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IBG: Air Force edition

Oct 24, 2013, 2:14 AM EDT


With USC in the rearview mirror and Air Force welcoming the Irish to Colorado Springs, let’s get to the IBG. As usual, play along in the comments and answer my questions there. (I’m especially interested this week, as I think questions one and two are tough asks.)

Check out our friends in the IBG as well as my answers over at

Her Loyal Sons
ND Nation
Strong and True

I had a chance to track down Notre Dame’s blogger-in-residence, Aaron Horvath, who writes over at Strong and True. Here are his answers.

1) There were some grumblings about the offensive struggles and the ugliness of the second half. But how do you judge the Irish win over USC?

You judge the the 14-10 Notre Dame win by simply saying, “a win is a win…” It’s that simple. Personally, I think there are many positives to take from this game.

First off, I actually liked what I saw in the first half from the Irish offense. Ran the ball solidly and threw the ball well with Rees. In the second half when the offense was non-existent, the defense stepped up.

So simply, as you saw last year, not every win can be pretty. Winning by one counts just as much as winning by 20 in the win-loss column.

2) After watching the heroics that came out of the defense last year, where do you place the defense did last weekend compared to the best of last season?

The defensive play last weekend was great, brought back memories of last season’s squad. What people don’t remember is in 2012, the defense allowed yards, just not points.

Allowing just over 160 points last year (40-some in one game), the 2012 defense was very stout on the scoreboard. Yet, they allowed 306 yards per game compared to 368 this season. With over 10 possessions each game, that means the squad allows just six yards per drive more per game. Yet the points per game allowed has raised from 12.8 in 2012, to 23.3 this season.

So… that doesn’t really answer the question. But this game really reminded me of last season’s BYU game. Offense sputtering, defense comes to the rescue by playing stout defense in a 17-14 win.

3) There are five games left in the regular season. Give me your most IMPORTANT players on both the offense and defense if the Irish are going to head to Palo Alto 9-2?

To head to Palo Alto at 9-2, the Irish defense MUST get production out of two key members; Stephon Tuitt and Jaylon Smith. I know these are cliché selections, but if you looks at Smith early in the season, he didn’t jump off the page at you. Yet in the last two games, when the defense began to make strides, he is right there flying around the ball. Additionally, the edges are usually where the games are won and lost against option teams and Notre Dame plays both Air Force and Navy in the next few weeks.

On the offensive side of the ball I look at right tackle Ronnie Stanley. I am confident in the line to prove enough protection for Rees in passing coverage, but the key to the spread style off-tackle runs that are consistently used in the Irish offense is the sealing of the defensive linemen on the edges. To be successful, the Irish need to develop a more consistent ground game as the year pushes into the cold-weather months.

  1. yaketyyacc - Oct 24, 2013 at 7:01 AM

    until Stanford, all we hear is how “easy” the remaining games will be. how the players can really stack up on the statistics. all this should pan out, as long as the Irish stay focused.
    I am encouraged with the defensive improvement to say hey, Stanford, you really want to play the Irish.
    an aside: yes, Alabama will win a third National Championship.

  2. jerseyshorendfan1 - Oct 24, 2013 at 7:28 AM

    It may sound fundamentally simple, but in order to win games, you not only need to put points on the board, you need to prevent your opponent from doing the same. The defense held up their part of the bargain last week and kept those points off the board when it counted (the SC field goal unit helped as well). They helped to win that game. I would compare the second half defense to the goal line stand against Stanford last year. The D knew that surrendering any points would be fatal to their season and they rose to the occasion just like last year. I commented during the live blog, while watching the second half unfold, that this game was the equivalent of watching a heavyweight fight where the boxer you were rooting for had a cut above his eye and you were watching the fight with your hand over your eyes waiting for the ref to call it or for the inevitable knock out punch to come. Well, the D might have been cut but they bobbed and weaved and delivered their own knockout blow to SC and helped to win the bout. It was an impressive performance. This week brings a new set of challenges, a mobile QB, which has been a problem for this D. Let’s hope they rise to the occasion again.

  3. irishwilliamsport - Oct 24, 2013 at 9:19 AM

    How about a convincing win one of these games. I don’t think the second half offense impressed any recruits attending the game.

    • mediocrebob - Oct 25, 2013 at 12:40 PM

      Recruits aren’t numb to the world. They know that Hendrix is essentially QB3. They also saw an offense before QB2 got hurt that was on pace for over 500 yards. Plus the Irish left points on the field in 1st half.

  4. 4horsemenrideagain - Oct 24, 2013 at 10:23 AM

    not the flashy MLB that Te’o was, nor one to rack up numbers with INT(s) or passes broken up, Calobrese has been pretty much a beast this year against the run. this may be blasphemy, but i see Carlo as a better MLB against the run than T’eo was. flowing straight downhill, taking on blockers and filling the hole is what that this kid was made to do. and even though his footspeed isn’t is greatest strength, he has made some great plays shooting the gap and getting to the ballcarrier, like the one in the first quarter against SC where he got Redd in the backfield.

    i think this saturday shapes up to be a nice day for carlo, and his people.

    • nducsb - Oct 24, 2013 at 12:11 PM

      love the last sentence there 4horsemen. Never mess with an Italian

      • 4horsemenrideagain - Oct 24, 2013 at 1:00 PM

        plenty of wisdom in that statement.

        hyman roth could have used that advice.

      • italianirish - Oct 24, 2013 at 1:54 PM

        “Never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line!”

      • nudeman - Oct 24, 2013 at 3:49 PM

        On the other hand, a name that ended in a vowel didn’t help Luca Brasi much.
        Still feel bad for him.

      • 4horsemenrideagain - Oct 24, 2013 at 4:14 PM

        poor luca. that damn turk was the problem. which makes me wonder, how does a turk know how to speak italian to michael in the restaurant?

      • nudeman - Oct 24, 2013 at 4:48 PM

        Don’t know, but he and that cop sure had their dinner ruined

  5. nudeman - Oct 24, 2013 at 12:07 PM

    A few thoughts after being buried at work this wk:

    1. Hendrix is not as bad as he looked last week and still could contribute. But he has an undeniable case of nerves when he plays. I remember in the Champs Bowl, early in the game on an otherwise unremarkable play where he kept it and ran (of course), and as he was going to the ground he was so hyper and out of control he fumbled without being hit and luckily fell right on it. That caught my eye and sadly it’s been his mantra ever since. Hope he plays this week, settles down and completes a few passes and feels better about himself.

    2. Post on another board from someone who seemed to know wtf he is talking about described a screaming match between Hendrix and BK at practice sometime this year. That stuff probably happens more than we realize, but this was apparently a screaming match on steroids; F bombs and lots of pent up venom coming from both sides. Easy to imagine AH is frustrated over not playing and BK is sick of seeing a kid with so much ability not develop. Apparently no love is lost there.

    3. I’d love to see the Irish have a dominant performance this week, but in no way do I want to see AF embarrassed 91-0 and see ND face a bullying lawsuit. Have close friends, husb & wife who are Academy grads (black ops, too; both of them) and I respect that institution immensely. They’re having a bad year. Hoping for something like 37-10, with ND running the ball the entire 4th qtr.

    4. A comfortable lead could give us a good look at some of the frosh we’ve been wanting to see more of; Onwaulu, Max, Fuller, Robinson, Folston. But IMO Zaire only plays under the most dire circumstances.

    5. Kim Kardashian is marrying that scowling punk Kanye. Over under on marriage length: 193 days.
    5b: I was always more of a Mary Ann (vs Ginger) guy.
    5c. Still reveling over being named Eddie Haskell by bern. An honor
    5d. Ted Cruz still thinks he has a chance.
    5e. Couple pirates just captured a couple Americans. I don’t think this will end well for the bucs.

    • ndadvocate - Oct 24, 2013 at 1:39 PM

      Nice post

    • ndgoldandblue - Oct 24, 2013 at 2:20 PM

      Nude, regarding your points one and two, if Kelly is sick of seeing a kid with so much ability not develop, then he must be in a constant state of illness with all his quarterbacks. I don’t want to pile on, but none of his quarterbacks at Notre Dame have developed. This goes back to the beginning of his tenure here with Crist. Pick any of the quarterbacks, and you’ll find a guy who didn’t improve or only improved minimally. If he thinks that’s all on the QBs and none of it is on him, then he’s deluded. Does he think he’s the unluckiest coach in all of college football, getting one quarterback after another that doesn’t get it?

      I’ve said it before, I just call it like I see it, and I won’t expect anything better out of Hendrix until he shows it on the field. The same thing goes for the rest of the quarterbacks. Just look back at Tommy’s freshman year. His USC game then was much like the Oklahoma game this year. Some good things, but mostly bad. Look at the Sun Bowl. Tommy played great, much like his first half performance against USC last week. Tommy has always been a box of chocolates–we never know what we’re going to get. Most of the time, he does a pretty good job, but the fact that his play isn’t any different now as opposed to then is maddening to me. Turnover Tommy still comes around every now and then…just like 2010.

      The counterpoint to my argument would be that Golson improved over the course of last year. Perhaps, he did improve, but he still made enough mistakes to get pulled against Pitt, the ninth game of the season. Then, in the spring game, he lead the offense to zero scores, and he threw a pick to boot. That doesn’t demonstrate improvement. Now, he’s out of the system for a year. If the guy’s only a little rusty at the beginning of the 2014 season, I’ll be surprised.

      Don’t get me wrong, I think BK’s a good coach. He’s carved himself out a niche at Notre Dame as coach who wins with defense, field position and opportunistic scoring. If that’s who he is for the rest of his tenure at Notre Dame, sign me up. Winning ugly is just as good as winning pretty in my book. That’s the guy we’ve got, not the guy known for developing quarterbacks and prolific offenses. I’ve made peace with that. But, unless his quarterback recruits show up to campus ready to immediately succeed at the college level, Kelly is going to feel the same sickness you talked about on a regular basis because these kids just aren’t getting it. The only one who has (Rees) has a football coach for a father, so he came in with an advantage.

      • nudeman - Oct 24, 2013 at 3:08 PM

        You make some good points, and this is a somewhat nuanced topic.
        Kelly seems like something of an acquired taste as a coach from a QB’s perspective. Maybe like Parcells or Ditka; an in your face, emotional leader who always tells you exactly where you stand, like it or not. Requires a thick hide and not everybody digs that.

        Parcells and Simms were good together because Simms would give it right back to him.
        Ditka and McMahon were good together for the same reason.
        But Tomczak never developed under Ditka, though part of the reason there was Tomczak might have been the dumbest guy ever to play QB in the NFL.

        Kelly’s style obviously hasn’t worked for Dayne Crist or Hendrix.
        Dayne was a little soft, I believe; Andrew is just too effing excitable and lacking in football smarts.

        As far as Rees goes, he seems OK with the tough love, and I disagree on one of your points:
        I actually there has been some improvement.
        But there will never be a quantum leap because he lacks the physical attributes.

        Had Golson not gotten kicked out, I feel like we’d have seen something close to a quantum step fwd this year, and after he shakes off the rust, I believe we’ll see it in 2014.
        As for Zaire and Kizer: TBD. I hope they’re tough kids.

        This just in: Mike Tomczak retired 10 years ago, but still … he just threw another pick.

      • wisner74 - Oct 24, 2013 at 6:04 PM

        I’m with Nude on this one. BK has done pretty well with the QB situations he’s been given, and those situations have been challenging. Weis left him with Crist, the heir-apparent, who just was lacking something, and three true freshman, TR, who has limited physical skills; Hendrix, who has different limitations; and Massa, who quickly dropped out of the QB derby altogether. And then BK got surprises from some of the players themselves — Golson gets suspended and Kiel leaves.

        I do think that Rees has improved, although he still has a real talent for throwing bad INTs at critical times. But I think you are underestimating the improvement Golson made during the course of last season, and what we would likely have seen from him this fall. I really was looking forward to the quantum leap Nude mentions, and I do hope we see it next fall.

    • 4horsemenrideagain - Oct 24, 2013 at 3:31 PM

      i saw that kanye says he doesn’t want a prenup because that’s just how real their love is.

      not that i care what he does with his money, but if doesn’t get a prenup, he might as well just take half and give it to his favorite charity, because as the saying goes “a fool and his money are soon parted.”

  6. alwayspositive11 - Oct 24, 2013 at 2:35 PM

    Did any of you guys see that photo of Cam McDaniel getting tackled in the USC game and his helmet came off? Wow! Talk about a handsome guy. Between him and Mathias Farley with his dimples we’ve got a really good looking team.

    • mediocrebob - Oct 25, 2013 at 12:48 PM

      (No homo)

  7. getsome99 - Oct 24, 2013 at 7:15 PM

    @ ndgoldandblue,

    You may not be giving Kelly enough credit with Golson. He was just a raw, 3 star athlete from a 3A school in South Carolina. And we saw how much his game improved in just one season from week 2 to the end of the season. Golson actually did come back in to the Pitt game (after a Rees pick) and scored the winning TD.

    As for Rees, another kid that wasn’t expected to play much when signing with ND. Maybe the growth has been minimal from the end of 2010 to now, but there was definitely improvement from the Michigan game to the Sun Bowl, so some credit has to go to Kelly there too I think.

    I agree Crist was a head scratcher. I just always believed that he never came back from his injury in 2009 as the same player. And the injury in 2010 just finished him off. Hendrix was just too far down the food chain. Although he took some snaps over the past couple seasons, he’s never really been higher than 3rd on the depth chart until this year and it happened very suddenly.

    Not making excuses for Kelly, but we’ll have a better idea on his QB genius when we see what happens with Zaire and Kizer.

    • ndgoldandblue - Oct 24, 2013 at 9:04 PM

      You guys make fair and intelligent points. You see? We CAN have civil discussions on this board without necessarily agreeing with each other. Maybe we’re all turning a corner.

      • kapnd73 - Oct 26, 2013 at 12:53 PM

        Agreed. I especially like Nude’s newly-nuanced diplomacy. (Try saying that 3x quickly!)
        Civil discussions are a good thing.

        Go Irish!!

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