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Five things we learned: 85th annual Blue-Gold game

Apr 12, 2014, 3:41 PM EDT

Malik Zaire Malik Zaire

What a difference a year makes. As the Irish offense sprinted out to a gigantic lead before holding off the defense in a 63-58 victory, Brian Kelly’s promise of a new look offensive attack seems right on track for 2014.

Just months after Notre Dame took the field with Tommy Rees and Andrew Hendrix atop the depth chart, Notre Dame’s offense looks completely transformed. That’s what happens when you have the right quarterbacks for your system.

With Everett Golson and Malik Zaire now the stewards of the Irish attack, Kelly’s prized possession looks to be poised for a breakout season, finally resembling the unit that Kelly rode to prominence when outscoring opponents at Central Michigan and Cincinnati.

 

Things were far from perfect. And a vanilla defense and favorable rules made it feel like the defense was playing with one arm tied behind its back at times. But heading into the offseason, a successful spring practice was capped off with an impressive offensive performance.

Let’s find out what else we learned during the Blue’s 63-58 victory.

***

It’s still Everett Golson’s offense, but Malik Zaire is ready to compete. 

If you were looking at this Notre Dame football team for the first time, you’d have likely lost a friendly wager if guessing which quarterback was the veteran with starting experience. Right out of the gate it was Malik Zaire that looked composed and fully comfortable running the offense, not Everett Golson.

Zaire played an exceptional first half, completing 15 of 19 throws for 259 yards and two touchdowns. He completed a nice vertical route to Will Fuller that set up a touchdown. He showed the ability to throw on the run. He even showed off an excellent fastball as he forced a slant into a tight window to Amir Carlisle for a short yardage touchdown.

Unable to properly show off his athleticism and foot speed, Zaire still was capable of making defenders miss, and then punish them by completing passes outside the pocket. Those skills make him far more capable as a No. 2 quarterback than Hendrix was last year, while armed with athleticism that makes for a defensive nightmare.

There’s still work to be done by the young quarterback, who caught many by surprise when he declared himself ready and willing to win the starting quarterback job. But after seeing Zaire in action on Saturday, many Irish fans finally understand what makes the rising sophomore so confident.

***

After a lost 2013 season, Greg Bryant plans on making the most of his second freshman season. 

Saturday afternoon didn’t start all that smoothly for Greg Bryant. The third running back to take the field after Cam McDaniel and Tarean Folston, Bryant struggled to break loose on his first few carries, stuffed in the backfield and held at bay by the Irish defense. But Bryant just kept chipping away, showing patience before breaking a nine yard run and gaining 11 yards on a pass reception before halftime.

But the Bryant Irish fans have waited to see broke loose in the second half, when his 51-yard run became the biggest play of the game. Bryant’s long run featured just about everything Irish fans wanted to see: A great cut to get north and south, power accelerating through the hole, open field vision that turned a nice gain into a big run, and havoc wreaked in the open field.

 

Bryant finished the day as the Irish’s leading rusher, carrying 12 times for 101 yards. After hearing Kelly and Tony Alford talk about the power and vision Bryant had showed the coaching staff this spring, Irish fans saw it for themselves. And while Cam McDaniel looked reliable and Tarean Folston still looks to be the most comfortable back on the depth chart, Bryant will be a difference maker in this offense in 2014, even if it’s a year later than most expected.

***

It’s hard to take much from the defensive performance. But the pass rush certainly showed promise. 

When Alex Flanagan asked Brian Kelly how much new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder was showing his offense, the Irish head coach chuckled. That was probably as telling as anything we saw on the field Saturday afternoon. And while the Irish passing attack racked up 388 yards in the first half, the defense showed glimmers of hope, especially in the second half.

But for all the worries expressed this spring, the one place where things seemed better than expected was the pass rush. While the official statistics for sacks should be taken with a huge grain of salt considering quarterbacks were untouchable, defensive end Romeo Okwara played a very nice game. The converted outside linebacker had three sacks in the box score, and brought excellent pressure off the edge of the Irish defense.

Okwara wasn’t the only one. Ishaq Williams started the game with an impressive pass rush that likely would’ve resulted in a sack. Andrew Trumbetti and Isaac Rochell, two young players who could play a factor in the Irish pass rush also notched sacks, joined by Chase Hounshell and Jacob Matuska.

While schemes stayed very vanilla, a few big plays by the offense also likely would’ve been erased had the quarterback been live. An overload blitz by Michael Deeb had quarterback Malik Zaire dead to rights. Joe Schmidt came off the edge to notch a sack that wasn’t counted. And if those blitzes landed, imagine what some of the more exotic looks would have done.

Of course, all of this is pretty fuzzy. Harry Hiestand’s offensive line was split into two units, with Golson taking some sketchy snaps from Mark Harrell, while being protected by reserves like John Montelus and Hunter Bivin.

So while the question marks will exist well into fall camp, seeing Golson and Zaire break from the pocket so often means the pass rush did its job.

***

After years of fighting to keep a natural surface in Notre Dame Stadium, Jack Swarbrick announced that a synthetic surface is being installed inside the house that Rock built. 

Far too often, the natural grass inside Notre Dame Stadium became part of the story. Whether it was overgrown to slow down a USC team, or a leading tackler thanks to faulty footing, the playing surface inside the stadium has been too much of a factor in recent years.

That will no longer be the case.

During the first half of the Blue-Gold game, athletic director Jack Swarbrick told NBC’s Alex Flanagan that a synthetic surface was being installed in Notre Dame Stadium. That process will begin after graduation weekend, with the installation complete by mid-August.

In a formalized release prepared by the university, Swarbrick explained the school’s rationale:

“We had a strong predisposition to stay with a natural grass field,” Swarbrick said in the statement. “However, the reality is that in two of the last three seasons since we moved Commencement to the Stadium we have been unable to produce an acceptable playing surface. That, combined with the likely impacts of future construction at the Stadium, led me to conclude that we would continue to struggle to maintain a grass field that meets the expectations of our student-athletes and fans as it relates to appearance, performance and safety.

“Synthetic turf will assist our game preparation because our team will be able to play and practice on the same surface. We will also be able to utilize the Notre Dame Stadium field for practices on home football Fridays and other occasions, whereas that is currently unrealistic. Additionally, this change allows us to eliminate the risk to players posed by the asphalt perimeter that has to be maintained around our current field.”

While some traditionalists will balk at the decision, putting the Irish on a playing surface that’s already being utilized on their indoor and outdoor practice facilities makes too much sense. After running feasibility studies and consulting with the Green Bay Packers and Michigan State, the decision to put in an artificial surface — likely FieldTurf — makes too much sense.

After upgrading the athleticism across the roster, too often the Irish were the team penalized by a slow and sloppy track. Expect that to change next season.

***

How Brian Kelly decides to distribute the football is anybody’s guess. But the Irish skill positions are filled with weapons. 

Suspended wide receiver DaVaris Daniels watched his teammates from the sideline. What he saw was a depth chart that’s much more competitive than the one he left. Notre Dame’s depth at wide receiver and running back was on display Saturday afternoon, with Golson and Zaire connecting with 14 different receivers. After struggling to find personnel to support four wideouts last season, 10 different players caught two passes or more.

Brian Kelly has made it clear that he still believes Daniels is his No. 1 wide receiver. But the competition to see the field behind him will be fierce. Junior Chris Brown completed an impressive spring with five catches for 105 yards. Corey Robinson added to his personal highlight reel with another long catch. On what looked like an off-day for Will Fuller, he still averaged more than 20 yards a catch.

Probably the most promising development this spring was the work accomplished at the slot receiver position. CJ Prosise showed impressive athleticism and speed when he accelerated away from Austin Collinsworth and broke open for a 39-yard touchdown. Sprinter speed at 220-pounds makes for an intriguing option. Amir Carlisle also looked at home in the slot, catching a tough touchdown throw from Zaire, and streaking wide open on a vertical route that Everett Golson missed on.

Tight end Ben Koyack dropped an easy catch, but paced the position with three catches. Our first look at Mike Heuerman and Durham Smythe showed promise, with both youngsters catching two balls.

With the running backs catching eight balls, including five from Tarean Folston, it was clear that the emphasis on improving the screen game paid dividends. After all but disappearing in the passing game last year, Folston, McDaniel and Bryant all looked smooth catching the football.

Finding a replacement for TJ Jones is still one of the offseason’s main objectives. But if the Blue-Gold game is any indication, a group effort might be more than successful.

  1. North of Denver - Apr 12, 2014 at 4:13 PM

    Five things I learned:
    1) Keith not only does the live blog and these articles, but he also produces movies and has a newborn. Congratulations Keith.
    2) We finally saw Greg Bryant and his potential greatness. But then we saw him start strutting and run out of gas before getting the touchdown. Potential is there, but he is not.
    3) Schumate can hit.
    4) Not only will Van Gorder keep us busy finding celebrity doppelgängers, it’ll be fun to watch his defense. I thought they were pretty impressive with all their restrictions.
    5) BK deserves to be ranked among the Top 10 collegiate coaches.

    • nudeman - Apr 12, 2014 at 8:29 PM

      I am inclined to agree with you re: BK, but I think we need to wait one year.

      He’s gutted it out 4 years in a row with either a bad QB or a raw rookie who barely knew the playbook. Even won 12 games one year and went to the NC playing a rugged schedule and with ND’s built in extra challenges.

      And he’s undeniably a very good/great recruiter and a man of integrity.

      But his game management is a weakness. A 50+ yard FG against the wind vs. Pitt. All the 3rd and 1 long passes against MSU. Giving up on the run, consistently. The empty sets that always fail in the red zone. And the terrible special teams play.

      He has it in him to be top 10; maybe even top 5.
      This year he has 2 very good QBs and a lot of offensive talent, so, offensively anyways, there’s no excuse for not being a high powered team.

      • papadec - Apr 13, 2014 at 5:08 PM

        Welcome home, nudeman.

      • mtflsmitty - Apr 14, 2014 at 8:11 AM

        I still do not understand the criticisms of BK’s game plan against MSU 2013.
        1. We won the game.
        2. MSU was in man coverage for much of the game, and especially on 3rd down plays. On deep balls, their backs had to resort to loads of hand checking to avoid being beaten.
        3. Refs were actively making PI calls that day
        4. BK identified as such and continued to go to that well.
        5. We won the game.

  2. shaunodame - Apr 12, 2014 at 4:28 PM

    I thought Golson looked very rusty. He just was not very crisp on his decisions, timing or accuracy. I’d have to give the nod to Zaire for the better performance today.

  3. viktory2013 - Apr 12, 2014 at 4:29 PM

    Pretty much what we were expecting. Golson will be a force once he totally gets back into the groove and will likely be half of a two-headed monster with Zaire (who should have started last season!!). Procise is much faster than I remember and could actually be the top dog when all’s said and done, although Robinson, Fuller and Brown looked hairy to cover all at the same time, especially having to keep an eye on the QB.
    Bryant is fast and tough; so is Folston. Even Carlisle looked like a new man out there.

    Was pleasantly surprised by Luke and Shumate and well they covered. Okwara has the right aggressiveness to add edge to Smith, Jones and Day. And if Morgan hits the ground running they will kick ass, especially since the offense won’t be a burden.

    This was just a showcase but it looks like we just might squeeze the life out of some teams this fall.

  4. shaunodame - Apr 12, 2014 at 4:30 PM

    And P.S. Austin Larkin saw his fair share of time at MLB, he’s a guy we haven’t talked about at all in this battle for staring MLB (ILB)

  5. goirishgo - Apr 12, 2014 at 4:58 PM

    Good to see Shumate make some plays. Good to see a strong pass rush. Good to see the running backs play well. Good to see a dynamic offense. My biggest surprise of the day? Malik Zaire has a cannon for an arm!

    Lots to be excited about – especially having two capable QBs.

  6. notredameirish1980 - Apr 12, 2014 at 5:38 PM

    What was that strange play where they threw it to the RB’s near the line of scrimmage with linemen blocking ahead of them?????
    Once the entire O-Line is back this offense may be unbelievable.

  7. nudeman - Apr 12, 2014 at 6:25 PM

    1) Let’s get it out of the way right up front: Appears it is now guaranteed that one way or another, Tommy Rees will show up on every ND game until I die.
    Jesus …. just when I thought he was OUT they keep pullin’ him back IN.

    2) Couple weeks ago I noticed BK gave his annual “Ishaq is getting it” line.
    Anybody agree? Me either.

    3) There is only one doppleganger for Van Gorder: Go buy a roll of Brawny paper towels and tell me what you think.

    4) Field looked good. For a Dead concert. Tie dyed yellow and green

    5) There are no conclusions to be drawn from this game. So I will draw a bunch:
    – Golson still strikes me as immature. I expect to read tomorrow he forgot his helmet again
    – Malik: Throws everything late.
    – D-Line scares me. In a very bad way.
    – It’s not really an ND game if Chris Brown doesn’t drop a perfect throw. He did. It was.
    – Under normal rules the O line would have allowed 17 sacks
    – Farley just missed another tackle

    6) Alex Flanagan: Still wondering: Brazilian or au naturel?

    7) I guess we’ve seen the last of Mrs. A now that there are grandkids. Still put up the single best post ever here.

    8) Keeping with the theme of inappropriately drawing conclusions, I’ll go 9-3.

    9) Last year we kept hearing Lou was 330. Now we’re hearing he’s DOWN to 330.
    Whatever

    10) Further 2012 is in the rear view mirror the less I think of Tuitt. 1st round ability abd UFA work ethic. 2nd rounder best case and I hope not the Bears.

    • onward2victory - Apr 12, 2014 at 6:32 PM

      Welcome back Nude! Couldn’t quite make it to Easter huh? I think we’re all glad to have you back though.

      • North of Denver - Apr 12, 2014 at 7:05 PM

        My Lent commitment never makes it past Fat Tuesday, so I am not going to judge.

    • viktory2013 - Apr 12, 2014 at 6:36 PM

      Hilarious dude! I think Rees hopes if he hangs around long enough they’ll let him play or even give him a sympathy year of eligibility. Maybe if he brings his own helmet and ball…?

    • bernhtp - Apr 12, 2014 at 8:04 PM

      #1 and 2 were wonderfully predictable. The rest were just wonderful.

      Alex Flanagan had a really bad hair day. Looked like the stadium grass. She needs a new color person or get it replaced with FieldTurf. Let Swarbrick make the decision and announcement.

      • jerseyshorendfan1 - Apr 12, 2014 at 11:26 PM

        I’m confused. Are you and nude talking about the same hair?

      • bernhtp - Apr 13, 2014 at 8:57 AM

        Probably not. I was commenting on what was exposed by the camera, not Nude’s imagination.

        Seriously, look at the close-ups on the DVR and you will see what I mean.

    • ndgoldandblue - Apr 12, 2014 at 9:07 PM

      Nude! You’re back! Thank God…just in time. Goat’s been doing his usual Congressman Wilson schtick. You know, yelling insults from the cheap seats but not providing any insight of his own. Anyway, it’s good to have you back.

    • jommy995 - Apr 13, 2014 at 12:06 AM

      #3 makes my day. So true.

    • NotreDan - Apr 13, 2014 at 12:46 AM

      Lasered

    • North of Denver - Apr 13, 2014 at 1:37 AM

      Nude: your post is so wide-ranging, it’s hard to keep up… couple of thoughts for you:
      a) Start thinking “Coach Rees” or “Tom” if you know him well.
      b) You’re right. I kept hoping he’d be a big impact player and instead of saying Ishaq, it’d be: I-Shaq => I-Sack => I-Rush => I-Rish => it might have been a stretch, but you get it.
      c) No, incorrect. Only proper doppleganger is Kevin Dillon.
      d) Okay, we’re obviously in different generations. The field probably looked similar after Robert the Bruce took care of the English.
      e) You’re looking at a half-empty glass.
      f) Bald. (this is why I hope “Mrs. A” isn’t monitoring).
      g) How the F! do you get emoji’s on here? When I said before, we’re in different generations, I was trying to be nice, you’re references to the “‘Dead” make you considerably older than I and i cant figure out how to get emoji’s on this blasted site.
      h) Louis Nix is just accounting for inflation.
      i) …Nor the Broncos.

    • rossumnminor - Apr 13, 2014 at 2:42 AM

      Nudeman I seem to recall some ryme, poem or tale…something that Keith did that involved the characters of a few posters on the blog?? Well anyway it talked about your character and took an educated guess on u. Then u replayed and said that you never actually even played a snap of football at the high school level. You said something about being 5’7″ 140lbs an that there wasn’t much in football for u. Well you could be 5’7″ 140 and have a great high school career at the very least if u were an “athlete”. I used to scan and look for yours and burns replays until I read that. Now jus burns. When I think of u now nudeman I think of a pencil neck chicken chest John Clayton

      • nudeman - Apr 13, 2014 at 10:47 AM

        For the record:
        HS years: 5’7″ 125lbs; played baseball.
        Not a big demand, even back then for 125 lb. DBs who were slow.

        Today: 5’9″ 185 lbs. And in shape, homie
        Beyond that, I’ve read your email 3-4 times (kicking myself for that, btw) and understand almost none of it. So in other words … I like it.

    • papadec - Apr 13, 2014 at 5:15 PM

      WOW – 36 thumbs down with a 2-1 negative ratio. Your 9-3 prediction is probably more realistic than my NC (hope/wish/dream/prediction) – I already put my money on the IRISH to win it all.

    • danirish - Apr 13, 2014 at 6:18 PM

      Oh yea, you’re back….

      …yawn!

      GO IRISH!

      • danirish - Apr 13, 2014 at 8:12 PM

        I see the minions are out!

  8. irish46327 - Apr 12, 2014 at 8:16 PM

    I have to agree about The td pass to Amir. That was a bullet and heard it pop when Amir caught it. Sat in the north end zone next to the tunnel and was impressed with what I saw today. As for field turf, not thrilled. I like watching mud bowl games.

  9. ndnapa - Apr 12, 2014 at 9:26 PM

    I said it all last year and it still kills me. Zaire should have been playing last year. He’s not going to be here for a 5th year, and he could have won a game or 2 for them last year.

    • danirish - Apr 13, 2014 at 6:20 PM

      Er, maybe he wasn’t as good last year as you saw him in the B/G game? Maybe he had mono which can limit anyone’s physical ability?

      • ndnapa - Apr 14, 2014 at 6:03 PM

        he was healthy in the 2nd half of the year. And that’s when they needed him.

        Er, maybe he was better than Hendrix?

      • danirish - Apr 14, 2014 at 10:13 PM

        Healthy doesn’t mean ready to play…I’m going to guess that perhaps the well paid coaching staff had more information and a better grasp of the issue than you or I had.

  10. fnc111 - Apr 12, 2014 at 9:53 PM

    Couple of great, natural running backs on the roster. Couple of average, underwhelming quarterbacks on the roster.

    Average QB play will hurt this team more than the D-Line. Those guys would’ve been sacked 10 times today in a real setting.
    How about the ball Zaire just flipped right up in the air when he panicked? Yikes!That’s a pick 6 in a real game.

    • ndfenian - Apr 12, 2014 at 10:40 PM

      I’m not sure Golson was playing with the 5 starters all the time, but I think both Golson and Zaire would have done more to elude defenders had they been I’m actual game.

  11. fnc111 - Apr 12, 2014 at 10:04 PM

    I’m sticking with 7-5 as a record. Very young team. When you have two QB’s you have zero. If Kelly can pull the miracle against scUM it’s an 8-4 record. Yippee.

    • onward2victory - Apr 13, 2014 at 12:30 AM

      I just took a screenshot of this comment. I’ll send it to you after they finish with 2 or less losses.

    • ndoneill - Apr 13, 2014 at 1:06 AM

      If you look at the schedule 7-5 is within the realm of possibility. I’d hope for 10+, but don’t hate the guy just for giving a conservative estimate!

      • onward2victory - Apr 13, 2014 at 3:29 AM

        Are you new here?? Fnc is the village pessimist and he’ll change his prediction about a dozen times before the season starts. I don’t hate the dude but I love to give him a hard time for being such a negative nancy.

      • goirishgo - Apr 13, 2014 at 12:15 PM

        You’re right. There are so many more legitimate reasons to dislike fnc.

      • danirish - Apr 13, 2014 at 6:14 PM

        If ND wins FNC is silent or he will say Kelly can’t recruit qb’s (which is his constant mantra). If ND loses FNC will say a plethora of “I told you so’s, I was right.”

        Even though Kelly has brought in 3 (3!) Elite 11 qb’s FNC says Kelly can’t recruit qb’s (Another Elite 11 is thinking ND big time!)

        FNC will have you convinced that the Irish will go 7-5, er, 9-2, er, 8-4, 6-6, er…and so on and then demand you give him props when he is “right”

        Its all in good fun!

    • gtizzo - Apr 13, 2014 at 8:48 PM

      This is the first time we get a true Brian Kelly offense. While I will concede it only took till his 5th season at ND to pull it off, regardless it is here. All the QB issues ND has suffered from over the first 4 seasons are over. Regardless of who wins the battle, the offense doesn’t change. This is the most deadly ND team fans have had to cheer for in the BCS era. It was time for the offense to break out…they look read to do so. Long as the defense can be top 50 in the country 10 wins is more likely. No Michigan State, Michigan, Stanford at home and very hard road game against FSU and we tangle with USC at USC. Schedule is hard, but that is nothing new at ND.

  12. newmexicoirish - Apr 12, 2014 at 10:09 PM

    Like all of you I too have a few observations, but first things first. Bern I’m sorry, when referring to her personal person, Alex Flannagan is incapable of having a bad anything day! Nude, we can always count on you for a pithy, yet accurate, Rees comment.
    As to the game: I know the defense was asked to be little more than blocking dummies ot there, but I was really hoping to hear Ishaq and Max’s names announced more often. Ishaq, like the sands in the hour glass………. His “potential” is getting more difficult to believe in, but I’m still pulling for him.
    Of all of our future offensive weapons, I’m hanging my hat on on Corey Robinson. This kid has Velcro hands and he’s just going to get faster, stronger, and most probably taller. Barring serious injury I think he is going to be a dominant match-up nightmare!
    On Fieldturf: like many of you, I have some indelible images of Lou Holtz on the sideline, headphones over his baseball cap in a catchers position pulling up the natural grass, eyes blinking like a barn owl behind his magnified eyeglasses. The field ALWAYS seemed to be in good shape, and like the purist that I am I always loved the simplicity of the unadorned field. No flashy logos at midfield, simple slanted lines in the end zones, and thank God no crass advertising anywhere. Having said all that – it is time for the grass to go. Too often in recent memory the grass has been an obvious detriment to play on the field. And it seemed to effect the Irish more than our opponents.
    At any rate, it was great to see the guys out there gettin after it

    Go Irish – beat Rice!

  13. ajw21 - Apr 13, 2014 at 3:24 AM

    Its a spring game and none of this will matter come fall but did anyone see why Atkinson doesn’t play, he got beat A Lot!

    Maybe its just me but the 1st half it looked like Zaire was playing most of the 2nd string D and had the #1 offense(not sure about lineman). Neither qb impressed me but not worried either.

    Anyways its a meaningless game but nice to get a football fix until September.
    Go Irish!

    • papadec - Apr 13, 2014 at 4:14 AM

      RICE – AUGUST 30th. But who’s counting?

  14. irishdog80 - Apr 13, 2014 at 11:04 AM

    Swarbrick crafted the perfect backdrop for the Field Turf announcement–a crappy field that made Oakland’s Alameda Stadium baseball infield/football configuration look like Augusta in comparison. Waiting until after we had all taken in the crappiness of the field before making the announcement was also well planned. I have to believe that whoever the George Toma of 2014 is could have been brought in to figure out a solution to keep natural grass at Notre Dame Stadium and have it be the “state of the art” version of natural grass for the Blue & Gold Game and the season.

    That said, I am not against this experiment. With the advances made in Field Turf and football success on the “turf”, I could even grow to like it. Notre Dame Football became Notre Dame Football due to the willingness to innovate and change with the times. Why not now? If worse comes to worse, they can always tear up the artificial and put in the natural grass someday in the future. There are plenty of fields around the country that have returned to natural after experimenting with artificial.

    • ndfenian - Apr 13, 2014 at 9:07 PM

      As long as we win, I really don’t care. So I agree with your sentiment.

  15. goirishgo - Apr 13, 2014 at 12:19 PM

    Very subtle reference to the Alex Flanagan conversation in your last sentence. Well done.

  16. whiskeystraight - Apr 13, 2014 at 1:19 PM

    I’m glad to see the switch to FieldTurf. I hate to listen to people whine about tradition at Notre Dame Stadium. Knute Rockne put ND on the map. He was as far from a traditionalist as one can be. The man was an innovator, and knew that change was necessary to stay ahead of the competition. It’s like after he died fans and alumni forgot this. They want this place to look like a museum. If Rock was still in charge this would have been done years ago.

    On defense I was most impressed with Romeo. The guy looks like an animal rushing the passer. Shumate looked good as well. Farley and Collinsworth looked slow and out of position as usual. I still think some combo of Shumate, Baratti, and Redfield is the way to go at safety. Things will get better this summer when Riggs shows up because there will be three solid CB’s. Those six should be the best secondary we have seen in a long time.

    The jury is out on the offensive and defensive lines. With so many injuries there it is hard for me to get a read on the strengths and weaknesses. Bryant and Folston look solid at RB. Cam is a try-hard guy who never fails to surprise me with a few good touches every game. If the lights are finally turning on for Chris Brown then that is great news for ND fans. He has elite athleticism with good size. Fuller looks like a stud in the making as well. Think TJ Jones with top end speed. Finally a couple slot receivers who look like they know what they are doing in Carlisle and Prosise. TE look manageable, no stars there but quality production.

    It’s hard for me to draw conclusions with the QB’s. What I saw was two guys who can both run and pass well. Golson looked skittish early on. He is quick to leave the pocket, but at least he looks down field to throw the ball. Zaire stood tall in the pocket and made some nice throws, but that is easy to do when you know you won’t get hit. He held on to the ball too long and likely would have been killed in a real game. Hopefully the protection improves when they get Martin and Lombard back so that won’t be a problem.

    Although this team is young this is the most talent I have seen since I can remember watching ND (early 90’s). Whether they can put it together remains to be seen.

    • 1notredamefan - Apr 16, 2014 at 9:02 PM

      Great post about Knute!!

  17. 1historian - Apr 13, 2014 at 2:04 PM

    As of today, April 13, we have 138 and a wakeup to go.

    • papadec - Apr 13, 2014 at 5:27 PM

      Well that answers my question about who’s counting. Will your snow be gone by then? We actually have sunshine for the second day in a row here in the Seattle area. Some people have actually put their rain parkas away & are wearing shorts. You’d think it was Spring, or something. (something other than our rainy season)

      • viktory2013 - Apr 13, 2014 at 9:00 PM

        Mr. Papadec
        Don’t know how you manage that god awful rain nonstop! We had one weekend with downpours couple months ago and we were near death. You’re a better man than I, Gunga Din

      • papadec - Apr 14, 2014 at 12:43 AM

        After awhile you develop gills & webbed feet.

      • 1historian - Apr 14, 2014 at 8:11 AM

        Mr. P:

        Good morning to you. Yes we still have lots of snow here and the dirt road on which I live is a one-laner and the town road commissioner says it will be that way for at least a few more weeks the reason being that there is still lots of snow left from all the plowing last wintah (New England accent there).

        Re. shorts – I could wear them today but I don’t think the community is ready for it.

        NDFB – I didn’t see the game and am relying on the superior knowledge of you (all) and Keith for analysis, and you haven’t let me down. BK has to decide soon between Golson & Zaire at least privately methinks because with a righty and a lefty @ QB your blindside protection changes.

        Artificial turf – has to be done. With the increased use of the stadium it is basically a no-brainer. I predict that between graduation next month and the actual beginning of the installation process there will be a run on the remaining natural grass in the stadium, in fact I would not be surprised at all if the powers that be @ ND make it a money-maker.

        The fact remains that to old coots like me it is not an actual offishul (on purpose) FOOTBALL season without at least one game played in the rain and the mud with the participants looking like bloodied and battered warriors coming off the field of battle at the end. I’ll have to go to more H.S. games this fall.

  18. ndgoldandblue - Apr 13, 2014 at 2:32 PM

    I’ve seen a few posts, here and elsewhere, in which the commenter has expressed some concerns about our two quarterbacks. I don’t know…they both looked pretty impressive to me. They both showed very nice mobility, they both displayed their very strong arms, and neither of them threw a pick. I don’t want to bag on Rees, but I think this constitutes a monumental upgrade over Tommy. The one thing that these two may not have over their predecessor is leadership, but that’s all conjecture at this point. I think BK will ensure that the team will follow whoever he puts in there.

    I don’t know…when I was watching the game, all I kept thinking to myself was how better the Irish offense looked with an athletic quarterback in there who doesn’t force things. It’s because of their athleticism that they won’t need to force throws. Perhaps my opinion is slightly skewed because, as a fan, I’m glad the safety blanket is gone.

    • papadec - Apr 13, 2014 at 5:31 PM

      The few highlights that I saw on espn Sportscenter, last night, of the two of them – were pretty good.

    • danirish - Apr 13, 2014 at 6:24 PM

      I’m with you there. I hope the leadership thing has to be earned. The post game interview with both Golsona and Zaire seemed awkward in the sense that you could tell both are busting their rears to be the man. This can only be good….

      GO IRISH!

  19. cajunirish - Apr 13, 2014 at 7:03 PM

    I’ll predict a 10-2 record. For sure will have a bowl birth, but don’t know what kind.
    A more pressing question, where do you think Zaire will transfer to when he realizes that he won’t be able to earn a starting job over the second best QB on the team?

    • blackirish23 - Apr 14, 2014 at 10:52 AM

      Transfer talk makes me sick! If you think like that, then why shouldn’t the athlete feel entitled to play now?

      There was a time at USC (and forgive me for using U$C as my example) when all QB’s started in the junior year and played 2 – 3 years before leaving (including a 5th year)…. from Carson Palmer to Matt Leinhart to John David Booty to Mark Sanchez, before Matt Barkley broke that trend and started a few games into his freshman year. And guess where all the embarrassment of riches got USC, a couple of Heisman trophies and a National Championship.

      The lesson; let’s appreciate that the fact that we’re loaded with talented athletes at QB – Golson, Zaire, Kizer, and let’s pray that they all play the role of dedicated understudy so that when their time comes, they’re ready to shine and there’s no drop-off in production.

      Go Irish!!

  20. rpbags - Apr 13, 2014 at 8:22 PM

    Five things I learned on Sat…
    1. Glad our qb’s can run!
    2. lot’s of talent at the rb spot, question is who will start?
    3. Ziare or Golsen to me its 50/50
    4. I am glad about the turf, just my opinion!
    5. I think Nd will be 10-2-11-1 range and maybe if we get some breaks undefeated….

    Just some of my opinion’s here folks and we will see here soon and as always GO IRISH!!!!

  21. bonz2112 - Apr 14, 2014 at 6:12 AM

    Where was Max Redfield?

  22. c4evr - Apr 14, 2014 at 9:57 AM

    Judging by all the giddy responses, shouldn’t the site be named ‘Inside Nude’?

    • ndgoldandblue - Apr 14, 2014 at 1:14 PM

      If it was named “Inside Nude”, we’d have a lot of disappointed visitors.

    • danirish - Apr 14, 2014 at 4:03 PM

      No

  23. ndfenian - Apr 14, 2014 at 1:33 PM

    Well it was sure nice to see ND football on Saturday, however brief and nonchalant the “game” was. I agree with most of your all’s takeaways, though I don’t think it can be emphasized how young this defense will be, especially in the front seven. They will be inexperienced and, if small is not the right word, certainly “less stout” on the defensive line. I hate to admit it, but the 10-2 shop-talk is wildly premature if we aren’t even sure if we can stop the run or not. I mean, Sheldon Day is our grizzled veteran?? I think the key may be in our cornerback play. If that group can be as good as we all are hyping them up to be, if they can play lock-down man coverage on 1st and 2nd downs, then our safeties will be free to sneak down to the second level and help the linebackers with the run game.

    Regarding quarterbacks, you all need to hitch your wagons to Golson like I have. I admit I have an emotional attachment to the guy since he (and Rees, btw) led us to the national championship, but I do think he will have a very good year. He is going to dance around back there and use his legs, that’s just his style. I remember a couple years ago he was interviewed by Blue and Gold maybe the 2012 season and he described himself as a passer and not a runner. He is clearly both and that is fine, as long as he can be like Russell Wilson and avoid the big blows in the open field.

    • ndfenian - Apr 14, 2014 at 1:35 PM

      *maybe before the 2012 season

      • ndfenian - Apr 14, 2014 at 1:54 PM

        BTW, thinking back to that January game we had in Miami. Was anyone else at that dockside bar on South Beach that hosted the official ND watch party? There were hundreds of ND fans there, with an outdoor pool, TVs everywhere. It was setting up to be quite the party… before kickoff happened. It’s probably a good thing we didn’t win, or else I might’ve drowned in the ocean 25 yards away lol.

  24. 1notredamefan - Apr 16, 2014 at 9:06 PM

    Just curious as to what everyone thinks would be the Last Great Game played on the grass field at the stadium? I would have to say Stanford 12′

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