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Tuesdays with BK: Time for Stanford

Oct 9, 2012, 9:33 PM EDT

Arizona v Stanford Getty Images

Brian Kelly strolled to his noon press conference six minutes late today. For a coach you can usually set your watch to, this was a bit out of character. But let’s cut the guy some slack, Stanford, a team that’s beaten this coaching staff twice and Notre Dame three seasons in a row, could have stolen his attention.

“A lot of things stand out about this football team,” Kelly said of Stanford. “They’re a well‑coached team in all phases, offense, defense, and special teams. They’re a physical football team. They play that way up front, in the back end, their running backs, tight ends. It’s apparent across the board the kind of team you’re going to play when you face Stanford.”

It’s also been apparent by watching the last two meetings between the Irish and Cardinal. Two season’s ago, Stanford handily defeated Notre Dame, 37-14. Kelly publicly praised the team Jim Harbaugh built, a physically dominant team at the point of attack that controlled the line of scrimmage with three down linemen and confused quarterback Dayne Crist with drop-eight coverage. (Sound familiar to what the Irish are now able to do?) Last year, the Irish’s performance in Palo Alto was a microcosm of the season. Two penalties on the first two offensive plays. Failed red zone opportunities. An inconsistent offense and a failure by the team to dig itself out of a hole it dug itself.

Both teams are light years away from where they were last season. But that doesn’t make the game any less important. While Kelly’s entire presser is available to view below, I’ve snipped a few parts that I found interesting.

***

Each week, the Irish have had to prepare for a slightly different offensive attack. From the option of Navy, rotating quarterbacks at Purdue, a power run-game at Michigan State, the one-man army of Michigan, and Miami’s high-powered vertical passing game, it’s been a test for Bob Diaco’s unit and one that Notre Dame’s defense has passed with flying colors.

But with multiple personnel groupings and a system David Shaw continued after Harbaugh, Kelly talked about the challenges Stanford brings.

“Stanford is unique itself. Not only do they run the ball out of multiple formations and jumbo packages, they create great one‑on‑one match‑ups,” Kelly said. “So you would think you play a lot of zone, but you have to drop extra players down to defend the run which gives them a one‑on‑one match‑up, so another unique offense and challenge for us.

Kelly talked about those one-on-one match-ups, namely 6-foot-6 tight end Zach Ertz and 6-foot-8 moster Levine Toilolo. Toilolo was last seen by Irish fans posting up Gary Gray for a touchdown last season, and is averaging 21.4 yards a catch this season after absolutely killing Arizona for 141 yards on just five catches.

“It’s a nightmare,” Kelly said. “Tyler Eifert is the same problem if we split him out, if we put the ball in a good location he’s going to catch it every time, so we’ve got to have some answers there.

“You have to press ‘em out.  You can’t give them off coverage, because they’re going to throw it to him and he’ll run the corner over every time.  You have to press him because you’re bringing somebody down in the run game and you’re getting virtually one‑on‑one press coverage. So you’re throwing the ball down the field every route.”

Notre Dame’s secondary isn’t necessarily built to play one-on-one with anybody, so containing the Stanford run game with a base defense, and getting good penetration by Stephon Tuitt, Louis Nix, and Kapron-Lewis Moore will be key.

***

Kelly spoke about the difference between this year’s team and last year’s edition, and what Notre Dame has done to hopefully narrow the gap with Stanford after two ugly losses.

“I think we’re stronger physically across the board,” Kelly said. We’re a mature football team. We have veterans on defense. From an offensive line standpoint we feel like we can handle ourselves much better.  We had a ton of negative plays last year. We had 50‑plus running plays and we had one negative play against Miami. Whereas last year we had 20 negative plays, we had penalties. We’re a more disciplined team.”

Looking back at last year’s game, you’re struck by just how big of a mess the Irish were. Breaking in Andrew Hendrix, Irish fans were clinging to a 11 of 24 performance with one touchdown and one interception as hope for the future. It clearly wasn’t.

With a hard reset on the offense and a new young quarterback getting his chance, it’s been a marked improvement watching the offense run a more conservative approach with Everett Golson and Tommy Rees filling in the gaps.

***

Kelly also answered a question on people’s champ running back Cam McDaniel. One of my favorite under-the-radar players on the roster, McDaniel sliced and diced Miami’s defense behind a reserve offensive line, gobbling up yards at a great clip and showing tremendous vision and instincts with the football.

“He is a very good running back,” Kelly said. “I know you have Cierre Wood, you have Theo Riddick, you have George Atkinson, and they’re good running backs. We have four. It’s hard to get ‘em all touches.  We’re struggling trying to get those three guys. Cam McDaniel is one heck of a good running back. He runs it as effectively as any of those three. He’s used to the zone, inside‑outside zone. He came from that offense. He came from the shotgun offense and he runs the ball exceedingly well. We have no hesitation of putting him in the game.  We only have one football, that’s the problem.”

It’s probably unrealistic to think McDaniel will fight his way into the rotation this season, but there’s a chance both Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood exit the depth chart after this season. That should open the door for McDaniel, who will likely get into the rotation sooner than later.

***

Any worry that the Irish wouldn’t be prepared for Stanford was eliminated quickly by Kelly, who reminded his team that they haven’t had the best of success against the Cardinal.

“If there is one team that has beaten us physically is Stanford, and they know that,” Kelly said. “They turned the film on and watched what they did to their opponents, they physically intimidated their opponents and that’s clear. They see when they turn on the film and watch the way they play the game, they don’t need much push from me to know what to expect this weekend.”

***

  1. loadofwash - Oct 9, 2012 at 9:54 PM

    I trust tommy is ready to go cause they’ll need him before the half.

    • Jennifer - Oct 9, 2012 at 10:31 PM

      loadofwashed-up, it’s past your bedtime, little fella. Time to go potty and get your jammies on. Nighty-night, sleep tight, and let’s hope the bed-bugs bite.

    • 808raiderinparadise - Oct 9, 2012 at 11:01 PM

      “loadofwash” was the little girl from the michigan dorms who put the michigan banner on the ND stadium entrance …. The pounding loss on national TV has hurt her, therefore she is going under this alias to seek trolling lows to get back.

    • dickasman - Oct 10, 2012 at 1:22 AM

      Load, are you HOTT?

    • papadec - Oct 10, 2012 at 1:58 AM

      LOW – if TR is in before the end of the 1st 1/2 – it will be because Stanford choked & ND is done running up the score.

  2. mtflsmitty - Oct 10, 2012 at 1:50 AM

    Ahhh, yes. Good to see LOW keeps having his way with some of you. Stay classy, Dick.

    We have the most intriguing match-up yet, and we’re wasting time with LOW? Come on!

    I’ve seen some pretty impressive film on Stanford’s running back (name escapes me). Looking forward to Manti laying the wood.

    Go Irish!

    • papadec - Oct 10, 2012 at 2:01 AM

      mtfl – awwwww it’s fun – kinda like hitting a talking pinata.

  3. yaketyyacc - Oct 10, 2012 at 5:14 AM

    Stanford will be ,as Coach Kelly, has pointed out, the most balanced team we will have faced yet, and Stanford has owned us, as has USC. Uno alla volta(one at a time). This time Stanford has run out of LUCK, no pun intended, in more ways then one.
    This Notre Dame team has an unrelenting defense, a multi-manned offense, and a Quarterback named Golson. Now, dont forget to thank him and Wood, Atkinson III, Ricick, McDaniel, Eifet, TJ, Goodman for allowing the Stanford offense to have plenty of rest on the sidline.
    We don’t need Luck or luck. And when the dust clears,and you have lost, you will have met a football team called THE FIGHTING IRISH OF NOTRE DAME.

  4. sinister23 - Oct 10, 2012 at 6:34 AM

    Ok…Stanford isnt a top tier team, but they are very solid. They should hand ND there first loss easily. HOWEVER, if ND wins by a large margin I will become a believer of the ND HYPE.

    • dmac4real - Oct 10, 2012 at 8:29 AM

      Just saying

      If you were ever correct, ND would be 0-5.

      The thing is, ND is 5-0. So it has become hard to take you seriously.

      • zorichmidriff - Oct 10, 2012 at 11:09 AM

        Every week the same thing. “Well, this week you’re gonna get beat…” etc etc. Keep saying it, man. We don’t want to break with tradition.

    • andy44teg - Oct 10, 2012 at 10:37 AM

      sinister
      Easily??…Did you eat paint chips when you were a kid or somethin??? If ND should lose this game it’s going to come down to the last few plays. If ND wins, which they will, it’s not going to be that close. I really didn’t want to do this, but it’s “their” not “there”.

  5. nddan1 - Oct 10, 2012 at 8:02 AM

    i like that kelly praises each team and hell hath fury if we dont play to our potential, all the while telling us each week that the team is still pursueing our best…..it reminds me of a coach who used the same aproach with some success……one bill walsh

  6. zorichmidriff - Oct 10, 2012 at 9:02 AM

    I wish BK would consider giving McDaniel Riddick’s reps. Geez Louise. That kid runs with purpose.

    • bernhtp - Oct 10, 2012 at 9:46 AM

      I love Cam – he understands the scheme so well, sees the field, reads blocks and holes really well, is very quick with his precise cuts, runs so low, squirts through the tiniest of gaps, and then keeps those legs pushing past the whistle. However, I think that to be successful against Stanford, we will need speed around the edge of their D. I see a bigger role for GA3 this week.

      I see Cam having a much bigger role in the backfield next year, though he will face big competition from (an ostensibly healthy) Amir Carlisle, who is even quicker and much more highly recruited. Those two will be fun to watch along with the speed in space of GA3. This would change if Cierre comes back for a fifth.

      • zorichmidriff - Oct 10, 2012 at 11:08 AM

        Yeah more of those little flips to GAIII where he’s like 30 yards up the sideline by the time defenders see him. I’m fine with that…

        It’s just comforting to see a “Bobby Hughes” style run. McDaniel’s fast, but he’s really physical. He’s the guy that can carry five defenders into the endzone with him and still be standing.

    • papadec - Oct 11, 2012 at 1:03 AM

      zorich – be patient – before you know it there will be four ND RBs getting 100+ yards/game.

  7. zemaniak - Oct 10, 2012 at 9:40 AM

    This will be an ugly street fight

  8. dudeacow - Oct 10, 2012 at 10:14 AM

    I’m not that worried. Remember the last physically dominating team we played? Way back in Week 3? And we played at their ‘hostile’ home stadium.

    ND 17-6

  9. mtflsmitty - Oct 10, 2012 at 11:20 AM

    I’m not sure what the Cam Love Fest is all about. I like that he seems scrappy and probably a very hard worker. But he’s smaller than all our other backs, and I’m guessing slower.

    At the end of Miami game when their D had been on the field for 40 straight run plays, Cam did look good. But I think the Miami D was broken completely by the time he got in.

    After spring ball and the fall camp Cam has had ample time to make his mark. My guess is he’s 4th on the depth chart for a reason. Its nice to have the depth though. He seems like a quality athlete, and makes a nice 4th option. But with a healthy Amir and Will Mahone on the docket for 2013 don’t hold your breath for a breakout 2013…at least not for Cam.

    • waydomer - Oct 10, 2012 at 1:03 PM

      You could ask what is the love fest with Riddick. Why is he still the #1 back? McDaniel should clearly be behind Wood and doesn’t have the elite speed of Atkinson, but he has shown the ability to do everything that Riddick does and appears to be harder to bring down and shiftier. Give kudos to Riddick for congratulating McDaniles on his td though.

    • bernhtp - Oct 10, 2012 at 10:03 PM

      Cam does not have elite top speed, but obviously cuts back really well. Good acceleration, smart, good vision, runs really low, and thus has the ability to find and squirt through small holes. Amir Carlisle is the same type of back, but with more athletic ability. At least one of them will make a big contribution next year.

    • papadec - Oct 11, 2012 at 1:08 AM

      mtfl – yeah – Miami was beaten down by the time Cam went in. But, he went in with the second string OL too. Also says a lot about those backup OLmen.

  10. sinister23 - Oct 10, 2012 at 11:51 AM

    U want facts? Ok.

    Alabama whipped the crap out of michigan…start to finish we never had a prayer. Thats an elite team.

    ND was handed 5 turnovers!!!! 5!!!! And Michigan was still in the ball game clear into the 4th!!

    Your irish luck helped you top michigan….period!

    • nudeman - Oct 10, 2012 at 12:11 PM

      Sinister
      1) Does ND get zero credit for the Michigan turnovers? A couple were admittedly bad plays by UM but 3 were the result of pressure and good D.

      2) Is ND on the same level as Bama? Probably not. But I’m not sure anyone is.

      3) How good is ND? The answer is “I don’t know”. I don’t think they’re as good as the most over the top ND fan or computer thinks they are. But they are a legitimate top 10 team. And if they beat Stanford – who you correctly described as “not top tier but solid”, you’ve got to give ND its due.

      4) There is no one on ND’s schedule like Towson, Bethune Cookman, LA Monroe, East Carolina, etc etc. And who the fu** is Towson, anyway? Navy and Purdue aren’t “great”, but they are well known schools with national reps.

      5) Last thing on ND: I think even you would concede that they are looking much better than you expected this year. Was Miami a “great” team? No, but they are dangerous and had won 4 games. Should have ND beat them soundly? Yes. But give them credit: They went out and did it. Not every team shellacks inferior opponents. ND did. If they kept throwing the ball they could have scored 50.

    • mayo1010 - Oct 10, 2012 at 1:03 PM

      Actually it was 6 turnover Herbie! They sucked but not nearly as bad as you do! LMFAO!

    • papadec - Oct 11, 2012 at 1:11 AM

      sin – finally the truth comes out – you’re a blue fan. No wonder you’re upset.

  11. North of Denver - Oct 10, 2012 at 1:01 PM

    “We’re a mature football team. We have a veteran defense”… BK didn’t complete the thought. He should have added, “with only two starters running out of eligibility”.

  12. sinister23 - Oct 10, 2012 at 2:26 PM

    Nudeman….your absolutely correct. I was just setting the record str8 for the tardbilly who commented below me

  13. mtflsmitty - Oct 10, 2012 at 4:59 PM

    Sin,

    I get it that you’re not an ND fan. But I think many have come to appreciate you hanging out with us over the last few weeks as you’ve become somewhat rational again. So let me ask you a question that I think Nude felt was probably too obvious to present in his post above…

    When ND turned the ball over 5 times last year, and you won in the final seconds of the game, were you as ashamed of your victory as you’re suggesting we should be this year?

  14. obie1818 - Oct 10, 2012 at 8:00 PM

    This is a tough match up for us not worried bout their run game. Their RB iis good but we’ve stopped everyone this yr. Big tight ends have killed us the past couple yrs. Troy N should play both ways and cover their 2 sasquatches…Same old same no turnovers we win. Mistakes and turnovers we could get hammered. This team beat SC.

  15. sinister23 - Oct 10, 2012 at 8:23 PM

    @Smitty….yes….a win is a win, PERIOD. We flat out was outplayed. Im just saying…everyone craps on U of M….ND was getting too high and mighty…but we lost, so enough said

    • bernhtp - Oct 10, 2012 at 10:09 PM

      Yes, Denard shit all over himself in the ND game, but you would have done the same had you been repeatedly crushed by Manti, Prince and Stephon all game long. He has never been a good passer, but having no time made it worse. This year our DBs didn’t shit on themselves when Denard threw up all of those dying ducks as they did last year. Live by the sword, die by the sword.

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