That being said, let’s get to the questions at hand in the new IBG. Our panelists each supplied a question to be answered in the aftermath of Notre Dame’s 28-21 loss to Pittsburgh. Once again, here’s our crew:
On to the questions. I’m very curious to your answers, especially my question to the rest of the panel, which I’ve listed below.
NDtex: Stephon Tuitt’s ejection for “targeting” (and I use that term very loosely) definitely added more frustration to an already horrid game. I’m all for promoting player safety, but I definitely don’t think this new rule is the way to go. Do you agree? If so, how would you change the rule? If you’d like to keep it, what are your reasons for leaving it alone?
The rule makes sense, but the application of the rule stinks. That Tuitt got flagged a week after officials mangled a sideline hit on Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds has to have Brian Kelly seeing purple.
As Tex said, everybody is for player safety. But I think the rule is a big step backwards, and puts another responsibility in the hands of officials that seem to struggle getting even the basics right.
Kelly isn’t the only one griping about the implementation of the rule.
Frank Vitovitch (UHND.com): After running the ball effectively in the first half, Notre Dame all but abandoned the run in the second half against Pitt even they didn’t trail at all until there was less than 9 minutes remaining in the contest. Is Notre Dame’s lack of a commitment to the running game this year as opposed to last the reason the Irish themselves right back where they were in 2011?
I don’t think it’s quite that simple, but I know more than a few people banging pots and pans claiming this to be the case. I think Kelly himself gave the best Cliff-notes version of this season yesterday when he said the following:
“We’re all accountable. Nobody here is looking for excuses. We’re looking for solutions. But the facts are the facts. We turned the ball over eight times in our three losses and we took it away once. In our seven wins, we turned it over five times and took it away seven times. In our three losses, we gave up passes of 64, 63 and 54-yards. In our seven wins, we gave up one 48-yard pass to Purdue. Those are facts.”
Do I think the Irish would benefit from running the football more? Yes. But I think there’s been an inefficiency in the ground game, whether that’s because of an entirely new depth chart at running back or a rebuilt offensive line, and it’s clearly been something the Irish staff hasn’t trusted like last season.
Aaron Horvath (Strong and True): With two games left before bowl season is at hand there is work at hand to finish off the season strong. What must the Irish do well on offense and defense over the last two games to give themselves a chance to get to 9-3?
Getting to 9-3 shouldn’t be the focus. Getting to 8-3 should. The nightmare scenario that nobody wants to address is a loss to BYU. That puts the Irish in a scenario where they’ve lost two straight games heading to Palo Alto, and the possibility of a four-game slide to conclude the season.
Offensively, balance and good decision making need to come first. If Tommy Rees completes just 45 percent of his passes, but doesn’t turn the football over, he’ll be doing well enough. Defensively, the front line needs to get and stay healthy. Expect to see as many snaps out of Stephon Tuitt, Louis Nix and Sheldon Day as possible. The back-ups are not just inexperienced, but also dinged up.
Mike Coffey (NDNation.com): There are only so many things you can do during the season to correct the larger issues on a team, as most time must be spent on the opponent du jour. Name one issue you hope is at the top of the coaching staff’s list for this off-season and why?
Red Zone solutions. The Irish need to get better in the red zone, and that’ll likely be as easy as plugging in Everett Golson, who’ll have the run threat on his side. People forget that it was Golson that led the Irish in rushing touchdowns last season. Add in some confidence that comes with knowing the offense better and spending a season as a student of football, and there’s every reason things should improve.
My runner up? The defensive front seven. Even assuming Stephon Tuitt is returning for his senior season, what this group looks like up front next year will be anyone’s guess. Will Tony Springmann be healthy enough to walk into the starting lineup at nose guard? Who takes over the inside linebacker position next to Jarrett Grace? Will the 3-4 be as effective without a monster like Louis Nix on the inside?
Finally, my question for everyone else to answer:
How much can you learn from one game? If you listen to some, the Irish’s loss to Pitt seems to have erased just about every bit of good that’s happened over the past four seasons. No doubt, the Pitt loss was one of the most disappointing of the Kelly era. But how do you personally measure the game and disappointment final score, and does it change the opinion you held of Brian Kelly at 7:59pm EST last Saturday?