IBG: Air Force edition

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With USC in the rearview mirror and Air Force welcoming the Irish to Colorado Springs, let’s get to the IBG. As usual, play along in the comments and answer my questions there. (I’m especially interested this week, as I think questions one and two are tough asks.)

Check out our friends in the IBG as well as my answers over at HerLoyalSons.com

Her Loyal Sons
ND Nation
UHND
Strong and True

I had a chance to track down Notre Dame’s blogger-in-residence, Aaron Horvath, who writes over at Strong and True. Here are his answers.

1) There were some grumblings about the offensive struggles and the ugliness of the second half. But how do you judge the Irish win over USC?

You judge the the 14-10 Notre Dame win by simply saying, “a win is a win…” It’s that simple. Personally, I think there are many positives to take from this game.

First off, I actually liked what I saw in the first half from the Irish offense. Ran the ball solidly and threw the ball well with Rees. In the second half when the offense was non-existent, the defense stepped up.

So simply, as you saw last year, not every win can be pretty. Winning by one counts just as much as winning by 20 in the win-loss column.

2) After watching the heroics that came out of the defense last year, where do you place the defense did last weekend compared to the best of last season?

The defensive play last weekend was great, brought back memories of last season’s squad. What people don’t remember is in 2012, the defense allowed yards, just not points.

Allowing just over 160 points last year (40-some in one game), the 2012 defense was very stout on the scoreboard. Yet, they allowed 306 yards per game compared to 368 this season. With over 10 possessions each game, that means the squad allows just six yards per drive more per game. Yet the points per game allowed has raised from 12.8 in 2012, to 23.3 this season.

So… that doesn’t really answer the question. But this game really reminded me of last season’s BYU game. Offense sputtering, defense comes to the rescue by playing stout defense in a 17-14 win.

3) There are five games left in the regular season. Give me your most IMPORTANT players on both the offense and defense if the Irish are going to head to Palo Alto 9-2?

To head to Palo Alto at 9-2, the Irish defense MUST get production out of two key members; Stephon Tuitt and Jaylon Smith. I know these are cliché selections, but if you looks at Smith early in the season, he didn’t jump off the page at you. Yet in the last two games, when the defense began to make strides, he is right there flying around the ball. Additionally, the edges are usually where the games are won and lost against option teams and Notre Dame plays both Air Force and Navy in the next few weeks.

On the offensive side of the ball I look at right tackle Ronnie Stanley. I am confident in the line to prove enough protection for Rees in passing coverage, but the key to the spread style off-tackle runs that are consistently used in the Irish offense is the sealing of the defensive linemen on the edges. To be successful, the Irish need to develop a more consistent ground game as the year pushes into the cold-weather months.