Everett Golson

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

59 Comments

For as exasperated as most Notre Dame fans were watching the Irish hang on for dear life (again!) against Navy, the response from the team and their coaches was much different. Facing a healthy Keenan Reynolds and a Navy team that picked themselves up off the mat and fought back after falling behind 28-7, there was no apology given for beating the Midshipmen 49-39 in a wild game Saturday night.

Nor should there have been.

That the Irish ended up in a dog fight after nearly burying the Midshipmen early was disappointing. But after injuries forced Brian VanGorder’s defense to dig deep into their reserves, that the Irish were able to stand strong in the fourth quarter after taking Navy’s best shot is a building block for November.

With Arizona State around the corner — a game with major playoff implications — it’s time to turn the page and forget about Saturday night’s struggle… at least until next year.

But before we can do that, let’s get to the good, bad and ugly of the Irish’s 10-point victory over Navy.

 

THE GOOD

Starting fast. A key to victory for Notre Dame was getting out of the gate quickly. They certainly achieved that, scoring on a 78-yard touchdown pass to C.J. Prosise on the game’s second play and putting up touchdowns on the offense’s first four drives.

The Irish did that thanks to pinpoint passing by Everett Golson, great running by Tarean Folston, and excellent execution on third down. Even the defense played well, with Navy’s first touchdown coming on a pretty blatant push-off and Brian VanGorder’s defense able to force punts on Navy’s next two possessions.

It might have been downhill from here, but if you wanted the Irish to answer the bell, you couldn’t have been disappointed.

 

Everett Golson. Notre Dame’s quarterback was excellent on Saturday night. He was accurate throwing the football, and more importantly, threw the ball on time and in the rhythm of the offense.  Golson’s three touchown passes and 315 yards were only marred by a late second quarter interception, a throw that was the result of a miscommunication between Golson and Amir Carlisle, and a playcall Brian Kelly took the blame for.

Perhaps the thing I liked best about Golson was his ability to use his feet both to move the chains as well as to buy time in and outside of the pocket. His three rushing touchdowns came on just nine official carries, and while sack yardage took a hit on his totals, he was elusive and productive, especially in the red zone.

 

Tarean Folston. He was excellent on Saturday. Running for big yardage and making the type of reads and cuts that reward running backs with patience and vision. The Irish sophomore took over the No. 1 job just as Brian Kelly asked him to do, and reminded the staff of this every time they tried to give Cam McDaniel carries.

As I tweeted during the broadcast, everybody is a fan of McDaniel and the work he’s done as a leader both on and off the field. But he’s not even close to as productive of a back as Folston is, and against Arizona State the Irish absolutely need to ride Folston.

After struggling to put Navy away, the Irish turned the keys back over to Folston. He ran intelligently, then broke Navy’s back with a big play sneaking out of the backfield and converting the game-clincher on a 3rd-and-6 catch and run. (The officials marked him out at the 2-yard line. I’d have liked to see the replay.)

 

Responding Quickly. While we’re going to hammer the Irish for giving up the lead in the third quarter, it’s worth praising them for answering Navy’s lead almost immediately. Golson calmly led the Irish back down the field, converting a nice third down to Ben Koyack and marching down the field quickly. Golson capped the drive off with a much-needed touchdown.

From there, the Irish got a rare punt from Navy, and if you wondered whether Brian Kelly would feel like shortening the game and running some clock, you don’t know Notre Dame’s head coach. A big pass play down the field to Chris Brown hit on first down. And Tarean Folston dashed into the end zone for a 25-yard touchdown.

Just like that, the Irish were back up 42-31.

 

The Kids on Defense. No, they didn’t necessarily play all that well. But getting major snaps for guys like Greer Martini and Nyles Morgan is something that’s going to pay dividends in the future, and maybe even before 2015. The Irish defense will need Morgan to be ready for this weekend, with an Arizona State offense likely very happy that Joe Schmidt won’t be able to answer the bell.

But the fact that Martini, Morgan, James Onwualu, Jacob Matuska, Daniel Cage, Andrew Trumbetti, Drue Tranquill and a host of other kids had to play crucial minutes as the Irish were in a flat-spin out to sea (a little Top Gun imagery for the occasion) will be something that helps the program in the long run.

Keenan Reynolds and the Navy offense took advantage of the Irish youth on the field, but it’ll pay off in the future.

 

The other guys. While it wasn’t Will Fuller‘s best day at the office (he dropped a sure touchdown on a perfect throw by Golson), it was a good day for the complementary guys. Chris Brown had two big catches for 82 yards. Ben Koyack had a touchdown among his five catches for 54 yards. And C.J. Prosise made the game’s first big play, recovered a Navy onside kick, and had another big gainer on a jet sweep. Nice day at the office by the guys behind the guys.

Corey Robinson was quiet after a big game against Florida State. But the Irish passing game got things done from their supporting cast.

 

THE BAD

Special Teams. With two opportunities to ice the football game, kicker Kyle Brindza snap-hooked one miss and had another blocked. That’s another week with really shoddy execution when push came to shove on the field goal unit.

Perhaps it was out of respect of Ken Niumatalolo’s gambling ways, but when Navy punted, Notre Dame seemed fine with the fair catch. That limited Cody Riggs’ opportunity to get any return yards on his three attempts. But Riggs had another near disaster with ball security, dropping then recovering a muffed punt that could’ve given Navy the ball deep in Irish territory.

Both mistakes — missing field goals and muffing punt returns — are tight-rope acts that will burn the Irish sooner than later. And it’s something that needs to get cleaned up ASAP.

 

Letting Navy Back Into It. Things looked in perfect control. With just over seven minutes to go in the half, the Irish had Navy in a 2nd and long after Max Redfield made a nice breakup on a pass play.

But from there, the Midshipmen got after the Irish. Navy started to rip off big plays running to the boundary side of the field. That left an offensive tackle blocking a safety, nobody on the pitchman, and a three-man front to give up massive yardage. On two straight plays with a three-man front, Navy responded with gigantic gainers by the pitch man.

Navy used a counter option to get the Irish defense out of position, leading to another big play for a touchdown. Then came Notre Dame’s interception, a score on the first possession of the third quarter, and we had a ball game.

If you’re looking for a recipe on how to let an opponent back in, just pull up this 15 minutes of football whenever you’re wondering.

 

Injuries.  The loss of Schmidt is a killer. But if the injuries to Jarron Jones and Sheldon Day linger, the middle of the Irish defense could be really suspect at a time where they’re really needed.

We’ll hear more on Tuesday about the health of this football team. But another year and another costly injury loss against Navy.

Situational Defense. Writing RUSH DEFENSE in the bad column is kind of a joke, because it’s a mediocre observation you could make by simply looking at the box score. But if there was something really disappointing about the performance on the defensive side of the ball it was the lack of situational success the Irish had.

For as frustrating as Everett Golson’s interception was, it’s even more ridiculous that it turned into anything more than a missed opportunity. That Navy managed to get a receiver behind the Irish defense when everybody in the stadium knew they were throwing is ridiculous. Kelly mentioned that there was a collision between Drue Tranquill and Greer Martini, but that’s a back-breaking play that just can’t happen.

Also, the Irish were in great position to short-circuit Navy’s first offensive series of the second half when they had the Midshipmen backed up in 3rd-and-9. But once again, the Irish got beat to the short-side of the field on an option pitch play, moving the chains, keeping the drive alive and starting their rally.

Leading 28-24, Navy escaped after being in a 3rd-and-13, too. It turned into a 4th-and-2, and then one play later, Navy had the lead. You’re going to give up some yardage to Navy. That’s going to happen. But you can’t make critical, big-picture mistakes against the Midshipmen.

 

Sealing the Deal. For as good as Notre Dame’s offense looked early — the Irish had 215 yards in the first quarter — the Irish offense plain stunk when they had a chance to end the game without any more drama than necessary.

The kids on defense put Notre Dame in perfect position to end this game with ten minutes remaining. Already up 42-31, the Irish defense stopped Navy on a 4th-and-3 in their own territory, a huge stand by a group that had been picked on for the entire third quarter.

Well the offense laid an egg from there, with the offensive line unable to open anything up for Tarean Folston on first and second downs, and failed to convert on a 3rd-and-7 screen pass where the Irish really wanted to keep the clock running. Kyle Brindza’s snap hook gave the ball back to Navy with no harm done.

The very next series, Notre Dame’s defense made the play needed, intercepting Keenan Reynolds on an acrobatic play by Justin Utupo and quarterback pressure by Sheldon Day and James Onwualu. And again, the Irish offense stunk it up, this time missing a pass on first down, having McDaniel go for next to nothing on second down and the Irish failed to convert on third down. This time, Brindza’s field goal attempt was blocked after Matt Hegarty was steamrolled up the middle. Navy went down and scored a touchdown and converted the two-point play.

Two key opportunities to score points and end this game. Two critical misses by the Irish.

 

Quick Hits:

* Niumatalolo certainly has a feel for the dramatic. Last year, he went for the throat on a critical fourth down, calling for a reverse instead of being happy with getting a first down conversion. It burnt him. This year, Navy went for the jugular, with Noah Copeland attempting a throwback pass on 3rd-and-6 that Keenan Reynolds couldn’t reel in. While Jaylon Smith was in coverage, it was a ball that Reynolds probably should’ve had.

That’s two straight years where Navy’s big trick play didn’t connect. And two straight years where Notre Dame’s very happy they didn’t.

(Maybe Cody Riggs felt badly and decided to muff the punt out of pity. Or not.)

* I know Brian Kelly can’t wait to put the Navy files away until next year. But after talking about analytics last week and self-scouting, he and Brian VanGorder are going to want to stay out of three down linemen sets. With rare exception, they were disastrous.

* Time to spend a few plays working on the screen game. It was pretty shoddy after being an effective part of the offensive game plan against Florida State.

(And for those that looked twice at Golson’s throw to Chris Brown that was overturned on video replay after falling short, it was a bad job not just by Golson, but Ronnie Stanley, whose whiff on the block made it hard for Golson to step and throw.)

 

THE UGLY

Wasn’t it all pretty ugly? After looking like a very good ugly through about the first 18 minutes, the Irish let Navy back in the game, a reminder to this young team that a killer instinct isn’t a part-time hobby.

But between the multiple injuries, a number of scares and a game that was competitive way longer than it should’ve been, it was your average, ugly game between Notre Dame and Navy.

For the faint of heart, take this Saturday off next fall and just check in on Sunday.

The good, the bad, the ugly: Notre Dame vs. Duke

SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 24:  Anthony Nash #83 of the Duke Blue Devils runs for a touchdown during the second half of a game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Notre Dame Stadium on September 24, 2016 in South Bend, Indiana.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
58 Comments

Sunday’s move was emphatic. Brian VanGorder’s departure confirms that a 1-3 record is unacceptable. And the demise of this team was as swift as the departure of a colleague Brian Kelly has known for the bulk of his 25-plus year coaching career.

But that’s the job. And the move likely wasn’t easy for a head coach who saw himself as close to tenured as any man this side of Lou Holtz had been, and is now clearly in uncharted territory.

“I’m under review, as well,” Kelly acknowledged on Sunday afternoon. “We’re all in this together: All the players, coaches, everybody. So players’ jobs are on the line. Every job is being evaluated as the players. All coaches’ jobs are on the line as well.”

With Greg Hudson now directing the defense, and Syracuse having run more offensive plays than every program but three, the challenge this weekend is stark. So let’s move forward ourselves and finish off the good, the bad and the ugly.

 

THE GOOD

Dexter WilliamsBrian Kelly gave him credit, so let’s start there. Williams ran hard, looked explosive and flashed on special teams.

It’s time for Williams to get some more reps, even if it means taking away from Josh Adams’ leading load as well as Tarean Folston‘s.

 

Donte Vaughn. Notre Dame’s freshman cornerback wasn’t perfect—he got beat inside a few times on slant routes that everybody in the building saw coming. But he came up big and made a play, something Notre Dame’s defensive backs haven’t done since Shaun Crawford went down for the season.

His length and cover skills should be put to the test again next weekend when Syracuse’s Amba Etta-Tawo looks to replicate his monster 270-yard performance against UConn. The focus will be on Cole Luke, Vaughn, Julian Love and Nick Coleman.

 

Kevin Stepherson. The freshman only caught three balls, but all of them were big gainers,  including his beautiful 44-yard touchdown catch. With Torii Hunter unable to push the lid off opponents, Stepherson might be a better fit for the X moving forward, assuming he continues to learn the playbook and run precise routes.

 

The Weather. Looked like a heckuva day in South Bend, at least from a weather perspective.

 

THE BAD

The tackling. That was one of the worst tackling performances I can remember. Especially against a team that was anemic on offense heading into the weekend. Name a defender and you’ll recall a missed tackle.

Drue Tranquill held on to a few early, then had some ugly whiffs. Cole Luke, a guy Brian Kelly called the team’s smartest football player last week, sure looked lost a few times, too. And with hopes that Devin Studstill is the answer at free safety, Studstill did his best to make us wonder about that, too. He took some horrific routes to footballs, a difficult day at the office for a young kid who needs to learn quickly.

When your senior captain outside linebacker is getting run over by a quarterback for a first down and you’re thinking, “at least he made the tackle,” the bar has been lowered pretty significantly. But another week of “thudding” at practice might be needed—even with heavy installation coming soon.

 

The special teams. A missed field goal proved costly. So did some horrific tackling and coverage on the kickoff return that let Duke back into the game. And for the fourth time this season, Tyler Newsome flubbed his first kick of the game. (All but asking for the nickname Mulligan to emerge.)

Scott Booker has a ton of kids on his run teams. But they’ve got to get some consistency out there if they want CJ Sanders to help turn this into a positive, not another unit to hide.

 

The pass rush. Yes, the drought is over, with Nyles Morgan getting the first sack of the season for the Irish. But man—this team has a gigantic hole on it and finding any type of pass rush is critical.

Sure, Duke’s quick passing game took advantage of the Irish’s leaky secondary and didn’t let Notre Dame get to the quarterback. But at this point, every snap you’re giving Andrew Trumbetti over a kid who can get to the quarterback—Jay Hayes, Daelin Hayes, Khalid Kareem, or anyone—feels lost.

 

The coaching. Kelly raised more than a few eyebrows when he said the following, when asked about an evaluation of his defensive coaching and game plan.

“That’s probably the one area that I feel better about today. We did what I wanted today in terms of coaching. And coaching had nothing to do with the outcome today,” Kelly said.

That was likely a time-buyer until a long night of thinking, because morning brought clarity for the head man.

 

THE UGLY

The State of the Program. With the game tied 28-28 heading into the fourth quarter, one team was jumping around like they’d won the lotto. The other was all but biting their fingernails, kicking dirty and looking lethargic.

If anything set off Kelly postgame—even more so than the defense his troops were displaying—it was the lack of effort.

“There’s no passion for it. It looks like it’s hard to play. Like we’re pulling teeth,” Kelly said. “You’re playing football for Notre Dame. It looks like it’s work. Last I checked they were getting a scholarship to play this game.

“There’s no fun, there’s no enjoyment, there’s no energy. We got to look for the guys that want to have fun and play this game with passion and energy and that’s where we got to go.”

In Kelly’s first few seasons in South Bend, he was criticized for having his team celebrate victories, even the ugly ones. But somewhere this program lost track of the ultimate goal and that likely falls on the head coach to fix that problem as soon as possible.

 

Firing a staffer. Notre Dame’s head coach likely saw what many of us saw as well. But a decision like that from the cheap-seats is one thing, a decision from inside the program is another.

Follow Notre Dame long enough, and you’ll tire of thinking about the carousel that’s come and gone—Davie, O’Leary, Willingham, Weis, armies of loyal assistants who have spent years working to climb the summit. And for most, life after Notre Dame isn’t the same.

Sure, there’s Urban Meyer, Dan Mullen and Charlie Strong. But there are a few dozen others who have come to a program with noble ambitions—willing to do it right and win on and off the field—but they fail too often on Saturdays.

So as ND Nation almost united in celebration of the move, it’s worth a quick word to a fanbase that always fashions itself as possessing proper etiquette.

Few come to your office and celebrate the worst day of your professional career. Less dig into your family’s Twitter account, hoping to break a story or confirm news they celebrate jubilantly. Sure, some of that comes with the territory. And certainly VanGorder was well compensated for his time in South Bend.

But ultimately, this Sunday hopefully provided some perspective. Baseball lost one of its brightest young stars. Golf lost one of its icons. And many many more things of consequence took place—inside the sporting world and out.

But when it comes to VanGorder, a quick reminder of something that has nothing to do with sports. A man has lost his job. A family will uproot once again. And the dynamics on the current football team—where Montgomery VanGorder still plays an important role—won’t ever be the same.

“I will tell you this: Brian is as fine a defensive coach as there is out there. He knows the game. He loves Notre Dame,” Kelly said on Sunday. “He wanted to succeed as much as anybody here, but it wasn’t working.”

There should be no harm in that.

VanGorder out as defensive coordinator

05 September 2015:  Notre Dame Fighting Irish defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder stands with his players in action during a game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Texas Longhorns at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, IN. (Icon Sportswire via AP Images)
AP
114 Comments

Brian VanGorder has been fired. Notre Dame’s third-year defensive coordinator was relieved of his duties after just four games.

Brian Kelly made the move official Sunday morning, less than an hour before his weekly Sunday teleconference. He’s replaced VanGorder with defensive analyst Greg Hudson, a former Notre Dame linebacker who joined the Irish staff in June and spent the last three seasons as defensive coordinator at Purdue, a position he also held at East Carolina and Minnesota. The rest of the defensive staff remains unchanged.

“Obviously, this is a difficult day for our coaching staff, but I’m excited and honored about the opportunity that Coach Kelly has afforded me,” Hudson said in the team’s statement. “We’ve got to improve on defense, without a doubt, and I’m confident that we will. We have great student-athletes and a tremendous defensive coaching staff. I can’t wait to get started with our group.”

The VanGorder era ends with the Irish ranked 101st in scoring defense, 96th in rushing defense and 87th in pass defense. The Irish are dead last in sacks, the last FBS team to get one when Nyles Morgan finally got the team’s first sack against Duke.

Hired after Bob Diaco left Notre Dame for the head job at UConn, VanGorder brought with him an NFL system and a multiple, attacking scheme. But after injuries derailed his first season, it was a defense best known for its maddening inconsistency, with even last season’s talented outfit plagued by the big play and mistakes.

As late as Saturday night Kelly pledged allegiance to his defensive coordinator, calling the staff’s game plan the least of his concerns after the 38-35 loss.

“We did what I wanted today in terms of coaching. And coaching had nothing to do with the outcome today. I was pleased from that perspective,” Kelly said.

 

Five things we learned: Duke 38, Notre Dame 35

113 Comments

The tombstone for Brian Kelly’s seventh football team in South Bend might read:

Here lies Notre Dame. They found ways to lose.

That might lean dramatic, but the Irish are 1-3, a 38-35 defeat at the hands of Duke the latest boondoggle for a team that’s waking up all the wrong echoes. And Kelly’s program—led by a historically bad defense— is plummeting, a free-fall from what seemed like solid ground entering the season.

But that’s what a perfect storm will do. A horrific defense, a schizophrenic offense, poor leadership and a young roster stepping into every trap laid, every banana peel dropped, especially when the chips are on the table.

A week after getting out-classed by Michigan State, Notre Dame faces a much different monster in the mirror.

“I told our guys we’re going in the wrong direction. We’re not going to continue to go in this direction,” Kelly said postgame. “We’ll have to reevaluate what we’re doing, who we are doing it with and how we’re doing it. All of those things.

Let’s find out what we learned.

 

Notre Dame’s defense has infected the entire football team. 

A last-second kneel down was all that kept Duke from crossing 500 yards of offense. But it isn’t enough that the Irish defense is getting decimated by every competent football team that lines up across from them. Their mediocre play has infected the entire team.

That’s what happens when you put pressure on your offense to score every series. That’s what happens when you coach to protect one vulnerability, only to unleash another.

Because it isn’t enough that this defense misses tackles, blows assignments and plays with an alarmingly low IQ. They’ve found a way to infect the offense and the entire coaching philosophy, too.

There’s no need to spend words indicting Brian VanGorder (or Kelly for hiring him) or the position coaches for failing to get the defense in the right position. Kelly made it abundantly clear that any move he makes will likely be postseason, not as some sort of mid-season shuffle.

Because even a back-to-the-basics week did nothing to salvage things. We saw no uptick from working on tackling midweek in mid-September, for preaching the fundamentals; “speed to power” in one ear and out the other, like a Duke player weaving through defenders to daylight.

This defense is toxic and has found a way to derail all three segments of the team, hoisting enough pressure onto DeShone Kizer that it was as much the guys in blue making his afternoon tough as it was David Cutcliffe’s team.

 

Blame coaching all you want, but Brian Kelly is making it clear that he’s holding his players accountable, too. 

Brian Kelly said all the right things about coaching accountability, spitting out the perfunctory cliches—”I’m a 1-3 football coach. We’re all 1-3 football coaches”—through gritted teeth.

But it didn’t take long for Kelly to make his true feelings clear, taking dead aim at the effort and attitude that his team showed Saturday afternoon, making it clear he’ll be looking for a different type of football player to take the field next week.

“Guys that have fire and grit. We had one guy in the entire football team that had emotion and fire. And that was Dexter Williams. He’s the only one. He’s the only one that I saw,” Kelly said after some prodding.

“So if you want to play for me moving forward. I don’t care what your resume said, if you’re a five star, if you had 100 tackles or 80 receptions or 30 touchdown passes, you better have some damn fire and energy in you. We lack it. We lack it severely.”

After another week where veterans were just as responsible for futility as any rookies, Kelly made it clear that he’s set to make sweeping changes to the team that’ll take the field next weekend in East Rutherford against Syracuse.

“Every position. All 22 of them, will be evaluated. Each and every position,” Kelly said. “There is no position that is untouchable on this football team. That’s the quarterback all the way down.”

 

Notre Dame needs to find an offensive identity, too. Because DeShone Kizer wasn’t close to good enough to bail them out. 

There’s no applauding the 534 yards of offense the Irish put up. Because when push came to shove, the Irish offense failed to score when they had two final chances to win the football game—a troubling trend that’s beginning to emerge.

The ground game struggled. Behind an offensive line that’s still making too many mistakes, Josh Adams, Tarean Folston and Dexter Williams were all held below five yards a carry. Only Kizer found an explosive play on the ground, his 23-yarder the only running gain the Irish had over 20 yards.

Kizer put up some empty statistics as well. He was clearly pressing for much of the second half, even after the momentary boost the offense got from the defense after halftime. Kizer’s fourth quarter was one to forget, just 3 of 7 passing for 45 yards, taking a sack, throwing a mindless interception on 3rd-and-20, and short-circuiting any comeback chance with a poor final drive.

Combine that with some head-scratching reads, a handful of missed touch passes and an inexcusable fumble, and it was a difficult afternoon for the Irish’s star quarterback.

“Below standard,” Kelly said of his quarterback’s play.

 

Once again turnovers, special teams and self-inflicted wounds killed the Irish. 

Want to learn how to throw away momentum? Give up a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

With Chase Claypool, Julian Okwara and Nick Coleman all blowing tackles, even a serious injury to return man extraordinaire Devon Edwards didn’t stop backup Shaun Wilson from taking one to the house, flipping the game completely on its head when it looked like the Irish could bury Duke early.

Add in Kizer’s fumble, his fourth-quarter interception (and another one he gift-wrapped that was dropped) and Equanimeous St. Brown getting stripped after a big gain, and it’s a formula the Irish know all too well.

“There’s not a lot of things to point out other than the obvious. Three turnovers, all of them impact the game. Sloppy turnovers. A kickoff return for a touchdown,” Kelly said to open his postgame comments. “And the inability to mount anything consistently throughout the game. Once you feel like you have something going pretty good and then we tend to make a mistake and let teams back in the game.”

That’s certainly what happened Saturday afternoon, with the Irish capable of delivering a knockout punch and instead carrying the Blue Devils off the ropes and right back into the game.

Toss in some of the worst tackling—both attempts and angles—you’ll ever see and you’ve got a recipe for defeat.

 

You need to live and die with the kids. Because this might not be rock bottom. 

Bad news: This could get worse.

Because as Kelly mentioned last week, there are no trades, no waiver wire and no cuts in college football. Sure, you can run Brian VanGorder out of town if you really think that’ll help, but it’s only going to add more instability to a season that’s not close to rock bottom—not with offenses like Syracuse, Stanford, Miami, Virginia Tech, Army, Navy and USC on the schedule.

(No disrespect meant to NC State, I’m sure they’ll find a way to get theirs, too.)

The roster that Kelly himself assembled deserves examination. But that’s the group that needs to get this team out of trouble. And it’s tough to say any amount of hard coaching will allow that to happen.

So live and die with the kids.

Donte Vaughn, welcome to the starting lineup. Julian Love, see you there, too.

Khalid Kareem, Jamir Jones and Julian Okwara can’t be any worse at getting off blocks than Andrew Trumbetti—who plays like a two-gap defensive tackle instead of a guy attempting to rush the passer.

Offensively, pass the baton to Equanimeous St. Brown already—he’s clearly the team’s No. 1 receiver. Give Chase Claypool and Kevin Stepherson reps at the X if Torii Hunter can’t scare teams downfield. And if Tarean Folston can’t find that next gear, Dexter Williams certainly seems willing to show you his.

Notre Dame’s football program is in a dangerous place, and all are responsible.

Because lost somewhere between the fancy new facilities, the social media partnership with Bleacher Report, and the sports-science and nutrition commitments that treat this program better than most NFL outfits, a simple fundamental got lost in the process–and this football team got soft.

We could’ve seen this coming. Kelly hinted at worries during the spring and summer, especially as he openly had questions about this team’s veteran leadership. Those problems were exposed in August, when one senior leader thought it wise to drag four underclassmen with him on a Cheech and Chong adventure, all while exercising his Second Amendment rights, too.

So match a lack of leadership with mediocre effort and a young roster looking for veteran examples and you can bet that Kelly’s postgame comments for the media were a subdued echo of what he said behind closed doors.

“It looks like it’s hard to play, like we’re pulling teeth. We’re playing football for Notre Dame! It looks like it’s work,” Kelly said, almost exacerbated. “Last I checked they were getting a scholarship to play this game. There’s no fun, there’s no enjoyment, there’s no energy.

“We’ve gotta look for the guys that want to have fun and play this game with passion and energy and that’s the way we have to go.”

 

 

Where to watch: Notre Dame vs. Duke

Josh Adams Nevada
AP
129 Comments

It’s another Saturday of football at Notre Dame. And if you’re unable to tune in on NBC at 3:30 p.m., or you want more than our afternoon broadcast with Mike Tirico, Doug Flutie and Kathryn Tappen, we’ve got you covered.

 

For the PREGAME SHOW AT 3:00PM ON NBCSN, CLICK HERE.

For the BROADCAST FEED OF NOTRE DAME VS. DUKE, CLICK HERE.

For the BANDS AT HALFTIME, CLICK HERE.

And your POSTGAME COACHES PRESS CONFERENCES, CLICK HERE.

Here’s to a great Saturday, the first one of autumn.