North Carolina v Notre Dame

The good, the bad, the ugly: Notre Dame vs. North Carolina


That the Irish took the Tar Heels’ best shot and still ended up victorious is worth something. Just what that something is might be defined as the games roll on.

If the Irish continue to win, the victory over North Carolina will be one of the speed bumps on the road to a special season. If Notre Dame struggles this weekend against Florida State and stumbles again, it’ll serve as a harbinger of things to come.

But that’s life in football. You’re only as good as your next game, and every datapoint will be used for or against you, depending on the argument.

With a date in Tallahassee set for Saturday, there’s little time to look back and dwell on a closer-than-necessary victory. But let’s do it anyway.

Here’s the good, bad and ugly from Notre Dame’s 50-43 victory.




Tarean Folston. It sure was nice seeing a running back take over a football game. Folston was just what the doctor ordered, especially considering Golson’s not-so-steady presence with the football.

That Folston was able to get the ground game going when everybody in the stadium knew it was coming is a good sign. While I was less than impressed early by the work the offensive line did, Folston meshed well with the front five when crunch time came around, and when the ground game needed it they came through.

My favorite part of Saturday? Check the play-by-play for Folston’s impressive work icing the game after the questionable roughing the snapper penalty.

Drive One: Three carries for 21 yards. Two catches for 13 yards and a touchdown.
Drive Two: Seven carries for 43 yards and a touchdown.

With 71 yards in the air and 98 on the ground, Folston was well deserving of the game ball.


Will Fuller. Against a defense that’s one of the worst statistical units in the country, you had to expect a big day from Notre Dame’s big-play receiver. And Fuller delivered, making seven catches for 133 yards and two touchdowns.

With the sophomore the team’s No. 1 receiver without DaVaris Daniels, Fuller even paid tribute to his missing teammate with Daniels’ three-fingered salute, straight from The Hunger Games.

Through six games, Fuller has 504 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. It doesn’t take a math major to see that he’s just on pace for a 1,000 yard regular season with prolific touchdown numbers as well. When asked if Fuller has what it takes to be the team’s No. 1 receiver, Brian Kelly explained that he’s capable of being dynamic, though still a work in progress.

“I think right now he’s kind of emerging as that big play guy,” Kelly said. “I think we’re looking toward him a lot more. But we have other pieces that really complement him as well. I don’t think he can stand out there by himself, you know what I mean?  I don’t think you could say that’s just one guy, but he definitely possesses the skills that have put him in the position that he is right now.”


Cole Luke. Just a few days after KeiVarae Russell made it official that he wouldn’t play a down with this football team, Cole Luke went out and made another huge play. His critical interception flipped the momentum of the game and was the one bad play North Carolina quarterback Marquis Williams seemed to make.


Notre Dame’s Special Teams. With one of college football’s most dangerous return men on the docket, the Irish shut Ryan Switzer down, holding him to -13 yards on three returns. Add to that six touchbacks on eight kickoffs for Kyle Brindza, a gigantic blocked extra point by Jarron Jones and a great two-point conversion play to Ben Koyack and it was a heckuva day.


The Red Zone. Want to know why Notre Dame came away with a victory? It’s because it cashed in every scoring opportunity for a touchdown. After struggling the past couple weeks in the red zone, the Irish were lethal. A six for six afternoon was needed, and it’s the big reason why Notre Dame was capable of closing the early gap.

It’s nice to see some balance in the red zone, with Greg Bryant, Cam McDaniel and Folston getting rushing touchdowns while the Irish also cashed in with Fuller and Folston in the air as well. A prolific afternoon inside the 20 helped the Irish escape 6-0.


Quick Hits: 

* How fun is it to see the Jet Sweep start to get some love in the Notre Dame playbook? After watching C.J. Prosise break a big one against Stanford, Prosise and Amir Carlisle both picked up a dozen yards an attempt. It’s good to see the slot receiver continue to make plays of importance.

* Let’s give credit to Marquise Williams here. After splitting series with highly-touted youngster Mitch Trubisky, Williams took every snap — and will likely keep it that way — after lighting up the Irish both on the ground and through the air. How good was Williams? He threw for 303 yards and two touchdowns, ran for 132 yards and a touchdown and caught a 23-yard touchdown pass as well.

Heckuva day in a losing effort.

* Max Redfield & Elijah Shumate combined for 18 tackles on the afternoon. That’s a productive day for two guys who will have a lot of attention heaped on them with Austin Collinsworth likely lost for quite some time.

* Sheldon Day showed up in the stat sheet as only having one assisted tackle. But he was an absolute maniac in the trenches, getting held at least a half-dozen times on plays that should’ve drawn flags.

* A big forced fumble to go along with Joe Schmidt‘s career-high 11 tackles. He might have missed a few uncharacteristically, but that’s because Schmidt should’ve been on a ventilator after playing nearly 90 plays.



Up-tempo defense. The Irish looked lost at times against North Carolina’s up-tempo attack. It was a matchup that worried Brian Kelly and it didn’t take long for us to figure out why.

Kelly spoke quite candidly about the challenges that were presented and what went wrong.

“We’re inexperienced in a number of areas, and if the circumstances played out, we could be put into that kind of situation,” Kelly said, when asked about the defensive struggles after being so stout for the season’s first five games. “Here are the ingredients for that. A team that runs an up‑tempo offense that can run up to 100 plays. I think they had 91. We’re very thin on the back end, as evidenced late in the game. We were tired and tackled poorly. That’s something that concerns us.

“Playing very fast with some young kids, not being able to get off the field on third down with our base personnel. We weren’t able to situational substitute, so we weren’t as good on third down, another key ingredient with playing a team like North Carolina.”


Tackling defense. This comes with being on the football field for over 80 plays (Brian Kelly charted 91, the official books have it as 84). Either way, Notre Dame was sloppy tackling, missed more than its fair share of tackles-for-loss, and failed to contain a quarterback that everybody knew was going to be a runner just as much as a passer.

Jaylon Smith missed his share of stops. So did Joe Schmidt. Matthias Farley, after looking very locked in this season, reverted back to some sloppy habits.

Let’s not make this into something bigger than it is, but heading into a game against an elite athletic unit, the Irish are going to need to sharpen up.


Losing third down on defense. At this point it feels a little bit like we’re dragging the defense through the mud, but the failure for the Irish to win third down after putting the Tar Heels into third-and-long situations was what kept North Carolina in the football game.

Without having the time to bring sub-packages in, the Irish were forced to use their base defense to play on third down. It was likely a big reason why North Carolina’s mediocre offensive line was able to keep Notre Dame from getting a single sack on Williams.


Everett Golson’s turnovers. He knows it. We know it. The coaches know it. Golson just cannot keep this pace of inconsistency up, and the three turnovers turned into 21 North Carolina points.

When asked if this was a trend, Kelly talked about the specifics of how the team deals with mistakes like these.

“Let’s look at each one of them,” Kelly said. “The first one he’s stepping up in the pocket and it’s a little bit of everything. The route is too deep.  The route should be broke at 12, it broke at 15, so he has to hitch again.  He hitches again, he gets the ball batted, it’s a fumble, turnover.

“The second one, the box is emptied out, it’s probably a mistake that Everett doesn’t normally make, pick six. Third one he’s going down, ball gets batted out, hand on the ball.

“Every single one of them is analyzed, overanalyzed, and we look at them and we go back to work and find ways to secure the football and do a better job.  We don’t take any of them for granted.  We look at ways to improve each time and look at each one of them as opportunities to eradicate them.”

There were some fans online that seemed ready to give Malik Zaire an opportunity to show what he can do. That’s ridiculous. Golson is the school’s most prolific winner, has thrown 16 touchdowns to just four interceptions, and is still the Irish’s best offensive player.

But he needs to stop making critical mistakes and get back to being himself.


Austin Collinsworth’s injury. The veteran safety will get an MRI, but is likely lost for an extended amount of time, leaving the safety position in a difficult spot. Already pronounced out for Saturday in Tallahassee, there’s a chance Collinsworth has played his last snap in South Bend.

(Though there’s also a chance he could be eligible for a sixth-year of competition.)

We tackled what the safety position will look like without Collinsworth during Saturday’s Five Things, but the depth at safety is very thin and it’s going to be on the shoulders of Elijah Shumate and Max Redfield to get it done.



Winning bad. The 43-points Notre Dame gave up are the most in a victory in school history, passing the 42 Lou Holtz’s 1991 squad gave up to Hawaii. But for as frustrating as it seemed to be, five years into the program, the Irish were able to right the ship and come out with a win.

“I think where we’re at right now is that we’ve won 35 of our last 43 games,” Kelly said. “I think that just says it right there.  I mean, these guys believe they’re going to win. When you have that built into your program, guys believe they’re going to find ways to win. We were down 14 points, there’s no panic. We’re down late.  I think these last two games we were down in the fourth quarter, and we won the football game. We don’t want that to happen, but I think the difference is they believe they’re going to win, and that’s something that you build into your program.”

Well said, coach.

Now get it done in Tallahassee, and nobody will remember you struggled with North Carolina.

Irish get commitment from pass-rusher Bo Wallace

On a Saturday where Notre Dame failed to get any sacks, the Irish landed a pass-rusher for the future. New Orleans’ Bo Wallace committed to the Irish on Sunday, announcing the decision on Twitter. Wallace and his parents were in South Bend this weekend for his official visit, taking in the North Carolina game and campus.

The 6-foot-3.5, 215-pounder is expected to play defensive end for Notre Dame, adding a much needed edge-rush presence to the 2015 recruiting class. While he’s an undersized prospect that only carries a three-star ranking, Wallace stars for the powerhouse John Curtis program, and had offers from Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Oklahoma, Texas and Florida State.

Wallace’s commitment is a surprise, considering John Curtis prospects rarely take official visits before their season is over. But with a weekend off, Wallace and his family were able to get to Notre Dame to meet with the coaches and take in campus, and that was all that it took to close the deal.

Wallace is commitment No. 19 for the Irish, filling another need as the class gets closer and closer to capacity. Wallace joins Jerry Tillery as a Louisiana-based recruit and is the first defensive end in the class.

Five things we learned: Notre Dame 50, North Carolina 43

UNC at Notre Dame

Every one of the 80,000-plus bodies in Notre Dame Stadium knew that North Carolina was ready to spring a trap on Notre Dame. But wouldn’t you know it, the Irish stepped in it anyway.

That’s life in college football. And after hearing Brian Kelly say pregame that this was a game that “scared him to death,” he watched his star quarterback spot the Tar Heels 21 points and his defense play no better.

But the Irish rallied, digging themselves out of an early 14-point hole and another deficit late in the third quarter to pull out a 50-43 victory over the Tar Heels. The win wasn’t pretty, but it sets up the showdown everybody was focusing on already, with the undefeated Irish traveling to Tallahassee for a shot at the defending national champs.

“Lots of points, lots of penalties, lots of turnovers, lots of things to correct, but lots of resolve on Notre Dame’s part,” Kelly said. “Those kids keep playing. Sometimes it’s not perfect, but they know how to win.”

Kelly’s comments just hint at the work the Irish need to do before they take the field again next Saturday. Let’s take a look at what we learned in the Irish’s wild 50-43 victory.



This team will live and die with Everett Golson. And Saturday, the quarterback came very close to killing the Irish’s playoff dreams. 

It’s not fair to peg the game’s struggles on Golson entirely. But this is Notre Dame football, a place where fair went to die sometime in the Rockne era.

Golson continued his turnover prone ways, a worry for a team that needs its quarterback to be the best player on the field. But on a Saturday afternoon where two dual-threat quarterbacks served as the engine to their teams’ offenses, it was North Carolina’s Marquise Williams that outplayed Golson.

That’s not to say that Golson was bad. But you can forget a 300-yard, three touchdown passing game pretty quickly when your three turnovers turn into 21 North Carolina points. And on a Saturday where the Irish could’ve buried the Tar Heels with a quick start, Golson spotted them 14 early points on three offensive series, with the Irish quarterback running his teammates straight into the trip wire.

“I’m going to do a better job, for sure,” Golson said after the game. “I think I said it earlier, but I come in here kind of every week for the last couple of weeks saying I have to do a better job. Right now, it’s time for me to stop saying that and time for me to put my words into action and actually do that.”

Next Saturday, Golson will have that opportunity. And he’ll have to play excellent football or the Irish will leave Tallahassee 6-1. But after hearing Doug Flutie talk about it in a half-dozen times during the NBC broadcast, the senior quarterback could take a lesson from the former Heisman Trophy Winner.

Use your athleticism. Play with your instincts. Understand that you need to play within the rhythm of the offense, but also know who you are. That’s not a quarterback that climbs the pocket when it’s just as easy to escape it and make a play.

This is all part of the evolution of a quarterback and a big reason. But a quick look in the mirror could help fix some of the problems that are ailing Golson.



Brian VanGorder’s defense didn’t respond well to an up-tempo attack. 

Larry Fedora’s offense very nearly ran the Irish defense off the field. They certainly ran it out of the statistical Top 10. North Carolina racked up 510 yards of offense, scoring 43 points and leaving Notre Dame’s defense searching for answers as they struggled to combat a true up-tempo attack.

The quick tempo the Tar Heels played with opened up all sorts of new issues for Notre Dame, with missed tackles, blown assignments and squandered opportunities all leading Brian VanGorder back to the laboratory before Florida State.

The Irish defense struggled mightily with Marquise Williams, with North Carolina’s quarterback throwing for 303 yards and running for 132, accounting for 85 percent of the Tar Heel offense.

“We tackled poorly. We executed poorly. We got to coach better,” Kelly said after the game. “We just got to do a better job all the way around.”

The Tar Heel offense made substitutions difficult, their tempo all but nullifying the Irish’s ability to put in exotic packages. Nowhere was that more evident than on third downs, with Carolina converting 9-of-17, consistently moving the chains and extending drives.

Of course, Notre Dame helped there as well. A slew of missed tackles will have the Irish going back to the basics. And five red zone scores in six attempts helped run the scoreboard up, even if the Irish offense wasn’t much help.

Seeing a big, muscular and athletic quarterback rip apart the Irish defense should have Notre Dame fans wondered what’s to come when the Irish take on the defending Heisman Trophy winner next week. So it’s back to the drawing board for the Irish defense, who will have a big week of practice in front of them.



Tarean Folston found his rhythm in the Irish running game. 

There’s no better slump-buster than a mediocre defense. And Notre Dame’s running game was the beneficiary of the Tar Heels’ ineptitude, running for 219 yards against a defense that gives up around 200 yards a game.

After trying their best to play the hot hand, sophomore Tarean Folston took control of the running game. It’s a request Kelly has made before, wondering if the talented back had the alpha dog in him that demands touches when two other capable players are waiting their turn.

But Folston did that on Saturday. Making both the ordinary play and the extraordinary one, he thrived on the ground, running for 98 tough yards on 18 carries. He also had five catches for 71 yards, including a key third down touchdown where he was short of the first down but made a move on the defender to burst into the end zone.

After taking over the running back job down the stretch last season, Folston showed himself capable of that again Saturday afternoon.

“As we work through the three running backs situation we got into a really good rhythm with him in there,” Kelly said of his sophomore running back. “Tough yardage, breaking tackles, running through tackles. That’s what we’ve been asking the backs to do, is to run through tacklers. They’re physical, strong backs, and once we saw he was going to run in that kind of manner and demeanor, he was going to get more carries and he got the game ball today.”

On a Saturday where Greg Bryant also did some good things in the run and pass game, the youth at the position is maturing enough to add some new looks to the Irish offense. And a week before heading to Florida State to challenge the Seminoles, Folston is emerging right on time.



Austin Collinsworth’s injury puts a lot of pressure on safeties Max Redfield and Elijah Shumate. 

Fifth-year senior Austin Collinsworth suffered a dislocated shoulder on Saturday. An MRI will likely reveal an injury that could end the season for the hard-luck captain, just returning to the field after an MCL sprain. Without Collinsworth, the Irish will be incredibly young at the safety position, relying on Max Redfield and Elijah Shumate to carry the load.

North Carolina’s up-tempo offense gave that duo problems, with communications breakdowns contributing to some big plays for the Tar Heels.

“We lost Collinsworth unfortunately early on. And we started him for a reason, because we knew we needed a great communicator back there,” Kelly explained. “So we were left back there with two guys that, you know, struggle sometimes communicating effectively.

“A couple of occasions they were both spinning down on the same play.  When one is supposed to be spinning to the high hole, both of them were spinning down on several occasions.  So those are real issues that we have to continue to work on.”

One of the first things Brian Kelly did when taking over the Notre Dame program was rebuild a safety position with little depth. That forced young players like Harrison Smith, Zeke Motta and Jamoris Slaughter to grow up quickly while reinforcements came.

Well the Irish find themselves in a similar situation. With Collinsworth down, Nicky Baratti out, and Eilar Hardy likely done for the season as the Honor Committee finishes its process, the Irish will rely on Redfield, Shumate and freshman Drue Tranquill to take a lot of snaps.

It’s a challenge that’ll likely define the performance of the Irish defense.



It’s only human nature. After a distracting week, a tough matchup and Florida State on the horizon, Notre Dame got the job done. And hopefully learned something about themselves in the process. 

After two-plus months of waiting for discipline to be doled out by Notre Dame’s administration, the dominos finally began to fall on the fate of the Irish’s five suspended players. After pushing the situation to the background for five football games, the disappointing conclusion of losing five beloved teammates had to take a toll on the Irish this week, especially when you have KeiVarae Russell emotionally addressing his teammates at Thursday’s practice.

Of course, Saturday’s matchup with the Tar Heels presented its own problems. A quick strike offense that created matchup problems. And sandwiched between two emotional battles, no matter how loudly a coaching staff tells you about an opponent, human nature — especially that of 18-to-21-year-olds — had to have the Irish just wanting to get through Saturday and on to Florida State.

“I told them, you’re going to have some of these games,” Kelly said. “You shake it off. You go back to practice. They’ve done some great things this year. They will be ready to play their very best against Florida State. But the nice part about it is we got great film and great teaching off of another win.”

That film will reveal a few things to the Irish. For the defense, it’ll be a reminder that their unit can only be as good as their foundation. So regardless of scheme, making tackles and being fundamentally sound is critical. On offense, missed assignments and troubling turnovers can derail any individual effort. (We all but forgot about Will Fuller’s Saturday, especially if North Carolina recovers that onside kick.)

But that’s life with a young football team. There will be Saturdays like this. But at 6-0, Notre Dame is perfect and in perfect position to win their biggest football game of the season. What more can you ask for in mid-October?


Live Blog — Notre Dame vs. North Carolina

Notre Dame v Syracuse

After a week filled with off-field distractions, Notre Dame takes the field with aims of getting to 6-0. Sandwiched between tough games with Stanford and Florida State, the Irish take on a 2-3 North Carolina team that’s yet to put together a complete game.

The Tar Heels hope that game comes this afternoon, a day with perfect fall weather and no chance for rain. The Irish hope to take care of business early, jumping on a woefully young North Carolina defense and an offense that’s potent, but overly reliant on quarterback Marquise Williams.

For those looking for a livestream of the game, you can find it here.

For those here to chat, see below.

As usual, standard rules apply. Be nice, keep it clean, sane and enjoyable.

Corey Robinson blazes his own path (VIDEO)

Corey Robinson, Kyle Olugbode
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On a Notre Dame roster with plenty of famous fathers, none are as imposing as David Robinson. Sure, it helps that he’s a a seven-footer. But the former Hall of Fame basketball star from the San Antonio Spurs is one of the all-time greats to ever play the game, casting quite a shadow every Saturday he’s spotted at a Notre Dame football game.

For sophomore wide receiver Corey Robinson, that set some expectations as a young athlete coming up. But after finding football relatively late, the younger Robinson has blazed his own path, carving out his own niche, while finding his father as his biggest fan along the way.

Our NDonNBC team caught up with father and son to discuss their relationship.