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The good, the bad, the ugly: Notre Dame vs. Stanford

Oct 15, 2012, 12:32 PM EDT

Stanford v Notre Dame Getty Images

The polls and rankings are out. For the first time in a long time, Notre Dame is in the country’s top five teams, checking in at No. 5 in the BCS rankings, the AP Poll, and the USA Today Coaches’ Poll.

With their third victory against a top 25 opponents, the Irish now shift their focus to one of the country’s top defensive units in BYU. But before we get there, let’s take a run through Saturday evening’s good, bad, and ugly.

THE GOOD

The Secondary. Let’s start with the unsung heroes of the evening. Anchored by Zeke Motta’s nine tackles, and Matthias Farley’s eight, the back-end of the Irish defense played  rock solid football again, taking the ball away twice thanks to Bennett Jackson and Matthias Farley’s interceptions, and limiting Josh Nunes to just 12 of 25 passing for 125 yards.

It’s amazing to see the progress this group has made, and through half the season, the Irish rank an astonishing No. 5 in pass efficiency defense, a tremendous accomplishment for a group of players that are all learning on the fly.

The front seven. At this point, it’s starting to feel like a broken record. Manti Te’o had eleven tackles, playing at his usually elite level. Stephon Tuitt was a man possessed, racking up seven stops, and sharing a sack with Kapron Lewis-Moore. Louis Nix played up to the level that David Shaw praised. Prince Shembo was a load off the edge, getting consistent pressure, while just missing a few sacks. And the trio of Danny Spond, Dan Fox, and Carlo Calabrese all had productive nights on the stat sheet.

The Irish held Stanford to just 13 first downs, one courtesy of a penalty. They also held the Cardinal to just 272 total yards, another opponent staying below the 300 yard total. The goal line stand at the end of the game is stuff of legend, and while Stepfan Taylor ran for 102 yards, he needed 28 carries to get there, and most importantly for the Irish, they held him to zero yards on his final two touches.

Tommy Rees. Not much you can say about one of the most maligned players in recent memory. Rees might not embrace the role of a closer, but he certainly thrives in it. He was 4 of 4 passing, and his three overtime completions were incredibly clutch, especially after a sack on first down backed up the Irish to second and very long.

With Stanford bringing heat all afternoon on the quarterback, Rees and the Irish finally completed a slant patterned — a great tonic for a blitzing defense — and TJ Jones made a nice catch on a tough throw for the win.

TJ Jones. Clutch catch and nice afternoon for the junior, who has elevated his game this season and ascended into a pivotal role for the wideouts.

The running backs. The numbers won’t wow you, but it was a productive day for the Irish runners, playing against a defense that has all but shutdown the Irish ground game the past few years.

Cierre Wood did what Cierre Wood does. He ran for 66 yards on 12 carries, a healthy 5.5 yards per carry. Once again, Theo Riddick didn’t break four-yards a carry, but he made three catches in the pass game, the most crucial being in overtime. It was hard to get George Atkinson on track, and he had just four touches, but he still averaged seven yards a carry.

The offensive line didn’t play their best game, but the Irish netted 150 yards on the ground, a number just about everybody would’ve said was enough to win the game, and beat Stanford’s total of 147.

Kyle Brindza. Nice day for the kid. Four kickoffs, four touchbacks. Two for two on field goals.

Tyler Eifert. The four catches are a move in the right direction, and that touchdown catch should be on every highlight reel this season. He also had perhaps the best quote to encapsulate the victory.

“We went in and we took the game,” Eifert said. “We won the game for ourselves. We didn’t wait for them to make a mistake. I think that’s huge.”

THE BAD

Turnovers. It was a bad day at the office for Everett Golson on Saturday. Before he was knocked out of the game with what Brian Kelly diagnosed as a concussion, Golson had given the ball to Stanford three times on fumbles. In his sophomore season (although freshman eligibility wise), Golson has now accounted for all the Irish turnovers on the season, something Brian Kelly knows is problematic.

“It’s something that obviously we cannot continue to have.  He’s got to take better care of the football, and he’s got to do it in practice, and he’s got to be smarter,” Kelly said. “I think if you look at the first turnover, we’re talking about mishandling a direct snap, something that we do every day, totally unacceptable. The other turnover was holding onto the ball.  It was the sack fumble against the three‑man rush.  Again, maybe we could have put him in better situation there. And then the third one, it’s easy for him to just step out of bounds and avoid contact.  So all of them are coachable, all of them are correctable, and we’ll continue to work on it with him so we can eliminate these mistakes.”

In wet conditions against a team that makes a ton of plays behind the line of scrimmage, Golson’s primary job was the hold onto the football. That didn’t happen. Against another stingy defense this weekend, Golson will likely face the same recipe of pressure and confusion.

Penalties and Mistakes: Not a great day at the office from an execution perspective. Notre Dame had nine penalties for 70 yards, and senior Mike Golic was hearing his name called for all the wrong reasons on Saturday. Stephon Tuitt’s roughing the passer call kept the Irish defense on the field, too.

When asked about Golic’s play, Kelly did a nice job putting things into perspective, and also hinting at some other issues along the line and in communication with Golson.

“I don’t know that Mike Golic had a lot to do with those false starts. You know, there’s a lot of other things going on out there that I’m not going to get into right now,” Kelly said. “Mike has made progress.  Mike is‑‑ he played against a very, very good defense, and they won some, Mike won some.  The thing with Mike, he’s such a dedicated player.  I mean, he comes to practice every day; he’s purposeful.  He’s not going to be First Team All‑American at that position, but here at Notre Dame, he doesn’t need to be; he needs to just be Mike Golic.  And we’re proud of the steps that he’s made to help our offense.”

End zone play calling. After playing to the team’s strengths for much of the first six games, the Irish got burned playing aggressively out of their own end zone, with Golson stripped, sacked, and Stanford scoring its only touchdown. It was a rare blip in the radar for the Irish, and a head-scratching time to play aggressively, especially with Golson narrowly escaping harm the play before.

To his credit, Kelly addressed the situation in his post game comments and again yesterday, acknowledging that he’d maybe like those calls back. In a game like that one, giving away seven points nearly killed the Irish.

THE UGLY

This section stays empty thanks to the Irish pulling out a victory on a day that had the makings of a very ugly one. Pounding rains. Difficult playing conditions. Far from alluring weather from a recruiting perspective. But a win cures all.

123 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. yogihilt - Oct 15, 2012 at 5:34 PM

    QB It’s obvious that the staff felt EG was the better player for the multi-attack scheme they want to run, now and in the future. They are with the players for months/years and have a great feel for their offense. However, now undefeated, playing for weeks, it is still apparent they want to keep it that way, but they know now they have a defense to give them the benefit of keeping it that way; knowing TR can come in when a single-purpose offense is warranted.

    RB. Wood certainly seems to be the workhorse down the road, and Riddick will probably be the change-of pace back. GAIII, sorry but he does not have the ability to change directions at full speed, like the great ones do. That’s why on returns you see him running into our guys. He is good only if they get him out in the flat, in wide open spaces, and the staff knows that. On returns, they’re looking for the (line-drive) home run.. not sure how long that will last.

    Good luck.. BYU 1st.. the OU please

  2. seadomer - Oct 15, 2012 at 5:48 PM

    At half point, lets take stock.

    I know many thought 9-4 would be an improvement but 10-3 we would be feel great,
    (Both include losing bowl games)

    I was on the 10-3 wagon becos we were almost there last year anyways so with the tougher schedule, I thought 10-3 would be a step up.

    Now for 2 steps up, I really really really want to beat USC but keep the OK game competitive.
    Also let’s hope we meet and beat and SEC team in the bowl so the best I have now is 12-1.

    Yes, 12-1** it is.

    ** reserve right to change on Oct 27. Go Irish!

  3. bernhtp - Oct 15, 2012 at 5:58 PM

    The ND offense will need to take a big step up to beat OU in Norman. Scoring 13 points (in regulation) and giving up 7 by fumbling in the endzone won’t come close to cutting it given the ass-whooping they gave Texas this weekend. As great as our defense is, and it is really awesome, they will score offensive touchdowns on us. Our offense needs to man up and start playing with the big boys. Golson, in particular, now has less than two weeks to get his mental cogs rotating faster.

  4. don74 - Oct 15, 2012 at 6:35 PM

    I havent seen any mention of the documentary done by NFL films. I watched it before the game. Good piece for us fans and maybe it gives some insight to the program for others. The one segment that got me thinking was Kelly coaching EG. Kelly’s demeanor with EG is unlike anything I seen from the coach during interviews, games or the UND highlights. He was very soft with EG almost handling him with kid gloves.

    Got me to wonder how long it will take EG to get in touch with his talent and let it happen on the field. It’s going to be interesting to see if he ever really “get’s it” or are we seeing what it’s going to be.

    I give Kelly and staff “the good” for their coaching. I believe they are getting a lot more from a bunch we all thought was an 8 or 9 win team. They are playing well, so well there’s no reason to think any game is unwinnable. The physical conditioning of the team will pay off in close games, especially as the season rolls on.

    I don’t know if the O is ever going to more than what we are getting. The D will keep games close. As long as EG does not become a fumble machine ND will be fine. Based on all the games I’ve watched this year there are no perfect teams.

    Can you imagine what the Longhorn boad is like this week?

    • seadomer - Oct 15, 2012 at 7:24 PM

      Don,

      “Based on all the games ,,, no perfect teams”

      Actually Oregon seems pretty balanced in all phases from what I saw or are you referring to our opponents only?

      • don74 - Oct 15, 2012 at 7:47 PM

        Oregon hasn’t been exposed. Let’s talk on Friday after ASU. ASU has an undersized very fast defense. Grahm has them playing very good ball. Dont think it will be an upset but I do think you will see something that hasn’t been shown. The one thing Oregon always has in it’s favor is Chip Kelly. Been a big fan since his New Hampshire days. He’s a great coach. Since his time at New Hampshire other coaches are amazed at the running lanes. New England has taken pages from his playbook to get their running game on track. Didn’t turn out well in Seattle but that’s a long trip from Foxboro.

        At any rate there are fewer than 10 undefeated teams. By season’s end there may be one or two. Even if a team has 22 great starters injuries take there toll. I stand by my statement there are no perfect teams.

    • bernhtp - Oct 15, 2012 at 8:45 PM

      Don, you make a good point. I saw the same thing in the Onward Notre Dame NFL film documentary. It gave me a lot of insight too. Besides handling Everett gently in the manner of a teacher, Kelly is also very tactile with him. Rather than telling him things at a distance, studying schematics and film, Kelly is right with him, pointing him with his hands, guiding his head, moving his body, etc. When you think about Everett, this makes sense. While he is a great musician, he doesn’t read music. He plays purely by ear. That’s also how he plays QB and thus why his progression has been frustratingly slow at times.

      I think Kelly found the key, and I also believe this is part of the genesis of him getting out of his office and being with the kids again as a teacher. This is needed for Everett to teach him the game the way Kelly wants it to be played at Notre Dame. This is also why Kelly is trying to give him as many minutes as he can because he realizes this is the way he learns. Kelly is doing something important here and I’m beginning to see another reason he is so highly regarded as a coach. We’ll see if he makes something magical happen with Everett.

      • don74 - Oct 15, 2012 at 9:50 PM

        You hit it on the head. I find the dichotomy interesting. A position that requires swagger, confidence and precision is being played by an artist. Not saying it can’t work, talent and hard work always wins but it certainly makes a good story.

        Kelly is going to wring every ounce of ability out of this group, He knows there won’t be a better “Manti” for a long, long time. He and his staff will have a plan every week and if the kids can execute they have a chance when the whistle blows. Or in the case of Stanford when it doesn’t blow or when some think it blows…..oh well. They have a chance to have a magical year. I am enjoying the ride

    • nudeman - Oct 15, 2012 at 9:47 PM

      Don
      You say we thought this was an 8 – 9 win team. Wrong
      Most HERE predicted this would be a down year for ND.
      The consensus was this would be 6-7, and maybe 8 wins

      For whatever it’s worth I never bought into that, I am proud to say
      I said right before Navy that this was more likely to be 10-2 than 8-4.
      I don’t see any need to amend that, but if I did it would be to 11 wins.
      OK is going to be very very tough, and I’m not sure they can come out of there with a W. But I can see them beating USC

      Also, am I alone in NOT understanding the hand wringing about BYU?
      I’ve seen them play twice now and was not impressed. Especially against Boise St. The only dangerous thing is that they’re between two very big games. But Kelly seems to have his team’s ear and I don’t see a letdown.

      ND 23
      BYU 9

      • don74 - Oct 15, 2012 at 9:56 PM

        Nude,

        I was a 9/3,10/2 guy but the writers, Hansen and others were 8/4, 9/3. This site had many posts about the sky falling. At this point anything is possible. Regardless what the experts want to beleive or want us to believe no one knows what’s going to happen. As Kelly so often says, “these are 18 to 21 year old kids”.

        Like you I am enjoying the ride. Now if only I didn’t believe flying my ND flag over the golf course was bad luck I’d be flying it right now.

      • don74 - Oct 15, 2012 at 9:58 PM

        I think its the matchups. BYU presents a difference D. I think they won’t travel well. ND will win but it won’t be Miami.

      • papadec - Oct 16, 2012 at 2:49 AM

        I had my son put my money on the IRISH to win the BCS Championship @ LUXOR on 3/12/12. Plenty of room on the bandwagon for anybody else that stops wringing their hands – and starts clapping them.

      • ndgoldandblue - Oct 16, 2012 at 10:45 AM

        nude,
        You are definitely not alone regarding BYU. I’ve been saying for weeks that BYU is not a team that we should fear (the players and fans, alike). It could very well be a close game, but I could also see the Irish blowing it wide open. I think we all could agree that the Stanford game was going to be close. The BYU game could end up being like the Purdue game: tougher than expected, or it could be like the Miami game: a lot of worry for no reason whatsoever. I think it’ll be somewhere in the middle, and I expect a similar result to the Michigan State game. 24-6 Irish.

  5. gtizzo - Oct 15, 2012 at 7:01 PM

    Nice comments Keith,

    You mentioned BYU…and that defense…yeah they gave up 42 points to Oregon State this weekend. They also gave up over 4.2 yards per rush and the offensive turned the ball over 3 times. Somehow I think the subs play the 4th quarter in this one ND-42 BYU-7. BK needs to keep the team focused that was a very emotional game against Stanford. We don’t want a let down especially when the game is in South Bend. Defend the home field!!

  6. sullyp18 - Oct 15, 2012 at 8:15 PM

    Face it, every opponent we defeat the haters are going to point out why they are a bad team an why ND is overrated. The truth is and we have seen it from FSU, USC, etc it is extremely challenging to go undefeated. I like what I am hearing from the team, try don’t seem to get ahead of themselves and hopefully ate really focuses on the next game. BYU has a tough defense anything could happen. Go Irish!!!!

  7. seadomer - Oct 15, 2012 at 8:28 PM

    I see what u r saying Don.

    Guys,
    I’ve checked espn, und.com and eveywhere else, the BC game has not been arranged. Hmm?
    Maybe they … arrrgh … ND fans are too classy to continue.
    Just make sure all the “Rudy”s on the team get recognition on the field. Thank you.

  8. steincj36 - Oct 15, 2012 at 9:00 PM

    Soooo….. 6-0. Does that mean we are officially bowl eligible?

  9. smurphdoggy29 - Oct 15, 2012 at 10:10 PM

    Folks I am actually enjoying the Haters right now.

    Why ? Because they are absolutely unequivocally and totally besides themselves with hatred they can’t even enjoy anything…even breathing simply because Notre Dame is winning and getting attention directed towards it !

    So the query ? Why not us ?
    Why not this year ?
    Why not this time ?
    Run to the National Title game, pull of the unexpected win, begin a successful new Golden Age ?
    Hmmm ? Why not ?

    The lads have it in them, they have the pieces of the puzzle right out there, so why not ?

    Take care of the Holy War, harken back to the 7-0 in Norman and replicate, befuddled sPITT, dismantle Backup College for good measure, Wake on Senior Day (with Manti realizing a personal dream) please, then exercise some ghosts in the Coliseum, then onto the Title game and have a Notre Dame moment.

    So again why not ? Why not Notre Dame ?

    Wake up the Echoes !
    Win the Holy War !
    Keep the Faith !
    GO sons of Notre Dame onward….to VICTORY !

  10. ndirish10 - Oct 16, 2012 at 12:00 AM

    Just saw Onward Notre Dame, it was great. Loved it. GO IRISH!!!! Subway Alumni from Monrovia, CA. They are now showing Saturday’s game again.

  11. ndirish10 - Oct 16, 2012 at 12:06 AM

    How sweet it is to click on the ND schedule link and see 6 straight Ws next to the games. GO IRISH!!! ONWARD TO VICTORY!!!

  12. c4evr - Oct 16, 2012 at 12:52 AM

    Riddick made an incredible adjustment to catch that ball. I’d like to see more flare passes to the RB’s until Golson settles down. I’m tired of yelling ‘Get rid of it…’ at my TV when he drops back in the pocket. Also, T Rees makes good calls when reading the defense. Perfect QB, EG’s escapability and running in space and TR’s touch and head for the game. Can’t say enough about the secondary – I can’t recall another time this past decade when the D-backs were consistently in position AND able to look back to track the ball. ND may not be able to hang with the Alabama’s and Oregon’s of the world offensively, but I’d like to see Diaco’s Dawgs take a bite out of ‘em.

  13. footballleprechaun - Oct 16, 2012 at 7:16 AM

    First and foremost I’m a devout Catholic I love Notre Dame Been a passionate fan for over 40 years and as you have had to Indore the last 23 years of ridicule going to be very realistic I’m so very very proud of our team and of the individual guys that make us proud every weekend that’s instilled in my heart and soul and always have been since I can remember Realistically our # 5 ranking considering the way we are playing right now and with our quarterback issues…….. stale play calling with absolutely no creativity whatsoever ( slants, screens, seams, slots, misdirections, etc. ) I just can’t see us competing with OU, SC, or any SEC team Unless our offense makes drastic changes with short and intermediate pass plays involving our running backs out of the backfield, and out AA Eifert then MOVING THE CHAINS TWICE (back-to-back) WILL NOT MATERIALIZE AGAINST OU, SC, or any SEC TEAM IN THE TOP 20 no matter how great our defense is and I feel that’s a really special unit!!!!! it’s not like we don’t have the talent the talent is there………… so let’s just hope and pray that BK and the offense of staff thank a few sips of that altar wine and a very special lady from the grotto enlightens them !!!!!!!!! LET’S GOOOOOOOOOO IRISH

    • dmacirish - Oct 16, 2012 at 8:15 AM

      what?

    • bernhtp - Oct 16, 2012 at 10:40 AM

      Re: “stale play calling with absolutely no creativity whatsoever”

      Yes, winning is so boring. Many would rather lose with flash. I’m not one of them.

      Kelly hasn’t been perfect; he has been merely brilliant.

      • oldestguard - Oct 16, 2012 at 12:47 PM

        You’re last line sums it ALL up perfectly.

        Onward !

  14. sullyp18 - Oct 16, 2012 at 9:38 AM

    Where can I watch the onward special?

    • ndirish10 - Oct 16, 2012 at 11:11 AM

      It was yesterday on the NBC Sports channel. I’m sure that they will show it again.

    • ndirish10 - Oct 16, 2012 at 11:12 AM

      I just found the schedule!!!

      For those who missed the Onward Notre Dame documentary on NBC and the Strong of Heart special, additional airings on the NBC Sports Network are upcoming.

      Onward Notre Dame: South Bend to Soldier Field will be shown Oct. 15 at 11 p.m., Oct. 16 at midnight, Oct. 17 at 9 p.m., Oct. 19 at 2 a.m., Oct. 21 at 3:30 p.m.

      The Strong of Heart special, featuring ND linebacker Manti Te’o, can be seen Oct. 16 at 4 p.m., Oct. 17 at 3:30 p.m., Oct. 21 at 3 p.m. and Oct. 26 at 4:30 p.m.

      • ndirish10 - Oct 16, 2012 at 11:14 AM

        I believe they are eastern time because the Oct. 15 showing was at 8 pacific time.

    • goirishnd - Oct 18, 2012 at 4:53 PM

      even better, just watch it on youtube

  15. dudeacow - Oct 16, 2012 at 7:18 PM

    121st.

  16. footballleprechaun - Oct 17, 2012 at 4:33 AM

    response to “bern…” not taking anything away from our team nor coach Kelly not a complainer definitely not negative just saying that our offense is basically one dimensional, with no record of continuity unless BK and the OC staff “brilliantly” are planning to infuse the kind of offensive plays that assist EG in his “learning process” AND DO IT QUICKLY then, we are unable to make 2 first downs back to back against OU SC or any SEC ranked team Realistically we have struggled against pedestrian Big Ten teams and the Cardinal mediocre defense This thrust is necessary to run the table and play for the national championship!!!!!!! GOOOOOOOOOOOOO IRISH!!!!!!

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