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IBG: Is something wrong with ND?

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No matter the record, the Boston College game is always one worth circling on the calendar. (Which leads me to an aside, does anybody actually know someone that circles a date on a calendar? Does anyone actually print out a football calendar? I’m a bookmark kind of guy, and by mid-August, I’ve pretty much got the games memorized. Anyway…)

Getting back to the subject at hand, the No. 4 Irish have a chance to get back to playing dominant football this weekend when they head to Chestnut Hill to take on the putrid Eagles of Boston College, who most likely feel like this game is their Super Bowl. The Irish are heavy favorites, but that didn’t stop Pitt from almost ruining Notre Dame’s season, and the Eagles have the chance to do the same thing, something that would salvage the season for B.C. fans everywhere, though it might not save Frank Spaziani’s job.

Before we get there, I took the time to ask the Subway Domer about the 9-0 Fighting Irish in this week’s IBG. For my answers (in Haiku form), check out the Subway Domer’s website. You can also get answers from the guys at HLS and Josh over at Strong & True.

Onward.

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1. What’s your take away from the Pitt game? An embarrassing slip up for a team that’s supposed to be top three in the country? Or one of those narrow victories the best teams in the country pull off?

A little bit of both depending on how much much is in your glass, and how quickly you drank it. In a lot of ways, the fans and the media were writing off Pitt before the game got under way. We all basically ignored the fact that this has been a very CLOSE game for quite a few years now and really, there was evidence to suggest that it would be again.

So, yes it was a little embarrassing because of the expectations that were given for the game, but at the same time the Irish were coming off of a huge win that obviously took a toll on the team. Championship teams find ways to win on their worst days. Notre Dame did just that.

2. What do you take from the defenses struggles against Ray Graham? Flu bug? Advanced scouting? Cold sweats thinking about USC?

I think a lot of their struggles are based in the previous answer. Sometimes you just play a little flat after those big wins and when a guy of Graham’s caliber comes along, you could pay the price. Having said that, Graham had a couple of HUGE runs that if took away, provide the normal stats that this defense allows. A mental error or two or three erased and it could have been a lot different. It wasn’t, and that should provide some teachings as to how they handle the rest of the season. The flu was definitely a factor, but not nearly as much as the mental errors causing physical mistakes.

3. Why have the Irish struggled at home this year?

Most of these games have been against teams that you play EVERY year. So, you can look at them as “conference” games. When you look around the country, these types of games can and will give teams fits- even if the home team is a lot better than their opponent. BYU is the lone exception and that was following an emotional and physical win over Stanford.

Another factor is just everything that comes along with playing at home. Tickets, appearances, the “comfort zone”, and just the different mentalities involved. Add all of that together and throw in the home team’s lack of dominance (or any indication of such) and you have a recipe for OMGZ THIS GAME IS SO CLOSE SON!

It may take a few more years to get this team back on track at home, but at least we are talking about WINNING these close games, and not losing them.

Five Irish players sign UFA contracts

Matthias Farley
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Notre Dame had seven players selected in the 2016 NFL Draft, trailing only Ohio State, Clemson and UCLA on the weekend tally. But after the draft finished, the Irish had five more players get their shot at playing on Sundays.

Chris Brown signed with the Dallas Cowboys. Romeo Okwara will begin his career with the New York Giants. Matthias Farley and Amir Carlisle signed contracts with the Arizona Cardinal. Elijah Shumate agreed to a contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

After missing two seasons, Ishaq Williams will be at Giants rookie camp next weekend as well, working as a tryout player. Expect Jarrett Grace to receive similar opportunities.

Count me among those that thought both Brown and Okwara would hear their names called. Brown’s senior season, not to mention his intriguing measureables, had some projecting him as early as the fifth round.

Okwara, still 20 years old and fresh off leading Notre Dame in sacks in back-to-back seasons, intrigued a lot of teams with his ability to play both defensive end and outside linebacker. He’ll get a chance to make the Giants—the team didn’t draft a defensive end after selecting just one last year, and they’re in desperate need of pass rushers.

Both Shumate and Farley feel like contenders to earn a spot on rosters, both because of their versatility and special teams skills. Shumate played nickel back as a freshman and improved greatly at safety during 2015. Farley bounced around everywhere and was Notre Dame’s special teams captain.

Carlisle might fit a similar mold. He played running back, receiver and returned kicks and punts throughout his college career. With a 4.4 during Notre Dame’s Pro Day, he likely showed the Cardinals enough to take a shot, and now he’ll join an offense with Michael Floyd and Troy Niklas.

 

Robertson picks Cal over Notre Dame, UGA

Demetris Robertson
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Demetris Robertson‘s decision wasn’t trending in Notre Dame’s direction. But those that expected the Savannah star athlete to pick the in-state Bulldogs were in for a surprise when Robertson chose Cal on Sunday afternoon.

Notre Dame’s pursuit of the five-star athlete, recruited to play outside receiver and hopefully replace Will Fuller, likely ended Sunday afternoon with Robertson making the surprise decision to take his substantial talents to Berkeley. And give credit to Robertson for doing what he said all along—picking a school that’ll give him the chance to earn an exceptional education and likely contribute from Day One.

“I am excited to take my talents to the University of California, Berkeley. The first reason is that the education was a big part of my decision. I wanted to keep that foundation,” Robertson said, per CFT. “When I went there, it felt like home. Me and the coaching staff have a great relationship. That’s where I felt were the best of all things for me.”

Adding one final twist in all of this is that Robertson has no letter-of-intent to sign. Because he’s blown three months through Signing Day, Robertson merely enrolls at a college when the time comes. That means until then, Kirby Smart and the Georgia staff will continue to sell Robertson on staying home and helping the Dawgs rebuild. Smart visited with Robertson Saturday night and had multiple assistant coaches at his track meet this weekend.

Summer school begins in June for Notre Dame. Their freshman receiving class looks complete with early enrollee Kevin Stepherson and soon-to-arrive pass-catchers Javon McKinley and Chase Claypool.

Sheldon Day drafted in 4th round by Jaguars

North Carolina v Notre Dame
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Former Notre Dame captain Sheldon Day didn’t have to wait long on Saturday to hear his name called. The Indianapolis native, All-American, and the Irish’s two-time defensive lineman of the year was pick number 103, the fourth pick of the fourth round on Saturday afternoon.

Day was the seventh Irish player drafted, following first rounders Ronnie Stanley and Will Fuller, second round selections Jaylon Smith and Nick Martin, and third rounders KeiVarae Russell and C.J. Prosise.

Day has a chance to contribute as he joins the 24th-ranked defense in the league. Joining a draft class heavy on defensive players—Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack and Yannick Ngakoue already picked ahead of him—the front seven will also include last year’s No. 3 overall pick Dante Fowler, who missed the entire season with a knee injury.

Scouted by the Jaguars at the Senior Bowl, Day doesn’t necessarily have the size to be a traditional defensive tackle. But under Gus Bradley’s attacking system (Bradley coordinated the Seahawks defense for four seasons), Day will find a niche and a role in a young defense that’s seen a heavy investment the past two years.

Smith, Martin, Russell and Prosise all drafted Friday night

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 13: William Fuller #7 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Nick Martin #72 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrate a touchdown during the game against the Purdue Boilermakers at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 13, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
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Jaylon Smith, Nick Martin, KeiVarae Russell and C.J. Prosise were all selected on Friday, with four Irish teammates taken on the second night of the NFL Draft. As mentioned, Smith came off the board at pick 34, with the Cowboys gambling on the injured knee of the Butkus Award winner. Nick Martin was selected at pick 50, joining former teammate Will Fuller in Houston.

The third round saw Russell and Prosise come off the board, with Kansas City jumping on the confident cornerback and the Seahawks taking Notre Dame’s breakout running back. It capped off a huge night for the Irish with Sheldon Day, one of the more productive football players in college football, still on the board for teams to pick.

Here’s a smattering of instant reactions from the immediate aftermath.