Tag: NDNation


IBG: USC edition


Is it me, or are we all a little bit subdued about this weekend’s football game? Whether or not Lane Kiffin is still on the sidelines, there’s no bigger game this year (or at least from now until Stanford) for the Irish. The Trojans come to town for their biannual October trip to the Midwest, leaving the cozy confines of Los Angeles for a long weekend in Chicago and South Bend.

Wearing the Cardinal and Gold may not be as easy as it used to be, so the amount of Southern Cal fans trolling the Windy City might be down a bit, but there’s no doubting that Ed Orgeron’s squad will be up for their visit, embracing the role of spoiler as they have a chance to knock the Irish out of BCS relevancy by mid-October.

Joining me this week for the IBG is Mike Coffey of NDNation. If you’d like to visit the rest of the folks, check out the following blogs:

Her Loyal Sons
ND Nation
Strong and True

Play along in the comments, but here are Mike’s answers to my three questions.

1) Once again, Notre Dame will play USC under the lights. Overall, how do you assess the night game addition these past few years? Do you think it’s been a value-add from a football perspective? How about from the fan’s perspective?

I’m sure from a football perspective, everyone likes it.  NBC likes the prime-time exposure, the players like playing under the lights, the staff likes a charged atmosphere for recruiting purposes.

From a fan’s perspective, it’s going to depend on the fan.  For those of us who grew up on Saturday afternoons in Notre Dame Stadium, it may be a detraction.  Those of us driving in from Chicago have a pretty late night with few (if any) options for a post-game meal.  I can understand if other fans like it, though.

2) Brian Kelly always talks about using the off week to develop some of the younger players that need some work. Give me one offensive and defensive player that you hope takes a step forward down the home stretch?

On defense, the quicker we can get Max Redfield into play, the better off we’ll be.  We need more quickness at safety, and I believe he can provide it.

On offense, I’d have to say Ben Koyack.  While I’d like to see the TE’s in general get more involved, if Koyack is playing better, the offense will be better.

3) I suppose we’ve got to talk rivalry, right? How do you view Southern Cal, the importance of the annual game, and its place in college football?

I’ve always said Notre Dame football has one friend (Navy), one enemy (Michigan), and one rival (Southern Cal).  Even though I attended ND in the midst of the Decade of Dominance, I was raised in an ND house and taught Southern Cal was The Rivalry for us, so the fact we won a lot of games in a row didn’t change that for me.  The losses to SC since 2000 have burned under the skin … I hate losing to those people.  It’s not the same as losing to Michigan (which I also hate) – losing to SC sticks around in the psyche longer, especially the way we lost to them recently.  If ND is going to protect any games on its schedule, it should be SC and Navy and that’s it.

Regarding its place in college football, it’s lost the luster a little bit with ND being down.  However, I believe a matchup between ranked ND and SC teams will always be a draw.  It doesn’t have the casual-fan-interest that a Michigan/Ohio State or Alabama/Auburn has, but college football fans who know the game know the rivalry and what it has meant.

The good, bad, and ugly: Utah


What a difference a week makes.

After two of the more disheartening weeks in recent memory for Notre Dame football, the Irish put together a complete performance, dominating Utah physically on both the offensive and defensive fronts on their way to a resounding victory.

“I don’t think we ever had control on the line of scrimmage,” Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham conceded after the game.

For head coach Brian Kelly, the victory was the affirmation needed after two weeks of preaching toughness to the football team.

“This was a game where it had to be won up front,” Kelly said about his offensive and defensive linemen. “They knew that they were going to be central to the success today. This game was won up front.”

For the Irish, a victory renews talks of a post-season bowl berth that just last week looked potentially out of reach. But the Irish now head to the Bronx and Yankee Stadium for a chance to get win number six and regain some lost momentum, especially with linebacker Carlo Calabrese and wide receiver Theo Riddick potentially returning from injury this week.

Before we get to that, let’s take a look at the good, bad, and ugly from Notre Dame’s 28-3 win against Utah.


Whatever skeptics may say about Tulsa and Utah, it’s difficult to say that the last two Irish opponents didn’t have prolific offenses. Yet embattled defensive coordinator Bob Diaco put together two rock-solid game plans, giving up just one defensive touchdown in the last two games.

What’s interesting about Diaco’s coordination of the defensive unit is just how different it is from former coordinator Jon Tenuta’s hyper-blitzing scheme. Diaco stresses simplicity, and great enthusiasm and effort, evident in the 48 assisted tackles recorded on Saturday.

“We couldn’t be the kind of defense we were against Utah unless everybody took that into their own, doing there job,” Kelly said. “One-eleventh of the defense in a sense, and they all were gap conscious they were all doing their job.”

Kelly pointed out the impressive games by Sean Cwynar, Ethan Johnson, and Kapron Lewis-Moore, who opened up the middle of the field for Brian Smith and Manti Te’o to play two excellent games. After the game, Kyle Whittingham acknowledged the difficulty the Utes had running the football.

“If you can’t establish balance in your offense and run efficiently, it makes everything difficult,” Whittingham said. “Credit Notre Dame’s front seven. They’ve got a big, physical front seven. Manti Te’o’s a heck of a ballplayer. Those four down guys, three down guys do a nice job. The kid next to Manti (Brian Smith) is a physical kid as well. And they’ve got a very stout front seven on defense.”

For Irish fans, Whittingham’s words had to sound like a foreign language after watching the front seven of the defense be the achilles heel for just about every Charlie Weis team, and really most Irish teams since the Lou Holtz era. But Whittingham made it clear that the Irish defense was succeeding not by schematic decisions, but merely sound fundamental football.

“They were just playing sound, getting off blocks. The backers were filling holes,” Whittingham said. “The front does a nice job with their technique and staying square. Same things we saw on tape. We just weren’t productive today. They did a nice job.”


It’s tough to find any bad in Saturday’s convincing 28-3 victory, but those who are in the mood to nitpick will certainly question Kelly’s decision to go for it on 4th and 3 at the Irish 49-yard line on the opening drive of the game. While it ultimately didn’t matter, giving Utah excellent field position — which resulted in their only points of the afternoon — was another failed gamble by a head coach that’s crapped out quite a few times this year.

That said, if you’re looking for evidence that Kelly’s maybe more of a players coach than one might suspect, look no further than the confidence Kelly showed in his offensive line on that opening drive. While the gamble didn’t work, Kelly spent the entire week preaching on how the game would be won up front with a physical effort at the line of scrimmage. Given his first chance to prove how much confidence he had in his beleaguered unit, he went right back to the ground game instead of punting the ball away, better proof that he believed in his team than any pep talk could’ve been.While the play didn’t go the Irish’s way, the decision obviously worked on the team’s psyche.


In the moments following the biggest victory of the season, defensive end Emeka Nwankwo took the time to tweet to his 756 followers “How u like them apples ND nation,” an obvious poke at the incredibly well-read website NDNation and its highly trafficked message board Rock’s House. Nwankwo’s tweet likely was a response to an incredibly vocal faction of posters that have already started to call for the head of defensive coordinator Bob Diaco and head coach Brian Kelly.

Full disclosure: NDNation is a website that funnels a lot of traffic to the Inside the Irish blog, and it’d be terribly dangerous to group an entire membership — especially at a place with over 9,000 registered posters — as one collective voice. Yet the fact that in the celebratory hours that followed the Irish’s victory on Senior Day, a member of the graduating class thought to take a well-aimed swipe at a message board that purports to support his own Notre Dame team, well — that’s certainly saying something.

Over the past few weeks, there’s been a groundswell of positive support for the Irish football team growing quietly among the widespread discontent. It’s been embodied by a website and Twitter feed that refers to itself as the “New ND Nation.” They’ve already caught the attention of several players, with Sean Cwynar, Ben Turk, Kyle Rudolph, Barry Gallup, Lo Wood, Tyler Stockton, Chris Stewart, Armando Allen, Duval Kamara, Brandon Newman, Carlo Calabrese, Ryan Kavanagh, Bennett Jackson, Tommy Rees, Kerry Neal, Braxston Cave, Jake Golic, Darrin Walls, Ian Williams, Trevor Robinson, Gary Gray, John Goodman, Mike Golic, Brian Smith, Kapron Lewis-Moore, and Dayne Crist and following their Tweets, with former players like Jimmy Clausen, Sam Young and Golden Tate right there as well.

This isn’t an indictment on the website that boasts Notre Dame Magazine‘s endorsement as “the preferred social networking venue for Domers” or the Chicago Tribune‘s kudos calling NDNation the “most ardent, unflinching and at times uproariously overcaffeinated Irish fan website,” in all the land. But the acknowledgment that a senior football player feels the need to poke the proverbial bear, in this case, the most popular ND fan website on the internet, after pulling a shocking upset certainly points to an ugly truth and negative current that’s developed over the past 15 years of the Irish’s struggles.

(This is why they play the game.)