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Irish set to welcome the Belldozer to town

Sep 23, 2013, 4:45 PM EDT

Tulsa  v Oklahoma Getty Images

It took until the end of October for Notre Dame to finally surrender a rushing touchdown last season. And that was only after Blake Bell and the vaunted Oklahoma Belldozer package had multiple cracks at it in the Notre Dame red zone.

Bell may have found pay dirt against a historically stingy Irish defense, but Notre Dame scored 20 fourth quarter points and pulled away from the Sooners in a shocking 30-13 victory in Norman, the most impressive win of the Brian Kelly era.

With Landry Jones gone to the NFL, it’s now Bell’s turn to head to Notre Dame and do his best to spoil the Irish’s season. One of college football’s top supporting cast members, it look longer than expected for Bell to be named the leading man of the Irish offense. Head coach Bob Stoops named redshirt freshman Trevor Knight his starting quarterback out of camp. But after a shaky start to the season and a minor knee injury, Bell took over against Tulsa, throwing for over 400 yards in his first start.

That makes for quite a combination at quarterback. A battering ram of a runner who scored 24 rushing touchdowns in his first two seasons, and a guy that now looks like he can beat you through the air. At 6-foot-6, 250-pounds, it’s not surprising that Bell’s gene pool had some success in the NFL — as defensive ends.

“My dad and uncle both played tight end and defensive end,” Blake Bell told Jason Kersey of the Oklahoman. “There aren’t really any quarterback genes. But starting from a young age, I always wanted to play quarterback, so that’s just kind of how it went.

“I just feel like that’s another key to my game, just being a little bigger and having a little bit more weight, being able to take some hits in the pocket. It’s always seemed like I’ve been bigger since I was little.”

Keeping Bell in the pocket might be the key to the game for the Irish, whose pass rush saw signs of life last weekend against Michigan State. The Irish only got to the Spartans quarterback once, but they got plenty of pressure late in the game when it mattered most.

Last year, the Irish completely shut down the Oklahoma ground game, holding the Sooners to just 15 net yards on 24 carries. And after Bell’s fourth quarter touchdown run pulled the game even, it was all Irish from there.

“I think last year they made all the plays down the stretch in the last six minutes of the game and that’s what changed the game,” Stoops said today in a conference call with reporters. “It was 13-13 game with six minutes to go, and they make all the plays at the end.”

Bell’s game certainly won’t be that of an elusive quarterback. For all his exploits as a runner, he’s still never averaged four yards a carry. But he presents one of the biggest challenges (no pun intended) the Irish will face on offense, just because he’s able to do so many things effectively, and use his power to convert third downs.

With a rededicated rushing attack and offensive personnel that’s quite deep with playmakers, the Irish defense will face a stiff test to replicate what it pulled off in Norman last season. Objective A is to slow down Bell. As we’ve seen over the past few years, that’s easier said than done.




  1. NotreDan - Sep 23, 2013 at 5:20 PM

    Here’s hoping the Irish keep doing enough to win. I hope they keep learning and gaining confidence. I hope the coaching staff starts to change things up a some. Frankly, I think Kelly needs to do the play calling again, I don’t think Martin is creative enough; it takes imagination and the ability to visualize based on what’s happening NOW (in game) to be a great play caller

    I’ve read some pretty grave predictions on here, from friend and foe alike. The thing that baffles me, is our overall TALENT is (or should be) better this year. Not only baffling, but concerning, because if talent is actually better, this means coaching and attitude (as manifest in execution) are lacking.

    • bernhtp - Sep 23, 2013 at 6:23 PM

      I think the overall talent this year is way better, especially with the freshman class. However, freshmen, regardless of how talented, rarely make an enormous difference to a team. Also, while the average talent increased, we had a few outliers in Te’o and Eifert (and Moore and Motta) that are particularly difficult to replace.

      • mtflsmitty - Sep 23, 2013 at 7:31 PM

        Lost playmakers:


        I didn’t think we’d feel it so badly on D. But we are. On offense…Watching a 2012 highlight video a couple weeks ago. We lost the players responsible for 90% of the highlights in the video. Offensive mojo is always harder to get going with a new group of guys and a less talented QB. But I expect to see much more dynamic play calling this week.

      • nudeman - Sep 23, 2013 at 7:57 PM

        Serious question: What do you mean by “more dynamic play calling”?

        When I hear that I’m thinking people want to see reverses, end around plays and all sorts of wild stuff. Is THAT what you mean by “more dynamic”?

        I have two points to make on this topic:

        1. Depending on your definition of dynamic, you could make the case that ND actually had a very ‘dynamic’ game plan last week. 27 passes in the 1st half and constantly throwing long on 3rd and 1, vs. just running it between the tackles.

        2. An immobile QB and a terrible running game (99th in the country) severely limits how interesting/dynamic your offense can be. No read/option, no planned QB runs, no old fashioned option plays. The defense doesn’t even respect play action.

        This is not going to be the greatest show on turf with this QB and this garbage running attack.

      • dickasman - Sep 23, 2013 at 8:12 PM

        Bern I hate to say this but I think I see a early sign of senility aka I disagree.

      • bearcatirishfan - Sep 23, 2013 at 11:04 PM

        I would like to see dynamic as in some option routes out of the same look, show the screen pass and run a pump fake and go to niklous the big swede. If they are going to show the dame looks at least mix up the routes, passes something.

        One thing going for us again is Oklahoma has not played anybody remotely good this year. Hard to know just how good they are.

      • mtflsmitty - Sep 24, 2013 at 1:26 AM

        Fair question re “dynamic”, Nude. Here’s what I mean:

        Play action fakes – I don’t think I’ve seen a single PAF all season. Draw LBs and maybe even a safety up to cover the run and hit Troy up the seam.

        Crossing routes and rubs – if OK goes man while bringing an extra rusher, run tough routes (ie picks) to cover 3-7 yards up-field for AC and TJJ and allow

        Turn their hips – After showing deep ball after deep ball, I think we may see 15 yard in routes.

        D front 7s overplaying our zone blocking – take advantage of defensive scouting which shows our zone blocking can be over-pursued, mix in cuts and down blocking.

        Middle screens – saw a lot of them last year. Don’t think we’ve seen a single one yet this season.

        Stretch plays – ‘Nuf said

        And continued effort to play the long ball – but as they have showed outside shoulder, out of bounds, out of bounds, outside shoulder (DBs watching film pick up on that stuff after a while) break route to the inside of the DB.

        And a whole bunch of other blocking schemes that I might not even notice, much less be able to predict/describe.

      • nudeman - Sep 24, 2013 at 10:00 AM

        I can’t address blocking schemes because I don’t even understand wtf zone blocking is.

        Re: play action, a good suggestion, but if you can’t run the ball (99th in the country in rushing) then why would a defense react even a little to a play fake?

        The biggest problem with the offense is the inability to run it. It affects EVERYTHING they want to do. IMO, this is the fault of the O-Line which we all thought would be much better. We couldn’t do squat against Purdue, then Wisconsin ran it down their throats for something like 300 yards.

      • ndnphx - Sep 24, 2013 at 10:02 AM

        What’s been a head-scratcher for me is that BK and his staff are smart guys who certainly are seeing what the rest of us are seeing (and not seeing) and coming to the same conclusions. Crossing routes and deep/middle ins are staples of any passing game, ditto TE seam routes.

        I am beginning to think the staff doesn’t trust TR to throw over the middle. Over everybody’s heads or out-of-bounds they’ll accept if we don’t get a completion because there are no defenders there. I think they believe nothing good can come from TR challenging a defense with his arm between the hash marks, especially as no opponent will respect a playfake open throwing lanes at this point.

        File the strategy under “playing not to lose”.

      • don74 - Sep 24, 2013 at 11:14 AM


        I think you are on to something. Kelly and staff are smart guys and game plan to win. The try to hide or minimize weaknesses of their own and exploit the other team’s deficiencies. (Just call me captain obvious). He’s been watching TR since spring of his early enrollment and more than us he knows his capabilities. He most likely eliminated the throws that are problematic.

        My guess if he keeps winning it’s going to be done ugly. I hope the D turned the corner and can keep them in the game this week.

        I hope somebody asks about the RB’s. On either Sat or Sun he mentioned a 4 man rotation. Since Bryant didn’t play what happened to the 5 man rotation????

    • dickasman - Sep 23, 2013 at 8:13 PM

      We’re dead.

      • papadec - Sep 23, 2013 at 9:20 PM

        You talking about yourself & the mouse in your pocket? Don’t count me as part of your “WE”.

      • dickasman - Sep 23, 2013 at 11:23 PM

        Papa, you’re too fat, old n fugly to be part of my we you dumb fock. Get off my tip n Get over yourself son.

      • papadec - Sep 23, 2013 at 11:39 PM

        dick – you’ve cleaned up your act – somewhat. You’re still the foul mouthed ass you’ve always been at this site.

      • 4horsemenrideagain - Sep 24, 2013 at 12:09 PM

        telling dick he is lennie, now that’s some witty repartee. next, tell him to go tend the rabbits…

        dick, you gotta do better than calling him a “domb fock” or else i am going to have give papadec the win for this round.

      • dickasman - Sep 24, 2013 at 1:49 PM

        Four horseman, I call it as i see it. Clearly,He’s a dumbfock, so I call him a dumbfock. If he were Einstein, I’d call him Einstein.

    • dickasman - Sep 24, 2013 at 1:46 PM

      Bern nude, any word on Zaire? Does he have AIDS or what? I’d love to see him, even if for a few plays. Fock da future, the future is now!!! Put him in there, red shirt doesn’t do anybody any good. Gives them time to scope out other schools to transfer to.

      Horseman, victory vs papa=losing for me. The only person that has anything to gain is him not me. Clearly he wants to be liked by everyone here and that’s fine by me. Conversely, I could give fourhorsemans manure what everyone inks about me on here. I ain’t trying to make no internet friends here. I go to adultfriendfinder for that.

      As much of ahole everyone thinks that I am(make no mistake, I do not give a rats a$$ what everyone thinks about me), I respect my elders therefore I bow and declare papadick the victor. You win papa, you’re a better man than I. I hope everybody is happy now.

      • 4horsemenrideagain - Sep 24, 2013 at 4:08 PM

        come on now dick! i give you the opening to rant about narcotics, livestock and/or geriatric porn and you roll over and give up? what’s the matter? you got the blues or something?

  2. ndfaithful - Sep 23, 2013 at 7:02 PM

    What a game it was last year! Many wondered if we’d get trounced or play well last year. To me, it seems like this will be THE defining week of the season. If we win, no matter how ugly, I have to think that we will have a chance at a very good season and a BCS bowl. If we lose, no matter how close, it seems the season will get filed into ‘rebuilding’ or worse: irrelevance.

    It looks pretty bleak, but I always say you never know what to expect in college football. Here’s hoping they can wake up one-year old echoes. I’m sure they CAN win. I’m not feeling to hopeful that the WILL win.

    Go IRISH!

  3. viktory2013 - Sep 23, 2013 at 9:24 PM

    Boys and girls, any way you shake it Rees STINKS!!! He’s a senior quarterback playing at home against an unranked team with ample protection and athletic receivers. 22 incompletions. And contrary to some statements, he had 2 turnovers on which he was saved by the refs. He is why the offense is so lethargic, it was the same in his previous years. Does anyone remember Joe Theismann or Brady Quinn as seniors? Or Tom Clements? When Joe Montana joined the huddle, everyone knew they would win. Even the opponent knew it. Last years team was fiery and daring; with Rees leading they have no energy and totally lack confidence. Even that “huddle” on the sideline of the Purdue game was phony and staged by Rees because cameras were close by. Kelly is a very bright fellow and acknowledged Rees was simply missing his throws time and again, forgivable for a freshman, but not a senior starter at an elite football program. No defensive game plan is necessary against him, just stop the run and let “Tommy” do the rest. What do you think he will do against Stanford, or Oklahoma, or even SC? Teams that will be in his face for 4 quarters, knowing full well he has nowhere to go. Time to quit making alibis and excuses for the boy…he needs to find a spot on the bench and Kelly needs to put in Zaire and quit worrying about what the press will say.

    • nudeman - Sep 24, 2013 at 10:13 AM

      That’s a wild message.

      I actually thought the sideline huddle against Purdue was odd too. Maybe not “staged” for the cameras, but almost like he was trying to prove he was something he isn’t. We hear a lot about all the respect the team has for Rees, but I wonder if those who write that are mistaking the fact that the guys “like” him and assuming that they see him as their leader.

      To me he looks a lot more like a good kid who’s doing his best, but not a true leader. Slumped shoulders, soft spoken and just a presence that doesn’t scream “leader” to me. When your coach is on record saying he reminds you of the paper boy, come on …

      You mentioned Theismann. A lot of teammates at ND and Washington didn’t like him; thought he was too cocky, etc. But he was an unquestioned leader and a tremendously gifted QB. Fiery on the sidelines, in a guy’s face if he screwed up, very vocal. Loved Clements. A little less outwardly demonstrative than Theismann, but the guy had the guts of a burglar and the results speak for themself.

      I just don’t buy the “This is Tommy’s team” mantra. Does anybody else REALLY see a leader when they see Tommy?

      • NotreDan - Sep 24, 2013 at 1:06 PM

        I had the exact same feeling Nude.

        There are just all these really WEIRD intangibles on this team, almost like all the emotion and fire is just drifting around waiting for a real leader to direct it.

        I also wonder sometimes about how “divided” their week is; like is everything so specialized they don’t spend a lot of time together as a team.

        When I was playing ball (D2) the “team” was built as much in off the field things as on, and watching ND everything just feels really surgical and antiseptic. Almost like they need to get really wasted and do some stupid shit like take a dump in the girls dorm.

      • nudeman - Sep 24, 2013 at 1:54 PM


  4. jerseyshorendfan1 - Sep 23, 2013 at 9:25 PM

    We wanna be free
    We wanna be free to do what we wanna do
    And we wanna get loaded
    And we wanna have a good time
    That’s what we’re gonna do
    We’re gonna have a good time
    We’re gonna have a party

    Irish 21-17

  5. dillonbigred - Sep 23, 2013 at 9:28 PM

    On they are urging everyone to wear green, I think as part of KellyCares. Please no green jerseys! Have they played well in them since ’77? I know they have, but it seems like there have been a lot of bad games in green.

    • dickasman - Sep 23, 2013 at 11:25 PM

      We might have to bust out the brown poop shirt if EL STINKO team shows up again.

    • seadomer - Sep 24, 2013 at 2:06 AM

      I rather get some bells for the student section and get Anita Ward’s “ring my bell” chorus piped in when we get a sack … if the student can ring at the “ring a ling a ling” part …. that would be sweet.

  6. seadomer - Sep 23, 2013 at 11:06 PM

    Don’t worry. Every time I called for a convincing or blow put win ala Temple, Purdue, MSU, we get a close and uncomfortable win. Conversely, I call a more conservative win, we get a Heisman performance from Michigan. (PS I will never call for a loss no matter what)

    Hmmm… ok here goes, Sheldon Day comes back and make up for the missed tackle (you’d think we forget?) last year at the goal line with a game changing sack. GA 3 returns 1 for a TD, Bryant and Folston finally form the tandem we’re hoping, Amir breaks one like Wood last year and Cam gets 10 carries in the 4th milking the clock.

    34 – 17 IRISH

    • relevantpic - Sep 23, 2013 at 11:53 PM

      This guy

  7. domelover - Sep 24, 2013 at 12:03 AM

    Hey Keith I think you mean that Bell is the leading man of the Sooner offense. Unless you are predicting a 2012 Denard-esque performance which would be okay by me…

  8. ndgoldandblue - Sep 24, 2013 at 10:56 AM

    I keep hearing the mobile quarterback arguments. Guys, a team can have a good running game with an immobile quarterback. Steve McNair at Tennessee comes to mind. He had cement blocks for feet. And I don’t think this offensive line is bad. I think they can be very, very good. They do a nice job of protecting Rees, so we know they can block. But how much emphasis does Hiestand put on run blocking? And, does his zone-blocking scheme work for the running game? I’ve never been sold on this guy. Warinner wasn’t much better, but he was still better than Hiestand.

    • NotreDan - Sep 24, 2013 at 1:09 PM

      Very good point. It’s probably too late, but shit-can the freaking pistol. Run a pro set.

  9. runners00 - Sep 24, 2013 at 11:00 AM

    This is the week. We’re 3-1. Yes, we have lost a lot of playmakers. I mean, Wood’s run against OU last year was a great play and one of the longest plays from scrimmage all year. But we have playmakers who are ready to replace those we’ve lost. I think that Greg Bryant will have some touches this week. So will Tarean Foster. Cam McDaniel has looked impressive at times, too, as has Amir Carlisle. And we have a good receiving corps, with Captain Jones and the Admiral’s kid.

    The question, as always, is whether our front four can get to the quarterback and whether our secondary can make a big play. We certainly have the talent. But we have to focus on the basics — fundamental tackling and great blocking. And we need some variety in the play calling. Is there a Tight End?

    Can we deliver? If Rees has a good game and handles the ball well, Oklahoma will struggle to defend us. Then the focus shifts to our defense. Oklahoma hasn’t played a road game. With a fairly new quarterback and a hostile environment, we should be able to make communications — snap counts and play calls — difficult. But Nix and Tuitt have to assert themselves all day. This team is averaging almost five touchdowns per game and over five yards per carry.

    This will be a true test for our defense. Can we keep the Sooners under control while competing for four full quarters? I think the last three games — Michigan, Purdue and MSU — prepared us for this game but we’ll find out soon enough.

  10. yaketyyacc - Sep 24, 2013 at 11:43 AM

    an immobile quarterback is not a detriment, necessarily. Peyton Manning. however, the plays have to take in his particular qualities. he cannot be made to fit into a system that requires a much different quarterback. and that is what Rees is asked to do, and as a result, he has to bear criticism for something he is not responsible for. he cannot perform in Kelly’s spread, and Kelly doesn’t know anything but his spread.
    so the answer is Zaire, who if is imputed into the Oklahoma game will struggle immensely, due to lack of playing time. he needed to start the season. now, his struggle, if placed in the game will only lead to those, who will say, see, you begged for Zaire, and you got what you deserved.
    so, we take our lumps and play a quarterback that fits the system. the future is now. grab it and run with it. and hey, the kid can run, pass, be mobile.

    • nudeman - Sep 24, 2013 at 11:53 AM

      Zaire would be overwhelmed, even now.
      Plus in looking at him in the Spring, seemed to me like a guy who needs some more muscle.

      There are two things that would help Rees immensely:
      1. A better running game. We don’t seem to be close here.
      2. Getting rid of the ball more quickly.

      Re: #2, not everything can be a quick slant or timing route. But in addition to him being wildly inaccurate last week, he is frequently late with his throws. That gives the defenders time to close in (1st INT vs UM) or means he’s leading guys 5 yards out of bounds, which I’ve seen about 20 times this year already.

      (get rid of the fu***ng ball)

      • 4horsemenrideagain - Sep 24, 2013 at 12:26 PM

        to follow up on the GROTFB, given the press coverage, i was surprised not to see any routes that required the receivers to come back to the football. the good ol’ buttonhook comes to mind.

        to my mind, this route gave birth to the back shoulder fade, but remains an even more conservative route because:

        1. the ball isn’t in the air as long as with the back shoulder pass;
        2. it can be thrown with a more shallow arc avoiding the chance that the route is undercut by an LB, as well as avoiding any chance of a safety over the top.
        3. it is easier to throw than either a back shoulder fade or the sideline route since by the time the receiver gets separation off the line and the corner recovers and makes up the lost ground, the receiver is planting and coming back to the ball, so its asking a corner to exert a ton of energy pressing, recovering then reacting to the break back to the ball.

        ND’s receivers are plenty physical to be able to fight off a corner from coming over/around them on such a route. but most of all, the route makes sense from the perspective of using one play to set up another play. most often you see the “set up” play using the receiver in motion on an end around to then set up a reverse using the same motion. after pushing it downfield so many times last week, i would think a come-back route would be a natural progression.

        so why no buttonhooks (other than it is a girlie-sounding route)?

      • danirish - Sep 24, 2013 at 12:32 PM

        While I agree with the “getting rid of the ball” issue you have, I’d like to add arm strength. I still think on the long ball or a slant at times, Rees doesn’t have the “frozen rope” or even a cold rope to get the ball to the receiver fast enough.

        Take the great 82 yard play to Daniels – He threw it on time – he got rid of the ball BUT Daniels had to slow down to catch it (which was good because it gave us a great highlight reel moment – Daniels stiff arming Allen to the ground was awesome) BUT if Rees had more umph to the ball, Daniels catches it in stride and runs easily and quickly into the endzone.

    • mayo1010 - Sep 24, 2013 at 4:06 PM

      i’m sure glad your aren’t our coach!

  11. danirish - Sep 24, 2013 at 12:33 PM

    Just win baby, win!


  12. irishwilliamsport - Sep 24, 2013 at 1:35 PM

    I watched the replay of the game last night that I had on my DVR. ND controlled the first half and left so many points on the field. Third and one and we throw a long pass and fail to convert how many times ? Third down play calling is rediculous. It just seems like the other teams know what ND is going to do before the play is run.

    MSU controlled most of the third and 4th quarters and ran the ball well at times. There were 3 straight three and outs in the fourth quarter with McDaniel running the ball before a first down was picked up on the fourth posession. We were very lucky to come out of there with a win, A sure interception was dropped by MSU and another that would have been intercepted had it not been batted down at the line of scrimmage. There were a lot of PI penalties called but there were a lot that were blatently missed.

  13. irishwilliamsport - Sep 24, 2013 at 1:39 PM

    I almost forgot, why abandon the the role of the tight end in the offense ????? I don’t get it.

  14. irishdodger - Sep 24, 2013 at 1:43 PM


    While I agree, Niklas was kept on the OL to block for the majority of the pass plays. I would still like to see him break off from time to time over the middle like he did on his one pass that resulted in a 7-yd gain. When Tommy goes empty backfield, he needs all the OL he can get.

    • dickasman - Sep 24, 2013 at 1:52 PM

      Nicklas is a weapon and should be used as such, fock blocking. Everybody claims how bk and co are so smart, well they re stupid and stubborn to me

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