Skip to content

Game within the game pits Irish offense against Narduzzi

Sep 17, 2013, 3:09 PM EDT

Tommy Rees, Amir Carlisle AP

After starting quickly against Temple, the Irish offense took some time to get started against Michigan and Purdue, with defensive coordinators Greg Mattison and Greg Hudson getting their troops to play well early. That challenge will continue this weekend when the Irish face off against Pat Narduzzi, the architect of the blitzing, aggressive 4-3 scheme that has turned the Spartan defense into one of the top units in the country.

While the Irish have had success against the Spartans defense, scoring 30 or more points in three of the last four, a game within the game is likely to break out on Saturday, with Narduzzi’s pressure defense and man coverage going head to head with Tommy Rees and the Irish offense.

With a quarterback and system that looks to isolate and find man-to-man coverage, there is a lot of room for boom or bust plays, as Brian Kelly’s preferred offense is a hurry-up-and-wait system, with Rees often looking at what the defense is presenting, and then putting the team in a preferable look from there. When talking about the team’s success so far pass blocking, Kelly hit on some of the reasons for success, mainly Rees’s ability to give the team the proper look.

“Tommy gets us into the right protections nine out of ten times,” Kelly said. “Whereas last year, Everett was still learning and sometimes he wasn’t able to slide the right way and give us the best look possible.”

That will be a key to Saturday’s game, with Michigan State in the top ten in sacks and turnovers forced. Last year, the Irish beat the Spartans despite only gaining 300 yards of total offense, hitting on a big play to John Goodman on an athletic scramble from Golson, who otherwise played a very conservative game, completing only 14 of 32 throws for 178 yards.

Looking closer at the box score from last year, you get just how good of a chess match this was between the Irish offense and Narduzzi. Notre Dame took a 14-3 lead into half and then relied relied on their defense for the third quarter, going three and out on their first two possessions after the break before a roughing the kicker penalty helped the Irish get the ball to midfield where Ben Turk pinned the Spartans inside their five yard line.

But after another three and out opened the fourth quarter, Kelly turned to Cierre Wood, who anchored the ground game, running for 45 yards on five carries that resulted in a Kyle Brindza field goal, before Le’Veon Bell’s fumble turned into three more points for the Irish. Outside of some success running the football in crunch time, Narduzzi’s unit was all the developing Irish offense could handle.

(Funny to think about now, but Notre Dame’s workhorse runner, Theo Riddick, only managed 2.5 yards a carry, even with a 15 yarder among his 12 totes.)

It’s too early to tell just how good Narduzzi’s defense is this season, especially having to replace three front-line players in William Gholson, linebacker Chris Norman, and cornerback Johnny Adams. But they’ve scored four touchdowns already in three games, out-pacing the offense in the first two weeks.

After watching Rees do some damage down the field this year — Notre Dame fans will be shocked to find out that Rees is averaging 9.1 yards per attempt, good for 21st in the country, even with this offense’s proclivity to throw screen passes — it’s setting up a wonderfully juicy collision course between Notre Dame’s receivers and a Spartan secondary that hasn’t been tested yet.

So something will have to give this Saturday, with Narduzzi likely challenging Rees to beat a Spartan defense that will do its best to pressure Rees and challenge him to make a mistake.


  1. fnc111 - Sep 17, 2013 at 3:39 PM

    This season will directly impact if Kelly goes to the NFL. I think he really wants to finish 9-3 and at least in the BCS discussion to put a bow on two good back-to-back seasons. The word in Chicago is Pat Fitzgerald will be the next ND coach when Kelly leaves. Big if’s in the equation.

    It’s in ND’s and Kelly’s best interest to get this season going in the right direction. It’s obvious CBK is going to the NFL very soon if he can keep his momentum. We don’t want to see a stinker of a season and Kelly forced to stay and have Texas hire Fitzgerald in December. It’s going to be an interesting couple of months coming up.

    Something tells me ND is going to spank MSU 28-10 and have some mojo for OU.

    I’m sticking with Kelly will be the Lions head coach next year and Fitzgerald is ND’s new coach in 2014. It would be a very positive transition for all involved. Maybe NW could hire Chuck Martin as their new head coach. That’d be a heckuva hire too.

    This board has been s little too negative lately, even for me.

    Go Irish!

    • dickasman - Sep 17, 2013 at 3:53 PM

      Fnc, what’s wrong with you today? Did Keith get to you or are you sleeping around w alwayspositive? You’re weird bro I’m losing my respect for thee. Anywho, I’m in chicago and I haven’t heard any “word’ about PF Changs replacing BUrger King. but we prolly run in diff “circles”. I certainly am not opposed by any means. I like PF Changs a lot. That would be an excellent hire for ND and NW, Bad hire for the Lions but they always find ways to screw things up.

      I still love ya babe but I truly hope you come back to your senses.

      • alwayspositive11 - Sep 17, 2013 at 9:27 PM

        No one’s sleeping around with this gal other than Mr. alwayspositive11. As for the game this weekend, I think it would be a mistake for Narduzzi to regularly blitz the Irish offense. That might force Tommy to make a quick decision, but he has proven to be a better quarterback, this year, when his receivers are in one-on-one situations.
        Plus, the offensive line has done a tremendous job of pass blocking this year. Maybe tremendous is overstating it, but it’s been very, very solid. Remember, Purdue was bringing a blitz on the play that resulted in the 80+ yard touchdown connection from Tommy to Daniels. Tommy made a perfect check at the line and got Cam into a good position to pick up the block.
        If Michigan State wants to win this game, they would employ a zone defense, rush three or four defenders tops, and make Tommy find the gaps in the zone. He had trouble with that back in 2011. His receivers would be double-covered, and then he’d force something bad. I say bring on the blitz, and let the big plays from the Irish flow. We may see a few draws here and there that go for long runs. Maybe a 20+ yard run from McDaniel for a score.

      • dickasman - Sep 18, 2013 at 1:30 AM

        Hey, alwayspositive11, alwayspositive69 here. You got any room for me?

      • alwayspositive11 - Sep 18, 2013 at 1:26 PM

        wah, wah, wahhhhhhhh……Nice joke, Mr. Asman. Sounds like something I heard on Bob and Tom this morning.

    • dickasman - Sep 17, 2013 at 3:55 PM

      Ahhhhhhhahaha, look you’re on your best behavior but still some irish asshat gave you two thumbs down.

      • mtflsmitty - Sep 17, 2013 at 4:24 PM

        They are not giving thumbs down to the comment; rather commentator.

    • shamrocknroll - Sep 17, 2013 at 5:04 PM

      Please go away.

      • nudeman - Sep 17, 2013 at 5:26 PM

        I second that

      • jerseyshorendfan1 - Sep 17, 2013 at 5:30 PM

        I hope you’re not referring to dickasman. Years of wild drug abuse have helped him attain a certain clarity and perspective recently that has been most refreshing and enjoyable. His comments of late have been salient and incisive. If your “Please Go Away” is directed at fnc, then i wholeheartedly agree, he needs to F off in a hurry.

      • NotreDan - Sep 17, 2013 at 5:38 PM

        Nothing fnc says has any bearing weight or qualification. She is an obvious CBK hater that obviously slept with what’s his name qb at Stanford or with the guy CBK beat out for the job. All the menstruating she does here just makes her feel less ugly.

      • dickasman - Sep 18, 2013 at 1:33 AM

        Jerseyshore, you’re kinda finally gettin me, kinda. In our love hate relationship, I’m completely in love, xoxo. It doesn’t help that you hail from schnookiville unfortunately.

      • jerseyshorendfan1 - Sep 18, 2013 at 1:11 PM

        Forget that Snookie wench. My handle reflects my area of the state, not that orange colored, fake-boobed fist pumper or her roided out posse, most of whom are from NY and the Rock (Staten Island), in particular. The good Lord has sent a Cat 3 hurricane and most recently, a 10 alarm fire to Seaside Heights trying to cull her from the herd but she keeps avoiding his wrath. Her time will come but maybe you can fingerblast her first.

    • nudeman - Sep 17, 2013 at 5:25 PM

      “The word in Chicago is Pat Fitzgerald will be the next ND coach when Kelly leaves.”


      I’m in Chicago and am about as tuned in to ND news as an ND fan can be
      I have not heard or read one thing about Fitzgerald going to Notre Dame, and you haven’t either.

      What a bunch of crap. “Word here in Chicago …” as if you know squat

      Word here on this board is that you’re an idiot

      • papadec - Sep 17, 2013 at 8:11 PM

        Thank you nude – my feelings exactly. Just fnc being fnc hating Kelly & fantasizing.

      • dillonbigred - Sep 17, 2013 at 9:58 PM

        Thumbs up. Some WSPN blowhard was on AM1000 and predicted this, and it has been repeated on the other sports talk radio station, 670. There is absolutely no inside information to give this guess any validilty.

      • dickasman - Sep 18, 2013 at 1:34 AM

        I wonder if fnc is that “drunk mike” from Milwaukee that calls into Boers n Bernstein? That guys hilarious!

      • grumpyirish61 - Sep 19, 2013 at 5:36 PM

        There may be something more than smoke to what fnc111 is saying. I am an acquaintance of a former teammate of Fitzgerald who is close enough to be invited to social events at the NU coach’s house. He said last summer that he and other NU alumnae expect Fitzgerald to become the ND coach someday. Since that time NU and ND have signed new contracts with their coaches. If Kelly bolts to the NFL, I would rather see it sooner than later especially with a great candidate like Fitzgerald that sounds like he has indicated to others that he would be interested.
        Do you think that perhaps Swarbrick’s plan for succession is already in place?

    • knuterocknesghost - Sep 17, 2013 at 9:32 PM

      FNC111 – Wacky.

      For the rest of you, on a Chicago talk radio station a pair of know-it-alls on “670 The Score” radio, Boers and Bernstein, had Bernstein prognosticating that BK is headed for the NFL as if it’s money in the bank, and that Fitzgerald would be attracted to coach at Texas given the problems down there for coach Mack Brown, or would even jump to ND once Kelly jumps to the NFL. That’s all I can guess as to where FNC111 got the notion that this was the “word” in Chicago about Pat Fitzgerald.

      • dillonbigred - Sep 17, 2013 at 10:04 PM

        Yes, and even they stole it from the other station. Don’t tell Bernstein I said that, or he will call me an idiot and other names.

      • dickasman - Sep 18, 2013 at 1:36 AM

        I <3 drunk mike from Milwaukee. I could listen to that skit all day. B&B gets my humor most of time

      • dickasman - Sep 18, 2013 at 1:40 AM

        So you guys don’t like PF Changs replacing BK at ND? I love that guy. ID love to see what he can do w ND talent. FNC is good dreamer like me.

    • ndfaithful - Sep 17, 2013 at 10:05 PM

      What would it take for you to just shut up? I will start the collection.

      • ndfaithful - Sep 17, 2013 at 10:08 PM

        Besides, we all know C4evr is the next big coach at ND. Surely, he has impressed the administration enough by now.

      • mayo1010 - Sep 18, 2013 at 12:32 PM

        LMFAO!!! good 1 on C4–the master of none!

  2. irishwilliamsport - Sep 17, 2013 at 4:20 PM

    fnc111 is obviously smoking something very good ! Hat’s off lol. Kelly is part snake oil salesman, part screaming red headed stepchild and part Boston toughness. Obviously unfounded rumors, however, he has shown a selfishness last year that cost the Irish Alex Anzalone’s scholarship with his NFL flirtation. He is not a Harbaugh or Carroll or Chip Kelly that can make the transition, BK’s style won’t translate well, way to ridgid. See Greg Schiano.

    • dillonbigred - Sep 17, 2013 at 10:00 PM

      AA wasn’t coming to ND.

    • mayo1010 - Sep 18, 2013 at 12:38 PM

      Schiano took a 4-12 team and finished 7-9 last year. Not coach of the year worthy but an improvement none the less. At worst the jury is still out on Shciano’s success as an NFL head coach don’t you think?

  3. irishwilliamsport - Sep 17, 2013 at 4:23 PM

    Nick Saban and Bill O’Brien will have the first shot at any NFL opening.

    • mtflsmitty - Sep 17, 2013 at 4:29 PM

      Nick Saban: Known for his easy-going attitude and flexibility.

      With logic like that, I have a feeling fnc has a new pen name.

      • dickasman - Sep 18, 2013 at 1:43 AM

        Nick Saban: known for paying his players n not getting caught

  4. mtflsmitty - Sep 17, 2013 at 4:35 PM

    Looking forward to continued momentum from Davarus Daniels. Huge production so far this season, and perhaps last weeks game will prove to be the turning point where he is launched into the elite class of college receivers. He’s been an outstanding compliment to TJJ. If DD, TJJ, and CB can press the field I expect Troy to have a good day against Sparty’s LBs.

    • dickasman - Sep 18, 2013 at 1:41 AM

      Smitty, I know you’re a white guy cuz you misspelled Devarius. It’s hard, I know.

    • dickasman - Sep 18, 2013 at 1:42 AM

      I wish they’d stick to basics like bob, don, dick, etc…they always try to be too fancy sometimes

  5. dudeacow - Sep 17, 2013 at 5:35 PM

    Sparty is going down. Their offense stinks and while they have yet another mobile QB, I’ll call for 3+ sacks from the defensive line alone. Their whole offense will be enveloped. Their defense also cannot be judged from the cupcake part of the schedule. Our running backs will establish the run game early and Rees will connect on a few big passes to Jones, Daniels, Brown, and Robinson. Look for the first true Irish domination of the season. ND wins 30-6 in a game that’s decided in the first half.

    • seadomer - Sep 17, 2013 at 8:54 PM

      Whoa …. there … I’m usually the first to call blow outs but seeing how our D is doing, I’ll be happy at 17.
      Last year, when our D kept everybody besides Pitt under 20 in the regular season so at 17 it would be an improvement.
      As for the O, anything in the 30s would also be a good showing.

      What’s important to be though is to see our OL and RB surge forward during a run play that everybody knows it coming and our D knock someone BACKWARDS, C’mon KNOCK someone and let Mr. Bell know we are ready to ring his.

      • tburke9601 - Sep 18, 2013 at 12:45 PM

        USF only allowed 1 offensive touchdown to MSU. The week before they gave up 53 to McNeese State. If we allow more than 10 points, then you can count the next 2 weeks as losses.

    • dickasman - Sep 18, 2013 at 1:37 AM

      The key here as is every game for me, 0 turnovers from Rees.

  6. irishdodger - Sep 17, 2013 at 6:53 PM

    This will be the best defense that ND has faced which isn’t saying much since the first three defenses were nothing to rave about…ND just underperformed.

  7. Seamus - Sep 17, 2013 at 7:12 PM

    I’m wondering how good this defense actually is…I mean let’s take a look at who they played. Western Michigan (the football juggernaut from K-Zoo), South Florida (Da Bulls, not of Chicago fame) and Youngstown St. (GoGuins – The Penguin Nation) How in the flying up and down does that qualify the MSU defense as the best that ND has faced this year? Hell, I’d flip the script and say that the ND offense is the best offense that MSU has faced all year. It’s all a matter of perspective.

    As for fnc111, either puff, puff, pass or step away from the crack pipe, either share or shut it down. Really, Pat Fitzgerald is going to be the next coach at ND after Kelly leaves??? The only way BK goes to the NFL this year is if ND runs the table. Based on what I’ve seen so far this year that may not happen. Haven’t exactly seen the improvement from week to week that one would hope for.

    GO IRISH!!!

    • papadec - Sep 17, 2013 at 8:16 PM

      The only way Kelly goes to the NFL is as a go-fer in Foxboro.

    • bearcatirishfan - Sep 17, 2013 at 9:27 PM

      I would also like to mention that this is their first away game of the season, their offense may have come alive against Youngstown state at home, but QB’s first road start with 80k. Might be hard for the youngster.

      Although here’s my fear, the underdawg usually pulls off the upset in this game, and we have one two in a row. Have we ever won 3 in a row against sparty?

  8. 4horsemenrideagain - Sep 17, 2013 at 9:12 PM

    Fitzgerald takes Jesse Jackson jr.’s old seat before he comes to nd. And not that I want to be harbinger of all things realistic, but an nfl team isn’t going to sink 50m into a coach unless that coach has won at the highest level chip Kelly for example. As much as I like bk, he needs a few more 10 win seasons before he can even be considered for the next step.

  9. knuterocknesghost - Sep 17, 2013 at 10:01 PM

    Just to rebut the TR critics think TR has been “lucky” so far this season with some of his passes, I have to ask where in the world do they get that? Where was his “luck” in the Purdue game?.

    Troy Niklas dropped two passes, as did Amir Carlisle, and DaVaris Daniels dropped a screen pass that even a 4 year old would have caught 9 times out of ten. All five drops played a part in killing Notre Dame drives. Also, TR hit the receivers hands all five times at least a step before any defender could have made a play on the receiver.

    TR was 20-of-33 for 309 yards against Purdue. If those five passes were caught and the receiver immediately tackled, TR goes 25-of-33 (for 76% instead of 61%) and for a total well more than 309 yards. But, eveyrone of those passes that were dropped had the potential of keeping a Notre Dame drive alive during the FIRST HALF alone, because that’s when all of these drops happened.

    It’s “I throw and you catch” because it’s too much to expect the quarterback to be at both ends of the throw.

  10. ndcanuck - Sep 18, 2013 at 8:23 AM

    TR also hit at least two DBs in the hands with balls they didn’t catch either. That’s the lucky bit.

    But he did play well, and frankly I’m pressed with what the passing game has been able to do thus far, and fully expect it to improve. If someone can step up and be the clear #1 out of the backfield, this offense might actually be the strong side of the team – who would have thought that this spring?

    • tburke9601 - Sep 18, 2013 at 12:51 PM

      In the spring, I did. It wasn’t till after spring when Gholdstien left that i thought it we were gonne be in trouble, but Reesus has come through in a big way. Gald to have the best backup QB in the country.

Leave Comment

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!