Cody Riggs

Brindza, Daniels and Riggs sign FA contracts

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While Ben Koyack was the only former Irish football player selected in the NFL Draft, the football careers of three other Notre Dame players continue. Kicker/punter Kyle Brindza, wide receiver DaVaris Daniels and cornerback Cody Riggs all signed free agent contracts on Saturday.

For Brindza, he’ll have a shot to win a roster spot for his hometown team, the Detroit Lions. Notre Dame’s all-time leading kicker will compete with veteran Matt Prater for the placekicking job, with his versatility potentially bringing some value as well. Brindza himself tweeted that he worked out for the Lions just a few weeks before the draft—so the team must’ve liked what they saw.

Daniels signed with the Minnesota Vikings, who took a shot on another Notre Dame player, joining a roster filled with John Sullivan, Robert Blanton, Harrison Smith and Kyle Rudolph. He’ll also compete to join a receiving corps that lacks a top-end playmaker for young quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, though the Vikings added Mike Wallace via a trade this offseason and drafted former blue-chip recruit and Maryland receiver Stefon Diggs in the fifth round.

The foot injury that derailed Riggs senior season also likely killed his draft hopes. But Riggs signed on with the Tennessee Titans as a free agent, detailing his thought process with Irish 247’s Nick Ironside, who was embedded with Riggs over the weekend.

“I felt like (Tennessee) was the best option for me to play in and I felt comfortable with them on the phone,” Riggs told Irish 247. “They didn’t draft any corners this year so I felt like it would be the best situation for me and they have a great coaching staff.”

Riggs is studying for finals as he finished his one-year Masters of Science and Management after earning his degree at Florida, making the most of the graduate transfer rule.

 

Irish draft hopefuls audition at ND Pro Day

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Former Irish football players had their chance to audition for future employers today in South Bend at the Notre Dame Pro Day. It was a reunion of sorts as players from all over worked out inside the Gug under the watchful eyes of NFL scouts.

With Notre Dame only losing starters Ben Koyack, Cody Riggs and Kyle Brindza to the NFL, it’s not expected to be a big year for the Irish in the draft. But also returning to campus to audution were former captain Cam McDaniel, DaVaris Daniels, Jake Golic, Andrew Hendrix, Ethan Johnson, Kendall Moore, Justin Utupo and Alex Welch.

Daniels and Moore are back on campus even after last season’s suspension. They’re joined by Miami RedHawks Hendrix and Welch, who played out their eligibility under former offensive coordinator Chuck Martin.

Golic returned to campus after playing at Cincinnati. Johnson is looking to return to the NFL after being a part of the concussion class action lawsuit and a cup of coffee with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Let’s take to social media to get you some results:

Here’s an update on Cody Riggs, who was a surprise to be not among the invites to the combine in Indianapolis, but certainly helped his draft stock by running as fast as you’d have expected.

It appears that Riggs tweaked a hamstring later in the workout, but not before taking a slo-mo leap in the broad jump:

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Ben Koyack, who was invited to Indianapolis, but didn’t run the 40-yard dash there, did so in South Bend. Per SID Michael Bertsch, Koyack ran right around a 4.7, with the fastest time listed at 4.68.

Koyack was at the Senior Bowl and Combine and is likely to be the first former Irish player off the draft board, though maybe not as early as previous Notre Dame tight ends.

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Also back on campus is McDaniel, who is days away from becoming a father. A fringe candidate to make a roster, McDaniel showed some versatility—needed if he’s going to be a special teams performer on Sundays.

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Kyle Brindza did a nice job updating us on his Pro Day. Here’s the former Irish kicker on his afternoon, where he showed off epic strongman skills in addition to a big leg on kickoffs.

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In a parallel universe, DaVaris Daniels was catching passes from Andrew Hendrix. The Elkhart Truth’s Rachel Terlep even has proof.

Daniels spoke with media at the event, doing his best to put his suspension and inability to return to South Bend into context.

“It’s a difficult situation,” Daniels acknowledged to The Observer‘s Mike Monaco. “I don’t hold any grudges. I just don’t really like thinking about the situation… it is what it is. At this point, I’m ready for the NFL. That’s my focus.”

Daniels estimates he’s got a little over two semesters left of work to complete before earning his Notre Dame degree. He said all the right things about moving forward and hopefully finishing up his course work, while also taking the high road about the frustrating time where all five suspended athletes waited to hear their fate.

Most importantly for Daniels, at least when it comes to his immediate employment future, is getting his speed and explosiveness back. Various reports had Daniels breaking into the 4.5-range on his 40, a critical threshold for him.

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If you’re looking for good news out of South Bend, defensive end Ishaq Williams—currently in football and academic purgatory—was on hand watching the festivities. Williams didn’t speak to any media but sat with his teammates for the festivities, though what to make of that isn’t clear.

While scholarship numbers are tight, Williams could be a great addition to a defensive front that’s looking for more bulk, and it’d allow him to finish his Notre Dame degree after a two semester exile.

Counting down the Irish: Final grades, 15-11

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To read the rationale for our final rankings, see 25-21, and 20-16. To see our preseason rankings, check out the Top 25

With ten players down, we get to the meat of our rankings. Looking back at the preseason projections, this group consisted of a mix of veterans and emerging talent.

In August, our nine-man panel viewed Christian Lombard, Cody Riggs, and Kyle Brindza as fourth-year performers expected to do some heavy lifting. In Max Redfield and Steve Elmer, there were two rising sophomores expected to take on starting (and maybe starring) roles.

The composition of this fivesome is a bit more unlikely. Riggs is a part of the group, his final ranking lower than it would’ve been had he stayed healthy. But two others came from nowhere, unranked this preseason, including a defensive lineman who didn’t even receive a vote. (To put that into context, freshman Quenton Nelson received two.)

Each of these five played key roles for the Irish. One quietly became one of the team’s most explosive playmakers. Another the team’s most reliable defensive lineman. Three others battled injuries, likely negating some of the impact they could’ve had on the season.

Let’s get to 15-11 on our final grades.

 

2014 IRISH TOP 25 FINAL GRADES

25. Christian Lombard (RT, GS)
24. Malik Zaire (QB, Soph.)
23. Romeo Okwara (DE, Jr.)
22. Drue Tranquill (S, Fr.)
21. Nyles Morgan (LB, Fr.)
20. Max Redfield (S, Soph.)
19. Steve Elmer (RG, Soph.)
18. Ben Koyack (TE, Sr.)
17. Elijah Shumate (S, Jr.)
16. Greg Bryant (RB, Soph.)

 

C.J. Prosise, George Jamison
C.J. Prosise, George JamisonAP Photo/Nick Wass

 

15. C.J. Prosise (WR, Jr.): After struggling to find a suitable slot wide receiver in his five seasons coaching the Irish, Brian Kelly found an unlikely one in C.J. Prosise. No where in the prototype does it include a 220-pounder who started his career as a jumbo safety.

But Prosise, who was still very rough around the edges this season, made plays. Big ones. His 18.5 yards per catch was the highest average on the team. Even though Chris Brown gained more yardage and caught more passes, and Amir Carlisle started more games in the slot, Prosise finds his way on this list for his ability to turn the Z receiver position into something more explosive than it’s been at any time in the Kelly era.

Prosise’s eight games with a catch longer than 20 yards is second only to Will Fuller’s nine. (It’s also a remarkable step forward for a player who heading into 2014 had a career best game of two catches for 25 yards against Rutgers.) He also showed himself to be dynamic on the jet sweep, his 7.3 yards per carry second to only Malik Zaire.

Prosise was the team’s Special Team’s Player of the Year, notching a team-best 10 tackles on special teams. While still learning on the job the best is yet to come from this dynamic athlete.

Preseason: Unranked (32nd) Final: 15th.

 

Michigan v Notre Dame
Michigan v Notre DameJonathan Daniel/Getty Images

 

14. Isaac Rochell (DL, Soph.): With Stephon Tuitt opting for the NFL instead of his senior season and Ishaq Williams suspended for two semesters, the Irish had no choice but to turn to Isaac Rochell. After playing minimal snaps as a true freshman (10 total tackles in 11 games), defensive line coach Mike Elston pushed Rochell into the starting lineup as his strongside defensive end, no other logical option in sight.

Rochell delivered. He played in all 12 games. He made 7.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks among his 37 stops. And he provided some much needed length and bulk, showing the versatility to shift inside and out when the Irish badly needed bodies to hold the line in the trenches.

Rochell trailed only Jaylon Smith in tackles behind the line of scrimmage this season. And he proved that Brian Kelly wasn’t just blowing smoke when he sung Rochell’s praises during preseason camp.

At just shy of 6’4″ and nearly 290 pounds, Rochell’s going to be asked to play one of his best games against LSU in the Music City Bowl if the Irish have a chance to win. It’ll be a great test before moving into a leadership role in 2015 as an upperclassman.

Preseason: Unranked (zero votes). Final: 14th.

 

Rice v Notre Dame
Rice v Notre DameJonathan Daniel/Getty Images

 

13. Nick Martin (C/LG, Sr.): Martin was named one of four team captains heading into 2014, likely considered a bridge between the past and the present after seeing his brother Zack provide such incredible stability over four seasons. Coming off a late-season knee injury in 2014, Martin spent much of spring practice watching, with Matt Hegarty taking reps at center while Martin stayed away from contact.

The plans of Martin spending his second season starting at center were thrown out after just three games. Martin shifted to guard while Hegarty played center. Finding the Hegarty who played well in the spring and in relief in 2013 was a big part of that, but so was helping Martin out, as he battled a thumb and hand injury that made snapping difficult.

Evaluating offensive line play is tricky for those of us not in the coaching rooms. But Martin isn’t the player his brother is, a measuring stick that’s looking less and less fair as the older sibling makes his first Pro Bowl appearance as an NFL rookie.

But Martin is no slouch, either. While a few missed assignments in crunch time likely stick in the craw of Irish fans, Martin still is a frontline player who will likely carve out a career on Sundays. He’s asked for an NFL evaluation — Rotoworld’s Josh Norris had him as one of his Top 10 interior offensive linemen in his early December evaluations — but also pledged a return for a fifth year, all but a formality.

Preseason: 8th. Final: 13th.

 

Cody Riggs
Cody RiggsAP Photo/Joe Raymond, File

 

12. Cody Riggs (CB, GS): There was no better free agent pickup in college football than Florida transfer Cody Riggs. Counted on to play opposite KeiVarae Russell and also spend time in the slot, Riggs ended up leading the position, giving away some of his versatility because the Irish couldn’t afford to take him off the field.

Riggs served as the team’s primary punt returner, showing some ability there when he wasn’t turning the job into a tight rope walk. He played solid football in man coverage, a top-flight athlete whose only weakness is that he’s three inches shy of six feet.

A “stress reaction” (sounds better than fracture) was the undoing of Riggs’ season, and the ultimate demise of the Irish secondary. Without him at full strength, the Irish put the bulk of the coverage responsibilities on Cole Luke, an assignment Luke passed with honors against Louisville, but struggled mightily with against USC.

Riggs came to Notre Dame to play out his eligibility after it looked like he wouldn’t have the ability to play cornerback at Florida. In South Bend, he was locked in to a cornerback job, with depth issues taking away from Riggs’ versatility, something that’ll be key to his career extending to Sundays.

Proclaiming himself healthy for LSU, Riggs will take the field one last time for the Irish. That says quite a bit about a player who needs to get his foot healthy for his next most important rep — testing in Indianapolis at the NFL scouting combine.

Preseason: 14th. Final 12th.

 

North Carolina v Notre Dame
North Carolina v Notre DameJonathan Daniel/Getty Images

 

11. Jarron Jones (DT, Jr.): After finding a home on the inside after Louis Nix and Kona Schwenke went down with injuries in 2013, Jones took another big step forward in 2014. The junior defensive tackle looked the part of an elite, big-bodied defensive tackle, dominating the interior of Florida State’s offensive line in Tallahassee.

Before going down with a season-ending Lisfranc injury, Jones had 40 tackles, 7.5 TFLs and 1.5 sacks. He blocked two more kicks, showcasing the length and athleticism the 6’5.5″ defensive tackle possesses.

There were whispers that Jones wasn’t fully healthy even before his season-ending injury. He limped off the field against Navy, struggling with the cut blocks that the Midshipmen employ.

Jones is a physically gifted football player. He’s naturally productive. And lined up next to Sheldon Day in 2015, there are few duos more productive in the trenches. But that requires a big offseason for Jones, who has the chance to be an elite player on the college level if he puts in the work.

Preseason: 17th. Final: 11th.

 

Secondary depth chart reaches red-line status

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A one-armed man. Two guys sentenced to a year in the house. And a parolee. Sounds like the cast list for a new cop drama.

But that’s the safety depth chart entering the final Saturday of the regular season. And Austin Collinsworth, Elijah Shumate, Max Redfield and Eilar Hardy are the four-man crew that’s going to be asked to run with and slow down USC’s receiving corps, the most athletic group Notre Dame’s secondary has seen since Florida State.

The situation at cornerback isn’t much better. Joining this operation will be a grizzled veteran with a bum wheel: Cody Riggs. Also featured is the cornerback with a bad past, with the burn-marks from last week still stinging Devin Butler. But the sophomore will be back out in coverage, asked to matchup with freshman phenom JuJu Smith or former all-world recruit George Farmer.

Cole Luke showed he was up for the task last weekend against DeVante Parker. So this week he’ll take on Nelson Agholor, a Biletnikoff Award semifinalist. Up against a quarterback who has thrown exactly four interceptions against 30 touchdowns and the ravaged back end of the Irish defense will be in for a tough test.

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It’s been a long time since Notre Dame had critical depth issues like this in the secondary. And this comes after Kelly and his defensive coaching staff put an emphasis on restocking a depth chart all-but ignored by the previous regime.

But there have been some bumps along the road. And sometimes the best laid plans end — well, like this. Here’s a quick run through on how we got here.

Collinsworth was Kelly’s first recruit at Notre Dame. And he’s the only member of the secondary from the 2010 class not to transfer (Chris Badger, Lo Wood, Spencer Boyd are all gone).

The 2011 class features Matthias Farley playing key minutes as a nickel back (he started as a wide receiver). It also swung and missed on Josh Atkinson and Jalen Brown, a duo seemingly collecting dust before departing from the program at year’s end. And Hardy’s career was star-crossed even before he missed the majority of the season as part of the academic fraud case.

And now to the bad luck. The 2012 class should’ve been the backbone of this secondary. But injuries derailed Nicky Baratti‘s career. Tee Shepard never made it to spring football. CJ Prosise turned into a wide receiver. John Turner turned into a linebacker. And the future star of the group, accidental defensive back KeiVarae Russell, is serving a two-semester suspension from the university.

The true sophomore group is holding its own. Rashad Kinlaw didn’t last at Notre Dame, but Luke has the makings of a No. 1 cornerback. And Butler is getting better, even if a bad rep like the one he took against DeVante Parker turned into six points.

Throw in true freshman Nick Watkins to the two-deep, and you’ve got the entire motley crew that’ll try and slow down the Trojans passing game.

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Of course, there is a bright side to this attrition. And that’s the experience that a player gains having been thrown into the fire. We’ve seen Farley emerge a better football player after last season’s adversity. And Kelly talked about the effect this opportunity could have on safety Elijah Shumate.

“We needed to get him back in the game and get him going and get some confidence and get him on the upswing,” Kelly explained. “In this game, in practice for the bowl, in the Bowl game, to really kind of sling shot him into next year.”

That slingshot effect will likely also be applied to Redfield. After talking about the disappointment of not having the opportunity to play against USC last season, the former Trojan commit and Southern California native finds himself in a precarious point of his career entering the season finale.

Relegated to special teams coverage the past two weeks while the safety play has been dreadful, the ACL injury to Drue Tranquill — not to mention Collinsworth’s inability to play effectively in space — should force Redfield into action. And hopefully Saturday is the day where we see flashes of the athlete the coaching staff knows they have married with the football player they want him to become.

“He’s got a great trait, it’s his athleticism,” Kelly said last week. “But he’s got to take that trait and really start to translate it on the field.  And that means football knowledge, understanding the game, really taking what he learns in the classroom and applying it to the field.  And he wants to do it. He’s willing to do it. He’s willing to put in the time.

“He knows that there’s things that he’s got to get better at in terms of recognition and understanding the game and where to be and when to trigger and all those things.”

For every young safety that sees the field immediately, there’s a dozen more than take time to learn the game. We watched Harrison Smith go from the doghouse to first-rounder. Former captain Kyle McCarthy went from special teamer to prolific tackling machine in his final two seasons.

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Tasked with learning a new system and embracing a philosophy radically different than the one deployed the last four years, it’s been an up-and-down season for a group many expected to be the strength of the defense. But injuries, suspensions, and bad luck have played a hand in all of that.

It’s also a reason why the coaching staff continues to recruit the safety and cornerback position hard. Five defensive backs are slated to sign with the Irish in the 2015 class. And the staff is after more. They made their sales pitch to Florida safety Ben Edwards last weekend. They’ll take their swing at California cornerback Biggie Marshall at the team’s banquet — one of the biggest fish left on the board in the country. The Irish just entertained elite corner Ykili Ross and had Frank Buncom IV in town on an official visit earlier.

But all of that is around the corner. For now, the assignment is both remarkably difficult and astoundingly simple:

Beat USC.

Five things we learned: Louisville 31, Notre Dame 28

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Kyle Brindza stared down his spot. Envisioned making the kick. Took a final deep breath before waiting for the snap.

And then he missed it.

Notre Dame’s comeback efforts were left for dead as the Irish’s all-time leader in field goals missed yet another one, pushing a 32-yarder wide right as Louisville escaped South Bend with a 31-28 victory.

[WATCH: Full replay of the game ]

Debate focused on Malik Zaire’s hold. Starting for the second-straight game as the team’s holder, Zaire’s hand was out late as Brindza approached the chip shot. After the game, Kelly backed his record-setting kicker.

“I don’t think it was executed at the level it needed to be,” Kelly said. “I didn’t see it. I’ll have to watch it on film, but in talking to Kyle, it did not appear to be handled cleanly.”

That’s kindly framing a situation for a senior kicker whose late-game failings for the second-straight week threaten to undo a legacy that was built on making clutch kicks, regardless of the slight imperfections from a new holder.

But that’s the type of season we’ve found ourselves in, parceling out smidgeons of blame in a black-or-white, win-or-not situation.

With the Irish limping into their season finale against USC next week, let’s find out what else we learned.

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A senior class that did a lot of good for this football program unfortunately doesn’t go out a winner at home. 

There are no consolation prizes in football. And while the Irish deserve credit for giving it their all and responding after a mediocre first half, in the end it wasn’t enough.

For the first time since Brian Kelly took over the Notre Dame football program, the Irish didn’t send their seniors out winners. And frankly, the seniors had plenty to do with that.

Brindza’s missed field goal at the end was the last critical mistake. But just two plays before that seniors Matt Hegarty and Nick Martin failed on a double-team block that led to a painful loss on a second down quarterback draw.

“We ran a quarter draw and we got our butts kicked up front,” Kelly said, when asked about the playcall.

On defense, seniors were few and far between. But when you did notice fifth-year captain Austin Collinsworth, it was on a missed tackles, with Louisville running backs and wide receivers flying by the wounded but game senior safety.

So Saturday’s loss ends the home career of a group of star-crossed football players that battled through quite a few detours to get here. And while this class splintered apart because of injuries and attrition more than any of the other Kelly recruited, the Irish head coach had a message of pride and thanks to his wounded locker room.

“They came in a program that had not had won a bowl game in 20 years,” Kelly said. “Now they have won two and played for a National Championship and obviously are part of developing and building a winning program. I’m proud of them.”

***

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With injuries taking Jarron Jones and Cody Riggs off the field as well, it’s kids, kids and more kids on Brian VanGorder’s beleaguered defense. 

Jarron Jones opened the game up making a big play. Unfortunately he wasn’t healthy for the rest of it. Notre Dame’s starting defensive tackle was the latest key starter to go down, finally tapping out after a hobbling leg injury forced him out of the lineup.

The same happened to Cody Riggs. The senior cornerback was making progress as he battled to return from a stress-reaction in his foot, but he was spotted gingerly walking off the field to the locker room, leaving the secondary for Collinsworth and the kids.

“We played the whole game pretty much without Jarron Jones,” Kelly said afterwards. “They battled as best they could. We’re getting everything out of them. I mean, they played with great effort, just made some mistakes.”

Those mistakes came early, as Louisville’s first two drives turned into touchdowns. And both times, the Irish defense let the Cardinals out of their clutches.

A back-breaking 3rd-and-14 conversion allowed a 10-play, 75 yard drive to end in a touchdown run by freshman quarterback Reggie Bonnafon. Louisville’s next possession, the Cardinals connected on a 3rd-and-16 for 52 yards, allowing Bonnafon to run for another zone-read touchdown to cap off a second-straight touchdown drive.

It wasn’t all bad. We saw Jay Hayes hold his own on the defensive line in his first collegiate action. We watched Jacob Matuska and Greer Martini earn their first sacks. And while Nyles Morgan’s clear-cut personal foul got him ejected from the game, he made 10 tackles, a step forward after a few difficult weeks.

But after getting some critical stops to help build some momentum, the Irish defense couldn’t slow down Louisville’s run game, even when they committed just about all their resources to doing so.

 

After nearly playing his way out of the quarterback job, Everett Golson swatted away the vultures and played a much better second half. 

Another football game, another crisis surrounding Notre Dame’s quarterback. After starting the game sharp, Golson threw a critical interception deep in Irish territory, staring down Will Fuller as cornerback Charles Gaines squatted on a comeback route. The Irish defense actually picked up their quarterback, making Golson’s errant throw just a three-point mistake by holding Louisville to a field goal. But it was more gift-wrapped points, three that just so happened to be the final difference in the game.

But Golson very nearly lost his job after another maddening fumble. The senior quarterback peeled back, trying to tuck the football away late before the ball skidded out, back towards the Irish end zone. Senior Nick Martin threw some gas on the fire, with the ball popping out from beneath him as he tried to recover the fumble.

Golson finally showed some urgency, getting to the ball as it slid out of bounds 32-yards behind where it started.

From 2nd-and-6 to 3rd-and-38. From grumbles asking for Malik Zaire to see the field to full-throated screams. NBC’s Mike Mayock thought it was time to make a change. Doug Flutie looked at Golson’s body language and didn’t like what he saw.

But Brian Kelly went to the half and came back out with Golson behind center. And the senior quarterback responded, helping the Irish score touchdowns on their first two possessions to pull ahead.

Golson’s heroics didn’t come without some magic, and a little luck. A jump-ball to Corey Robinson ended up in Will Fuller’s arms for his 14th touchdown. And while Golson’s two-point scramble pulled the Irish within three, he couldn’t get a touchdown to finish the game when the Irish needed it.

“I think he did some good things. There are some things that we want to do better, but he made some great plays with his feet,” Kelly said.

Golson’s 16 of 24 for 236 and two touchdowns against one of the best defense’s in the country wasn’t bad. And after rallying in the second half after a blundering first half, the senior quarterback deserves some credit for bringing the team back and avoiding a full-fledged quarterback controversy.

 

While most will talk about another missed field goal, the Irish special teams provided a few big plays, too. 

Kelly probably said it best after the game, summarizing the frustrations of a two-game home losing streak that not many people saw coming in October.

“We’ve lost back-to-back games because we couldn’t put down a ball and kick it 32 yards,” Kelly said.

A special teams unit that’s once again taking the blame for the loss very nearly was a key factor in winning the football game. Greg Bryant sparked Notre Dame with an explosive punt return that he nearly took into the end zone. Amir Carlisle set up the Irish multiple times with good field position on kickoff returns.

And with the cover teams doing an excellent job slowing down Louisville’s return men, the Irish had set themselves up quite well in a game that required winning the field position battle, too.

But all of that doesn’t matter if you can’t make the plays when they count.

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Sometimes the night is darkest just before the dawn. 

Football has a funny way of revealing your most crippling weaknesses. The past month has done that.

Notre Dame’s depth on defense has been decimated, turning a group that seemed ahead of schedule in October into one searching badly for answers in November. An Irish offense blessed with better weapons than they’ve had in years only now understands that those weapons don’t mean much if you aren’t properly equipped to handle them.

So while there’s much doom and gloom as we watch Notre Dame stumble in ways they haven’t seen since the Weis era, when fans wipe the tears out of their eyes, they’ll see some of the groundwork being laid for a quicker rebound.

The kids that stood their ground and held up more than respectably against Louisville’s offense? They’ll develop some scar tissue that’ll pay dividends in the future. And while outsiders and followers will wonder if Notre Dame’s head coach and leader has lost his team, it’s not hard to see the energy and emotion on the sidelines as proof positive that this team understands how to fight, even if it’s taking one too many shots to the jaw right now.

“I mean, I can say some cliché things, but I think everybody just has to keep their head up. We’ve got a lot of young guys that have a lot of potential,” Golson said after the game. “It’s kind of one of those things where it’s kind of heartbreaking for us to lose, but you can’t stay down because we do have so much talent. We’ve got to still play with confidence. We’ve got to still play aggressive. I think if we do that, like I said, the talent is there, so I think that will kind of show itself.”

Right now, that talent might not be enough to stop a fade that could extend into a less-than-desirable bowl game. But the pieces are there for a recovery, even if we had to watch them crumble to the ground first.