Mike McGlinchey may have put Notre Dame’s loss Saturday night entirely on his own shoulders for a missed block on the final Irish snap, but Brian Kelly disagrees with that sentiment.
The Notre Dame coach felt no need to specifically console his fifth-year left tackle after the 20-19 defeat to Georgia, largely because that late-game mistake was just one of many in a game of 60 minutes.
“I’ve never felt like there’s one play that determines a game,” Kelly said Sunday. “There were a number of things that — if we could have made a run on the third down on the series before, if we don’t have a late hit, if we make a play on that third down flip with [sophomore defensive end] Daelin Hayes, a better call here or there offensively. … I’ve never felt there’s one singular play.”
Bulldogs senior defensive end Davin Bellamy’s fumble-causing sack ended any Irish hopes of a comeback. How Bellamy did that is far from complicated: He simply beat McGlinchey with a pass rush.
“Their guy was better on that play,” Kelly said. “That’s why, when we get in that moment, our guys have to believe that their training has put them in a position to obviously make that block and be there for him.”
Kelly struggled to assess the Notre Dame offensive line as a whole, presumably not wanting to oversimplify an undoubtedly complex evaluation. He did acknowledge the pass protection difficulties, giving up three sacks of junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush.
“What we have to do better is we have to sustain box and be more consistent in pass protection,” Kelly said before adding another piece to that element of the game. “… When we run our offense, a lot of the decisions post-snap are based on what the quarterback is seeing.
“Whether he’s giving it out, pulling it, checking it to the other side, sometimes those decisions ae left up to the post-snap reads. Brandon is learning those things. Going against Georgia, that’s a pretty good defense to learn a lot [from].”
In a departure from a week ago and all of last season, junior receiver Equanimeous St. Brown was not the Irish quarterback’s primary target. Certainly, Wimbush would have preferred to connect with his most dangerous receiver more often than twice for 16 yards, but the Bulldogs made preventing such a priority. (more…)
Things We Learned: Notre Dame’s d-line is good, but much else is not yet
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — We learned Georgia’s front-seven is all it was cracked up to be. We learned even future first-round NFL Draft picks make colossal mistakes. We learned the new video board in Notre Dame Stadium does not broadcast a post-game show after losses. Those first two are inherently intertwined, and to that last one, the response should be the same as it was when some were upset the Irish did not sing the Alma Mater after home losses: Just win the games.
What else did we learn?
Notre Dame has a defensive line. More than that, it is a strength, not the liability long presumed.
All offseason the doubts about the Irish defensive line persisted. When junior tackle Elijah Taylor suffered a Lisfranc fracture in spring practices, those concerns amplified. Then senior tackle Daniel Cage was ruled out for the season over the summer. The week one absence of junior tackle Micah Dew-Treadway due to a sprained knee only furthered the skepticism.
Beyond senior Jonathan Bonner and junior Jerry Tillery, could Notre Dame even field a defensive interior?
On top of that, senior ends Jay Hayes and Andrew Trumbetti have provided playmaking on the edges few, if any, saw coming. Certainly no one expected Hayes to lead Notre Dame with seven tackles Saturday night. Trumbetti added five, as did Tillery. Bonner had four takedowns, including 1.5 tackles for loss.
Even more impressively, freshmen tackles Kurt Hinish and Myron Tagovaioloa-Amosa held their own for the second consecutive week, allowing Bonner and Tillery chances to catch their breath.
Perhaps Irish fifth-year left tackle Mike McGlinchey — the aforementioned future first-round NFL Draft pick — should have been heeded when he praised the defensive line in preseason camp. He does, after all, face those exact players every day in practice.
McGlinchey took little satisfaction in reminding the world of that confidence after Saturday’s loss.
“Our defense played their hearts out today, and they played a [great] game,” the captain said. “All the credit to them. Everybody has had their doubts about them all season long, and they stepped up in a big way today.”
That big way limited the Bulldogs’ vaunted rushing attack to 193 yards. That may seem a large number, and certainly even fewer would have been preferred, but Georgia never found the presumed momentum on the ground, greatly limiting their offensive game plan.
“The defensive line especially played really well in stopping them,” senior linebacker Greer Martini said. Bulldogs senior running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel “are obviously very special backs, but I think we handled our own.”
Indeed, they did. More challenges will come this season — namely USC’s Ronald Jones and Stanford’s Bryce Love — but those tests no longer seem beyond overcoming for the Notre Dame front seven.
Brandon Wimbush has started only two games in his career.
Okay, that was known. But Saturday night, it was very obvious. The junior quarterback was not ready for either the stage or the opponent, or both. At no point did he deliver a WOW moment a la his opening-week dart to senior tight end Nic Weishar. His closest thing to a big play came on the opening snap, when junior receiver Equanimeous St. Brown dropped a deep pass off a flea flicker.
Including that, Wimbush completed only 20 of 40 passes. A 50 percent completion rate is not acceptable in any circumstance. He fumbled twice, though the second of the two should hardly be attributed to him, considering the nature of a hardly-slowed blindside hit.
Just like against Temple, Wimbush lucked out of multiple interceptions. At some point, one of those risky throws will cost him and the Irish dearly. Even this weekend, the incompletions off those near-interceptions were too much to overcome.
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Notre Dame certainly had its chances. Twice in the final four minutes, the No. 24 Irish had possession needing a score to overcome a one-point deficit to No. 15 Georgia. Instead, each drive stalled after three plays, including a game-sealing fumble with less than 90 seconds remaining to seal the Bulldogs’ 20-19 victory Saturday night.
“The credit should go to Georgia today,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. “They made the plays in critical times. When they needed the big plays, they came up with them.”
The Irish led for the majority of the evening until Georgia junior kicker Rodrigo Blankenship hit a 30-yard field goal with 3:34 remaining in the game to bring the score to 20-19. Three incompletions from junior Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush later and the Bulldogs had the ball back with 3:08 remaining. The Irish defense held stout, forcing a three-and-out, but again the Notre Dame offense could not produce as needed.
After a 17-yard completion to junior receiver Chris Finke gave the Irish offense some forward momentum, the evening came to an abrupt halt. Wimbush dropped back, but before he could even plant his back foot at the end of his drop, Bulldogs senior defensive end Davin Bellamy hit Wimbush from behind, forcing a fumble recovered by Bulldogs senior linebacker Lorenzo Carter.
“It was a great play,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “I actually was trying to get [Bellamy] out of the game, because I thought that they were a little winded. So we played I think two or three times that drive, and I always want to have fresh rushers.
“He gets out there and he outdid the guy.”
The guy Smart referenced would be Notre Dame fifth-year left tackle Mike McGlinchey. The Irish captain both credited the Georgia defense and Bellamy as well as faulted himself for the game-deciding play.
“They were quick, they were big, they were good with their hands, and they had a good game plan,” McGlinchey said. “They played their hearts out today, so did we. It came down to execution and we didn’t get the job done.”
Wimbush was sacked a total of three times on the day. He finished 20-of-40 passing for 210 yards while losing two fumbles on two of those sacks, including Bellamy’s. McGlinchey saw no reason for any of those mishaps to be attributed to Wimbush.
“I told him I’m sorry, I didn’t do my job at the end of the game,” he said. “That’s not on Brandon Wimbush. He had a hell of a game. It’s a tough atmosphere to play in. He had a great game for the most part all day. I told him I’m sorry because I blew it on the last play.”
As a whole, Notre Dame’s offense struggled mightily against the Bulldogs, gaining a total of 265 yards with only 79 rushing yards on 34 carries (when removing sack totals from rushing statistics). If not for 127 Georgia penalty yards and a fumble recovery giving the Irish a short field in the second quarter, the 19 points may have been far fewer.
That Bulldogs turnover came on the first play of their first possession starting in the second quarter. Freshman quarterback Jake Fromm went to hand the ball off and instead deposited it on the ground. Notre Dame sophomore end Daelin Hayes jumped on it. A 32-yard Wimbush completion to junior running back Josh Adams got the Irish into scoring position and two plays later Wimbush ran into the end zone for the only Notre Dame touchdown of the day.
“[Wimbush is] a good player, he’s a really good athlete, he’s hard to get down,” Smart said. “But I know they were frustrated on offense tonight, too. Frustrated as our fans are, and I am, [with] the offense we had, think about theirs. They had a lot of three-and-outs, as well. It was one of those defensive struggle games, field position games.”
TURNING POINT OF THE GAME
Irish junior kicker Justin Yoon’s third field goal of the night gave Notre Dame a 16-10 lead midway through the third quarter. On the first play of the ensuing Georgia drive, Notre Dame senior defensive tackle Jonathan Bonner reached Fromm for a six-yard loss. An incompletion later brought up third-and-16 from the Bulldogs’ own 19-yard line. The Irish were posed to regain possession with worthwhile field position and a chance to go up two positions.
In a plodding game lacking any signs of offensive momentum, a two-possession lead would have been insurmountable. It felt that way at the time, and now knowing how the game played out, it is even more certain.
As Fromm rolled out of the pocket looking for sophomore receiver Riley Ridley along the sideline, Notre Dame sophomore end Julian Okwara gave chase. When Fromm released the pass a yard from the sideline, Okwara was half a stride away. A subsequent shove of Fromm out of bounds earned Okwara a 15-yard late hit personal foul penalty, turning a 14-yard Ridley reception and a fourth-and-two into a first-and-10 nearly 30 yards down the field.
The call seemed questionable, but Okwara also cannot put himself in that position. By now, every player on any football field has to know the referees will protect the quarterbacks at all costs. Sure, his momentum may bring Okwara up to Fromm no matter what, but extending his arms on the shove sealed the penalty.
If not for that, Georgia is likely to punt — it was still too early in the night to go for a fourth-and-two within its own territory. The Irish would have had that chance to go up by nine or 13 points. Instead, Georgia finished the 75-yard drive with a six-yard touchdown run from senior running back Sony Michel.
“We were off the field and subsequently they scored,” Kelly said. “Those are the things that when it’s a one-point game, you’ll go back, and we’ll learn a painful lesson from that. You hate to learn lessons in losses but sometimes you have to learn some painful lessons.”
OVERLOOKED POINT OF THE GAME
That Michel touchdown gave Georgia a 17-16 lead. Two Irish possessions later, Notre Dame faced a third-and-four from the Bulldogs 14-yard line. Only 11:08 remained. A touchdown would have put all sorts of pressure back on Georgia.
Suddenly, third-and-four became third-and-nine courtesy of a false start by freshman right tackle Robert Hainsey, his third such penalty in two weeks. Wimbush ran for eight yards, and Yoon trotted out for his fourth and final field goal attempt of the night.
The successful 28-yard kick did return the lead to the Irish, but by only two rather than six. If Hainsey had not jumped, the third-and-four may have been converted and a touchdown may have soon followed.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Yoon hit five-of-five kicks Saturday night. In order: a 39-yard field goal, a point after attempt, a 42-yard field goal, a 37-yarder and a 28-yarder to finish his work. All this comes after missing his two field goal attempts a week ago.
“I felt like the adjustments [from a week ago] weren’t going to be major,” Kelly said. “That’s where maybe I stepped out on the limb a little bit with him. We made some slight corrections during the week and he was hitting the ball really well.”
If the Irish had managed to move the ball downfield in the closing minutes, Wimbush was confident he did not have to go all that far before they would be within Yoon’s range.
“The confidence was there and we had no doubt that we were going to go drive down and at least get three points. That’s all we needed,” Wimbush said. “If we were able to get into his range, I’m confident that [Yoon] would have knocked it through.”
STAT OF THE GAME
Notre Dame finished three-of-17 on third-down conversions and entered the red zone a total of three times but came away with only one seven-point trip. In fact, the Irish opened oh-for-10 on third-down conversions.
QUOTE OF THE EVENING
Wimbush was asked about the mood in the locker room following the defeat. In some respects, those questions are throwaway questions. A generic answer fills the bill. On the surface, that was what Wimbush delivered, but what was of note was how he slowly worked his way through it.
“It’s not the same mood as it was last week, that’s for sure,” he said. “It’s a loss, and we don’t play this game to lose. We don’t do what we do for nine months to lose a game.”
Wimbush paused. He was not about to break down, but he was clearly uncomfortable talking about losing.
“There wasn’t much going on. There wasn’t much excitement.”
OWNERSHIP OF THE EVENING
If anyone wants to criticize Mike McGlinchey for missing his block on the final Notre Dame offensive possession, there is no need. McGlinchey is more critical of himself than anyone else could be.
“It definitely hurts a little bit more when it’s [my] responsibility. We played our hearts out all four quarters. It just comes down to those couple plays of execution. I certainly didn’t get my job done.”
When asked how Wimbush responded to McGlinchey putting the blame on his own shoulders, McGlinchey praised his quarterback.
“Obviously he’s a good teammate and he said, no, it wasn’t [my fault],” McGlinchey said. “But anybody who watches football knows that it was.”
12:48 — Notre Dame field goal. Justin Yoon from 39 yards. Notre Dame 3, Georgia 0. (7 plays, 53 yards, 2:12)
6:36 — Georgia field goal. Rodrigo Blankenship from 27 yards. Notre Dame 3, Georgia 3. (6 plays, 71 yards, 2:33)
11:09 — Notre Dame touchdown. Brandon Wimbush one-yard rush. Yoon PAT good. Notre Dame 10, Georgia 3. (4 plays, 32 yards, 0:53)
6:45 — Georgia touchdown. Terry Godwin 5-yard reception from Jake Fromm. Blankenship PAT good. Notre Dame 10, Georgia 10. (12 plays, 62 yards, 5:39)
4:14 — Notre Dame field goal. Yoon from 42 yards. Notre Dame 13, Georgia 10. (6 plays, 40 yards, 2:31)
6:22 — Notre Dame field goal. Yoon from 37 yards. Notre Dame 16, Georgia 10. (9 plays, 33 yards, 2:16)
4:34 — Georgia touchdown. Sony Michel five-yard rush. Blankenship PAT good. Georgia 17, Notre Dame 16. (7 plays, 75 yards, 1:48)
WHO? No. 15 Georgia at No. 24 Notre Dame. The Bulldogs are led by freshman quarterback Jake Fromm, making his first career start due to sophomore Jacob Eason being sidelined with a knee sprain.
WHAT? Both 1-0, this will be the first real test for either team this season.
WHEN? 7:30 p.m. ET. The sun will set at 8:04 p.m. in South Bend tonight, in case you were curious.
WHERE? Notre Dame Stadium, but if you are not among that crowd, tune in to NBC. If your television is devoted to some other game, try http://ndstream.nbcsports.com/. If it is halftime and you simply want to monitor this game on a third device until the action reconvenes, check the NBC Sports App.
For those overseas, NBC Sports Gold will allow you to watch either this single game or the entire season, whichever you happen to choose.
WHY? Once every 50 years, the Georgia Bulldogs dare to venture into the country’s northern half for a game on the gridiron. Nearly as rare as a total solar eclipse, this is that occasion.
BY HOW MUCH? Vegas initially favored Notre Dame by 6.5 points before action moved that line to Irish by 4.5 with an over/under total of 57. Rounded quick math puts that estimated final score at 31-27.
Personally, my instincts have favored a lower score, but I recognize both of these offenses operated efficiently in week one. Expecting that output to drop off completely may be rash. It is more likely the stout Georgia defense hampers a few Irish trips into the red zone while Fromm stumbles just shy of the end zone himself. With that in mind, perhaps the key to Notre Dame’s success or failure in this binary enterprise will be junior kicker Justin Yoon’s leg returning to accuracy.
Notre Dame 30, Georgia 23. (Record this season: 1-0)
ANYTHING ELSE? An Air Force flyover has been scheduled before the Irish and Bulldogs kick off.
After months of speculation and idle chatter, the exodus north appears to be a reality. Georgia fans are flocking to South Bend, and they presumably made their travel plans long before any hurricanes began threatening the Southeast.
There will never be a truly accurate totaling of just how many Bulldogs fans fill up Notre Dame’s campus. The best metric will be rough estimations of how many of Notre Dame Stadium’s 79,622 seats are filled with red-and-black attire. It will be at least 10 percent, given Georgia was allotted 8,000 tickets for the occasion. Most expect those estimates to clear 20 percent. If the supply-and-demand market of airline seats is any indication, the Bulldogs fans may account for a higher figure than that.
Yes, airline seats. First of all, I’ll be honest, I did not know there were direct flights from Atlanta to South Bend. By the looks of it, Delta offers a few a day, each taking just less than two hours in the air.
Second of all, I’ll admit if this story involved United Airlines, I probably would not acknowledge it out of lasting principles. (To find this tweet, I went to twitter[dot]com and searched @D_Farmer @united and I must say, I stand by everything I said Oct. 31, 2014.)
Apparently, a Friday morning flight from Atlanta to South Bend was overbooked. That should not surprise anyone. Overbooking flights actually makes some legitimate sense, as frustrating as it often is.
What should surprise is what it took to solve the overbooking. Presumably, Delta started out by offering a more reasonable number than the $2,200 that led Zach Klein (of the Atlanta ABC affiliate) to tweet out the absurdity of the situation. Whatever Delta started at, clearly that attempt was fruitless, hence Klein’s chance at comedy.
By the end of the staring match, a Georgia fan finally blinked at a $4,000 flight voucher and a ticket on a flight to South Bend only 10 hours later.
Bulldogs fans were not willing to sacrifice a Friday afternoon in Indiana for the option of $3,000 in flights. Kudos to them.
It is also a kudos to Notre Dame.
“We take it as a great compliment that a great program like the University of Georgia would want to be a part of Saturday’s game and make the trek up here,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said Thursday. “… We take it as a great compliment that we’re having that kind of draw. It’s exciting for our players, as well.”
Some Notre Dame fans may cringe when they see entire sections of the upper bowl filled with red tomorrow. I would wager there is a good chance those watching on television will wince every time the cameras pan to the new video board. They won’t flinch out of objection to the video board. Rather, logic would indicate the sections beneath it, in particular, will be completely filled with Georgia fans.
“We’re excited that Notre Dame provides that kind of draw to the stadium,” Kelly said.
If this were Wisconsin or Washington State, such a traveling fan base could be marked off as par for the course. Those two in particular are notorious for their ability to relocate to remote locations for a weekend. When discussing Georgia, that is a bit of an unknown — the Bulldogs have not ventured north of the Mason-Dixon Line in more than 50 years. Most of their fans have not had to consider more than a moderate drive their entire lives.
Notre Dame changes that in two ways, both cited by Kelly. First of all, the football program as it stands these days is still worth scheduling on its own. Secondly, the opportunity to see the home of Knute Rockne, the Word of Life mural and 11 national championships is enough of an enticement to fill planes. Literally, it would seem.
Every few years, a “relevance” discussion begins anew around the Irish. Perhaps most infamously, Rick Reilly made the claim Notre Dame no longer held coast-to-coast sway only a month before the Irish commenced a perfect 2012 regular season. (more…)