Irish blow past Rice. A Weekend Review

-Sgt Shamrock 

Notre Dame kicked off the 2014 season off with a 48-17 bludgeoning of the Rice Owls at Notre Dame Stadium Saturday afternoon. From start to finish the Irish were in complete control of the game and even while Rice was able to tie the game in the first quarter there was never really a doubt that the Irish would cruise to an easy and impressive victory. The offense looked very crisp with Golson back under center and even though the receiving corps came into the game with little to no experience, they preformed very well (minus a few drops). The three headed monster known as the Notre Dame backfield preformed very well with a solid performance from Bryant, Folston, and McDaniel as they amassed over 280 yards on the ground against the Rice defense. However as good as the offense looked, nothing looking better than Everett Golson. Golson accounted for five touchdowns himself including three scores on the ground and finished the day with 295 passing yards and 41 rushing yards. Even more impressive than the stats for Golson was the throws he was making. His throw to CJ Prosise near the end of the second quarter, that was a sure touchdown had Prosise not dropped it, was an absolutely beautiful pass and the following pass to Prosice that was caught for a touchdown was equally as impressive. Its evident that Golson’s time with George Whitfield was very well spent.

The defense also played well in the season opener. Jaylon Smith again showed just how good of a player he is and can continue to be. He was flying all over the field and making plays. Joe Schmidt led the team in tackles and looked very impressive against the run. While there was a lot of concern regarding the defensive line headed into the season, the unit preformed very well. Jarron Jones and Sheldon Day were able to put pressure on the quarterback and were stout in run defense. The defense gave up a total of 367 total yards however a large portion of that occurred once all the starters had left the field when the game was already won. Their performance in the first half was very encouraging and while there were some missed assignments early on, they rebounded and there is no reason to think that they wont continue to improve as the season progresses (And hopefully they get some players back at some point as well).

Other Observations:

  • It was great to finally be excited about the special teams unit. Amir Carlise, Cody Riggs, and Greg Bryant all had very good returns and were able to set up the offense the entire game. Its much easier to score when you start at the 40 yard line instead of the 20. A great change from the “Fair Catch Approach”
  • Notre Dame only had two penalties the entire game for a total of 10 yards. Thats impressive in any game but even more impressive in a season opener, since teams sometimes come out a bit rusty in a game situation. I can’t remember the last time Notre Dame played that clean of a game and I really hope to see that trend continue throughout the season.
  • Both Cole Luke and Cody Riggs looked very impressive yesterday. They had their receivers locked down for most of the game and looked great in coverage as well as run defense. While KeiVarae Russell is still the best corner on the roster (and one of the best in the nation) should he not be allowed to return to the team, I am very confident that Riggs and Luke can more than handle their own in the secondary.
  • Speaking of the whole Russell and academic probe deal, did you notice which starter remained on the field when the second team defense came into the game in the fourth quarter? I did and found it very interesting given the entire academic suspension ordeal. Cole Luke was the only starter that stayed on the field with the second team. Now why would Brian Kelly keep that particular starter in the game when the Irish were up by so many points? It really makes me think that the staff is at least very optimistic they will be getting Russell back at some point in the future. Cole Luke was originally the backup for Russell and should Russell return, Luke will return to that spot on the depth chart. Just something that really caught my eye.
  • The field turf looks absolutely amazing and I couldn’t be happier how it turned out. It does however make the temperature a lot higher than normal with the rubber that is included in the playing surface. It will be interesting to see if that effects any of the players in future home games in terms of conditioning and hydration.
  • Of all three of the running backs, Greg Bryant is clearly the most talented in my opinion. He carried the ball eight times for 71 yards and one touchdown which is impressive by itself. But even more impressive was his 8.9 yards per carry statistic and that is with his longest run of the game being 17 yards. He was clearly the most impressive of the three backs Saturday and it will be interesting to see if he begins to get more carries from the staff. 

It is now officially Michigan week so make sure you stay with us here at Down the Tunnel for all your Irish coverage in preparation for the showdown with the Skunkbears on Saturday night. 

  

Rice – A Facebook Summation

Week 1 is in the books. After a dominant performance by the Irish there is much to be excited about looking forward. I’m not here to do that. Instead, let’s take a look back at yesterday and everything that went along with it in the melting pot that is Facebook.

NDFC1

As the countdown to kickoff inched closer, people could hardly contain their excitement.

1

2

3

4


 

Screen shot 2014-08-31 at 9.24.34 AM

The team at FIDM did a pretty awesome thing for the fans and posted a time-lapse video of the player walk to the stadium. Appreciation among the fan base was palpable.

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10


Screen shot 2014-08-31 at 10.36.19 AM

Finally, the season is underway. In-game and post game reactions were optimistic and filled with constructive criticism.Screen shot 2014-08-31 at 10.49.58 AM

Screen shot 2014-08-31 at 10.37.09 AM

Screen shot 2014-08-31 at 10.38.00 AM

Screen shot 2014-08-31 at 10.41.54 AM

Screen shot 2014-08-31 at 10.42.42 AM

Screen shot 2014-08-31 at 10.43.44 AM

Screen shot 2014-08-31 at 10.56.39 AM

Screen shot 2014-08-31 at 11.01.18 AM

Screen shot 2014-08-31 at 11.03.58 AM

Screen shot 2014-08-31 at 11.05.56 AM

Screen shot 2014-08-31 at 11.09.51 AM

Screen shot 2014-08-31 at 11.22.09 AM

Screen shot 2014-08-31 at 11.23.53 AM

Screen shot 2014-08-31 at 11.17.54 AM


Golson: G-O-L-S-O-N, Golson.

Screen shot 2014-08-31 at 9.17.14 AM

Screen shot 2014-08-31 at 10.30.35 AM

Screen shot 2014-08-31 at 10.32.09 AM

Screen shot 2014-08-31 at 10.39.16 AM

Screen shot 2014-08-31 at 10.40.48 AM

Screen shot 2014-08-31 at 10.57.08 AM

Screen shot 2014-08-31 at 11.25.22 AM

Screen shot 2014-08-31 at 11.27.41 AM

 

 

 

The 2014 Campaign Begins. A Rice Preview.

-Sgt Shamrock

After a long awaited wait, the 2014 season is FINALLY upon us as Notre Dame begins their journey to gain a berth in the first ever College Football Playoff. Its time to put fall camp and the academic investigation behind us and get excited for some Notre Dame Football. First up on the chopping block is the Rice Owls. David Bailiffs Owls squad is coming of a 10 win season last year but most people remember them for there effort against Texas A&M to begin their 2013 season. Notre Dame and Rice have meet on 4 other occasions with Notre Dame winning every contest. However some look at Rice’s record last season as well as being the Conference USA Champion as a reason to worry about this matchup for the Irish. I don’t see it that way at all and here is why. Sure Rice won ten games last season. But has anyone looked at who they played? Besides playing Texas A&M on the road to start the season, Rice’s second most difficult opponent was Mississippi State in the Liberty bowl and Rice got run off the field in that game losing 44-7. After that Rice’s opponents were awful. So yes they won 10 games but the only two quality teams they played, Texas A&M and Mississippi State, they lost too. Speaking of Texas A&M, many people point to how well Rice played in that game as another reason that Notre Dame could be in for a tough game. But did Rice REALLY play well in that game? Not only did Johnny Manziel sit out the entire first half, but the Aggies defense was absolutely abysmal. I mean really really bad and to compound on how bad it was they were also missing 5 starters on their defensive unit. So basically what I am saying is don’t let the numbers fool you on Rice.

This years Rice team is also very different than last season. They are returning only about half of their starters and have been hit pretty hard by pre-season injuries. Their starting tight end Connor Cella is out 4-6 weeks with an injury and their star receiver Jordan Taylor is dealing with a foot injury that may hold him out against the Irish. Bottom line here is that Rice looked better on paper last season than they really were AND this years team doesn’t have the same amount of talent that that team did. So what can we expect out of Notre Dame against Rice to start the season? Lets find out.

Offense

Obviously the highlight of the offense for the first game and maybe even the entire season is the return of Everett Golson. It has been over 600 days since his last game against Alabama in the 2012 National Championship game. Reports out of fall camp are that Golson has matured as a leader, has grown physically, and has really taken the next step forward in the playbook. That spells success to me and while he may shake off some rust early on, I don’t see it lasting more than one or maybe two drives. With Davaris Daniels still in limbo regarding his “suspension” the only receiver to have ever caught a pass from Golson in a game is Chris Brown with his memorable catch against Oklahoma during the 2012 season. This season he will have a whole new receiving corps to throw the ball too that is not lacking in talent. Corey Robinson presents a pretty sizable mismatch for most defensive backs and Will Fuller’s speed that we saw glimpses of last season should be more up front and center especially against a Rice secondary that normally does not play against that type of speed. The Irish come into this game with a healthy and very talented offensive line led by newly named captain Nick Martin, which should not only give Golson plenty of time to throw the ball, but open running lanes for the three headed monster at running back with Bryant, Folston, and McDaniel. All three backs will present a challenge for the Rice defense led by their star defensive lineman Christian Covington, and they should be able to rack up a large chunk of rushing yards.

Defense

The recent academic investigation has really left the defense short handed with KeiVarae Russell, Ishaq Williams, Kendal Moore, and Eliar Hardy all set to be missing the Rice game this weekend for sure and who knows how much longer after that. There is not a lack of talent to fill in those positions however. Cole Luke, who played last year and very well in my opinion, will take Russell’s spot on the field opposite of Cody Riggs. Williams role will be replaced by using multiple underclassmen to help generate a pass rush. Obviously Jaylon Smith is the superstar of the defense and with him now anchoring the middle of the defense this season he really has the ability to be even better this season. Going into Rice the Irish defense’s main goal needs to be to force Rice quarterback Driphus Jackson to try and beat them with his arm. He is a dual threat guy with the ability to run. With VanGorders new scheme being tested in its first game at Notre Dame I fully expect the Irish to put pressure on the quarterback early and often to try to rattle a quarterback who is going to be playing in front of the largest crowd he will face all season. While the depth of the Irish defensive line is a concern throughout the season, I don’t see it playing to much of a factor into this game as Rice’s offensive line is going to have a handful dealing with Sheldon Day who looks to be in line to have a monster season.

Prediction

I am sure most people have either read or seen some of the Harry Potter books/movies. Remember that owl named Heddwig? Now picture that owl. And picture someone picking it up and stabbing it mercilessly to death. Thats exactly what this game is going to be like. Its going to be a bloodbath. I don’t want to hear the whole “Well Notre Dame doesn’t play well in season openers” argument. 2012 Navy says hello. Notre Dame is by far the better team on the field in every aspect of the game and its not even close. Rice is going to put up a good fight early but it will be all for not. Golson will play brilliant in his first game back from his exile, the running game runs the ball at will, and the young defense will play much better than many folks anticipate.

Notre Dame 45 Rice 17

 

Other Games Around the Country

1 Florida State at Oklahoma State (Arlington, TX)- The defending national champs and defending Heisman trophy winner open the season taking on a Oklahoma State team that doesn’t seem like it will be as competitive as years past under Mike Gundy. The offense should still do pretty well in the Big 12 but they won’t fare all that well against that FSU defense. This game may still be close at halftime but it wont end that way. Florida State 41 Oklahoma State 24

16 Clemson at 12 Georgia- In probably the best matchup of the weekend, we get to see how Clemson and Georgia respond with new quarterbacks at the helm with Taji Boyd and Aaron Murray both gone to the NFL. Georgia still has a very strong stable of running backs with Todd Gurley and Keith Marshal and that will be the difference in this game. Georgia 28 Clemson 21

14 Wisconsin at 13 LSU (Houston, TX)- If any team outside the SEC has the scheme and skill set to play with and beat LSU it would be Wisconsin. The Badgers love to run the ball and have a couple of very talented backs. But playing them the first game of the season is tough and LSU’s defense should be even tougher. LSU 24 Wisconsin 17

UPSET SPECIAL

5 Ohio State at Navy- With the loss of Braxton Miller at quarterback the offense for the Buckeyes, that was already replacing a huge chunk of their offensive line, is going to be under a large amount of pressure to score a lot of points. Carlos Hyde is gone to the NFL so the ability of a running back to step up and fill that void is very important. Navy is a running machine and Keenan Reynolds runs the triple option attack to perfection. The Buckeyes defense wasn’t great last year and they lost some key playmakers. Ohio State realizes very quickly that life without Braxton Miller will not be a good one. Navy 31 Ohio State 30

 

Thursday Night Classics on WatchND.tv

Can’t wait until Saturday for the Irish to hit the field? Do you really dread watching a bunch of I-AA football on Thursday nights? The good news is that the good folks over at WatchND.tv and TireRack.com have you covered with their new feature; Thursday Night Classics. Starting this week, and every week during the season, you can tune in on your pc, iPad, or iPhone or Android device and watch a classic game from the Notre Dame archives.

This week’s game is ND vs. Michigan, 1998. You’ll get to see the defending National Champion Wolverines led by Tom Brady go up against ND greats like Jarious Jackson, Lance Legree, Anthony Denman and Moon’s Favorite – Autry Denson.

You can also join in on the discussion via Twitter.com using hashtag #NDFBclassics. You can also have a chance to be a part of HerLoyalSons.com’s #HLSRecap by tweeting snarky comments using your best late 90’s pop-culture reference. Fire up your devices, and we’ll see you all at 8pm tonight.

photo courtesy of WatchND.tv

photo courtesy of WatchND.tv

 

Worried about the Irish defense? NOT SO FAST!

-Sgt Shamrock

Even before the recent investigation into possible academic dishonestly that led to four Irish players being removed from team activities, the major concern of Irish fans headed into the 2014 was on the defensive side of the ball. With the losses of Louis Nix, Stephon Tuitt, Prince Shembo, and Bennett Jackson to the NFL draft and Carlo Calebrese, Dan Fox, and Kona Schwenke graduating, Notre Dame is only returning five starters from last years team. And due to the academic investigation KeiVarae Russell and Ishaq Williams future for the season is in doubt and Brian Kelly announced today at his weekly press conference that all of the “suspended” players would be missing the Rice game as the investigation continues. So that leaves the Notre Dame defense with just THREW returning starters in Jaylon Smith, Sheldon Day, and Austin Collinsworth. That is enough to make Irish fans everywhere have very large doubts in just how the defense will perform this season. While it is very easy based on all the losses  on the defensive side of the ball to worry about the defense, all hope is not loss. Recently there was another team that faced this very same dilemma. What team is that you ask? Well its none other than the 2009 Cincinnati Bearcats coached by Brian Kelly.

In 2008 Brian Kelly led the Cincinnati Bearcats to an 11-3 overall record, a Big East Championship, and an Orange Bowl appearance that ultimately concluded in a 20-7 loss to Virginia Tech. A BCS bowl for Cincinnati got the Bearcats and Brian Kelly national recognition that was the start of a long series of events that led to Kelly being hired by Notre Dame in 2010. However headed into the 2009 season, there was doubt across the nation whether Brian Kelly and Cincinnati could replicate the success from 2008. The Bearcats defense lost Big East sack leader Connor Barwin, All American defensive tackle Terrill Bryd, Mike Mickens, DeAngelo Smith, and Brandon Underwood to the NFL draft. They also lost five other defensive starters from 2008 due to graduation. That left ONE returning starter on defense. Cincinnati was introducing a new defensive scheme brought in by new defensive coordinator Bob Diaco. And to make matters worse, the Bearcats were forced to start a former quarterback at linebacker. Does the name Demetrius Jones sound familiar? Well it should. He started the first game of the 2007 season at quarterback for Notre Dame. After Charlie Weis handed Jimmy Clausen the reigns following the season opener, Jones didn’t want to stick around and transferred to Cincinnati. After sitting out for a season, Brian Kelly than moved Jones to linebacker for the 2009 season.

Now all of that sounds pretty doom and gloom for the prospects of the 2009 season for Cincinnati right? Well I have always been a pretty good proponent of the “Numbers don’t lie” line of thinking so lets compare the defensive stats from the 2008 Bearcats team to the 2009 team. In 2008 the Cincinnati defense allowed an average of 206.9 yards through the air, 115 yards per game on the ground, and an average of 321.9 yards of total offense per game. The following season the 2009 squad, that only had one returning starter from 2008, allowed an average of 230.2 yards through the air per game, 143.8 yards per game on the ground, and 374 yards of total offense per game. So basically the 2009 Cincinnati defense gave up roughly 25 more yards per game through the air, 30 more yards per game on the ground, and roughly 55 more yards of total offense per game. However looking at yards allowed is only one piece of the pie. Another really important stat to look at is sacks. In 2008 Cincinnati’s defense had 40 sacks as a team. In 2009 Cincinnati’s defense had 35 sacks. I don’t know about you but if a Notre Dame team only returned one starter on defense and only gave up slightly more offensive yards per game the following season and only had five less sacks than I would be pretty damn thrilled.

This years Notre Dame defense has a lot in common with Brian Kelly’s 2009 Cincinnati defense that should give everyone a little bit of hope that the defense may not be as big of an issue as you might think. Both the 2009 Cincinnati team and this years Notre Dame team lost big time defenders to the NFL draft and both teams also are returning very few starters from the previous season. Also both the 2009 Bearcats and this years Irish team are under the first year of a new defensive coordinator (Bob Diaco for Cincinnati and Brian VanGorder for Notre Dame) that brings a new scheme.

While there are a ton of similarities between the two teams there is one key difference that can not be overstated. Notre Dame has hands down better defensive players on the roster than Cincinnati had on its 2009 roster. Notre Dame recruits better and attracts better athletes on defense. Notre Dame is also returning two bona fide stars in Jaylon Smith and Sheldon Day (it would be three but as well all know Russell’s status is up in the air), something that Cincinnati did not have in 2009.

All those stats and information tell a good bit of the story but there is one key piece that I left for last. That is WINS! And in 2009 Cincinnati had a whole lot of them. Twelve wins to be exact. Cincinnati finished the regular season 12-0 before losing to Florida in the Sugar Bowl 51-24.

So basically my whole point here is this. If Brian Kelly could lead Cincinnati to an undefeated regular season in 2009 while only returning ONE starter on defense, than there is no reason to think that Brian Kelly can do something very similar with this years Notre Dame defense that only returns two starters but has WAY MORE talent on the entire defense than Cincinnati did. Now am I saying that we should expect Kelly to lead Notre Dame to an undefeated season like he did in 2009 at Cincinnati? No of course not. As much as we would all love that it is probably not going to happen. The schedule that Notre Dame is playing this season is much more difficult than what Cincinnati played in 2009 and thinking that the Irish should win every game is just not smart. But what I am saying is that before you start pulling your hair out over the thought of a young and inexperienced defense, it still has the potential to be a very good defense. Brian Kelly said himself that this defense is, “Both the most inexperienced as well as the most athletic defense” he had ever coached. Brian Kelly has shown that he can work magic with a young group of players and I don’t think its crazy to think he can do it again.

Rice Week Press Conference Recap

-Sgt Shamrock

Rice week is in full swing as Brian Kelly met with the media today at the Gug to talk about the Irish football team as they head into the season opener this weekend. In a new feature for our audience and fans, we will have a recap of each weekly press conference here on Down the Tunnel as we know that most people are unable to watch the press conference live. Of course we all know that press conferences are notorious for being full of coach speak so we will do our best to sift through it and provide all the pertinent updates.

KEY POINTS:

  • Brian Kelly as well as the team has a great deal of respect for Rice. He praised their season last year in which they finished 10-4 and were the Conference USA Champions. Talked about the defense that plays a lot of man coverage and are very aggressive. Cited they finished top 30 in defense last season.
  • The players focus changes a bit once game week arrives. Classes are beginning and the excitement for the first game is out there. The key is to keep players focused on Rice. Unlike camp the team is preparing for a single opponent.
  • Brian Kelly approached the Unity council about the possibility of bringing back the Alma Mater after every game regardless of the outcome. The members voted and decided they wanted to go back to it. Kelly wants to make sure the voices of the players are heard.
  • Andrew Trumbetti will be starting over Romeo Okwara but both will play significant time
  • Jared Grace is ahead of schedule and recovering well but will not be available for Rice. Tori Hunter is also ahead of schedule. Kelly is going to try and have him run a bit next week and reevaluate.
  • Kelly has still not named captains but anticipates that being done within the next 24 hours. It is possible that Kelly could have game captains each week. He also stated he is not ruling out having one or two year long captains as well as week to week game captains
  • Keivare Russell, Ishaq Williams, Kendal Moore, and Davaris Daniels are officially ruled out for this weekend’s game. Brian Kelly has not received any updates and week seek some next week if he has not received any from Swarbrick. Kelly also stated that it is possible that SHOULD certain players be cleared in the middle of a week that they could be available for that Saturday’s game.
  • Kelly mentioned that the defense is both the most inexperienced but also athletic defenses he has coached throughout his career
  • Corey Robinson had a minor procedure last Friday for a fractured finger and a pin was placed in his hand. He was back practicing yesterday and will start against Rice.
  • Chris Brown has been impressive in camp and Kelly expects him to make big plays. He has great speed and can get off press coverage. He will get open.
  • Unlike seasons in the past there will not be as many offensive substitution’s when the offense is playing at a fast pace.

 

Make sure you check back with Down the Tunnel on Thursday to catch our first “Weekend Preview” of the season. We will break down the game against Rice this weekend, have players to watch, predict the score, as well as making predictions on other big games around the country.