Robert Beal

Irish land top 2017 DE Robert Beal


Notre Dame’s impressive 2015 season is helping the Irish coaching staff recruit not just for this February’s signing class, but the next one as well. On Sunday night, Notre Dame landed one of Georgia’s best prospects, defensive end Robert Beal.

Beal had offers from Florida State, Alabama, Georgia and Ohio State, but decided he’ll play his college football in South Bend, giving the Irish a traditional pass¬†rusher that’s been difficult to land.

While the news broke late Sunday, Beal took to Twitter on Monday morning to confirm the news:

Beal hails from Georgia, a state that Notre Dame has taken great strides to recruit. But along with a summer visit and a chance to watch each week on Showtime, Beal’s family connections to the South Bend area made this feel like a great fit.

From Rivals’ Woody Womack, who caught up with the four-star prospect:

The commitment comes as somewhat of a surprise, but Beal’s family ties to the school combined with his love for the program made him feel like the timing was right.

“I went up there in the summer time and I just got that feeling like it was the place for me,” Beal said. “I was in the recruiting center and they were showing me the graduation rates and what guys have gone on to do outside of football and I was really impressed.”

Beal’s grandmother worked on campus at Notre Dame and mother grew up in the South Bend area. Beal said he considers Indiana to be like his second home and is excited to play for the Irish.

“I didn’t really become a fan until my first trip up there my freshman year,” Beal said. “On that trip I met the coaches and our relationship has grown ever since until now and now I’m a Notre Dame commit.”

With the 2016 class already up to 17 commitments, the 2017 class is off to a fast start as well. The Irish hand-picked offensive linemen Josh Lugg and Dillan Gibbons. They’ve landed two top tight end prospects as well in Cole Kmet and Brock Wright. Now Beal adds an edge rusher to the stockpile, still 15 months away from signing day.

Here’s a highlight tape from Beal’s sophomore season in 2014.

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

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 31: Will Fuller #7 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish catches the game winning touchdown over Will Hayes #32 of the Temple Owls in the fourth quarter on October 31, 2015 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Will Fuller;Will Hayes

For those complaining about a decided lack of style points in Notre Dame’s win over Temple, remove the name from the opponent’s jersey. Had the Irish won a night game on the road against a ranked opponent in a sold-out NFL stadium, most would view it a success.

Just look at the team’s surrounding the Owls in today’s AP poll‚ÄĒthere’d be a lot more smiles in ND Nation had the Irish beat No. 22 UCLA or No. 24 Mississippi State, the two teams that bracket¬†Temple in the rankings. But the Owls are one of college football’s newest gate crashers, and while Matt Rhule’s team certainly silenced the skeptics last night‚ÄĒas evidenced by only dropping one spot in the polls to No. 23‚ÄĒthey’ll need to prove that last night wasn’t the high-point of their season if the Irish want to cash in points on this tight victory.

Still, Notre Dame’s escape left both sides of the aisle with someone to yap about. Those that want to appreciate the mental toughness of this Irish team and their ability to play at their best when the stakes are highest certainly have more ammo. The complainers received plenty of gas for their bonfire as well, another game filled with red zone mistakes, missed tackles and defensive question marks that make you wonder how the Irish can survive a November spent mostly on the road.

A date at Pittsburgh is next, another sloppy-track and aggressive defense that’ll test the Irish’s toughness. So while we’re not done talking about Saturday night’s thrilling win, let’s get to the good, bad and ugly from Notre Dame’s 24-20 victory.



DeShone Kizer.¬†The sophomore quarterback earned the game ball, a fitting tribute to the player who served as the engine of the Irish offense. Kizer’s 79-yard sprint for a touchdown was essentially the majority¬†of Notre Dame’s ground game. And while his two interceptions in the first half kept Temple in the game, all you can ask for a quarterback is to not let¬†his previous mistakes continue to beat him, and Kizer put them away and played with a steady confidence, especially with the game on the line late in the fourth quarter.


KeiVarae Russell.¬†Good cornerbacks get beat. Right now, Russell is a good cornerback who still needs to get better. But he’s making progress and he’s now flipped two-straight games on their head by¬†making huge plays.

Russell’s confidence has never been shaken‚ÄĒeven if it maybe should have been. So after Russell gave up a fourth-down conversion that felt like a back-breaker, most Irish fans wanted the Seattle-native to run and hide. But Russell went the opposite way, breaking off of his coverage and sliding underneath Temple’s intended receiver with an acrobatic interception that essentially sealed the game.

Two games, two big-time, game-changing plays. Yes, this defense needs more consistency out of Russell and position mate Cole Luke. But with interceptions all but impossible to come by for this defense, Russell iced the game with a clutch play.


Sheldon Day and the Front Four.¬†Notre Dame’s biggest advantage was at the line of scrimmage, with the Irish defensive line dominating Temple’s blockers. Sheldon Day started fast and spent the evening wreaking havoc. His 2.5 TFLs continue a hot stretch for him, and he forced a fumble as an edge rusher as well.

Day wasn’t alone in putting together a big day. Isaac Rochell was unstoppable early in the game. Romeo Okwara very quietly put together¬†another big statistical¬†evening, three TFLs and a sack, all while being asked to do everything from rush the passer to drop into coverage.

Given the chance to start at nose guard, Daniel Cage showed his size and held down the point of attack, notching a TFL as well. Even better? Everybody came out healthy and ready for another Saturday that’ll be essentially “man ball” with Pitt looking to run the football and win the line of scrimmage.


Will Fuller. It was a relatively quiet game on the stat sheet, but Fuller came through in the clutch with the game-winning touchdown in front of his hometown crowd. And while Temple did a nice job with him in coverage, Fuller managed to draw another pass interference penalty and show some patience converting underneath passes.

Fuller’s speed took¬†a dent in the sloppy conditions, and he struggled at times with coverage that very kindly could be called “physical.” Both both of those situations‚ÄĒthe mediocre field conditions and the physical defense‚ÄĒwill be in effect next week, with Pat Narduzzi likely hoping to bully Notre Dame’s skill players like he tried to do as defensive coordinator at¬†Michigan State.


Aliz√© Jones.¬†Don’t look now, but Notre Dame’s tight end position might be¬†coming alive. With Temple’s defense expecting just about every other receiving threat to do damage, it was the Irish’s talented freshman who made one of the biggest plays of the game-winning drive.

Jones ran a corner route and DeShone Kizer hit him in stride, as the freshman rumbled for 45 critical yards to set up the game-winning score. Yes, it was the only catch of the game for the position. But Jones spent some time attached to the formation as a blocker, taking valuable snaps that could point to an ascending player heading into November.

Want to find a way to open up the red zone? Throw it to the tight end. And if Jones is the guy capable of doing it all, he’ll continue to get the opportunities, especially after making a big play to help Notre Dame win on Saturday.


Quick Hits: 

It was fun to see Jaylon Smith make some very impactful collisions. The 240-pound linebacker still runs like a deer, but he certainly packs a punch when he squares up a ball carrier.

Senior Chris Brown was a steady force for the offense. He paced the Irish receiving corps with six catches for 72 yards.

For as tough as the running was for C.J. Prosise, the senior still managed five catches for 43 yards. The screen game was close to a few big plays, too.



Boom & Bust defense.¬†It’s not worth regurgitating what I wrote last night. But the only thing that’s consistent about this defense is the fact that it’s maddeningly inconsistent.

Upon rewatching this performance, it wasn’t all bad. And there was probably more good than I thought last night. But it’s hard to see how Notre Dame only managed two sacks, even as it destroyed the Owls up front. And it’s just as hard to see how the Owls matched Notre Dame’s big plays, considering their quarterback was running for his life.

If there’s one thing that’s really hamstringing this defense, it’s the inability to play in the nickel. When Romeo Okwara and Andrew Trumbetti are dropping back into zone coverage‚ÄĒand it’s not a one-time trick‚ÄĒyou’ve got some personnel issues. And with the safety depth chart plundered and not a lot of trust in a third cornerback, the Irish are limited when teams try to spread them out.


The offensive line play.¬†Again this is a redundancy from last night. But Notre Dame’s front five needs to win at the point of attack, especially in the run game. Temple’s¬†front seven nearly matched Notre Dame’s last night, putting together six TFLs, a surprising number considering the Irish’s power advantage up front.

With Pitt coming to town, there’s little chance Pat Narduzzi’s going to change his DNA and lay back against the Irish offense. And after starting quickly with a nice opening drive Saturday night, the Irish need to show consistency on the road, something that’s been difficult to do.


Quick Hits: 

Brian Kelly expected¬†Joe Schmidt‘s production to be better in the season’s final five games. Against Temple the senior captain middle linebacker made just two solo stops, though broke up a pass in coverage. But once again, it felt like Schmidt was a step slow to make plays, leaving many Irish fans wondering how Nyles Morgan would fare in the same situation. I still don’t think Schmidt’s coming off the field, but it’s time for some production after some quiet games.

There’s taking advantage of opportunities… and then there’s¬†Nicky Baratti‘s play on 4th-and-1. The seldom-used safety was put in a tough spot in space against Temple running back Jahad Thomas, and the Owls running back cut hard inside Baratti and cruised into the end zone.

Punter¬†Tyler Newsome¬†has had some very good games for Notre Dame this season. Last night wasn’t one of them.

Notre Dame’s¬†skill players looked a step slower all night. Probably because of the slop they were playing on…Remember when people wanted that type of natural surface in Notre Dame Stadium because of, ugh‚ÄĒtradition?

I’ll wait to see what the grades come back as, but¬†Steve Elmer¬†had another tough day, especially on some noticeable missed blocks against Matt Ioannidis.



Brian Kelly¬†didn’t want to expand on his comments from last night on his sideline incident¬†with assistant strength coach David Grimes. The former Irish receiver works under Paul Longo and seemed to be expressing his opinion to a referee as Longo did his best to keep things calm.

From what we saw on ABC’s¬†broadcast, Kelly didn’t think Longo was doing enough‚Äďand he forcibly moved the young assistant, creating quite a stir that even had Sheldon Day thinking he should step in.

Per JJ Stankevitz of CSN Chicago, here’s what Kelly said after the game (link has video included):

“David was going to get us a 15-yard penalty, so I had to control the sideline,” Kelly said. “I wasn‚Äôt going to let that happen. He got a little too close and I backed him up out of the way to make sure that we didn‚Äôt get a 15-yard penalty.”

Whatever comes of the incident, Kelly doesn’t plan on discussing it with the media, nor does he think any of the snap judgments out there have much merit.

“They don’t know what happened. It’s typical of those that are just looking at the video without having any of the information,” Kelly said Sunday. “Only those that are clearly near the situation that have all the information can make those judgments. It’s an internal matter, and we’re handling it internally.”

For what it’s worth, in’s ICON trailer, Grimes is in the locker room after the game, standing right behind Kelly as he addresses the team. Let’s hope this is just one of those incidents where things got intense on the sideline, and everybody moves forward considering it a lesson learned. (This wouldn’t even be a story if this was still the Lou Holtz era…)


That Officiating¬†Crew.¬†Man, it wasn’t a banner night for the guys in stripes. While the AAC crew didn’t reach the level of idiocy that the crew working the Miami-Duke game did, both coaches were left scratching their heads last night, a sign that there was some questionable officiating.

Rhule’s in-game complaints seemed a bit more for theatrics. His defensive backs were playing Notre Dame in a very physical fashion, and for every pass interference call that was made, Irish coaches (and fans) could probably point to a handful more.

Conversely, Kelly was asked about an offensive pass interference call against center Nick Martin and he all but threw up his hands on Sunday. Between that, the terrible targeting penalty called against Elijah Shumate, and the penalty against Nic Weishar, Kelly said it best today without getting too close to drawing a fine.

“There were a lot of things that I can’t give you answers for from that crew that worked the game,” Kelly said.

Five things we learned: Notre Dame 24, Temple 20


In front of an electric crowd watching the biggest game in Temple history, one team played with nothing to lose and the other found new ways to do it. Yet the Owls upset bid was not meant to be, stopped two minutes short by a late touchdown pass from DeShone Kizer to Will Fuller and a clutch interception by KeiVarae Russell. After some final-play hysteria on a night filled with it across college football, Notre Dame escaped Philadelphia with a 24-20 victory.

Kizer’s heroics came after two first-half interceptions. Fuller’s touchdown catch was an exclamation point after a relatively quiet return to his hometown. And Russell’s interception came after he was beat in man coverage multiple times,¬†a tough night for Notre Dame’s cover men.

The Irish looked like a different football team than the one that traded punches with USC. But that’s the state of this football team, especially on the road. But after some¬†twists and turns and taking Temple’s best shot, Kelly liked the toughness his team showed, especially against a home team that looked like it had a date with destiny as the second half turned its way.

“We’ve got a group that’s veteran and they¬†believed they¬†were going to win as well. We’ve been a fourth quarter team all year and we made a play when we needed to,” Kelly told ESPN’s Heather Cox. “We had too many missed opportunities in the red zone but we showed great resiliency against a very very good football team.”

As the Irish head into November 7-1, let’s find out what else we learned on Halloween night.


The game played out to Matt Rhule’s blueprint. But Notre Dame still found a way to win.¬†

Ask Brian Kelly‚ÄĒor anybody who has watched Notre Dame football for more than a few days‚ÄĒhow Temple was going to make this a football game and they’d have said something that mentioned scoring points in the red zone and limiting turnovers.

Well, Notre Dame not only didn’t do a great job scoring points in the red zone, but they also managed two turnovers inside Temple’s 20-yard line.¬†That kept Temple in the game in the first half, with the Owls starting the third quarter trailing by just four points.

The Irish started the third quarter quickly, forcing punts on the Owls first two possessions and getting a field goal on their first drive. But from there the Owls controlled the pace of the second half with their offense. A game-changing 14-play, 78-yard touchdown drive pulled Temple even in the fourth quarter.

The Irish responded by going three-and-out, with Tyler Newsome’s 35-yard punt giving Temple excellent field position. The Owls next eight-play drive took nearly four minutes, pinning the Irish in a corner and down three points with under five minutes to go.

Fuller and Kizer made sure that Temple’s dreams would be dashed, with the Owls safety late to react to a perfect throw from Kizer to Notre Dame’s best offensive weapon. But Rhule and company nearly pulled off the upset, and did so thanks to offensive miscues and a defense that just couldn’t get off the field.


Notre Dame’s boom or bust defense very nearly cost the Irish the season.¬†

On paper, the Irish played a¬†fine game defensively. Sheldon Day and Isaac Rochell wreaked havoc all night. Jaylon Smith played like an All-American and KeiVarae Russell’s clinching interception is two-straight victories¬†where the senior cornerback made a game-defining play.

But the stat sheet doesn’t have eyes. And anybody watching Brian VanGorder’s defense has to wonder if this unit has what it takes to be a part of a team that aspires¬†to play for a national championship.

Temple had 11¬†possessions. Six of those were less than five plays‚ÄĒclear victories for Notre Dame’s defense. But after that is where this group gets maddening. It’s beginning to feel like once the chains move, this defense¬†finds a way to get¬†in trouble. Whether that’s the 94-yard touchdown drive the Owls put together or the 14-play drive that tied the game.

When it’s time for a big play to be made, too often its the guys not wearing blue and gold making the big play.¬†On Temple’s first scoring drive, it came on a 3rd and 14 pass conversion. Temple’s 94-yard drive included a 50-yard run by Walker and a third-down pass interference call against Cole Luke.

After stuffing Temple three times from the 1-yard line, Nicky Baratti ran right by a chance to make a game-changing play. On Temple’s go-ahead score, Brian Kelly could be seen screaming “Do Your Job!” at a defense that crashed hard on a zone read, allowing P.J. Walker to run the ball nearly into field goal range.

After watching Bob Diaco’s defense bend but hold strong in the red zone, we’ve seen VanGorder’s seemingly do the opposite. And while there are personnel deficiencies that even the best defensive coordinator would have a hard time masking, this team gets very little out of its best efforts, undone by critical mistakes and big plays.

Ultimately this season is¬†going to come down to the 11 guys playing defense needing to ¬†do a¬†better job of¬†collecting themselves after adversity strikes, and finding a way to¬†make in-drive adjustments. Because right now, once the opponent finds a way to move the chains, it usually spells doom for Notre Dame’s defense. And that’s no way to win football games.


DeShone Kizer threw first-half interceptions that reminded you he was a (redshirt) freshman. But his late-game poise should have you very happy. 

DeShone Kizer’s first interception was the type of rookie decision that haunts coaches. His second¬†was the type of bad-outcome play that had Notre Dame fans thinking of the turnover plague that ruined the 2011 and 2014 seasons.

But Kizer is no ordinary first-year quarterback. And the young signal-caller once again put the Irish offense on his back and won the game for Notre Dame, propelling the ground game and coming up clutch on the game-winning drive.

“He made a huge play when he¬†needed to,” Kelly said after the game. “We mounted a big drive when we had to come up big.”

That big play was a rocket-shot that Kizer threaded to Fuller in the end zone. But before then, Kizer’s work in the zone-read run game kept Notre Dame in the football game, and burned Temple for crashing down at¬†the line of scrimmage to stop C.J. Prosise.

Kizer’s 79-yard touchdown run was the second-longest by a Notre Dame quarterback in school history, outdone by only a Blair Kiel score on a fake punt. His 143-yard rushing day was against an Owl rush defense that showed itself worthy of a Top 10 ranking. And while the two interceptions¬†certainly make his stat line look less than stellar, Kizer made some big-time throws under duress, showing the type of unflappable nature that let the Irish offense muster the confidence to march down and score a game-winner.

What happens after this season behind center is anyone’s guess. But as Kizer continues¬†to play really solid football, his confidence and personality have turned the DNA of¬†this offense.


With some very good defenses still on the schedule, Notre Dame’s offensive line needs an identity check.¬†

For the second time on the road this season, Notre Dame’s offense was thrown completely out of whack by an attacking defense that forced the Irish to be one-dimensional. At Clemson, a rain storm (and a stout Tiger defense) helped explain it. But against Temple, the Owls undersized but athletic front seven ruined multiple drives and took C.J. Prosise out of the football game.

At this point, Notre Dame has conceded that Kizer is their best short-yardage option.¬†But that’s less about Prosise learning how to run inside the tackles and more about the Irish front five struggling at the point of attack.

Once again on Saturday, Steve Elmer struggled with an active defensive tackle who beat him with quickness. Captain Nick Martin heard his name called for the wrong reason, the last man onto a pile that cost the Irish 15-yards at a critical moment. And while Ronnie Stanley still profiles as one of the first offensive linemen off the NFL draft board¬†this spring, it’s telling that Notre Dame becomes overly right-handed when it’s time to run the football in short yardage situations.

Credit Temple for great defense. But don’t expect things to get easier moving forward, as Pitt, Boston College and Stanford all have Top 40 rush defenses. Harry Hiestand’s troops need to get their running backs downhill, with Prosise bottled up too often in the backfield or running parallel with the line of scrimmage.

Finesse is a dirty word for offensive linemen. But this group needs to show in November that they’re the type of group that wants to battle it out in the trenches, not rely on attacking the perimeter.


On another chaotic Saturday in college football, Notre Dame’s latest fourth-quarter comeback shows the Irish have the heart of a champion.¬†

Fixing the mistakes comes later. And it’s much easier to do after a hard-fought victory. But after a second-half where it looked like Notre Dame was going to let one slip through their fingers, both the offense and the defense came up clutch in the game’s final minutes.

Against one of the best fourth quarter teams in college football, Notre Dame made one more big play than the Owls.

“I’m really proud of the way our team played in the fourth quarter,” Kelly said postgame. “Making a play when we needed to, both on offense and defense.”

Notre Dame now has 13 fourth-quarter comeback victories under Brian Kelly. That’s a long way from the finding-a-way-to-lose program¬†that cost Charlie Weis his job during a heart-breaking 2009 season and had many actually sane Irish fans wondering if Notre Dame was cursed.

So while the missed tackles and the blown blocks certainly had Irish fans pulling their hair out, it was business as usual for a football team that is really difficult to beat. The Irish overcame a sloppy field. Even sloppier tackling. And the loss of safety Elijah Shumate to a targeting ejection.

Even as tempers flared on Notre Dame’s sideline as Kelly¬†pushed assistant strength coach David Grimes, the chaos didn’t infect a team that needed a win and is flying home excited to see where it stands when the Playoff rankings come out Tuesday night.

It’s hard to win in college football. Even harder when you make some of the mistakes the Irish made on Saturday night. But in the end, Notre Dame walked away a winner, taking Temple’s best shot and delivering one more than the Owls to win the game.



Pregame Six Pack: On to November (almost)

DeShone Kizer , C.J. Prosise

Trick or Treat. As Notre Dame prepares to take on undefeated Temple in a game that might be the biggest in the home team’s history, Halloween night could be good old fashioned fun… or a house of horrors.

Coming back from¬†a much-needed weekend off, the Irish now need to show they’re capable of being the program that turned November¬†into a month of dominance, not the team that burst at the seams in 2015.

While the calendar doesn’t turn until postgame, head coach Brian Kelly expressed the sentiment correctly.

“I think for us, it will be October is for pretenders and November will be for contenders,” Kelly said on Tuesday. “And we’ll show ourselves in that regard because of our schedule in November.”

That begins with Temple. The American Conference leader, the Owls are unexpectedly among the nation’s undefeated team‚ÄĒcourtesy of Matt Rhule and a tremendous defense.

With the Irish unexpectedly playing in the week’s highest-profile matchup on the college football slate, let’s get on to the Pregame Six Pack.


After growing comfortable in the starting job, DeShone Kizer has set the bar high. Very high.

It didn’t take long to understand that DeShone Kizer wasn’t your average backup quarterback. Nor did it take long for the sophomore to find the same comfort level and maturity he displays off the field between the lines.

Back to campus rested and ready for the final five-game stretch, Kizer talked about the elevated goals he has for the season‚ÄĒmaking it clear he wants to play like the best quarterback in the country.

“I think that my biggest adjustment that I’ve evaluated for myself is having a mindset, of not only being a good quarterback, but to take it to greatness,” Kizer explained Wednesday. “I need to be able to prepare to be the best quarterback in the nation every week.

“I was in the position the first half of the year where I was a replacement. I was a guy who was able to manage a game and accomplish a mission in that sense. Now I want to take it into the second half of the year and be the best quarterback in the nation every time I step on the field. Because I know that after evaluating the first half, that I have the ability to.”

That type of confidence shouldn’t come as a surprise. And while Kelly joked after being told about¬†Kizer’s comments on Thursday evening that he half-expected Kizer to go third-person with comments like that, he also said the quarterback is backing up those words with his focus and play¬†in practice.

“I thought his communication and his presence today with our offense was like a fifth-year senior,‚ÄĚ Kelly said Thursday. “He is a very confident player right now.”


With Alex Bars lost for the season, the offensive line has needed to mix and match. 

When you look back at all the injuries Notre Dame suffered this season, the broken ankle Alex Bars suffered against USC wasn’t necessarily the most impactful. But it has certainly forced the Irish to make some significant moves along the offensive line.

Bars may have been playing behind Quenton Nelson at guard, but he was likely Notre Dame’s third tackle, even if he wasn’t listed on the depth chart. And while Nelson’s through the woods after missing a¬†full game with a high ankle sprain and gutting out the majority of the USC battle after Bars went down, there are still dominoes falling as Harry Hiestand reshuffles the Irish depth behind the starting five.

Junior Colin McGovern appears to be the next man in. He’ll cross-train not just at guard, but work outside as Mike McGlinchey’s backup. (Hunter Bivin is Ronnie Stanley’s backup.) And while John Montelus is listed as the backup to Steve Elmer, backup center Sam Mustipher also took reps at guard during practice this week,¬†giving some flexibility if McGovern’s number is called on the outside.

Kelly explained the entire adjusted operation on Thursday.

“McGovern has to play inside and out.¬†Bivin will be at tackle. McGovern will play a little bit of guard and a little bit of tackle if we need him to go in on the right side. Sam Mustipher is playing a little bit of guard as well. We have cross-trained him at the backup center position and the guard position. We are really working with three guys and two guys at the guard position with McGovern and Mustipher.”

With Mustipher working away from center, true freshman Tristen Hoge worked as the No. 2 behind Nick Martin. While it wouldn’t make any sense to burn a redshirt this late in the game, Hoge is traveling with Notre Dame to Temple, a nice perk after a good week of practice. (Even better? Working with the two-deep before the battle to replace Nick Martin begins this spring.)

All spring, Notre Dame’s coaches talked up the Irish depth along the offensive line. We might have to see it go into action, no easy task against a veteran and disruptive front seven for Temple.


The Showtime experiment? An early success, according to Jack Swarbrick. 

Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick sat down and talked with Irish Illustrated’s Tim Prister about “A Season With Notre Dame,” Showtime’s much-discussed docuseries chronicling the Irish’s 2015 season. And while the entire interview is very much worth the read, it’s fairly easy to say that the university views it as a huge success.

Namely, because Swarbrick feels like the open-door policy to Notre Dame’s football program can serve to take on the skeptics who feel like college athletics’ amateurism model is broken and beyond repair.

Here’s Swarbrick, when asked about the early response to the show:

“It‚Äôs been really positive. Very, very positive, and it goes to the reservations I had. The decision to do it for me was about principally one thing, and that was in the national debate that‚Äôs going on about college athletics, the level of cynicism that has emerged in this debate and the one-sidedness of it from my perspective, I thought it was really important to have a voice in that discussion through this show. To be able to say, ‚ÄėYou can be as much of a cynic as you want, but these are real students having this experience at our university.‚Äô

“I was very motivated to create for people ‚Äď not just Notre Dame fans ‚Äď but people across the country to see this. Every day is another story about something college sports is doing wrong, and I sort of viewed this as almost an obligation we had to tell the other side of the story.”

While Kelly has had his share of fun during press conferences or media appearances talking about the additional layer of scrutiny that comes with a video crew following his every move, it’s interesting to point out that the Showtime opportunity came via the head coach himself, approached through talent agency CAA, where Kelly is a client.

That’s another datapoint that leads you to believe that Kelly is a guy who is fast finding his comfort at Notre Dame, not secretly maneuvering for one of the man open jobs that round him up among the usual suspects of candidates.


Notre Dame’s defense has been “boom or bust.” But Brian Kelly still believes the Irish have a solid four quarters ahead of them.¬†

As we try to decode just what type of defense Notre Dame has, it’s easy to point to the maddening lapses… as well as the dominant spurts of play. The good? Notre Dame ranks 15th in the country in forcing three-and-outs. The bad? Well, they’re usually either getting off the field immediately or giving up a touchdown.

Brian Fremeau of Football Outsiders has come up with a intriguing¬†new stat by looking at Boom or Bust rates for offensive and defensive performances. Specifically, what percentage of drives end up in touchdowns or three-and-outs. Notre Dame is in Fremeau’s¬†Top 15 “Boom or Bust” defenses‚ÄĒnot exactly a badge of honor. The Irish are one of just¬†two programs with a winning record against FBS opponents (NC State is the other) among those 15.

When asked about the defensive performance of the team and what he expects to see in the coming weeks, Kelly sounded like Brian VanGorder’s group was trending up.

“I just think they have not put the four quarters together they are capable of,” Kelly said. “I¬†think that‚Äôs going to happen. I really do. I’m not just wishing. When we’re playing together and not making some of the correctable mistakes, we can play really good football.”


This might be the biggest game in Temple history. But Matt Rhule and his players are doing their best to treat it like any other Saturday. 

Buses will leave campus at 4:45 a.m. Saturday morning, shipping Temple students to ESPN’s set¬†at Independence Hall. And an NFL town has taken a decided turn this week, subbing¬†Owls in for Eagles (especially with Chip Kelly’s struggles).

Most of Temple’s veteran roster experienced the 2013 visit to Notre Dame. And while they certainly expect something far rowdier on Saturday night, they’re trying their best to treat this like any other game.

“We don’t pretend it’s not here,” Rhule told reporters earlier this week. “We don’t pretend GameDay’s not coming. We don’t pretend that we’re not playing Notre Dame. All those things are great, but they don’t help us play better. All we can do is control how we play. That’s the message.”

That message has been heard by a veteran roster that features 10 returning starters on defense, and only one underclassman in either the offensive or defensive starting¬†lineup. And while the Irish have been the biggest game on every opponent’s schedule thus far in 2015, Rhule feels like his team won’t let the moment impact the way the Owls play.

“I’m not concerned that the moment will be too big,” Rhule said. “Are we good enough to hang with Notre Dame? That’s the concern.”


Max Redfield or Matthias Farley? Kelly’s not saying. But both need to play better football.¬†

Notre Dame’s safety play has been less than satisfactory this season. Derailed early by a thumb injury to Max Redfield and season-ending losses of Shaun Crawford and Drue Tranquill, Elijah Shumate has provided some stability at strong safety, but Kelly has all but acknowledged that the defensive staff is trying its best to get an elevated level of play from Matthias Farley and Redfield.

“Honestly, what I want and what we have are two different things,” Kelly said Tuesday, when asked about the position. “Both those kids are committed to being the best players that they can be and we are coaching them every single day… We’re working hard with them every day.”

Redfield earned the start against Navy and was replaced early by Farley. Farley earned the start against USC and was replaced by Redfield. So going against Temple, Kelly was open that both would play and contribute. But he wasn’t ready to say you was starting.

“We just feel like I think both of those guys are going to give us what we need at the position and it’s going to be one where both of them are going to have to help us win.”



Fuller returns home a leading man

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - SEPTEMBER 12: Wide receiver William Fuller #7 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrates a third quarter touchdown against the Virginia Cavaliers at Scott Stadium on September 12, 2015 in Charlottesville, Virginia. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish won, 34-27. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Will Fuller left Philadelphia as a relatively anonymous high school football player. Yes, he had committed to Notre Dame, choosing the Irish over Penn State. But on Signing Day in February of 2013, not many had an inkling that Fuller would become the next great Notre Dame wide receiver. Even when Brian Kelly talked about the three-star receiving prospect, he¬†mentioning¬†Fuller¬†was a guy that “flew under the radar a little bit.”

Fast-forward three football seasons and Fuller returns home to¬†Philadelphia as one of college football’s leading men. His 23 touchdowns over his last 20 games¬†have turned him into one of the most dangerous receivers in the game, a long way removed from the skinny kid from Philadelphia’s Roman Catholic High School.

‚ÄúI don‚Äôt know that anybody has slowed down Will Fuller,‚ÄĚ Temple coach Matt Rhule said on Tuesday.

The usually quiet Fuller spoke with the local media on Wednesday, shedding a little light on what it’ll be like playing in front of a hometown crowd and in a city that means so much to him. (Fuller has¬†a prominent tattoo on his arm dedicated to¬†Philadelphia.) Especially doing it on college football’s center stage, a primetime ABC broadcast following ESPN’s College GameDay broadcasting live¬†from the City of Brotherly Love.

“It’s like a dream come true. I would never have thought about this happening,” Fuller said. “It’s going to be real cool.”

Fuller knows Temple well. He was recruited by Steve Addazio’s staff, offered a scholarship as a junior before drawing national attention. He’ll have an army of family and friends in the stadium, watching to see if Fuller will continue his big play ways in Lincoln Financial Stadium.

After using his matchup with Adoree Jackson to rectify some of the struggles he had against Clemson, Fuller seems to be¬†embracing the challenge of being a marked man against one of college football’s stingiest defenses.

“It’s an exciting feeling right now, going back home, being one of the good players on the Notre Dame team and just having that target on your back,” Fuller said. “Going home is going to be fun.”

With five games left in a regular season¬†that still has all of its goals intact, Fuller¬†has a chance to put together another year that’ll vault him into Notre Dame’s record books. And while a stay-or-go decision is likely on the horizon, keeping the focus on the present‚ÄĒa special trip back home and the November road ahead‚ÄĒis¬†challenge enough.

“This is a real important game for us and we know it, not just this game but all five games left,” Fuller said Wednesday. “We have to win these five games, so we are just going to take it one game at a time and see what happens from there.”