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Irish game plan key in Sun Devils upset

Oct 7, 2013, 10:41 AM EDT

Notre Dame v Arizona State Getty Images

It didn’t take long for the bloom to come off Brian Kelly’s twelve-win regular season. A heavy reliance on the passing game against Michigan, and a disappointing performance against Oklahoma had Irish fans frustrated, critical of everything from Bob Diaco’s defensive game plans to Kelly’s offensive system. The very set of coaches that had Irish fans worried they’d be leaving South Bend for greener pastures were now “the problem” as two September losses struggled to derail the ’13 season before it really got started.

Of course, these aren’t new complaints. Nor are they unique to Kelly. When Bob Davie kept with a running offense, fans clamored to get a quarterback from this generation, someone that could throw the football effectively. When Ty Willingham’s West Coast offense sputtered, people wanted to run playcaller Bill Diedrick out of town. Even Charlie Weis’ decided schematic advantage had people clamoring for a change when the Irish offense turned too finesse.

And while many are looking at the Irish’s 37-34 victory over Arizona State through a lens that only shows the work still needing to be done, it’s a novel exercise to read some of the reviews of Kelly and his staff’s work from the opposite perspective.

Namely Sun Devil head coach Todd Graham, who was incredibly complimentary of the Irish game plan.

“First of all, congratulations to Coach Kelly. They do a great job. Their defensive coordinator and defensive staff did a tremendous job,” Graham said after the game. “I thought that was the difference in the game.”

That’s Bob Diaco for those forgetting, last season’s national assistant coach of the year and a guy that didn’t forget how to coach football over the summer. While the young assistant’s usually somewhat conservative and execution based game plan doesn’t always get him the credit of scheme and pressure based coaches like Michigan State’s Pat Narduzzi or the Wolverines’ Greg Mattison, Diaco and his staff put together a vintage ’12 plan and the Irish executed it, tackling well, running to the football, getting to the quarterback, and taking the football away.

We may forget it by the end of the year, but Notre Dame was nearly a touchdown underdog entering the game Saturday night. Reading what our friends over at House of Sparky had to say about the game as they recapped what happened, this particular section is particularly illuminating:

Plain and simple: Notre Dame prepared for Arizona State like no team has prepared for the Sun Devils this season. Stanford had the talent to beat Arizona State and the Cardinal certainly prepared well, but even the Cardinal didn’t out-manuever the Sun Devils for a full four quarters.

Brian Kelly led the Fighting Irish to their best performance of the season because his coaching staff gave its best performance of the season.

The Irish did the things that Brian Kelly promised this week, yet kept consistent with his offensive philosophy. On Saturday, that meant the offensive balance Irish fans have clamored for, with Notre Dame running and throwing at almost a 50-50 balance. But it also meant taking shots down the field with the fade routes that have been a staple of Kelly and Chuck Martin’s philosophy.

“They had a lot of big plays on the fade that we can’t give up in the secondary,” ASU cornerback Osahon Irabor said after the game. “We’ve got to be stout because it’s our job not to give up big plays, and I think we gave up too many of those.”

Even Notre Dame’s big miscue on 3rd and 20 was an outlier, considered the great job the Irish did getting off the field. Here’s what House of Sparky said about the Irish defense’s work on third down.

 Defensively, the Fighting Irish executed best on third down. Notre Dame limited Arizona State to just four conversions on 13 attempts and put pressure on Taylor Kelly all night. The Fighting Irish knew the Sun Devil offensive line has struggled in run-blocking this season, so they didn’t have to do anything special up the middle. Instead of scheming around Louis Nix III and Stephon Tuitt, the Irish let their stars do their own damage and focused on creating havoc with Prince Shembo.

Overall, there are things the Irish will work on over bye week, items we’ll cover this week as we prepare for the second half of the season. But consider this a brief look at how the other side view’s this football team and its coaching staff.

152 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. getsome99 - Oct 7, 2013 at 7:02 PM

    Re: Smitty,

    I see you. And no, I’m not always this defensive and yes, I have posted way more than I should have the past few days. Yes, I was technically out of line for targeting Nudeman on the post you’re referring to. Nudeman made it personal with me when I politely tried to engage him with an honest opposing viewpoint. Next thing I know, there are ten people who I suspected to be the same person coming after me with insult after insult as if I had said something directly to them. NotreDan? No idea where that came from. Dude invited me to come to his house for brisket and an ass kicking. I hate to overpost, but by principle, I’m not going to just shut my mouth because a certain few want to bully me into it. I’m going to coin this group as the “IrishMob” so I can address them all at once without having to post every time someone wants to take a jab. Which will reduce my number of posts. Fair compromise? Plus, I do have to go back to work tomorrow.

    • dillonbigred - Oct 7, 2013 at 7:19 PM

      Mommy, make it stop!

      • wisner74 - Oct 7, 2013 at 7:28 PM

        I got a chuckle out of that one, dillon.

    • ndfaithful - Oct 7, 2013 at 7:21 PM

      Is there some non-bullying way that we can get you to go away?
      I don’t make brisket or have time to kick your ass.
      Can you help us out with a way to make you disappear?

    • domer88 - Oct 8, 2013 at 7:52 PM

      Good to hear you have a job.

  2. getsome99 - Oct 7, 2013 at 7:14 PM

    Ok, last one for today Don74.

    Thank you all for pointing out annoying my posts have been going on and on about the same subject. This is exactly how a lot of us who follow this blog feel about some of you who do the same thing every day. Every week. Every season.

    Thank for your attention and I’ll see you all in a few days.

    • wisner74 - Oct 7, 2013 at 7:30 PM

      . . . I would suggest you come back with a different name, but some more of the interesting ideas you’re capable of generating.

  3. rayguy14 - Oct 7, 2013 at 7:38 PM

    Things are starting to get a little weird here.

  4. getsome99 - Oct 7, 2013 at 7:55 PM

    Nope. Here to stay. You guys need some help.

    • dillonbigred - Oct 7, 2013 at 8:26 PM

      Yes, its every else.

      • dillonbigred - Oct 7, 2013 at 8:27 PM

        “everyone else”

  5. NotreDan - Oct 7, 2013 at 8:21 PM

    I still think its so funny how gitsum didn’t show up until Keith got all butt-hurt.

    Maybe if we’yall strolled on over and took a dump on his “blog” he’d feel better.

  6. NotreDan - Oct 7, 2013 at 8:24 PM

    I just wish Matt fortuna wasn’t such a tool in the ESPN ND page.

    I think we should just open up a new WordPress page where we could all mock these pro bloggers. Links to stories and comments only,

  7. getsome99 - Oct 7, 2013 at 8:53 PM

    This blog needs help with better commenters. It’s gotten stale in the room. One trick pony. Keith deserves better.

  8. alwayspositive11 - Oct 7, 2013 at 8:57 PM

    Since it’s bye week and things slow down a little, you guys should check out Pinterest.com. It’s this great little website with all kinds of gift ideas and whatnot. It’s really addicting. Much like a message board I guess.

    • papadec - Oct 7, 2013 at 9:51 PM

      always – hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha……….. that’s the post of the day – if not the week! Finally mom shows up to send the boys to their rooms.

    • ndfaithful - Oct 7, 2013 at 10:46 PM

      Love it! Love you!

  9. NotreDan - Oct 7, 2013 at 9:04 PM

    Lol. Any blogger gets exactly what they deserve, especially when they allow anonymous comments. While admirable in a sort if special olympics way, gitsums white knight bit is nothing more than another rash of anonymous drivel from someone that considers herself important, or smart, and feeds the wonderful irony by ending with a revelation of her motive as defending what her buddy deserves.

    Well done tex.

  10. mediocrebob - Oct 7, 2013 at 10:02 PM

    I think I’m on Getsome’s side for the most part here. I know after the last few coaches that the Irish have been through, I’ve been humbled and am grateful for the job BK has done.

    All of this without even establishing a QB yet. And he was on his way to establishing that QB in EG. The Rees bashing was understood a few years ago. It was frustrating. At this point you kind of need to get over it and accept TR for what he is. He takes his fair share of warranted abuse, but it’s not all his fault.

    Go Irish. Fuck $C

    • mediocrebob - Oct 8, 2013 at 5:26 AM

      I meant I agree with Wisner for the most part.

      • wisner74 - Oct 8, 2013 at 5:25 PM

        Always suspected you were a genius, at least since yesterday.

  11. savejimmyjohnsonsassforme - Oct 7, 2013 at 11:10 PM

    Only saw the 2nd half live, finally watched the 1st half earlier tonight.

    Just some thoughts:
    Any win against a dangerous, ranked opponent is a good win.
    The team was ready to play at kickoff for the first time since Temple, gotta give the staff credit there, although there were still many questionable decisions.
    Jaylon Smith has arrived!….welcome kid, we’re glad to have ya.
    Nice play by Tommy on the Niklas TD, especially for a “non-threatening-style” QB.
    The D-line has finally arrived…again!….glad to have ya back, where the hell have ya been?
    Niklas is a straight beast…may eventually be a top-ten pick.
    The D is slowly starting to play fast(pun intended).
    It seems nearly impossible to be under 50% passing 3 games in a row….how ’bout some more high percentage routes/passes?
    Another solid game for TJ, even have to include punt return duties in this one, very impressive Senior season thus far.
    Very disappointing end to a promising year, for a guy who seemed to just be coming to the forefront, in Grace.
    Sad to see Daniel Smith’s career end in injury.
    Where’s all the depth at safety that we heard about?….with Collinsworth and Farley still getting all this PT, ya gotta believe its depth in numbers, not talent…..won’t Redfield’s speed & athleticism allow him to compensate for lack of experience and play at least as well, or likely better than the others?
    Encouraged by many positive signs, but still frustrated by the inability to play 60 minutes of aggressive, disciplined football….baby steps!

    • irish4006 - Oct 8, 2013 at 12:23 PM

      Defensive line played well – agreed. ASU was, however, holding on to the ball much longer than UM or OU. If our opponents are taking notes, they will work on getting the ball out of the hand quicker. UM/OU did an amazing job with those ultra quick passes and taking advantage of the back seven. ASU probably didn’t give our line enough credit and paid the price. Kelly also mentioned in an earlier presser how the offenses were attacking our defenses differently. I will probably go back and watch the games again some time and see what the average time was from the snap to where the ball leaves QB’s hand. It should be a fun exercise. I bet ASU was at least a second longer than OU’s or UM’s.

      • savejimmyjohnsonsassforme - Oct 8, 2013 at 12:56 PM

        Good point, Kelly(good player, by the way)definitely held on longer, can we go glass-half-full and assume this was due to the back-7 stepping up the coverage?..lol.. Obviously I was pleased with the pass rush, but was equally impressed by the aggressive play against the run. I always like Nix when he doesn’t diagnose, but rather just barges into the backfield at the snap which can blow up a run or pass, this is certainly when he’s at his disruptive best, IMO.

    • wisner74 - Oct 8, 2013 at 12:53 PM

      Excellent post. I think the D-Line will improve quite a bit when Sheldon Day returns. Very good question re the depth at safety.

      • savejimmyjohnsonsassforme - Oct 8, 2013 at 1:14 PM

        Love Day’s motor, hopefully he’s 100% for SC. We moved an impressive athlete like Prosise to offense due to a glut of players at safety, yet we continue to see a minimum of kids in the rotation? Aside from Redfield, where’s Eilar Hardy, who judging by a few snippets from camp, had really stepped up his game? John Turner with the size to step into the box, but still cover where our MLB’s have trouble?

  12. savejimmyjohnsonsassforme - Oct 7, 2013 at 11:20 PM

    Darrin Walls is havin a real nice game for the J-E-T-S!

    • savejimmyjohnsonsassforme - Oct 8, 2013 at 12:52 PM

      Good point, Kelly(good player, by the way)definitely held on longer, can we go glass-half-full and assume this was due to the back-7 stepping up the coverage?..lol.. Obviously I was pleased with the pass rush, but was equally impressed by the aggressive play against the run. I always like Nix when he doesn’t diagnose, but rather just barges into the backfield at the snap which can blow up a run or pass, this is certainly when he’s at his disruptive best, IMO.

  13. getsome99 - Oct 7, 2013 at 11:39 PM

    Re: papadec,

    Oo-rah! Although the expression “get some!” originated from your era, it does mean something much different today. Due to the sensitivity nature of it’s origin, it’s probably not appropriate to discuss in an open forum such as this. I’ll just leave it at that.

    Parris Island or Camp Pendleton?

    • papadec - Oct 8, 2013 at 1:56 AM

      getsome – P I – not a Hollywood Marine. The label is pretty much what I thought it might be. Checked with a younger co-worker that was on active duty back around 2000 – he agreed.

    • danirish - Oct 8, 2013 at 9:57 AM

      I’ll always remember Parris – 1992!

      It was hot and the sand fleas ate me alive but march on Devil Dog!

      Still think you are full of it when you bust on Jimmy Clausen!

  14. rpbags - Oct 8, 2013 at 5:05 AM

    I think that people just need to relax a bit here. If you thought we were going to have another year like last year without EG then that is on you because the loss of EG has/will cost us 3 to 4 games. 9-3, 8-4 would really be a good year considering and knowing/hoping that EG is going to come back this year is enough hope for me to help me through the struggles of this year. I think Nix and Tuitt are not playing up to potential but who can blame them with millions on the line at the next level. GA0 needs to be moved to the slot or he needs to be behind Cam because he is the man and is our best back at hitting the hole and following his blocks, just my humble opinion of course. Get the younger guyes in there and i think next year we could really make another run at the title if all goes well. On to the little girls of U$C and Let’s Go Irish!

    • mediocrebob - Oct 8, 2013 at 5:31 AM

      I dont know about GA3 in the slot bc of his lack of…catching ability. But I think with Cam and maybe even Folston getting the bulk and GA3 as a change of pace like last year would make sense.

      • c4evr - Oct 8, 2013 at 11:00 AM

        rp -

        ‘hitting the holes’? What holes have you seen. Agree CM is the guttiest back we have and could use a little help from the O line in creating holes for him. Losing the battle at the line of scrimmage is ND’s main problem right now.

  15. loadofwash - Oct 8, 2013 at 7:59 AM

    FYI homers, ASU is only an avg PAC 12 team. Golly Gee bat man!

  16. getsome99 - Oct 8, 2013 at 8:40 AM

    Good morning and thanks for all the kind greetings. Just so we are clear, I didn’t comment on this blog seeking any of your approvals. I just want to see the active commenters here to do a better job representing the Notre Dame fan base.

    The trolls are watching you.

    GO IRISH!!!

    • c4evr - Oct 8, 2013 at 10:58 AM

      Getsome,

      They say every behavior is either an ‘act of love’ or a ‘call for love’… I’m guessing you fall on the ‘call for love’ side of the fence.

  17. mediocrebob - Oct 8, 2013 at 10:58 AM

    I don’t think anyone claimed ASU was anything more.

    You’re really reaching there, Load.
    I’ve missed you.

  18. oct1868 - Oct 10, 2013 at 4:48 PM

    I attended this game,and was afraid that asu would beat nd the way they did USC.I was surprised how long the opening drive took,and then asu had a quick 3 and out.I miss Golson but I am surprised sometimes at the big throws Tommy sometimes completes.The only complaint I have about this asu game is that fast touchdown asu scored at the end.

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