Talking Irish: Shamrock Series (and more!)

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After a few very busy weeks, CSN Chicago’s JJ Stankevitz returns for some chatter. Enjoy. 

 

KA: Last we chatted the Cubs hadn’t won a World Series, America didn’t have a new president-elect, and Brian Kelly hadn’t lost to Navy. So… Do you feel like things in South Bend are any worse now than they were a couple weeks ago?

JJ: Not really, honestly. The Navy game played out like a lot of this year’s games have played out: A special teams mistake (that shouldn’t have been called, but still), a questionable coaching decision, some poor execution here and there and voila, a narrow loss.

To paraphrase the late, great Dennis Green, the Irish are who we thought they were.

KA: I think you’ve hit on it. The loss to Navy wasn’t bad in my mind. It was what it was—a good football team playing a perfect game and beating a more talented (but bad) football team that made a crucial mistake. It was just that the team was Navy, and that, historically, means something very bad.

JJ: The biggest issue here is that Notre Dame played good football against Navy and lost by 1. In previous years, playing good football against Navy meant a 40-point win or something along those lines.

KA: That’s a good point. I don’t know if I call it good football. They forced half-a-punt and kicked 2 FGs in red zone opportunities.

JJ: Maybe not good football, but it certainly wasn’t *bad* football, of which we’ve seen a lot this year. And part of that is the strength of Navy’s program — Ken Niumatalolo is a top-10 coach in this country — but still.

KA: I think you can honestly make the argument — on the football side — that this is the worst rivalry Notre Dame has. Zero upside to it. You win, you should. You lose, you’re mocked.

JJ: From that standpoint, yeah. I love it from a historical standpoint, but I also double-majored in history at Mizzou, so.

KA: I’ll ask you a question I asked John Walters on our podcast. Staying with the election theme — What do you do to make Notre Dame football great again — if you’re Jack Swarbrick?

JJ: First and foremost, better offensive line play and a healthy stable of running backs.
And a renewed commitment to running the football.

No. 2, stop with the mind-numbing special teams mistakes.

No. 3, a COLLEGE-level defense that has a clear identity that’s easy for young players to pick up and cycle through the system.

Those are mine. Yours?

KA: So those feel like things BK needs to do. Is that the same thing as Swarbrick?

JJ: Ah, I see what you’re saying. I only ask because I think those are the principles that we should all agree with, but at the same time, i think you have to make some changes to the staff and program at a macro level to do that.

JJ: If I’m Swarbrick, you can’t be shy about another million-dollar coordinator.
But you better make sure your coach gets the right one.

KA: Completely agree.

JJ: And I think you have to push back if Kelly really is serious about not needing significant changes from this season.

KA: I think the loss to Navy essentially killed the Greg Hudson / in-house DC solution.

JJ: Which is probably a net benefit they don’t even consider that.

KA: I’m at the point where ANY big-picture topic that BK talks about at this point, it’s merely just doing the least amount of damage possible and just trying to get to the offseason.

JJ: Which is entirely fair.

KA: Here’s one for you: Over/Under on number of snaps played by Jarron Jones against Army?

JJ: Hmmmmm. It can’t be 12! Kelly said, without coming out and directly saying it, that Jones had a bad week of practice leading up to Navy. But with Daniel Cage still out with that concussion, Notre Dame really needs him in there for more than a couple of series to have a shot at stopping Army’s offense with any consistency.

So I’ll say 20.5. Which is still low, but probably one or two more series than he had against Navy.

KA: Notre Dame actually did okay against the fullback against Navy, all things considered. And I do expect the safety play to be much, much better after learning on the fly.

Does Army scare you as much as Navy?

JJ: Not at all. Statistically they’re a better matchup for ND, which given last week’s one-point loss, *should* result in a win on Saturday. But we’ve seen this before, with games that should be wins turning into losses, so who knows.

KA: I’m in agreement on that point. I think the lack of explosive plays from Army leads you to believe that they’re less dynamic running the offense, but then again, their defense has been no joke.

***

KA: I’ll leave you with this: As we approach the second Shamrock Series in San Antonio, against an opponent like Army, where do you stand on this peculiarity of ND’s schedule? Is it worth taking this gig on the road? Or does it necessitate a good opponent and an interesting venue?

JJ: It’ll be good to hit the reset button on it in 2017. I think the opponents need to get better for it, more like ASU in 2013. Otherwise, it stops being a showcase game. I mean this year, ticket prices on the secondary market are looooooow. Like Tampa Bay Rays in the midst of a losing season low.

I’m interested to see locations and opponents for it starting back up in 2018. Maybe it goes international?

KA: Ireland (not a Shamrock Series game) was an incredible experience. And ND traveled to Dublin about 25x better than any of the schools to follow.

JJ: The American owners of AS Roma want Notre Dame and BC to play at their new stadium with the pope flipping the coin, so…  (**That was a few years ago they said that…)

KA: Rome would be awesome. Sign me up for that assignment. But little things like Toronto or Mexico City don’t sound terrible, either.

JJ: Yep yep yep. Or Vancouver. That would be great. Just so we could all go to Vancouver.

KA: I am driving the Vancouver bandwagon. No better city to visit and lots of fun to be had. Just find me the Under Armour tie-in to Notre Dame and Canada and funky helmets.

I’ll start you with the predictions. I told Sal Interdonato that the Irish would win 31-20.

JJ: Notre Dame 33, Army 24 Pretty close!

KA: Great minds. Look forward to us being equally right or wrong. Last tip before you travel. Just remember — There’s no basement in the Alamo.

***

With the election all anybody can talk about, John Walters and I dipped our toes in the water, before asking if Brian Kelly could make Notre Dame football great again?  (Warning: It’s not all football.)