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Red zone woes need fixing on both sides of the ball

Sep 9, 2013, 11:29 PM EST

Notre Dame v Michigan Getty Images

After playing twelve sterling games where just about no offense could crack Notre Dame defense’s red zone code, it’s been an ugly stretch for Bob Diaco’s troops. First, Alabama bludgeoned them inside the 20 in the BCS Championship game, turning all five of their appearances into touchdowns. Now Michigan has done just about the same, with Devin Gardner cashing in Michigan’s four appearances for touchdowns.

Apologies to Temple, but that’s 9 for 9 for 63 points against the last two “real” opponents of the Irish. And while the defense certainly has some deficiencies it needs to fix between the 20s as well, if the Irish are going to rebound from this loss and meet their goals of making this a BCS season, they’ll need to fix both sides of the ball in the scoring zones.

We’ll get into some of the things the defense needs to tweak later, but one area of concern for Irish fans has been the play-calling in the red zone. As Blue & Gold Illustrated’s Lou Somogyi pointed out, Notre Dame is a whopping 1-10 when forced to throw the football at least 50 times in a game.

The Irish’s heavy hand in the passing game could have been dictated by a variety of reasons. The most obvious is falling behind by two scores. Another could be the different defensive looks Greg Mattison gave Tommy Rees and the Irish offense. Yet a season after living within the team’s offensive constraints and almost being forced to rely on a strong run game, Saturday night the Irish seemed to give up on it, especially when it got in the scoring area.

The Irish got incredibly pass happy when they found their way into scoring position, a knock that isn’t new to Kelly’s preferred play-calling. Last season, the Irish struggled mightily in the red zone, finishing a woeful 112th in the country in converting appearances into touchdowns at 48 percent. As one of the team’s chief offseason priorities, Kelly spoke during fall camp about Tommy Rees’ improvement in the red zone, yet the Irish’s struggled to convert appearances into points, scoring just two touchdowns in their five appearances in Ann Arbor.

After running for better than five yards a carry, the Irish all but abandoned the ground in the red zone. The numbers are ugly. Of the thirteen plays the Irish ran at or inside Michigan’s 20 yard-line, twelve of them were passes.

Here’s a breakdown of those plays:

1st and Goal at MICH 10 Amir Carlisle rush for 6 yards to the Mich 4.
2nd and Goal at MICH 4 Tommy Rees pass incomplete to DaVaris Daniels.
3rd and Goal at MICH 4 Tommy Rees pass complete to TJ Jones for 4 yards for a TOUCHDOWN.

1st and 10 at MICH 11 Tommy Rees pass incomplete to George Atkinson III.
2nd and 10 at MICH 11 Tommy Rees pass incomplete to TJ Jones.
3rd and 10 at MICH 11 Tommy Rees pass complete to Amir Carlisle for 4 yards to the Mich 7.

1st and 10 at MICH 20 Tommy Rees pass complete to Troy Niklas for 20 yards for a TOUCHDOWN.

3rd and 2 at MICH 15 Tommy Rees pass complete to DaVaris Daniels for a loss of 2 yards to the Mich 17.
4th and 4 at MICH 17 Tommy Rees pass incomplete to TJ Jones.

1st and 10 at MICH 20 Tommy Rees pass incomplete to Chris Brown.
2nd and 10 at MICH 20 Tommy Rees pass complete to TJ Jones for 7 yards to the Mich 13.
3rd and 3 at MICH 13 Tommy Rees pass complete to TJ Jones for 7 yards to the Mich 6 for a 1ST down.
1st and Goal at MICH 6 Tommy Rees pass intercepted by Blake Countess at the Mich 0, returned for no gain for a touchback.

Without knowing play calls or quarterback reads, it’s difficult to speak unequivocally about the decision to abandon the run in the part of the field where it’s most difficult to throw the football. But if the Irish want to improve their scoring efficiency in the red zone, using the run game to supplement the passing attack would be a good idea.

Tommy Rees didn’t play poorly on Saturday night, making one regrettable throw before the half that gave Michigan the football back in good scoring position. But Rees’ numbers in the red zone were 5 of 12 for 40 yards with 2 TDs and 1 INT. (Rees had both good luck and bad luck in the red zone, completing a tipped ball in the end zone for both a touchdown and an interception.)

It’s not hard to think back to Alabama’s punishing running game in the red zone to wonder why the Irish don’t take to the ground instead of the air when trying to score, especially with a quarterback that’s not exactly a running threat. Michigan did the same thing, running twice and throwing twice on their first red zone TD (also buoyed by a KeiVarae Russell pass interference), sandwiching a run between two passes on their second, running to set up the pass on their third red zone touchdown to extend the lead to 34-20, and then running twice versus three passes (two that resulted in pass interference calls) before the game was essentially iced on Drew Dileo’s touchdown on a slant.

If we’re to learn anything here, the first is stop committing pass interference penalties. But the second may be to add some diversity to the offensive playcalling inside the red zone, where the default looks too often to be a pass.

  1. dickasman - Sep 9, 2013 at 11:41 PM

    Well I think its easier to fix the red zone on offense than defense. You’ve got Niklas, Robinson, Daniels, Carlisle and Bryant. I think Bryant and Robinson could step up in this area but you have to not only put them in there but give them the damn ball! Niklas and Daniels for sure.

    As far as defense goes, put a Kotax on it. I don’t have an answer there. They look and play hopeless.

    • mjb621 - Sep 10, 2013 at 3:18 PM

      Can we all agree to stop referencing last year’s BCS drubbing? If I read another story/article about Alabama drubbing, massacre. etc I’m going to scream. We know want happen already. Please stop. It might fill the author’s quota of words for his article, be more creative.

      • mjb621 - Sep 10, 2013 at 3:19 PM

        This wasn’t meant for you, I thought it was a general comment not specific to you. Sorry.

  2. seadomer - Sep 9, 2013 at 11:44 PM

    Everybody wondered including me what happened to the run.

    I don’t claim any credit but I have been saying where is the full back for an almost guaranteed 3 yds with an O line such as ours. JUST RAM it in at the goal line or 3rd and short. They know we are coming, but just can’t stop it … Why don’t we have a bonafide full back

    Also after reading so many post the past day … let me be the first to remind everyone that our SOS has also diminished somewhat.

    • dickasman - Sep 9, 2013 at 11:55 PM

      Because its not 1963 and we can’t play Temple every week. Its not that easy to get 3 yards when you’ve got Rees back there. Nothing against Rees, I know he’s doing the best he can but he’s not foolin anybody like Golson was.

      • mtflsmitty - Sep 10, 2013 at 12:08 AM

        I’m sure that as a result of this comment you’ll feel compelled to show your ass. But I have to say, I am rather enjoying in-season Dickasman. (Somehow that just seems wrong to type that). Actually a good dose of football talk, coke references at a manageable rate. Not too shabby, you OL’ crustie, ultra right-winger. Not to shabby at all. :)

      • seadomer - Sep 10, 2013 at 12:11 AM

        I guess ND is in desperate need of an RB with torque not top speed that is 5ft 11 in, 250lbs

      • dickasman - Sep 10, 2013 at 1:05 AM

        Mucho Gracias Senor Smitty. Me smuggle mucho cocaino to give to great people like mr asman and people like you want to make me legal and give me purple credit cards. Thank you Thank you I mean mucho gracias me no spik engrish.

        Its because I knew we were in for 4 loss season as soon as golson went out so I prepared as such. Uppped the Xanax intake dosage. worked like a charm!

    • dickasman - Sep 9, 2013 at 11:59 PM

      Having said that, I really do think that our offense should be geared on run game first. We’ve seen this movie before with Rees with read option and what happens when we put too much on his shoulders. I know its not BK’s cup of tea but lets face it, we do not have any read option QB’s available at the moment.

      • c4evr - Sep 10, 2013 at 10:09 AM

        And why is it that we’re 4 years running with Kelly and still start a Weis recruited QB?? for someone who prides himself on the rkg’s, his record so far frankly sucks. They either bail or can’t cut it academically. His ‘character’ radar needs fine tuning. can’t wait to see what baggage Malik is carrying. Even charlie had the good sense to recruit 4 QB’s in Rees’ class.

      • ndgoldandblue - Sep 10, 2013 at 1:05 PM

        Bam. Hit the nail on the head, c4evr. Bring in more quantity and more quality. More quality doesn’t automatically mean star rankings. Bring in guys who have the talent to succeed and won’t leave after a year (or less). And just in case you do get defections, bring in enough players so that injuries don’t completely paralyze the team. Man, leave it up to a horrible loss to bring all of Notre Dame Nation together in one harmonious voice.

        As for Zaire, from what I’ve heard, Malik is actually an issues-free player. Very coachable, which is good.

      • irish4006 - Sep 10, 2013 at 1:25 PM

        Not so fast goldandblue.

        Kelly did bring in a lot of good QBs, this year was supposed to be the year with Golson running the offense for the most part with Kiel backing him up and getting play time often. I wouldn’t respect a head coach if he either ignored academic violation or kiss up to a QB who can’t be patient and wait his turn.

        Before last season, I said any good coach worth his salt should be able to manufacture a QB out of thin air if needed by the 3rd year of his tenure, the excuse of “this was the hand I was dealt” would not work. While I understand that this holds even more true in his 4th year, but we all know how it played out. This year’s QB issues is not his doing, he did get one QB ready for a breakout season and 2 others in the waiting… BTW, TR is doing a good job, we need more balance on offense. We have all the weapons, we just need to use them right.

        Defense looking clueless and all of a sudden forgetting how to tackle or cover or breaking through the O-line, that’s a whole different story.

      • ndgoldandblue - Sep 10, 2013 at 2:26 PM

        irish4006, I agree with your sentiment regarding the quarterbacks for the most part. It’s the situation with Kiel that gives me frustration. The guy went back and forth, over and over again during his recruitment, and that should have been a red flag. But we finally got him, so great.

        Now, if he’s there, sell him on the idea that the future looks bright for him at quarterback. Give him a reason to want to stick around. Maybe Kelly already did that. Who knows? I don’t know what goes on behind the scenes. But BK appeared to take the loss of Kiel a bit too well. I interpreted his reaction to, “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”

        My comment was on the overall problems we’ve had with players leaving (or not even showing up). It’s not just the quarterbacks. If the d-linemen go out, who’s going in? And what about the linebackers? Plus, I can only name one player (Shumate) in the defensive backfield who wasn’t switched from offense to defense. I’m just saying that quality depth is a concern, and that comes down to recruiting (bringing in talent that won’t leave and bringing in a high number of players).

    • bostonjan - Sep 10, 2013 at 12:37 PM

      How about Tuitt as a fullback? I believe that we have an indication that he has the “soft hands” and speed….kind of like the Irish version of the “refrigerator”??

  3. ndirish10 - Sep 10, 2013 at 12:36 AM

    Keith, of course Tommy improved in the redzone in Spring, Summer, and Fall camps…he was going up against the Irish 1st team defense, which you and everyone else have seen has not been good since the nc game.

    • bb90grad - Sep 10, 2013 at 12:11 PM

      At first I was pleased with how the O was catching throws and beating the secondary in practice vids. I think we now know why.

  4. ndirish10 - Sep 10, 2013 at 2:19 AM

    I’m starting go get all worked up again thinking about the loss. First thing tomorrow I will purchase some Sketchers and RELAX, at least up until this Sat. (because Joe said so)

  5. seadomer - Sep 10, 2013 at 2:43 AM

    OK … I’ll move on.
    If we do not beat Purdue, with all due respect to Boiler fans (u guys are in major construction/rebuilding) by AT LEAST 28 points using 2-deep with the Defense NOT allowing more than 13 (notice how I dropped our D’s rep here), we would have some hope.

    • ndcanuck - Sep 10, 2013 at 9:28 AM

      We barely beat Purdue last year at home with (what so far seems to be) a much better defense. Rebuilding or not, Purdue on the road at night is not a lock for this ND team, sorry to say. Certainly not a 28 point beat down.

  6. nudeman - Sep 10, 2013 at 8:05 AM

    1) Tommy Rees has improved. He has gone from being miserably incompetent against good opponents (1 W, 5 L against UM, USC, FSU and Stanford) to playing just well enough to get you beat. If college was a 9 year proposition he’d be able to squeek out a win against Michigan in 2018.

    2) College is a 4 year proposition

    3) Nix and Tuitt are out of shape and it’s affecting the entire D.

    4) The LBs and DBs are in great shape and stink. Maybe time for more Redfield and Luke Deeb and a little less Carlo, Fox and Jackson and Russell.

    5) ND has had an uncanny way of playing down to the level of the opponent under Kelly. They have the talent to beat Purdue 38-7, but will probably win 21-17. Or lose.

    6) After Temple, like many I said “we need to wait until after Michigan” to see what type of team we have. Now we know. They should have absolutely destroyed Temple and didn’t and they lost to UM. I do not like the trajectory here. Do you?

    7) Red zone: LOFFFL. This has been a topic every year under Kelly and staff. I wonder if they have a clue how to fix this.

    8) They don’t

    • nudeman - Sep 10, 2013 at 8:23 AM

      We still have that smiley face issue I see

    • NotreDan - Sep 10, 2013 at 11:48 AM

      As much as I HATE your assessment, I have to agree.

      The only good thing about Saturday, was the RIBS.

      The pulled pork wasn’t bad either.

      And the bloody mary’s made with cucumber vodka.

      • nudeman - Sep 10, 2013 at 12:40 PM

        Damn … Bloodies with cucumber vodka
        Like the sound of that

      • dickasman - Sep 10, 2013 at 1:04 PM

        Hahahahaha, lolololol. Wazzz it finga lickin good? How did the Metamucil taste? Just as good I hope

  7. yaketyyacc - Sep 10, 2013 at 8:11 AM

    look, nothing will change. tommy will be the quarterback, the play calling will have little imagination, the ‘FAMED” Diaco defense will become the “INFAMOUS” defense, multi- running backs filtering in and out will not happen, throwing to five, six or seven different receivers won’t either, and speed, forget it.
    how many coaches must be licking their chops, saying, boy what I could do if I had the talent Notre Dame does.
    the Japanese are still asking themselves, how could a 90 ship armada lose to four aircraft carriers at Midway. ineffective leadership. while it was great for the US, it is not for Notre Dame.

    • dickasman - Sep 10, 2013 at 1:05 PM

      I agree. ND should just all Hari Kari themselves

    • ndgoldandblue - Sep 10, 2013 at 1:09 PM

      Damn, nice historical reference. Kudos, my man.

  8. yllibnosredna - Sep 10, 2013 at 8:16 AM

    I’d put the ball in Bryant’s hands on 20-25 + plays next week versus Purdue. I’d give Folston around 15-20+ touches as well. I’d let Carlisle carry the rest of the load. Atkinson (aside from kick-offs) and McDaniel can sit this one out as far as I’m concerned. I really don’t give a sh..t if Bryant and Folston whiff on 7 blitz pick-ups each. Don’t care. Put these guys in the game early and often or risk another blue-chip defection.

    These kids want to play right out of the gate and frankly, it’s not like it’s Trent Richardson or Darren McFadden in front of them. It’s an over-achiever (McDaniel) and an under-achiever (Atkinson). [Carlisle appears to be a legit talent in the backfield and hopefully later in the slot]. Neither of these guys will get you to the next level against elite competition. Seriously, do you honestly think if ND meets an LSU or S. Carolina in the Sugar Bowl, Cam McDaniel is gonna do any damage? I’m tired of hearing how those guys are in because they do “the little things right” despite having a low ceiling.[Atkinson may be a home-run threat against cream-puff defenses but I don't see him EVER becoming a serious threat against legit defensive competition].

    Why not put in the young guys who represent the biggest upside in talent and let them experience some growing pains while teaching them and giving them time to learn the little things-particularly against the likes of Purdue and some of the other BAD football teams on this schedule? So by the time Stanford rolls around, these guys can be more prepared to play in big games. I’m having a hard time seeing why Bryant and Folston can not eventually jump Atkinson and McDaniel ,why Redfield can’t eventually jump Collinsworth (although Collinsworth did play quite well against Michigan), why Cole Luke can’t eventually jump Lo Wood. And these positional overtakings should be happening sooner rather than later. Although I really thought a lot of Danny Spond’s leadership. I’m WAY MORE encouraged by seeing Jaylon Smith out there. If these younger more talented players can’t jump them yet at least let them split plays more evenly.

    I know it’s very early in the season and I am probably getting way ahead of myself here, but I have this bad feeling that come November we’ll still be seeing way more McDaniel and Atkinson than Bryant and Folston. And if that’s the case come Stanford, we’ll likely see another pathetic running performance and an abandonment of the running game leaving Tommy to throw the ball 45+ times to the tune of 250 yards and 3+turnovers.

    PLAY THE YOUNGER MORE TALENTED GUYS NOW, LET THEM MAKE MISTAKES AND LEARN AGAINST LESSER COMPETITION SO THEY’LL BE BETTER PREPARED THROUGHOUT THE SEASON AND POST-SEASON AGAINST STRONGER COMPETITION.

    • canadianndfan - Sep 10, 2013 at 9:19 AM

      Outstanding post!! I was at the Temple game yelling at Kelly to put in Bryant (don’t think he heard me lol). I agree 100% Bryant and Folston are more talented then any other RB they have on the roster other than Carlisle. In SEC country these guys would not be sitting on the bench…..yes they would be back-ups to other 5 star RB’s but they would be getting their reps!

    • nudeman - Sep 10, 2013 at 10:32 AM

      Agree 100%
      Here are the problems as I see them:

      1) There is a shocking lack of creativity in the offense. When is the last time you saw a screen pass? A draw? Or God forbid a reverse. Or even more outrageous a halfback pass? There is zero reason they can’t be mixing it up more than they are. Alabama commented on the fact that they knew exactly what’s coming on both sides of the ball. I think we all do too.

      2) In addition to Tuitt and Nix being out of shape, the LBs and DBs stink. Not all of them, but enough to make Saturday’s game resemble a Michigan track meet. Fox, Carlo, Farley – all B- players. And Jackson and Russell are trending in that direction too.

      3) GAIII. OK, you want to use him as a RB and see if he can blossom? Fine. But wtf are you doing throwing 5 passes his way? It’s known he has hands of cement.

      4) Maybe I’m overreacting, as it’s only been two games and they’re 1-1. But did anyone reading this think they’d only win 28-6 vs Temple? Then lose to UM and score exactly 23 points on offense, including one very lucky TD. Personally I thought they’d run Temple out of Indiana and win something like 41-6; and Iw as also sure they’d beat UM.

      5) I know it’s preposterous to say this when watching from a sofa, but there seems to be a malaise. Call it a leadership void, call it being just not as good as we hoped. Whatever it is, I’m uncomfortable with the Irish this year, so far. I won’t be a bit surprised if we see the same stuff this weekend vs. Purdue: Closer than expected score (because they ALWAYS play down to the level of their opponent) , poor red zone performance, over-reliance on throwing the ball, Bryant and Folston remaining on the bench, Purdue racking up over 350 yards. But the D will get a sack.

      • c4evr - Sep 10, 2013 at 11:05 AM

        4) perhaps overreacting is the proper reaction to light a fire under Kelly’s pants. Once you get enough voices being heard, change takes place… it got the coach’s attention in Rudy’s case. Who, by the way, I blame for this 2 decade’s curse.

      • NotreDan - Sep 10, 2013 at 11:53 AM

        I feel like it’s a lack of soul, a lack of heart, a lack of passion and emotion.

        As stupid as the girlfriend thing was, god I miss Teo.

      • ndirish10 - Sep 10, 2013 at 12:59 PM

        c4…, Joe already said that the Rudy chanting didn’t happen and that the reason he was carried of ” was more of a goof on their diminutive teammate than anything else.”-Dan Patrick show. I don’t think CBK cares about what we or the masses are saying. He will continue doing his thing. I do believe that CBK is salivating at the mouth after watching what Chip Kelly did last night against the Redskins. He is probably saying to himself, “my Cincinnati offense won’t work here at the Golden Dome but WILL work in the NFL.”

      • ibleedirish - Sep 10, 2013 at 3:21 PM

        “but the D will get a sack” I love it.

        In my opion thats half of the problem on D this year. Everyone on the line is more concerned with getting a friggin sack and doing a cute dance than actually doing their job and keeping contain. Just watch, everybody makes a mad dash to the QB (Tuitt too, when he isn’t taking a play off) and the running lanes and sight lines open right up. Incredibly undisciplined play so far this year.

        Oh and DBs? Please turn the F around and make a play on the ball. Its like watching a bunch of Gary Grays out there.

        This team may want to focus a little less on their swag and tats, and a little more on actually making a play.

      • ibleedirish - Sep 10, 2013 at 3:23 PM

        *opinion

    • ibleedirish - Sep 10, 2013 at 2:58 PM

      Anyone who gave this post a thumbs down is an absolute jackass. Perfect post. Play the f’in TALENT!!! RUN THE GOD DAMN BALL!! So sick of seeing some of these slow, bloated upperclassmen whiff on hits, tiptoe to the hole, drop the ball…but do the “little things right”. Gag me with that loser talk. Anyone else tired of “what we are looking for out of XXX is consistency”. F consistency, PLAY THE TALENT!!

  9. ndrocks2 - Sep 10, 2013 at 8:26 AM

    I’ve said it before I’ll say it again. Get a REAL offensive coordinator, not one of BK’s long term friends. Win or lose this year but BK has to get away from his very small circle of coaches who he keeps moving around.

    I know BK will never get away from totally calling the plays which is already obvious after two games but he really needs to and it starts with having an OC who has top tier BCS experience. We have the talent let’s get someone who has real DI experience at the position.

    • c4evr - Sep 10, 2013 at 9:26 AM

      Now why would an OC be required to have BCS and real D1 experience when that wasn’t even asked of our head coach?? With your argument, you could just as easily be saying ‘get a real coach’. And no, coaching in the Big East is not real D1 experience, unless he applies for Brey’s job.

      Just sayin…

      • mayo1010 - Sep 11, 2013 at 11:52 AM

        C4 do you realize how naive you sound? Kelly’s last 2 Cincy teams would have killed Notre Dame’s pathetic Weis teams. So did that not make ND D1 experience during that time? Hey why don’t you tell that to Florida who got their ass handed to them by a Big East Louisville team, that they’re not D1 material. You sound stupid.

        I’m beginning to wonder if your an ND fan at all?

        Every post you bash BK. It’s so predictable and tiresome at this point. I for one am sick of reading it because you reach for just about everything just to take the exact opposite of anything BK does. It’s very childish and very few agree with you. Do you know why? Because you are wrong, actually clueless would be more accurate.

        Remember last season with your inane prediction that ND would never ever be relevant with BK as the head coach. Well I’d consider being in the NC game as being relevant, wouldn’t you?

        Tells us a little more about the good ole days with Lou Holtz. Like that means anything to anybody. Are you related to Holtz or something? It’s getting kinda of weird.

        BK is the reigning College coach of the year but according to you he can’t coach and knows nothing. You sound ignorant!

        As Tony Montana said ” Keep up the bad work Ernie”!

    • ibleedirish - Sep 10, 2013 at 3:29 PM

      Thank you. Martin is snarky and funny. He is not a good O coordinator. Horrible play calling, Case in point? 40% of the time this year Tommy has checked out of the play called. Thats just stupid.

  10. yllibnosredna - Sep 10, 2013 at 8:51 AM

    Trajectory for the season? Don’t see any reason why ND can’t go 10-2 and reach a BCS Bowl, not so much because Notre Dame is a BCS Bowl team, but because the schedule appears far less daunting than suspected. Michigan State’s offense rivals ND’s 2007 ineptitude. USC? 7 points and a loss against Washington F..ing State?! Considering the beat-downs we suffered in the Pete Carroll era and the fact that we haven’t beaten these guys at home in 12 years, I’ll be livid if ND doesn’t win that game by 56 points. In fact we should have pounded them last year so I will expect a much better performance against Trojan and Co. this year. BYU might be a decent team and this could be a let-down game, but we get them for a SECOND YEAR in a row at home and on Senior Day? (Don’t know how that happened). Arizona State is a concern, but on paper ND should handle them. Stanford seems to be the only team that’s a probable (if not certain) loss. By now, this coaching staff should be able to have the on-paper talent match the on-field product. Despite a piss-poor coaching job this past Saturday, I’m not gonna cut them any slack or expect any differently throughout the rest of this season.

    Now if ND goes 10-2 and in that BCS bowl, they’re facing an Oregon or a high caliber SEC team, forget about. Redux clips of Fiesta Bowls 2001 and 2006, Sugar Bowl 2007 and last year’s lop-sided horse-pounding in Miami. Here’s hoping we get a match-up against Northwestern or Louisville.

    • c4evr - Sep 10, 2013 at 9:34 AM

      Next question… why is getting to a BCS bowl the Holy Grail? If they aren’t there yet, don’t put them in a position to fail. The guy with the unpronounceable name has it right – play for the future with youth now. Otherwise they end up conforming to a stale, predictable program. Put them in now and let their enthusiasm infect the rest of the team. I said all along last year that it would be better to leave golson in and lose a game or two, get to the Cotton Bowl, win, and be trending upwards. The win at all costs put us in the ring with a heavyweight and cleaned our clock. the best thing that could happen to this team is to lose to OU and ASU, then fill the field with young hungry talent sprinkled with the marquee veterans to provide on field leadership.

      • andy44teg - Sep 10, 2013 at 2:14 PM

        who…billy anderson??? I agree though, GAIII isn’t a running back, Cam would be a great FCS RB, Amir is legit, and Bryant and Folson need to be 2A and 2B. I also really want to see more Cole Luke and something out of Redfield. We’ve got the future on the sidelines and after the UM beat down, the future is now.

      • mayo1010 - Sep 10, 2013 at 7:57 PM

        u really are an idiot!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • mayo1010 - Sep 10, 2013 at 7:59 PM

        not u andy

      • c4evr - Sep 10, 2013 at 8:53 PM

        Mayo, welcome to the party. I’ve missed your eloquent, well thought out contributions.

    • ndcanuck - Sep 10, 2013 at 9:38 AM

      Frankly I’d rather see ND lose a few more games this season and hit a winnable bowl game (like the Pinstripe) than get blown out again in another BCS bowl. I would prefer to take some lumps early this year and get some younger talent on the field. Looking at next year’s schedule (way too early, I know) that seems to set up pretty well for BCS run if we have some kids with real game experience going in.

      Boy, my Irish pessimism is really coming out now – all gloom and doom after only week 2, lol. Here’s hoping I see something Saturday night to lighten the mood.

      • NotreDan - Sep 10, 2013 at 11:54 AM

        Conceptually I hear you, but this would be terrible for recruiting. Tough to balance short/long term.

      • ndcanuck - Sep 10, 2013 at 2:07 PM

        NotreDan – it is a tough balance. But is it any worse for recruiting to go to a BCS game and get beaten badly by the teams we’re (apparently) trying to recruit against? Alamaba is one thing (semi-pro team, lol), but if we get hammered by a team from a florida or some other big southern recruiting state I imagine that’s hard to overcome when you’re going after talent from those areas.

        I’ll take a big bowl win over a Boise or Rutgers to cap the season rather than the last impression of the year being a big loss to FSU or LSU.

  11. ndgoldandblue - Sep 10, 2013 at 8:52 AM

    “But if the Irish want to improve their scoring efficiency in the red zone, using the run game to supplement the passing attack would be a good idea.”

    That’s putting it delicately.

  12. c4evr - Sep 10, 2013 at 9:17 AM

    If anybody saw the redskins Eagles game last night, you saw what it takes for the spread to work. Vick would place the ball where the runner could take it WHILE simultaneously reading how the defense was pursuing. He then had the luxury of keeping it and running himself, which he did many times with great success, or handing it to L McCoy, who I think ran for nearly 200 yards. Once you have their defense guessing EVEN on running plays, then you beat them with the pass. Only way to do that is to amputate TR’s head and put it on EG’s body. Separately, they are less than half a QB, sadly. Together, they would be the Franken-back, commonly known as johnny Manziel.

    • nudeman - Sep 10, 2013 at 11:50 AM

      Why do you automatically buy the blather that Tommy is so smart? Is it purely because he spends so much time auribling? I could do that.

      I see a LOT of bad decisions, every week. Easily could have had 3 INTs against UM.
      The one before the half was a killer and Rees HAD TO know to put that thing in the 10th row if the receiver wasn’t open. Instead, threw it, INT and UM goes down to score.

      Missed a LOT of open receivers, or threw late, like the throw to TJ Jones at the 3 yard line.
      Wide open, Rees throws late but to his credit lef him perfectly.
      Right out of bounds

      Score was 34-27 at the time. A 1st down at the 3 changes that game.

      • c4evr - Sep 10, 2013 at 12:01 PM

        I don’t think he’s smart. I think he’s cocky and that HE thinks he’s smart. That’s why Kelly likes him as a security blanket – he reminds of him of himself. Golson checks his primary, then looks to run. TR at least looks over the D and recognizes formations. If only recognition ensured the correct decision…

      • tburke9601 - Sep 10, 2013 at 2:37 PM

        That 4th down killed me. The DL for michigan jumps offsides, and instead of hicking the ball. he calls an audible. It was 4th and 4. AUTOMATIC FIRST DOWN if he hikes the ball. but instead, he calls an audible and throws the ball out of the endzone. Classic Tommy.

  13. irishwilliamsport - Sep 10, 2013 at 9:35 AM

    We are stuck with Tommy Rees at QB this year, period. Nothing we can do about it. Now, why these coaches have not learned from past mistakes in the red zone with Tommy throwing ill advised passes and interceptions baffles me when the O line is this good. The first int was pathetic, the second was dropped by the Michigan guy and the third was a rediculous throw on first down that was uncatchable. Im sorry but the red zone play calling is awful also and has been under Kelly, teams drop 8 guys into coverage and they still try to throw the ball.

    Who is the leader on defense ? That performance resembled the old Notre Dame defense, maybe they need to open up the competition for some of these linebacker and secondary positions because there may be some entitlement issues with guys not having to compete each week for playing time.

    It sucks they laid an egg like that on prime time national TV again, reminds me of the USC game 2 years ago.

  14. irishwilliamsport - Sep 10, 2013 at 9:38 AM

    Bryant and Folston are studs and deserve a chance immediately, lets face it, GA is not the answer and I hate to say it but its true and anyone who watched the game saw it also.

    • irish4006 - Sep 10, 2013 at 1:42 PM

      I think BK knows that GA III is not the answer by now and I am willing to bet we will see more of Bryant/Folston/Mahone in the coming weeks. He did not want to put the ball in the true freshman’s hand in only his second start at night in the big house in front of a crowd that is a college football record (115k+). This is his call to make and while we can argue now what could have been, we would also be the ones calling him an idiot if Bryant fumbled a couple of times for 2 additional UM touchdowns.

  15. ndnphx - Sep 10, 2013 at 9:42 AM

    Many spread teams struggle in the red zone, unless they’ve got a QB who can run the read/option. We don’t, and we haven’t. BK’s teams aren’t built to bludgeon the defense between the tackles on a short field. That’s a flaw in his system (until he recruits the right QBs), but it is what it is. We do seem to forget a lot of the playbook when we get inside the 20 and that’s just poor play calling. Of course, if I had GAIII as my feature back, I wouldn’t want to run the ball down there either.

    I think Tuitt and Nix are out of shape, too, but the entire D that was a half-step behind Temple all day found themselves a full step behind Michigan all night. Despite talent upgrades from the previous regime, a lot of our people still look like they’re running in mud. To (ineffectively) blitz all night and leave your slowish DBs overmatched tells you Diaco isn’t all that brilliant with his calls, either.

  16. irishwilliamsport - Sep 10, 2013 at 9:47 AM

    I thought Diaco got away from the bend not break nothing over the top philosophy vs. Michigan and the D hasn’t played that style in a while. I agree though, unimpressive vs. Temple and terrible vs M.

    • 4horsemenrideagain - Sep 10, 2013 at 10:18 AM

      i’m not sure why bobby d. didn’t start out making gardner show he could be a pocket passer and handle his progressions first, before starting to send extra guys in on the rush. now i will eat some crow here because i didn’t think gardner would perform like he did, and did many, many things very well, but it would have been different had diaco not blitzed 65% of the time.

      leaning on the blitz that much looks like desperation, the kind that weis used to revert to, and it rarely works out.

      • ibleedirish - Sep 10, 2013 at 4:01 PM

        Exactly. Blitzing a running QB (especially when you clearly haven’t taught your guys to keep contain) is a recipe for a disaster of a game. An inability to recognize this is happening and make adjustments is a recipe for a disaster of a season.

  17. c4evr - Sep 10, 2013 at 10:01 AM

    Kelly is not Charlie Weis, but he coaches like he’s Charlie’s smarter brother.

  18. ndunbound - Sep 10, 2013 at 10:21 AM

    1) Great post, Keith.

    2) As others have commented, I think BK needs to take a chance and play Folston and Bryant, even if they aren’t up to speed with the entire offense. One possible solution: Simplify the offense while the younger players are in. This isn’t a call to go back to three yards and a cloud of dust. This is a call to do what the two best coaches in the game today–Saban and Jim Harbaugh–have been so successful doing. When you have the type of talent ND does, you should not be relying on a complex offensive scheme. Go back to the basics and execute them to perfection.

    3) Relying on a complex offensive scheme makes it much more difficult to employ the “next man in” philosophy that Kelly supposedly stresses. This is not only true with RBs, but also with OLs and, especially, QBs. This is precisely why the offense took a dramatic turn downward when Golson left. This is also why Kelly’s offense would be even worse if Rees went down. Placing so much responsibility on the QB makes very little sense to me in the college game, where there’s so much turnover in personnel.

    4) The less you run, the more difficult it is to attract (and retain) good RBs. I fear ND is close to falling into a vicious cycle in which the running game is de-emphasized in part because we don’t have a stable of stud RBs. This de-emphasis makes it less likely, of course, that we’ll be able to attract a stable of stud RBs. And so it goes. Now’s the time to break the cycle. Get back to basics. Simplify, simplify, simplify. If we don’t use Folston and Bryant early and often, it’ll be that much harder to recruit future Folstons and Bryants.

    5) Go Irish!!!!!!!!!

    • tsombanj - Sep 10, 2013 at 11:03 AM

      Go back and watch Holtz game film from the early 90s. That’s exactly what he did. These pistols and spread offenses were supplements for teams that couldn’t control the line of scrimmage. One staple in a Holtz offense was the offensive line of scrimmage. ND Dominated in this area. They ran the ball right through the heart of the defense. And that is how they opened up the passing game. Good post!

      • bostonjan - Sep 10, 2013 at 12:48 PM

        Thinking of the Holtz era….one of the things that struck me the most about the ND-scUM game was a seeming lack of “Fight” in the “Fighting Irish” – as in “Save Jimmy Johnson for me”.

        Clearly discipline, focus, and basics will win games, but I’d like to see more hits so hard that the SOBs get rattled, sore, and haering footsteps for the rest of the game. Smash mouth football…..maybe even a fight in the tunnel -> the good ole days…..

  19. tsombanj - Sep 10, 2013 at 10:59 AM

    I don’t understand all this talk about the offense. Quite frankly, they looked pretty good to me. The only problem in GAIII can’t catch. That’s easy to fix. Don’t throw him the ball. Offenses are situational. Going down 10-0 early and the ND Defense showing that they couldn’t stop Michigan or contain Gardner on 3rd and longs forced the offense’s hand. Otherwise they could have maintained their balance and stuck to their plan. The only issue I see through 2 games is the defenses’s inability to contain the QB and play consistently for 60 minutes. The DB’s were pretty bad in this game and the linebackers are not impressive in their bend but don’t break scheme.

  20. mattymill - Sep 10, 2013 at 12:28 PM

    Reading some of these comments, you would have thought ND just lost to a 1AA team. Come on folks, the Irish were beaten by a good team with a dynamic QB who made accurate throws all night with defenders in his face. Sure, there is plenty ND could have done better, but Gardner had the game of his life – and I can only pray he has a phenomenal year and heads to the NFL next year. That being said, I do agree with comments that we should get the young RB’s some carries. Just watched an Inside Notre Dame Football piece on YouTube with Jack Nolan, and he did a quick interview with Sheldon Day where they ask rapid fire questions. One question was, “Who is the hardest player on the team to tackle?” The answer? Greg Bryant. I think a 1-2 punch of Carlisle / Bryant with some sprinkling of GA3 would be nice to see. Step away from the ledge folks — this squad can still have a successful year.

    • nudeman - Sep 10, 2013 at 2:49 PM

      You don’t think ND sort of tossed that game away?

      • bernhtp - Sep 10, 2013 at 6:35 PM

        I think that Gardner played an amazing game – really accurate throwing, smart decisions (except one), great running, etc. Sometimes athletes have those in-the-zone moments where everything around them is big and slow and they execute flawlessly. Maybe Gardner had a transient moment or he is evolving to Manziel/Kaepernick levels. We’ll see, but he was really good the other night. The ND defense continually had to pick their poison.

        Said in another way, had Gardner QBed last year’s game with the same ability instead of Denard, Michigan would have shredded the 2012 ND team. We won last year because Denard’s punt passes were intercepted instead of consistently thrown to the right spot, of the best receiver, and at the perfect time, which is what we generally saw on Saturday night.

        Give Michigan some deserved credit and don’t unnecessarily despair. I think we have a very good team that will win 9 or 10 games.

    • c4evr - Sep 10, 2013 at 3:46 PM

      Part of the frustration is the expectations coming off a 12-1 year for a program supposedly on the rise. It really doesn’t matter whether it’s UM or Temple… the issue is that they are not executing – period! How much of Gardner’s game of his life was facilitated by a compliant ND defense?? And by the second half 2 weeks ago, that true freshman at Temple was carving up the secondary. If these players can’t rely on technique (presumably hammered into them during practice), then the season will be a roller coaster ride. Lou used to practice running plays and TELL the defensive unit what they were – that’s how you develop technique when emotion doesn’t carry you.

      • nudeman - Sep 10, 2013 at 5:16 PM

        Very concerned about this year’s team. Don’t like anything I’ve seen.
        Except maybe Niklas, TJ Jones, Daniels.
        Other than that they look very average as a team.

  21. mjb621 - Sep 10, 2013 at 3:24 PM

    Can we all agree to stop referencing last year’s BCS drubbing? If I read another story/article about Alabama drubbing, massacre. etc I’m going to scream. We know want happened already. Please stop. It might fill the author’s quota of words for his article, be more creative.

    • runners00 - Sep 10, 2013 at 3:59 PM

      No. I think it’s necessary to reference last year’s BCS drubbing. And I think it’s necessary to talk about this year’s game at Michigan, too.

      Do we know what happened already? I’d forgot about Alabama getting inside the red zone and waltzing in five times. I’m glad Keith’s mentioning it.

  22. ndfightingirishfan - Sep 10, 2013 at 4:25 PM

    The biggest problem for the red zone offense is also the biggest problem for the entire offense in general, COACHES FAILURE TO RUSH THE BALL!!! I have heard soooo much about the talented back-field but if you don’t use them, what good is the talent? Carlisle should start, McDaniel needs more PT and Folston and/or Bryant need to be in the rotation. I am not sold on Atkinson and believe he is the 5th best option at RB. The offensive line is playing well, so the failure of the red zone offense and the offense in general is the coaches abandoning the running game.

    Go Irish!!!

  23. cpfirish - Sep 10, 2013 at 6:47 PM

    Why is everyone shocked about Carlo, fox , and farly? Jesus they are all below average players. And I am so sick is farly getting beat! He has no speed! Our defense has no speed. I think our DBS will lock it down here this week. And nix and tuit will be just fine. Jaylon smith is a freaking stud! GA III is freaking junk!! Only thing he needs to be on the field for is returning kickoffs.

  24. yllibnosredna - Sep 10, 2013 at 7:33 PM

    Going back to the question about “What’s the importance of going to a BCS Bowl?” I think it’s very obvious that at least until next year, those four bowls represent (generally speaking) a very good season for a team. Notre Dame does not play for a conference championship so once they’re out of the hunt for the National Title and rivalry games notwithstanding, the next major goal to shoot for is reaching (and competing and possibly winning) a BCS Bowl.

    The revenue generated for the school and for the football program is (I believe) much greater if you reach a BCS Bowl. Moreover, you get more coverage and exposure if you play in one of the four January major bowl games. Now that’s not necessarily a positive thing if you end up getting boat-raced by another opponent. So in that regard I would agree that winning the Pinstripe Bowl or the Sun Bowl is marginally better FOR OVERALL PERCEPTION OF THE PROGRAM than getting stomped by 4+ touchdowns in a BCS Bowl. However, given the fact that ND reached the title game last year, BK’s been at the helm for four years now, and there is ostensibly an upgrade in talent, getting to and WINNING or AT LEAST BEING COMPETITIVE in a BCS Bowl is a very worthwhile endeavor and a goal that SHOULD BE OBTAINED and has been a long time coming. This is particularly because Notre Dame has incessantly failed at doing this in the modern BCS era and they’ve only got one more chance to do it.

    And let me be very clear on this point: IN NO WAY DO I THINK IT IS ACCEPTABLE TO COMPROMISE WINS FOR DEVELOPING YOUNGER PLAYERS. On the contrary, I truly believe that playing these bally-hooed freshmen now is better and will give us a better chance for more wins this season than playing the afore-mentioned *low ceiling guys (i.e. Atkinson, McDaniel, Collinsworth) over the 5-star talent that’s currently riding the pine.* The only exception where such a positional move would probably risk more losses would be playing Zaire over Rees at QB because of the significance of needing to know the system and experience at that position in this offense. TR should be the starter right now because it appears that for better or worse, in this system the QB really does have to have a solid grasp of the offense, which Zaire (and any true freshman QB would) truly lacks.

  25. jerseyshorendfan1 - Sep 11, 2013 at 2:52 AM

    Keith, using your numbers, Rees went 6-12 or a 50% completion ratio in the red zone. Two of those completions were for a score ( you could argue one was a lucky deflection ) and I don’t see many people complaining about the TDs. His completion percentage was not all that bad, I would argue. It was the play selection that was suspect. When you have 4th and 4 from their 17, why not run a play designed to get you a first down, be it a run or a pass, rather than chucking a bad longer throw to TJ which fell incomplete? And when you have first and goal from their 6 why are you throwing at all? I would argue Rees wasn’t the problem, the problem was Kelly or Martin, whichever was making those god awful calls. In fairness, on first and goal from the 6, when the pass is picked off, I thought I read Kelly’s lips as saying something to Rees like “why are you throwing there it’s first down?” if that’s what he was saying, then I really have to wonder where the play call came from. If Rees checked into that play, then he did cost us the game and if I was coach, he wouldn’t see the field again, I don’t care who has mono.
    That’s it for me, I’m sick of rehashing this loss. I had said before the game that I’d be ok with 2-10 on the year as long as we beat Michigan and USC. It is a major fail when we lose to either one of those teams. I just can’t believe this team would have the audacity to drop this game when they knew how much it meant to me. Seriously though, this loss has put a damper on this whole season for me, before it really had a chance to get going.

    • jckohorst - Sep 11, 2013 at 11:53 AM

      I do not understand why Kelly insists on moving forward with Rees. I does not matter how smart he is, he does not have the physical tools to run the offense that Kelly/Martin want to run. He handicaps the offense too much. He not only cannot run the ball as an option to escape or make a play, he cannot throw on the move. He may be smart but he out smarts himself, I think he audibles out of runs too much. Hendrix must really be horrible if he is not even a consideration above Rees. He may not be audible as much but he at least gives you a legit run threat or some mobility. The up tempo spread offense that Kelly promised has never materialized. Run a fast offense with less audibling and way more balance of run pass and utilize what seems to be a strength which is the offensive line.

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