck Martin are doing exactly what they should be: the K.I.S.S. principle, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”, back to basics, run the damn ball, or whatever else you want to call it. At media day in the offseason Kelly borderline admitted that he probably got too cute with the offense, knowing he had loads of play at his disposal. He mentioned specifically that Martin would say to him “here’s what we need to beat, now give me a play” and proceed from there.

“Get used to it” has been thrown out the window. The Irish appear to be more than willing to play to their strengths and not be cute about it.

As far as any wrinkles, I don’t expect anything too fancy. Perhaps a new formation or two making use of splitting Eifert out wide to cause severe mismatches or perhaps having more true spread formations with multiple WRs, but that’s about it. I don’t think the Kelly is going to turn around and tell Golson to throw 40 times either. Let a defense prove they can stop the run-first attack and then adjust from there.

***

For other entries in the IBG, head to Her Loyal Sons, The Subway Domer, and Strong and True for more answers to burning questions.

  1. joeschu - Sep 6, 2012 at 5:38 PM

    Any readers in the Raleigh, NC area (or even loyal Irish fans looking to help fellow fans out). Please let @NBC17 know that they’re being idiots in preempting the Irish for Alabama/W.Ky on Saturday.

    It is a case of “the worldwide leader” screwing ND fans royally by forcing anyone who picks up the earlier SEC game (SC vs. Eastern Carolina) to take the later Alabama game (thus knocking ND off air).

    Well played ESPN – you tools!

    Local ND fans are hoping enough noise could knock the 2nd ND game down to their other digital channel and get ND on air.

    • dmac4real - Sep 6, 2012 at 5:53 PM

      I dont think NBC can do SEC games….Also, Im almost positive ND is guaranteed to show home games Nationally. So they should be on your NBC channel right at 3:30….

      • theirishlion - Sep 6, 2012 at 10:20 PM

        Not necessarily…

        I remember two years ago, I was at Marshall in W. Virginia with some friends and found a TV to catch the Irish play Utah… only to turn to NBC and find that they were showing the 4th quarter of a Tennessee game. The game was in hand, but they played it over ND anyway (probably a contract thing). Had to keep track of the Irish via bottom line updates, which NBC doesn’t do… it turns out it was ESPN coverage on NBC. So it does happen sometimes, probably a regional NBC thing.

        We didn’t see it live, but we saw an update on the bottom line of Robert Blanton’s punt block/TD. Even though we had no idea how it happened and didn’t see it, my friends and I started jumping around and screaming like little girls anyway at a simple bottom line update, considering how the 2010 season had been going before that game.

      • idratherbeinsouthbend - Sep 6, 2012 at 10:55 PM

        ND doesn’t have that guarantee from NBC. If they do, somebody needs to talk to the folks in Myrtle Beach, SC. Cause i missed a quarter and a half of the Air Force game last year while on vacation….tried to pick up the feed on the UND.com site, but the wireless internet in a beachfront condo is less than high speed.

        But, that brings a good point, you might be able to check out the game on UND>com

    • 9irish - Sep 6, 2012 at 10:27 PM

      Is that the one that would cover Jacksonville, NC, too? I’m not there now, but they used to pull that sh*t all the time. And the regional coverage would often not be ND on CBS or ABC either. Alabama and W. Ky….that’ll be a real barn burner.

    • joeschu - Sep 7, 2012 at 8:52 AM

      In speaking to the local NBC affiliate, they really wanted the ECU/SC game, which makes perfect sense for this market. Because of the way ESPN packages regional games to affiliates, they force the game on to non-ABC stations (as to not interrupt their existing schedule) and they force that local affiliate to carry both games in the package as a double-header, hence sticking the stinker of AL/WKY upon anyone who picks up the other game. It is shameless bundling and has the clear intent of knocking either a CBS or NBC game off air. Between the “irrelevancy” propaganda and this sort of dirty bundling activity, “the worldwide leader” is really taking a dump on fans.

      The local NBC guys are hoping to get permission from NBC Sports to put the game on their alternate digital station (17.2), but so far NBC is balking. I can see where NBC wants to “punish” this affiliate for taking the alternate package, but all this crap does is screw fans.

      As for me, I’m screwed. I have kids with soccer games tomorrow afternoon, and with no broadcast option, I can’t TiVo the game for later. NBCSports Channel doesn’t have a replay listed, nor does Universal. The streaming is great, but there’s no timeshifting.

      Sorry to say this on an NBC blog, but this is why sports leagues and universities need to own the distribution rights. Broadcast networks are generally greedy slimeballs who add very little to the equation. They’re outdated middle men who leagues could easily bypass and sell direct to consumers. Would you not pay $100 or more per year to get every ND game on your iPad/iPhone/AppleTV/Samsung App/TiVo App/Name-your-favorite-device-that-can-connect-to-the-net App? Fewer commercials, more control, no blackouts, follow your team from any market… and the list goes on.

  2. gtizzo - Sep 6, 2012 at 5:44 PM

    Finally someone gets why the secondary didn’t look the best against Navy. There is no way Diaco was thinking about stopping Navy from throwing the ball. The triple option was the big threat and the Irish stuffed it. Can the Irish dominate Purdue? Allow me Keith to clear up this question with simple facts. This Purdue defense is pretty much the same group ND faced last year. Last year the Irish ran for 287 yards against Purdue. Can Purdue stack the box against ND? The answer is the same as last year NO! The reason why is where the difference happens. Last season we had Michael Floyd on the outside. This year ND will line up Eifert on the outside…still a big mismatch! I don’t know how “up tempo” the Irish will be against Purdue. They could (if BK wants to) dominate time of possession and keep the secondary off the field. That would go against what BK does on offense, but it is an option. I stand by my prediction ND-52 Purdue-17. ND gives up some points in garbage time.

    • indyron - Sep 7, 2012 at 12:16 AM

      Sorry, tried to give up vote & accidentally hit down.
      Couldn’t agree with you more !! ND in a route!

    • nudeman - Sep 7, 2012 at 12:39 PM

      gtizzo
      While I’ve heard this excuse before and also the one where the safeties weren’t providing their usual help because of the option, I don’t buy either entirely.

      Fact is Russell (who I like a lot) was beaten badly on the TD throw.
      And this was a NAVY receiver; not exactly la creme de la creme in WR talent.

      Maybe there’s something to the explanations/excuses, and maybe not. We’ll see.
      But CB is a known area of concern and when one gets toasted like that, it goes a ways toward confirming the worst fears.

  3. madmick69 - Sep 6, 2012 at 5:54 PM

    Keith, again spot on!

    I expect the CBs to play much better because of learning and because of safety help. Returning to the base D is going to let us know how much the secondary needs to improve.

    I think you hit the nail on the head with your “The case for a vanilla offense.” I think part of that is being prudent with what EG can do, part of it is what do we need to do to win and the final is a bit of a poker game don’t give them too much film to study.

    All in all I think BK and his staff keep us rolling and take advantage of the momentum. If all goes well, and I believe in looking at this season one game at a time, the bigger question won’t be keeping momentum going but dealing with pressure and being in unfamiliar territory if you know what I mean. But lets get there first, one game at a time!

    Under “BEST – 2. Speed” yeah I don’t remember having this much and this kind of speed on a Notre Dame team in a long time. I go back to the GA3 long TD run, he’s big, he’s strong, he’s a sophomore and he’s fast, but that only scratches the surface across the board. Seems to be a lot of that on this team.

    Again, well done Keith.

    GO IRISH!!!!!

  4. bernhtp - Sep 6, 2012 at 6:51 PM

    Forget the bloggers; here is the opinion of someone who really knows what the Irish are about this year:

    “That’s probably the best Notre Dame team I’ve seen in my 15 years here,” Niumatalolo said. “Their front four and [inside linebacker] Manti [Te'o], I’ve never seen a group like that.”

    • dmac4real - Sep 6, 2012 at 7:20 PM

      Dont go getting over confident there Bern. It was only one game.

      • bernhtp - Sep 6, 2012 at 7:23 PM

        Hey, I’m just repeating a highly relevant quote by the opposing coach.

  5. mimefrog - Sep 6, 2012 at 7:01 PM

    Agreed 100%. I thought Golson looked really calm, both after the INT and in the face of the pass rush. If this kid can keeping finding the “zone,” I think we have every reason to be optimistic about our QB play this year.

  6. nudeman - Sep 6, 2012 at 8:35 PM

    Tommy should start
    Checks them out of bad plays
    Plus … Keith would get a woodie

  7. loadofwash - Sep 6, 2012 at 10:21 PM

    The enemy shall rise, and the grid iron shall prove to be too much for the little Irish.

  8. loadofwash - Sep 6, 2012 at 10:30 PM

    Maybe Brady Q could come back, me thinks he’s available?

    • idratherbeinsouthbend - Sep 6, 2012 at 11:12 PM

      Hey Load,

      I did a little research on the world wide interweb and found out some interesting details about you.

      And, against my better judgment, I’m going to attempt to appeal to your intellect.

      I found out, amongst other things, that you’re a Penn State fan. It hasn’t been an easy year for you. I was, and still am, a fan of Joe Paterno. I don’t believe that the “Fact Freeh” report was assembled with any professionalism, accuracy, or attention to detail.

      But given your affection for Penn State, think about how ANNOYING it has been listening to the blog commenters bash your school, your football coach, your fans, your town, your players, etc. etc.

      So, why would a DECENT human being do that to other fans? Just go away, stop annoying us.

      Now that these boys know you’re a Penn State fan, it’ll get messy if you stick around.

      But more importantly, why would you want to be “that guy”…the same blog commenting type of guy that continually tries to drag Penn State football through the mud. Why be that guy?

      Just go away.

      And as one last offering of peace, I think your Nittany Lions were beat last week by the BEST non-BCS school in the country. Frank Solich is the real deal and if ANYBODY can be a BCS buster this year, they have the best chance.

      • nudeman - Sep 6, 2012 at 11:21 PM

        A Sandusky-ite?

      • ndbcs2013 - Sep 6, 2012 at 11:56 PM

        Wow, I do believe that idratherbeinsouthbend has this guy nailed. Why would any PSU fan be throwing rocks at ND from THAT glass house?? Check out this link, wherein loadofwash actually says, “To hell with the haters”. Quite a load of irony…

        http://collegefootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2012/08/17/more-paterno-bio-excerpts-reveal-rift-between-coach-sandusky/

        Mr. Load, please clean up your own very soiled laundry before you bother trying to spew any more of your bitter and misplaced anger here.

      • nudeman - Sep 7, 2012 at 10:17 AM

        LOFFFL

        Here’s the exact comment ndbcs refers to:
        “loadofwash says: Aug 18, 2012 8:50 AM

        This will be a great book and soon the mob will know that joe was a great man. To hell with the haters.”

    • seadomer - Sep 6, 2012 at 11:50 PM

      Nah, … I like me some Jeff Smarzjia, Tom Zibikowski right now and I feel that we can play anybody.

      • idratherbeinsouthbend - Sep 7, 2012 at 1:27 AM

        I feel like we can play anybody AND smell names correctly….just how I feel. :)

  9. seadomer - Sep 7, 2012 at 6:12 PM

    K .. it was late, did not bother to google the names … my fave was when ND was down vs U$C, Zibby return a punt for TD daring anyone to stop him with such intensity … I love that attitude

  10. loadofwash - Sep 7, 2012 at 10:10 PM

    I don’t think the ladies from ND have a chance, they just CAN’T DO IT. That might be good slogan

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