Notre Dame v Stanford

And in that corner… The Stanford Cardinal


As the calendar turns to October, the heart of the football season arrives. The next month will likely determine the fate of the Irish, kicking off with Saturday’s matchup against Stanford.

No stranger to David Shaw and the Cardinal, the Irish know they are in for their biggest challenge of the season. Stanford’s defense will test Everett Golson and the Irish offense, requiring a near perfect Saturday for the Irish to advance undefeated.

As we did in the spring, we connected with Stanford Daily Executive Editor Joseph Beyda. Joey took the time to answer a few of my questions about the Cardinal four games into the season. In addition to writing for the school paper, Joey co-authored the book “Rags to Roses,” and also covered the Cardinal’s women’s soccer national title for the New York Times. He’s a senior majoring in electrical engineering.

Hope you enjoy.


The Cardinal are 3-1 and ranked 14th in the country. While they’ve coasted to easy victories over UC Davis and Army, they pulled out a tight victory over Washington and lost a close game to USC. With one-third of the season behind, is this team better or worse than you imagined?

How about this: The Cardinal actually look a bit better than expected, but at the same time, they have severely underperformed through four games on offense. That’s the contradiction Stanford fans have been wrestling with so far this season, and it’s the only reason why the team didn’t blow out USC and Washington.

Let me explain. To begin with, there have certainly been some positives for the Cardinal offense. Star receiver Ty Montgomery’s role has expanded past the passing game and kickoff returns, as he now fields punts, serves as Stanford’s primary Wildcat back and has even taken some read-option handoffs from Kevin Hogan.

The tight end position, which accounted for just 10 catches last year (down from 93 in 2012), has already doubled its production with 20 receptions so far, bringing back an intermediate passing game that is crucial for Hogan’s success. And even without a true power back in the Toby Gerhart-Stepfan Taylor-Tyler Gaffney mold, Remound Wright and Kelsey Young (Stanford’s two primary options) are both above five yards per carry.

But the offense’s inconsistency has been maddening, especially against USC and Washington. The loss to the Trojans was particularly incomprehensible: Stanford got to the USC 32-yard line on each and every drive – that’s nine times – and finished with just 10 points. Let that sink in for a second. It all came down to a mix of incredibly inopportune penalties, turnovers deep in Trojans territory, bad blocking by the offensive line and missed field goals, and three weeks later the Cardinal nearly beat itself again against Washington with more of the same.

The coaching buzzword here is that Stanford needs to “execute” better, and for all the close games the Cardinal has played over the last two seasons, that label seems to fit this team the best. For 80 yards of the football field, Stanford’s offense has looked worthy of a top-five team, and the talent is certainly there. But we all know it’s those last 20 yards that count.


The defense doesn’t seem to have lost a step with Derek Mason and a lot of talent departing. Looking over the stats there are a lot of familiar names and a few new ones, too. Is first-year defensive coordinator Lance Anderson doing anything differently? What has been the most impressive part of the nation’s No. 1 defense?

I told you in May that Stanford’s rebuilt front seven wouldn’t miss a beat. Well, here you go.

But in all honestly, I didn’t expect the Cardinal to be better defensively this year than it was last year, after the loss of Shayne Skov, Trent Murphy, Ben Gardner, Ed Reynolds and others. Stanford ranks first in the country in a few notable categories: total defense (198 yards per game), scoring defense (6.5 points per game) and passing defense (74 yards per game). That includes showdowns with both USC’s dynamic hurry-up and Chris Petersen at Washington.

Anderson hasn’t changed much, which is part of what makes this front seven so impressive. The guys who had been waiting in the wings have stepped up, so Stanford can just keep doing what it had done in the past – only better. Outside linebacker Kevin Anderson, who backed up Trent Murphy last year, has made some big stops this season, and his backup, sophomore Peter Kalambayi, actually leads the team in sacks (five) and tackles for loss (four). Stanford has also successfully rotated four or five inside linebackers despite the loss of two fifth-year seniors.

If there’s any big shift for the Cardinal defense, it’s coming from new secondary coach Duane Akina, the longtime Texas DBs guru who essentially replaced Mason’s expertise on the staff. He had a line from fall camp that hinted at the changes that were in the works, joking to his players, “It’s hard when you’ve taken French, and we’re trying to teach you Chinese.” So far, the DBs have been pretty fluent.


The offense doesn’t seem to be hitting on all cylinders just yet, failing to break 200 yards rushing this season. How has the rebuilt offensive line performed? Are the Cardinal getting the explosive plays they wanted from the passing game? Any surprises or disappointments thus far?

The two biggest factors for Stanford this season were always going to be the offensive line and quarterback Kevin Hogan. The line – made up of five juniors, four of them first-time starters, all from Stanford’s historic 2012 O-line recruiting class – started off slowly and had some of the more devastating hiccups (red zone penalties, poor protection, etc.) against USC. But the unit has gotten better in each of its last two games since then, and you really couldn’t complain about their performance against Washington, which had led the nation in sacks (19 in its first four games) before recording just one against Stanford.

Hogan has been another story. Head coach David Shaw has been saying since Hogan’s redshirt freshman season, when he took over as starter, that the dynamic quarterback just had to cut down on the five or so bad plays he had every game. Two years later, the issue hasn’t changed. Against Washington, Hogan stared down a blanketed Montgomery before throwing a predictable pick and also lost a fumble later in the game. His throws are often high and late, squandering yards after catch and nullifying what would be easy completions. Surrounded by a receiver corps that could be the best in the country, Hogan is often the weakest link in the Cardinal passing game.

Granted, Hogan does a lot of things well: he manages the Cardinal offense pretty effectively, completes a high percentage of his passes (despite the perceived inaccuracy) and won Saturday’s game at Washington with his feet. But he still plays like a freshman at times, and that’s been a disappointment.

You’re right that the gaudy numbers haven’t been there, both when it comes to rushing yardage and big plays downfield. If Stanford can eliminate the mental mistakes and sustain its drives better, that should fix itself.


David Shaw had to answer some tough questions after red zone woes all but cost Stanford the game against USC. Widely viewed as one of the elite coaches in college football, is his stubbornness in short-yardage situations is becoming part of his narrative yet?

Blaming David Shaw has become a bit of knee-jerk reaction for fans after a Cardinal loss. He’s taken the heat for everything: setting up a potential game-winning field goal in the 2012 Fiesta Bowl, running too little against Utah (which had a great front seven) last season and taking the ball out of a struggling Hogan’s hands against Michigan State (which had a great secondary) in the 2014 Rose Bowl. I’ll admit, I’m a bit of a Shaw defender, but the flak that he takes is usually inconsistent and surface-level.

Perhaps the biggest outlash came after the USC loss this season, since Shaw takes over play-calling duties from offensive coordinator Mike Bloomgren in the red zone, where Stanford struggled so heavily against the Trojans. Even though Shaw took much of the blame on himself after the loss, the criticism isn’t entirely merited. My great friend and colleague George Chen broke down every Cardinal drive and did a great job highlighting the execution issues that were more prevalent. You can’t blame a head coach for chop blocks and bad snaps.


Stanford’s secondary looks like a really talented group of veterans. Notre Dame’s young receiving corps is very skilled. Is this the biggest matchup you see for Saturday afternoon?

It’s definitely up there. Remember, USC’s young-but-skilled receiving corps only came up with 135 yards against the Cardinal. Step one for Stanford is to control Notre Dame the same way.

This week, though, the Cardinal are probably looking inward more than anything. Even the defense took a few drive-extending penalties at Washington. Stanford needs its best, least sloppy game of the season to win on Saturday.


Vegas has this game as a coin-flip. How do you see things shaking out?

Vegas probably has it right. If Stanford can clean up its game, this could be a breakout performance for the Cardinal, but it’s hard to predict whether that will happen any time soon.

Kelly: Irish need to play their best to beat Stanford

Notre Dame v Stanford

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly addressed the media today to discuss Saturday’s showdown with Stanford. And a week after surviving a five-turnover game against Syracuse, Kelly made it pretty clear that he knew that type of effort wasn’t going to cut it.

“They know that they are going to have to be at their very, very best to beat Stanford,” Kelly said.

To that point, there’s good personnel news that’ll allow the Irish to improve. Slot receiver Amir Carlisle, who sat out against Syracuse after he suffered a knee injury against Purdue, was back atop the depth chart. A week after Kelly called Carlisle’s return just questionable, he expressed healthy optimism that the senior would be ready to answer the bell against a program where he was once a verbal commitment.

“I think we are all very surprised where he is today,” Kelly said. “I’m going to put him in team. I’m going to put him in seven‑on‑seven and I’ll probably give him 50 percent of the reps that I would normally give him and then I’ll have a good sense after today where we are with him.”

Also returning to the depth chart is senior captain Austin Collinsworth, who is listed as Elijah Shumate’s backup at strong safety. Last week, Kelly said Collinsworth was set to play limited snaps, though after the game he acknowledged he was an emergency option only. This week, he’ll likely contribute against a talented Stanford receiving corps.

“Austin, is so much further along,” Kelly said. “I would expect that he would help us this weekend.”

If there’s one major talking point that came up over and over (besides questions about Kelly’s concussion protocol after seeing Brady Hoke’s controversial treatment of Wolverines’ quarterback Shane Morris), it was Stanford’s stout defense. Through four games, it’s the number one defense in the country by a number of statistical measures.

The Cardinal are No. 1 in scoring defense. They are No. 1 in total defense. They are No. 1 in passing defense. And they are doing it with new defensive coordinator Lance Anderson, who was promoted after Derek Mason took the Vanderbilt job, and was on Harbaugh’s original staff in 2007.

Kelly talked about his program’s respect for the Cardinal and head coach David Shaw, who has continued to build from a blueprint started by Jim Harbaugh (more on this later in the week).

“I think we all know a lot about Stanford and Coach Shaw and the consistency that they have played at the national level,” Kelly said. “We have a great deal of respect for their football team, their program, their coaching staff, their players. It’s a veteran football team.”

The game within the game will likely match up Notre Dame’s receivers with a tough Stanford secondary. The Cardinal held USC’s passing attack to just 135 yards, so putting Carlisle, Corey Robinson and Will Fuller to work against veteran cornerbacks Alex Carter and Wayne Lyons is a battle Notre Dame needs to find a way to win.

Kelly talked about the growing confidence among the receivers, especially with Chris Brown getting his first consistent production last weekend.

“I think it’s a group that is gaining confidence along the way. They are making some plays, and I think as you make plays, I’ve always felt that that’s how you gain confidence,” Kelly said. “I think Chris Brown made some plays and you could see he gained some confidence curing the game.

“Certainly Will Fuller is gaining confidence each and every week. You know, so I just think it’s a matter of those guys continuing to make plays. I thought that they blocked well opponent the perimeter, which is another important part of the development of our wide receiving core.

“So we are four games into it. You know, a third of the way, and I think that they have made pretty good progress.”



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

William Fuller, C.J. Prosise

On second inspection, Notre Dame did some very impressive things in their 31-15 victory over Syracuse. But the head-scratching mistakes that revealed themselves in the season’s fourth game also gave us our first sign of some flaws that many had hoped this young team was past.

Offensively, the Irish’s 523 yards had the Irish positioned for another 40+ point output. Of course, their five turnovers had the team staring defeat in the face. Defensively, Brian VanGorder’s unit was relentless, shutting down a tough Syracuse ground game. But the Irish pass defense showed cracks, with four different Orange receivers catching passes of 25 yards or longer.

With Stanford on the horizon and October likely to determine this team’s fate, let’s get to the good, the bad and ugly of the Irish’s 31-15 victory.



The short passing game. For as good as Everett Golson looked during the season’s first three games, Notre Dame’s short passing game hadn’t been that effective. But that changed on Saturday, with the Irish going to the screen and quick game to loosen up the Orange’s defensive scheme.

While much was made of the Irish’s dink-and-dunk approach, that Golson was so capable and accurate — completing 25 straight passes — adds another dimension to the Notre Dame offense.

A key component to the quick game is excellent blocking by the Irish wide receivers. After not necessarily doing the best job of that early this season, solid blocking allowed chain-moving gains by Corey Robinson. The Irish also got the running backs involved with screens, with a few well designed passes going to the backs as well.

With running likely tough against Stanford as well, quick passes could be the key to opening things up.


The run defense. A very strong performance for the Irish defense, with great team tackling really supporting the whole unit. When the team’s opposing punter is the leading rusher, you know you’ve done something well.

That Notre Dame was able to all but shut down Syracuse on the ground says quite a bit. But more importantly, we’re starting to see the wake that the Irish D-Boys are leaving behind, with big time physicality leaving Orange quarterback Terrel Hunt struggling to play his usual role in the run game. Thank cornerback Cole Luke for a big stick, hardly the first guy you’d think of when it comes to laying the wood.

Setting up for a smashmouth weekend, watching the Irish go toe-to-toe with Stanford’s offensive line will be very interesting. But after four games, you couldn’t ask for Notre Dame’s rush defense to be playing any better.


Enhanced creativity. Notre Dame came out of the bye week with a few new wrinkles, likely giving Stanford and Florida State a few more formations they’ll need to prepare for in the weeks to come. We saw a zone read pass, taking a page out of Auburn’s play book. We also saw some multiple tight end formations, with Tyler Luatua spending quite a bit of time on the field.

The Irish also put multiple backs in the backfield, making more than a few Notre Dame fans very happy about the idea of getting more snaps for the Irish trio. The debut of the jumbo set was perfect, the tight formation looking like a perfect power formation, until Will Fuller went over the top for 72 yards and a touchdown.

It’s worth noting that Notre Dame’s touchdown pass to Robinson was another perfect example of great scheme. With trips to the short side of the field, the Irish spent first down running it up the gut to no avail. But lined up with trips again and Robinson by himself split on the wide side of the field, the fade route touchdown was both great setup and execution.


Will Fuller & Corey Robinson. Let’s hand it to the kids. Both sophomore receivers were excellent, with Fuller providing two gigantic plays for touchdowns among his six catches for 119 yards. Fuller’s 72-yarder was the perfect play after softening up the Orange coverage, beating Syracuse over the top and almost waiting for Everett Golson’s long throw to get to him.

It’s going to take a while for me to get used to watching Robinson catch quick screens, but Corey more than doubled his output on the season with his eight catches for 91 yards. His catch while being interfered with for a touchdown was something Irish fans could get used to watching.


Matthias Farley. Those who tried writing Farley off after a disappointing 2013 season were completely wrong. He’s been one of the team’s best defenders, a playmaker who seems to have found his niche playing a hybrid cornerback position. Credit goes to Kelly and Brian VanGorder for understanding he’s not a traditional safety, switching his positions this spring, a move that’s been critical to the Irish’s success.

Farley’s interception was a huge play for the Irish defense, short-circuiting the Orange’s drive after halftime. He made five tackles on the evening and has turned into a great team leader as well.


Quick Hits:

* How important has freshman Daniel Cage been? A guy many thought was a leftover recruit has come in and played key snaps on the interior of the defensive line. That was Cage in the middle of Notre Dame’s fourth-down stop, the freshman getting lower while winning at the point of attack.

* Romeo Okwara is doing a nice job growing into the defensive end job. He made his presence felt quite a bit on Saturday, never getting there for a sack, but being quite disruptive. The 15-yard penalty on Okwara was ridiculous, considering you could use his technique in a football manual.

* Starting across from him, Isaac Rochell has been all that’s been advertised as well. It’ll be fun to watch Rochell battle against Syracuse, one of the top offensive lines the Irish will face this year.

* Andrew Trumbetti and Grant Blankenship both made big plays as well. How great has Mike Elston been with this defensive line?

* That could’ve been Sheldon Day‘s most productive game of the year. He was everywhere.

* Good to see Chris Brown making contributions in the pass game.

* That’s three blocked kicks for Jarron Jones in his career. I guess it helps to be 6-6 and 315 pounds, huh?

* Want to smile? Check out this video after Torii Hunter scored his first career touchdown.


Turnovers. The last time Notre Dame turned the ball over five times they melted down in losses to Michigan and USF in 2011. That the Irish lost three fumbles is likely more freakish than a trend, but it’s certainly one that needs to be cleaned up immediately.

Inevitably, Golson is going to throw interceptions. But terrible ones like the pick six he gift wrapped can’t be part of that equation.

The poor game dropped the Irish from No. 1 in the country in turnover margin to No. 16. One game isn’t cause for great concern, but it’s something that demands immediate attention.


The Penalties. Notre Dame committed eight penalties for 80 yards, topping their yardage total on the season, buoyed by multiple 15-yard penalties. In what amounts to a pretty mild away game, the Irish need to do better keeping their composure and playing clean outside of Notre Dame Stadium.


Big chunk pass plays. These aren’t the ones Irish fans like, but rather the big gainers Syracuse hit Notre Dame on, starting with the opening snap of the game. The Orange receivers connected with Terrel Hunt a few times for big yards, with Hunt doing a better job of throwing the deep ball down field than completing anything underneath.

A few of these completions fall into the “good coverage, better throw” category. But with Ty Montgomery coming to town this week, expect the Cardinal to take a shot or two down field. So Cody Riggs and Cole Luke need to buckle down in coverage, especially if they’re going to be out on islands this Saturday.


Two minute drill. For an Irish offense that can move the ball and score in a hurry, not having their composure during the two minute offense isn’t going to cut it. Even if Everett didn’t lose the handle on his spike attempt, the Irish’s young receivers didn’t seem to know where they were going as the offense was trying to hurry to align and snap the football.

Expect this to be cleaned up this week, and hopefully before it’s needed.


Quick Hits:

* Memo to Greg Bryant: Not every run is going to the house. Put your foot in the ground and get up field. And hold onto the football. And stop tap dancing as a kickoff returner. Because you’re still the team’s best running back, but not if you play like you did on Saturday.

* Time for Tony Alford to spend some time with his young backs this week before Stanford comes to town. Tarean Folston got away with a fumble thanks to a procedure penalty on Will Fuller.

* I wonder if Scott Shafer saw something in Scott Booker‘s punt return team that made the fake punt work so well. The Irish defenders all had their backs to the punter getting back to block as he ran freely down the field.



This might have been the ugliest win of the Kelly era, quite an accomplishment considering that it was a two-plus touchdown victory. But this game can be a huge momentum builder if it refocuses the football team, something Kelly talked about postgame.

“They knew they did not play the kind of football necessary to win each and every week. This game will get you beat week in and week out,” Kelly said. “But I’m a much better teacher after a win.”

Expect a long productive week before one of the season’s biggest games.


Five things we learned: Notre Dame 31, Syracuse 15

Torii Hunter Jr., Corey Robinson, Ben Koyack

Earlier in the week, Brian Kelly was asked about his last time in MetLife Stadium. He almost chuckled to himself, wondering when Notre Dame’s humbling, one-sided defeat to Navy in 2010 would be drudged up again this week.

“I knew it would be brought up sometime,” Kelly said with a laugh. “For me it’s about Syracuse and getting back to New York, more so than the horrors of that afternoon.”

In some ways, Notre Dame’s 16-point victory is a symbol of just how far Kelly’s Irish team has come. But in many others, it sure felt a lot like the disaster Notre Dame found itself in last time they played in the Meadowlands.

In the Irish’s first official road test, Notre Dame piled up 523 offensive yards, out-rushed Syracuse, and won a relatively stress-free game. But the ghosts of demons’ past tried their best to rear their head Saturday night, with the Irish coughing up the football early and often, committing five turnovers.

As Ivan Maisel pointed out after the game, that the Irish still won comfortably is a credit to the program. Over the past two seasons, teams with a -4 turnover margin have only gone 1-28 against Power 5 conference programs.

“You can’t turn the football over and expect to win all your games,” Kelly said through gritted teeth to ESPN’s Heather Cox after the game. “We did some good things tonight… but five turnovers is just not going to get the job done.”

With work to be done before the Irish take on Stanford, let’s take a look at the five things we learned in Notre Dame’s 31-15 victory over Syracuse.


The Irish front seven passed a very big test on Saturday night. 

There were legitimate questions as to how Notre Dame’s defense would handle the ground game of Syracuse. But Brian VanGorder’s unit passed the test with flying colors, playing relentlessly as they battering Syracuse quarterback Terrel Hunt and bailed out the Irish offense through much of the first half.

Everett Golson’s pick six doesn’t help Notre Dame’s lofty scoring statistics. Neither does punter Riley Dixon’s 42-yard scamper.  But against an experienced offensive line and a talented set of running backs, Notre Dame dominated the line of scrimmage.

The Irish front seven held the Orange to just 93 yards on 29 carries, just 3.2 yards a touch for a very talented group of runners. Leading the way up front was Sheldon Day, who made two tackles-for-loss. Jarron Jones was a load on the inside as well. Linebacker Jaylon Smith continues his ascent, leading the team with nine tackles. Not far behind him was Joe Schmidt, flying all over the field.

Notre Dame’s youth once again made a huge difference. Freshmen Andrew Trumbetti and Grant Blankenship got some productive snaps, each contributing big plays. Kolin Hill came in as a pass rusher, chasing Hunt nearly every time he was on the field. Sophomore Isaac Rochell flashed dominance from his strongside defensive end position, as VanGorder’s defense took away the Orange’s preferred offensive scheme, challenging Syracuse to throw the ball down field.


Everett Golson may have nearly broken an NCAA record for accuracy. But it was still his worst game of the season. 

Through three games, football looked pretty easy to Everett Golson. For people who find talking about the Heisman necessary in September, Golson’s name was rightly in the premature conversation. His pin-point accuracy and efficiency with the football showed total command of Brian Kelly’s offense.

And then Saturday night happen.

Golson started the evening on the wrong foot, turning a great play into a very bad one by carrying the ball lackadaisically as it was stripped deep in Syracuse territory. He nearly lost another fumble on an overload blitz he should’ve seen. His nightmarish first half continued with a misread and interception aimed to C.J. Prosise and ended with a lackluster two-minute drill that ended with a botched spike, the ball slipping out of his hands, throwing points away as a replay overturn gave the football to Syracuse.

In between the mistakes there was plenty of good, including the tremendous accuracy that saw him get within a throw of an NCAA record. So while Golson’s 32 of 39 for 362 and four touchdowns was the most prolific passing night since Dayne Crist in 2010, it was marred by the lost fumbles and interceptions — with his pick six late in the fourth quarter the biggest head-scratcher of them all.

“I know my team expects more of me so I’ve got to come out and be better from the get,” Golson told Cox on ESPN after the game. “I came out and had a very sloppy first half and I was lucky it didn’t cost us as much as it should have.”

Kelly was unfortunately prophetic earlier this week when he talked about his concerns about Golson’s ball security as a runner.

“He’s very careful with the football, very conscientious throwing the football, we worry about how he carries the football,” Kelly said Thursday. “He carries it like he’s dribbling a basketball.”

That’ll need to be cleaned up this week, with the tough Stanford defense coming to town. But before we get too rough on the senior quarterback, Golson’s record-setting night pushed his overall record to 14-1, statistically better than Johnny Lujack. Even during his struggles, he’s one of college football’s brightest stars.


Sophomores Will Fuller and Corey Robinson proved that their time is now. 

Both Will Fuller and Corey Robinson had monster games on Saturday night, with the sophomore duo seizing control of the wide receiver depth chart with Amir Carlisle out. Fuller’s six catches for 119 yards and two touchdowns was the breakthrough game many have been waiting for.

Meanwhile, across from Fuller, Robinson racked up eight catches for 91 yards, showing the type of versatility many hoped to see from the lanky pass catcher.  Not the receiver you’d expect to be showcased in the short passing game, Robinson still managed to be productive, galloping for some chain-moving first downs and building on his solid Purdue game.

Perhaps most promising was the way Notre Dame used both players. Fuller’s touchdown on the inside screen opened up the scoring, a nice reminder of the explosive burst that the sophomore from Philadelphia possesses. And the 75-yard touchdown pass should serve as a reminder to opposing defenses. Across from him, seeing Robinson targeted in the red zone on a well executed fade pass was music to the ears of many Irish fans clamoring for that since the 6-foot-5 receiver’s been been on campus.

After being largely anonymous through the season’s first three games, Chris Brown chipped in six catches for 57 yards, including a nice 23-yarder. But after be used mostly as specialist so far, Kelly opened up the passing game for Fuller and Robinson and the duo emerged as big time threats.


Welcome to Notre Dame, Torii Hunter Jr. 

Depending on how long Amir Carlisle’s knee keeps him out, the Irish might have found another option in the slot emerge. That’s because 634 days after breaking his leg at the U.S. Army All-American Game, Torii Hunter Jr. made his debut one to remember.

Hunter went largely unnoticed in the first half, with C.J. Prosise handling most of the slot receiver duties. But the Texas native finally got his chance in the second half, utilized in a different way than we’ve seen from either Carlisle or Prosise.

Kelly sent Hunter sweeping across the formation twice, getting two carries for 13 yards. But the highlight of his night was making a tough catch in traffic for a touchdown, spinning after the completion to finish a perfect play design.

After a year spent rehabbing a broken femur and the start of his sophomore season delayed after a serious groin injury, that Hunter was making an impact in more than just Trick Shot Wednesday competition was a sight acknowledged by more than just his head coach.

“[Hunter was] pretty good,” Kelly said, when asked to critique his play. “You can tell his teammates like him, too. They were pretty excited.”

We shouldn’t get too excited about modest production like the numbers Hunter put up. But it’s worth noting how Kelly used him, finally giving the slot receiver the football as a runner, really the only receiver to do much of that.

So as Stanford prepares for Notre Dame and Carlisle works his way back to health, the Irish might have one more weapon that needs to be accounted for.


There’s plenty of good to take away from this win. But as the Irish head into the most difficult month of their season, let’s hope Saturday night was a wakeup call. 

If there’s anything disappointing about Saturday’s sloppy performance, it’s that it was so utterly predictable. Most Notre Dame fans were looking past Syracuse, a team that may have been 2-1 but struck zero fear into the hearts and minds of many looking forward to next weekend and the trip to Tallahassee.

But if Notre Dame wants to be the team that it believes it’s capable of being, mediocre performances like Saturday night need to be erased quickly.

We’ve hammered Golson enough. But an early fumble from the offense’s leader got the game off on the wrong foot. A fumble by Greg Bryant, who danced far too much trying to make something happen on Saturday night, does nothing to get him more reps. And let’s not forget Tarean Folston’s fumble, a play that Syracuse could’ve taken back for points if Will Fuller didn’t make a silly presnap penalty.

If doing the little things right is key to a team’s success, expect most of this week to be spent perfecting the finer points. Notre Dame’s two-minute offense was a complete fire drill. That the Irish weren’t able to get their receivers lined up in a proper formation makes zero sense.

Again, that Kelly’s team was able to shake off all the mistakes and still breeze to an easy victory says quite a bit about the emerging talent on this football team. But for Notre Dame to stake a claim at a spot in the College Football Playoff, mistake-filled Saturdays like this just can’t happen.

Live Blog — Notre Dame vs. Syracuse

Everett Golson

Returning to the New York metro area for the first time since the Pinstripe Bowl, Notre Dame looks to get to 4-0 on the season with a victory over Syracuse. For the Irish, it’s their first opportunity to play on the road, though lucky to start in the friendly confines of MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands instead of the Carrier Dome.

The Orange present a litmus test for the run defense, with Brian VanGorder’s unit going up against a Top 20 rushing attack just a week before they welcome Stanford to town. The Syracuse defense has also shown flashes this season, though look susceptible through the air.

Another game, another Saturday evening affair. So let’s sit down, enjoy ourselves during another live blog.