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The good, the bad and the ugly: Notre Dame vs. Stanford

Dec 2, 2013, 3:35 AM EDT

Shayne Skov, Tommy Rees AP

Ultimately, TJ Jones said everything that was needed after the Irish’s 27-20 loss, putting into context the 8-4 season the Irish just completed.

“You’re not great. You’re not terrible,” Jones said of the 8-4 record. “Little better than average, I guess you can say.”

Notre Dame was game for most of the evening against Stanford, but was unable to cash in early chances or make a play down the stretch when it was needed. And as Stanford has done over the past few years, the Cardinal leaned on a power running game and a suffocating defense, daring the Irish to beat them in the fourth quarter.

The Irish couldn’t.

Let’s take a look at the good, the bad and the ugly from Notre Dame’s 27-20 loss to Stanford.

THE GOOD

Hanging Tough. Brian Kelly won’t take moral victories, but I’m inclined to give them one for Saturday night. As I tweeted mid-game, Notre Dame fans needed to remember the moment, because this was exactly what it feels like to be an undermanned team hanging around with a superior opponents.

Offensive line play. Losing Chris Watt could have killed the Irish. Yet just like the week before, the next man in did a very good job. With an interior of Conor Hanratty, Matt Hegarty and Steve Elmer, the Irish did a great good job protecting the quarterback, holding Stanford to just one sack.

Running the ball was a different story, but even against one of the top run defenses in the country, Cam McDaniel and Tarean Folston averaged a not terrible 3.7 yards a carry on their 18 touches.

Dan Fox. Gutty performance by the fifth-year senior, who made 15 tackles from his middle linebacker position. Fox started the season banged up, lost his job to Jarrett Grace, then finished the season playing the best football of his career.

Austin Collinsworth. Watching the senior safety get steamrolled in the backfield might solidify the opinion that he’s not physically impressive enough to be anything more than a role player, but 11 tackles and an interception is a nice day at the office.

Collinsworth gave it his all and played the best game of his career.

Matthias Farley. He’s been the whipping boy a bit lately, but outside of one bad missed tackle, Farley brought his lunch box to work on Saturday night and played a solid game as well.

Zack Martin. He might not end up being a first round draft pick, but some team is going to be very happy when they take Martin in next year’s NFL Draft.

You’ve got to scroll WAAAAY down the box score to find Stanford All-American Trent Murphy’s name, with the nation’s leading sacker held to just two tackles.

Just as important as his play on the field has been, Martin has been an anchor both on and off the field for the Irish.

Go ahead and talk about Taylor Lewan as one of the top tackles in the draft. I’d make the argument for Martin, and don’t think I’d have a hard time backing it up with game tape.

Quick Takes:

* Great interception by Bennett Jackson. Picture perfect technique and a clutch play. It’s good to see Jackson finish on a high note, making a play that evaded him earlier in the year.

Tarean Folston looked the part. Next year’s running back depth chart will be tons of fun.

Both James Onwualu and Corey Robinson ended up in the box score. But what makes Onwualu so interesting is that he made a big special teams tackle as well as a clutch reception.

Thinking back to some conversations I’ve had with Onwualu’s high school coach Mike Scanlon, Scanlon always thought James could succeed as a jumbo safety. Looking at the profile of Irish recruit Drue Tranquill, could you put 20 pounds on Onwualu and turn him into a sideline-to-sideline linebacker, like the staff will try to do with Tranquill?

Or is Onwualu too good of an offensive player?

Notre Dame has a weapon in Kyle Brindza. Expect some awards attention for Brindza next season.

THE BAD

Late Interceptions. I was told pregame by someone that would know that nearly 80% of the offensive game plan was put on Tommy Rees’ shoulders, relying on Rees to get the Irish in the right play against Derek Mason’s tough Stanford defense.

Kelly echoed that in his postgame comments, calling Rees’ work presnap masterful.

Unfortunately, when you throw two interceptions in the fourth quarter, nobody remembers your excellent game management for the other three quarters.

Rees had quietly put together a good game against the Cardinal defense, sitting at 14 of 28 with 2 touchdown passes and no turnovers at one point. But with the game on the line, Rees completed just 2 of his final six throws, with two of those misses going to Wayne Lyons.

Stopping the tight end. I’m not sure Devon Cajuste is technically a tight end, but the Irish were done in by Cajuste and tight end Davis Dudchock, who teams for 6 catches and 99 yards on Saturday, the lions share of the Stanford passing game.

With the Irish selling out to hold up against the run, the Irish were vulnerable against the pass, and even in a season where Stanford’s tight ends all but disappeared, they came back and killed Notre Dame on Saturday.

Red Zone offense. Want to get it done against Stanford? You’ve gotta get 7 instead of 3. The Irish weren’t able to cash in their first two appearances in the red zone, settling for Kyle Brindza field goals before cashing in touchdowns to TJ Jones and DaVaris Daniels.

Too little, too late.

Third Down defense. Stanford converted 8 of 13 third downs, moving the chains far too effectively, and doing it a few times on some critical draw plays.

I’ve read some criticism today by fans picking on Bob Diaco’s scheme, but it’s hard to take that too seriously when you look at the personnel the Irish were playing on defense, especially with the heart of the unit — the team’s depth — all but gutted.

Rush Offense. It’s hard to be too tough on an offensive line featuring four first-year players, but establishing a ground game in the red zone would’ve been helpful. Getting just 64 yards on 24 carries isn’t good enough.

Critical Decisions. It’s impossible for us to know the progressions of Rees’ reads during the fourth quarter. But the idea to target two first-year receivers with the game on the line isn’t the best.

Throwing the deep ball to Will Fuller isn’t a bad decision. He’s the team’s best home run threat and has shown himself to have great ball skills. But that redshirt freshman CJ Prosise was the intended target running up the seam, and that Prosise was allowed to get bodied off his route, isn’t good. That Rees was so quick to pull the trigger to Prosise also doesn’t make much sense.

With the game on the line, Notre Dame targeted receivers that have caught 11 balls. No, I don’t necessarily think they were the primary read.

But that’s not the way I want to go down.

THE UGLY

The Missed Opportunities. It’s too simplistic and narrow-minded to call this season a lost year. But it’s hard not to think about what the Irish could have been, especially when you think about this team playing with Everett Golson, a full-strength defensive line, and a better idea of the team’s offensive and defensive identities.

The work Notre Dame does from now until the bowl game will be crucial towards building to spring practice, where the Irish will need to develop some key leaders. Don’t expect much from Everett Golson, he won’t be allowed to start practicing until December 20. Depending on the bowl game, that could be just days before the Irish play.

Notre Dame will say goodbye to three captains. They’ll also miss the leader of the offense in Tommy Rees, Danny Spond, a guy who would’ve likely worn a C if he didn’t go down for the year, and key starters like Chris Watt, Dan Fox and Carlo Calabrese.

The roster returns plenty of talent, but leaders will need to emerge quickly– and if that’s Stephon Tuitt (or Louis Nix), the Irish coaching staff will be very happy.

 

 

  1. viktory2013 - Dec 2, 2013 at 5:14 AM

    The team will do just fine next year, thank you very much. Most of the graduation losses will be mediocre seniors that will never see an NFL game unless they buy a ticket.

    That being said, most of the energy/effort/talent came from the rookies: Jaylon Smith, Taurean Folston, Will Fuller, Corey Robinson, Romeo Okwara, Jarron Jones, James Onawaulu…with Tuitt, Day, Niklas,
    Brindza, Daniels AND Golson running the show, 8-4 will be a bad memory.

    This team has enormous potential and excellent talent, lacking only a couple leaders to pull it all together. Have a feeling Golson, Smith, and Tuitt will fit that role. And the running attack will be a different animal with a dynamic, dangerous quarterback; no longer will defenses load the box with 8 or 9, knowing they need only shut down the setback to put the offense in jail.

    This season is now in the rear view mirror, so no point in rehashing the gruesome details. We’ll see how these knuckleheads from Michigan and Stanford will be next year at South Bend when they actually have to worry on both sides of the ball.

    • wisner74 - Dec 2, 2013 at 8:03 PM

      Sounds good to me, but I think you’re going to have to change your name to “viktory2014.”

  2. domer77blowsgoats - Dec 2, 2013 at 7:33 AM

    The GREAT: only one more game with TR = 99% reduction in Nudeman posts!!

    • bernhtp - Dec 2, 2013 at 8:40 AM

      If you think that the departure of Tommy will mean a 99% reduction in Nude’s posts here, you’ve obviously learned nothing in your time on the planet.

      There are so many other questions to ponder and upon which to pontificate:

      1. Will Tommy take a job in corporate America or stay in football, e.g., get a GA position?
      2. Will Gunner Kiel fulfill his 5-star potential or become the Kansas-Crist at UC?
      3. Will Golson focus on the signals he gets from the Irish sideline or sneak a peak at the other side in an attempt to steal defensive signals.

      This is just the start of a very long list where Nude and others will put their best efforts into solving.

      • goirishgo - Dec 2, 2013 at 1:24 PM

        So if Kiel fulfills his potential and has a great career at UC then he will be the anti-Crist?

        Sorry, couldn’t help myself…..

      • wisner74 - Dec 2, 2013 at 8:04 PM

        Excellent post, Bern.

  3. upthera44 - Dec 2, 2013 at 9:53 AM

    Has Golson been officially re-admitted yet?

    • NotreDan - Dec 2, 2013 at 11:03 AM

      Yes

      • danirish - Dec 2, 2013 at 12:03 PM

        He has? Thought it was to be decided December 12th or something! This is good news!

      • dsharp86 - Dec 2, 2013 at 1:33 PM

        Unless you work in the admissions department at ND not sure where you’re getting this info from.

      • dillon77 - Dec 3, 2013 at 9:33 AM

        From the ND Admission Office’s Website:

        “Spring semester re-admissions applicants usually will be notified between December 1 and January 15. Please note that notification dates are subject to extensions at the Committee’s discretion.”

  4. onward2victory - Dec 2, 2013 at 10:44 AM

    I love the idea of moving Onwualu to linebacker. I’m proud to say I suggested this in a mailbag earlier this year (I think after the OK game). But the kid seems to play the game with a passion that the defense seemed to lack most of the season, and I think he would be physically capable to be a really good LB if he puts on 20 lbs.

    On the same note, I would be curious to see an offensive lineman get switched to NG next year if we don’t get Holly or Elam. With all these highly rated athletic OL recruits, I would think that a couple of them could project to be a solid DLman.

  5. dudeacow - Dec 2, 2013 at 10:51 AM

    “(or Louis Nix)”

    Optimism, Keith.

    You has it.

  6. NotreDan - Dec 2, 2013 at 11:13 AM

    I’m not sure exactly what to say. This year has certainly been interesting.

    The part I find funny (strictly speaking as a fan) is that even the wins didn’t feel that great; or maybe they did we just had stinky losses sprinkled in so the joy didn’t last.

    It’s nobody’s fault that EG cheated (other than EG); Gunner was too much of a baby to hack it (although I doubt he would have seen playing time anyway); and that injuries decimated the Defense.

    I know Tommy tried his best, but his best just wasn’t good enough. Honestly speaking; I wish the young man all the best, but I am sincerely happy we will get a look at a different QB next year. I realize that things COULD have been worse, and who knows, maybe EG, MZ or whoever starts next year might be worse, but I highly doubt it.

    I spoke many times this year about my perception of the deficiency of scheme related to personnel, but I think BK and CM sort of figured that out by about game 10.

    My bottom line is that the nucleus of this team will be stronger next year, and the skill positions will be about 100% better.

    • jerseyshorendfan1 - Dec 2, 2013 at 11:33 AM

      I was going to post something but you really summed up my thoughts pretty well, nice post.

    • danirish - Dec 2, 2013 at 11:43 AM

      Great post except Kiel, if he really is a 5 star then I think he would have had some playing time. Things at the qb position would have been very interesting. Kiel messed up bug time being a baby as you said.

      But, that is, as they say, that…

      • NotreDan - Dec 2, 2013 at 2:47 PM

        My point, in your context then, is Kiel is not a 5 star. Guts play a part in performance, and I don’t think he showed any. Never met him, but what we all saw in his recruitment and departure speaks volumes.

      • wisner74 - Dec 2, 2013 at 8:08 PM

        Kiel, as we have seen with some other kids like Eddie V., needed better adult supervision than he got. These are teen-age kids afterall. He did make an enormous mistake, but where were his parents, his coach, etc.?

      • rayguy14 - Dec 2, 2013 at 9:19 PM

        Not convinced (yet) that Kiel is just a baby…that may be a little simplistic. Could it be that as the #1 QB in the nation according to Rivals, and after running the scout team as a frosh, that to come out in the spring and be 4th (by all accounts) on a depth-chart featuring Ghouldstein, Rees, Hendrix in front of him, he might have thought, “to hell with this.” We know Rees very well…we’ve also seen more than enough of Hendrix. Now either Kiel was desperately overrated or he may have had good reason to want out thinking Kelly was out of his damn mind putting both of those guys ahead of him. If he pans out at UC, Kelly deserves some blame for his transfer, IMHO. Kelly’s burying of hyper-talented freshman at both QB and RB these past couple seasons has been baffling. Cam McDaniel is the guy you want to be the “next man in,” not the workhorse of the backfield.

      • tpdsdomer - Dec 3, 2013 at 5:35 PM

        Why are we still so interested in talking about Kiel? He chose to leave and I say let him be gone, and let’s focus on what we have moving forward. That being said, I’m really worried about putting the future of this team in Golson’s hands again, and the concerns I have are all about trust and character. Can he be trusted to lead this team on and off the field, and does he have the character to return to campus and become a true Notre Dame student-athlete? I know nobody, including yours truly, wants to think of these things, and I’m truly hoping that EG realizes the opportunity he has to redeem himself is something to cherish and take full advantage of. While I wish him all the best, I’m also anxious to see Malik Zaire play if EG is unable to for whatever reason. GO IRISH!

    • ndgoldandblue - Dec 2, 2013 at 11:50 AM

      I only have two worries about next season: 1) The defense, and believe it or not 2) The quarterback position. It’s actually quite amazing how the defense could have such a large drop-off after losing three players. Those three (Te’o, Motta, and Kap) must have been tremendous leaders. I know that the defense had to deal with a lot of injuries, but many of the starters from last year returned and played the entire season. Those returning starters played more poorly this season. Is it leadership? Maybe, who knows.

      I’m not as night-and-day as some folks are regarding Golson’s return. A lot of people think Golson is the missing key to a great offense. They could be right, but I’m not hedging my bets on it. A year is a long time for a quarterback to take off from actual game experience. If he’s actually improved from 2012 and not at all rusty, I’ll be positively surprised.

      • danirish - Dec 2, 2013 at 12:10 PM

        I’m with you on Golsen but the ceiling is very high. Also, the fact that he spent the time with a “qb guru” is very nice, I hope mechanics are fixed and ready to go.

  7. danirish - Dec 2, 2013 at 11:40 AM

    Good:
    Funny enough one of the goods IMHO was our weaknesses are out in the open and hopefully will be fixed
    Another, and one that is exciting is that we have some talent that will be around for awhile

    Bad:
    The season is over, one more game and then a long winter of nothing until the Spring game. What a void of nothing!

    Ugly:
    As with the good, the weaknesses are out for all to see, let’s hope they are fixed.

    I predict a great year next year (not that my predictions mean anything)

    Onward to the bowl game! Win the bowl game!

    Next year will be a fine year!

    GO IRISH!

    • papadec - Dec 2, 2013 at 7:54 PM

      OK dan – I haven’t ripped up my 2013 ND National Championship Vegas wager ticket yet – I’ll wait for their Bowl game result. But, you just convinced me to put at least $50 on them for the 2014 run to the title. GO IRISH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • wisner74 - Dec 2, 2013 at 8:16 PM

      Well, Dan, we can also look for the Irish hoopsters to get better and better. Brey is a good coach, and he seems to be emphasizing defense and rebounding more than he used to. Also, with the long-overdue facilities upgrades recruiting has gotten better in recent years. I think that the Irish are going to be more than a respectable participant in ACC basketball. I’m not saying national championship, but the team has consistently done quite well and seems to have plenty of upside from here.

      But, if they disappoint, there are always the women. Muffet is probably the best coach on campus.

      I know this site is focused on football, but hey, let’s take what we can get.

  8. oldschoollyons - Dec 2, 2013 at 12:30 PM

    There is no point in imagining what ND could have been this year with Golson. It was never in the cards for him to quarterback ND this season. From the day he stepped on campus, according to Kelly, Golson was overwhelmed by the academic side of being a student at Notre Dame. We all remember his “after class conference” with a professor that led to his being withheld from a series in the next game. Kelly also told us that Golson wasn’t ready to play against Michigan and had to be pulled in the first half because he couldn’t cope with having midterms that week.

    Clearly Golson was scrambling to keep up from the very start. He probably cheated because he felt desperate and thought that was the only way he could get by. It would be naive to assume that he got caught the first time he cheated. (With criminals, you figure about ten crimes to one arrest.) His cheating was so egregious that the University felt that placing him on academic probation or even suspending him would not be sufficient punishment for what he did. Only expulsion fit the type and extent of his cheating.

    In any case, it is far from clear that Golson would have done as well as Tommy Rees this year. Rees has 27 touchdown passes,13 interceptions and no fumbles. Golson last year had 12 touchdown passes, six interceptions and six lost fumbles, plus more fumbles that the other team didn’t recover. Kelly also said that last year Golson often ran plays into the teeth of the defense because he couldn’t change a play — not once — at the line of scrimmmage no matter what the opposition did. But he was a running and dancing quarterback, wasn’t he? Sure, he ran for an average of almost 25 yards per game last year. That’s worth repeating: Under 25 yards per game.

    So based on last year’s performance, it is highly unlikely that Golson would have done better — or even as well as — Tommy Rees did this year. In any event, Golson wasn’t around. He let the team and the school down. No use to dream about him at all.

    • mtndguy - Dec 2, 2013 at 2:16 PM

      I must say though, that even though he only averaged 25 yards a game, that’s not a measure of his scrambling ability. I believe that Rees’ downfall is really his inability to scramble and then throw the ball. Golson showed this ability last year with a lesser offensive line than Rees had this year. I believe this is Golson’s real strength. If he can develop the ability to read defenses and make some adjustments at the line, combined with his ability to keep plays alive, we should see improved play at the QB position next year.

    • jkr12 - Dec 2, 2013 at 3:05 PM

      You make some valid points but watching Tommy throw on the run was downright painful and his accuracy when he moves is basically nonexistent. As mtndguy pointed out Golson made a lot of plays with his feet, kept plays alive, and also the read option in the 1 back set actually holds a dual threat to the defense when the quarterback can actually move.

      This team doesn’t lose to Michigan and doesn’t lose to Pitt if Golson plays. Oklahoma and Stanford are toss-ups.

    • wisner74 - Dec 2, 2013 at 8:27 PM

      Hey Lyons. You still smoking that weed? When I was on campus – ’70-’74 – you guys were the biggest druggies on campus. You could smell the dope 100 yards away.

      That said, I can’t agree with you. You didn’t see dramatic improvement in EG over the course of last season? I sure did. If not, why in the world would he have take every snap in the NC game? I was at Soldier Field last year when he embarrassed Miami.

      Certainly, he didn’t catch-on as quickly as Rees, but by the end of last year the kid had it down. He may not be as quick as TR regarding these things, but he’s not an idiout. Which is why the cheating thing is so frustrating. Much better arm than TR, much, much better wheels. And the light bulb eventually went on. Then, boom. Catastrophe.

      Nudeman will tell you that I love Rees. I do. But no way would he have been the better option if EG had been available this season.

  9. returnofdamac - Dec 2, 2013 at 12:49 PM

    14 of 28 is NOT “quietly putting together a good game”.

    • irish4006 - Dec 4, 2013 at 2:17 PM

      In KA’s book, the answer is, “it depends”. If the QB in question is Tommy Rees, if he dresses up, it is a good game. With that out of the way, keep up the great work, Keith! Please let the TR saga end with 2013 and not bring him up (and mention how great it would have been with Rees) every time the QB gets sacked or supposedly misreads an opponent. Reading the defense means squat if you can’t execute on the read.

  10. brendanfitzgibbons - Dec 2, 2013 at 1:18 PM

    I love it how you say there is no point in imagining how Golson would have done this year and spend the next three paragraphs explaining how he would have done this year.

    Also, youre right, if only Golson had the moral courage of Tommy Rees and punched a cop because he was really drunk because thats definitely not letting the university down, I mean its a just cop right? The outrage of EG’s cheating is so overblown on this board. NOBODY cared when Michael Floyd got 3 drinking citations including a DUI. I have way more sympathy for somebody who legitimately struggles in the classroom at a tough school like ND.

    Tommy Rees had at least 40 turnovers in his career. FORTY. In really only 2.5 years of actually starting at QB at ND. His turnovers single handedly cost ND at least three games this year and thats not “guessing” how he would have done. that is what he did. And if youre going to count the fumbles golson lost and ND recovered lets count the amount of INT the other teams dropped and should have caught against Rees because that number this year alone is about 8-10 more, including three in the Stanford game.

    NO ONE including Keith has any idea how accurate Rees’ audibles actually were this year without actually looking at the video of offensive calls versus defense schemes.

    There is so much to be hopeful for at ND and number one on the list is a fresh start at quarterback. Whoever that will be is an incredible improvement over the Rees years. Also since when is ND slogan “Notre Dame football: they are doing their best” or “Notre Dame football: we are who we thought we are?” Since when is that the standard at QB at Notre Dame? Can you imagine Lou Holtz ever saying, “Well he’s doing his best.”

    Someone mentioned this earlier and I couldnt agree more people constantly rip Bennett Jackson, Matthias Farley, Carlo and never say “well they’re doing their best” and those guys were all 3 star athletes just like Tommy. Also people rarely mentions how incredible ND’s offensive line was this year. I think it was the best since the Holtz giving Rees all day to throw.

    I love the way the defense played in the second half and I have to respectively disagree with whoever said they dont like Diaco, I think with the injuries that unit faced, they played with a lot of heart, albeit a little too inconsistent. I think him and Harry Hiestand are the two best coaches on this staff. And I think next year’s offense is going to be incredible.

    • viktory2013 - Dec 2, 2013 at 3:19 PM

      Absolutely and amen, sir. The quarterback position has been a millstone around the neck of the team for 3 years out of 4, and the one year there was a different qb we played for the championship. What does tell you? Common sense here, no coaching expertise needed.

      I believe Diaco is bright and energetic but lacked a leader like Teo this year to pull the defense together.
      All it takes are a few clutzy seniors like Rees, Jackson, and Calabrese to reduce the team to mediocrity.

      Kelly and Disco proved last year with virtually the same personnel what they could accomplish, and this year basically undone by a couple of key individuals.
      I understand ND’s moral integrity in the Golson issue, but I think the punishment was ridiculous. After all, Rees actually committed a crime and was only slapped on the wrist. And Hiestand and the line deserves accolades also for keeping Rees virtually untouched all season. Could you imagine his stats if he’d been constantly pressured, when even rolling out two steps threw him completely off?? That they couldn’t block 8 or 9 packed into the box because defenses didn’t respect Rees is not the fault of the line. That they and the defense got battered with injuries was not the fault of Disco and Hiestand; look what injuries did to Georgia and Florida. Problem was the wrong people were injured.

      It would benefit the frosh and sophs on the team to finish with a win and get the 8-4 taste out of their mouths, especially someplace pleasant like San Diego or Hawaii; ND can afford it.

      I don’t think any coaching changes are needed: the problems of this particular team will be resolved with graduation.

      • whiskeystraight - Dec 2, 2013 at 5:04 PM

        Have you considered that maybe Golson had been caught cheating before? Kelly mentioned during 2011 how EG had academic issues that were serious enough to keep him from playing. Maybe he was already on academic probation. An academic dean decided that he needed to spend a semester away from school to reflect on his actions. Remember he was kicked out of school, Kelly didn’t suspend him.

        The difference is that academic issues are not handled by Res Life or coaches. I’m sure BK would have pulled any strings he could grab. Tommy Rees and Michael Floyd’s arrests were not academically related. They were handled by other entities.

    • jkr12 - Dec 2, 2013 at 3:52 PM

      My own take:

      The Good: It’s been beat to death but the defense bearing down, particularly late in the second half. No Nix, Hardy, Shumate, etc. and seeing Okwara and Jones coming on was very encouraging. Two big stops on downs by the D to give the offense a chance (and we all know what happened) but all you can ask for is an opportunity and the D provided it there. I’ve never been as down on Calabrese and Fox as a lot of posters here. They stuff the run and both of them played a great game against the nerds. Big plays from Collinsworth and Jackson as well on the INTs. (Side note IMO and after watching him play live against USC where he gave the game away, Hogan is vastly overrated and really not a very good QB-ND missed nothing in him not coming onboard)

      The bad: Lack of a sustained running game. Kelly and Martin’s overall offensive game plan. Still want to see more screens, more throws to Niklas, more creativity, and no fn’ 5 wide sets.

      The ugly: Tommy’s INTs. No way around it. I find it hard to believe he simply “couldn’t” make that throw to Fuller. He didn’t step into it and he’s made throws farther in length.

    • ndfenian - Dec 2, 2013 at 7:34 PM

      “I think him and Harry Hiestand are the two best coaches on this staff”.

      What?? You made some good points, but then this happened. How can our offensive line coach be great when the offense is averaging 149 yards per game, for 82nd in the nation?! You keep quoting Holtz.. How would Holtz make an excuse for that? He wouldn’t, he would fire the coordinator! I realize they run different systems and I am not necessarily suggesting they fire anybody, but the lack of a running game critically hampered this team. We can lament Golson’s absence all we want, but if we had a running game like Stanford’s this year we would have scored more in the red zone (a difficulty in 2012 also), the defense probably would’ve looked better, and we win two more games.

      The problem is this, and here is the red flag: ND tried to establish the run game this year. The pistol formation, two tight-ends, Rees under center, multiple backs etc. It just wasn’t there consistently. Pundits kept describing ND 2013 as a power football team, which just showed that they didn’t do much research.

      I do look forward to Golson returning next year, but I see a major red flag in our rushing ineptitude. That starts up front!

      • ndirish32 - Dec 2, 2013 at 9:28 PM

        They tried to establish the running game? When was that? I never missed a snap but I never really saw where they made a commitment to running the football. Heck in one game where they led most of the 2nd half they ran the ball SIX fricking times!!! God forbid they keep the clock moving and try to win the game! They wanted to make sure turnover Tommy kept having plenty of chances to stop the clock with incomplete passes. And they lost that game I might add.

      • getsome99 - Dec 3, 2013 at 1:54 AM

        4.5 yards per carry. Good for #53 in the country. Without a true #1 back for most of the season no less.

        9 sacks allowed. Good for #5 in the country. 9 sacks allowed with a very immobile quarterback and a revamped O-Line from 2012 that battled through multiple injuries all year.

        I would say the o-line coaching has been pretty good.

      • ndfenian - Dec 4, 2013 at 6:19 PM

        Look, Kelly was too pass-happy this year. The offense was too Rees-centric, when it should have been run-centric, and play-action. But I remember watching these games, Purdue and Michigan come to mind right off the bat, and thinking, the running game is just not there, and it wasn’t. There just wasn’t the kind of offensive line push that we saw Stanford have. Our backs were being tackled at or behind the line of scrimmage. Stanford’s backs were often not being touched until eight, nine yards.

        This is a big issue, because if we all think back to the beginning of the year, I think most of us felt that in order to have a successful season, ND was going to need to run the ball well. Most of us were very confident in our “stable” of running backs, remember that? You read these national publications, Street and Smith etc, and they always rave about the talent and size of our offensive linemen. And the best we can do is 150 yards per game? Sorry, the 4.5 yard average doesn’t tell the story.

        Again, things *should be better next year with Golson. His running ability, his threat to run, his live arm, keeping the safeties at bay, etc. These linemen that were freshmen this year were one hell of a recruiting haul. Hiestand’s unit should look better next year, but to rave about their performance this year is a joke.

      • irishpuma - Dec 5, 2013 at 3:03 AM

        come on get a clue the O line was amazing giving TR all day to throw picks and that we could average 4.5 on the ground with 8-12 players in the box due to TR’s limitations is amazing. Again the defense was different because they were on the field the whole game due to our ineffective pass first offense.

        Stanford game we rush 24 times to their 54 times….do the math….BK has shown one thing clearly he refuses to pound the run game when it is not there after a few plays and more puzzling when the run game is there we still go away from it???????????

      • ndfenian - Dec 5, 2013 at 7:16 PM

        Well, however we want to slice and dice it, the running game was a major disappointment this year. It must improve dramatically next year. It’s no coincidence that the best season we have had in a generation, 2012, was also a high-water mark for the running game since the Holtz era. I just don’t think can do the spread offense like Oregon does, with track stars running all over the field. We don’t recruit enough of that kind of athlete. Our spread offense going forward should play to our strengths.. be more multiple to incorporate the power run. Going forward, we have a stable of very talented offensive linemen, we seem to always produce NFL-caliber tight ends, and that certainly looks to be the case with Koyack and Niklas, both of whom can block as well. I would love to see Golson in a spread formation on one play, and under center with two-tight on the next. The important thing to remember also is how much the 2012 offense struggled in the red zone. Certainly having a dominant running game will help in 2014.

    • irishdrg1 - Dec 3, 2013 at 10:23 AM

      I was at the first game, and thought the same thing (yes Temple) but offense was FINALLY going to click, those first 2 drives were the best of the season. Amir was going to blow up this year, but he fumbled and was stuck in the doghouse forever. Tommy could never do anything to ever see that dog house. Wondering why we need OC when we could have cut down on delay of game if we just let Tommy call all plays ( insted of 75%) from the line. Whe do we seem to take the foot off the gas when we get a lead against lesser opponents???? Whey play such a bend but don’t break defense????? Let this group of guys GO to the Football.

  11. irishaggie - Dec 2, 2013 at 3:37 PM

    USC just announced Steve Sarkisian will be their new coach. He brought back Washington football after Willingham buried it just like ND and I think he’s the right guy for SC. Should be some great showdowns to come when the Irish and SC meet up.

    • papadec - Dec 2, 2013 at 8:05 PM

      Not to mention when UWash & usc play – Steve was well liked up here in the Seattle area. It’s going to be difficult to hate him as a usc coach – he’s a decent guy. It looks like Pat Haden is serious about cleaning up the sc program.

    • wisner74 - Dec 2, 2013 at 8:37 PM

      Ugh. Bad news. I was hoping they’d keep Orgeron. A long winning streak against USC would’ve been nice. Crap!

  12. somebadhatharry - Dec 2, 2013 at 4:20 PM

    Just a couple thoughts I had:
    The Good: Oline play in pass protection all year has been impressive. As hard as I’ve been on him, Bennett Jackson played the best game of his career.

    The bad: Farley’s missed tackle on the touchdown run in the third quarter. I have no clue what or who he was trying to tackle. It looked like he got scared and fell to the ground.

    The ugly: TR. The INTS, the numerous breakdown in communication between him and the WRS. I watch alot of college football and I have never seen another team whose QBWR on different pages as much as ours. Tommy wasting timeouts and rushing to snap the ball after audibling and reaudibling. All opposing defenses have to do is show blitz to get Tommy frantically checking out of the play that’s called. And finally, consistently trucking to throw a deep ball off of your back foot. Even on Daniels’ touchdown catch, he was under thrown and had to stop his route.

    Disappointed there’s only one game left, but thankful there’s only one game left.

    • somebadhatharry - Dec 2, 2013 at 4:21 PM

      *trying* not trucking

      • wisner74 - Dec 2, 2013 at 8:40 PM

        So nominate a better starting QB for this season, Harry? Hendrix? A true freshman? Rees is probably as good of a second-team QB as you could ever hope for.

      • somebadhatharry - Dec 2, 2013 at 9:19 PM

        So we aren’t allowed to criticize Tommy’s play because he’s our best option? Hendrix showed he’s not capable is the USC game. We never got to see Zaire because Kelly wanted to preserve his redshirt. He may have been the best we had, doesn’t mean we have to be happy about it.

      • irishdrg1 - Dec 3, 2013 at 10:29 AM

        PLEASE tell why not play Malik, he played EG as a fr.

      • dbldmr - Dec 3, 2013 at 11:26 AM

        Golson was a redshirt freshman…sigh. Zaire had mono and was a true freshman. That’s why he didn’t play.

  13. jem5b - Dec 2, 2013 at 4:31 PM

    Eilar Hardy & Welch have decided to transfer out, according to one of the ND sites.
    ND is in a much better position for success for the first time since “sweet Lou’s” reign.

    • somebadhatharry - Dec 2, 2013 at 4:42 PM

      Isn’t hardy a junior? Would be an odd time to decide to transfer, especially since he got a lot of reps this year. If it’s true, wonder if it’s got something to do with him not traveling Saturday.

    • jkr12 - Dec 2, 2013 at 5:31 PM

      What site did you get this from?

    • brothertrip - Dec 2, 2013 at 6:02 PM

      Its a Fan rumor report, its also Lo Wood and Alex Welch, not Hardy.

      So take that for what it is

      • brothertrip - Dec 2, 2013 at 6:09 PM

        also did just see it on irish illustrated

  14. ndirish10 - Dec 2, 2013 at 4:40 PM

    Hey gang, usc Interim Coach Orgeron, is now Former usc Interim Coach Orgeron. Hell of a recruiter, per various sources. CBK, how bout getting him on staff. I hear that players would run through walls, walk on hot coals for this guy. Would probably keep some of those decommitments committed in future recruiting wars. Could probably lend Diaco a helping hand too. Just saying…

    note: I know CBK doesn’t read any of this, we are just noise to him, if that…

    • brothertrip - Dec 2, 2013 at 6:05 PM

      Im pretty sure even for this to happen there would have to be a departure from the staff as it is now, and I don’t see that happening. so even being a thought its probably next to 0%

      I think its much more possible he goes and head coaches at Washington

    • kansasirish - Dec 2, 2013 at 7:08 PM

      He didn’t remain on the USC because he wants to be a HC.

    • papadec - Dec 2, 2013 at 8:12 PM

      I wouldn’t want Orgeron & the usc recruiting violation stench that goes with him, in any capacity @ ND – I don’t care how good a recruiter he is. He’ll follow Kiffin & stink up another program – I’ll laugh my butt off, hard as that might be to do, if they end up at UWash.

  15. btomy - Dec 2, 2013 at 4:44 PM

    The bad: Defense in the first half and first drive of the second half, that’s on Diaco, he’s the coach. One would hope he could adjust his defense quicker, or better yet, come in with a better game plan.

    • jkr12 - Dec 2, 2013 at 5:41 PM

      With the patchwork D he had to work with for this game it’s hard to be upset with giving up 27 but I do agree their could’ve been some quicker adjustments. At the least this is not giving up points left and right ie Michigan and Navy.

  16. jem5b - Dec 2, 2013 at 4:48 PM

    My apology; Please.
    Cornerback Lo Wood and tight end Alex Welch intend to transfer from Notre Dame, Irish Illustrated has learned. Both plan to spend their fifth seasons of eligibility elsewhere.

    • ndirish10 - Dec 2, 2013 at 4:54 PM

      Sorry jem, by accident pressed report comment instead of reply. I hope this doesn’t cause your comment to disappear. Are they both on scholarship? If so, probably weren’t going to get renewed, so they figure go play elsewhere.

      • papadec - Dec 2, 2013 at 8:20 PM

        If they do go – it opens up two more slots in the current recruiting class – that could be very nice. Maybe TR could return to be a backup to Golson (sorry nude – I couldn’t help but have some fun @ your expense). I’m just a sick sob with too much time on my hands, now – and sitting here laughing out loud.

  17. don74 - Dec 2, 2013 at 6:17 PM

    Off topic but I was thinking if Brian Kelly lost a game like Saban lost on Saturday the outcry would be amazing. Here’s the best coach of the best team and they weren’t ready to play. Wrong guys on the field, missed assignments, missed tackles and then a total lack of awareness with the last play.

    Couple of thoughts, event the best aren’t ready to play sometimes even when it’s a huge game.

    The best kids are still 18-22 year olds

    It’s hard to win every week

    This season was frustrating but the die was cast when EG was dismissed. The most disappointing for me was the lack of leadership on the D….I expected 44 and 48 to step up big time….not so much. The last 2 games Fox showed his stuff but 44 had a tough time against the Cardinal.

    There are so many elements that go into a season like last year….great play, talent, coaching, luck, chemistry and timing. One more game this year and we can all focus on signing day, the blue gold game, fall practice and next year.

    By the way even though he wasn’t great a big thank you to Tommy Rees. Gave his all, it wasn’t enough but he can hold his head high when he leaves. If only he realized he didn’t have the talent to make some of those throws………………

    • c4evr - Dec 2, 2013 at 6:58 PM

      “If Brain Kelly lost a game like Saban lost…” Ha ha ha. Try Tulsa, South Florida, Mich. St. (OT fake field goal), Mich. (twice), FSU, and ‘Bama. To mention Kelly and Saban – perhaps the best collegiate coach ever when all is said and done – in the same sentence is laughable.

  18. dbldmr - Dec 2, 2013 at 7:27 PM

    Good grief! When I read some (too many) of these comments I despair. For the first time in recent memory ND has had four seasons with at least 8 wins. Yet Kelly and Diaco are obviously idiots and the 18-22 year olds who play for Notre Dame are not up to the armchair coaches’ standards.

    Okay, ND isn’t playing for anything meaningful in bowl season. Get over it. The bitching here is unbelievable. How about being grateful that ND has had 36 victories in four seasons and played for the NC last year?

    Notre Dame has the most entitled fans in the universe. Anything less than a perfect season is unacceptable. Clearly all of the coaches are morons and the players are below standard.

    • ndfenian - Dec 2, 2013 at 8:07 PM

      Sorry, 8-4 doesn’t cut it. If you read the players post-game comments, they agree. I’m not saying we are going to ever see Frank Lahey-esq success again, or Nick Saban-Alabama Part II, but in terms of on field performance, I would certainly like to emulate a program like LSU. They average at least 10 wins a year, always top #15 in nation, always in big games, consistent defense and running game. I know ND alum/fans that can’t watch games anymore because they fear nervous collapse, or they get too cynical. I am not in that category, but I consider myself a realist for holding the program to a winning standard.

      • ndfenian - Dec 2, 2013 at 8:11 PM

        * Leahy

      • dbldmr - Dec 3, 2013 at 9:37 AM

        I won’t argue about the disappointment of 8-4. That’s not my beef. My complaint is with the plethora of ND fans who say things like “…that’s exactly why I call Kelly an idiot….” Another favorite is criticizing Diaco for running a 3-4 defense against a running team, suggesting that ND should have adopted a different defense, despite the fact that they have been running the same scheme all year. Yeah, the odds of success would be greatly enhanced by changing defense for the twelfth game of the year with all of a week of practice before the game.

        8-4 is mediocre. We all agree. Tommy Rees is not the second coming of Joe Montana. Again, we all agree. It’s the stream of commentary about how things would have been different with Malik Zaire at qb (despite the fact that he had mono to start the season) or other such nonsense that drives me to distraction.

        This was a flawed team from day one. It wasn’t going to compete for the NC. Sometimes the best course of action is to conserve resources (redshirts) for a better situation. In other words, wait ’til next year.

      • ndfenian - Dec 4, 2013 at 6:25 PM

        dbldmr, are you not concerned about the defensive regression? The injuries, as the season went on, were devastating. It was an abnormal amount of injuries to a defensive front seven in one season. But it was clear by the Michigan and Purdue games that this was nowhere near the same squad as 2012. The pass rush was non-existent, the secondary harked back to the Weis era etc.

      • ndfenian - Dec 4, 2013 at 6:26 PM

        *harkened

    • btomy - Dec 2, 2013 at 8:25 PM

      I agree about criticizing the players, they’re giving it their best effort. I disagree about one voicing a criticism about a coach. These are professionals who make a lot of money and are in the public arena, some coaches at state colleges are the highest paid state employees. I doubt that they’re reading these comments and they know a heck of a lot more about football than the vast majority of the people using this site. However, coaches are not above our criticism and because you criticize one doesn’t mean you think they’re an idiot. Most coaches know that, and are aware that they either win or they’ll be shown the door, and knowing that, many will leave when the grass is greener elsewhere. It’s just a way for fans to vent.

      • dbldmr - Dec 3, 2013 at 9:41 AM

        Criticizing a coach is legitimate. Calling coaches idiots, as has been done numerous times on this blog, is ridiculous. Kelly is an idiot because he didn’t get Hogan as a quarterback? That’s where I step off. He is not an idiot. He isn’t perfect either. He makes me crazy when he goes all eggplant, but it would be hard to argue that he hasn’t advanced the program.

        I don’t think we disagree about criticizing coaches. I just object to the intellectually lazy “he’s an idiot.”

  19. irishdog80 - Dec 2, 2013 at 10:03 PM

    We clearly missed Golson’s playmaking ability this year on offense and even defense…our defense spent way too much time on the field and wore down. And our offensive line wore down as well due to facing 8 men in the box all season and having to hold their blocks longer for an immobile QB.

    With Golson we are anywhere from 10-2 to 12-0 this year, but I still think we are a step away from truly winning a National Championship. That said, it will serve us well that so many freshmen and sophomores saw the field this year. We will have a pretty dynamic group of tight ends and wide receivers next year with Torii Hunter, Jr. being eligible and a host of returnees. If we can pull a couple of more DT’s in our recruiting class…immediate playing time awaits… our D should be pretty solid and more athletic than this year’s.

  20. newmexicoirish - Dec 2, 2013 at 10:52 PM

    8-4, coulda been worse, coulda been better. Fact is I’m looking forward to one more game and an Irish victory! Now as for next year, I see some real positives.

    I think it’s pretty safe to say that Stephon Tuitt will be coming back, which would be a good move on his part. With a little divine intervention Louis Nix could come back. Without Nix our defense will still be pretty salty. With him we’re BCS caliber.

    Offensively we have a lot of proven weapons. The only question mark I have is about the offensive line. But I honestly see Heistand taking some very talented, albeit relatively inexperienced young men and jelling them into a very cohesive unit. That bodes well for our running backs, now including Greg Bryant. Add in The prodigal quarterback (whom I believe has learned a very expensive lesson) and controlling the line of scrimmage looks quite promising. The fact that we also have two All America caliber tight ends and dynamic receivers projects our offense as one of the best in the country.

    Kyle Brindza is an absolute weapon. If we can shore up some concerns on special teams I see Notre Dame 2014 in the final four!

    Go Irish!

    • viktory2013 - Dec 2, 2013 at 11:31 PM

      Irishdog & Newmexico Irish, both you guys hit it squarely on the head…well said gentlemen.

  21. ronniethec - Dec 3, 2013 at 4:43 PM

    Considering the fact that TR had a bad case of the flu last week
    And was on an IV Friday night and was still dog sick Saturday, all in all he did ok.

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