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Weekend Notes: Dial, Pac-12 refs, and Russell’s journey

Dec 14, 2012, 4:24 PM EDT

Notre Dame at USC AP

We’re still 24 long days away from Notre Dame’s date with Alabama in the national title game. While following the daily rumblings on the recruiting trail or coaching carousel has been enjoyable, it’s time to get to the holidays so we can make the calendar move a little bit quicker.

Starting next week, we’re going to look back at the regular season, and take a 30,000 foot view of what we learned from each of the 12 Irish victories. While it’s easy to get swept up in national title game mania, the evolution of this football team is fascinating to look back on.

But before that, here are a few stories that caught my eye:

***

File this one under “Shocker!” — Alabama’s Quinton Dial won’t be suspended for his violent hit against Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray. If you need a refresher, Dial, a 6-foot-6, 304-pound defensive tackle, threw an absolutely vicious block on Murray after an interception, launching himself (and his helmet) into the helmet of the Georgia quarterback, who didn’t see the hit coming.

SEC coordinator of officials Steve Shaw said that Dial’s hit should have been ruled a penalty after the SEC Championship game. He also said that conference commissioner Mike Slive would review whether Dial should be suspended for the flagrant hit, something the SEC has tried to crack down on.

“By rule, you can’t hit a defenseless player above the shoulders,” Shaw told the Birmingham News. “What the determination needs to be is was this a defenseless player and was contact initiated above the shoulders? When we go through video review of it, that’s what we’ll have to determine. And then you as you break it down, did he lead with the head or lead with the shoulder? From game action, it was a personal foul regardless of how we break it down frame by frame.”

Shaw was candid in the case of Dial’s hit.

“We missed the call,” Shaw said, who also talked about the decision-making process on a suspension.

“As you’ve noticed, Commissioner has been vigilant on this and he did it (suspend players) when warranted and didn’t when it wasn’t,” Shaw told the Birmingham News. “I’m not sure the upcoming opponent is ever a condition in the decision. I think it’s more based on the facts in the play.”

As hard as it is not to chuckle when reading that statement, Yahoo! Sports’ Dr. Saturday blog took a look at two hits that led to one-game suspensions. You be the judge if you think the upcoming opponent and the enormity of the game factored into the decision.

***

It was announced that the Pac-12 will supply the officials for the BCS Championship game. On average, Pac-12 officials have thrown more flags than any conference in the country this season.

This from the Press-Register:

Officials from the six automatic-qualifying conferences work BCS bowls on a rotation. The Big 12 officiated last year’s BCS Championship Game so it won’t work any of the five BCS bowls this season. Officials get recommended by their conference coordinator to work bowl games and can’t be assigned to any game involving a team from the conference they represent.

Because of the SEC’s seven-year streak in the national championship game, SEC officials have not worked the title game since USC-Oklahoma in the 2004 season. The SEC will officiate the next championship game not involving the SEC.

Irish fans harbor some resentment against Pac-12 officials way back to David Grimes (non) catch of the century, but they’ve also been the beneficiary of some 50/50 calls, like the contested goalline stand against Stanford.

Alabama is one of the best teams in the country with just 3.85 penalties per game. Notre Dame averages 5.67 a game.

***

Notre Dame has finally take the gag off freshman KeiVarae Russell, and the early returns are as expected. The rookie cornerback, who arrived in South Bend expecting to enter the running back depth chart, immediately propelled himself into the conversation for best quote of 2013, as the Chicago Tribune’s Chris Kuc detailed.

Russell, who got beat for a touchdown pass in the season’s opening game against Navy, but played fearlessly against the dynamic duo of Robert Woods and Marqise Lee, grew as much as anybody this season, playing a crucial role in the untested Irish secondary.

More from the Trib:

Russell’s journey began rather ignominiously when he was beaten badly for a touchdown during the Irish’s first game of the ultimately undefeated campaign. The deke to the outside and then deep slant across the middle of the field from Navy receiver Shawn Lynch had left Russell chasing and finally flailing both arms while hitting the turf as Lynch caught the ball cruising into the end zone for a 25-yard scoring strike Sept. 1 in Dublin.

The moments that followed helped shape Russell’s — and the Irish’s — storybook season.

“I was hurting,” Russell recalled. “Bennett (Jackson) came to me and started laughing, saying, ‘Man, pick your head up. We have more football to play.’ Then coach (Kerry) Cooks and Manti Te’o came up to me laughing and said, ‘You have a long season, let’s go. Don’t worry about that one play.’ After that, throughout the season whenever I’d make a mistake or miss a tackle, I’d say, ‘Let’s go, forget it; next play.’”

The sequence began a rapid maturation process for the 19-year-old who not many months earlier was roaming high school football fields in Everett, Wash.

“I wasn’t a freshman after the first game,” Russell said. “I had to grow up real quick. I learned that you can’t use excuses of being a freshman. Once you get to college football, age is nothing. When I first got here I was making excuses during camp. I was like, ‘OK, this is my first year’ but I grew out of that real soon. They offered me a scholarship for a reason. I was one of the best in the country so I had to show why.”

Confidence like that helps build a team. While many Irish fans were worried about inserting a converted running back into a starting corner, Brian Kelly made mention to Russell’s uncanny ability to just perform, and the freshman rewarded his head coach with a tremendous season.

  1. bernhtp - Dec 14, 2012 at 4:49 PM

    Keith: thanks for continuing to feed our addiction as many services seem to be going slowly during Christmas shopping time.

    I too am shocked about the lack of suspension for the egregious hit:

    • 4horsemenrideagain - Dec 15, 2012 at 9:14 AM

      bern,

      perfect reference/explanation for SEC/Alabama/Saban utter lack of accountability. some may call me an idiot, but if Tuitt or Nix laid that hit on a USC player, i would hope BK sat him out, without the school having to tell him to do so. neither the NCAA or NFL will be serious about these hits until some kid dies right there on the field, and watching murray take that hit i thought there’s no way that kid walks off that field on his own.

      beating alabama with Dial in the game will just make it that much sweeter.

  2. mikemcmack - Dec 14, 2012 at 6:01 PM

    K. Russell is one energized intense badass young battler.
    In the und.com locker room highlights after the Pitt game(remember that one!?!?) he is seen and heard talking to the trainer who is untaping his hands: “You gotta believe! You gotta believe!” He was still wired and locked-in, like a man who had walked away from a plane crash(which he had, more or less).
    It was a bit comical….but KeiVarae: I do believe!

  3. poppajohn818 - Dec 14, 2012 at 6:40 PM

    The Alabama coach should bench him from the game or is he man enough???

    • heisenbyrg - Dec 14, 2012 at 7:08 PM

      Would BK bench Tuitt for the National Championship game if he had put a big hit on Wittek in the final week? No. If he’s cleared to play, that’s it.

      • bernhtp - Dec 14, 2012 at 11:00 PM

        Sorry, this hit was such a flagrant and awfully dangerous cheap shot that it deserved severe punishment. Many/most helmet-to-helmet hits are judgment call because they occur at full game speed, often with ball carriers and defenders crossing paths, and they may have not only been intentional, but almost unavoidable. This one was where the QB clearly was away from everything, wasn’t looking to get involved, and got hit with full force in the head in an obviously premeditated way. You can’t look at the video and come to any other conclusion. Dial is a thug. He could have killed him.

      • heisenbyrg - Dec 15, 2012 at 12:46 AM

        I don’t disagree, Bern, but do you think BK would hold Tuitt out if he made an identical hit? Zero percent chance Saban makes the suspension. One percent chance BK would.

      • bernhtp - Dec 15, 2012 at 7:58 AM

        I can’t imagine Tuitt doing that – it was an assault with every intent to seriously harm – but yes, they should and think they would. Our players certainly make mistakes (e.g., lose track of where they are and hit a yard out of bounds) but I have never seen anything resembling this cheap shot and hope I never will.

    • 1historian - Dec 16, 2012 at 12:50 AM

      it might happen in some parallel universe but not in this one

  4. dutch31 - Dec 14, 2012 at 7:46 PM

    It was a cheap shot! The Georgia QB was basically an observer approx 30 yards from the tackle, and moving at a speed that he may not have gotten to the play by the 2nd half kickoff. Also the Alabama Thug put the crown of his helmet into his jaw. But I didn’t expect him to get suspended. We want them at full strength. No Excuses!!

    Anyone else notice how disciplined ND defenders have been all year? They fly to the sideline, but they know their angles and almost never hit out of bounds. Kudos to the coaching staff and team leaders.

    Aaron Murray learned a lesson that my son learned back in August of this year. He is a 7th grader playing Junior football in N.J. He is a very good O lineman (so lucky to have fantastic coaches since 1rst grade all of which played college football at some level, none with their own children on the team) he plays with good technique and tenacity, finishes his block every play ( his favorite palaver is Chris Watt, when we watch the replays of the game, it takes forever, because when Watt or any of NDs lineman kill their guy we have to watch the play 3 times). In any event in our final scrimmage his team played Atlantic City, it was 95 degrees and AC has field turf, so it was about 105 on the field. He played the whole game at O tackle and D tackle. Plus for some reason he was on both kickoff teams. Well he delivered a lot of very good blocks on offense. So his team scores with 2 min left, but still losing 14-7. Coaches just kicked off, kids were exhausted. So my son is causally jogging after the kick, essentially observing, well he took a hit twice as hard as Murray! The AC kid had him lined up for 20 yards and put his helmet right under his chin, must have knocked my son a foot in the air, never saw it. To his credit he got right up and finished the last 3 plays of the game. His jaw was black and blue and had a nice headache for about a day, lucky and a small price to pay for a lesson he will never forget. PLAYERS WHEN BETWEEN THE LINES CAN NEVER BE OBSERVERS!

    Also tickets are hard to come by!! So far I know 1 alumni who actually got 2 tix from the lottery. Tim Brown was on the radio today. Jack Arute asked him ” As NDs last Heisman Trophy winner how many tickets did ND give you?? His exact response was ND does not give tickets, but I was allowed to purchase 4 tickets! Don’t think he was kidding because he defends ND to no end against all those haters that call day in and day out! That’s a tough ticket!!

    I bit the bullet and went stub hub. Got 2 lower level seats on ND side and taking my son. Wouldn’t miss it for the world!! You only live once. At least as far as we know!

    GO IRISH!!!

    • bernhtp - Dec 14, 2012 at 8:05 PM

      I think students had a 26% chance of winning the lottery for a ticket. The odds were way more dismal for alumni unless you were a large donor, and even they only got two tickets each. I was told that ND was allotted 17,000 tickets and they had requests for over 250,000!

      Stubhub prices are already really high. I wonder if they will go up further as alumni and other fans without tickets capitulate to the reality of the situation: pay thousands or don’t go.

      I’ll be in Miami.

      http://www.stubhub.com/bcs-national-championship-game-tickets/2013-bcs-national-championship-game-1-7-2013-4082792/

    • yogihilt - Dec 15, 2012 at 7:10 AM

      Atl County boy… Margate here..

  5. 9irish - Dec 14, 2012 at 8:58 PM

    I don’t just want them to win, I want them to destroy them. It would clear my mind.

  6. kappy32 - Dec 15, 2012 at 12:48 AM

    The fact that Bama is playing our Irish in 27 days, for THE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP, had everything to do with why Dial wasn’t suspended. If that hit happened week 8 & Bama was going to play Tennessee the following week, you can bet your butt that he wouldn’t be playing in that game. The hit was dirty & it was a clear violation of the rules. If such a hit happened on the NFL level, Heir Goodell would’ve suspended him or fined him significantly. Being that college players can’t be fined, because they don’t get paid, he should’ve been suspended. Conference commissioners need to take player safety seriously the same way the NFL is or else they’re going to find themselves bogged down in concussion lawsuits next. This sets a terrible precedent here. The SEC has stated that it is more important for Bama to win the title than it is to protect players (as a fan it may be). The NCAA should establish a governing body that is responsible for player punishments for on-field actions & take it out of the hands of the respective conference commissioners. It’s clear the SEC has an interest here & they aren’t going to hurt one of their own in their chances to win a title. The way these situations are handled makes this a complete non-shocker.

  7. norcalirish - Dec 15, 2012 at 3:53 AM

    I saw the non suspension coming from a mile away.

    • yogihilt - Dec 15, 2012 at 7:13 AM

      ya, you and the rest of us..disgrace

  8. ndgoldandblue - Dec 15, 2012 at 10:25 AM

    Here’s my take on the Dial thing: Do I think the guy should’ve been suspended? Yeah, I guess so. Not because of the egregiousness of the hit, although I will say that blowing up a quarterback on an interception return serves no purpose other than to injure the guy. If your goal was to help the returner bring the thing back for a touchdown, you’d look for someone to block other than the QB. Anyway, I think Dial should have been suspended because the SEC always seems to get away with this sort of sh*t.

    Every judgment call of this variety always seems to go in favor of a player or team from the SEC. The NCAA and the Southeastern Conference itself don’t demand much from SEC student-athletes. Lately, the evidence seems to indicate that those players can act in any way that they want, on the field and off. Nevertheless, Notre Dame can’t have any excuses. If the Irish want to prove that they are the best, they have to beat Alabama, with our without Dial. Doesn’t matter.

    The only great objection that I would have as a result of Dial playing would be if he hit Golson in the same manner that he hit Murray. I just don’t want to see our quarterback get knocked out of the game or worse, suffer a concussion, at the hands of this douche.

    • bernhtp - Dec 15, 2012 at 12:42 PM

      Aaron Murray was out of the action, defenseless, and looking away from the assault. There was no reason to hit him vs. someone else that threatened to stop the return. The reason he was hit, and hit viciously helmet to helmet, was to hurt him and knock him out of the game. There was lots of time, it was clearly premeditated, and I see no other explanation. If you don’t punish that severely, I don’t know what you can do on a football field to warrant it without a gun.

      I was frankly surprised that Murray got up from that one. I’m not sure that Golson, 25 lbs lighter, would have fared quite so well.

      • papadec - Dec 15, 2012 at 6:08 PM

        That’s the kind of cheap shot I would expect from a Les Miles coached player – sec is sec, I guess. There’s a jersey waiting for Dial in the NO Saints locker room.

    • 9irish - Dec 15, 2012 at 7:07 PM

      I am so f*#king sick of hearing about the SEC I a cannot even put it into words.

      Go Irish

  9. joeymagarac - Dec 15, 2012 at 8:29 PM

    In the 1988 ND-USC game, Frank Stams absolutely levelled Rodney Peete on an interception return. Peete was the QB and was not involved at all in trying to tackle the ND player who made the interception; he was too far away from the action to even try. Yet Stams absolutely destroyed him, knocking him out of the game.

    ND fans cheered that play. The YouTube video (which I would paste here if I knew how) shows Stams smiling and laughing on the bench afterward.

    Times have changed, and it’s possible that Dial aimed for the head in a way that Stams did not (Stams hit Peete high but the camera didn’t catch the full hit, so I don’t know exactly what happened). But Stams was not suspended or even slapped on the wrist for what amounted to a much more problematic hit (because it caused a concussion whereas Dial’s hit just threatened that).

    • bernhtp - Dec 16, 2012 at 7:08 PM

      The rules, knowledge about concussions, and the coaching were very different 25 years ago. While Stams laid a big hit on Peete, it wasn’t helmet to helmet. Bottom line: Stams’ hit wasn’t a penalty according to the rules then, let alone an offense subject to possible suspension.

  10. 4horsemenrideagain - Dec 16, 2012 at 12:17 PM

    you can view the whole hit on youtube, just as they showed the whole hit on abc during the game and it was ABSOLUTELY different. stams didn’t aim for peete’s head and didn’t initiate contact with his own head. he did target peete, but peete was pursuing the play just as murray was. i don’t take issue with either hit being a qb after a pick, but the difference is whatever trauma to peete’s head came from his head hitting the ground, not from stams’ helmet. dial hit murray directly in the head, with his own head and anyone saying it wasn’t an intentional head-to-head hit is ignoring the fact that murray was moving so slowly that he was on a platter for dial. dial could have hit him right on right on the nike sign on his jersey if he wanted; that’s how easy of a hit it was. the fact that he got him right in the head is simply a result of him aiming for murray’s head.

    before labeling me an apologist, i still thought stams’ hit on peete was dirty, all the same. it was legal, but still dirty and i didn’t like that one either. that it was not helmet to helmet does make it quantums less dirty however.

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