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Pregame Six pack: Onward to Oklahoma

Sep 27, 2013, 2:38 AM EDT

Michigan State v Notre Dame Getty Images

One-third of the way into the season and the Fighting Irish still haven’t played a complete football game. After sliding by Temple, Purdue and Michigan State without their best efforts, there’s no room for mediocrity to creep into either side of the football’s efforts. To beat the 14th ranked Oklahoma Sooners, Notre Dame will need to play four quarters of very good football.

“We have to do a better job of being consistent through four quarters. We haven’t really put together those four quarters of really good football,” head coach Brian Kelly said on Thursday. “We’re going to need to do that against Oklahoma.”

Coming to town is a Sooners team that just established its offensive rhythm with quarterback Blake Bell and then took a week off. The early bye week felt a little bit like a scheduling snafu, but it did allow standout cornerback Aaron Colvin to get healthy.

What type of team the Sooners actually are is still to be determined. After beating up Louisiana-Monroe, a disappointing West Virginia team and Tulsa, Oklahoma heads to Notre Dame looking to find out if it’s got the type of team that can get Bob Stoops back to the BCS.

After downplaying the importance of this game for the past two weeks, Oklahoma offensive coordinator Jay Norvell let the cat out of the bag. “This is a special game,” Norvell told the Oklahoman. “We’d be lying if we say it’s just another game. It’s not. You don’t get to play in South Bend very often.”

Let’s walk through this week’s Pregame Six Pack. Here are six tidbits, leftovers, fun facts, and miscellaneous musings before No. 22 Notre Dame and No. 14 Oklahoma take the field.

***

Getting the Sooners offense “off schedule” could be key on Saturday. 

With an impressive depth chart at both running back and receiver, and a quarterback that’s capable of doing damage both on the ground or through the air, the Sooners will be Notre Dame’s most difficult challenge of the season from a personnel perspective.

But if Bob Diaco’s defense wants to follow a script that already led them to victory once, they’ll try their best to keep Oklahoma’s offense “off schedule,” tripping up the Sooners on first down and forcing them into difficult down and distances.

As we talked about already this week, first down is a key play for just about every team. Last year, the Irish defense made some big plays, limiting the Sooners offense and also getting them off the field by only allowing 4-of-14 third down conversions.

But with a balanced Sooner attack and the No. 4 ranked offense in terms of efficiency (according to the Fremeau Efficiency Index), the Sooners know they need to do a better job of keeping themselves in favorable down and distances.

“We’ve got to do a good job of making efficient plays on first down, whether it’s running or throwing,” Norvell said. “And in this game, it’s important that you catch and you get upfield north and south and it’s not fancy. It’s just get upfield, get the yards you need, bang off pads and move on to the next play.”

***

Sheldon Day might not be the only one battling an injury.

The good news for the Irish is that defensive end Sheldon Day is back and healthy, having a solid week of practice and pronounced ready to go by Kelly on Thursday, an impressive turn time by an important cog in the Irish’s front seven.

But in a rare look behind the curtain this week, courtesy of UND.com’s Strong and True video series, we saw some of the work that went into getting Cam McDaniel ready to play after fracturing his hand midweek in practice, and linebacker Dan Fox and offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley battle through injuries.

Kelly talked about the job Stanley did to get back into the game after a painful hip injury. But news that Fox has been battling nagging injuries since fall camp might shed new light on why the fifth-year senior has been off to a particularly slow start.

It’s difficult to tell what exactly is bothering Fox, but the senior linebacker will be counted on to play some important minutes against the Sooners. He’s got the athleticism to be an asset in pass coverage underneath, where the linebackers are still a work in progress. Last year, Fox chipped in five tackles against Oklahoma, and had one very key pass break-up, which Manti Te’o ended up intercepting on a huge momentum changer.

***

Can Notre Dame contain the slot receiver? 

Last week, Irish fans watched Michigan State’s Macgarrett Kings backpedal into the end zone for an easy touchdown, beating safety Elijah Shumate so badly in man coverage that he could coast into the end zone.

Kings’s touchdown against the Irish was hardly the only damage done by a diminutive slot receiver. All season, the Irish have struggled to slow down the inside receiving threats, taking advantage of schematic changes and beating man coverage from the start of the season.

Taking a run through the four box scores the Irish have produced this year starts to show some trends emerging. And waterbug sized, lightning quick receivers have really hurt Notre Dame’s defense.

Against Temple, 5-foot-9, 175-pound Ryan Alderman had his best game of the season, leading the Owls with five catches for 65 yards against the Irish. Who can forget what Jeremy Gallon did to the Irish? The 5-8, 187-pound Wolverine had eight catches for 184 yards and three touchdowns to torch the Irish secondary. Against Purdue, it was 5-foot-9 Akeem Hunt would did most of the receiving damage, making nine catches for 72 yards and a touchdown. And Kings supplied one of the lone bright spots for the Spartans offense last Saturday.

All of that leads us to the Sooners’ Jalen Saunders. Last year, Saunders racked up an astonishing 15 catches for 181 yards against Notre Dame. After wreaking havoc underneath the Irish defense, Saunders might do something far deadlier if he’s given the chance against man coverage on Saturday.

Kelly and Bob Diaco have experimented with the Irish’s secondary personnel, shifting Cole Luke, Elijah Shumate, Devin Butler and Lo Wood in and out, trying to find the right cover man. But the Irish might be better off not trying to run with Oklahoma’s skill players, instead just throwing an umbrella over everything, using zone responsibilities to keep the play in front of them.

***

Can the Irish offense get out of the gate quickly?

Perhaps Irish fans were spoiled early. After starting the season opener with two picture perfect scoring drives, it’s been rough sledding for the Irish to start games. Against Michigan, it was two three-and-outs, two punts and two scores for the Wolverines. Against Purdue it was worse, the Boilermakers marched down the field for a touchdown on the game’s first drive before shutting down the Irish’s first four drives. It was no better against Michigan State, with the Spartans getting a punt block on the first series of the game before watching the Irish offense sputter twice more.

With a crowd ready to carry the Irish if needed, the offense and defense will need to do their jobs, putting an early Irish score on the board and getting a few defensive stops while trying to get into rhythm with the speed of the Sooners.

“We’ve always talked about starting fast. It really hasn’t been part of this group yet consistently,” Kelly said. “But what they do is they finish really well, so I’d stick around if I were you, because they know how to finish games.”

Finishing games isn’t possible if you dig yourself too big of a whole. We witnessed that in Ann Arbor. It won’t be possible against Oklahoma if the Irish aren’t ready out of the gates.

***

Will the Irish finally do their best to establish the run? 

Four games into the season and the Irish running game is still a mess. It doesn’t appear to be the offensive line’s fault, with the unit blending nicely, though succeeding mostly in pass protection. But against an Oklahoma  3-3-5 defense, can the Irish simply decide to run the ball and dictate tempo, or will they try and throw their way around bad defensive looks?

While Irish fans have screamed about trying to establish some offensive balance, the Irish head coach understands its importance, now it’s just a matter of executing better.

“I think from an offensive standpoint, we’ve got enough balance,” Kelly said. “We haven’t run the ball effectively enough throughout four quarters. There are times where we’ve been effective — we won some football games late, Purdue in particular — where we’ve been able to run the ball to finish out a game. But we’re not where we want to be in terms of running the ball effectively throughout the game, which is going to allow us to have a run-pass balance.”

Notre Dame’s running back depth chart features five backs — George Atkinson, Amir Carlisle, Cam McDaniel, Tarean Folston and Greg Bryant all listed as co-starters. The Irish haven’t been able to establish more than one of them in a game yet this year. But it might make some sense to give it a try if it keeps the Sooners off the field.

***

 For two of college football’s most storied programs, this rivalry is awfully one-sided. 

There is no more winning program in the modern era than Oklahoma. The Sooners have the most victories and best winning percentage of any program since World War II. But as two of college football’s winningest programs get set to do battle, it’s a good time to remind you that Notre Dame has just historically owned this match-up.

Notre Dame holds a 9-1 record in this series, beating the Sooners in 1952, 1953, 1957, 1961, 1962, 1966, 1968, 1999, and 2012. Outside of the Sooners’ lone victory over the Irish, a 40-0 thrashing in 1956, the Irish have won seven straight in a span of seven decades, with the Irish beating a Sooners team ranked in the top 10 seven times in the ten meetings.

Notre Dame has dashed more Sooner dreams than just about any program, including Bob Stoops last visit to South Bend, when Jarious Jackson threw for two touchdowns and ran for another as the Irish stormed back to score 20 unanswered points to win 34-30 over No. 23 Oklahoma.

That game became a defining moment in the Stoops era at Oklahoma, helping to set the tone for the Sooners return to the top of college football.

“More than anything, I remember us leading in the third quarter by 16 and looking around and seeing too many happy faces,” Stoops said on Monday. “I felt there were too many guys who thought that they had this won, really realizing that we had not really learned how to truly compete yet for four quarters.

“I remember telling the coaches in meetings the next day, ‘Listen, they hadn’t been ahead of anybody like that on the road before. They don’t know how to handle it and we’ve got to teach them how to handle it – teach them how to finish games and to win a game like that.’

“Those guys hadn’t been in that situation.”

It didn’t take long for Stoops’ team to learn from the disappointing loss. The Sooners won the national championship the next year.

***

For more on Notre Dame’s match-up with Oklahoma, check out these stories from IrishIllustrated.com

From IrishIllustrated.com

Irish look for Norman momentum
by Douglas Farmer

A year ago, a win over Oklahoma provided the Irish with much-needed momentum. They hope it can do it again Saturday in Notre Dame Stadium.

From IrishIllustrated.com

Grace could have captain potential
by Pete Sampson

Barely a week after his first start, linebacker Jarrett Grace has already been mentioned as a potential future captain. On a defense looking for leadership, that could be a major boost.

  1. yaketyyacc - Sep 27, 2013 at 6:15 AM

    lengthy article, pointing out that yes, this has to be our best effort, the Oklahoma coach said it is special to play in South Band. well, let’s not disappoint him or the Oklahoma team.
    let’s give Oklahoma that special Irish blessing, May you lose the game even before you know you came out of the tunnel, and feel the wind of Irish backs cooling you as they run into the end zone, and may the Irish defense, dewheel the Sooner Schooner.

    • alsatiannd - Sep 27, 2013 at 9:35 AM

      I’ll add to this last minute novena. May Koyack make all his blocks so we don’t have to see Purple Kelly. May the secondary buy 2 extra seconds so Tuitt and Shembo can get home. And may Rees’s passes land softly and in stride.

  2. nudeman - Sep 27, 2013 at 8:52 AM

    Unfortunately this year has seen more delusional thinking than actual good play.

    DELUSION 1: “They were saving stuff for (insert name of team ND played the next week)”
    REALITY: They threw the kitchen sink out there and looked bad doing it.

    DELUSION 2: “They have no problem at RB. Did you see that run by Cam? Cam is GOD”.
    REALITY: The 6 yard run? Saw it. And no, Cam is just a skinny kid from TX. Doesn’t speak Aramaic either.

    DELUSION 3: “Tommy is awesome”.
    REALITY: Tommy has played one good half this year and it was against a really bad team. My opinion.

    DELUSION 4: “Tuitt is coming on strong. Look out”
    REALITY: Yes, he’s gone from “AWOL” to a guy who made a couple tackles against a terrible offense.

    DELUSION 5: “Tommy checks us into good plays”
    REALITY: Yes, the long passes on 3rd and 1 were good plays. If Unitas had been QB.

    DELUSION 6: ND always beats OK.
    REALITY: This represents the one ray of hope. 9-1. A legacy making oppty for Kelly. If I’m BK, I’m laying all the lore of the great past wins on the team. They’re seeing film of Dick Lynch’s run, of the 38-0 spanking the ’66 team laid on them. Ara is at the pep rally. So is Joe. So are the guys from the ’57 team.

    Unfortunately, guys who get expelled aren’t allowed in. And why do I get the feeling that half of this year’s team doesn’t care about great ND tradition? This is a heartless group with no toughness and no identity, staring right down the throat of a 4-5 loss season. Is tomorrow the day they snap out of it? Will this be Stallone in Rocky I or Claude Raines in The Invisible Man (Team)?

    I opine/You decide.

    I’m on record as saying 27-7 OK. You all have about 30 hours to change my mind. Please, just do it.

    • ndgoldandblue - Sep 27, 2013 at 9:19 AM

      I won’t try to change your mind at all, but I do think all of ND Nation needs to change their expectations. I said after the Purdue game that the goal for every season should be to make it to one of the marquee bowl games, i.e. Rose, Orange, Fiesta, Sugar, and now the Cotton. But the goal of the team and the expectations of the fanbase should be centered around the product on the field.

      This Irish team is oozing with talent, but that talent doesn’t always translate to on-field production. A nice equivalent, I suppose, would be the Portland Trailblazers in the early aughts and the Cleveland Indians from the mid-90’s. Man, what a waste of talent. My point is, the players on this team have the physical ability to win every remaining game on the schedule, but they haven’t proven themselves to be a great (and I emphasize the word “great”) team. There are enough inconsistencies on both sides of the ball and in special teams that this team could lose the rest of their games and finish 3-9. I don’t see that happening, but disciplined, well-coached teams with lesser talent (like the service academies) often beat teams with more talent. I expect those games to be very close.

      I’m not down on the team, nor am I a fair-weather fan. I’ll support the Irish and watch every game no matter how good (or bad) they are. I’m just lowering my expectations for this year. I’m hoping the team finishes with enough wins to make it to a bowl game. That’s it. And I’ll be happy if that happens. If they finish the regular season with only 2 losses and a BCS bowl berth, I will be more than pleasantly surprised; I’ll be elated.

      • nudeman - Sep 27, 2013 at 9:57 AM

        2 losses would be exceptional based on what we’ve seen so far
        I’d sign up for that right this second

        BTW, re: your Cleveland Indians reference, as a long suffering Cub fan I’ve felt their pain through years of misery in the 60s, 70s and 80s. Guys with promise would come and go without fulfilling their potential. Joe Charbonneau and Sam McDowel ljump immediately to mind. Eckersely actually started out as an Indian. So when they came within one out of winning the WS against the punk Marlins then choked it away I wanted to cry.

        But the WORST thing was this: In the post game celebration, some 19 year old gen-X’er from God-knows-where in S. Florida screams into the tv camera “I’ve been waiting a LONG-G-G time for this!!”. Yes, 3 years? PUUUUUUUUKE.

        I could just imagine the entire city of Cleveland putting out a fatwa on that chick. And that was before fatwas were cool.

    • 4horsemenrideagain - Sep 27, 2013 at 10:43 AM

      little too much hyperbole for me this early on a friday, but i’ll take the bait:

      “tommy is awesome”-i haven’t observed many/any making this point. “tommy has been effective, at times” has been stated, and isn’t an entirely inaccurate assessment.

      “Cam is God”-i haven’t read many making this point either. while i have been about as high on him as anyone has, even my optimism on Cam has been limited to the observation that he is running the ball as well or better than any of the other backs so keep getting him the ball until he stops running it effectively or until someone else steps up. as for him speaking aramaic, has anyone asked him about this?

      “Tuitt is coming on strong”-compared to how he started, he IS coming on strong(er) than he started, so again, not entirely untrue. if he keeps progressing and making more plays in the coming weeks, that brief re-emergence last week will look like this season’s coming-out party for him.

      i don’t want to touch the “TR checks us into good plays” because it’s been rehashed and reworked by so many posts, so many times that i feel like it’s a rerun of a crappy reality TV show by now.

      the brightest spot about ND’s chances tomorrow is that OU isn’t #14-kind of good. blake bell isn’t a true pocket passer, despite what his 416 yards against Tulsa suggest. look at his throwing motion for crying out loud! i’m sure he’s a nice kid and that his mom loves him and all, but he reminds me of a hybrid of tim tebow and jared lorenzen, except that he doesn’t run as well as tebow and he doesn’t have the arm of lorenzen. he’s not a threat to scramble and if there is pressure off the edge with Nix squeezing the pocket down, he will be exposed. and if mike stoops tried this 3-3-5 business, it’s going to make chuck martin look like he looked in the pocket of last season’s pants and found where he’d stuck the gameplan for the running game. i expect folston and bryant to both have their chances to shine in the effort.

      • nudeman - Sep 27, 2013 at 11:48 AM

        4horse

        That’s a great post.
        Understand I’m setting up a straw man and hoping someone tears it down
        Playing the devil’s advocate, if you will.

        Cam does have MANY supporters who’ve been clamoring for him for over a year now.
        “God” is maybe a tad hyperbolic, I’ll concede
        As for Aramaic, good point. I shouldn’t assume. Maybe he does.

        Other thing I’ll say in ND’s defense is this: At this time last year, I, along with many, gave them no chance. And they went in there and came out with the “signature win” that everyone had been clamoring for through the Davie, Ty and Weis years.

        So maybe, just maybe ……………

        Here’s an excellent short article from an Oklahoma newspaper or TV station

        http://newsok.com/oklahoma-football-does-notre-dame-celebrate-the-1957-victory/article/3886836

      • 4horsemenrideagain - Sep 27, 2013 at 1:57 PM

        great article and i appreciate the link.

        the glimmer of optimism you acknowledge reminds me of a line great line from “Miracle” where Kurt Russell (as Herb Brooks) after hearing criticism about goalie, Jim Craig, that his game has been “off,” responds “ever see him when his game is on?”

        it’s been hard to watch this team play this year for many reasons. for my part, one of the biggest reasons has been seeing players who played very well last year, play so poorly/under-perform this year. at times, nix, tuitt, russell, jackson, come to mind, but even take elijah shumate. last year, he made contributions in that nickel package playing in space, breaking up passes and causing some havoc. so far this year, he’s been a liability in pass coverage. prince shembo is another example. last year he was so involved, disrupting the edge, and this year he seems to always be just on the periphery, almost making plays but not quite there. i could go on, but you get the idea.

        whatever has been missing, i want to see these kids play when their game is on.

        tomorrow could be the day. if it is, i’ll go with your 27-7, but flip it around.

    • irish4me - Sep 27, 2013 at 11:42 AM

      Nude, although I find it hard to fault your reasoning about this year’s team, you are more or less a glass half-empty kind of guy, or at least glass half-empty ND fan. I recall all the same things last year and then they went to the BCS championship game which you again saw ND getting beaten and hey you turned out to be 100 percent correct. So now we see you’ve gone on record as saying that the Irish pretty much suck. Ho-hum. We’re all entitled to our opinions and I will defend your right to yours. I think it’ll be a close game, I’m hoping we come out on top, but nothing I’ve seen or heard about Oklahoma this year makes me believe 27 – 7. Not gonna happen. Kelly seems to manage games as far as I can see, much more concerned over the “W” than style points. I know you’re rooting for the Irish and on that we all agree. Keep calling ‘em like you see ‘em.

      • nudeman - Sep 27, 2013 at 11:53 AM

        trying to psych myself into a dofferent frame of mind

    • danirish - Sep 27, 2013 at 12:22 PM

      Did fnc111 take over your account?

      I don’t usually agree with you but I think you are onto something. The heartless/no identity part very much so.

      I disagree about Cam and the running game – there is something wrong with the scheme, they aren’t saving anything, the scheme is just not meshing.

      Cam is and can be an every down back, I will even withdraw my critique of GAIII – SOMETHING is just not right.

      JUST WIN BABY!

      GO IRISH!

    • sharptux44 - Sep 27, 2013 at 12:28 PM

      I don’t think this team is like rocky. I think they are like Bruce Willis in die hard as they are always winning in an ugly, gritty fashion and pissing off a lot of people in the process.

    • NotreDan - Sep 27, 2013 at 12:43 PM

      My Brother Nude:

      1) I don’t know if anyone ever said they WERE saving their best stuff, but there was a ton of HYPOTHESIZING in this vein, or, more appropriately, lots of us HOPING this was the case. IMO, the issue is that the staff tried to “tweak” the playbook to account for the difference between Golson and Rees instead of re-writing it. This netted us the goofy pistol and TR’s inability to extend the play just throws a wet towel on the whole thing. A power run would require a bigger playbook change than I think BK and Co. were willing to make.

      2) All of the raw RB talent has no experience, and they aren’t getting any in the next stretch barring injury. We lost the chance to prove them in early, and now I’m afraid the risk of rookies is too high coming into the tough part of the schedule. The other remedy may be to let Carlisle find a rhythm in a game, instead of the carousel.

      3) Nobody said Tommy is awesome. You even admitted he has played well given A) his ability level and B) the circumstances. My biggest annoyance with TR (and the coaching staff) is coming in number 5….

      4) Tuitt is getting better. I think we missed Sheldon Day last week. I also don’t understand Diaco this year. What I want to see early is for Tuitt, Nix, Day and Shembo to pin their f#$%ing ears back and come get Bell. They need to be disruptive, and all the zone reads and playing laterally they have done is not working.

      5) Ahh the checking into plays quagmire. Here’s how to fix the whole damn thing; A) Run some hurry up when you don’t need to B) Get the freaking play in FASTER! every play C) get set quickly either way and D) do some fake checks, maybe 20% of the time. I am SO sick and tired of the last second scramble and the unrealistic importance everyone places on the “chess game”. Just play ball fellas.

      6) There is some credibility in the head game that comes with history. Take full advantage. I can’t help but agree with the heartless, no toughness at least at least in manifest action (which is where it counts I guess). But you KNOW, all of these guys were the best of the best where they came from and that each of them has heart in there, they just need a leader to bring it out, and they don’t have it yet.

      While all of the negatives are pretty much true, all of the potential is also real.

      I’m on record saying ND 13, OK 10. We will kick the winning field goal with under 30 seconds left.

      You can send me a bottle of Middleton’s when I’m right :)

    • c4evr - Sep 27, 2013 at 3:55 PM

      Careful Nudey, you are getting dangerously close to my territory.

    • bernhtp - Sep 27, 2013 at 4:51 PM

      I’m not as negative as you are, but you make some points that are hard to argue with. The mood here on campus (I’m here for meetings and the game) is not terribly optimistic because everyone sees the same thing. My concerns from what I see/hear:

      1. The leadership vacuum is obvious. There aren’t replacements for Manti, Eifert and Kap. While most don’t know it, Kap may be most missed as he kept that line talent focused and working hard. Nix and especially Tuitt aren’t the same without his adult supervision. With that said, they do seem to be stepping it up. I think they realize that they may otherwise be (under)playing their way out of a first round pick.

      2. I don’t think Sheldon Day is near 100% back yet. I hope his recovery speeds by tomorrow.

      3. Tommy is Tommy. As many of us feared, defenses are playing to his limitations and daring him to play at his edge. He has good moments but many bad ones, especially when the defensive talent is good as it was with MSU. We were lucky their QBs were at least as bad.

      We can certainly win this game but it’s pretty hard to have any confidence.

    • idratherbeinsouthbend - Sep 27, 2013 at 10:19 PM

      Nude (or Mark May),

      I won’t try to sway your beleaguered opinion of our Irish, but I will tell you that their chances of winning aren’t as farfetched as you might think. That’s not because we are good, but rather that Oklahoma isn’t nearly as good as the world would have you believe. Take in to consideration that Oklahoma has beaten…

      LA Monroe (2-2) with one of their wins against a 1AA team. OU managed 400-ish yards against the mighty LA Monroe gridders, not dominate by any means…to be honest, this game is very comparable to ND vs. Temple.

      West Virginia (2-2) – powerful West Virginia (with wins against Georgia St. and William & Mary) has scored a grand total of 7 points against FBS teams (OU and Maryland)…So, maybe OU beating West Virginia 16-7 isn’t that impressive, yeah?

      Tulsa (1-3) – Tulsa boasts three losses (to Iowa State, OU, and Bowling Green). Their one victory was a last second field goal against Colorado State.

      I submit, for your internal debate, that our Irish have a very reasonable chance to win this weekend. Not because the Irish are better than we think, but rather, OU is not as good as advertised.

      …the defense rests.

      • papadec - Sep 28, 2013 at 4:29 AM

        idrather – DAMN RIGHT!!!!!!!

      • nudeman - Sep 28, 2013 at 9:32 AM

        Great post.
        Today is Saturday and it was a long week. I feel modestly better about our chances after reading this post.

        GO IRISH

  3. sm29irish - Sep 27, 2013 at 10:23 AM

    Speaking of dynamic slot receivers, I believe WE have one in Amir Carlisle. I would love to see him line up primarily in the slot and get the opportunity to make plays in space. Also, having him plus another running back on the field at the same time would seem to be our most explosive combination. This obviously would help the logjam that we currently have at running back position and maybe just maybe help the Irish come out with a little more passion and energy on the offensive side of the ball. Wishful thinking perhaps….. But in my opinion if there is one thing the team needs to do to get a W it would be to come out right out of the gate and make a statement and keep that momentum going throughout the game.

    • nudeman - Sep 27, 2013 at 10:39 AM

      Another BK head scratcher.
      So much was made this year in particular about “who will play slot?”

      Amir seems to be the perfect talent, but other candidates we heard about included Prosise, Mahone (seriously), Cam (because Cam can do anything), and probably every other player eligible to catch a pass.

      The slot in a spread offense is supposed to be hugely important because the 5 WR look creates a mismatch on a LB almost automatically.

      Fast forward to today: How many balls have been caught by the slot receiver this year?
      When is the last time you remember Amir or any of these guys matched up on a LB, catching a pass and sprinting for an additional 10-20 yards?

      WTF?

    • nudeman - Sep 27, 2013 at 12:54 PM

      NotreDan, Esquire:

      All true
      The RB Carousel is to me an indication that 1) they know GAIII isn’t the guy; 2) they want SOMEONE to step up and be the guy; so far Cam has come closest

      The Pistol seems to have empty chambers without a QB who can run. I just see very little value.

      Tuitt … agree, getting better. He really needs to be a monster this week

      The play checking, whether the right calls or not, just slows the pace down to something akin to the Kennedy Expressway in rush hour. Couldn’t they accomplish the same thing by doing things up tempo and snapping the ball before the D is set or has time to change personnel?

      God, I’d love to see an ND win, don’t care how ugly. 2-0 is fine by me.

      MIddleton’s coming your way if they win, even if it isn’t 13-10

      • bb90grad - Sep 27, 2013 at 1:19 PM

        Or snapping the ball when the D clearly jumps offside. Take 5 yards any way possible.

        Is that something the center can (is allowed to) do on his own?

      • 4horsemenrideagain - Sep 27, 2013 at 1:39 PM

        is that Middleton’s Irish Whiskey?

        now that is something we can all agree on.

      • NotreDan - Sep 27, 2013 at 3:11 PM

        Yessir, THAT Middleton’s.

      • 4horsemenrideagain - Sep 27, 2013 at 3:28 PM

        that Middleton’s is some prime hooch.

        just don’t bring it to a tailgate or else pretty soon you’d have lots of new friends,
        and very little Middleton’s left.

      • NotreDan - Sep 27, 2013 at 8:22 PM

        One of these years we will have an ITI commenter’s tailgate, and then you’ll see the SEC learned how to tailgate from NotreDan!

      • nudeman - Sep 28, 2013 at 1:01 PM

        In

  4. irishaggie - Sep 27, 2013 at 10:45 AM

    Not saying this will be a repeat but………..last year OU was coming off 52-7 victory over Kansas and two weeks from rushing over 300 yards on a lousy Texas defense. ND barely beat BYU 17-14. No team has more boring games and wins uglier than ND. We’ve won 7 straight games at home decided by 7 points or less. ND wins ugly 23-21.

  5. steincj36 - Sep 27, 2013 at 11:04 AM

    Besides a cover corner, I’ve not heard all that much on the OU D. If we can put up some points, I’d say we have a chance.

    OU is going to have some success against our D, but I don’t thin it will be Tulsa-like numbers.

    This ND team’s real problem is that it has no real leader. Say what you will about Teo and his personal dilemma, but the team rallied around him, got their strength from him. The only vocal / emotional enough guy on the team to lead like that is Nix, but he doesn’t have “it.” When he makes a mistake (facemask), he’s by himself, flailing his arms around, slapping himself in the head. He needs to lead. He needs to say in the huddle, “My mistake, I’ll take on 3 this play, you hit the gap for a sack” instead of spinning in circles by himself slapping himself in the helmet before the coaches rotate him out.

    Sad to say that the only player to show any LEADERSHIP is Tommy. Throw the coaches in there too, purple face BK is not a leader. We never saw that face all last year.

    Life after Teo sucks.

  6. irishaggie - Sep 27, 2013 at 11:25 AM

    The leadership question has been in the air since spring ball and there’s no sign of anyone stepping up. I really thought Bennett would take a Zeke Motta type of role and he hasn’t. TJ has always been a quiet player. Kind of hitting hard now that the RKGs Kelly recruits aren’t very vocal. If we’re to give team MVPs right now, no one would be deserving.

  7. bearcatirishfan - Sep 27, 2013 at 11:33 AM

    Who th heck ever said that this team is running the spread, I don’t think BK has ever said this is a spread team. For everyone’s sanity stop comparing BK ND to BK cincy.

    Unfortunately, I have to agree that on the field these players look a little lethargic to be nice. They kind of remind me of the really talented players in gh school that can half ass their way through a game and still rush for 150 yards.

  8. alwayspositive11 - Sep 27, 2013 at 2:06 PM

    Bleh. Someone needs to bring a little positivity to this post. The Irish have a great group of running backs. Who knows why they haven’t been more dominant this year? If you ask me, it’s only a matter of time before they break out. I think Coach Kelly sticks with the running game against Oklahoma after finding early success with it on Saturday. That will set up the play action pass, and Tommy will be able to hit his receivers for quite a few big gains.
    I see our defense stifling Oklahoma’s running game and forcing Blake Bell to beat us. Just like Cook from last week, he will not be able to rise to the challenge, and he’ll buckle under the pressure. By the way, who knows what movie this line is from-“What would you know about pressure?” “Well I have…kissed a man.”
    When the Irish win this game, I won’t come on here and say “I told you so.” That’s just not my way. But the Irish will win. Oh yes, the Irish will win.

    • oldestguard - Sep 27, 2013 at 3:01 PM

      I’m not “alwayspositive”, but I lean that way and see no reason to change for this game.

      Kelly’s shown me he’s a smart guy with a good learning curve and he’s had 4 games now to get this thing properly manned and pointed in the right direction. I expect our best game of the season.

      OU is the myth here.

      Our Will be done.

      • c4evr - Sep 27, 2013 at 3:58 PM

        Funny you should say Will. The Irish have yet to impose their Will on anyone since BK arrived. Just the opposite, people here keep saying they play to the level of their competition – except when that competition is named Alabama.

  9. Seamus - Sep 27, 2013 at 2:23 PM

    KA – Honestly you summed it all up in the very first paragraph and I stopped reading. If for no other reason that sums it up nicely. CONSISTENCY – FOUR QUARTERS! With that being said, BK and CM need to dig a little deeper into the playbook and get creative. There is way too much talent on this team and they just aren’t creating the mismatches that they should be able to with these guys. They have yet to keep an opposing defense off balance and the play calling is predictable. BK and CM need to get past the first couple of pages of the playbook and dig a little deeper. Do they have the ability to beat OU, most definitely, will they play to their potential, well that’s an entirely different question that will be answered on Saturday.

  10. ndnphx - Sep 27, 2013 at 2:30 PM

    I think we can win, if: the DLine dominates their OLine, and rings the Belldozer a few times on their pass plays. We get something – anything – out of our own run game (and that’s on the OLine as much or more than what the RBs are not doing.) We rediscover our TE and finally discover a slot receiver in the passing game, since we know the WRs will contribute.

    Also, we get at least a draw in field position our of Special Teams, BK doesn’t see a reason to go purple on Ben Koyak or anybody else, and the only green shirts in the stadium are up in the stands.

    Captain Obvious reminds us that if we play like we have the first four weeks, we lose.

  11. don74 - Sep 27, 2013 at 7:49 PM

    I will be watching tomorrow’s game because I am a fan but most importantly because I do not know the outcome. Maybe I am alone on this board to let the game play out and see what happens. I hope the Irish win. Do I think they have a chance, yes. Based on this year’s performances in the first four games do I have something to hang my hat on? Other than 2 Brindza punts last week, no not really.

    But the great thing about sports, particularly CFB is the games are unscripted and the unlikely happens.

    I would love to see a dominate OL open holes for 5 RB’s, each with carries and 60 yards.

    I would love to see a slot receiver have a game like Golden Tate or Theo Riddick

    I would love to see the DL create havoc and be the boulder that the Belldozer can’t move

    I would love to see a decisive Tommy make throws to inside receivers, outside receives and the end zone fade

    What will I see….a game only lacking mud. I am betting it will be messy, ugly and close. The game blog will be suicidal and I am sure many of us will be writing our own 5 things we learned and Good, bad and ugly.

    Watch the OL. See if Nicklas lines on the right side to help Stanley. Look for a motioning TE to act like a moving FB

    Look for middle passes as OK will push receivers outside giving Tommy no place to throw

    Watch for the LB’s, CC and JG to be tight to the line.

    Look for 6 DB packages on downs other than 3rd and long.

    It’s going to be a 4th quarter decision and as the coach always says it will be decided by execution.

    28-24 ND

  12. idratherbeinsouthbend - Sep 27, 2013 at 10:24 PM

    I think i just farted and a little bit of poop came out. I’m gonna go check… be right back.

    not really, but i thought i’d try to lighten the mood.

  13. mediocrebob - Sep 27, 2013 at 11:16 PM

    Idratherbeinsouthbend,

    My mood is lightened.

    For the ones that love to cry about this team week in and week out…

    :*(

    Keep counting the Irish out. Please. If its a loss tomorrow, you will mostly be throwing the season down the drain.

    IMO , Irish win 9, it’s a great season and something to build on with our STARTING QB back next year. This isn’t a NC team. But that doesn’t make them dog shit. Get over it.

    Go Irish. Beat OK.

  14. rpbags - Sep 27, 2013 at 11:46 PM

    This will be the turning point of the season for ND and not in a good way. I honestly don’t see this being real close and it will be OU running it up on us in the 4th quarter! The loss of EG and i have been saying this too thumbs down after thumbs down on here since he left but that is the difference between winning games like this and losing games like this, the ability to get out of the pocket and make a defense have to defend you and when the pocket breaks down to run like hell. The reality of all this is that ND is really nothing more than a big name with an ok team that has been average at best with a good year one out of every four or five! I know the thumbs down are gonna come now because i have spoken the truth about ND, but that is ok with me i just keep it real…..

  15. fnc111 - Sep 28, 2013 at 8:50 AM

    Hey nude, your post is what I touched on a bunch this summer and you included bashed the hell out of me. I predicted an ugly season and was called negative lol. I see more negativity and player bashing on here like never before. I only attack CBK for what it’s worth. Let’s stop the player bashing everyone.

    • nudeman - Sep 28, 2013 at 9:34 AM

      Your posts are 100% negative, 100% of the time, 24×7
      I don’t think you could say the same about me and my stuff

    • joeblk10 - Sep 28, 2013 at 11:49 AM

      Agree with Nude. You, and well as Dick, are pretty much negative no matter what. Always look at the bad, never have anything good to say…. like ever. At least nude posts the good with the bad even if he may be a bit dramatic at times.

  16. loadofwash - Sep 28, 2013 at 6:59 PM

    Me fails to see any good with this team …..

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